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CountD
2008-11-06, 08:15 PM
Alright, so I'm at the point where I find it annoying that if an NPC draws a dagger on the heroes, they simply laugh it off, take the 1d4 hit and rip him limb from limb with no real consequences.

And so I ask my fellow Playgrounders for a variant hit points system with which my players will actually fear combat and go to lengths to avoid unnecessary battles, and be forced to rely more on strategy, stealth their ability to talk their ways out of things before lunging for the nearest axe.

Trust me, they like it that way.

SadisticFishing
2008-11-06, 08:17 PM
Um..

Different game?

Making 3.5 any more lethal would be sort of like strapping dynamite to your nuke.

Flickerdart
2008-11-06, 08:24 PM
All NPCs either have Rogue levels (for +10d6 to that 1d4 worth of SA dice) or polymorph into Balors. Or just a few Batmen.

arguskos
2008-11-06, 08:28 PM
Or you could try using a body-part system. Basically, the idea is that people can attack body-parts, like the arm, leg, chest, whatever, and deal small amounts of damage, but still manage to cause massive effects. I don't know how the system works personally, but I have heard there is such a thing for 3.5.

Alternatively, you can play a different game. Your call.

Raum
2008-11-06, 08:34 PM
And so I ask my fellow Playgrounders for a variant hit points system with which my players will actually fear combat and go to lengths to avoid unnecessary battles, and be forced to rely more on strategy, stealth their ability to talk their ways out of things before lunging for the nearest axe.There's the Vitality and Wound points system (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/adventuring/vitalityAndWoundPoints.htm). Otherwise I'd recommend looking at systems which don't increase health with experience.

holywhippet
2008-11-06, 08:34 PM
You'd need to add the idea of having specific wounds to distinguish between a cut on the arm and arterial bleeding from the neck. D&D tries to simplify things by using hit points rather than location damage. It would be a lot harder to handle and possibly too realistic otherwise - one good stab would take an average person out of a fight in real life.

If you were going to add something like that, after any successful attack I'd call for a d10 roll vs. the targets AC bonus from armour/shields etc. eg. If a person was wearing plate mail (giving an AC bonsus of 8) I'd only treat the wound as being serious on a roll of 9 or 10.

If they have serious wounds I'd apply some kind of penatly to their actions.

Mr.Bookworm
2008-11-06, 08:35 PM
Yeah, you want a different system. D&D is focused on heroic fantasy, and it would be quite hard to overhaul the entire game system.

Might I suggest All Flesh Must Be Eaten? It's a zombie game, but it's very easy to customize, and can be quite lethal.

Or howabout Call of Cthulhu? I have no personal experience, but Lycan's stories have convinced me that your best chance of survival in CoC is to lock yourself in a vault, get into the fetal position, and pray.

Alternatively, you could lower the level. 1st level D&D combat can be quite dangerous.

Captain Six
2008-11-06, 08:35 PM
I second the different system. D&D is epic far before epic levels are reached. Commoners just don't fight the heroes.

But if you're interested simply have fixed health every level
1d4=1hp
1d6=2hp
1d8 & up=3 hp

This WILL destroy the game as you know it, but it's definitely more lethal.

Edit: Also, try the pre-3.x editions.

Idea Man
2008-11-06, 08:40 PM
I agree that d20 is not the system to use, at least in the conventional sense. You could raise anyone not of importance to within a couple of levels of the characters, preferably with non-PC classes like warrior or expert to limit extra abilities. That would boost HP, BAB, and saves, also granting a couple of feats for flavor, making the NPC more than insignificant, but less than dangerous. Just don't reward high XP for the kill (after all, the NPC probably doesn't have equipment equal to his level). :smallamused:

Biffoniacus_Furiou
2008-11-06, 08:45 PM
You're an experienced hero of the land (or just a tough mercenary) who's fought through countless hordes of orcs and undead and braved the nastiest monsters to be found. If some dirt-farmer pulls a dagger on you, of course you're not going to take him seriously. A guy all by himself isn't going to stand and fight a bunch of heroes/mercenaries/thugs on his own anyway, he's going to either run away or cry for help or both.

