Wednesday, 30 March 2011

One-Roll Breakage Rules

It may be a while before I post the Dungeon.ppt you've been awaiting - there's the small matter of my 100,000 word manuscript I have to format and put in the mail by Thursday. It's not for gaming - it's a psychological monograph on moral emotions -  but I did slip the phrase "malevolent and benign" into one of the chapters...

In the meantime, a solution to something that's been bugging me a while...

What do you do when you roll a critical hit and weapons clash in combat? Or a fumble says to test for weapon breakage? Or one of your players is trying to hack a door with an axe?

Do you:
1: Pause the game, haul out the 1st Edition DMG and consult the item saving throw table?
2: Pause the game, haul out the 3rd Edition or Pathfinder book and use the even more complicated material damage system?
3: Remember 3-5-7-9-11?

When a swung weapon (not a spear, arrow etc.) might damage an item, and the weapon is made of material harder or as hard as the item, roll damage for the attacking weapon. I'm assuming you're using standard variable damage where a dagger is d4, longsword d8 and so on. Does it break the defending item?

If it's 3 or greater, a fragile item like a wand or a flask breaks.
If it's 5 or greater, a wooden haft, club or other thin wooden item breaks.
If it's 7 or greater, a shield or other solid wooden item breaks.
If it's 9 or greater, a sword, dagger blade, iron haft or other thin metal item breaks.
If it's 11 or greater, a metal shield or other solid metal item breaks.

Magical items defending against breakage have +1 to this number for every +1 of magic bonus.

A non-weapon surface that an object hits (say, in a fumble), if it's as hard as or harder than the weapon's weakest material, does:

1d4 damage if wood, 1d6 if reinforced wood, 1d8 if stone, 1d10 if metal - in ascending order of hardness.

In such a fumble, an edged weapon that doesn't break or take any damage is still blunted and has -1 to hit until sharpened.

Hacking at a solid item like a door proceeds the same way, except no hit roll is needed. An axe or pick is the ideal tool; anything else that can be swung is -1 damage for this purpose. Each hacker gets one damage roll per round, and the minimum damage roll to score a "breakage" is 7 (solid wood).

An object will take 2 "breaks" to fully break through a 1' square area that is 1 inch thick. So, to take a typical door off its hinges will require 4 breaks, more if thicker; to open a locked chest will require 2 breaks. If in this process a natural 1 for damage is rolled, the weapon takes damage instead, as in a fumble (see above).

So - hack away!


  1. Brilliant like most of your work.

    So, is that book fiction? non-fiction? Let us know when we can pick it up.

  2. It's non-fiction, a review of my and others' reserach on moral emotions together with a new theory that explains emotions and morality. Well, but some of my critics might classify it as fiction ;)

    In the leadup to the release I might make some posts linking the points I make with gaming ...