Tuesday, July 13, 2010


One of the more complex attack types is a carrier venom attack. Think of poisoned fangs, a stinger, or a scorpion's tail. In this case the attack itself may do some damage (a scorpion's tail can kill outright even without the toxin) and, in any event, it has to penetrate armor in order to get the poison into the target's bloodstream.

This means in JAGS Terms:

  1. The attack must be PEN and must hit (duh)
  2. The armor must fail an armor save
  3. At least 1pt of damage or more must get through the target's armor.
These three effects mean the attack has "drawn blood." Then the poison can go to work. There can be more than one kind of poison. First let's review the basics:

Toxins (and other Resisted Attacks)
In the expanded JAGS Archetypes rules Resisted Attacks have a new statistic: Intensity. It works like this: when you are hit with an RA you (or the attacker--the rules specify that the Player usually gets to roll) must make a Resistance Save (using the Resisted Roll rules) comparing:
  • The Intensity score + POWER Stat of the RA to your Damage Points (DP) + Resistance Stat
  • The "POWER Stat" of the RA to the Resistance Stat of yours (usually CON, sometimes WIL). For each point of difference you get a +/- 1 depending on whether your score is higher or not. 
Let's see an example:

A character with CON 12 and 14 DP is hit by a Taser with a POWER stat of 11 and 15 Intensity. The Resisted Attack Roll is: Attacking Taser: 15+11 =26 vs. 14+12 = 26 or a 10-. Then, adjusted for the character's stat (CON) it goes to an 11- Resistance Roll since the PC has a CON of 12 vs. the Taser's Power of 11.
Okay? It's not the simplest thing in the world but it (a) gives PCs with a good stat a substantial edge which is important and (b) distinguishes from, for example, a pepper spray that will work on a teenager vs. one that might work on a bear. Both of these are necessary for the rules to work properly.

The Roll And Effects
Once you make the roll there are five levels of effect: Minor, Standard, Major, Critical, or Catastrophic. To get a Catastrophic roll you have to fail by 10+ so, in the example above, it's not possible with a standard roll unless you treat a 20 (1:1296) as a Catastrophic failure no matter what. For things that are balanced you'll usually see Minor to Major results. That's what we're going for.

However: a Major result for a Death Ray is very much worse than a Major Result for Tear Gas. The viciousness of each result level changes based on the attack type.

Got that? So here's how this thing breaks down ...

How Resisted Attacks Get Analyzed
Firstly there is their chance to effect at all. In the case of a blood-toxin (as opposed to a gas or "ray") the general power of the carrier (the stinger) is important: how likely is it to draw blood?

Then there's the matter of POWER and Intensity: against a given character point level we can more or less estimate what DP will be and what their stat will be (we assume a CON of 12 for most characters).

Then we need to know how bad a given result is. Many results are "simple." For example with the Death Ray you just take a Wound's worth of DP and make the appropriate Wound Roll. However for some attacks, such as Paralysis toxin, you can suffer lost REA or Initiative for several Rounds. There are negatives Perception Modifiers (for blinding attacks) and Skill Roll negatives ... and so on. There is also additional damage and in some cases it continues for several rounds.

This is all very complex and trying to figure out what the numbers and effects should be is hugely difficult. Thankfully we have the simulator.

What I'm Testing
I started out by taking a baseline and running a test for "Lance," a medium reach PEN HTH attack that hit only once per Round (the theory being that most toxin attacks like Scorpion Tail or Fangs are once-a-Round types of things anyway). Then I created a Toxin attack using one of the basic damage-dealing toxins. I'm running a set of tests now to see how well they'll compare.

I don't know the results yet--but here's an interesting note: usually the character with maximal armor and only a few DP is, in fact, a superior build against peer opponents (although he crumbles faster against slightly more powerful opponents). In this case, once the damage is sufficient to penetrate with any regularity his values are reversed: he loses more often than a moderately armored character with more DP--he's more susceptible to the venom.

Additional Note
Just like IQ Tests measure "how well you take the test" (even though we'd all like them to measure 'how smart you are') our methodology measures "how good this is in the simulator" vs. how-good-this-is in the game. Want an example? Compare Sleep Dart to NeuroToxin Dart.

In the case of the Sleep Dart this is a very powerful attack in terms of result: the Minor Result Dazes you. Everything else knocks you out. It's what you see in the movies: thuck ... thud. Because the results are so bad the Power and Intensity is quite low: if you are going to take out a peer with a sleep dart you either better get lucky or have a lot of your points in it. On the other hand, sleep darts are good for taking out guards and other less potent characters (this is a feature).

So the simulator measures that perfectly.

Next we go to Neuro-Toxin Dart. It has the same Power and Intensity as the Sleep Dart--but the results go: Minor = Dazed, Everything Else = Dead. In the simulator it costs ... the exact same amount (the simulator stops the fight at Unconscious and doesn't care if the target is down or dead). This is one of those philosophical questions: how much is the assassin dart worth than the sleep dart.

Consider that, for a character with murderous intent, in a 1-on-1 fight, putting a target to sleep is the same as killing them if they have a few extra seconds (in most cases, anyway). However, on the other hand, a group of PCs going up against a cyborg assassin who fires shellfish venom darts is a hell of a lot more scared than going up against a cyborg with a tranq gun: so long as the PCs enjoy an advantage in the fight they are not facing roll-or-die (and that's assuming the tranq gun character even wants to kill them).

So ... how much? I have some ideas but I don't really know the answer yet.


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