February 8, 2012

Disruptive Force and Criticals

Following the trend of providing a look into how I handle hit points, attacks, and general bodily-harm, we now turn to the tactics of 'called shots', or as I prefer, 'disruptive force'.

In systems, where they are utilized, the 'called shot', "aimed shot" or other, is the focused effort of a character to maximize and severely hamper his opponent through a high-risk, high-reward method of taking a full-round action, or simply a -4 to hit in combat, or other similar variation. If successful, results can be anywhere from boosted, doubled or tripled damage that is basically an alternative to rolling a critical hit. The benefit of a called shot however, is that the caller can specify which area of his opponent's body he chooses to strike. Which can have dire consequences to encephalized beings when head-shots are landed, or chins are smashed on ball-chineans.

Now what does that mean for my system with its version of hit points? Dirty fighting: elbows, groin shots, eye-jabs, and sprained or bruised limbs. Similar to Third Edition and newer's -4 in combat for unarmed strikes, the character between his many thrusts per each six-second round takes the effort to land an unpleasant blow against his foe. Damage is often doubled of normal attack/weapon damage for the attacker, as it is assumed s/he would use their preferred method of reducing his foe's abilities, hastening the opportunity for a killing blow. It may be smashing the haft of a pole-arm, decking with a sword pommel, head-butts, knees to the kidneys, and other injuries that are more painful than truly harmful.

Compare to called shots with fire-arms, which are instead treated as damage directly to a character's CON score, or monster HD. This works well as a way of explaining why fire-arms do comparatively unimpressive hit point damage to melee weapons in role-playing games. That 2d4 damage pistol doesn't look so piddly when it lands a called shot, now doesn't it?

As mentioned before, criticals are rolled for on critical charts that I keep stuck to the DM screen. One of the table results is full normal attack/weapon damage directly to a character's CON score. When this result affects monsters, the attack instead outright kills anything with a HD equal to half or less of the attack's damage. Everything else is generally larger monsters under the jurisdiction of hit points as physical damage threshold, and will instead suffer a number of six-sided dice in damage equal to the maximized attack (with strength modifiers). So a weapon that deals 1-8 damage in the hands of a barbarian that also deals 3 additional damage based on his strength, will outright kill anything with 5 HD or less, or will deal 11-66 damage to 6 HD+ beasts. This is one of (usually) 12 results on the criticals table.


  1. I've always enjoyed the extra tension provided by inlcuding criticals in a game. I like your idea and might try it myself.

    1. Why, I'm flattered, fellow! Hopefully it works well for ya'!

  2. *apologies for the delete - noticed a cock-up in original posting - doh!*

    Criticals, are at best, flawed. My reasoning here lies in the thinking of 'whatever applies to the NPC/mob/monster applies to the player character'. In theory this sounds all fair and good, but in practice it is a pain in the arse.
    Every player thrills at making a called shot, succeeding and blowing off an arm, or leg, or disabling some dangerous mechanism, or even performing an instant kill - be it ranged or close quarters. Yes, the players love it, and their smiling faces says it all. But when applying the same conditions for an NPC? AND they succeed? Chaos ensues, and the beloved player's character is killed. They protest, whine, the game halts and a whole manner of argument and discussion erupts bringing the whole evening's session to a grinding halt.
    No one wants to sit out for the rest of an evening's rp session due to a 'called shot' by an NPC that has terminated their character by a fair and even application of said 'crit rules'. I know I wouldn't. I understand that to some it's a case of 'well, suck it up, re-roll a new character'. Admittedly, this is a viable option, but then you have the DM divided between watching the player roll up their new character whilst attempting to keep the flow of the game for the remaining players.

    I love the use of a great, balanced AND fair crit system - be it for guns, vehicles, characters, weapons, or whatever. BUT players who embrace such game mechanics must also be very much aware that the same rule set will be available to the NPCs/mobs/monsters they will encounter, and be used against them.

    So many games lose their sense of danger, excitement and unpredictability when players know full well their characters have a free hand to do whatever they like and nothing really bad will happen to their characters, i.e. death. In that situation, as a DM, you might as well pack up and jack it all in.

    1. Usually when it comes to applying criticals with NPCs I keep some restraint in their use, as yes, it does suck lumps to die, but at the same time even Batman could just outright get shot in the face. Called shots are special occasions for NPCs where they've got either the gull or time to line a shot up ahead of time (a dagger around a corner, sniper in a foxhole, etc.), but usually a scant few characters will even attempt such maneuvers in active engagement with PCs (an intelligent fighter boss, the army's ace shooter, etc.). It lends well to not over-doing it, and just fits in games where the players know their characters are not supermen, and death is expected. Plus, it wouldn't be fun if all the enemies took the time to call shots on the players' heads. Not that I'd expect many to happen anyway; 1 -4 modifier is pretty harsh for systems that don't hand out many pluses to hit, especially for the average mook with average THAC0.

      I'm also not one for fudging results either, as it tickles me right, to think as the dice as oracular like the gods themselves build fates that none of the players, DM included, can sway.