Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Have We Been Looking at Hero Kids Dice Pools All Wrong?

Are Dice Pools equivalent to Attributes or are they more akin to Skill bonuses?  Is a Warrior with a Melee Die Pool of 3 dice stronger than one with 2 dice, or are they more accurate?  Their attacks both deal only one point of damage, yet the Warrior with 3 Melee dice will have more successful attacks than the other Warrior over time.  If so, then how can we more accurately portray a physically stronger character?

Having 3 Ranged dice makes you hit more often, not harder.
Simply making their attacks deal two damage each would be an obvious and simplistic method, but it isn’t ideal.  The damage/health granularity in Hero Kids™  is rather coarse, thus each damage point meted out or received is a large amount.  If we measure strength by how much damage one can effect, then the Hero who always does 2 damage with each strike due to their strength alone isn’t just a bit stronger than average, they are twice as strong.  This is the difference between being able to lift a person and being able to lift a refrigerator!  Such an approach doesn’t address any other aspect of being stronger than how much damage you do with your specific weapon.  Thus, the “strong” Hero who always deals 2 damage would NOT be able to lift any more than the “weaker” Hero as Skills reference the Heroes die pools.

We need to give stronger Heroes a bonus which mimics (even approximately) the effects of being stronger in the real world, without granting a bonus which is too large or too specific.  One could give stronger Heroes a ”Strong” Ability granting a bonus die for any strength related skill test.  This addresses the issue of stronger Heroes being able to lift heavier things, but still leaves attack unaddressed.

The only complete method of addressing a stronger Hero dealing more damage would be to increase the damage/health granularity. If we adopt a finer granularity, say double for the purpose of discussing this, then your average Hero has six health boxes, a normal Attack does two damage, and pre-existing Abilities or Items/Equipment which previously granted a +1 damage will now grant a +2. Die Pool modifiers remain unchanged as we aren’t altering that.  Technically this would work, allowing a Hero with the “Strong” Ability to also gain a +1 damage to their Melee Attacks without it being an overwhelming bonus.  However, the amount of effort to update all your game material could be daunting…

Here is the Brute Hero from the core rules, shown in its original and revised forms.  Adding the extra Health boxes, the Strong Bonus Ability, and modifying the damage amounts in the Hammer Smash Melee Attack and the Retaliation Bonus Ability isn’t a massive change.  Even if you’re not skilled with graphic design, a sticker over the appropriate spots could get the job done.  Still, this degree of change would need to be effected to every Hero, every Monster, every Item, and every Equipment.

Not all changes would be mathematically uniform either.  In some cases, to better serve the intent of the original ability, a different phrasing or an adjusted numerical change would serve better.

Plus, as the Brute example shows, one could make a case for altering other details to better serve the original intent, as I did when reducing the accuracy of the Brute’s Melee attack via a smaller Melee Die Pool when I increased the damage.

Given the total amount of change this solution requires, it is more accurate to call this Hero Kids 2nd Edition or some such thing.  While an interesting mental exercise in game design, unless it were combined with other desired system changes, creating a 2nd edition of this game may not be needed.  Hero Kids™ already passes the primary test for any game - children enjoy playing it in its current form.  Still, such things are fun to consider.