[MUD-Dev] called shots

Travis Casey efindel at earthlink.net
Mon Apr 30 18:34:49 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

Thursday, April 26, 2001, 2:37:51 AM, Josh Rollyson <dinodrac at summit.magenet.net> wrote:

> Just out of curiosity, I haven't seen any muds implement "called
> shots".  (Where a specific area of a player, mob, or object is
> targeted)

> When I played D&D we had called shot rules, you could try to aim for a
> percieved weak spot in an opponent's armor, or for the opponents head
> (possibly getting a critical hit of successful) or to maime the
> opponent, so that they couldn't fight effectively - cutting off an
> unprotected hand for instance.

> Does anyone have such a system in use, and what issues has it created?

I haven't dealt with called shot systems in muds, but I've dealt with
them in plenty of paper RPGs, and here are some issues that show up
there which would probably also apply in muds:

First, there's the question of balance.  The good points and bad
points of making called shots have to be considered -- it's easy to
accidentally set things up so that either everyone will want to make
called shots all the time, or so that making a called shot will almost
never be a good idea.

Second, there's the question of what should happen when you make a
called shot.  Some systems do per-location damage, others have special
effects if you do more than a certain damage threshold on a hit to a
specific area, and others combine things.

Third, if you have called shots, people are going to start expecting
armor to be by location instead of just an overall value, so they can
aim for weak spots and the like.

Lastly, you have to decide what happens to non-called shots.  Do you
randomly generate a hit location for them?  Have an assumed location
that they go to (e.g., "body")?  Something else?  This also subsumes
the question of how to have NPCs use the system.

There are a lot of ways to work a called shot system.  The most
traditional one is that the player declares what area of the body
his/her character is trying to hit and is assigned a penalty on the
attack (which may be larger for smaller areas of the body).  If the
attack succeeds with the penalty, the chosen part was hit; if it
fails, the target was missed completely.  This has the problem that
it's impossible to ever hit anything *other* than the target you
aimed for.

Several systems use a method wherein hit locations are always randomly
assigned, but a player can then use success levels to "bump" the
location of a hit towards where they want to hit.  There's a tradeoff
involved, though, in that those success levels then can't be used for
other things -- like doing more damage, or activating a special
ability, or whatever.  This sort of system usually works fairly well
and feels realistic, but I'm not sure how applicable it would be to

Millenium's End, SpaceTime, and a few other paper RPGs use a method
where players choose the hit locations they aim at, and the actual hit
location depends on both where you aim and how well you made your
attack roll -- and sometimes on an additional random factor as well.
A system like ME's could be particularly applicable to a Doom-style

Sword's Path: Glory has a system where a character using a swung
weapon chooses a path to swing it on:  flat snap, crossover (i.e., a
diagonal cut), or overhead (a straight-down cut).  Each of these
methods has its own hit location tables, depending on the posture of
your opponent.  There's also a dependence on direction -- hit
locations are marked as "inside" or "outside" rather than right and
left, with which is right and which is left depending on the direction
of your swing.  Such a system could easily be expanded to allow for
high horizontal cuts, low horizontal cuts, and so on, for those
interested in something for a detailed fighting game.

I've seen proposals for systems where hit locations are handled on an
abstract effect basis instead of in detail.  E.g., an attacker has a
choice of targeting an opponent's Dexterity, Consititution, or ability
scores.  In a paper RPG using this sort of system, the GM would
describe the hit on the basis of its effects.

It's not an RPG, but the Avalon Hill game Gladiator has the two
opponents in a fight each divide up their melee points for a round
among both the locations they want to try to hit on their opponent,
and the locations they want to try to defend on themselves.  These are
then compared and results determined.  This builds-in the ability for
high-skill characters to do multiple attacks, since they can be more
assured of being able to divide their attack points among multiple
locations and hit more than one.

One question that very few hit location systems and called shot
systems deal with at all, much less adequately, is how they should
work between opponents of greatly differing size.  A normal human
wielding a sword can't aim a blow at a giraffe's head unless the
giraffe brings it down.  Someone standing at the front end of a dragon
fighting it with a sword should not hit it in the tail.  And so on.
Of course, how true this is depends on how abstract your combat is...
if you're on an AD&D1 scale, where each round of combat is one minute,
you could quite justifiably have enough movement during the round that
someone who started it at a dragon's front might hit it in the tail.
If your rounds are only one second long, however, this becomes much
less believable.

       |\      _,,,---,,_    Travis S. Casey  <efindel at earthlink.net>
 ZZzz  /,`.-'`'    -.  ;-;;,_   No one agrees with me.  Not even me.
      |,4-  ) )-,_..;\ (  `'-'
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