Cinco: Growing Burdens

I suggested shifting goalposts more in favor of players, and a second idea: removing hearts altogether in favor of burdens, fictional effects which disadvantage the character by subtracting their value from rolls. Did that work out?



Let's assume the original scale and its melee effects for a second:

  • 20+: Triumph
  • 11–19: Compromise
  • 1–9: Failure
  • 0-: Catastrophe

For a sequence of attempted melee results, the outcomes for different aspect bonuses are as follows: 

Aspect Bonus Total Turns Hits Dealt Burdens
+0 6.4 2.6 5.4
+1 7.6 3.2 6.3
+2 8.7 3.9 7.2
+3 9.9 4.7 8.2
+4 11.3 5.9 9.2
+5 12.7 6.9 10.2

This means that a character can take from 5 to 10 "hits" (in the form of burden) while dealing on average 2 hits plus their aspect bonus. Their aspect bonus soaks up the effect of the burden accumulated until it exceeds the bonus, at which point it will basically always take 5 burdens to down the character. This all assumes that the character continues to aggressively melee rather than defend themselves, neither taking nor dealing damage.

What I kind of don't like is that as your burdens increase, so does your likelihood of success decrease. It makes you more likely to accumulate burdens, which follows, but it also results in so many failures and compromises one after the other... Does that sound fun? Certainly doesn't sound heroic!

If we use the scale from last time (compromises become successes, failures become compromises), the patterns change:

Aspect Bonus Total Turns Hits Dealt Burdens
+0 9.1 8.1 4.2
+1 11.6 10.6 5.1
+2 14.7 13.7 6.2
+3 17.5 16.5 7.2
+4 21.6 20.5 8.2
+5 27.0 26.0 9.2

Each character can last at least 9 turns, dealing a hit most of the time, while their aspect bonus soaks the brunt of impact. Since each burden is the result of a compromise, we can also tell what percent of hits come with a burden: 52% with an aspect of +0, and 35% with an aspect of +5. That's neat, but Christ Almighty look how many turns there are. From 9 to 27! The stakes don't exactly feel high. There's little to no friction. What if burdens were d6, and hits too just for fun?

Aspect Bonus Total Turns Hits Dealt Burdens
+0 5.5 16.6 8.5
+1 6.5 20.5 9.5
+2 7.4 25.5 10.1
+3 8.7 31.7 11.4
+4 10.0 39.4 12.2
+5 11.8 49.1 13.2

That looks a lot more sustainable. If you change incoming damage to d12, the player-character's longevity is not majorly affected; +0 lasts 4.6 turns and +5 lasts 9.0 turns. But this is getting out of hand, isn't it? It's starting to become a situation where you're constantly thinking about the rules for their mechanical oversight, instead of just doing things.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Here's what I learned:

  • It's too punishing for (what's effectively) your health bar to negatively impact your rolls.
  • "Compromise" being the most common result produces interesting decision-making.
  • Starting bonuses should be high enough to feel significant.
  • Spending inspiration for rerolls is really powerful, and a necessary part of the flow.

New assumptions. The original scale is fine (0/10/20). Characters should usually have 3 hearts each. They should usually take damage in 1-heart increments except when they should know better. Their average starting bonus will be +3 and increase by +1 per level, up to +7. Below is a simulated combat against an 8-heart encounter, which is a deadly one for level-1 characters. Pretend that it's against a handful of porcs, a mass of hoblins, or a dragon.

Round 1: Monster strength 8 of 8.
    Alice lands a hit but takes one in turn (15+3=18).
    Bob dodges an incoming blow (15+3=18).
    Claire dodges an incoming blow (14+2=16).
    David dodges an incoming blow (10+4=14).
Round 2: Monster strength 7 of 8.
    Alice lands a hit but takes one in turn (9+3=12).
    Bob is hit (5+3=8).
    Claire dodges an incoming blow (17+2=19).
    David defends themself and lands a hit (17+4=21).
Round 3: Monster strength 5 of 8.
    Alice lands a hit but takes one in turn (11+3=14).
    Alice is down.
    Bob lands a hit but takes one in turn (11+3=14).
    Claire defends themself and lands a hit (18+2=20).
    David defends themself and lands a hit (19+4=23).
Round 4: Monster strength 1 of 8.
    Bob lands a hit but takes one in turn (16+3=19).
    Bob is down.
    The monster is defeated!

I thought I corrected my code, but the characters keep killing themselves to land hits. They probably feel badass!


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