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Pleh
2018-09-13, 08:41 AM
Probably not a new idea. A lot of threads ask how the HP abstraction in various editions of D&D ought to be (pseudo) realistically interpreted.

I was mental exercising over how armor ought to work in TTRPGs (because it's not supposed to limit movement as much as the game tends to suggest). It seems like the purpose of armor tends to be less about negating direct hits (where the enemy deals exactly the injury they intended) and more about blocking peripheral damage (a scratch that missed the mark, but still dealt damage) while you are busy DODGING the Direct Hits (which might be trying to slip past the armor or strike so as to minimize its effectiveness).

Your reflexes protect you from the enemy incapacitating you, not your armor. That's why real armor (well made) has minimal limitations to movement. Your armor is meant to guard against the minor (I mean for combat purposes, peripheral damage can still be nasty) cuts and bruises that could gradually weaken you and leave you vulnerable to the opponent.

So it's all leading up to how Critical as a term might be unhelpful in understanding the relation of the attack and how the armor is functioning. Critical is somewhat ambiguous and irrelevant to armor as defense against peripheral damage and speaks only to striking a vital anatomical segmemt.

It might communicate more clearly if we relabel as, "Direct Hit." Less the notion that you luckily hit a weak point and more that your attack landed EXACTLY where you intended (which was likely a weak point and/or vital area). The point being that Normal Damage is now equivalent to what I'm calling Peripheral Damage (when you hit, but not as solidly as intended), while Critical Damage would now be an attack's damage when executed flawlessly.

Just some more thoughts off the cuff. What do you think?

MrSandman
2018-09-13, 11:00 PM
Your reflexes protect you from the enemy incapacitating you, not your armor. That's why real armor (well made) has minimal limitations to movement. Your armor is meant to guard against the minor (I mean for combat purposes, peripheral damage can still be nasty) cuts and bruises that could gradually weaken you and leave you vulnerable to the opponent.

citacion needed
This wikipedia article (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mail_(armour) ) suggests that mail was "almost impossible to penetrate using any conventional medieval weapon," which indicates a degree of protection far above peripheral damage.

But even disregarding that, I think that direct hit would be just as misleading as critical hit. How to properly describe loss of HP depends on a lot of factors (damage taken/total hp, hp left, poison involved, presence/absence of armour/shield, etc.) Even for a critical hit, describing it as a real wound or direct hit may be problematic (e.g. if you deal 50 dmg to an opponent with 200 hp).

Long story short, I think changing how you call critical hits doesn't ameliorate the issue. As far as I see it, the only way is to adjudicate an ad hoc description based on the speficic circumstances of each case.

Pleh
2018-09-14, 06:33 AM
Well, I feel like the citation is right below your excerpt in the same page.

"When the mail was not riveted, thrust from most sharp weapons could penetrate through it. However, when mail was riveted, only a strong well-placed thrust from certain spears or thin sword could penetrate, and a pollaxe or halberd blow could break through the armour. Strong projectile weapons such as stronger self bows, recurve bows, and crossbows could penetrate riveted mail."

"Some evidence indicates that during armoured combat, the intention was to actually get around the armour rather than through it—according to a study of skeletons found in Visby, Sweden, a majority of the skeletons showed wounds on less well protected legs. Although mail was a formidable protection, due to longswords getting more tapered as time progressed, mail worn under plate armor (and stand-alone mail as well) could be penetrated by the conventional weaponry of another knight."

"The flexibility of mail meant that a blow would often injure the wearer, potentially causing serious bruising or fractures, and it was a poor defence against head trauma. Mail-clad warriors typically wore separate rigid helms over their mail coifs for head protection. Likewise, blunt weapons such as maces and warhammers could harm the wearer by their impact without penetrating the armour; usually a soft armour, such as gambeson, was worn under the hauberk. Medieval surgeons were very well capable of setting and caring for bone fractures resulting from blunt weapons. With the poor understanding of hygiene however, cuts that could get infected were much more of a problem. Thus mail armour proved to be sufficient protection in most situations."

Seems in line with my general ideas.

Direct Hit: due to a well placed thrust, the sword managed to break through the links.

Peripheral: the axe shuddered into the mail, not piercing the links, but bruising flesh and fracturing bone beneath.

MoiMagnus
2018-09-14, 07:48 AM
For me, the hit/miss mechanism is a statistical approximation, and make no sense strike per strike.
That the same for turn order. It makes absolutely no sense that movements are not simultaneous.

In other words, I do not consider that the mechanical way the fight behave in a RPG to be "canon", but rather an rough approximation of the "real fight in this fictive universe". Approximation which has the immense advantage to have interesting game mechanics.

