Saturday, April 7, 2012

Ooops Rolled a 1...

Combat is dangerous, everyone knows that but attacking a monster in a OSR game puts one at little risk if they are successful. Sure victory is nice and some games offset the risk of a failed attack by makign to worse and turn some failures, such as rolling a 1, into a fumble.

fumbles while amusing and a vague nod to realism are a buzz-kill and take a lot of time. The less time it takes the less realistic it is and the less realistic it the more arbitrary it feels. I often go with a situational judgement on a roll of 1 , often something like:

"hmm, a 1 one and you are standing in a pile of orc corpses, you hook your foot in the entrails of a slain foe... make a save to move free"... it generally works fine and there is little argument. But...well, it isn't usually risky enough. I just came up with this idea (which I'm sure someoen somewhere lese must have once had), make every attack roll dangerous.

Counter Attack: Any d20 melee attack roll that is equal or less then the level/HD of your foe invites an immediate free counter attack from a non-surpsied physically capable foe on a hit or a miss.

Bingo... simul-kills are possible, like in real life, each attack is potentially dangerous and more so against more dangerous monsters. It works both ways as well, low level folks had best be very cautious when attacking legendary foes.

Example 1:
Sir Dwaine attacks an Ogre his player rolls a 3 on his attack...
Unfortunately for SirDwaine this is equal to or less then the Ogre's 4 HitDice inviting an immediate counter attack... the ogre bashes Sir Dwaine upside the head.

Example 2:
Sir Dwaine (who survived the first example and is now Level 14) is fighting a Dragon and rolls a 12 to hit, good enough to harm the dragon but it also invites a counter attack from this 12HD dragon...
The dragon strikes Dwaine hitting on a roll of 10... inviitng a counter attack from Dwaine...

As you can see from example 2 a single blow at high levels could become an entire series of attacks and counter attacks... all resolved in the same combat round. A great idea.. maybe not, some combats might stretch out very briefly but if more HP are beig dished out it may indeed shorten the amount of time it takes to resolves the combat in the real world as one isn't switching between players to resolve the counter attacks and every attack puts the aggressor at risk. It also invites greater havoc against combatants who attempt "sweep attacks" or attacking more then one foe at a time.

I'm likely to give this a whirl soon, if anyone else does so or is already doing something similar I'd love to hear about it.


  1. Interesting idea, but I wonder if it will make things too hard for low-level fighters and too easy for them at higher levels. I also feel the model breaks down at higher levels. Obviously, if a 20th level Sir Dwaine engages with a 20HD monster, the rest of the characters can do nothing but watch in awe until one combatant collapses, which doesn't feel right to me (admittedly not a major problem if you stick to lower level campaigns).

    One variation would be going with the difference in levels/HD instead. So, if a 5th level Sir Dwaine attacks a 11 HD monster, the monster would get a free counter attack if Sir Dwaine's attack roll is a 6 or less. The overmatched Sir Dwaine could only counter attack if the monster rolls a 1.

    Let us know how it works out if you do try this!

  2. This is a cool idea, but as you and Zeb point out it gets crazy at higher levels. Why not just allow a counter attack if an opponent rolls a 1?

  3. I feel like the improv required for crits and fumbles is what makes them fun.

    Free counterattacks are a frequent feature of fumbles in my game. I don't think there is any need to systematize it though.

  4. I think it's a good start of an idea, but you might want to make a coupe small changes:

    Add some scaling factor/cap to avoid the (near) automatic counterattacks at high level. Perhaps make it ">=HD and >=5+difference in HD." This changes that 20 v. 20 from a one round burst to only getting counters 1/4 of the time.

    Instead of basing it directly on HD, base it on BAB/THAC0/etc. The idea being to give fighters something nice.