Tuesday, March 31, 2015

DF Felltower/Cold Fens Explosive Fireballs idea

In my Felltower game, we've been mucking with explosive spells a lot.

This is to replace the really anemic explosive spells as they are written now:

"The target and anyone closer to the target than one yard takes full damage. Those further away divide damage by three times their distance in yards (round down)." (GURPS Magic, p. 75)

That works out to full damage in the center hex, 1/3 to the surrounding ring, 1/6 around that, 1/9 around that, 1/12 out to four, etc. So you get a damage-variable size, with pretty low damage results out past the center and the ring around it. Even an 18d Explosive Fireball doing max damage (108 points) does 36 damage, then 18, then 12, etc. Average damage is noticeably smaller, but still does 63, 21, 10.5, 7, etc. (and costs 36 base energy, so it should be good.)
A more reasonable 6d Explosive Fireball does 21, 7, 3.5, 2.33~, 1.75, etc.

I prefer a less variable area of effect, given that pretty much all GURPS spells are precisely sized. You don't throw a spell and then find out how big the effect was.

I also like fireballs that aren't a lot of expensive for potentially high damage to an impact/point blank target plus a high chance of almost no damage to moderately armored folks 1-2 yards away.

What we've been doing up to now has been -1d of damage per yard away. Potentially really big - an 18d spell is 35 yards across!

Another simple way to have decreasing damage but standard effects is this:

- All explosive spells expand to 1 yard (if 1d), 2 yards (2d), or 3 yards (3d+). (Preserves the variable size from 3e)
- Explosive spells do full damage in the center hex, 2/3 damage out to the surrounding hexes, 1/3 damage out to the hexes around that. (Preserves 3e size, keeps a single roll)

Still another would be to say:

- All explosive spells are 3 yards across.
- Divide damage as above (round down, min 1).

That makes all explosive spells a 3-area spell (1 hex, the 2 rings of hexes around it). Damage is one roll, and easier to calculate.

You could make these things even more effective, if you had no reduction in damage within their size. 6d? Does 6d to everyone in the area of the spell. That's pretty scary, and easy, but it cuts down the downside of 4e explosions (variable area) and reduces the utility of area attack spells (uniform damage over an area).

I kind of like the middle option. Single size (no tiny explosive fireballs), easy damage calcs. If Hannibal the Flammable throws a 5d explosive fireball and rolls 17 damage, he'll do 17, 11, 5 in the three rings of hexes. The max-damage 18d example above would do 108, 72, 36. Done. Average damage would be 63, 42, 21. Well worth the cost for the annihilation that probably brings (damage plus everything bursting into flame at that damage).

Easy enough. Quick thirds instead of 1/3, 1/6, 1/9, etc. No variable area that depends on rolls to see how big it is, which slows down combat a lot for little gain once foes have DR 3+.

Will we do this? I have no idea. But I am thinking about it. It wouldn't change any recent events, and it would make those 1d Explosive Fireballs Hannibal loves so much more potentially useful - now they'll hit a 15' diameter circle for at least a little damage) instead of nothing but the target. He might get lucky and do 2 damage to his target's neighbor's neighbors.


  1. I think no reduction in damage is way too strong, personally. Having all of them the same size would be nice and consistent with fewer calculations and less planning for area of effect. Anything that cuts down on turn time without nerfing something into uselessness sounds like a big plus to me.

    1. The "less planning" thing is nice, too - you hit your target, and everything within 2 hexes of it.

  2. I'd probably do 1/2 and 1/3 in the adjacent and far hexes, just to make the math a little easier, but 2/3rds isn't that hard if you're already calculating 1/3rd for the outer hex ring.

    This is a good, simple solution to the explosive fireball problem.

    1. Thanks Mark. Yeah, the "already doing 1/3" was part of it, so was matching the old-style 3d at 1 yard, 2d at 2, 1d at 3 - 1, 2/3, 1/3.

      What about the sizing? To more I think about "they are all 5 yards across" the more I like it, because it makes even a 2-point, 1d Explosive Fireball a useful tool in your arsenal. Great for clearing desks of paperwork.

    2. My preference is for fixed damage and variable radius, but variable damage and fixed radius works, too. And having the inexpensive, 1d explosive spell useful for clearing out swarms, paperwork, or detecting invisible foes is great.

      5 hexes is a good diameter - big enough to be sometimes inconvenient and thus tactically interesting, but also small enough to be generally useful. And it's easier to calculate.

      One off-beat possibility would be an option to cast at 4 FP/die of damage, but have the radius of the damage zones doubled. So for 12 FP, you could do 3d in the target hex and surrounding ring of hexes, 2d in the ring of hexes 2 beyond that, and 1d at 4-5 hexes away from that (for a total of 11 hexes). Might be too powerful. Maybe triple cost instead?

      But keeping it simple, what you have is fine.

    3. I like "double the cost to double the size." I'm not sure I'd do it, but I like it.

  3. When I was last planning for sorcerers, my preferred alternative was the "lose 1d per yard radius" you mention. Theory was you channeled FP into a progressive larger warhead, which you then delivered and allowed to detonate. More power at the core means more energy will exist to spread out in all directions.

    1. We've been doing that, but it quickly gets huge, and only the gigantic ones do enough damage to be real fight-winners against DF-level foes.

  4. I swapped over to -1d damage per yard a long while ago, although its seen only sporadic use (the caster sold his magic to a fae in an emergency, and with it went a lot of the explosion based damage). For ease, speed and flavour I roll damage from the outer ring inwards, adding 1d to the rolled total as you go.

    For instance, you throw a 3d fireball: You look at who is at 3 yards out and roll 1d and get a 4, everyone at that range takes 4 damage. You then look at who is 2 yards out and roll 1d, this time rolling a 6 - everyone at two yards gets 4+6=10 damage. You then roll for the '1 yard' range (ie, the target hex) and roll the final 1d, which is a 1. The target hex takes 11 damage.

    You can easily (and probably should) skip the ranges where no-one is standing, so in the above example, if noone was standing two yards away, you roll 1d for the three yard range, and then skip straight to rolling 2d for the target hex. As its always 1d per yard, this is very easy and intuitive. It also saves you for rolling several dice before you ever do damage (if you threw a 6d fireball in the above example, you just roll 4d for the three yard range right off the bat).

    This is actually really easy to do with colour dice (for small radius attacks), rolls in quick succession, or if you're playing online with a dice roller you can easily just roll each die separately with the same command. It's also fun to see the damage total increment each step, and in important fights you're willing each one to roll high because it carries over to everyone else - it adds a lot of tension to the outcome as the player rolling naturally slows down.

    Note: When using spells/effects which have a 1d-1 or 1d+1 per energy cost, the +/-1 modifier is also per yard, whilst any other static modifier just gets applied on the first (outermost) roll (which in turn is carried forward).

  5. I treat them as FAEs (using the thermobaric rules in High-Tech) instead of conventional explosives.


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