Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Only Heroes get to Resist

I recently read an excellent review of the game Crypts & Things Remastered - I'll link to it when I can find the review again.

One element of the rules the review discussed is that, essentially, only heroes get to make saving rolls. The gap between heroic protagonists and everyone else is they get a chance to shrug off spells, resist poison, survive that fatal disease.

I think this is a neat idea easily portable to any game that features heroic protagonists, nameless NPCs meant to be cannon fodder, and terrifying foes meant to be dealt with only by heroes. Any game system, too. AD&D? Same as Crypts & Things. Call of Cthulhu? Only investigators get a chance to avoid SAN loss. And so on.

For GURPS, this fits into a heroic adventuring game quite nicely as a genre switch, much like rules for fodder. You can simply add this:

Only Heroes Resist! - Nameless foes and minor NPCs never succeed in rolls to resist supernatural powers, social skill rolls, poison, disease, and so on. They may appear to try to resist, but they always fail. As long as the roll for the skill, spell, etc. succeeds and there is a chance they could fail, they do. They can freely deploy such powers against each other will the same effect, but if they target PCs and important NPCs, those subjects get to resist normally!

For DF, expand that by saying that Fodder monsters never succeed in resistance rolls; Worthy may (the GM should decide how strongly to implement these rules), and Boss monsters always get to roll.

This actually would have the effect of driving up the effective power level of PCs without increasing their points. A low skill such as Intimidation-12 or Sleep-14 would be plenty - it's always going to work on the weaker foes. Truly worthy opponents and actually scary monsters will provide a challenge.

Of course, this won't necessarily stop players from thinking, "I need Sleep-30 so I can use it on boss monsters!" but it does mean they're wasting points and effort.

It also means you don't need to scale up challenges - you can effectively play at lower points. If having, say, HT 13 means you resist a normal poison 74.1% of the time and a minor NPC have a HT 13 means they fail 100% of the time, then normal poisons are already really scary. It makes resisted spells suddenly much more potent as crowd-clearers, as all you need to do to wipe out a mass of foes with Mass Sleep or lull them with Mass Suggestion or send they fleeing with Panic is to make your roll - no worry about margins, just succeed and these lesser mortals will succumb.

Or you can use it to simply speed up play - minor foes just wilt under supernatural attack, flee scary challenges, melt before your withering stare, fall like ragdolls under your incapacitating magic. You - and the big, important foes - get to resist.

And for the genre it's pulled from - running, say, GURPS Conan - it's pretty much how it works in the stories. Conan resists the poison. Conan breaks free from the jaws of the foe. Conan shrugs off the magic. Or, rarely, he doesn't, setting up more adventure later. It's not assured, but it is pretty much assured the nameless types all succumb. It's a very in-genre thing, and probably a superior implementation than giving bonuses or penalties just from the perspective of ease and speed.


  1. DF has the Fodder / Worthy / Boss optional rules. Fodder goes down when you hit them at all. Worthies fight to 0 HP but don't make consciousness checks. Bosses use the full rules like PCs.

    So, as an extension of those rules, Fodder fails all resistance rolls, and Bosses get resistance rolls like PCs. But that's two categories, not three. Having Worthy foes also auto-fail resistance rolls seems to skew game balance a bit, making Wizards who cast resisted spells better. I don't think I like it.

    1. Those are the rules I'm referring to the in post above, yes.

    2. Actually, this can work with lesser foes easily. Most lesser foes will have resistances of about 9-11, while the PCs have supernatural attack rolls of about 15-16. Just say that if the PCs made the roll by at least two after all modifiers that the mooks failed their roll. You could have a sliding scale of margin of success to include worthies who have better resistances.

      I'm not sure I'd use it, but it can easily work and not swing the game towards wizards.

  2. Id at least give advantages to resist and high stats as a penalty to the 'attack' roll.

    So monster X has magic resistance one. Just give the caster -1 effective skill to the spell.

    That way you have some differentiation at least between minion ensembles and its not get skill 30 in sleep and cast on every fight. Combined arms will still help you get around those penalties.

    1. I think a penalized roll would be a useful approach, but would have very different effects. You wouldn't have a sharp hero/not-hero dichotomy. You'd still have spells that didn't always work, poison that wasn't always effective, fear effects that didn't always scare everyone, etc. You'd just skew them to work more often with lower skills. There is a place for that, but it's different from a binary yes/no hero/not-hero approach.

      And if you do use the rule above, I think "Sleep-30 and I cast it every time" is valid, but really useless. You're essentially piling bonuses onto something that provides automatic victory - a waste of points. It's supposed to be automatic victory over the extras - and PCs and bosses are the ones that actually matter. If that's not what you want, there rule I wrote up above isn't really a good option.

  3. There is a small problem in that some resistance rolls represent 'heroic' resistance, and some others are mundane resistance. If only heroic types resist Malio's Hypno-eyes, that's fine, but if only heroic types can survive Spanish Flu you have a problem.

    You basically need a tag/modifier on some, but not all, res rolls to represent the difference. In DF style games, "anyone may roll" is probably rarer, so use that as the modifier, but you probably need it sometimes.

    Additionally, where you henchies fall in this system?

    As an aside, the Cosmic modifier in GURPS and the "Mastery Runes" in (Heroquest?) can serve a similar purpose, and various tiered systems are certainly possible.

    1. That's a good point about mundane resistance - you can of course decide what gets rolls. Maybe disease is exempted from this.

      Or, more likely, you just don't roll for Spanish Flu for non-heroes, so it's something that doesn't come up. If you're making world-building assumptions it's not helpful. "Spanish Flu is resisted by HT, fodder automatically fails, what percentage of the population are heroes and thus would get a roll?" = wrong rule for your game.

      Henchmen? Depends. It's a GM call. If you pay points for them they should get a roll (Dependents would too, because they're part of the hero's character) or establish some kind of point floor (125 and up for DF works) and roll from that point and up.

  4. I'm keeping this. Speeding up play _and_ opening up options for low-power and low-point PCs? Yes, I'm all over both of those things.


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