Friday, June 26, 2009

Swinging from a chandelier and kicking someone into the fireplace.

Today's post is a short one, the flaw is well known, bland combats. While swinging from a chandelier and kicking someone in the face is awesome (which in piecemeal is its own benefit), its often a poorer mechanical choice than stabbing someone with 4 feet of steel blade. If you make it better mechanically then all of a sudden every combat is a string of crazy stunts and no one bothers with weapons..the implements specifically designed for killing people.

In piecemeal this is also dealt with by the use of "Opportunity Attacks" (nothing to do with "attacks of opportunity").

Every time a player passes a keypoint they gain a "Lucky Number", thieves get even more "Lucky Numbers". Because this is half superstition, players always choose their own lucky numbers. Whenever a lucky number is rolled on an attack, the attacker gets to make an "Opportunity Attack" for free. Opportunity attacks have one real caveat: They cannot be made using your primary weapon(s). They can even apply if you miss an attack.

Some examples:
Punching someone with a free hand.
Tripping someone
Kicking a chair between their legs
Tackling them into a grapple
Throwing a mug of ale from the nearby table
Having the arrow you fired miss, but hit a pipe full of steam and scald them instead.

Note that this means higher level heroes(and villains) with more lucky numbers can pull of some crazy chain reactions as you can score a lucky number on an Opportunity Attack.

Gaming Story:

A very high level character engaged in an aerial dogfight with some airships and ground based rocket batteries. A lucky number on a missile attack kills a cannon gunner, for his opportunity attack he declares the slumping body of the gunner swivels the cannon and fires as it rolls past another airship. This ends up scoring a devastating hit and triggered another opportunity the cripple airship rams into the third airship, a critical hit and another opportunity attack. The third airship is downed, and as it crashes to earth it slams into the rocket battery and triggers YET ANOTHER opportunity attack, sending all the rockets flying off at once, one of which strikes the first airship again (thankfully no opportunity attack). Even at very high levels with 4 lucky numbers this was a VERY unlikely string of events, but it'll be remembered for a LONG time.

This is a very simple mechanic to add into any game (in D&D I believe they use tiers to gauge the type of hero a character is) and adds a high level of spice.

Why is this good?

1.) It feeds gamer superstition, the piles of burnt poorly rolling dice visible online tells you this is a big priority.

2.) It creates the opportunity for extra mayhem without either forcing poor mechanical choices (which are still valid for when its right) nor making every fight a constant stream of outlandish stunts.

What are your thoughts?


  1. That is a GREAT idea! I really like that! I can't wait to give this a try!

  2. In games like D&D, would you recommend *not* allowing players to pick important numbers like "1" or "20" (or in Shadowrun, "6", which makes dice explode)?

    Additionally, you make reference to characters with more than one lucky number? How do you determine how many lucky numbers can be on a die?

  3. @ Grant Woodward:

    in D&D I see no problem with "1" or "20" being lucky numbers. A "20" just becomes an even larger success (and often is overkill) and a "1" just becomes another example of "crisis" and "opportunity" being the same word (noting that "fumbles" will often keep you from capitalizing on opportunity attacks).

    I've had 1 chosen as a "lucky number" quite a bit by players, meaning epic failures are often accompanied by events such as: falling backwards into a table and catapulting a tray full of knives forward, or tripping and dropping an oil lantern onto the stones at your opponents feet.

    As for more than one lucky number, they are numbers you have on your character sheets, a mechanical choice.

    Each time you breach a keypoint (in piecemeal) you choose another lucky number and write it down. In other systems you would just assign them when players meet certain criteria (like reaching a certain level).

  4. Interesting idea in theory, but should the player determine what happens or should the DM/GM? After all, there are players out there that are *gasp* munchkins and could disrupt an encounter or even end it too quickly.

    Other than that, I like the added flavor that it could add to a fight that, lets be honest, can get downright boring sometimes.

  5. I like this idea very much! :)

  6. Wow, I find it hard to believe this was almost 2 years ago that I posted this. Time flies.