Knaight
2008-11-06, 08:54 PM
Also add level to damage, and half level to AC to make up for it. That said a system where getting more powerful makes you harder to hit, and a good hit is still just as lethal sounds more to your liking. I suggest Fudge, as how much you beat the other persons defense by replaces the whole rolling damage thing, making someone really good with a dagger able to quickly kill with it. Or you can mix these. You add level to damage, still roll damage, then borrow the wound track:

Scratch 0-25% of hit points lost in a single blow. Max 3 scratches
Hurt 26-50% of hit points lost in a single blow. Max 1 hurt. -4 penalty to all actions, AC, and saves.
Very Hurt 51-75% of hit points lost in a single blow. Max 1 very hurt. -8 penalty to all actions, AC, and saves.
Incapacitated 76-100% of hit points lost in a single blow. Max 1 incapacitated. Unconscious but stable.
Dying. 100%+ of hit points lost in a single blow.

Even if the attack isn't instantly lethal it can probably hit a hurt or very hurt, which could even a fight. That said the farmer shouldn't be able to hit you.

TheThan
2008-11-06, 09:05 PM
Massive damage threshold

If an enemy takes equal to or more damage than his damage threshold stat (equal to con score) in a single hit. They must pass a fortitude save or immediately die.

So if you get smacked for 15 damage, and you have a con of 15, you need to make a save (DC should be the total amount of damage taken). If you fail, you die (might want to be nice and knock them unconscious, instead), if you succeed you just take the damage as normal.

Yes, this is a slightly modified version of the rules D20 modern uses.

elliott20
2008-11-06, 09:43 PM
My immediate reaction was vitality and wound point variant as well. However, I must say even that this system, along with the Grim-n-Gritty variant, will make critical hits far more important than they are now, and it will make magic even more unbalancing. In a game with little to no magic users, it will do just fine. But in your standard 3.5 game, it's going to make warrior-types just that much more susceptible to death.

I would recommend a different system as well. That or you can run the E6 variant.

Quellian-dyrae
2008-11-06, 10:37 PM
What if you were to do something like...as a standard action, a character can make a single attack at a -10 penalty. If it hits and deals damage, you can choose to inflict one of the following effects. This fails if the target is more than one size category larger than you.

2d6 points of Strength or Dexterity damage. This becomes 3d6 if the target is denied its Dex bonus to AC.
1d8 points of Constitution damage. This becomes 2d6 if the target is denied its Dex bonus to AC.
Stun the target for 1d10 rounds. This knocks the target unconscious if it is denied its Dex bonus to AC.

Modify the numbers to taste. It would keep the heroic battles heroic, since giving up a full attack/maneuver/whatever and taking a -10 on your attack roll probably isn't worth it in a real fight, and it would let the heroes still be able to take on low-level foes with relative ease, but knowing that that commoner has a 5% chance of dealing 1d8 Con damage is a lot scarier than knowing that it has a 5% chance of dealing 1d4 hit points.

holywhippet
2008-11-06, 10:44 PM
Another system to consider is Arc Magica. When someone takes damage they receive a type of wound depending on how much damage they took vs. how big they are. Every wound causes a penalty to all rolls depending on how severe it is - light wounds cause -1, medium wounds cause -3 and heavy wounds cause -5. Since this affects all rolls, when the wounded person rolls defense next, their wound will make it more likely they will be hit and any points over the value needed to hit an opponent add to damage also. Hence if you start getting wounded, expect things to go south rapidly.

Skjaldbakka
2008-11-06, 11:09 PM
The inherent problem with trying to make D&D more realistic, especially in terms of things like HP, is that the scales of balance already favor the spellcasters, whose abilities are not at all tied to a sense of realism. Invariably, if you make a change that makes things 'more realistic', you make the non-spellcasting classes weaker. Which is a bad thing.

RagnaroksChosen
2008-11-06, 11:12 PM
I would sugest Fixing HP per level, Adding in the Damage threshold...


What level are they by the way?

Skjaldbakka
2008-11-06, 11:18 PM
I would sugest Fixing HP per level, Adding in the Damage threshold...

... and marginalizing the non-spellcasters, because that is what you are doing. D&D does that enough on its own. Even if you have 1 hp per level, and everyone deals doubled damage, your level 20 wizard is still going to laugh off 'guy with dagger'. Why shouldn't the level 20 fighter?

