Thursday, April 01, 2004

Typed Damage

One recurring element in many combat systems is the differentiation between how certain types of weapons will perform against certain types of armor. A slashing weapon may have a hard time penetrating armor which a blunt or piercing weapon will punch through with ease. Matching weaponry to your opponents defenses has been one of the great catalysts for changes in fighting throughout the ages. Capturing that same sort of dynamic in combat rules can add an extra layer of complexity to conflict. The trick is to do so without unnecessarily slowing down combat. To that end, typed damage allows for a simple representation of these factors without bogging down combat.

The Basic Mechanic

Typed damage uses Fudge dice to resolve damage, but does so in a non-traditional way. A number of dice are rolled and the number of faces showing a particular value ([-], [ ] or [+]) are counted. Each die face corresponds to one of the core damage types: Impact, Slashing and Piercing. Impact weapons are those which deliver their damage by virtue of their mass and solid striking surface. Clubs and maces are the most common example, and these sorts of weapons use the [ ] face. Slashing weapons are those that cut or chop, like swords and axes, and they use [-]. Piercing weapons primarily puncture, like arrows or spears, and use [+].

Weapons have two values in their description, a number which reflects their damage and a symbol which reflects their damage type. When used in combat, the attacker rolls an attack as normal. If he successfully hits, he rolls a number of dice equal to the damage of the weapon and plus the Margin of Success (MoS). For purposes of notation, blank faces are marked with a *.

For example:
Cyrus is armed with a shortsword, which is marked as 3-. That means it's a slashing weapon, and rolls 3 dice, counting [-]'s as successes. He is attacking a bandit and rolls a Good against the bandit's Mediocre, a Margin of Success of 2. He rolls 5 dice (3 for the sword + 2 for the MoS) before armor is considered.

Optional Rule: Strength and Damage
Very strong characters may opt to use their Strength for damage rather than their finesse. They should declare that they are doing this before the attack is rolled. In this case, use the character's Strength modifier in lieu of the margin of success.

Armor and Damage

Armor is rated based on how much it reduces each damage type. This is marked with the same symbols (+, * and -) as weapons. Thus, a suit of chainmail, which is strong against slashing weapons, provides some protection against piercing but is of little use against impact, might be noted as Chainmail: ---*++. This means it will stop 3 dice of slashing (-) attacks, 2 dice of piercing(+) attacks, or a single point of impact(*) attacks.

The dice that armor stops are subtracted from the dice the attacker rolls, though it cannot reduce the attacker's pool of dice to less than 1.

For example:
The bandit that Cyrus is fighting is wearing simple armor (Leather: +-*). That means Cyrus is rolling only 4 dice (3 for the sword + 2 for the MoS - 1 for the armor). Supposing he rolls [-][ ][ ][+], he gets a single -, and does one point of damage to the bandit. If the bandit had been wearing Chainmail: ---*++, Cyrus would only roll 2 dice (3 for the sword + 2 for the MoS - 3 for the armor). If the bandit had been wearing Super-Heavy Plate: ------****++++, Cyrus would subtract 5 dice, which would reduce him to 0, except he always gets to roll at least 1 die, so he would roll 1.

Special Damage Types

While the bulk of weapons can fall into one of the categories above, it does not account for every damage type possible. For those exceptions, special damage types are used. Three types of special damage, ballistic, energy and armor-piercing, are dealt with below, and provide guidelines for other types of damage that a game might need.

Ballistic Damage

Ballistic damage is, simply enough, damage from bullets. Bullets combine elements of both piercing and impact damage, and are treated as a combined damage type. This means that ballistic damage succeeds whenever the dice show a + or a *. It's notated with a B, so a pistol might be noted as Light Pistol: 3B.

Regular armor provides some protection against ballistic damage, but not a great deal. Regular armor is treated as if it is the weaker of its - and * values. It is also possible to get special ballistic armor (notated with B's) which uses it's B's instead of - or *'s. As a special note, ballistic armor can reduce damage to 0 dice.

