Feedback & d20 Dice Pools

Alzrius continues to provide some grade-A feedback on Spes Magna products. Here’re some clarifications about the “Expanded BAB” section of Fencing & Firearms. First, let’s sum up what “Expanded BAB” does for you:

Every character has a Base Attack Bonus, or BAB. F&F expands the uses for BAB two ways. First, BAB is added to your Armor Class as a dodge bonus. BAB reflects a character’s general skill in combat This includes not only the ability to land a blow, but also the ability parry and dodge attacks. Furthermore, a character’s BAB affords a certain amount of flexibility in combat from round-to-round as well.

Each round on his turn, a character can “shift” his up to his BAB to provide a bonus to a specific facet of combat. The same value is applied as a penalty to another facet. This bonus/penalty combinations lasts until the beginning of the character’s next turn. A character can apply up to his BAB as a bonus to attack rolls, to damage rolls (for attacks that require an attack roll), or to AC (as a dodge bonus). He must apply the same value as a penalty to one of the two other facets.

Now for Alzrius’s questions:

Alzrius: “Does that rule (regarding BAB as dodge bonus, and “shiftable BAB”) apply only to PCs, or to NPCs and monsters also?”
Me: “Only if the DM wants it to. I wouldn’t bother with it except in the case of a solo BBEG or in the case where a monster has a stock tactic. For example, I regularly run monsters that have Power Attack as if they go All Power Attack All the Time.”

Alzrius: “To be clear, the shiftable BAB can only be used for one thing at a time, right?”
Me: “Yes. The intention is to provide a character with a bonus/penalty trade-off that is both flexible and easy to track. So, a 5th-level fighter could go +5 attack rolls and -5 AC, but not +3 attack rolls, +2 damage, and -5 AC.”

Alzrius: ” While martial characters will always be applying the offsetting penalty somewhere that’s of concern to them, this doesn’t seem to be true for spellcasters. A wizard, for example, can max out his shiftable BAB to his AC, putting the penalty towards attack rolls…and then just cast a fireball, which has no attack roll….”
Me: “Excellent catch! This was certainly not my intention, and my lack of clarity could easily cause confusion. The idea behind “Expanded BAB” is that you only get the bonus if the penalty applies. So, that fireball-lobbing wizard can’t flex his BAB to get an AC bonus by reducing his AC.”

Alzrius’s last question there got me thinking. I clearly envisioned a wizard flexing his BAB with, say, shocking grasp. The idea is that a character has to be making an attack roll at some point during his turn in order to get the “Expanded BAB” benefit. Alzrius also theorized that the spellcaster “problem could be solved by applying it to his magic check instead, using the F&F rules.” IOW, the caster could make his spell harder or easier to resist in exchange for a bonus or penalty to either the spell’s attack roll or its damage.

This is an idea worth exploring, especially since Magic, Mind & Muscle will be using the Base Magic Bonus concept found in Trailblazer by Bad Axe Games. I definitely have to expand on Alzrius’s magic check idea to see how it looks once it’s all worked out on paper. My initial instinct is that it could indeed prove a fruitful exercise.

On another front, I’m still dithering about whether “Expanded BAB” should have a cap. IOW, should there be an upper limit to how much BAB a character can flex? The more I think about it, the more I’m inclined to say, “Yes.” I’m thinking about capping the flex to +5/-5 at most. The question I have is this: Should this be an actual rule, or just a friendly suggestion?

Among the many other Spes Magna Games projects in the works, it’s about time to start another round of editing on Rewarding Roleplaying. I have the feeling that I need to (a) change the number of Action Points characters get and (b) streamline the uses of Action Points. At the same time I’m reviewing Rewarding Roleplaying, I’m thinking about completely removing the use of Action Points for d20 re-rolls. Instead, I’m considering adding this to F&F:

Extra d20s
A character gets a pool of extra d20s equal to one-half his character level (maximum 4d20 at 8th level). Whenever a character rolls 1d20 to determine success, he has the option of rolling one or more extra d20s from his pool and choosing the best result out of the dice rolled. Since F&F has the players roll their own fate, this gives a character a powerful tool to determine the results of a wide variety of situations.

For example, Jeremiah Dawes is doing battle with a fierce gnoll. The gnoll’s attack score is high, and Jeremiah has failed most of his defense checks. As a result, Jeremiah has suffered serious damage. He won’t be able to fight much longer at this rate. The next time Jeremiah makes a defense check, he rolls 2d20, using a die from his pool. He takes the better of the two results, improving the odds that he’ll avoid more harm at the gnoll’s hands.

Extra d20s Issues: A couple of questions pop up in my mind when looking at this possible addition to F&F.

1. Is it a good idea?
2. What is the mechanic for replenishing a depleted dice pool?

January 12th, 2010  in RPG 1 Comment »

One Response to “Feedback & d20 Dice Pools”

  • Alzrius says:

    Wow, thanks for the props! It’s great to be able to participate in what Spes Magna is doing, so I’m happy that my comments were helpful to you. Speaking of which, there were some other things I wanted to bring up.

    1) I wonder if it’d be worthwhile to remove the fighting defensively and total defense rules in a game using F&F. Given what can be accomplished with shiftable BAB, the latter two rules seem superfluous now.

    2) In regards to gaining a dodge bonus to AC equal to BAB, it occurred to me that this may not serve the idea of nimble swashbucklers quite as much as it seems – this is because, as written, there’s no reason for a character not to also wear the heaviest armor they’re comfortable with in addition to the dodge bonus. That is, a wizard still won’t care for armor very much due to arcane spell failure chances, but a fighter will still be aiming for a suit of plate mail, since he can have that and his dodge bonus to AC.

    I wonder if perhaps the dodge bonus should be limited via a suit of armor’s max Dex bonus value also (e.g. you couldn’t gain your BAB-based dodge bonus in a suit of splint mail (max Dex bonus +0), but could gain up to +8 of your BAB-based dodge bonus in a suit of padded mail (max Dex bonus +8)). The end result of this would be that characters would armor up heavily at earlier levels, and then gradually shed their armor at later levels). I’m not sure about this idea, though.

    3) I’d definitely limit the amount of shiftable BAB by +5/-5, since that stops PCs from moving truly staggering amounts around at higher levels, which’d be prone to abuse (e.g. the fighter has the cleric cast a battery of defensive spells on him, then puts everything into damage rolls, with the offsetting AC penalty now somewhat mitigated).

    4) The idea of a “martial pool” of multiple d20’s was laid down in Ire Games’s book Codex Martialis (they gave it that name). In that book, you gain one d20 per point of BAB, to a maximum of four. You’re then able to distribute those d20’s however you want to among your d20-based dice rolls each and every combat round. For example, if you only have one attack (from having, say, BAB +4), you can put all four d20’s into that attack roll, and use the best result. But then you have none left for saving throws, defense rolls, etc.

    Something like that could be done with F&F, particularly since the PCs roll for everything, having active attacks (both physical and magical), and defenses (from both physical and magical attacks). It’s not a bad idea, but it’d have to be balanced carefully with the expanded uses of BAB already laid down in the book.

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