Turcano
2008-11-06, 11:41 PM
The A Game of Thrones d20 combat system is pretty lethal. The highlights:

Characters get a set number of hitpoints (1-3) per level instead of having hit dice.
The Defense variant replaces AC.
Armor provides damage reduction.
Strength/Dexterity do not automatically give attack bonuses; such bonuses need to be bought with feats (using any stat except Con), for a single weapon, for attack or defense.
Characters can make Called Shots of various types, including CS to Vital (maximum damage) and CS to Bypass Armor.
If an attack does damage over a character's Shock Value*, he or she must make a Shock Check** or become incapacitated. Such an attack that pierces the skin is a Grievous Injury that causes a continual (and cumulative) 1-hp loss per round, even if the character makes the Shock Check.
Optional fatigue rules slowly sap the character's ability to fight.
* Shock Value = Con/2 (rounded down).
** Shock Check = Fort save, DC 18 + 1 per point of damage over SV.

Skjaldbakka
2008-11-06, 11:50 PM
If you adapted those rules to D&D, the only playable character classes would be the spellcasters.

Turcano
2008-11-07, 12:00 AM
Well, the OP wanted a combat system that strongly discouraged indiscriminate combat, and that's the stated purpose of that combat system. (Also, the system is very low-magic, where spellcasters have to spend feats for a single spell at a time.)

Skjaldbakka
2008-11-07, 12:49 AM
I didn't say it doesn't work for game of thrones, I said it doesn't work for D&D.

It doesn't do a thing to discourage indiscriminate combat when added to D&D, because the wizard, for example, is not effected by it in any meaningful manner. All you are discouraging is indiscriminate physical combat.

Although I suppose you are making evocation a more attractive choice if you do that as well.

Caewil
2008-11-07, 12:51 AM
The biggest problem with the WP system is that critical hits are so deadly that even one can kill your character - just by chance. While this does make things gritty, characters die more often without being seriously wounded. I want players to fear combat because of the risk of their characters being severely injured if they go up against an evenly matched foe - not because they risk dying every time they face a Kobold.

My version:

Wound Points

Wound points measure how much true physical damage a character can withstand. Damage reduces wound points only after all vitality points are gone.

When bloodied (less than half VP) or surprised (not just flatfooted), one-fourth of the damage dealt by a critical hit or an opponent who possesses combat advantage is subtracted from your Wound Points instead. Any condition which would allow a sneak-attack grants combat advantage. If you are bound or helpless, all damage suffered is subtracted from Wound Points.

Reasoning:
Combat is much more dangerous once you've already taken significant VP damage and if you are surprised by hidden enemies. The first bout of combat may not be very dangerous but if there are reinforcements and they have no time to heal their Vitality Points, combat can be very deadly even for experienced characters.

In addition, this encourages the use of clever ploys and planning to gain combat advantage over enemies. A 10d6 fireball deals 35 damage on average. If you can get within 30' and surprise the enemy, 9 points of that is Wound Point damage. Severe burns for everyone and anyone with a Con Score under 10 is probably dead. But you have to sneak up first and somatic components probably won't help...

Skjaldbakka
2008-11-07, 12:57 AM
You mean verbal components, right? Somatic components are not a problem for stealth.

Caewil
2008-11-07, 12:58 AM
Oops. Yes. I meant verbal components.

Turcano
2008-11-07, 01:09 AM
It doesn't do a thing to discourage indiscriminate combat when added to D&D, because the wizard, for example, is not effected by it in any meaningful manner. All you are discouraging is indiscriminate physical combat.

Yeah, you'd have to bring in elements of the magic system over as well, which is dangerous, time-consuming, and often not worth it.

UglyPanda
2008-11-07, 01:13 AM
I personally don't think an increase in lethality is very fun. I mean, a warrior spends years fighting armies, giants, armies of giants, and then there's some 100 pound farmer with a rusty knife, and he's supposed to be a threat? It actually seems quite stupid and more like a railroading technique than anything beneficial to the story. Realism isn't always something you should be striving for either, considering there is a dearth of rules for backpacks, armor cleaning, and bowel movements.
With the way that 3.5 is structured, having less HP tips the scales in favor of the spellcasters, since spellcasters' main method of survival is to simply never ever get hit by anything ever.

VerdugoExplode
2008-11-07, 01:28 AM
If you want your players to try and avoid combat I would recommend making their foes more intelligent and capable of a strategy more complex than "move to enemy, hit enemy until they fall down, move to next enemy." If you introduce enemies who engineer the combat so they have command of the situation instead of acting like robots which I find is a strategy that is employed all too often by DM's.