Thus, to the question, what is a critical hit compared to an hit?
In some games, like Pathfinder 2e, the critical hit actually depend on the opponent armor (you have to hit by a margin of 10), so a critical hit is just a standard hit that does more damages.
To the contrary, in 5e, the critical hit is independent from the armor.

In real life, if you are hit on the head strongly enough, you always have some probability of dying from a trauma whatever your armor.
Sure, if you don't have any helmet, this probability is bigger, but in a lot of RPG, your helmet is disregarded anyway by game mechanics.
So "critical hit" = "hit on the head" is a reasonable explanation.

Another explanation is in the text of the Adamantine Armor from 5e:

Adamantine Armor

This suit of armor is reinforced with adamantine, one of the hardest substances in existence. While you're wearing it, any critical hit against you becomes a normal hit.

This text implies that RAW in 5e, a critical hit is "going trough the armor", not going around.

Lastly, you have the interpretation of "A critical hit is when the Fate itself help you in the fight", which is a convenient "Shut up it's magic!", but I guess you wouldn't have open this thread if this explanation was ok for you.

Mark Hall
2018-09-14, 08:28 AM
Try taking a look at Hackmaster. Hackmaster Basic (https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/104757/HackMaster-Basic-free?affiliate_id=315505) has some of it, but the critical tables in the GMG (https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/178041/HackMaster-GameMasters-Guide?affiliate_id=315505) really bring it home.

In Hackmaster, armor has several stats. It has DR, which is subtracted from every weapon hit you take. It has a defense adjustment, which is subtracted from your defense rolls. It has initiative and speed adjustments, which are added to your initiative and weapon speed (which is bad), and a movement rate modifier, since you can't run as fast in heavy armor (not all armors have all of these; leather armor gives you 2 points of DR and a 2 point Defense adjustment, but no initiative, speed, or running adjustment). If you get hit, your armor takes part of it. If you get hit while carrying a shield, your shield reduces the overall damage (they roll fewer dice against you to determine damage in the first place), reduces that damage, and then your armor reduces it further.

When a critical is inflicted (using the full GMG rules), the difference between the attack and defense rolls, plus the damage you finally took, becomes the severity of the critical, while a separate roll determines the location. Thus, a good set of armor not only reduces the damage you take from every attack, it also reduces the chance that a critical will kill you outright... leather's 2 DR v. Plate's 7 DR means that a hit that will break the ribs of a man in plate will instantly kill someone in leather... and a hit that will result in the man in leather taking an extra die of damage will have no additional effect on the man in plate. Shields add to your defense and DR, meaning they reduce severity further... your shield might reduce the damage you take by 11 or more points, when you consider the die reduction for a shield hit AND the damage reduction from the shield itself.

Slipperychicken
2018-09-14, 08:32 AM
How about you read some game systems which handle damage and armor differently, such as runequest/mythras, shadowrun, pendragon, etc so you can have some perspective before setting about reinventing the wheel.

Pleh
2018-09-14, 10:09 AM
Thanks, Mark. I'll definitely have to look into that


How about you read some game systems which handle damage and armor differently, such as runequest/mythras, shadowrun, pendragon, etc so you can have some perspective before setting about reinventing the wheel.

I'm not reinventing the wheel, just expressing some ideas bouncing in my brain pan. Why not read all the different RPG systems to gain perspective? Not in the budget for me to do, not to mention I wouldn't consider reading rules to be sufficient for understanding a system. I'd need a group to play with (preferably one with moderate system mastery).

Instead, I can ask a community of players online about the ideas in my head and benefit from the group think without having to absorb all the irrelevant details of every part of every other system all on my own.

If it's never been done, maybe we can explore why that may be. If it has been done, throw me a reference and I'll happily look into it.

Mordar
2018-09-14, 01:10 PM
I think it is an interesting conversation. I've been playing RPGs for the better part of 40 years (okay, probably at about 36 right now, but it sounds better to say 40!), and I was fortunate to "come up" in an era that featured a lot of diverse systems in the mainstream of RPGs...not the post-d20/OGL where everything was one or two systems or practically an "indie" game.

I can appreciate the need or desire for multiple ways to abstract combat. I understand wanting to collapse combat into a single roll, or wanting granularity between "hit" and "damage", or wanting the level of specificity that assesses the benefits of particular types of weapons against particular types of armor (because a club works better against plate than a rapier...and so forth).

