Sunday, February 17, 2013

Good Idea, Bad Idea: Ranger Hit Die, Combat Surprise

Animaniacs is back on The Hub, and I'm making sure my kids experience it.

The Ranger's Extra Hit Dice

It occurs to me I blithely stated an extra d6 hit die and an extra d8 hit die are worth 1 and 2 custom powers respectively when used in class creation with ACKS Player's Companion, without really looking at it. (here, and used in the Ranger class here)

So, what's the Ranger really getting out of that, long term? What would some hypothetical tough guy opting for 2d8 at first level get out of his?

I had some charts, but it ended up being a simple solution, so I'll skip them, for once.

Toughness 1, which grants you 2d6+2*Con at 1st level, then regular progression thereafter, is met or exceeded by a character progressing from 1d8+Con at 4th level on average. Assuming you always roll max HP, it happens at 3rd level. And it's the exact same for 2d8+2*Con versus 1d10+Con with Toughness 2, except max HP matches out at 4th.

Now, HP's swingy, so I'd wager you might get up to around 6th to 8th in practice, if you're looking at a ranger whose player has hot d6s and a fighter whose player can't wrangle d8s to save their lives (literally, I suppose)

Of course, they're always, on average, 1 HD ahead of their brethren only taking 1d6 or 1d8 at 1st level, maybe two hits if your Constitution is well above average.

So, let's roll this back to what it's worth in ACKS.

I said the extra 1d6+2*Con at first level was worth 1 custom power. If we take the Thief example, where 1 Build Point equals 3 proficiencies at it's first value purchase, I'm valuing what amounts to be, on average, 3 to 4 levels of higher HP as worth a third of spending that Build Point on Hit Die 2 (d8).

That's not too bad. 4 levels (of beating a d8 character)  is almost a third of the 14 level limit in ACKS.

On the other hand, I've said that 2d8+2*Con  is worth 2 custom powers - or, 2/3rds the cost of going from Hit Die 2 (d8) to HD 3 (d10).

In practice, going from Hit Die 2 to Hit Die 3 is more expensive than just 1 Build Point for human characters - you've ended up with a character with a lot of HP, but not a lot of ability to apply it in combat, since you've got only 1 Build Point left. I could really only see doing it in a demihuman class that gains Fighting Value from it's Racial Points - like the Thrassians, in the ACKS:PC - Thrassian 4, HD 3, Fighting 1 would certainly be something to see (assuming that's legal, working without book-on-hand).

The 'cost', then, of that extra 1 HP on average you gain from d8 to d10 HD isn't really worth it for the vast majority of builds.

Is the cost of 2 proficiencies worth the single extra d8 hit dice? Assume for the moment whomever would want it would be a mostly Fighting class - let's say we're a Fighter, at HD 2 and Fighting 2.

The absolute cheapest way I could think to go about it (feel free to correct) is to drop Weapons to Broad, and drop either Two-Weapon Fighting or Two-Handed Fighting styles. You'll gain the 2 proficiencies you need to get the extra die, and not impact your armor class any, while gaining 300XP/level in your experience requirements. Over the next 14 levels, that's a lot of extra XP  you'll have to gain.

Worth it? Maybe - if you're of the type that uses the 'reroll all HP each level, keep highest', then the extra d8 could be worth it. Done the usual way, it's a lucky roll at first level for it to make that much difference.

But, in the end, the extra d6 is most likely worth a single custom power, so, by expectation, an extra d8 has to be either 1.5 powers or 2 powers. There's a dearth of things to spend .5 of a power on in ACKS, so it may as well be worth 2.

And that's fine - things in ACKS that cost multiple powers aren't always worth it anyway.

The other way to look at this proficiency is it gives you, on average, 1 extra hit point - that's the same effect as your Constitution going up. There's other proficiencies in ACKS that give you a bonus to-hit, which is the same effect as your Strength going up - certainly, the to-hit proficiences aren't applicable in all cases, but, the random die roll isn't guaranteeing more hit points either, so I think that evens out.

I'll put that down as a 'good idea'.

Combat Surprise

Way back here I was having the silly "let's talk about thief skills" thing everybody else does at least once and, in my fevered typing, came up with the idea of inverting Climb Walls to provide a mechanism by which a "good hit" can give a player an added effect in combat.

I started from a standpoint of rolling high means you've done well, since that whole screed was drawn out of the thief skill table - so I completed that thought, and implied that a high roll for to-hit was a "good" hit - a quality strike, as opposed to a lucky one.

Is it though? Against low-armored opponents, the argument can be made pretty clearly - if you've got a 50% chance to hit a guy in leather, and you roll a number that only occurs 5% or 10% of the time, you could extrapolate that that was a better quality hit than when you rolled one or two points over the minimum you needed.

If our opponent wears plate and carries a large shield, however, it gets a bit dicey. You could be at a point where you're only able to hit that opponent on a 19 or 20 - was that necessarily a "quality" hit, that would justify an extra effect, or was that simply the best you could do to wound that opponent?

I don't think it is. The proper way to invoke something like combat surprise would be to test the value of your roll as compared to the minimum value you need - once I know you've hit, I need to be able to put a numerical value on the roll that says "you exceeded your target number by X, and that's granting you Combat Surprise because it was a quality maneuver".

Can that be done? Sure. If you go back to my post about Mutants and Mastermind 3E's Toughness save, you know it's been done.

But that's way too darn complicated for ACKS and old-school speedy combat - let the combat trickery in ACKS stay as is, maybe let a natural 20 be a critical hit for everyone, if you're feeling it.

So - Combat Surprise - bad idea.

So there's that. The nice part about house rules is we don't have to get it completely right the first time.

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