On of the best examples of this would be Tucker's Kobolds, a story you could probably find with google, detailing how a DM made his players prefer fighting masses of demons instead of these little CR 1/4 creatures. I also have to agree with the others in their belief that a fighter who has killed dozens of creatures and gotten powerful enough to level a city should not be afraid of a farmer with a dagger. If my character, who over the past few weeks had liberated sacred artifact x from temple y to stop evil overlord z died because a farmer got a lucky shot in, or fell down a flight of stairs(the non-trapped normal household kind), or choked on some food(once again the non-trapped, non-poisoned kind) tables would be flipped in a rage.

Hallavast
2008-11-07, 01:58 AM
I don't know if this would be right for what you want, but the vitality/wounds system is good for putting the fear of god into PC's. While your knife-wielding farmer still isn't much of a threat, the PC's would think twice before fighting, say, 20 of them. The more attacks against the PC's, the higher the chance of auto hit/critting. You may want to tweak the rules to deal damage on a crit threat instead of a critical hit, though.

If the Players are still too cocky, put some armor-piercing guns/heavy crossbows into the game. That is, have these special exotic weapons ignore half of any armor, natural armor, or shield bonuses (magical or otherwise) on attack rolls. Balance these weapons by making them exotic and giving them very slow rates of fire.

If you still need to knock the players down a peg, give a penalty to all attacks, saves, and AC equal to the amount of wound damage a character has taken.

If your players still need some fear put into them, drug their mountain dew, tie them up, put them in your car and park it in the middle of a monster truck rally.*

*disclaimer: the office of Hallavast does not promote, condone, or encourage murder, kidnapping, the illegal use of narcotics, or the monster truck industry.

Talic
2008-11-07, 03:22 AM
Actually, the greater fighters of the real world are more afraid of unskilled fighters than skilled ones.

The untrained fighter cannot be as accurately predicted.

Piedmon_Sama
2008-11-07, 03:37 AM
How about this?

Up the use of Called Shot attacks, especially with ranged weapons. Anyone with a +1 BaB or higher (re: training) can take a called shot with a ranged weapon at no or -2 penalty against any target that stays still or does not engage in melee for one round. It automatically hits a vital spot and requires a Fort Save vs 10 + Damage Dealt vs Death.

Now if you act like a jackoff in front of the low-level city guards, they can literally put a bolt in your face from the top side of the city gates. Ranged weapons become a lot more lethal and even high-level characters would sweat when facing down a wall of bowmen/handgunners.

I've been thinking about implementing something like this to make squads of soldiers much more lethal. Thoughts?

Skjaldbakka
2008-11-07, 03:57 AM
If you want to make a squad of soldiers more lethal, there are some good ways to do that. Modifying the Mob rules from DMG II is one way to do that. Called shots are kinda ridiculous though, since they are already worked into the system. What do you think sneak attack, favored enemy, and stunning fist represent? Heck, even power attack could be considered to be a called shot, depending on how you look at it.

Kris Strife
2008-11-07, 03:58 AM
From what I understand, one way to look at HP is as minimizing the damage recieved: moving back with the hammer to minimize impact, flexing your stomach in to make a disembowling strike just leave a gash, turn away from the explosion to protect your soft bits, etc. I know its not perfect, but its one way of looking at it.

Roderick_BR
2008-11-07, 07:16 AM
Alright, so I'm at the point where I find it annoying that if an NPC draws a dagger on the heroes, they simply laugh it off, take the 1d4 hit and rip him limb from limb with no real consequences.
Yeah, I second the different system. D&D is *supposed* to be like that. It's all about near unkillable heroes. You want a dagger from a commoner to severely hurt a guy that was just hit full-force by a great wyrm red dragon's fire breath and stomped to the ground by giants, and walked away laughing it off?

Edit: Problem with called shots, or "lethal dagger to the gut": If NPCs can do it, so can PCs. And with their superior HP, BAB, and AC, they'll be an even greater threat to most NPCs you try to use against them.

