reverse engineering defense bonuses

GlassJaw

Mongoose
I've been taking a look at various systems lately (Conan, Grim Tales, Star Wars, d20 Modern, Unearthed Arcana, etc) and they all have fairly different defense bonus ranges.

I was wondering what were some of the design decisions behind making the Conan defense bonuses what they are. For example, in almost all of the above systems I mentioned, the defense bonuses start at a value above 0. In Conan, all the bonuses start at 0.

Now I know some of these differences are due to using armor as DR, the prevalence of magic in the world, the use of shields, etc. I'm just wondering if any developers or would care to (or have in the past) chime in on why the Conan defense bonuses are what they are.
 

Sutek

Mongoose
I think, in Conan, it's to accomodate the parry/dodge system. I haven't looked into it in great detail, but I think the parry/dodge bonuses for certain classes get higher than basic D&D bonuses, or whatever. Also, the ability increase frequency is much greater (1 stat every 4 levels, all stats every 6 levels) so that DEX can be much higher. Also, to accomodate the idea of Massive Damage, a key mechanic in Conan, DVs need to be lower at lower levels.

That's just three reasons, speculations more appropriately, right of the top of my head. Anyone else?
 
Yeah, I'd agree with Sutek. I think the biggest piece is the fact that strength and dex apply to the DV, and a character can choose (in most cases) which one will work the best.

Of all my Conan players, I only have 2 that don't have both a high str and dex. The other 2 have a high one or the other, and this ability is in line with their class focus.

In D&D for example, a fighter would probably have a high str. A low dex would be certain doom if his entire AC (DV or whatever) was based primarily off of his dex.

A Conan soldier (fighter equivalent in Conan) would do just fine with only a high strength.
 

Sutek

Mongoose
Stargate:SG1 is/was in the same vien because largely AC was irrelevant at a certain point versus firearms, just like real life. The way that game did it was to have lots of feats that increased the threat range of guns so that the character firing it could, after 3 or 4 feats, get critical hits on...say...a To Hit roll of 15-20. That's huge, and it meant that if there was enough time to set up a sniper shot, for example, target AC was moot.

On the flip side of being easier to get hit in Conan, however, the conceptualization of health, hit points nad dying is quite different. Healing rates are extremely quick in Conan, emulating more accurately the notion that "if it didn't kill you, it was nothing but a flesh wound". You can heal back 30 hps of damage in a couple of days or so, whereas in D&D it might take a few seconds of spell casting or in Stargate, months in ICU with round the clock doctor care. They Conan is in the middle of that spectrum, offering a gritty, more realistic approach to damage, combat and health than D&D, but also remaining squarely in the fun, quick and adventurous area of pastiche and pulp fiction and fantasy.
 

Diabolus

Mongoose
I think it also cuts down on cherry-picking a single class level a la D&D. If you really want your DV to go up, spend a few levels in a single class rather than taking one of each of 5.
 

Trodax

Mongoose
GlassJaw said:
I was wondering what were some of the design decisions behind making the Conan defense bonuses what they are.
Interesting question. I've been thinking about this kind of stuff to, not specifically for Conan, but (like you) for d20 games in general.

Diabolus said:
I think it also cuts down on cherry-picking a single class level a la D&D. If you really want your DV to go up, spend a few levels in a single class rather than taking one of each of 5.
Yeah, I think this is most certainly the reason for Dodge and Parry to start at 0 in Conan. Had they started at +1, multiclassing for only the 1st level of a couple of classes would have been a good idea.

In Blue Rose, where Defense (as its called there) usually starts at +2, they got around this "problem" by a rule that says that when you multiclass, you get to add the Defense from the new class minus 2.
 

GlassJaw

Mongoose
Thanks for the replies everyone.

Yeah, I think this is most certainly the reason for Dodge and Parry to start at 0 in Conan. Had they started at +1, multiclassing for only the 1st level of a couple of classes would have been a good idea.

Yeah, this seems the most logical.