For example:
Officer Murphy has just shot a perp with her target pistol (3B) with a MoS of 1. He's wearing a tough leather jacket (-*). Since it has 1 point of impact protection and no points of piercing protection, it uses the lesser of the two values, and provides no protection. Murphy will roll 4 dice, and do damage for every * or +. If the perp has been wearing a bulletproof vest (BBBB*), it would take away 4 of Murphy's dice, and she'd roll no dice (as per the armor's special note, above).

Energy Damage

Energy damage comes in a great many flavors: fire, electricity, etheric zap-guns and so on. The specifics of the type can determine how to protect against it, but the damage itself is mechanically similar, based upon the intensity of the damage. This uses a similar notation to normal damage types, except it is a progression of intensity. Normal energy attacks, such as a fire, a magical bolt or the like is noted as E+, and damages on +'s. More intense energy: A raging inferno, a true lightning strike and so on, are noted as E*+, and do damage on blanks and +'s. Lethally intense engergies, like stepping into magma or facing a disintegrator are marked as E-*+, which means the dice always succeed. The type of energy is also included in the notation, so a flamethrower might be noted as Flamethrower: 6E*+(Fire), which means it rolls 6 dice, doing fire damage on blanks and plusses.

Regular Armor is generally useless against energy weapons, though the GM may allow it to provide a point or two of protection if it seems approrpriate: Thick Furs, for example, might only be -*+, but they might provide a point or two of protection against a Cold attack. However, it is possible to get armor that protects against any sort of energy, though usually against only one type of Energy. This is noted with E's, and qualified with the type. As such, a heavy fireproof suit might be EEE-+(Fire), and will stop 3 dice of fire damage. As with ballistic damage, energy damage can be reduced to 0 by specialized armor.

*For example:*
Arias the Magnificent has just cast a Firebolt: 4E+ at his rival, Kerion, with a MoS of 2. Kerion has a defensive spell up, Protection from Fire: EEEEE(Fire) so Arias can roll only 1 die (4 dice base + 2 for MoS - 5 for the protection spell), which will do damage on a plus.

Armor Piercing Damage

An attack may be noted as being Armor Piercing with the notation AP: Pistol: 4B(AP). Armor piercing attacks treat hardened armor (see below) as regular armor.

Special Armor Types

In addition to the special armors that are designed to deal with special damage, there are three other armor concepts which are worth noting: universal, hardened, and ablative armor.

Universal Armor

Universal armor, noted with X's, stops all damage types, up to its value. This is most useful for representing certain magical or science-fiction defenses, like force-fields. Some Universal armors may have special rules, but those are specific to the setting.

For example:
Artus and Kiel are engaging in a traditional knife-and-forcefield duel. With the forcefields up, each of them has 6 levels of Universal armor (Shield Belt: XXXXXX). Since the knives are only 2+, it's almost impossible for them to hurt each other, except for a quirk in the inertial shield technology. By slowing down their stikes, they can pass gently through the shields. This is a tricky manuver, and increases the difficulty to hit their opponent by 2, but if successful, they can opt to ignore the armor when determining damage.

Hardened Armor

Hardened Armor is armor which is particularily resistant to damage. It's a good way to represent things which are heavily armored (like tanks) or things which are virtualy immune to a particular type of attack without having to give them excessive levels of armor. Hardened armor removes successes rather than dice, and can reduce any attack to 0 damage. Hardened armor is noted with an H, usually after the appropriate type of damage, or in the notes. As a rule of thumb, the effect of one level of hardened armor is generally equivalent to the effect of 3 levels of non-hardened armor.

For example:
Cyrus is wearing magical armor enchanted to protect him against arrows. It provides normal protection most of the time, but is considered hardened agaisnt arrows, so is noted as Armor of Muldoon: --**++(H vs. Arrows). If someone shoots an arrow against Cyrus for 4 dice, they roll the four dice normally (rather than subtracting 2). If they roll [-][+][+][*] it would normally be 2 damage, but since the Armor of Muldoon is hardened, the two points of piercing defense (++) are subtracted from that total, reducing the damage to 0.

