Violent Resolution Commentary (David Pulver)

I got a nice response to Never Tell Me the Odds, Part 2 from +David Pulver and I thought it was worth responding in a fashion not buried in the comments!

Davids words will be in magenta/Arial, my replies in regular text.

Nice overview of the two game systems!

Thanks. I’m trying to keep it factual and impartial. My experience varies with each system, though, and that probably shows through.

Regarding FATE, I imagine that rolling 8dF is a bit awkward, which may be one reason that 4dF contested is preferred.

I also think that the split rolls is important to the game, and since it is possible (within the realm of house rules) for the GM to do things like say “I don’t care if your attack was better than his defense, if you can’t eke out at least a zero you just miss.” While mathematically identical with the rules as presented (8dF vs 4dF-4dF), splitting the dice certainly creates the illusion of agency, and the defending character can always not roll, which means that 4dF, with its swingier results table, is more appropriate.

Related to that, one neat thing about FATE is that since the 4dF roll centers on zero you can also roll non-opposed 4dF and still get the same average-0 even if the spread is -4 to +4 instead -8 to +8.

Yep. And as I mentioned above, this actually matters, since the distribution is tighter to zero the more dice you roll. From that perspective, the more dice rolled, the more that the only thing that matters is the difference in skill levels.

In some campaigns, I imagine this might actually be a feature. For example, some have criticized the ability to “dodge bullets” in GURPS. In FATE you could get around this by having in ranged combat only the attacker roll 4dF against the target’s fixed defense number, but continue to roll 4dF opposed whenever you have a more “random” situation like melee combat.

Well, there are definitely a few fixes to the dodging bullets (perceived) issue in GURPS, but you’re absolutely correct in the options it gives the GM to make the system serve his needs.

Regarding GURPS the statement that “all skills levels higher than 6 favor attack over defense” is a bit misleading, since you’re not normally rolling a contest between them. It would seem more accurate to say “at skill levels above 6, the attack roll is higher than the defense roll – but this is irrelevant since they they are not usually opposed outside of a few special maneuvers.”

Mild disagreement here, in that having Skill-12 (and Parry-9) means you will strike a potential hit three times in four, but only defend against a potential hit a bit less than two times in five. Of course, defense options such as All-Out Defense and Retreat rapidly can raise that Parry to 12 (more if it’s a fencing parry). 

Still, I get what you’re saying, and the “real” probability of a hit is P(Attack) x P (Failed Defense), which can be a bit different to wrap a brain around (which is basically your final point below). 

In GURPS, my experience is that high attack skill are typically seen by my players as license to reduce the attack skill by taking special options like aiming for the head, joints in armor, etc. and they often translate into greater damage. (Of course the might also be used in deceptive attacks, translating into degrading defenses, but against many foes this may be less valid).

All true. Skill above 16, especially, is basically wasted. In the GURPS games I played with +Nathan Joy and +Mark Langsdorf , some of the other players (maybe Emily, maybe +Theodore Briggs ) automated a homemade macro that would apply enough Deceptive Attack to bring your effective skill to 16 if you forgot to do it yourself. That’s exactly what high skill is for, especially, as you know, in Fourth Edition.

In contrast, the rules rarely provide any situations where you would voluntarily take a penalty to your defense roll, and several – the shield use, retreating, etc. – where you would increase it.

The one that comes to mind where you trade defense is the Riposte option, basically a Defensive Deceptive Attack, where you can take -1 to defend on your own blow in exchange for -1 for your foe to defend on your next attack. With enough defense to begin with (or enough armor to just sit there and take it), this can be a profitable tactic.

Aan oddity of GURPS is that for skill 14+ fighters who are just hacking at each other, if you completely ignored the attack roll and just assume the fighters hit, and only rolled defense, the fight would be kind of about the same result, the defense roll being the crucial one ( :

True to a point, of course, where such blows are 90% likely to succeed. You’re really just checking for critical hits (where 14, 15, and 16+ matters a lot) in this case.

Thanks for the commentary, and I’m glad you’re enjoying Violent Resolution!

2 thoughts on “Violent Resolution Commentary (David Pulver)

  1. Thanks for the detailed response! Good call out regarding riposte – I had forgotten about that option. I haven't actually tried using that one before (or had it used when I was GMing).

  2. Tried to post this when you first posted this blog post (too many posts…) but it must have been eaten.

    One of the reasons for 4dF for each individual involved is that, in addition to allowing a flat +2, a Fate Point can also be spent to reroll all 4 dice. If they're lumped together as 8dF, that option is no longer available.

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