Tuesday, March 29, 2011

alt Dex

A couple weeks ago I came up with a simple alternative rule for the Strength stat.  I'm reviewing/revising every stat in my campaign this way.  Today, it's Dexterity that is up to bat.  First up, clear your mind of any consideration of missile attacks or armor class bonuses.  My basis is for my current house rules if the Dr. Holmes version of D&D, which does not take either idea into consideration.  Instead, Dex has one very important function: initiative. If you've got 3 points of Dex on a dude you will always go before him in a normal combat round.  If you're closer than that you're supposed to roll off with a d6.  A natural consequence of this rule is that every monster needs a Dex score, which you are supposed to roll on 3d6 just like the PCs.

Now, if I used individual initiative I'd probably go with something like this:

Dex 12 or less - roll d6 for initiative
Dex 13-15 - roll d8 for initiative
Dex 16-17 - roll d10 for initiative
Dex 18 - roll d12 for initiative

But instead of the rules as written I use this simple inish method: each side rolls d6, ties favor the PCs.  Why do ties favor the PCs?  Because resolving simultaneous action is a big pain in the ass and I'm a big ol' softie.  I used to call for ties to be rerolled but one night years ago the reroll was a tie and the roll off for that was a tie and then we tied one more time and I just said "Fuck it! Take your turn!"

So instead of looking at this Dex/initiative as strictly when you can go, let's broaden the concept just a little bit.  I'm particularly thinking about two types of action.  The first is slow and fast weapons.  One of the incongruities in the Holmes rules is that by the book daggers strike twice a round and two-handed weapons always strike last.  I can't bring myself to use this rule in a world where all weapons do d6 damage.  My players would all wield daggers and beat up people with any other type of melee weapon. 

In my post about Strength I just set weapon damage by the Str of the wielder, but I think there's room to modify that further.  Maybe say badass two-handed weapons (mostly just the battle axe in my current campaign) bump the die size, while the lightest weapons (dagger, club?, handaxe?) shrink the die one size.  Or use "roll two dice, take highest" and "roll two dice, take lowest".  So now slowing down two-handed weapons and speeding up daggers makes a little more holistic sense to me.

The second type of action that I would consider tying to Dex/initiative is an action that I might generally refer to as "retrieve and deploy special device".  Getting out and drinking a potion.  Unrolling and reading a scroll.  Pulling out, lighting and throwing a molotov cocktail.  That sort of thing.  I often suspect these sorts of operations should be bigger pains in the ass than I let fly in my games.  Letting only higher Dex folks get away with instantaneous flaming oil lobs might work for me.

So putting these concerns all together, here's a draft alternative Dexterity chart.

Dex 9 or less - two-handed melee weapons only strike every other round
Dex 10-12 - two-handed melee weapons always strike last, retrieve and deploy special devices every other round
Dex 13-15 - retrieve and deploy special devices at the end of the round
Dex 16-18 - retrieve and deploy special devices as normal actions, extra strike with dagger at end of round

There's no real reason you couldn't also follow the simple Holmes missile adjustments (Dex 9 or less, -1; Dex 13+, +1) but they don't do much for me.  I don't like that missile weapons can get a to-hit adjustment and melee weapons can't.


  1. Are you limiting what weapons a character can use based on their Strength? I'd imagine a low strength character would attack more slowly with a two-handed sword than a low-dexterity character would.

  2. Anonymous8:11 AM

    For compare/contrast:

    In my Space Adventures game, DEX governs the number of vehicles a character starts out knowing how to drive/operate (like how INT governs languages). It still modifies ranged weapons and AC (as I'm using Swords & Wizardry as a base, the modifier is only +/-1), but not initiative.

  3. Glad to hear you don't like messing with simultaneous init. I've found the same thing. I've been rerolling. I'll try giving ties to the players.

  4. I'm really stoked on that alternative DEX table. I've been ignoring the daggers strike twice and two handed weapons strike last rule. Mind if I borrow?

    For trade, I thought it would be cool to allow daggers to strike twice(roll two attacks), but only cause 1d3 damage. Just a general combat option, for when the PCs just know the monster is going down soon. If only they could just land a hit...

  5. A little clarification if you don't mind. When doing simultaneous initiative if the players go first and one player is using a two-handed weapon does that mean the player attacks after both sides have gone?

    If so is there any reason why you would not allow a high Dexterity to treat a two-handed weapon as normal weapon; striking normally rather than last?

    Sorry for all the questions but I do like the idea!