Thursday, March 19, 2015

Not Just Damage

One of the annoyances with D&D combat over the years is the seemingly limited nature of common D&D combat resolution: Roll to hit, if hit roll is adequate roll damage.  It makes combat feel very...repetitive.  Here's some simple guidelines for making combat a bit more dynamic without a ton of extra rules.

Knock Back-  If you roll exactly the score required to hit the foe may be knocked back. If the targets level is less then the attackers level/HD they are knocked back(and away) 10'.  Foes of same level or higher are a allowed a saving throw to avoid this. The foe is still injured as normal by this random knockback.
If a combatant is knocked back and they have not attacked yet this round they lose their attack. The attacker that scores a knockback on a foe may follow them and draw no instant counter attacks from allies of the foe.

Knock Down- if you roll a 20 on the D20 and a score of 19 or lower could score a hit you may have knocked down the foe. Knockdown is automatic against foes of lower level, those of same or higher level get a save. If knocked down a combatant is now prone, if that combatant has no adjacent allies the attacked and adjacent allies of the attacker may be allowed a free strike against the prone foe.  The knocked down foe is still injured as normal. The attacked may choose to stand above the foe immediately if they so choose and keep the foe from getting up if the foe is roughly the same size or smaller.

Don't worry about knocking back and knockdown down on the same strike, knockdowns take precedence.

Trying for an intonational knock back or knock down-
A combatant with superior initiative can try to purposefully knockback a foe. On an intentional  Knockback the attack is made at -2, any successfully hit roll will cause but one point of damage and foes of any level are allowed a save -2 for foes of lower level, +2 for foes of higher level (they can see it coming). other wise rule as knock back above.

A combatant with superior initiative can try to purposefully knockdown a foe. On an intentional KnockDown the attack is made at -4, any successful hit will inflict half normal damage and a foe of any level is allowed a save, foes of higher level will gain a +4 to the save (they can see it coming). otherwise rule as knock down above.

Note: Fighters are allowed as many intentional knock back or knockdown attacks as they have levels vs a body of foes 1HD or less.

Additional notes for a bit more brutality and verisimilitude
* if combatants roll 1 one on that save vs knock back they drop the weapon in hand.
* if combatants roll a 1 on that save vs knockdown they are stunned until the end of the following round.
* large creatures are +4 to save vs knock back and knockdown


  1. I like the way Epées et Sorcellerie deal with damage (and initiative, by the way). I don't see an easy way to translate the 2d6 mechanic back to d20, but you may tinker with it.
    (I'm satisfied running my games with EeS, so I don't any interest in porting that to d20 on my on).

    Regarding your knockback option, what if the only way a hero has to hit an opponent is to roll a natural 20? All hits will be automatic knockbacks?

  2. If the only way to hit is an natural 20 it's going to be a pretty special blow so I'd let the natural 20 land that knockback but give any target a save, with +2 to higher level foes.

  3. For a different flavour of fun, allow the target of a successful attack choose from a menu of these conditional effects as a way to avoid some damage. So you rate each effect in HP, and when the target gets hit for 11 points, maybe she takes a knockback of 2 squares @ 5HP each, and takes only 1 point of actual damage. You can use this to manoeuvre the field too... maybe a 2 square knockback sends her into a chasm that she knows has a river at the bottom, allowing her to escape.

    1. Not so keen on the target choosing as the damage is inflicted by the will and action of the attacker. But it coud be constituted as part of a targets defense...maybe.