[The Game Master’s] primary duties include: playing the roles of all of the NPCs, creating and running the fictional world. establishing concrete situations for the players to interact with, adapting to the unpredictable choices of the players, making on rulings on how and when to apply rules in a particular situation, and finally inventing, altering, or entirely removing games rules if it improves the game.Maze Rats Introduction
While running Maze Rats for my young cousins in this time of quarantine, I ran into a problem. Someone got poisoned. Something like that was bound to happen sooner or later with my “serpents-as-foes” obsession. What happened was I had the creature make an Attack Roll against a PC. They rolled over their Armor and dealt damage like normal. But then I wanted the status effect “Poison” on them. What does that look like in Maze Rats? I didn’t have an answer.
Sooner after I ran into a similar situation. A mind flayer-like creature used a psionic Attack Roll on another character. As I was making the roll, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the PC using their Armor to reduce the damage felt wrong. “Heavy padding help brain?” I didn’t and still don’t think so.
Then I remembered that Maze Rats is based on Into the Odd.
A while ago, I wrote on how to do Special Attacks in Red Ink Adventures, which also leverages a “roll straight damage against your foe” method of combat (Maze Rats also does this, but in a hybrid way: you both “roll to hit” and “roll damage” in the same roll). In that article, I suggested using PC stats as a replacement for Armor, avoiding the twin traps of “save or take damage” and “my plate mail protects my sanity.”
So, I made “a fix.” I use air quotes because I’m not entirely happy with formulas in RPGs. It seems to go against the “See Rules as False Idols” mentality.
Your Base Armor against all Attack Rolls is 6. When defending against…
- Body Attacks (poison, extreme cold, exhaustion), add your Strength (STR).
- Area Attacks (fireball, arrow barrage, whirling blades), add your Dexterity (DEX).
- Mind Attacks (insanity, psionics, stress), add your Will (WIL).
Then, compare the attacker’s attack total to the defender’s special armor and deal damage like normal Attack Rolls.
Applying this to the examples above, a poisoner would roll an Attack Roll, adding an Attack Bonus based on the lethality of the poison against the defender’s STR + 6. Anything over is damage. The mind flayer would roll an Attack Roll plus their lethality against the defender’s WIL + 6. Anything over is damage.
Your armor against special attacks stays in the same range as regular armor (6 at the lowest, 10 at the absolute highest), so I’m happy with that.
I also like that this keeps things to Attack Rolls only. Rolling a straight d6 damage against someone without taking either the PC’s armor or stats feels like cheating.
I just wish there wasn’t a formula involved.