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Fixing V20's Alpha Strike combat problem...

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  • #16
    Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
    the statistical favored fighter from getting the expected outcome
    I think that we're both talking about different sorts of combats, the combat isn't very interesting when one side is significantly better than the other because it just becomes an overwhelming slaughter that, to me, isn't worth playing out. It's only when things are close that the system works and that's what I was talking about.

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    • #17
      Part of my point about initiative... is that it doesn't take a whole lot in the system to go from "coin flip" to "one side is significantly favored," in the system as it stands.

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      • #18
        So we use the V20DA streamlined combat rules and they work well. That doesn't solve the alpha strike issue, though, as you'll still kill enemies quickly.

        I would suggest either a fixed defence as in Exalted, or an opposed test in general (so attack versus defence). But the latter tends to reduce attacks between roughly equally matched opponents to around zero, so you may need to adjudicate draws more (my rule is, provided both parties rolled at least one success before the draw: highest unmodified dice pool wins).

        Failing that, you could implement VTR2e soak rules: everything mundane is bashing to vamps, claws and teeth are lethal, and only sunlight, fire and True Faith are aggravated.

        That way, the alpha strike thing resolves itself. A single lucky blow might fill their health track with bashing (unlikely) but vamps only count that as Crippled as of V20 anyway. So they'd need a lot of wraparound damage to be out of the game.

        Just bear in mind that if most things do bashing, combats will take longer (especially as vamps halve bashing damage). VTR2e gets around this by no longer halving bashing damage but instead letting you heal 2B damage per vitae spent (which works out almost the same, but with the added bonus that you can fill someone's track with bashing damage relatively quickly, and they get to heal it quickly too).

        Basically, there can be multiple rules interactions when you pull on one thread or another, so just make sure you've thought them all through before tugging.


        Writer, publisher, performer
        Mostly he/his, sometimes she/her IRL https://adam-lowe.com

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        • #19
          Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
          it's because you've never seen a cat that's actually at the point where they think they have to kill someone to protect themself.
          Perhaps I have not seen such wild cat. At least in my veterinary practice, they often scream and try to bite my finger. And yet, I don't believe that few bites to the belly in hypothetical 35 seconds can kill (it can in theory, but there will definitely be something else... maybe a coma?).

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          • #20
            If you work at a veterinary practice, you know that a cat biting at your fingers is them saying, "Stop touching me, or I'm going to hurt you until you stop touching me," not them actually trying to kill.

            Feral cats that get cornered by humans who don't know what they're doing and trigger that cat to think it has to fight to survive? It doesn't bite fingers or bellies, it goes after the face and neck. Cats (all cats, not just domestic cats) are precision hunters. They survive by sinking those huge canines into a vital spot (as opposed to dogs who have much strong bites and more lateral jaw motion so they can grab and shake to cause massive trauma), and even house cats have those instincts way back in their lizard brains. While there's no recorded cases of a human actually dying from this (because humans are generally capable of getting out of the situation thanks to their size and own instincts to protect their vital organs), house cats are known to attack deceased humans, and frequently start with what would be a fatal bite to the neck if the person wasn't already dead; if you're going to scavenge a dead body, you start by making sure it's actually dead.

            The leading causes of death from cat wounds in adult humans are infections, but that's just something the WoD mechanics don't touch on (that's true in a huge number of dangerous activities). They don't put you in a coma, they put those long teeth deep into your body and let all the bacteria and viruses around get past your skin. That's also true in war: the vast majority of soldiers that died because of combat died from infections, not from directly fatal wounds

            But the WoD combat rules can at least kinda model this as being incapacitated by damage doesn't actually kill you, it leaves you incapacitated and on the verge of death; requiring medical attention, healing powers, or something so you don't die over time of any of the myriad of conditions that can end a life in that state.

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            • #21
              Originally posted by Alphari View Post
              Perhaps I have not seen such wild cat. At least in my veterinary practice, they often scream and try to bite my finger. And yet, I don't believe that few bites to the belly in hypothetical 35 seconds can kill (it can in theory, but there will definitely be something else... maybe a coma?).
              We had a small, semi feral cat that we tried to take to the vet to get spayed. She escaped the crate in the car and when my mother grabbed her she bit her arm three times down to the bone and clawed her badly enough to need stitches in about one round of combat time, before it escaped...


              Prone to being a Classic Curmudgeon, goshdarned whippersnappers...

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              • #22
                Having Fortitude autosoak any primarily physical damage has helped mitigate this problem. Having Stamina autosoak physical damage that it could mitigate might solve the problem further, but I haven't play tested this yet.

