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Which combat dice system would you prefer?

16 replies [Last post]
Joined: 10/28/2014

Hey guys,

Working on some combat mechanics and I have way too may options. Please help me narrow it down. I want to get a simple combat system such that fights go down rather quickly, but players should have to make choices.
The basic idea is that I want players to acquire a dice pool via items their characters equip, such as swords, bows, fireball spells and plate armour. People should get better at the things they use so I was thinking they can increase one item they use after they defeated monsters in a fight.
So someone could specialise in swords and armour, whilst another could specialise in healing spells and try to get more mana.

1. Monsters have a threshold and each individual die exceeding this gives a hit. Every won fight gives an extra die with the item the player chooses, for instance swords for the rest of the game. Choosing swords again after the next fight gives him another die, and so on and so forth. Also, players can find stronger swords, that give a different type of die (e.g. d4 changes into d6) or give other effects.
2. Like the first, but dice don't have numbers nor monsters a threshold, but dice have symbols of how much damage is done. stronger weapons use different dice so do more damage.
3. Like 1 and 2, but if a single die exceeds the threshold, the monster is hit for as much weapon damage as the weapon indicates. So the more experienced a player is with swords, the more likely it is he will exceed the threshold. Damage is always the same but different weapons do different amounts of damage.
4. The sum of all dice thrown has to exceed the monster's threshold, and if this is the case the player deals weapon damage.

I think 1 and 2 don't scale well. A hero that can use multiple dice and has a strong weapon can do immense amounts of damage. I think the third option scales really well but I find it less inspirational to roll for attack instead of damage. Rolling for both attack and damage (like D&D) is too excessive.
I think the fourth option does not scale at all. Imagine a low level player with 1 die compared to a higher level player with 5 dice. With d6, the first can only throw 1-6 and the second can throw 6-30. I believe that scales terribly against monster thresholds because someone who doesn't specialise in something does not even have to try and use the weapon against a high-level monster.

The Professor
The Professor's picture
Joined: 10/25/2014
Multiple Chances...with Multiple Dice

Something you may want to condider, and this has been done in a number of games, including Arkham Horror, where you throw multiple dice to score a success. So at 1st Level, a player may roll 1d4 and score only on a "4" while a higher level character may roll more d4s, bit still must yield a "4" for each success.

Soulfinger's picture
Joined: 01/06/2015
So, if I understand right, #1

So, if I understand right, #1 is basically D&D but with leveling after every combat. #2 is Descent. #3 is World of Darkness or Shadowrun and #4 is loads of other games.

I get the impression that you need to get more of a feel for what is out there in terms of combat resolution for board games. For starters, I would suggest the aforementioned Descent (or any of the other FFG offerings with the same dice mechanic) and Okko: Era of the Asagiri. I hear good things about Memoir 44 but haven't played it. I'd have more to offer if I hadn't spent the last hour cleaning up vomit.

Joined: 10/28/2014
The Professor wrote:Something

Thanks for the replies, guys. I really appreciate it.

The Professor wrote:
Something you may want to condider, and this has been done in a number of games, including Arkham Horror, where you throw multiple dice to score a success. So at 1st Level, a player may roll 1d4 and score only on a "4" while a higher level character may roll more d4s, bit still must yield a "4" for each success.

That's like my third option. Whereas in Arkham Horror the number of dice increases by levelling, and all dice increase, in this version the dice increase after winning af fight, and they only increase in one or more things that you used that fight.
Arkham Horror is pretty cool in which a hero has a combat rating, which dictates how many dice he can use, from which the monster's combat rating is subtracted (so e.g. 6 - 3 = 3 dice). Then the monster's toughness dictates how many successes a player needs (in the example, a player would need all three dice to be successful if a monster has a toughness of 3).
Although this works, I want players to get attack dice from weapons (and spells), and defense dice from armour (and spells). I thought that the successful attack dice do damage, whereas the successful defense dice prevent damage. The number of dice used could be determined by level or the item, and then it is the question how they scale.