I've been thinking about using the Dodge/Parry rules with Grim Tales. In GT, only 2 of the classes have a +0 Defense bonus at the start. I'm wondering if I should use the Conan defense progressions as is or change them around. In GT, multiclassing is pretty much expected.
 

InsomNY

Mongoose
Trodax said:
In Blue Rose, where Defense (as its called there) usually starts at +2, they got around this "problem" by a rule that says that when you multiclass, you get to add the Defense from the new class minus 2.

FWIW, this is also how it's done in Star Wars D20. Prestige classes are exempt, however.
 

Trodax

Mongoose
GlassJaw said:
I've been thinking about using the Dodge/Parry rules with Grim Tales. In GT, only 2 of the classes have a +0 Defense bonus at the start. I'm wondering if I should use the Conan defense progressions as is or change them around. In GT, multiclassing is pretty much expected.
I have a copy of Grim Tales lying around (as yet unused), but I hadn't noticed that Defense started out high like that. Damn, the Fast Hero starts with +3 Defense at level 1! Seems like multiclassing for a couple of classes would do wonders to your Defense... Maybe that advantage is balanced out by something else though, I dunno.

I would say you could probably use the Dodge/Parry progressions from Conan, they seem to run on approximately the same scale as Defense in GT. In GT though, you also get to add armour bonus on top of that, to get your total AC (so defense is rather high). So, are you planning on using the Conan armour rules (damage reduction), or stick with the GT version?

BTW, do you hang out over at ENWorld? GT seems to be discussed a lot there, and I know I've seen a thread specifically about hybridizing it with Dodge/Parry (that was probably a couple of months ago, though).

Out of curiosity, will you be running a Conan game (ie. set in the Hyborian Age) with GT?
 

GlassJaw

Mongoose
Seems like multiclassing for a couple of classes would do wonders to your Defense... Maybe that advantage is balanced out by something else though, I dunno.

Well things like BAB, saves, Def stack as you multiclass but there are things (usually bonus feats) that you can only get as a starting character.

So, are you planning on using the Conan armour rules (damage reduction), or stick with the GT version?

DR.

Remember though that with Conan, it's not just Dex that adds to you Def. That means that more classes/characters will have a better Def because they aren't reliant on one ability for Def only.

BTW, do you hang out over at ENWorld? GT seems to be discussed a lot there, and I know I've seen a thread specifically about hybridizing it with Dodge/Parry (that was probably a couple of months ago, though).

Yeah, I'm GlassJaw over there too. It was probably me who started that thread.

will you be running a Conan game (ie. set in the Hyborian Age) with GT?

Not exactly. I'm sort of putting together a variant gritty d20 ruleset cobbled together from a lot of rules that I like and with a few tweaks of my own.
 

hal

Mongoose
The idea behind Defence Progressions has evolved over the last 5 years. Essentially, in D&D Attack always supercedes Defence as Hit Points increased over levels. The idea being that Hit Point was the main measure of defence and AC (commonly now called Defence) was just a measure of armour.

Over the last few years it soon became apparent that games that didn't include a magical bonus to Defence needed to supplement this in another way. The logical conclusion was a level based Defence to take the place of armour. At first these Defence bonuses were often tied to Reflex Save (Reflex+2 in WoT and SW OCR).

Following that, Defence has started to become something else, especially in grim low magic games like Conan and AGoT. It has become the main measure of defence (not just a replacement of armour) and is comparable to the Attack progression. As HP are still often increasing, Attack is still greater than Defence. However, Defence progressions are often based on a proportion of Attack progressions. This is certainly the case with Conan. That is why many (Conan and AGoT) now begin at +0 not +2.

The development of matching Defence with Attack was a logical step ever since the 3rd edition rules simplifed down to the use of a d20 and a core rule.

The above development has lead on to question that if Defence covers defence and this increases with levels then HP no longer need to increase with levels and armour should reduce damage. Conan has already partially incorporated the first part and all of the second part.

