Saturday, June 21, 2014

Badass Tricks, Maneuvers, and Stunts

What might seem like a no-brainer to one GM may be a revelation to another... or idiotic drivel.  Depends on the GM.

This idea was born from a discussion I had with another gamer on EnWorld.  I'm sure you're familiar with this song and dance, it goes a little something like this...

"AD&D is boring, especially if you're playing a fighter because all you can do is attack (swing your sword or whatever).  While in a game like 3.5 you've got a ton of options."

"Balderdash!  In AD&D, you're not restricted to any specific maneuver.  You have the freedom to make it up as you go, roleplaying the action alongside the DM.  If you want to do a flying kick or somersault slash at the Orc's ankle, there's nothing to stop you."

To which the original guy responds, "You might do it that way, but most DMs don't.  With them, it's by the book, etc, etc."

For the last couple years (it's difficult to remember exactly what I allowed or was ok with back in High School or even games 5 years ago), I've tried to encourage players to describe their attack before rolling whilst keeping an open mind about the possible outcome.  Of course, with the right (or wrong) player, this can get out of hand.  If a majority of DMs did this, abuse would rear its ugly head.  Where's the potential downside of attempting a trick move or fancy stunt?

I've come up with this...

1.  Player states he wants to attack the foe before him.

2.  GM asks (especially if this is the first session or two you're introducing the concept - if you've been this awhile, then it's up to the player to state how he wants to differentiate his attack), "How do you want to attack him?  What, specifically, are you doing?"

3.  "I try slicing off the wizard's hand - the one holding that wand."  (could be thrusting his sword into a Troll's eye, whatever).

4.  GM assesses the difficulty on a range of 1, 2, or 3.  The more difficult the maneuver, the higher the number - to a max of 3.  Whatever the number is, that's both the penalty on the to-hit roll [*] and natural roll critical fail.  

Let's say the stated action is a 2.  "Alright, that's going to be fairly challenging (holds up two fingers).  Roll your standard attack minus 2.  If you hit, you accomplish what you had in mind.  If you miss, then you failed to connect with your target or it just didn't have any appreciable effect.  However, if your attack roll comes up a natural 1 or 2, then it's a disaster, epic fail.  Your foe gets a free attack or the next guy to hit you does max damage or your weapon gets knocked out of your hand... something like that."

5.  "Fair enough."  The player rolls an 18, which is above his target's AC considering all the bonuses and penalties involved.

6.  "Awesome!  The wizard's decrepit hand is lopped off by your flashing blade.  He screams in anguish and won't be able to use his wand until after he picks it back up.  Roll standard damage."

7.  Hi-fives all around.  The GM turns to Larry, "What does your cleric want to do on his turn?"

So, there you have it.  Any character can try anything (within certain limits) but there are two drawbacks: a -1, -2, or -3 to the to-hit roll, as well as, the chance of crit fail on the roll of a natural 1, 2, or 3 (depending on the difficulty set by the GM or negotiated between the GM and player.

If it's a move that would be customary for the particular character (based on class, level, and so forth), then the difficulty and potential downfall will usually be a 1.  If it's really specific (as in targeting a small area) or kind of tricky but definitely not impossible, then it might be a 2.  If it borders on astounding but still within the realm of believability, give it a 3.

+Thaumiel Nerub brought up a couple good points.  Thanks, Thaumiel!

1.  The environment should always be taken into account.  If one is in the desert, there's going to be sand to throw in someone's face versus an ice cavern that might collapse, bringing glacial chunks down on enemy heads.  Those who pay attention to their environment and use it creatively to narrate their actions should be rewarded.

2.  A player can't demand some kind of auto-kill like decapitation or piercing a villain's heart with an arrow... even with a to-hit penalty and 15% chance of critical failure.  GMs should keep in mind that cutting off a giant's head is the intended end-result; however, the action is hacking at the giant's neck.  Big difference.  

GMs, don't be afraid to negotiate with your players.  Maybe both of you can meet in the middle if you're at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Please, feel free to critique this.  Rip it apart, find a better way of doing it, add something on, take something else away, whatever.  This idea came to me while driving in my car this morning.  It hasn't been playtested or anything.  Just thought it was pretty cool.


[*]  Or you could simply determine that attack at a disadvantage instead of a -1, -2, or -3 on the to-hit roll if you're playing 5e.  Totally up to you.

p.s.  You probably can't tell, but this ninja is giving you the finger... ninja style!

p.p.s.  The to-hit penalty was added later (7/1/14 to be exact) after reading a few similar critiques on various RPG message boards.  Much appreciated, guys!