One of the simpler ways I have seen to model what I think you're discussing is actually EarthDawn (ED). ED is a non-D20 game and uses a "Physical Defense" (PD) determined by the defender's agility and an "Armor Value" (AV) determined by the type of armor worn. The attacker rolls their attack and must meet or exceed the PD to successfully hit the target. They then roll damage. The target reduces the damage by the AV and records that as damage taken. Example: Bob attacks Tom. Tom has a PD of 10 and an AV of 4. Bob rolls an 11 - he hits! Bob rolls damage and gets a 9. Tom subtracts his AV (4) from the 9 and takes 5 points of damage.

That's the basics of the system. Now, the wrinkles: Depending on the "class" and "feats" of the target, they may be able to offset the attack (Parry, Riposte), enhance their PD (fight defensively), dodge an attack that would otherwise have been successful (Avoid Blow), or mitigate the damage taken. While important, they don't apply to your base question/idea. What does apply is the level of success of the attack roll. In our example above, an attack of 1-9 misses, and a 10+ hits. If, however, the attacker rolls an exceptional success (in this case a 19+), the attack is armor defeating and the target does not get to subtract their AV from the damage.

This system models your "armor is...more about reducing damage from peripheral hits" idea while having the difficulty of hitting the target be based more on the target's combat ability. Other games do similar things, but ED is the one with which I am most familiar.

- M

Thrudd
2018-09-14, 01:32 PM
It may also be important to remember that the system is not only modelling armored humanoids fighting with conventional weapons, but also animals and fantasy monsters. Whatever a hit means, it applies equally to someone in armor and to a big unarmored animal or monster.

Also, if a critical hit is a hit that successfully hits an unprotected area, how should it be interpreted when the damage done fails to take out or impair the victim in any way?


Since in D&D, both armor and dexterity contribute to AC, any hit would imply both that the armor was avoided and the character failed to dodge. However, having enough HP to survive a "hit" implies there is something else that saves the character from serious injury, even when their armor and reflexes didn't. Since HP is modified by constitution, this is usually interpreted as natural toughness to resist pain (implying the character was actually struck), and endurance to resist fatigue (which means HP could also be seen as a combination of fatigue caused by combat stress and narrowly avoiding deadly blows). When you are down to your last HP, you're too fatigued and weakened by wounds to survive another potentially deadly blow, but apparently not so much that it impairs your fighting and dodging ability.

Any critical hit mechanic needs to fit into this paradigm, if you are going to use those mechanics as they are. So a critical hit can't be said to interact with armor any differently than any other hit does, because all attacks need to bypass both armor and dexterity to be a "hit". Why does it do more damage? HP is affected by constitution, so it must be a strike which is more painful or fatiguing, more potentially deadly than others.

Of course, this whole system gets confused a bit because we have established that armor is bypassed by a hit, yet a hit that doesn't kill or impair can't be said to have struck an unarmored area. If it does, what we are dealing with is a strange scenario where people and creatures are constantly being struck in vulnerable/unarmored areas but never with enough force to really do any harm. We have to conclude that non-lethal HP damage can also represent the character dodging or taking a blow on their armor, in addition to their AC representing their ability to avoid blows by these same means. A "hit" is a strike that is painful or fatiguing to the victim in some way, even when it was mostly avoided (because constitution affects it). A "miss" is a blow that was avoided and causes no pain or fatigue, either through the armor's effectiveness or the reflexes of the defender.

MrSandman
2018-09-15, 11:39 AM
Well, I feel like the citation is right below your excerpt in the same page.

"When the mail was not riveted, thrust from most sharp weapons could penetrate through it. However, when mail was riveted, only a strong well-placed thrust from certain spears or thin sword could penetrate, and a pollaxe or halberd blow could break through the armour. Strong projectile weapons such as stronger self bows, recurve bows, and crossbows could penetrate riveted mail."

"Some evidence indicates that during armoured combat, the intention was to actually get around the armour rather than through it—according to a study of skeletons found in Visby, Sweden, a majority of the skeletons showed wounds on less well protected legs. Although mail was a formidable protection, due to longswords getting more tapered as time progressed, mail worn under plate armor (and stand-alone mail as well) could be penetrated by the conventional weaponry of another knight."

"The flexibility of mail meant that a blow would often injure the wearer, potentially causing serious bruising or fractures, and it was a poor defence against head trauma. Mail-clad warriors typically wore separate rigid helms over their mail coifs for head protection. Likewise, blunt weapons such as maces and warhammers could harm the wearer by their impact without penetrating the armour; usually a soft armour, such as gambeson, was worn under the hauberk. Medieval surgeons were very well capable of setting and caring for bone fractures resulting from blunt weapons. With the poor understanding of hygiene however, cuts that could get infected were much more of a problem. Thus mail armour proved to be sufficient protection in most situations."

