Forums: Index > Watercooler > Alternatives to Ability Damage

I've always disliked ability damage for a multitude of reasons--the way they affect the RNG, their save-or-die status against specific enemies, and so on; does anyone have any suggestions for alternatives? Here are some suggestions that I came up with and from others that sound viable:

  1. Make it deal either static damage for every ability damage taken (8-10 damage).
  2. Target takes a -2 penalty to all checks associated with that ability score for a number of rounds equal to the amount of ability damage taken, as well as taking damage equal to their HD/level (perhaps 1/2 that?). More ability damage stacks for duration.

Let me reiterate, I'm looking for viable alternatives, not for reasons why ability damage works as-is, or why it's retarded to change it. --Ghostwheel 01:19, January 20, 2010 (UTC)

Your 2nd example sorta works, but the first is essentially eliminating ability damage from the game instead of making it an interesting or distinct way to hurt people. Which is fine if you want every attack to take off from the same pool, it just seems boring to me.
An extension of your 2nd might be to make full on ability damage tracks, or stick a nasty status effect at the end. The former means you track how much they've taken, and assign scaling penalties based on that. So X Dex damage makes you slowed, 2X dex damage makes you held, and 3X Dex damage makes you petrified or whatever. This implementation takes more work, but suffers less random swings. The latter option means you have less points to track, but are just worried about when some line is crossed. So if you take Wis damage, you start making will saves (DC 20 or whatever, keep it static if you want high level players to be able to take more ability damage in the same way that they take more HP damage) with a penalty equal to half the Wis damage you've taken. If you fail your effective wisdom becomes 0 and you become insane until healed or regened or whatever. Either of these could be added on to your second option above without much work, and would serve to keep ability damage more unique than just another way to plink away at a guy until he's dead or just a minor penalty that lasted for a while. - TarkisFlux 02:27, January 20, 2010 (UTC)
A good suggestion, thanks! The only thing is that I'm trying to add it to the game I'm currently running, and monsters don't have ability scores per se, and I'm trying to stay away from effects that could (in theory) insta-kill characters, so it doesn't work so well. Anything else come to mind with the above? --Ghostwheel 04:50, January 20, 2010 (UTC)
Nope. Go with option 2, adjust the damage in some way. - TarkisFlux 05:09, January 20, 2010 (UTC)
Level of target in damage per point of damage dealt sounds good *nod*, thanks --Ghostwheel 05:17, January 20, 2010 (UTC)
I think I'd actually go half level unless you hit a primary attribute. So rogue's take it in the teeth from dex damage, wizards cry when their int is sapped, clerics suffer worse for wisdom, etc. It helps to keep the various ability damage forms less interchangeable, but that may not be a goal for you. - TarkisFlux 05:28, January 20, 2010 (UTC)
Also, damage = level means that you're tying ability damage limits to hit dice fairly directly. So wizards are going to fall dead from 4-6 points of attribute damage and barbarians will take 8-12. Which I don't like at all, but I don't like the damage = direct damage (fixed or some number of whatever dice, a la option 1) either for the issues that it brings to low levels (any attribute damage = dead). I got nothin on this one, just pointing out the behavior. You should pick the method that better matches the behavior you want. - TarkisFlux 05:34, January 20, 2010 (UTC)
In truth, this would be more for PCs who damage monsters, rather than the other way around since monsters will default to actual penalizing abilities or pure damage--so instead of inflicting actual Int damage (which can screw a caster over for the rest of the day) the monster might reduce the DCs of any abilities used by two, increase the casting time, or reduce the damage of magical effects by half or to minimum die dealt--whatever fits. This is more so that I don't have to recalculate half the monster's stats every time ability damage is dealt, so that they don't wander too far on the RNG, and so that if they are forced to wander towards the bottom of the RNG, so that they aren't made useless for the rest of the fight.
Do you have any suggestions on how to do something similar with negative levels? Perhaps -2 to all checks for two rounds for every negative level dealt, and take twice your level in damage? Throwing out the first idea that comes to mind... --Ghostwheel 05:41, January 20, 2010 (UTC)
That's basically what they already do, just twice as strong or so on the damage (which also eliminates the need to track them to see when a guy falls dead from them) and capped on the modifier (which you're already doing for tracking ease). Which is fine I guess, since you're turning up the pain from ability damage as well. I don't like it, because I don't like rules that change based on PC/NPC target (and even if they don't, these rules are not an improvement for PCs), but it should work well enough for your purposes (which I assume is to apply these efects to those mini-monster stat blocks on your Grimoire page). - TarkisFlux 21:26, January 21, 2010 (UTC)
Yep, that's the basics of it--making it easier for the DM to deal with. And like I said above, in the end it's virtually only for PCs to use on monsters, since monsters are going to have a nigh-infinite variety of abilities that do any number of interesting things not limited to changing the core abilities of PCs. --Ghostwheel 04:12, January 22, 2010 (UTC)

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