The first d20 system to go the full hog with this development is True 20 (not the Blue Rose version) and it did so last month. In True 20, Attack and Defence are bundled into 1 stat called Combat and are directly comparable to each other. 2 1st level Warriors have about the same base chance of hitting each other as 2 20th level Warriors. Damage and Toughness (which replaces HP) are now also directly comparable e.g. Weapons and Armour provide a comparable bonus to each stat. As such, Toughness no longers increases automatically by level in True 20. The ability for heroes to survive damage is not based on an abstract HP system but split between being better able to defend yourself (Defence and Feats), armour and natural resilience (Toughness) and dramatic importance/heroism (Conviction).

The result IMO is more transparent, cleaner and more logical system.
 

Trodax

Mongoose
Nice rundown of the "evolution" of d20 defense, hal!

hal said:
The result IMO is more transparent, cleaner and more logical system.
Yeah, True20 does sound like a very logical and streamlined system. I'm definitely considering picking it up, I've heard a lot of talk about how it could work well as a system for a Lord of the Rings game, among other things.

I wouldn't necessarily say that True20 is a better system for all genres, though.

Replacing hitpoints with a Toughness save changes the flavour of the game quite a bit (I should say that I've never tried out any games with a Toughness save (M&M, Blue Rose, True20) in play, so this is just how I see it in theory).
With the Toughness save, there will always be a chance that a low-level character kill, or at least seriously injure, a high-level character. With hitpoints, this chance is basically nonexistent.

Hitpoints just make for a much more statistical game, where you slowly wear your enemy down, while a Toughness save makes for a game where even the first attack could prove lethal. Conan falls somewhere in between these two extremes because of its combination of hitpoints and Massive Damage.

For example, in D&D, even though a 1st level Warrior might get lucky and score a hit on that 20th level Fighter, the amount of damage he can deal, even on a Critical, is very limited. In True20, that level 1 guy could get lucky and whack the level 20 dude in one hit (rolling two 20s in a row, while his enemy rolls a 1 on the Toughness save). Of course, this chance could be eliminated by giving high-level characters some way of avoiding those occasions of bad luck (is that what Conviction does in True20?)

For a gritty game, the always existing chance of death in True20 is probably a good thing. But if you want a game where the PCs are larger-than-life heroes capable of wading through hordes of enemies, I think hitpoints will do the job better.
 

hal

Mongoose
Trodax said:
Nice rundown of the "evolution" of d20 defense, hal!

Thanks.

Trodax said:
I wouldn't necessarily say that True20 is a better system for all genres, though.

I agree. It does "adventure fantasy" well but is less suitable for other genres without modification.

Trodax said:
Replacing hitpoints with a Toughness save changes the flavour of the game quite a bit (I should say that I've never tried out any games with a Toughness save (M&M, Blue Rose, True20) in play, so this is just how I see it in theory).
With the Toughness save, there will always be a chance that a low-level character kill, or at least seriously injure, a high-level character. With hitpoints, this chance is basically nonexistent.

I can understand the sentiment but this isn't the effect at all. True 20 replaces HP with Toughness and Conviction and higher Defence and lower recovery checks.

So if you are hit by an arrow in True 20 it will hurt you, even if you are very high level. This is relatively realistic.

However, high level PCs are much more able to dodge such attacks and even if they go down, the low recovery rolls make it difficult to die.

However, the real beauty of True 20 is in Conviction Points that act both as drama points and the "dramatic immunity" that HPs also grant to high level PCs. With a Conviction Point, a player is able to have some input about when it is untimely for his PC to be taken out and prevent it. For example, if a PC is fighting a foe that it is really important for your PC to beat (like the balrog) you spend Conviction to ensure you stay in the fight longer. As such, untimely deaths and injuries are quite rare unless the PC is very hard pressed (at big scenes and climaxes).

So the end result of lethality is not that unlike D&D overall. However, by splitting HP into Toughness, higher Defence and Conviction you get a cleaner feel as to the idea of what HP mashes together. There is no being hit lots of arrows before you go down in True 20. Instead, True 20 PCs have as amazing prowess in defence as in attack and somehow seem to survive against impossible odds because it is dramatically cool. The result is very reminiscient of Star Wars or Lord of the Rings movies.