Seems in line with my general ideas.

Direct Hit: due to a well placed thrust, the sword managed to break through the links.

Peripheral: the axe shuddered into the mail, not piercing the links, but bruising flesh and fracturing bone beneath.

You do realise that nothing in there says that armour could only protect you from minor wounds, right?
The fact that riveted mail could only be penetrated by strong thrusts with certain spears, poleaxes, halberds or thin swords (such as estoc, as opposed to any sword) means that it would shake off most of the hits.
The fact that warriors tried to "go around" the mail to hit the opponent's legs, which were less protected, means that mail did its job of protecting the combatant from nasty injuries.
And by the time weapons were advanced enough to properly penetrate mail, plates came around to offer better protection.

If by "direct hit," you mean "hitting a weak spot," I fail to see how this is different than "critical hit." But if you mean "direct impact as opposed to half-dodged or otherwise weakened hit," I don't think you understand how armour works.

MoiMagnus
2018-09-15, 01:13 PM
Since in D&D, both armor and dexterity contribute to AC, any hit would imply both that the armor was avoided and the character failed to dodge.

At this subject, I really liked that 4e had Intelligence contributing to AC too, meaning that being able to anticipate your ennemy moves actually helped to dodge them.
(What I liked far less was that it was a max between Dex and Int instead of a sum, but I guess that was needed for game balance purposes)

Mark Hall
2018-09-15, 03:28 PM
At this subject, I really liked that 4e had Intelligence contributing to AC too, meaning that being able to anticipate your ennemy moves actually helped to dodge them.
(What I liked far less was that it was a max between Dex and Int instead of a sum, but I guess that was needed for game balance purposes)

In Villains and Vigilantes, every attribute contributed towards your HP.

Pleh
2018-09-15, 08:24 PM
The fact that riveted mail could only be penetrated by strong thrusts with certain spears, poleaxes, halberds or thin swords (such as estoc, as opposed to any sword) means that it would shake off most of the hits.

Yes, it shakes off most hits that didn't strike exactly as they needed to. Or, you could say, as Directly as they needed to.

Also, I've never seen D&D distinguish between riveted and unriveted mail. Not sure it's all that relevant to this topic to begin with. The unriveted mail seems to more resemble the mail from the game, so maybe it's better to use that for our real world analogue, such as it is.

Either way, chain mail still does next to nothing against bludgeoning weapons. The article said the main benefit of that is that medicine of the day were much better at mending broken bones and contusions than lacerations, which tend to get infected.

It would be neat to see slashing and piercing weapons get turned into bludgeoning damage by certain armors (unless they manage to penetrate).


The fact that warriors tried to "go around" the mail to hit the opponent's legs, which were less protected, means that mail did its job of protecting the combatant from nasty injuries.

Except to their legs. And, depending on the specific shirt in question, possibly some other parts of the upper body as well.


And by the time weapons were advanced enough to properly penetrate mail, plates came around to offer better protection.

But this is D&D. There's no canon development of technology; until the DM fiats otherwise, they're all on the table from the start. Weapons are equally effective against various types of armor. Your level of protection has less to do with the year and more to do with your proficiencies and coin pouch.

I was never intending an absolute realism combat mechanic, just an alteration of the verbiage that could make the function of armor slightly more sensical with how it works (both in the game and in the simulation).


If by "direct hit," you mean "hitting a weak spot," I fail to see how this is different than "critical hit." But if you mean "direct impact as opposed to half-dodged or otherwise weakened hit," I don't think you understand how armour works.

I think you're being adversarial. I am proposing a mostly nominal change to the idea of a critical hit. The goal being to change how the players view the role of armor to make it feel less "gamey" and more rooted in the events transpiring.

I guess I feel, "critical" has become a very game related term. It can feel less like it's talking about something a character does and more a boon that the game graciously bestows based on RNG. The idea of shifting the language to Direct Hit is to re emphasize how this kind of damage is what the attacker intends to deal with every attack. It's not about what Fate allows, but what the Attacker manages to impose upon the Defender.

A lot of this thought is inspired by some of the combat from the Black Panther movie, which did a nice job of showing how missing with a thrust can still give the opportunity to make a smaller, but nasty cut as you draw the weapon back. It wasn't the Direct Stabbing that was aimed for, but it still landed a blow that contributes to the outcome of the battle.

Of course, a patch of armor reduces the effectiveness of glancing blows like these as getting around or through armor takes more effort.

Jay R
2018-09-16, 12:47 PM
The most immersive way to interpret hit points and damage is to think about the rampaging orcs, rather than the inadequate and over-simplified simulation.