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                • #23
                  Originally posted by Hades View Post
                  Having Fortitude autosoak any primarily physical damage has helped mitigate this problem. Having Stamina autosoak physical damage that it could mitigate might solve the problem further, but I haven't play tested this yet.
                  Or, you can have vamps soak agg with stamina, barring faith, fire and sunlight (Fortitude alone can only soak these) like how it was in 1st/2nd Ed. And it would be so much simpler.

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                  • #24
                    Originally posted by Gangrel44 View Post
                    Or, you can have vamps soak agg with stamina, barring faith, fire and sunlight (Fortitude alone can only soak these) like how it was in 1st/2nd Ed. And it would be so much simpler.

                    Basically doing away with the concept of aggravated damage, and to some extent fortitude as well.

                    Autosoaking with fortitude works quite well.
                    And you can make an exception for faith, fire and sunlight if you so wish.

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                    • #25
                      Originally posted by Hades View Post
                      Having Fortitude autosoak any primarily physical damage has helped mitigate this problem. Having Stamina autosoak physical damage that it could mitigate might solve the problem further, but I haven't play tested this yet.
                      Originally posted by Gangrel44 View Post
                      Or, you can have vamps soak agg with stamina, barring faith, fire and sunlight (Fortitude alone can only soak these) like how it was in 1st/2nd Ed. And it would be so much simpler.
                      I would go with both.

                      Aggravated damage is way too powerful and unbalanced in V:tM and Fortitude (before V5 anyway) is too weak. Those are different problems, even though they are related.

                      I have long let vampires soak aggravated damage with Stamina aside from faith, sunlight, and fire. That helps make aggravated damage more balanced and helps with the alpha strike problem to some degree. Then Fortitude should give dice to soak faith, fire, and sunlight and allow for automatic soak dice for other kinds of damage - anything that gets soaked by Stamina gets automatically soaked by Fortitude. Like the Stamina equivalent of old school Potence.

                      This, of course, makes vampires with high Fortitude and Stamina powerful tanks. As they should be. Taking 5 levels in Dominate allows you to give people orders that they must obey, erase or create new memories, or even possess them. That is extremely useful, even more useful than having 5 levels of automatic soak.

                      I have some issues with V5, but I do think that they improved how aggravated damage is handled along with giving Fortitude a boost.

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                      • #26
                        The big issue in V20/Revised combat to my mind is the massive proliferation of Aggravated damage while nerfing the means of soaking Agg damage.

                        Str+1 Agg vs Stamina in 1/2e was dangerous, but even Str 5 + Potence 5 + 1 would have only been about 8 successes for damage so 2 successes on the Stamina soak would leave you still alive. Plus you’d need a good Dex+Brawl to land the hits in the first place; basically you needed to be good at a lot more things to be completely overwhelming in combat; all three physical attributes + at least Brawl and Dodge (rather than just working off Athletics) + all three physical disciplines… meaning there were more mitigation strategies that were viable (wall of Stam+Fort helped a lot).

                        Str+1+1/extra success vs. nothing is instant gank territory… particularly since you only needed Dex+Brawl (+Celerity in V20) maxed out to generate instant kill levels of Agg damage.

                        My personal preference is to greatly limit what actually counts as Aggravated (for vamps; fire, sun and holy damage… the first two having convenient caps of 3 levels of damage… claws, fangs, etc. deal only lethal damage), treat Soak dice as automatic successes and treat weapon damage as half of max (round up) with extra damage accruing at only 1/2 successes.

                        It’s still pretty deadly… Str 3 + Potence 1 + 1 for feral claws is 3 lethal… so against a Stam 2 vampire it’s 1 + 1/2 successes levels of damage taken and the death spiral is bad as ever; but it at least gives them a chance to maybe run away.

                        Another thing that I have found helps too is a house rule that a Willpower point can negate dice and movement penalties for a few turns as this typically allowed wounded characters to escape.

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                        • #27
                          Got take: combat in VtM and other Storyteller System games never really worked. The rocket tag of the system is one reason, as is the terrible action economy but the main problem was touched upon by Heavy Arms. The combat system is SLOW and BORING. Which often causes players AND Storytellers to lose interest during resolution.

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                          • #28
                            Originally posted by Haquim View Post
                            Got take: combat in VtM and other Storyteller System games never really worked. The rocket tag of the system is one reason, as is the terrible action economy but the main problem was touched upon by Heavy Arms. The combat system is SLOW and BORING. Which often causes players AND Storytellers to lose interest during resolution.

                            Rocket tag is the best description. There is a reason that "Spirit of the Fray", the gift that gives +10 to the initiative of Werewolves, is so strong.




                            Originally posted by Chris24601 View Post
                            The big issue in V20/Revised combat to my mind is the massive proliferation of Aggravated damage while nerfing the means of soaking Agg damage.