Trodax said:
For a gritty game, the always existing chance of death in True20 is probably a good thing. But if you want a game where the PCs are larger-than-life heroes capable of wading through hordes of enemies, I think hitpoints will do the job better.

My own experiences with Conan and True 20 is that True 20 provides for the most "adventure/heroic" feel as the players have more control over the PCs fate and can rely solely on their PCs combat skill to win the day. True 20 recreates Star Wars and Lord of the Rings style of hi-octance action.

Conan is actually more gritty than True 20 in practice. This is great for Conan in which for most heroes (except for Conan) grit is ever present :)
 

Trodax

Mongoose
hal said:
However, the real beauty of True 20 is in Conviction Points that act both as drama points and the "dramatic immunity" that HPs also grant to high level PCs. With a Conviction Point, a player is able to have some input about when it is untimely for his PC to be taken out and prevent it. For example, if a PC is fighting a foe that it is really important for your PC to beat (like the balrog) you spend Conviction to ensure you stay in the fight longer. As such, untimely deaths and injuries are quite rare unless the PC is very hard pressed (at big scenes and climaxes).

So the end result of lethality is not that unlike D&D overall. However, by splitting HP into Toughness, higher Defence and Conviction you get a cleaner feel as to the idea of what HP mashes together. There is no being hit lots of arrows before you go down in True 20. Instead, True 20 PCs have as amazing prowess in defence as in attack and somehow seem to survive against impossible odds because it is dramatically cool. The result is very reminiscient of Star Wars or Lord of the Rings movies.
OK, I see. So Conviction replaces the job otherwise done by hp to make high-level characters immune to accidental, inappropriate death? Sounds good.

Damnit, hal, I think you just convinced me to scoot over to RPGNow and spend 12 bucks! :)
 

GlassJaw

Mongoose
I'm curious about True 20 as well but from what I've heard, it removes a lot of the things I want in a gritty, sword & sorcery-type game: AoO's, flanking, multiple attacks from BAB, etc.

It definitely a less tactical system.

There's a reason why it's similar to the Mutants & Mastermind system. It allows for a fast-paced, over-the-top, cinematic-style game. When you have people being thrown through buildings, a highly tactical system isn't as important.
 

hal

Mongoose
I apologise for pimping True 20 on these forums as I really like the Conan RPG :)

True 20 doesn't remove that many combat options. Instead it changes and sometimes removes those options in D20 that require a tactical or book keeping mindset to something more swiftly dealt with. For example, flanking has been removed but instead you have Surprise Attack (an attack where where an opponent is caught unawares). Along with Surprise Attack are enhancing Feats like Surprise Attack (rogue's Sneak Attack) and Crippling Strike (NB: in True 20, a PC can spend a Conviction point to get temporary access to feats they don't have).

So in True 20 you could roll behind an opponent and then slash his hamstrings. It is just that you don't need to determine whether you meet the exact "flanking" requirements. True 20 is focussed on increasing the ease of play and giving impact to people's actions.

True 20 has a lot of combat options. For example, it has the finesse attacks and parry and dodge distinction as seen in Conan. This allows for rapier wielding pirates to use different fighting styles and combat options than other fighters that D&D doesn't have. Leaving aside Feats and Special Combat actions like finesse, ganging up, mook rules and surprise attack the combat actions are:

Free Actions
Delay
Drop an Item
Drop Prone
Speak

Move Actions
Command
Manipulate an Object
Move
Stand Up

Full Actions
Aim
Charge
Move All Out
Recover
Refocus
Slam

Standard Actions
Aid
Attack
Begin/Complete Full Action
Combined Attack
Concentrate
Cover
Demoralize
Disarm
Distract
Feint
Grapple
Overrun
Ready
Rush
Startle
Taunt
Total Defense
Trick
Trip
 
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