Monday, June 3, 2013

Calling Your Shots

Art by Joel Thomas
I've always liked the basic idea of "called shots." While I like the general abstraction of combat in Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder, sometimes you just want to attack a specific part of an opponent with the hope of dealing just a little more damage or placing a status effect on them to hinder them further. Also, it's just fun to say, "I want to shoot the cyclops in that big eye of his."

However, I have never really liked their execution that much. Generally, when you take a rule and make it more specific and detailed, you also end up making it more complicated. When a rule is more complicated, it has a bad habit of slowing things down at the table. I personally hate when games start to move at a snail's pace because players have to keep referencing the rules to make sure they are doing something right.

For example, Paizo presented a sub-system for called shots in their Ultimate Combat supplement. While I believe this sub-system is well-defined and would add an interesting element to combat, I don't see myself using it anytime in the near future because of the level of detail presented and all of the fiddly bits I would end up forgetting during play.

So, I've been attempting to figure out a way to handle called shots without adding an unnecessary level of complication to an already complicated game like Pathfinder. Fortunately, I think I've discovered an interesting (and easy) way to handle them in the future.

While flipping through old issues of Kobold Quarterly, a new class called the Arquebusier presented in Issue 13 caught my attention. Like the Gunslinger, the Arquebusier is class built around the use of firearms. The class receives an ability named "Called Shot", which I'll present below:
"Called Shot: Beginning at 2nd level, you may attempt to hit a target in a specific area or location with a ranged attack. This attack takes a -4 to hit, but if its successful, it deals an additional 1d6 hp damage.
I really like the simplicity of this rule. Like most called shot rules, the player receives a penalty to their attack roll to represent them targeting a specific area or location on an opponent instead of attack the opponent in a general sense. However, I like how it keeps some level of abstraction by having a set penalty of -4 instead of  a sliding scale of penalties based on the targeted area/location. Also, I like that it allows you to roll a d6 for extra damage, making it feel like a sneak attack the other classes can take advantage as long as they sacrifice some accuracy.

However, I think I might want to add the chance to apply a status effect to your opponent based on the area you've targeted and damaged. Keeping with the spirit of this simplified rule, I think I'd keep the status effects more free-form and based on logic instead of hard-coding certain effects to certain areas/locations on the target's body.

For example, a Gunslinger might decide to shoot an advancing orc in the foot to slow him down. The Gunslinger succeeds, deals the extra damage, and I determine the orc has a 50% to be immediately tripped and will move at half-speed for the remainder of the encounter.

With that being said, I think I might use the rule as is for now just so I can see how it works at the table before I try to weld another element to it that might cause it to become more complicated than I'd like. I guess I'm just going to have to weight and see.