                            Str+1 Agg vs Stamina in 1/2e was dangerous, but even Str 5 + Potence 5 + 1 would have only been about 8 successes for damage so 2 successes on the Stamina soak would leave you still alive. Plus you’d need a good Dex+Brawl to land the hits in the first place; basically you needed to be good at a lot more things to be completely overwhelming in combat; all three physical attributes + at least Brawl and Dodge (rather than just working off Athletics) + all three physical disciplines… meaning there were more mitigation strategies that were viable (wall of Stam+Fort helped a lot).

                            Str+1+1/extra success vs. nothing is instant gank territory… particularly since you only needed Dex+Brawl (+Celerity in V20) maxed out to generate instant kill levels of Agg damage.

                            My personal preference is to greatly limit what actually counts as Aggravated (for vamps; fire, sun and holy damage… the first two having convenient caps of 3 levels of damage… claws, fangs, etc. deal only lethal damage), treat Soak dice as automatic successes and treat weapon damage as half of max (round up) with extra damage accruing at only 1/2 successes.

                            It’s still pretty deadly… Str 3 + Potence 1 + 1 for feral claws is 3 lethal… so against a Stam 2 vampire it’s 1 + 1/2 successes levels of damage taken and the death spiral is bad as ever; but it at least gives them a chance to maybe run away.

                            Another thing that I have found helps too is a house rule that a Willpower point can negate dice and movement penalties for a few turns as this typically allowed wounded characters to escape.

                            If you are looking at combat, it becomes an optimization task of maximizing, in this order: Initiative, Attack rolls, Damage, and Dodge. And that makes Dexterity the god stat, as it affects all of those things (to different degrees) at the same time.

                            After some point, you are better not fighting at all, using preventive strikes on enemies, looking into esoteric damage sources, or going for things like Dominate + Awe to neutralize threats.

                            The deadliest melee Vampire starting character I could conceive uses Obtenebration for defense and damage but STILL needs high Dexterity to be viable. And even then an optimized Werewolf could deal with most stated characters as if they were wet tissue.
                            Last edited by lbeaumanior; 04-24-2022, 08:59 AM.

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                            • #29
                              Okay, to compile some of the suggestions:
                              1. Use V20 dark ages rules.
                              2. Use your split actions. Celerity is Very strong, but with liberal use of split actions Everyone can still be playing rather than having some players sit around while others do stuff.
                              3. Use auto-soaking to lower dice rolling. Current suggestion, stamina auto-soaks bashing and lethal, but must roll to soak aggravated and can't be rolled At All against fire, sunlight or True faith. Fortitude auto-soaks everything except fire, sunlight and true faith, which must be rolled as normal.
                              4. Limit success transfer from attack roll to damage. Current suggestion is a max of 4 successes(for an 5 success attack) can be added to damage roll.
                              To build off of the auto-soak, wouldn't it speed up a lot of the mechanics if the were more auto-success type of rules?

                              For example: Why not have vampires count their physical attributes(but not abilities) as an auto-success pool for mundane tasks? Attributes used for Disciplines would be rolled as normal.

                              Not gonna lie, this is partially inspired by "vampire facts" from kismet's site. Specifically the idea that while normal living humans tire out or mess up because their metabolisms produce poison that their cells need to clean up, vampires are undead and thus can go 100% all night from sun-down to sun-up without worrying about things like lactic acid or toxic neurotransmitters.

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                              • #30
                                Honestly, V5 had the seed of the right idea in stripping down combat to simple opposed rolls (and making ranged combat not key off Dex) but I think went a little too far in that you could resist gunfire with gunfire of your own and do damage with a win making any sort of defensive approach a loser’s game (you can a high shooting ability to defend against attacks and do damage if you roll well or you can have a high dodge and still take damage if you lose, but gain nothing if you win).

                                There’s probably some compromise between that and V20 where you could get a sweet spot for speed vs. complexity.

                                Like make defenses reflexives that automatically “take half” (and if adapting elements from X20 maybe add or subtract a die for each degree of difference from difficulty 6… i.e. a diff 5 defense would add 1 before halving while a diff 8 would subtract 2 dice before halving).

                                Then add the weapon damage dice to the attack pool (perhaps adjusting the values) and use half your soak dice as a static soak (the reason I’m not just adding to defense is because it’s less math if you also want positional defenses). You’re now down to one roll per attack with the margin as damage dealt.

                                How many categories of defense you want can be flavored to taste, but I think that a close and ranged value would be reasonable (and those two x potentially different levels of soak vs. basing, lethal, agg and possibly armor is why Ieft soak separate from basic defense).

                                I have a feeling most groups where combat is an important part of their campaigns probably has their own house rules flavored to taste.

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