Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Roll D20 Plus Level for Stunt - Possible House Rule?

Here's a random house rule I just thought up for Lamentations of the Flame Princess. It might work, or it might be complete crap - I don't know. I might as well see what the internet thinks.

You know how in some versions of D&D and related games, fighters can have certain abilities like attacking all enemies within melee range if they're under a certain number of hit dice, or attacking a second enemy on their turn if their first attack kills an enemy ("Cleave" in 3E parlance), or making multiple attacks per combat round once they reach certain level thresholds? In the Rules As Written, fighters do not have these kinds of multiple attack features. This was a deliberate design choice on the part of the game designer, of course, but some people might want to house-rule some kind of multi-attack feature into the game.

Now, you know how sometimes players ask if they can try to pull off various oddball stunts that either aren't covered or aren't generally allowed within the rules? "Can I time my shot so that it hits both guards when they're lined up?" "Can I boost off the wall and spin kick the enemy for extra damage?" "Can I feint to the right before attacking from the left to throw him off guard?" "Can I drop on top of him from the ledge with my sword pointed down and stab him extra hard and maybe smash him because of the gravity?" "Can I grab his club out of his hand when he swings at me?" As far as I can tell, whether or not these kind of actions are allowed is meant to be decided by the referee, as is the way of adjudicating such actions if they are allowed. Someone going strictly by the law of  R.A.W. would probably disallow them, as they aren't covered by the rules, and the rules in D&D and OSR games tend to be stricter and more codified in combat than outside of it, for a variety of reasons. Since I would bet that most referees don't play strictly in the R.A.W., I would imagine that a lot of them (myself included) would generally allow these kinds of stunts or ones like them in certain conditions.

Both of these types of combat actions - multiple attacks and complicated/unusual/acrobatic stunts - generally seem to me like things that an experienced combatant could probably pull off with more consistency than an inexperienced combatant. They also seem like the kinds of things that someone specializing in combat - a member of the "fighter" class - would be vastly more likely to achieve than others. So let's base this house rule on level and class.

The rule: If a fighter attempts a combat maneuver (including but not limited to making multiple attacks in one combat round, hitting multiple characters with one attack, or moving and attacking at the same time) which is not covered by the rules or generally not permitted by the rules, and the referee permits the fighter a chance at success, the fighter rolls a d20 and adds their own level. If the sum is 21 or higher, the fighter can attempt the maneuver. Fighters of level 20 and higher still only add 19 to this roll, so that a roll of 1 is always a failure. Non-fighter PCs can also attempt such combat maneuvers, but they are always treated as level 1 fighters for such purposes. If any other roll (to-hit, saving throw, etc.) would normally be needed for success (e.g. with multiple attacks), the fighter must still make that roll as well.

TL;DR If the fighter wants to do some crazy move in battle, they roll a d20 and add their level. 21 or better to succeed. Caps at level 19. Referee might make you roll some other dice, too. Other classes can do it, but only as a level 1 fighter.

Alternatively, you could probably come up with something that uses the character's base attack bonus (which only improves beyond +1 for fighters in LotFP, making it a de-facto fighter class ability), or that uses some kind of saving throw. You could also try to come up with a formula in which the ability maxes out much sooner than the nigh-mythical level 19. Hence that whole "it might be complete crap" thing I typed earlier; this isn't a very elegant house rule as I've written it.

You could also codify what kinds of things are or are not permitted as "combat maneuvers" in the game, but to some extent this violates the spirit of this house rule. The reason I came up with it was to make a simple and unified way of adjudicating whatever crazy schemes the players come up with, and thus allow or encourage creative, OSR-style shenanigans that inflexible board game-style or video game-style rules couldn't cover due to the sheer number and variety of possibilities. You could easily modify this rule to give magic-users a level-dependent chance to spontaneously alter their spells, or to give clerics a level-depended chance to successfully pray for divine intervention.

In a game that already does allow multiple attacks or cleaving or whatever (i.e. not LotFP), you could still probably use this house rule for other weird things that players try, like suplexing a naga onto a bed of nails (which might also require a grapple check at the very least) or screaming directly into a morlock's ear while gut-punching him or catching the giant turtle's shell just right with your sword to make it do some sweet flips.

I don't think this house rule is covering new ground at all. I've heard of similar ideas before. Honestly, this is probably Baby's First Game Design-level stuff, and most D&D/OSR referees are already way ahead of me on this count. Mostly, I'm just looking for input on whether or not this might be a good way to give fighters more mechanical options and creativity in combat, and what some better methods of achieving this might be. If the fighter says "I run up the wall and back-flip, then slice the monster on the way down," and for whatever reason you want to allow it, what comes next? As the referee, how do you determine whether or not the fighter succeeds, and how well?


  1. Making fighters better at combat stunts is always good! I think using the attack bonus would work fine, as its almost the same as level but caps at +10 lotfp (?). Attack bonus ties in nicely with combat maneuvers. You could also perhaps have two or three target numbers (if that's not too annoying, like 15, 20, 25) to allow for difference between reasonable and insane ideas.

