M&M Damage Roll

Toughness saves in M&M may seem too passive to some. The Guardian swoops down, punches the giant robot, and then waits to see what happens when the robot rolls its save. He can use a Hero Point to re-roll an attack roll, but nothing to make sure the blow actually does any good (Extra Effort to increase the DC by 2 for blasts etc will rarely seem like a good bet). The problem is also psychological: it “feels” like you aren’t affecting the outcome because someone else is rolling the die and you’re just waiting for the result of your own action.

The alternative is to flip things around and have the attacker make a Damage roll instead. The odds of getting Stunned, Staggered etc. are all the same, just a different person is rolling the die. M&M 1st Edition had optional rules for this, which we basically ignored and used a house-ruled version instead. We later updated the numbers for M&M 2nd Edition, which are shown here. Mastermind’s Manual also has a damage roll system which is a bit different.

We’ve used this damage rule a bunch and found it to put some serious “umph” back in the fights (i.e. the players loved it). If your M&M fights are feeling a little passive, give it a try.

Rolling for Damage

When an attacker hits, they roll a d20 and add the damage of their attack (e.g. for a Blast 10 roll a d20 + 10). Compare the result to the target’s Toughness:

Toughness +7 = bruise
Toughness +11 = stunned + bruised
Toughness +16 = staggered + stunned
Toughness +21 = unconscious

[these categories are the same as the normal system, so I’m just paraphrasing them here – substitute the lethal categories if it’s a lethal attack]

The attacker is rolling, so of course the attacker can use a Hero Point to re-roll damage.

The defender isn’t rolling, so can’t spend a Hero Point to re-roll anything. Instead the defender can spend a Hero Point to reduce the result one category (after the attacker has finished re-rolling, etc). So if the attacker gets a Staggered result, the defender can spend a Hero Point and move that up one bracket to Stunned instead.

The rules is the same for PCs, NPCs, everybody. The GM can use GM’s Fiat/Villain Points for the NPCs to re-roll damage or reduce damage results as above.

Fast Play

For fast play just write your damage brackets on your character sheet. So a Toughness 10 character would write 17/21/26/31. If you want to spell out “bruise 17/stun 21/stagger 26/unc 31”, that’s fine too.

When you get hit, the attacker rolls the die, adds the damage rank and says “23 damage.” You look at your brackets and see that falls above stunned (second result), but below staggered (the third result), so you’re stunned. If you’ve already taken bruises, just add them to the damage before you look at the numbers. Very easy, very fast.

What’s the Difference?

Mechanically there are differences because the attacker can choose to spend hero points to inflict more damage, but the primary change is attitude. Punching someone feels more like it’s in the attacker’s control, because the attacker gets to roll the die and control his destiny. Sometimes it “feels” wrong for the target to decide how much damage you do. It can be frustrating to make easy attack rolls round after round, but then just wait and see if the GM says the attack worked. How can the hero end the big climactic fight if he has no control over the damage he does?

It may seem inconsistent that other saves (Will, Reflex, Fort) don’t change, but it feels fine in play, possibly because other saves are usually things that are conceptually in the hands of the defender. You resist the mind control, you dodge the explosion, you fight off the effects of the poison.

Footnote: What’s with the math?

If the progression seems strange to you, it’s because it mirrors the original Toughness save range exactly. Assuming the attack’s damage is the same as your Toughness, you normally need to roll a 15 or higher to suffer no effect. That 15-16-17-18-19-20 on a Toughness save (6 results), so 1-6 on the Damage roll. So you need to roll at least a 7 to inflict a bruise (the same as rolling a 14 in the original system).

To be Stunned you need to fail a save by “5 or more” (not more than 5), which by default means rolling a 10 or lower. So on a Toughness save 14-13-12-11 is a bruise (only 4 results) and 10-9-8-7-6 is a stun (5 results). That’s why on the Damage Roll the Bruised category is 7-10 (4 results) and Stunned is 11-15 (5 results). And so on.

It also highlights the fact that you cannot be one-punched if your Toughness is the same or higher than the Damage of the attack. With the normal Toughness roll you would have to fail by 15 or more on a DC 15, which isn’t possible since rolling a 1 fails by only 14. On the Damage roll you would need to roll a 21, which is likewise impossible.

[Open Game License]

    Ben Robbins | October 18th, 2006 | | hide comments
  1. #9 Deep Play says:

    Just wanted to thank you publicly for sharing this — our gaming group gave this a try last weekend and it turned out to be just the shot in the arm we needed.

    As you note, the default ‘Damage Save’ rules feel WAY too passive from the player’s standpoint.

    But the optional ‘Hit Point’ rules we replaced them with slowed down combat significantly, and were very, very kludgy — especially when it came to adjudicating the effects of powers like Drain, Boost, Transfer, Healing, Regen, etc.

    As far as we’re concerned, this system of yours is the perfect compromise. Thanks again!

  2. #8 Daniel Ream says:

    To #2 Mike: There’s no reason you can’t simply have the players make all the rolls for anything that affects their characters. When the bad guys beat up on them, have them make Toughness saves. When they beat up on the bad guys, have them make damage rolls. You might want to play with the numbers a bit so the players don’t have to remember two different breakpoint progressions.

  3. #6 Gregg B says:

    I just found the answer in the Atomic Think Tank forums. According to Steve Kenson:

    “Yeah, it’s been brought up before that the probabilities for this option are off. It’s something I need to address in errata or an FAQ when I get a chance.”

  4. #5 Gregg B says:

    Hello, I’m new to M&M. Although I’ve never played the game, I like your idea of a damage roll rather than a damage save. One benefit I see is that the attacker can roll two d20’s at the same time, one to see if you hit, the second to see if you do damage.

    I’d like less of a “whiff factor” so I’m considering adjusting the ranges to Toughness +5 = bruised, T +10 = stunned, T +15 = staggered, and T + 20 = unconscious. Do you think this will be too lethal?

    Also, do you have the Masterminds Manual? There’s a damage roll option on page 107, but it seems far too lethal: Toughness +16 = unconscious. Can you explain it?

  5. #4 Tim Keating says:

    Huh? Impervious who the what now?

    I’m not sure you are using Impervious correctly, Steve-O. AFAICT it should work exactly the same using damage rolls as it does with Toughness saves — if the damage isn’t higher than your Impervious Toughness, it has *no* effect (one of those rare cases where it MIGHT be worth it to use Extra Effort for those +2 ranks of damage). If damage *does* exceed Impervious Toughness, resolve normally (i.e. Impervious is ineffective).

  6. #3 Steve-0 says:

    Thanks for this house rule.
    I felt it really helped speed up the game and it got the players more involved.
    There was a wrinkle though, when it came to the Impervious extra. I had to make note of this extra. Any attack less than the Impervious amount was disregarded, while any damage beyond the Impervious was regarded as the attack bonus.
    Otherwise, this worked awesome!
    This blog rocks!

  7. #2 Mike says:

    I really like this system. I’ve noticed my players sitting there staring at me after hitting an opponent, waiting for the outcome from my Defense roll for the villian. So this does seem to put the ball in the player’s corner, so to speak.

    But on the flip side, I know my players are big on games where they can actively “dodge” (i.e.- roll for defense of some sort rather than rely on a static number). So, I’m not sure which method my group will prefer. We shall see.

  8. #1 Joel A says:

    Kewl system. Thanks!

Leave a reply