Saturday, May 13, 2017

To Hit or not To Hit...HIT!

Ok, so one of the types of RPG mechanics that is most vilified is the table mechanic. That is, a resolution mechanic that actually requires you to look at a table for an answer. The classic example is D&D's to-hit or attack matrix. In modern games this type of mechanic is absolutely despised and considered to be akin to writing a game for Commodore 64 in 2017.

When I was young I just took those tables as a given and developed quite a fondness for them. Years later I started thinking about simpler mechanics and I went through a hardcore anti-table period. I even remember ranting against descending AC as recently as 2012... just weeks before I dived headfirst into Labyrinth Lord and rediscovered what I loved about gaming in the first place.

A lot of my character sheets include an attack matrix. In my opinion, the only reason you might dislike these tables is because you have to go to the rulebook to look up your attack values. And that is a pain the ass, I agree. But when those values are on your character sheet I just don't see the problem.

YES... it is an extra step between the attack roll and knowing the outcome. If the target number to roll is equal to the AC, it's much easier and faster to know if you hit. But by using that method you have to rely on a lot of modifiers if you want to model any kind of character progression. Thus we end up with characters that have a +13 to hit. Which is something that bugs the snot out of me.

The attack matrix eliminates that modifier bloat problem. And how god damn hard is it to tilt your head down and look at a number on your sheet?

But hey, I realize these little things matter and you might be a person who HATES IT. I get it.

Anyway... I was fiddling with the attack matrix idea in a new game design. The idea is this:

You have three types of dice rolls for dealing with all possible actions. Each roll is made on a simple matrix identical to the to-hit table pictured here. But the values on the table never change. There is no level system, no progression. So if you start with a 10 at the top slot (roll a 10 to hit AC 9) then you will always have a 10. Thus no messy pencil marks and erasing and no need to reference a rulebook. It's on your sheet in black and white.

(As an aside... the game would encourage "advancement" organically. That is, finding cool stuff that gives you an edge. Learning from super secret tomes of lore. Being blessed or cursed by gods and demons. All of these things would be represented by modifiers... albeit without the bloat. Therefore if you do end up having a +2 on an attack roll it's a big deal. But the only reason you'd ever see +13 is if the group just let things get out of hand. Or WANTED a superpowered game. Whatever.)

Just thinking out loud here. I realize the concept is not going to be appealing to everyone. But a very stubborn part of me wants to do it anyway, just because. And since it is represented visually, it adds to the rule of cool for the game design. The character sheets would LOOK great.

And god dammit... it does NOT slow things down to glance at your sheet when you make a roll. And since the numbers on the sheet will not change... you'll have that shit memorized pretty fast.

Judy: I slice at the animated monkey with my scimitar! (clatter... Judy glances [GLANCES] at her sheet... maybe) I hit AC 4!

Judge: Your steel bites deep. The monkey screeches in pain and begins to vomit fire! But first, roll some damage.

You get the idea.


  1. Love this AND you for saying this

  2. Spot on! Still can't figure out how some players just phone this shit in. Good games (usually) require effort, thought, problem solving.