Ablative Armor

Ablative Armor is "used up" as it protects, and is noted by the comment (Ab) after the armor. Every die of damage the armor prevents reduces the overall level of the armor by that much. Ablative armor generally starts at a high level and is whittled down over the course of an encounter.

For example:
Rocket Risanto's custom speeder has just burst into flame. The intensity of the fuel is such that the fire is going to automatically do 4E+* every round. Thankfully, the fire supression system sprays the cabin with Fire Retardant Foam: EEEEEEEEEE(Fire, Ab). In the first round, the foam stops the damage, but is reduced from EEEEEEEEEE to EEEEEE. Rocket clearly needs to get out of the speeder before the foam stops providing any protection.

Combining Armor Types

Many armors combine more than one armor type. Many energy armors, for example, are hardened against their energy type. Many traditional force fields can be represented as ablative universal armor.

Alternate Uses

Some combat systems may want to use different damage categories, and the model can easily adapt to represent that.

For example:
In a game of well armed automobiles shooting at each other, the damage types might be Energy (for lasers and flamethrowers), Ballistic (for Bullets and Missiles) and Collision (for ramming and, well, collisions). These can be easily mapped to -, *, and +, and things are good to go.

Advanced Weapons

Many weapons can be used in more than one way. It is, for example, entirely possible to either stab or slash (or even bash) with a sword. As such, a sword could have multiple notations, 4-/2+. This means that when attacking with a sword, the attacker can decide (before rolling) to slash for 4- or stab for 2+. Against an unarmored opponent, slashing is obviously the way to go, but stabbing may be more effective against certain armor types.

The Wound Track

The system is adaptable to many wound tracks, the exact size and shape of which will have a lot of impact on how brutal combat is. The simplest track would read as follows:

[][][][] Scratched No Penalty
[][][] Hurt -1 Penalty to all actions
[][] Injured -2 Penalty to all Actions
[] Critically Injured -4 Penalty to all actions
[] Incapacitated Taken Out

Each point of damage (success) checks off a box, progressing through the boxes until the character is incapacitated. This has the advantage of simplicity, and is in keeping with many traditional ablative systems. However, it does not include any option for single wound doing grave damage, while still leaving the lesser boxes unfilled. For that, use a slightly different table:

1-2 [][] Scratched No Penalty
3 [][] Hurt -1 Penalty to all actions
4 [] Injured -2 Penalty to all Actions
5-6 [] Critically Injured -4 Penalty to all actions
7+ [] Incapacitated Taken Out

Using this system, look at the number of successes rolled, and check off a box at that level. If all the boxes at that level are filled in, fill in the next available box of greater severity (so if you roll 3 damage, and both Hurt boxes are filled, check off the Injured box).

Sample Weapons and Armor

Weapons Armor  
Fist 0* Padded *  
Gauntlet 1* Leather +  
Dagger 2-/1+ Studded Leather *+
Stiletto 2+ Light Chain -*++  
Light Club 2* Full Chain ---*++
Shortsword 3-/2+ Breastplate **++  
Truncheon 3* Field Plate --***++
Mace 4*    
Longsword 4-/2+    
Rapier 3+    
Spear 4+    
Shuriken 1-    
Dart 1+    
Self Bow 2+    
Shortbow 3+    
Longbow 4+    
Crossbow 4+    

These examples should not be cast in stone, as they represent a thinking that's very strongly influenced by a "fantasy" perspective on the utility of certain arms and armor. Those with the knowledge to spot historical inaccuracies should have no difficulty adjusting the statistics to suit their needs.

Final Thoughts

The goal of this system is to allow for a greater depth of interaction between damage and defense without adding signifigant extra time to damage resolution. My hope is that the simplicity of using symbols in the core notation makes this easy to read and easy to implement.