Sunday, December 12, 2010

Crunchy Corner: Called Shots

In DnD your Armor Class, or AC, reflects your ability to get out of the way or deflect a blow harmlessly. It's a combination of bonuses given for dexterity, armor, shields, magic effects, etc.

Your attack bonus in 3rd Edition, be it for a melee or ranged weapon, is pretty simple - how good you are at hitting something with that thing.

Here's what happens in a giving combat turn: I try to whack you - I roll a d20 plus whatever my bonus for my whacker is. I'm trying to match your AC - I either succeed and thus you are whacked, or I failed.

Why did I fail?

Well... that's open to interpretation. You could have dodged, ducked, sidestepped, or I could have failed to even swing at the right area of space-time you occupy. Or I could have struck your shield, or you batted my weapon aside with it. Maybe I hit you, but your armor did what armor does. If you are some kind of monster, I may have simply failed to penetrate your rough hide or natural armor.

In the rules, straight as they are, there's no way to tell. The DM has to make up what happened. I usually go by how close the roll was - did you roll just under their AC? Armor or a shield, then. Miss it by 3 points or more and they probably dodged. More than 10 and you apparently mistook a stray dust mote for your foe, three feet away.

But what does this mean for a player that wants to hit a specific body part? Or an object held or worn? A "Called Shot" as you will. I was surprised to learn there is no rule for this in the official Player's Guide or the DMG for 3e. What's up with that?

First, there is a rule for trying to disarm an opponent, which involves striking whatever they're holding. There's also rules for hitting objects carried or worn.

The primary thinking I've encountered is that the system of Critical Hits is supposed to cover "hitting something special." In other words, you aren't allowed to aim for the neck, or shoot someone in the knee. Instead, if you roll a critical hit (let's remember that in official by-the-book 3e that means the critical range of that weapon followed by rolling the critical range AGAIN) you are THEN allowed to assume you hit the neck or a knee or something.

This, in my opinion, robs the players of agency and I fail to see how that improves the game.

I've not settled on a solution, but here are my thoughts.

Hitting a body part... just consider the size of the part, add that bonus to the other stuff (most things will be +4 or +8) and give the target an attack of opportunity.

Also, don't make hitting a special place too big a deal, as a DM. If chopping heads were as simple as overcoming a +8 bonus, a lot of PCs will take advantage of that. Maybe if they make the roll and get a natural 20. Otherwise, there's a feat for that.

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