Soulfinger wrote:
So, if I understand right, #1 is basically D&D but with leveling after every combat. #2 is Descent. #3 is World of Darkness or Shadowrun and #4 is loads of other games.

I get the impression that you need to get more of a feel for what is out there in terms of combat resolution for board games. For starters, I would suggest the aforementioned Descent (or any of the other FFG offerings with the same dice mechanic) and Okko: Era of the Asagiri. I hear good things about Memoir 44 but haven't played it. I'd have more to offer if I hadn't spent the last hour cleaning up vomit.

No #1 is really different from D&D (at least the table top, I have only played one board game). In D&D there is first a role to see whether an attack hit (the famous d20) and then one or more dice of any type, where the number rolled dictates the damage. In my system, I would give 1 hit (of 1 damage) for every die exceeding the threshold. So more like the WoW board game.
I think the only comparison #2 has with Descent is that it has custom dice. In Descent, a player rolls one melee, ranged or magic die, possibly accompanied by extra damage or range dice and/or power dice. My system looks more like the D&D Board Game
Shadowrun is actually more like #1 and comparable to the WoW Board Game. Every player gets a dice pool based on his skills and every role that exceeds the opponent's threshold is a hit. That can work great if only the number of dice used increases per level, but will be tricky if the type of die also changes when a better weapon is equipped (for instance changing from a d4 to a d6 makes a weapon so much stronger, I guess).

It is important to note that I want a simple system, so rolling for either attack (hit/miss) or damage seems to make sense. So definitely no CRTs, and players should not have to remember or look up too much for every combat round. Also, I want player to roll multiple dice because that is cool.

Another option would be that every die exceeding the threshold does as much damage as with how much it exceeds. So if a player rolls a 7 and an 8 against a threshold of 6, he does 3 damage (1+2). But then there is not much a weapon can add (e.g. a simple sword versus an epic sword).

Joined: 10/28/2014
Another method that could be

Another method that could be employed is the following:

Players that invest in specialising can use a different type of die (for instance d4 becomes d6 and later on becomes d8). The weapon determines how many dice you can use. So an unspecialised hero with an epic sword might use 4d4 on his attack, whereas a specialised hero may use 1d8.
This system could work with (1) every successful die (i.e. above the monster's threshold) gives 1 damage, (2) if the highest die is successful weapon damage is dealt, and (3) sum of dice = damage dealt (classic D&D).

Joined: 12/27/2013
I'm definitely against #4.

I'm definitely against #4. Too much math bogs down any game. It's much easier to count the results with target numbers rather than counting all the pips together.

#1 looks fun to balance around, if you want that stuff. Strong creatures would be practically immune to any daggers even if the user was a master rogue. He would need to be doing rogue stuff rather than fighting the big creatures directly. Not much scaling here though.

#2 is basically a dice pool with target number nominated by the weapon itself, but with custom dice. I think that this option would be the most flexible option to do stuff with. If the players gain dice for every level and the dice correspond straight to damage, they need to be fighting increasingly tougher monsters every round. Meaning more HP tracking, meaning more busywork.

#3 I think scales almost as well as #2, but much reduced power curve. This would make the weaker mages actually do some damage with luck when resorting to smack dudes with his staff. If the players gain dice for every level and the dice here correspond to hitting, strong warriors are pretty much auto-hitting enemies. Balancing would be made with adding a point or two to weapon damages, so HP tracking wouldn't be that much of a hassle.

I'd go with #3, since it's the closest one I have been tinkering around in one of my projects. In addition I have a range of damages for each weapon with different scalings corresponding how many dice hit that threshold. Like daggers beating great-axe damage after four or more dice hitting that threshold.

Joined: 10/28/2014
Thanks for the response,

Thanks for the response, Jarec. I also lean towards #3 so I had a brainstorm session with a friend and we worked it out. We came up with a really cool system.

