The Red Box Blog

Ramblings about D&D.

Rules Quirks – Called Shots

One thing that 2E explored in greater depth than any other edition was the notion of called shots – choosing where on the target’s body you would like an attack to hit; other editions have either only mentioned the concept in passing or ignored it all together.

But even though 2E spent a fair bit of text explaining all the details of called shots, they didn’t really use them, by which I mean that it was so inefficient to make a called shot that other than to exploit a weakness of a specific creature or to role play, a player was a fool to use them. And to be honest, that’s the way it should be.

Called shots either take over your game, or are completely useless.

The entire foundation of the D&D combat system is based around the notion that very complicated situations can be boiled down to a single number. A defender’s AC combines every aspect of his defense. An attacker’s to hit bonus combines every aspect of his offense. An attacker’s damage bonus combines every reason he might be able to injure opponents. A defender’s hit points combines combines every reason he might be able to stay alive. One thing D&D, or any system that combines many concepts into nebulous numbers, does not do well is explore ideas that require breaking those nebulous numbers into component parts.

In order to make a called shot on an opponent’s leg you need to first know the AC of defender’s leg.

  • Is it higher or lower than his body as a whole?
  • Does he have more armor down there, or less?
  • Is his weapon is one that defends well on low shots, or it is one that is vulnerable down low?

Then you would need to know how capable an attacker is at making low attacks.

  • Is his weapon designed for low blows, or weak at them
  • Is the attacker carrying anything that would limit his ability to strike low?

Then you would need to know just how difficult it would be for the attacker to specifically choose to make a low attack over just attacking at whatever it open.

  • What are the relative heights of the combatants?
  • How large are the defender’s legs compare to the rest of his body?

Finally you would need to know just how many hit points the defender has in each leg?

  • How many of the defender’s hit points are stamina and how many are luck?
  • How much of the defender’s stamina exists in one leg?
  • How much of his luck is in one leg?

As you can see, when you start opening up D&D’s black boxes you are left with a whole lot of questions that just cannot be answered. Because of that, I don’t recommend called shots either when playing 2E or any other edition. If a player has a long term desire to do called shots, I think the best thing to do is to figure out what the end result is that he is trying to achieve, then find other rules will allow him to achieve that; for example, if his is looking to hamstring opponents to keep them from escaping, use powers (4E) or feats (3E) to let him do just that.

Have an opinion about this article? I love comments. Please feel welcome to leave your thoughts.


January 4, 2011 Posted by | 2nd Edition, Dungeons and Dragons, RPGs, Rules Quirks | , , , | 3 Comments

The Martial Arts Munchkin

Over at Huge Ruined Pile Scott has an interesting post about more gamers taking martial arts training (particularly Asian martial arts training) than the general populace. I suspect this is because of the large overlap between gamers and martial arts movie fans.

Anyways, this got me thinking about a fight I kept having back in high school, where a new player would join my group, and immediately want to play a Ninja or a Samurai. I would say yes, then direct him to some rules pertaining to the class/kit he would want. Like clockwork, an incident would soon come up where the player wanted to do some super move that would instantly kill all the bad guys the group was fighting.

My response would always be “Where does it say you can do that on your character sheet?” Which without fail brought on the response of “Um, hello, I’m playing a ninja; that means I know ninjutsu. Of course, I can do a whirlwind attack of death.”

Even warning players during character creation that they were making a level one character, and if the class (or kit) wasn’t balanced in that regard I wouldn’t have let them pick it did nothing to help. Something about playing a character based on Asian history/mythology instead any other part of the world, made certain players feel they were entitled to super powers. It got so bad that eventually I just outright banned all things Asian from my games; classes, weapons, you name it – they all brought the same stigma.

Amusingly, after about 15 years this ban had become so second nature to me that I actual forgot the reason why it was in place. And so I finally decided to relax it a little in the past year or so. (I’m not welcoming new players into my group all the time any more, and I don’t think any of my current players would try this.)

Have an opinion about this article? I love comments. Please feel welcome to leave your thoughts.

December 15, 2010 Posted by | 2nd Edition, Dungeons and Dragons, RPGs | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hey Wizards, Since You’re Going Retro… (Part 1)

Since Wizards of the Coast has been releasing a whole bunch of retro themed products I thought I would throw my ideas out there for retro products that definitely could get my money.

A long time ago I remember reading in Dragon Magazine a certain article that mentioned how much time was wasted flipping through Monster Manuals. Between Monster Manual, Monster Manual II, Fiend Folio, plus modules and Dragon Magazines that might have monsters a DM could spend an hour looking for a monster if he didn’t know where to start. Luckily the article came with a solution, because the article was about the changes coming in 2nd Edition.

The solution was, of course, the Monstrous Compendium. The Monstrous Compendium was an incredible idea; it gave the power of organization in the hands of the DM. If you wanted to put every monster ever in one huge 4″ binder you could do it. If you wanted to put all the monsters you like in one binder and the ones you don’t in another you could do it. If you wanted to organize using a system other than alphabetical you could do it. The idea was a huge break through.

Unfortunately, there were some problems in the execution of the Monstrous Compendium. For example:

  • Some times there were different monsters printed on opposite side of a page; this destroyed the very point of the MC and made alphabetizing a nightmare.
  • The binder it came in didn’t hold up well to the rings being opened and closed a lot.
  • The pages sometimes ripped when being turned.

However, these reasons shouldn’t have killed the idea, they should have just demanded fixes.

  • Every double sided page should have had just a single monster on it; if this means more fluff per monster, even better.
  • Instead of binders, which undoubtedly cost a lot to ship (compared to books), they should have sold decal packs so you could turn any binder into a official looking MC.
  • Instead of the paper they did use they should have prnted on slightly heavily paper.

Put all these changes together, and enforce them in every instance new monsters are being published (so the new monster in the back of a module could easily be added to your MC) and the product would be a winner. So how about it Wizards?

October 25, 2010 Posted by | 2nd Edition, Dungeons and Dragons, RPGs | , , | 7 Comments