Rasilak
2008-11-07, 07:42 AM
The dirt farmer has ways of killing the character. Coup-De-Grace him while he's sleeping is a good bet (you might want to make the save harder), and so is poison (like, in the beer at the inn).
Of course, if he walks up to the lvl 20 fighter who eats demons for breakfast and tries to stab him, that's not going to work.
You could also roll for a chance to get bad infections when a character gets damaged by dirty weapons (like, nearly all of them). Brawling with someone who has contaigous diseases can also cause interesting effects.

bosssmiley
2008-11-07, 08:29 AM
There's the Vitality and Wound points system (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/adventuring/vitalityAndWoundPoints.htm). Otherwise I'd recommend looking at systems which don't increase health with experience.

That's a good system.
Or there's the wound system from Microlite20. Basically you're always able to take 5 significant hits. What you're able to shrug off as insignificant scales as you advance.

Kemper Boyd
2008-11-07, 08:53 AM
I personally don't think an increase in lethality is very fun. I mean, a warrior spends years fighting armies, giants, armies of giants, and then there's some 100 pound farmer with a rusty knife, and he's supposed to be a threat?

My great-uncle was a national-level boxing champion, about seven foot tall and weighted 300 pounds and was killed by a 100-pound guy with a rusty pocket knife.

Dausuul
2008-11-07, 09:17 AM
The biggest problem with the WP system is that critical hits are so deadly that even one can kill your character - just by chance. While this does make things gritty, characters die more often without being seriously wounded. I want players to fear combat because of the risk of their characters being severely injured if they go up against an evenly matched foe - not because they risk dying every time they face a Kobold.

Then why do you need to change anything at all? If your PCs are going up against an evenly matched foe in 3.X, they are at risk of severe injury or death.

Just remember that a CR 5 enemy is not an even match for a party of four 5th-level adventurers; you need four CR 5 enemies, or two CR 7 enemies, or one CR 9 enemy.

paddyfool
2008-11-07, 09:57 AM
Brawling with someone who has contaigous diseases can also cause interesting effects.

True dat. There was a case study awhile ago about a guy who contracted HIV by getting in a scrap with his brother (some blood was spilled on both sides, with a particularly key mistake by the former possibly being hitting the latter in the mouth).

Satyr
2008-11-07, 10:17 AM
In the massively homebrewed D&D conversion we use nowadays, we have radically decreased the number of hitpoints after 1st level, and introduced wound thresholds (you get penalties when your HP sink under 3/4, 1/2 or 1/4 of your maximum) and significant hits (damage > Constitution Score or 1/4 Hitpoints, what ever is lower) require a Fortitude save or the victim becomes sickened. Really heavy hits will make the victim sickened in every case and with a failed Fortitude Save they become nauseated.

But we have also greatly increased the power of melee and decreased the sheer power of magic, which makes this system works much better. But the way I see it, a decrease of magical power are pretty much obligatory to play D&D.

Saph
2008-11-07, 10:52 AM
There really is no way to make a system in which a character who can go toe to toe with a dragon is seriously threatened by a mook with a knife.

If a knife wound from a mook can critically injure you, (e.g. Call of Cthullu), then a dragon will insta-kill you in the first round of combat (which is, in fact, exactly what happens when an investigator gets into melee with the dragon-equivalents of Call of Cthullu)

If your character can go a few rounds with a dragon and survive (e.g. D&D 3.5 or 4th edition) then a 1st-level guy with a hand weapon is pretty much a joke (which shouldn't be that surprising - if you can take on Smaug you aren't going to be scared of Joe Random Orc).

Stealth and surprise can tip the scales, and in fact they're very important in D&D 3.5. But you have to change your frame of reference. If the PCs can routinely take on and beat mythological creatures that would send ordinary humans running screaming, then the same things that scare those ordinary humans are not necessarily going to scare them.

- Saph

Raum
2008-11-07, 11:26 AM
There really is no way to make a system in which a character who can go toe to toe with a dragon is seriously threatened by a mook with a knife. That's not entirely true. You can make a start by divorcing health & damage from experience. Shadowrun is a fairly good example...though you'd better have some anti-air missiles if you're hunting dragons.

It is however a good point. As gamers, we need to choose where we want to play on the scale of grittiness to superheroic survivability.

Starbuck_II
2008-11-07, 11:40 AM
Alright, so I'm at the point where I find it annoying that if an NPC draws a dagger on the heroes, they simply laugh it off, take the 1d4 hit and rip him limb from limb with no real consequences.

And so I ask my fellow Playgrounders for a variant hit points system with which my players will actually fear combat and go to lengths to avoid unnecessary battles, and be forced to rely more on strategy, stealth their ability to talk their ways out of things before lunging for the nearest axe.