- Players start as "blank slates". Everyone has a set amount of health and mana, slots for items (probably just one weapon (or one for each hand) and one piece of armour) and spells/abilities (I'm thinking four slots that can be used any way players like, so for spells, abilities, specialisations (see below)).
- In combat, players choose which monster to attack and look at his toughness value. The monster automatically tries to attack that player too. The player rolls attack dice and defense dice (1 of each at first). If the highest die exceeds the toughness, he can attack and/or defend.
* If an attack succeeds, the hero deals weapon damage. For instance a dagger deals 1 damage, a shortsword deals 2 damage and a longsword deals 3 damage.
* If a defence succeeds, the hero can defend against one monster. Consequently, a hero can use one defence die to defend a single monster, thus might be able to fend off several monsters.
- All monsters in a fight that are not attacked will attack the hero that did most damage (has the highest "threat", see below). The player can use remaining defence dice to try and fend them off, otherwise they do damage minus his armour.
- By slaying monsters, heroes gain XP. At certain points they can choose an increase in any trait, such as:
* Health increase
* Mana increase
* An additional attack die
* An additional defence die
* Armour specialisation - able to wear leather armour
* Armour specialisation 2 - able to wear metal armour (requires the first specialisation)
* Fireball - a damaging spell (although spells might be acquirable through other means)
* Taunt - specialisation or ability to force monsters to attack you
* Vanish - specialisation or ability to reduce threat

Players and monsters can come in groups, so it may be worthwhile for players to differentiate: a healer, a tank, a damage dealer.

Difference between ranged and melee combat

Melee heroes and monsters can only attack other melee guys, unless there are no melee opponents, whereas ranged guys can attack anyone. This makes for interesting fighting combinations. When fighting solo, melee vs melee or ranged vs ranged is simple, but melee vs ranged gets more interesting...

A ranged guy wants to stay "out of range", whereas a melee guy wants to get in range. The hero throws a number of dice equal to his movement (e.g. 3) and if the highest exceeds the monster's toughness, he stays out of range (ranged hero) or gets in range (melee hero) and then can do damage.
Because a ranged hero can do damage both at a distance and close by, I am still thinking how to differentiate. It would make sense that ranged heroes have a disadvantage when close by (ranged already has an advantage because it can hit everything, so maybe it should not have other advantages). Here are some ideas:
- Ranged hero cannot count his highest attack and/or defence die when up close to a melee monster; melee hero can throw an extra attack die
- Ranged hero can use one less defence die when up close; melee hero can throw an extra attack die
- Melee hero gets a bonus attack die when up close to a ranged monster, ranged hero can use one less defence die
- Melee gets an extra attack die, ranged gets one less defence die

Of course I want as little active input from the players as possible, so it would be nice if they don't have to add advantage/disadvantage themselves. I don't think that's possible, though.

Joined: 03/02/2014
Better dice

Perhaps you don't roll more dice as you improve, but you roll better dice. Let's say you always roll 4 dice, where the dice all just have some sides with a hit icon and some sides that are blank. You need to get only one hit icon (on your four dice) to hit a goblin, 2 to hit an orc, 3 to hit an ogre, and 4 to hit a dragon.

You start with only beginner's dice, which each have 2 sides with hit icons and four sides with blanks. When you level up, you get to exchange ONE die to the next level up, a journeyman die which has 3 hit icons and 3 blanks. After 4 levels up, you have all journeyman dice, so your next level up swaps one of them for a master die, which has 4 hits and only 2 blanks. Finally, the grandmaster dice have 5 hits and only one blank. It takes 12 level ups to be rolling 4 grandmaster dice, but once you do you'll usually hit an ogre and you'll hit a dragon almost half the time (48%).

Every level up does improve your odds a little, and you can really see the effect after several levels. However, even a complete beginner has a small chance of getting in a lucky hit.

