View Full Version : A rework of the vorpal ability

King of Nowhere
2018-01-20, 04:18 PM
I don't like how the vorpal ability works by RAW. You roll a 20, confirm, instadeath.
On one hand, it's completely random. You can't increase your chance of triggering it. And it's one in 20, so it doesn't happen very often, but when it does it solves the encounter. A good ability should provide new ways to overcome obstacles, and "hope for a 20" doesn't strike me as the best ability. On the other hand, there is a complete lack of counterplay. I dont like stuff that screws you without giving chance for counterplay. Fun is in the interaction between play and counterplay. As it is, a fight between two vorpal-wielders goes to who rolls a 20 first.
There is also the ridicule of a vorpal knife being just as effective as a vorpal greatsword. May as well duel wield to double the chance of rolling 20. And it decapitates the tarrasque as easily as a human. What's the best strategy against a 15-meters-tall beast? well, obviously attacking it with 2 knives, because it doubles the chances of rolling 20.
So I considered a rework. First thing, I wanted the attacker to be able to capitalize on it, and that meant tieing the vorpal ability to the critical strike ability. On the other hand, I wanted to give a saving throw to the defender so that it could be resisted. Now the ability triggers much more often, and it is definitely more powerful, so to nerf it a bit (and to make it a bit more interesting) I also added the caveat that it cuts a random limb. So I came out with this result.

on a confirmed critical strike, the target has to make a saving throw (DC=10 + one/quarter of damage taken) or lose a limb. For a humanoid shape, the lost limb can be determined by rolling a 6-sided dice (1, 2 a leg, 3, 4 an arm, 5 decapitation, 6 bisection (+10 to saving throw in that case)). Creatures immune to critical strikes could still be vulnerable to this effect if they have a recognizable morphology; for example, a zombie or a golem can still be decapitated or mutilated, though it would affect them differently from how it would affect a living creature.

The DC was the difficult part to figure out, because I wanted it to be resistible, but not easy. My initial take was DC=damage, but I realized a critical hit easily deals 70-80 damages at high level (at my level of optimization), without power attacking. Then I considered half the damage, but it's still very hard to resist for everyone who didn't invest massively into FORT, and a bit of power attacking make it go to the sky anyway.
10 + 1/4 of damage seems workable. A "normal" crit of 80 damages has a DC of 30, while most high level adventurers at the level of optimization I play have FORT between +20 and +25. A bit of power attack makes the vorpal more difficult to resist, but not impossible, and a lot of power attack jeopardize too much your chances to hit in the first place to make it worthwhile. If you want a serious chance of decapitating a tarrasque you need over 120 damage, a reasonable amount for a creature that big. There is also some interplay with weapon, because a weapon with a higher critical multiplier will force a greater saving throw, but will trigger less often because of the reduced threaten range.
undeads and constructs will have a lower DC because they won't be taking increased damage from the critical. On the other hand, those creatures tend to have low fort scores due to the lack of CON, so the two compensates each other, mostly.
And I just like the "roll for which limb" idea. Also, there is a regeneration spell for regrowing lost limbs, let's put it to use sometimes.

On the down side, depending on how many ways to enlarge a critical threat you allow, this ability may become broken, forcing a saving throw at virtually every hit. A scyte may have a high enough critical multiplier to break this ability anyway.

What do you think?