Trust me, they like it that way.

Have you tried Star Wars Saga's approach with Condition trackt and Damage Threshold?
Damage is pretty deadly as it lowers everything (defenses and attack bonus, etc)

Saph
2008-11-07, 02:36 PM
That's not entirely true. You can make a start by divorcing health & damage from experience. Shadowrun is a fairly good example...though you'd better have some anti-air missiles if you're hunting dragons.

Sure, but a runner who's up to dragon-hunting level still isn't going to be scared by a mook. A knife thrust hurts, but said mook wouldn't even able to find said high-level runner, much less hit him.

- Saph

Skjaldbakka
2008-11-07, 03:15 PM
My condolences to the loss of your uncle, but he probably didn't beat up tanks as a passtime.

Continue to keep in mind that a more realistic HP system just makes the fighter classes even more sad than they already are, because the high level spellcasters won't care.


If the PCs can routinely take on and beat mythological creatures that would send ordinary humans running screaming, then the same things that scare those ordinary humans are not necessarily going to scare them.

Obligatory SoD reference.

Raum
2008-11-07, 03:25 PM
Sure, but a runner who's up to dragon-hunting level still isn't going to be scared by a mook. A knife thrust hurts, but said mook wouldn't even able to find said high-level runner, much less hit him. There isn't any leveling in SR. The difference between an entry level character and one capable (not willing!) of taking on even a small dragon is mostly equipment. Even an experienced runner who concentrates on ranged weaponry can be hurt, even killed, by a talented (or trained) but entry level brawler with a knife.

In some ways SR was like rock / paper / scissors - you couldn't easily take an opponent on her strong points but there's almost always a weakness to exploit. If you can find it! :smallwink: SR almost forced a tactical outlook on combat. Charging straight at the guns results in death too often. Even if you survive, you may not make any Nuyen after healing and equipment expenses. A terrible fate for a runner!

Saph
2008-11-07, 03:41 PM
There isn't any leveling in SR. The difference between an entry level character and one capable (not willing!) of taking on even a small dragon is mostly equipment. Even an experienced runner who concentrates on ranged weaponry can be hurt, even killed, by a talented (or trained) but entry level brawler with a knife.

In some ways SR was like rock / paper / scissors - you couldn't easily take an opponent on her strong points but there's almost always a weakness to exploit. If you can find it! :smallwink: SR almost forced a tactical outlook on combat. Charging straight at the guns results in death too often. Even if you survive, you may not make any Nuyen after healing and equipment expenses. A terrible fate for a runner!

Well, I've never played SR, so all I know of it is based on other players' stories. That said, though, I'm assuming that without some kind of leverage or weakness, a mook with a knife is not going to scare an experienced and geared-up runner? If he doesn't have some way of dealing with low-level opposition (even if it's as simple as not being there), how did he live long enough to be experienced in the first place?

I mean, even in D&D 3.5 a commoner with a farmyard weapon can kill a PC in the right circumstances. That doesn't make commoners scary, though.

- Saph

Raum
2008-11-07, 04:00 PM
Well yes and no. If a knife fighter gets to melee range of a runner concentrating on guns (not uncommon in a running fight through a building), the gun wielder had better be scared! It will be far harder to shoot the knife wielder when range is that short and he has little training to counter the knife.

Skill based games tend to force choices on character creation. You don't have a BAB that goes up automatically. Instead there are several skills which need to be raised individually with your experience points. You can spread them around and be mediocre at everything or you can choose to be very good at one thing. It may be a choice between a 6 skill in either firearms or melee weapons or a 4 in both. If you picked the 6 in firearms you're going to be good with guns...and almost useless with melee weapons. Given 20 or so skills it's not quite that simple but I hope that gets the idea across.

Mephit
2008-11-07, 04:09 PM
Play a 24-hour long, intense Call of Cthulhu session. You'll never see a guy with a knife the same way. Heck, even a housecat will cause serious paranoia.

Alternatively, give your NPCs some unusually high stats. Essentially, this means that their constant damage output (Str) is heightened, their saves go up or that they are harder to hit (Dex) or tougher (Con). This makes everything a lot more dangerous for the PCs, while not giving them the feeling that they're weak characters.
Giving all NPCs high stats in each category is of course a bad idea.