Joined: 10/28/2014
I like both your idea of

I like both your idea of giving players stronger dice as they "level up" (invest in attack, defence or movement) and your idea of counting how many successful dice are thrown and having monsters that need increasing numbers of successes.
Indeed a low-level player has a chance to hit a dragon, but only 6.25% of his hits will be successful (0.5^4). This will be much higher for a max-level character (48% like you said).

I see some issues. First of all, I would need a lot of dice. Four dice of four levels for three classes (attack, defence and movement) is 48 dice.
Second, it is too obvious when players are at highest level, namely when they have four master dice, at level 13. In my last-proposed system, there is no max level, just diminishing returns. In theory, players can use 100 dice for an attack, but they have to decide when to stop adding dice and start investing in other aspects.

You made me start thinking about using custom dice instead of normal ones (again...), but I don't think it would work. If dice give hits or misses and a player needs a certain number of successes for a monster, adding dice not only increases the hit chance, it also dictates a hero with only one die can never hit a monster that needs to successes. In my current system, a hero with 1d8 has a change (12.5%) of successfully hitting a monster with toughness = 8.
If dice with a success do damage, there is no point in having weapons anymore, whereas I want the weapons to dictate how much damage a hero can do.

Stajin Imaizumi
Joined: 01/30/2015
Zag has an interesting idea,

Zag has an interesting idea, however, Garwyx immediately noted the problem or draw back.

Garwyx wrote:
First of all, I would need a lot of dice.

You could modify the idea to accommodate a set number of dice.

The game could use custom six-sided dice (D6) and have two hit sides creating a one in three chance of hitting.(Or whatever odds you'd like, 1 in 6.) At the beginning of the game/campaign the weaker characters/arms need more hits. As the character and arms become stronger, fewer hits are needed to succeed.

For example, at the beginning the PC rolls a dice pool of four dice and needs to roll four hits to succeed. (Weaker arms need to hit more.) At the next level the PC still rolls four dice but only needs three hits to succeed. At the next level up, the PC still rolls four dice but only needs two hits to succeed. And so on.

So, a total of X number of dice is only needed for all levels. Foe strength would easily be accommodated as well: stronger foes need more hits.

This mechanic sounds similar to another game but I can't think of what it is.

Joined: 10/28/2014
Do you mean the number of

Do you mean the number of hits required is set by a monster, but is reduced if players improve? (players get a bonus) So if a level 1 monster has toughness of 2, the player needs 2 hits. But if the player is level 2, he only needs 1 hit, and has a guaranteed hit on level 3.
Does the weapon still do fixed damage? So a level 1 hero can equip a greatsword (4 damage) but will never hit a level 4 monster (toughness 5). But a level 4 hero with a dagger (damage 2) only needs 2 hits so has a good chance of hitting.

I see two problems. First, players can get guaranteed hits if they are high enough level. Second, players need to subtract their "level -1" from the monster's toughness. So there is always some, be it very simple, math involved, rather than just spotting.

I did some dice simulations on my system. I have to pick the right type of die (d4, d6, d8, etc), because increasing the number of dice used against a certain toughness scales differently depending on the toughness and the dice type.
d8 give the following statistics:

#dice toughness 4 5 6 7 8
1 0.63 0.50 0.38 0.25 0.13
2 0.86 0.75 0.61 0.44 0.23
3 0.95 0.88 0.76 0.58 0.33
4 0.98 0.94 0.85 0.68 0.41

I could use monsters with 3 difficulties: 5 (easy, likely to be hit even by level 1 heroes), 6 (a little bit of a challenge) to 7 (hard). A player with only 1 or 2 dice will not stand a chance against toughness 7, but will have a shot with 4 or 5 dice. Of course everything depends on how many hitpoints heroes and monsters have and how much damage they do. I also incorporate armour, which absorbs some damage.
With dice with more sides (d10 or d12) even more levels can be created, so it depends on how many levels the game will need.

Because attacks are resolved per hero, toughness 8 on a d8 system is very hard to hit as well as defend for all heroes. On the other hand, if toughness 8 would be for an overlord, that guy could attack only one of the heroes, thus only one player needs to roll defense.

