2015-09-17 Combat Maneuvers

Gavin Norman has been writing about rogues on his blog. There, he introduces such maneuvers as Garrote and Black Jack:

Garrote: Make an attack roll. If the attack succeeds, you have the garrote in place, causing 1d4 damage. Each subsequent round, the victim suffers 1d4 damage and must save versus paralysis or fall unconscious […]

Black Jack: Make an attack roll. If it succeeds, the victim suffers 1d4 damage and must save versus paralysis. Failure indicates that they’re knocked unconscious.

In a subsequent discussion on Google+ I said that I had a different way of thinking about combat maneuvers.

I always wonder: What would Conan do? In my game, if Conan is a level 10 fighter, then I have a hard time understanding how lowly thieves can put him down without bringing down his hit-points. Similarly, nobody gets to push Conan around, trip him or disarm him, unless he’s out of hit-points.

You could of course claim that this isn’t much different from a hold person spell. If Conan fails his save against hold person, he’s helpless and can be killed in a round. In which case the garrote is a bit like a wand of hold person with unlimited charges, right? It’s very powerful. Specially compared to the lousy backstabbing thieves usually get: double damage in old school games.

I think I mostly settled on my interpretation of hit-points because I decided that hit-points was about luck, endurance, will to live, experience, toughness and when you’re at zero then you’re giving up. You have no more will to live. The next hit will kill you, or make you roll on the Death and Dismemberment table. That is when you force your enemies to submit.

Thus, in my game, I tell people that they need to reduce people to zero hit-points and then they can do with them what they want. That is, unless their enemies are suicidal in which case they’ll rather take the hit than submit. Submission is therefore being disarmed and giving up, or tripping and falling on your back and giving up, or being pushed over the edge and falling to your death. A maneuver is not an alternative to a hit for the attacker – submission to the maneuver is the alternative to death for the victim.


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In your game, if Conan was a level 10 fighter, he would do 1d6 damage and even a lowly thief would have nothing to fear ;-) #mimimi

– Stefan 2015-09-17 15:44 UTC

We’ll, he might wield Frostbrand, wear a girldle of giant strength, and have his weapon enchanted by his cleric friend, and so he’d have a +6 to attack and deal 2d6+6 every round to everybody in range (because Frostbrand is a 2H sword). So it’s not that bad. :)

– AlexSchroeder 2015-09-17 15:50 UTC

You mean to say that his strength would in fact come from a couple of awesome magical items? Then truly, a thief would be his nemesis!

– Stefan 2015-09-17 20:02 UTC

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