Kemper Boyd
2008-11-07, 05:14 PM
My condolences to the loss of your uncle, but he probably didn't beat up tanks as a passtime.

Continue to keep in mind that a more realistic HP system just makes the fighter classes even more sad than they already are, because the high level spellcasters won't care.

My great-uncle died before I was born so no need for condolences. :)

The obvious choice would be this: give everyone a +2D10 sneak attack bonus for only attacks on effectively defenseless foes and like the D20 Conan, have massive damage be at 20 hitpoints instead of 100 or whatever it's in D&D 3.5.

Deepblue706
2008-11-07, 05:48 PM
There's a variant that states something to the effect that after rolling a 20 for an attack roll, a 20 on the critical confirmation follow by another 20 is an instant kill. I would consider implementing something like this. Perhaps two consecutive 20s - regardless of who's attacking - causes CON damage? Or maybe a critical on a flat-footed foe does the trick?

Don't let it be something that will occur often; as the PCs are supposed to be able to anticipate the movements of a nobody with a knife, if they see them coming. Sometimes, even when they don't see them coming.

Skjaldbakka
2008-11-08, 12:40 AM
Actually, that could work. It would both make combat more lethal and make fighter classes a tad stronger at the same time.

You could just have it so that a threat made while confirming a crit gets another roll to confirm, increasing the multiplier by one.

So a really, really, really, lucky guy with a dagger could still get a massive critical.

It would also help 2WFing builds that don't have sneak attack be a tad more balanced.

Thurbane
2008-11-08, 12:59 AM
Increase the crit range of all weapons by one place (20 = 19-20, 18-20 = 17-20) and increase the crit modifier by 1.

All of a sudden when a lowly commoner with a dagger is attacking for 1d4 (19-20/x3), the world is a whole lot more dangerous. When the BBEG with a Improved Critical is attacking with his scythe for 2d4 (17-20/x5) or a falchion for 2d4 (13-20/x3), watch out!

Probably an extreme approach, though...

La_Carnaval
2008-11-08, 01:20 AM
I would make sure that the NPC's are higher level than the players, so that the NPC could take at least one of the players with them if a fight broke out. That being said, I would also make death a much more permanent thing, so that your players learned that they couldn't just go find a diamond and get someone brought back from the dead.

Although I suppose the downsides from that would be the players not caring at all about their characters. Having happy-go-lucky players can just mess up the story line and nobody is having a good time anymore.

Pronounceable
2008-11-08, 07:36 AM
HP=Constitution. Deadliest you can get with minimum homebrewing (except for one hit kills).

Rasilak
2008-11-08, 06:29 PM
Although I suppose the downsides from that would be the players not caring at all about their characters. Having happy-go-lucky players can just mess up the story line and nobody is having a good time anymore.
Well, like said before, in systems like Shadowrun you die fast and permanent. But that doesn't lead to poorly designed flat characters (except for some players, but they wouldn't have good characters anyway).
Trust me, players can be quite ingenious to come up with ways of not dying if they have to. Preparation and planning can help a lot.

I'd suggest boosting ranged weapons to help making combat more deadly. Remove or nerf those cheap counter-spells like wind wall, up threat range and damage, and they hurt quite a lot. That, combined with the old wisdom "Shoot the mage first!", should make sure that its not making the lives of the fighters too hard while the wizards are still nearly invulnerable.
Being pincushioned with crossbow bolts might not be the most honorable death out there, but it sure is as final as it can get.
And even if you don't boost them, just using masses of ranged weapons (preferably in an ambush, combined with some kind of barricade) works well for weak NPCs (think Tucker's kobolds).

Raum
2008-11-08, 08:12 PM
That being said, I would also make death a much more permanent thing, so that your players learned that they couldn't just go find a diamond and get someone brought back from the dead.

Although I suppose the downsides from that would be the players not caring at all about their characters. Having happy-go-lucky players can just mess up the story line and nobody is having a good time anymore.In my experience players tend to care more about what happens to their character when death is both possible and permanent. It's when death is either avoidable (difficult to die) or negated (resurrection) that players no longer care about the obstacles confronting their characters. After all, there's no permanent consequences to just charging straight through.

That's also something the OP may want to consider. Depending on your goals, simply making death final may be enough. It doesn't make them scared of a dagger wielding commoner but it does make them think twice when hit points start getting low...