    1. That's not a bad way to do it. Probably makes more sense, plus it allows different degrees of difficulty, like how skill checks worked in D&D 3.5. Thanks for the idea.

  2. Have you looked at Logan's gambit rule?
    My variant on it goes:

    If you want to do something extra fancy, make two attack rolls.
    If both hit, it happens!
    If one hits and one misses, it partially succeeds or succeeds at a cost.
    If both miss, it's an ironic reversal and whatever you wanted to happen to them happens to you instead.

    So necessarily, Fighters are always better at combat manoeuvres because they get a better attack bonus, and creatures with heavier defences are harder to get with a gambit.

    So for example, player says "I want to jump on the spider's back and pull a net over its face so it can't bite!"
    Double hit - the net ensnares the spider and it can't bite people easily!
    Double miss - They get tangled up in the net themselves and can't attack until they get out of it.
    1 hit 1 miss - choice between "only ensnare its legs, it can still bite though" and "you succeed at getting the net over the spider's mandibles but it manages to bite you as it does so".

    1. I forgot about those. I second this, these are some good (and clever) rules!

    2. I really like this. It's simple, and it adds some risk to such maneuvers with the whole "ironic reversal" thing, plus it implements degrees of success. Very nice.

      The only thing I'm really unsure about is how this would interact with multiple attacks if you were to count them as a type of gambit. For two attacks, would you roll to hit three times? Four? What happens on a partial success?

      But yeah, this is very nice. Thanks.

    3. I just don't do multiple attacks with this, Fighters already get a Cleave in my game.

      Albeit one time there was gambit of "spin around in a circle and hit everyone around me!", which is cool enough to be a gambit.
      Unfortunately they double-missed, so everyone around them hit the character. Somehow didn't die, but illustrated the perils of the ironic reversal well enough!

    4. I personally don't think it would "break" or greatly unbalance LotFP in any significant way if Fighters could Cleave, at least at higher levels. I do wonder if it might be overkill to allow that AND stunts...but then again, you illustrated the riskiness of trying stunts pretty well there, and I think that might work well as a balancing factor.

      In other words, yeah, I like your idea.

  3. I USUALLY try to arbitrate "stunts" using skills (running hacked 5E, here). "Oh, you want to do this special/specific thing? Roll [relevant skill]" vs. estimated target.
    I'm not familiar enough with LotFP to have a good grasp of how this would go in that system - I know it has a d6-based skill system, but I don't know how broad (and how specific) those skills are in actual play.
    I like the instinct to base "stunts" off level, though. High-level characters simply should be more stunty and badass than noobs.

    1. I generally do the same with skills in LotFP. Want to jury-rig a trap? Sure, since you put points in Tinker, you're probably the kind of person who could give it a decent shot, so roll a Tinker check to see if it works.

      The problem is, Fighters don't get skill points. Other than Languages and Open Doors, which are tied to ability scores, Fighters are stuck at 1 point in every skill forever (barring some kind of magical or otherwise unusual situation, I suppose). So skills wouldn't help much with something that's supposed to be a Fighter-specific ability. But I could solve this by giving Fighters some kind of "Combat" skill that advances every few levels, I suppose, and then have them make a check with that skill for fancy combat stunts. Thanks for the idea.

    2. Hm, the appeal of having a more broadly skill-based stunt system is that it would allow for non-combat stunts as well.

      But, if the idea is for "stunts" to be Fighter-specific, then yeah, you'd try to use existing Fighter-specific mechanics. So, I guess that in LotFP, if you want to have a stunt system SPECIFICALLY applied to fighting maneuvers, it should be based of the attack bonus. James' comment accommodates this (two attack rolls, which, of course, benefit from attack bonus). Or, a target number besides armor class could be set for allowing stunt effects (like, "if your attack roll is 20 or more, you hit AND disarm this sucker").

    3. Yeah, I mean, I'm not opposed to giving other classes their own stunt-like features based on whatever their class specializes in - I think I mentioned Clerics praying for divine intervention earlier, and "metamagic feats" from D&D 3.5 also come to mind.

      But my original thought was that if the only (class-specific) thing Fighters are good at is fighting, then I might as well let them be creative and tactical while fighting, specifically in ways that other classes (usually) cannot.

      Of course, you could give Fighters non-combat stuff they're good at instead. I've seen people give them bonuses to hiring loyal retainers because of their natural leadership, or something like that. You could also argue that Fighters are already good at one class-specific thing outside of combat: surviving (one might say "tanking") damage from traps and natural hazards and such. "Well, this door is rigged to explode, and I'm not skilled enough to disarm it. Regdar! You open it while we stand back! You've got the most HP, after all." But come on, that's not an enviable position to be in, is it? :P

      Plus, I feel like Fighters would be a whole lot better at "tanking" traps if they unambiguously had the best saving throws across the board. I highly doubt that I'll ever make my own heartbreaker system, but if I did, Fighters would probably have the best saving throws.