Joined: 03/02/2014
Why three sets of dice? Can't they be reused?

Garwyx wrote:
First of all, I would need a lot of dice. Four dice of four levels for three classes (attack, defence and movement) is 48 dice.

I don't see why you need different dice for the three classes. Can't you just use the same ones? Though I agree that 16 dice is still quite a bit.

I agree that this approach makes for a max level in a particular activity, but presumably each player has more than one activity that they want to level up. However, if they can only level up one activity at a time, then they have to choose where to allocate their skill improvements. At the very least each player has his primary attack, his primary defense, and his movement, as you say. So a player has at least 36 level ups before he is maxed out. Do you really expect the game to drag on more than 36 encounters?

You then can have some different types of attacks, and different monsters who might be immune to some. For example, if a mage only spends his level-ups on his fire-based attack, then he's going to have trouble doing any damage at all to a red dragon. If you give every character type at least a couple of attack types (slashing vs. blunt, fire vs. cold, etc.) with a warning that there are high-level monsters who are immune to each type, then the players have to spread out their skill improvements even more.

Joined: 10/28/2014
The main reason I want to use

The main reason I want to use different dice (colours) for attack, defence and movement is so they can all be thrown at once. That makes gameplay quicker and people like throwing a lot of dice at once.

I guess in the end both systems could scale well. In your system, two types of dice (apprentice and master) would probably be sufficient, as that already requires players to invest in new dice four times. I also thought four or five dice in my system (which is three or four upgrades, respectively) would be enough for most players. If the apprentice dice hit on only one out of six sides, the chance they hit a level 1 monster is about 0.5. If master dice hit on five sides, a master would hit almost always. But if a monster needs 4 hits, the chance an apprentice will hit is almost none and the chance for a master to hit is about 0.5.
So I would need four apprentice and master dice for attack, defence and movement, which boils down to 24 dice. That's reasonable.
How would you defend against multiple monsters? In my system, every die exceeding a monster's toughness can defend that specific monster. In your version, I think it would be an all or nothing response (and you allow players to either defend only one or all monsters).

What are the benefits of a set amount of varying type of dice versus an increasing number of dice? They are both scalable, both need to be compared to a monster threshold and both do not dictate how much damage is done.
The amount of damage could vary, though. With your system double damage could be applied, for instance, if twice the amount of required hits is rolled. But that's only possible for monsters of level 1 and 2). In my system, double damage could be possible for every extra die exceeding the threshold, but that could lead to an excessive amount of damage if every individual die counts.

Joined: 03/02/2014
I think that the difference

I think that the difference is in how quickly the ability scales and the granularity you have to work with. Also, as you add more dice, the bell curve gets steeper, forcing the bulk of the values towards the center of the range, while it is moving the entire range up. If you're using regular d6, to hit a specific number, let's say 15:

3d6: 9.3%
4d6: 44%
5d6: 77%
6d6: 94%

Even just using two tiers of dice (I'd suggest the middle two, where beginner dice have 2/6 hit, and advanced dice have 4/6), to hit a target of 3:
4B+0A: 11.1%
3B+1A: 18.5%
2B+2A: 29.6%
1B+3A: 44.4%
0B+4A: 59.3%

It's a more gradual progression. If you were to look at the bell curve, you'd see that all have a similar shape, it's just moved upwards somewhat.

By the way, I calculated these on using a calculation like

output (d6<=2)+(d6<=4)+(d6<=4)+(d6<=4)

which is the 1B+3A formula. You might want to play with this tool to get a feel for what the ranges and bell curves look like. (Try the 'normal' and 'at least' buttons with different amounts and type of dice.)

If you were going to have only two tiers, I'd suggest 5 or even 6 dice, rather than only 4. If you were willing to go to three tiers, my gut tells me that the best approach would be beginner dice have 2 hits, advanced have 4, and master have 5, which gives you diminishing returns on your second four level-ups compared to your first 4.

