Stunting Redux

Today I’d like a look at how improvised actions and effects could be handled in D&D. I’ve already mentioned “called shots” as a way to handle this, but that does tend to limit possible stunts to minor effects for anyone but specialists.

What if instead we trade damage for special effects? It’s a pretty straightforward idea. You can find an excellent example by Upper Krust of the RPG.net boards here. What I’m thinking of doing is scaling those cost by the target’s hp total. This makes it easier to put debilitating effects on mooks and lower level foes while giving boss type a lot of resistance to shut downs.

Sample System

Here’s an example of how you might set up this damage cost system in 4E, using the “page 42” rules for “Actions the Rules Don’t Cover” as a starting point.

When a character performs a stunt they can declare they’re going for a special effect. Roll damage as normal. However, once that damage is rolled the player can reduce it by the values in the tables below to buy a special effect. If they don’t have enough to buy the effect they want, they can choose a related lower cost effect or “bank” the points. These banked points can be cashed in on future stunts to reduce the cost of the target special effect.

For example, one player might bank a few points of “stun damage” on a standard stunt so an ally can finish the stun with their own stunt.

Condition Damage Cost Restrictions
Combat Advantage 4 + 2 * character level
Dazed 8 + 2 * character level + enemy level
Immobilized 3 + enemy level limited use*
Prone 4 + character level / 2 + enemy level
Slowed 2 + enemy level / 2
Stunned 13 + 2 * character level + 3 * enemy level limited use*
Weakened 4 + enemy level limited use*

*Anything marked “limited use” should not be available at will. Stunts with limited damage expressions or expending encounter powers may let the character add these effects.

Extra Options

Instead of using page 42, the DM may allow you to buy a special effect on one of your powers, provided you describe using it in a creative way. When doing this, you may also be allowed to “cash in” an existing special effect to offset the cost of a new effect. This trade in is especially useful for character with lower damage but strong rider effects.

Another thing the DM may want to allow is offering special effect purchases on a critical hit, even if they didn’t declare the stun ahead of time. This can help make crits a bit more flavorful instead of being just high damage.

Expanding the System

The above table is pretty rough, but it does give some reference points to work from. In addition to adding extra effects, you’d probably want to make stunt damage scale better. At present, it doesn’t keep up with monster hp inflation.

Behind the Scenes

Here’s a quick run down of the math I used to fill the table for anyone interested in doing their own tinkering.

Lose a Turn

The tricky part about trading damage for a turn loss is by reducing damage we potentially give the enemy a chance to act later by letting them live longer. In effect, this stunt effectively delays enemy actions by 1 turn.

While it’s hard to really tell how much a stun will help without repeated testing, we can make some estimates. Let’s assume turn loss is roughly balanced when the time lost is equal to the enemies lifespan extension due to the reduced damage.

Assuming 60 accuracy against same level foes, we’re looking at a 0.6 expected round loss for the target enemy.

Now lets assume a 5 monster group of such enemies should take 4 to 5 rounds to drop without dailies. For individual enemies, that works out to around 4.5 rounds with scattered fire and just over half that with focuses fire. Assuming roughly even odds of both, that works out to around 3.4 rounds per enemy.

Over that time, the enemy was taking an average of 29% of their hp in damage each round. So 0.6 rounds of extra lifespan is roughly equal to 17% of their hit point total. On the other hand, damage sacrificed would also be multiplied by hit chance, so we divide by 0.6 to get back to 29%.

Combat Advantage

Using the number from stunning, we know combat advantage is worth a 33% damage increase. (60% accuracy to 80% accuracy). Since enemies are taking 29% hp damage each round, this work out to 9.7%. For granting combat advantage to everyone, assume just over half will be able to focus fire and at least one of those will likely have combat advantage already, so double the values (to 19.4).

Condition Breakdowns

Stunned = 19.4% character level + 31.9% enemy level (Combat Advantage 19.4% + turn loss 29% + Can’t flank (assume flanking gives 33% output increase from CA about 1 time in 3, apply loss (1/1.11 = 0.9) to value of lost turn) ~2.9%)

Dazed = 19.4% character level + 12.6% enemy level (Combat Advantage 19.4% + Reduced to 1 action (~2/3 output?) ~9.7% + Can’t flank ~2.9%)

Immobilized = 9.7% (Can negate melee enemies (~50%?) if allies stay out of range (~2/3?), so ~33% turn loss?)

Prone = 4.9% character level + 9.2% enemy level(halve CA values for melee only and halve again for ranged penalty 4.9% + -2 attack rolls (20% dpr loss, but usually trivial to recover from (x1/3?) 1.9% + usually costs most action (price at 1/4 full action?) + 7.3%)

Slowed = 4.8% (treat as effective turn loss maybe 1 time in 6?)

Weakened = 14.5% (treat as half turn loss)

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Published in: on July 12, 2012 at 5:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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