Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Picking Thru "The Rule of Three" - Looking at Damage Types

For my next trick... I'm going to take a look at the question and answer dealing with "Damage Types" and I'll be pulling out pieces and addressing them.
In previous editions, different weapon types mattered. For example, slashing weapons had different qualities than bludgeoning weapons, or worked better against certain monsters. Is this an element of D&D that you would like to see returned to the front lines?
I chose this question to answer because it's something we've been talking about recently. I actually like the idea of weapon damage types a lot, and damage types in general. Damage types are a low-impact way of conveying a lot of narrative through game mechanics. If I have a spell that deals fire damage, I immediately have an idea of how to describe it, and what other effects might be associated with it. At the same time, damage types are—by and large—simply a keyword that is referred to by other effects. They are also flags to the DM that can indicate when there is an opportunity for something interesting to happen. If I deal acid damage to a monster, the DM can easily jump in with a description of the acid spattering and weakening the floor beneath that monster—which, in turn, is a flag for the players to consider smashing the weakened floor to drop the monster through. That's an example of damage types at their best.
There have been many times since the inception of 4E where we'd wished we had some kind of damage type for physical damage, a point that was driven home especially well when we did the design and development of the Gamma World game, which does have a physical damage type. I think the step that previous editions could have taken, but didn't, is to treat slashing, bludgeoning, and piercing damage types just like acid, cold, fire, etc. damage. That way, weapon users get a few more interesting choices in the weapons they wield, just like spellcasters have when making spell selections. Plus, there's something very satisfying to me for the cleric wielding the mace to be able to step forward and smash through skeletons that are vulnerable to bludgeoning damage. While there's nothing set in stone about the next iteration of D&D, those are some of the kinds of things we are thinking about.
Damage types are a low-impact way of conveying a lot of narrative through game mechanics.

Uhm, I thought "narratives" in gaming was for "Indie" type games.  In any case, prior to 3e, there really wasn't much though put to "damage types" beyond fire, cold and lightning.  3e added a few.  Don't know 4e well enough to say.

 If I deal acid damage to a monster, the DM can easily jump in with a description of the acid spattering and weakening the floor beneath that monster—which, in turn, is a flag for the players to consider smashing the weakened floor to drop the monster through. That's an example of damage types at their best.

Great image for them to draw upon.  But then we need to see what the floor is made out of, did it make it's save, how many hit points did it have, how is the party going to damage it, etc.  I'm looking forward to official D&D modules with damage ratings for the floors, walls and ceilings ;)

I think the step that previous editions could have taken, but didn't, is to treat slashing, bludgeoning, and piercing damage types just like acid, cold, fire, etc. damage. That way, weapon users get a few more interesting choices in the weapons they wield, just like spellcasters have when making spell selections.

Do we need to bring back AC adjustments for Armor Types vs Weapon Types?  If I recall, it was in 2e, but we stopped using it as in only came into play with humanoid opponents that wore armor.  Will 5e monsters be given an equivalent AC type regardless of actual AC for damage type purposes?

there's something very satisfying to me for the cleric wielding the mace to be able to step forward and smash through skeletons that are vulnerable to bludgeoning damage

That was always called "slashing / piercing do half damage to skellies".  Blunt weapons were therefore twice as effective.

Do we make opponents harder to hit with the Armor Type / Weapon Type chart, or do we use a Damage Resistance / Reduction effect?

5 comments:

  1. I think the "some monsters are vulnerable or resistant to X" does it just fine. I can think of a few examples where damage type matters in that case: certain slimes that are immune to Slashing / Piercing, or which split up when hit by blunt. The aforementioned Skeletons.

    There are other issues with weapon type. What about if your Cleric needs to cut a rope but he doesn't have a sword? What if you want to chop through a wooden door but all you have is daggers and spears? That's why I like how Dwarves use tools as weapons - Hammer, Axe, Pick. I personally think the Dwarven War Shovel is dramatically underused.

    Similarly for weapon length - what if you want to fish something out of that pool? Your weird European polearm is the best choice, but your longsword just isn't going to cut it. Even if you can touch the item with the sword, there aren't any projections in the weapon to hook it with.

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  2. "I'm looking forward to official D&D modules with damage ratings for the floors, walls and ceilings ;)"

    3rd edition has Hit Points for doors. Don't give them ideas.

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  3. @1d30: in one of the Wizard books by Rick Cook there was a Soviet agent (of some sort, it was never really explained as I recall) performing maintenance on an entrenching tool.

    "Why are you doing that?"

    *Ivan turns and throws the shovel at a post, get embedded to some depth. Pull it back out.* "Is good for digging, too."

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  4. Well huh. That's very similar to how I was planning on redoing the weapon vs. AC tables:

    http://untimately.blogspot.com/2011/11/fighters-weapons.html

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  5. Hah! My last character (now deceased) was a dwarf whose primary dungeoneering implement/weapon was a shovel. He commissioned the local blacksmith to forge him a Rune Shovel!

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