2013-10-17 : The Magic Trick: Damage in Dogs in the Vineyard
The magic trick, in one specific form, is to make combat in a roleplaying game tense and risky, but without killing PCs off all the time.
Damage in Dogs in the Vineyard
In Dogs in the Vineyard, when you take a blow, you don't roll damage right then. Instead, you build up a pool of damage dice to roll at the end of combat. The better the to-hit roll, the more dice you add to your damage pool, and the better the weapon, the bigger the dice. A solid punch would be 4d6, a flesh wound with a bowie knife would be 3d8, and a gunshot to the body would be 5 or 6 d10.
So at the end of combat you might roll 4d6 3d8 5d10.
Only the two highest dice count for damage, though; you ignore the rest. If the sum of the two highest dice is 2-7, that's no lasting damage; 8-11, minor damage; 12-15, serious damage, 16-19, potentially-deadly damage; 20, instant death.
So here's the magic trick.
As you take damage, you see how potentially serious the damage is. "5d10! Holy crap!" When you're making tactical decisions about whether to stay in the fight or run away, or whether to fight aggressively or defensively, what you have to go on isn't a concrete number of hit points remaining, but an eyeball judgment of how much you've already risked and whether you're willing to risk more.
The feeling in play is viscerally risky.
But then when the fight's over, you roll your damage dice and sum the two highest. The curve of rolling x-many dice and summing the highest two has an interesting and great feature, which is that for reasonable numbers of dice, the second highest result is more likely than the highest. Roll 5d10 and sum the highest two, you're more likely to get a 19 than a 20. Roll 10d10 and sum the highest two, you're more likely to get a 20 than before, but you're still more likely to get a 19 than a 20.
So the most common outcome of getting shot is that you narrowly avoided getting killed outright. The most common outcome of getting stabbed is that you narrowly avoided a life-threatening wound.
During combat, you're thinking about how bad it can possibly be, so the risk is heightened. After combat, it doesn't turn out that bad (usually). You feel like you risked a lot but somehow got lucky and got away with it.
It's a nice little sleight of hand.
1. On 2013-10-17, Vincent said:
2. On 2013-10-17, Kit said:
3. On 2013-10-17, Vincent said:
4. On 2013-10-17, dwbapst said:
5. On 2013-10-17, Matt Snyder said:
6. On 2013-10-17, Vincent said:
7. On 2013-10-18, Gordon said:
Andy go "In that case, you're asking for it..."*
*click in for more
8. On 2013-10-18, JMendes said:
9. On 2013-10-18, Vincent said:
10. On 2013-10-18, AaronF said:
11. On 2013-10-20, Gregor said:
12. On 2013-10-20, George said:
13. On 2013-10-21, Vincent said: