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"Miss points" in the Fate system

Matt Sheridan

Minus 10 horse points.
Validated User
So, Greg Stolze's "miss points" post has some cool ideas in it. I dig the combat paradigm he suggests, but at the same time, it put me in mind of Spirit of the Century's stress tracks. And I don't like stress tracks. Rolling to maybe overcome your enemy's defense roll in hopes of being rewarded with a near miss is pretty annoying, so I've been happily running SotC without stress for a while, now.

But Greg got me thinking: What if we just cut back that double-layered whiff factor and eliminated the effectively meaningless attacks represented by non-near misses? That is, defenders don't roll to negate incoming attacks. Attacks go straight to stress and, after that, to consequences without an opposing roll. That way, every slash and jab tires the target, taking him or her closer to vulnerability, and every attack feels meaningful.

Would this lead to unsatisfyingly short fights? Possibly. And the obvious solution to that would be to just give characters longer stress tracks. But what if, instead, we gave them a different kind of defense roll that actually replenished the stress track? Actually, let's just start using the phrase "defense tokens", instead of "stress track".

So you're making a defense roll per round instead of per attack, and thus multiple attackers become pretty scary (and involve less rolling). Let's say you also can't replenish defense tokens with the same skills you use to attack, so it'll be possible for characters to be better at dishing it out than taking it (something I almost always want in my NPCs), leading to faster and nastier fights. Naturally, you can tag aspects on your defense rolls as well as your attack rolls (appropriate for moves like taking cover).

Here's a fun possibility: What if you could give up your attack action to make two defense rolls in a round (effectively withdrawing to catch your breath)? Or give up your defense roll to make two attacks (thus, attacking wildly and recklessly)? Just to cut down on the die rolls, maybe giving up one should just give you a bonus on the other instead of a second roll?

I've still got a lot to think about here, but I feel pretty good about it. Like I might run some kind of short swashbucklery thing just to test it. I've still got to figure out where movement fits into this system, and whether or not all this means anything for social conflicts.

How's it all sound to you lot? What huge pitfalls am I stumbling into?
 

spaceLem

Green haired rodent
Validated User
No! Miss points are stupid and counter intuitive. If you want something to miss, then miss. Don't hit then call it something else. Be better at dodging or parrying rather than having hyperinflated hit points.

And is it really all that bad to have your hero being total bad ass and indestructible, and just taking the damage because he's that hard? It makes as much sense as wizards, paladins and fire breathing dragons.
 

Matt Sheridan

Minus 10 horse points.
Validated User
I'd say they're only counterintuitive if you tell players they're rolling to "hit" and do "damage", and that they're being "healed" by taking a breather or hearing some encouraging words. That's D&D's mistake. You tell players they're rolling to wear down their opponent enough to land an attack, there's nothing counterintuitive about them.

Superhumanly resilient heroes are appropriate for some genres, but distractingly absurd in quite a lot of them. Remember, I'm not talking about D&D, here.
 

Odie

If only she could breathe
Validated User
So you're saying that regardless of your active roll for a given 'round' of combat, each character also gets a passive roll that amounts to "how much do I catch my breath?" and the result of that roll replenishes lost 'miss points?'

Interesting idea and one I'd like to tinker with. Makes the attack/defense equation weighted funny, though. If Al attacks Bob, and Bob goes all-out defense, Al still gets his "catch my breath" roll per round, right? So any round that Bob's not actively attacking Al, he's losing any ground he may have already gained by attacking previously. That's going to have a pronounced effect on how fights go.

-B
 

spaceLem

Green haired rodent
Validated User
Okay. However I've never been terribly comfortable with the "wearing the opponent down until the last attack actually strikes" philosophy; I know it's the way it's done in films, but it's not the way I picture my games. Characters should be at risk from the moment they enter combat, if the first blow is the one to take down my character, so be it, I'd like a chance to be able to turn the odds against that happening in my favour though.

With the exception of D&D, I'm generally used to quite fragile characters, who die very quickly (for example Shadowrun). I generally don't mind playing D&D the way it is, I just don't see those sorts of characters as remotely normal, and I'm quite happy to see them survive hideous attacks; regarding them in that fashion, suddenly D&D's method is much less of a problem. To bring the characters back into the realms of mere mortals, Vitality/Wounds goes a long way towards fixing the high HP problem (I know that topic was raised several times in the other thread).
 

Matt Sheridan

Minus 10 horse points.
Validated User
So you're saying that regardless of your active roll for a given 'round' of combat, each character also gets a passive roll that amounts to "how much do I catch my breath?" and the result of that roll replenishes lost 'miss points?'
Right, right. Unless they decide to neglect their defense in favor of something else, like a reckless barrage of attacks, or maybe some distracting non-combat action (shades of opportunity attacks, here).

Interesting idea and one I'd like to tinker with. Makes the attack/defense equation weighted funny, though. If Al attacks Bob, and Bob goes all-out defense, Al still gets his "catch my breath" roll per round, right? So any round that Bob's not actively attacking Al, he's losing any ground he may have already gained by attacking previously. That's going to have a pronounced effect on how fights go.
Yep, exactly. So the strategic meat of combat in a system like this would be about gambling on when you can safely go all out, trying to break away and recover when you're getting too worn down, maneuvering to let your buddies gang up on your target and avoid getting ganged-up on, etc. And then, of course, all this is modified by the kind of crazy stunts you normally pull in any Fate game. (Except that a lot of maneuvers that would normally place aspects might actually just eat defense tokens, effectively letting people "attack" with non-combat skills.)

Okay. However I've never been terribly comfortable with the "wearing the opponent down until the last attack actually strikes" philosophy; I know it's the way it's done in films, but it's not the way I picture my games.
The thing is, I think most people picture fights in games working that way because of the mechanics, and terminology like "hit points". If you change the mechanics and the terminology, if becomes a lot easier to picture it differently.

But, again, I'm not talking D&D, here. Spirit of the Century already has "miss points" in the form of stress tracks. What I'm proposing is eliminating the weird situation where you've got regular misses (attack rolls the target successfully defends against), near misses (attack rolls that inflict stress), and hits (attack rolls that inflict consequences). I'd prefer to just have one kind of miss: ones that take your target a closer to a killing blow.
 

Matt Sheridan

Minus 10 horse points.
Validated User
...Yammering on further, I totally think that swordthrusts that hit flesh are more interesting than swordthrusts that hit air. Absolutely. But representing sword wounds with nothing more than hit point loss isn't anywhere near as interesting as representing them with a consequence like "ruined arm" or "bloody scalp wound". But of course you can't have every roll of the dice producing another consequence. That'd either mean very short fights or a whole lot of consequence-writing.

So, what I'm thinking about is making misses as interesting as whittling off hit points, while hits are as interesting as bloody, meaty consequences. Hopefully, this means combat with no real "whiff factor", where every attack has a result that's at least somewhat satisfying.
 

spaceLem

Green haired rodent
Validated User
I like a hit to mean exactly that. Armour and toughness however may mean that no actual damage occurs, although the opponent might be left tired by the attack if they're not outright injured. I have no objections to accumulating penalties while fighting, whether due to fatigue or injury. Generally however when you bring up this sort of mechanic, people start talking about "death spirals", and how they hurt game play.

From my own experience of fencing (historical fencing, based on the original treatises), I can keep going for a long time with a long sword, as long as I have a good supply of water. While we aim not to hurt our opponent (blunted swords, pulling our blows and wearing lots of padding), we learn how to disable them as quickly as possible. All the accidental knocks can be mostly ignored, but a bad knock can end the night for you.

This sort of thing, and a preference for realism (while fighting trolls it's important to do it correctly you know) definitely colour my view to gaming, since most of the we're describing our actions in fine detail anyway.

If I wish to play a cinematic action hero, then hit points are just a bad idea from the start, and I'd rather handle my ability to keep going in some completely different manner altogether, probably with more hand wavey terms.
 

Robert A. Rodger

Aspiring Kermit
Validated User
Spirit of the Century was the first thing I thought of when I read Greg's post. I've posted some other ideas in yet a third thread, but think that SotC's pulp feel could definitely use a wear'em down mechanic like this. I would approach it more like, "ok he's going to hit you, you're going to get a serious consequence unless you do something to negate it. What are you willing to do, how much are you willing to give to get out of damage."

It's an active defense causing the attacker to miss. I think that's much more interesting that a "whiff" like some people are imagining it.
 

devlin1

Human Paraquat
Validated User
I would approach it more like, "ok he's going to hit you, you're going to get a serious consequence unless you do something to negate it. What are you willing to do, how much are you willing to give to get out of damage."
This sounds exactly like how it works anyway.

"He's going to hit you" = your defense roll failed.
"You're going to get a [Severe] consequence" = your defense roll failed by enough to entail a consequence (although the specifics of what this means differ based on how you do your consequences).
"Unless you do something to negate it" = invoke/tag aspects.
"How much are you willing to give to get out of damage" = How many Fate Points will/can you spend to not take that consequence (or take a lesser one)?

Am I misreading you?

Or are you talking about something other than Fate Points? I often make the distinction between Fate Points as a player resource and something else as a character resource, so I get it if you're suggesting there should be a non-Fate Point way of tracking this.
 
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