Another possibility is to combine the approaches of different dice and more dice: Maybe a player progresses like the following. Note that if the B dice have 2/6 hits and the A dice have 4/6, then trading one A for 2B is an improvement a little better than trading a B for an A.

3B -> 2B+1A -> 1B+2A -> 3A -> 2B+2A -> 1B+3A -> 4A -> 2B+3A -> etc.

For defense, you could still have the players be the only ones rolling dice. An orc does 2 damage, minus what you roll on your defense dice. A dragon might do 5 minus your roll, so you're definitely going to take some damage, and if you haven't spent a lot of points on defense, it's going to be 3 or 4 points (presumably out of, say, 6-8).

Anyway, I hope I've given you some food for thought. You definitely should play with anydice for a while.

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
Another option

Is it possible to use only 1 set of dice for each player?

If so, perhaps having the numbers 1 to 6 have a meaning.

And you use a chart to what the outcome might be. When you upgrade your weapon. You can add the effect to one of the 6 numbers.

You might be able to add 5 more damage to for example number 4. But having a stun effect might be put on number 5. This way, you allow players to customize their own dice. While you only use a limited ammount of dice.

Players might even try to make a weapon with a high risk but good damage. Or a low risk with a low damage.

Joined: 10/28/2014
Thanks for the extensive

Thanks for the extensive answer, Zag. I used anydice a couple of times for normal calculations but was not aware it could do more complex calculations too. I'll definitely have a look at it.
Concerning defence, players and monsters (can) come in groups. So players should be able to block multiple enemies. It would be a bit weird if they can use a single roll for it, but it might take a lot of time to roll defence for every single enemy. If players can add more dice if they invest in leveling, they increase the chance to defend additional monsters, but these chances become smaller with increasing group size. That makes sense lorewise too: even the most powerful hero cannot fend off an unlimited amount of monsters.

@X3M: that's also a really cool idea, to give players their own table with which they can customise the abilities of their heroes. I'll definitely remember that.

Before we continue, I suddenly realised the key concept of what kind of system I want.
1. Leveling increases the chance to hit, but tougher enemies are harder to hit.
2. Stronger weapons do more damage (and optionally, there is some damage absorption by tougher enemies)

Joska Paszli
Joined: 05/25/2012
I have one for you i invented

I have one for you i invented myself many years ago and still love it.....

Characters have a attackvalue and armourvalue (and perhaps other combatinfluencing stat)

At start of combat both sides compare the attackvalue and some modifiers...and each throw one dice....
Each side check its own result:
1) a score of 0 or less result in nothing
2) a score between 1 and the armourvalue result in lowering the armourvalue by one
3) a score higher than the armourvalue results in a unsaved wound...

In this way u only have to keep track of the armourvalue as it gets lower and lower after combatrounds until the unit dies..

Example round 1
Knight att5 and armour9 fights warrior att3 and armour8
Knight 5-3 + 1d6 will always result in lowering armourvalue of warior by 1
Warrior 3-5 + 1d6 must roll a 3 or more to lower the knights armour by 1

Example round 2
Knight att5 and armour8 fights warrior att3 and armour7
Knight 5-3 + 1d6 if the knight rolls a 6 it kills the warrior... if it rolls lower than it removes one armour from the warrior
The warrior still has to throw a 3+ to remove one armour value... eventually its possible that he kills the knight too although it wouldnt be easy

In my gamesystem its possible that 5 goblins (att 2 armour6) can destroy a mighty knight as each will lower the armourvalue of the knight slowly but surely, they wil hacked away one at the time but still over a few rounds the knight may survive but will sustain serious damage.... in my fantasygame i have healing so he can get some armourvalue back...

I also want to note that every combat round the knight could attack more than one enemy but every attempt it made it lowers its attackvalue with 1 that turn so first goblin would get the full blow and die but the second would get a smaller blow and had more chance to return a succesfull blow as the difference between the attackvalues got smaller for that turn..

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