I had some sort of technique, back in the days, when it came to describing how an attack failed or succeeded.
I kind of fell short of creativity when describing attacks and blows with the kids last weekend.
Let’s try to reflect on why and if I can remember how I used to do it…
For starters, I was rusty. My lexicon of hits, misses, crits and fumbles was far away. I was also nervous.
I also put in there a dragon that had more HP that I was prepared to handle… this is where my narrative started to fall flat and sound repetitive.
Luckily, I had elements to save me: I was gaming with children who are blessed with a love for silliness. And they were vocal about their likes, anticipations and were ready to propose descriptions when I was falling short.
A bit of practice will bring the lexicon back… but I half-remember a technique I used to use.
« Rule » 1
I suspect a lot of DMs do it that way – the farther away you are from the target, the most spectacular the hit or miss. That’s an easy one.
« Rule » 2
What makes a die roll and a defense score is more complex than the silly number that represents it. For me, it feels especially rich in 4.0.
The die roll modifier (I almost wrote « thac0 » – my lexicon is resurfacing) is a combination of experience (half level), abilities (ex: strength), feats, characteristics. The die roll is luck.
Same with the defense score – experience, ablities and feats.
I try to layer them by importance.
For an attach score of 17, we can have a hit:
- 10 from the dice, for luck – « you just got lucky ».
- 3 for strengh bonus – « you hit so hard you pierced the armor »
- due to training – « he blocked your hit, but anticipating his parry, you pivot on your left leg and score a hit »
- due to experience with this or another opponent or situation – « kobolds always dodge on their left first. dumb farts »
Already a nice palette to narrate a hit. The narrower we hit the DC, the more the hit goes towards the « luck » end of the spectrum. The higher we beat the DC, the more I go towards the training and experience end of the spectrum.
Misses can use that same scale, but we can do the same thing with the defense score.
AC could be 18:
- Basic 10 – « you stand still, but the attacker misses » … or just use the attack score scale 🙂
- 3 for the armor – « his axe hits you straight in the chest. You step a few steps back, gasping for breath. You reach for your chest – your armor has taken the hit. And someone must pay. »
- 5 for a dex bonus – « his flail is coming straight at you. but you’re not there anymore ».
« Rule » 3 – Preparing a bit in advance
It’s hard to use just like that without pausing and thinking about what constitutes the scores… but if you are prepared a bit in advance, you can have a general idea of how the various scores are composed – especially your players’ scores.
I suspect we could devise a little hit/miss table that could be filled for each character and that gives descriptions for hits or misses based on how far the attack score is from the target DC.
Hmm… I like this idea.
« Rule » 4 – Practice
I’m a total designer geek and like to build rules and structures around things. It makes them simpler for me… but it sometimes makes them feel more complex and difficult for others.
A few practice rounds with have you get the gist of it… and you probably don’t need anything more.
Except, of course, if that table idea from tip3 pans out…