Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A to Z Challenge, I is for Impact (Damage Types)

Today I'm going to talk a bit about damage types, a tragically underutilized section of 3.X D&D and beyond.  If you're not familiar with damage types or with 3rd edition, there are typically three types that have remained constant over the years (and popped up occasionally in earlier editions like with the piercing immunities of your average menacing skeleton) which were Piercing, Slashing, and Bludgeoning.  All of which were pretty self-explanatory.  There was a lot of potential here, different weapons exist for a reason, primarily to impart their damage (force) in different methods.  Those methods adapted with the times, culture (fighting styles) and with the changes in armor.  There were a few occasions where damage type popped up, one of the Complete books allowed you to purchase Armor enhancements that gave you damage reduction vs a specific damage type and occasionally a monster might be resistant to all damages types but one.  The aforementioned skeleton would be resistant to all non-bludgeoning damage.  This was all mostly an afterthought though.  While D&D is well known for its abstract combat I can't help but feel damage types were an after thought.  So I've decided to do a little something with them without getting too gritty.

Before I get to that a little background.  I had experiment with weapons and damage types in the past and the result was a bit overly complicated for my tastes (although the actual blog post is a lot more thought out and less rushed than this one!)  What I'm proposing here is a lot more simple in its execution which in turn means the differentiation between different weapons will not be accurately represented.  But that's ok, we can address that with weapons, this is about damage types and for these purposes we will be organizing all weapons into dealing damage in three different types.  The damage type system and specifically this type, Impact, is related to how I run armor in my games which coincidentally is my first post in the A to Z Challenge.  It is also directly related to Wounds which I've spoken about many times in the past.  To sum it up quickly, Wounds are literally your character's lifeblood.  If we think of Hit Points as a flesh wound or a bruised rib then we think of a Wound(s) as being clubbed square in the jaw.  Here is how Impact damage interfaces with Armor and Wounds.

Impact Weapons
Impact is for weapons whose goal is to transmit their full force through a single swing.  Typically, the weight of the weapon will be concentrated in its head delivering the maximum force in one concentrated area as opposed to a cutting weapon which whose force is transmitted along the entire length of the blade.  A fist, mace, hammer, flail or even an axe would fit into the Impact category.

For each Wound converted to Subdual damage the weapon deals an additional Wound, the total extra Wounds dealt cannot exceed its Impact rating.

Impact weapons, especially flanged maces and hammers, rose to prominence with the advent of plate mail as they were quite capable of wounding the person underneath the metal.  When I thought about designing an Impact weapon I wanted it to be a weapon whose primary usage was to take down armored foes.  With this implementation it becomes a threat to any armor wearer.  Any given weapon can have an Impact rating of 1-3, those with the highest rating are more than capable of injuring someone with plate mail.  If you recall plate mail reduces all damage by 3 and coverts any Wounds into subdual damage into subdual, a weapon with an impact rating of 3 would deal 3 additional Wounds on top of this.  Even a weapon with only a rating of 1 will rack up subdual damage at an elevated pace.  Overall I'm quite happy with how it turned out and it has been the most stable of the three damage types.

The next two damage types will be S and T.


  1. I'm curious to look at the other types because you're grouping together weapons that wouldn't be together (such as the axe and the mace) in the traditional system.

    I also like that units in armor aren't necessarily immune to the threat of damage, they're just vulnerable to one type. So a tank character would be very good at charging ahead and soaking arrows, but can't automatically absorb all the blows of the foot soldiers. Excellent!

    1. Putting Axes and Maces together throws a lot of people but it makes a lot of sense since the force is being concentrated. The main difference between a hammer and axe for example is that an axe also has this force concentrated along a thin edge while the hammer distributes it along its surface. The axe is more likely to dig in deep however it is very probably to skip or slide across a smooth surface like plate mail. If you ever see a picture of a warhammer or poleaxe that looks like it has ridges on it, those 'teeth' were put there to better catch onto plate mail and to prevent slippage. Pretty ingenious of those guys back then.

      Yeah one of the things that bothered me about traditional Armor class was that if it was good enough you were practically immune from harm from low level creatures, and that isn't necessarily the case. Sure platemail is great but it shouldn't turn a goblin horde into a goblin massacre.

      Glad you like it!