Design Challenge: Fixing Dodge

Originally posted by Justin at the V20 Blog

What I’m working on today is a bit sticky.

Dodge. It’s a valid part of an RPG combat system, but as a standalone Ability, it doesn’t fit the model of what the other Abilities are designed to do. I’ve never liked Dodge as an Talent. It always seemed very weird and goofy. There’s really a skill set aside for “getting out of the way of stuff”? How do you improve the Talent? How do you practice getting out of the way of things? Like, in some kind of elaborate Danger Room-type set up that hurls hazards at you and you scamper out of the way? IF YOU CAN DODGE A WRENCH, YOU CAN DODGE A FRENZIED GANGREL.

I’d like to think through some methods of fixing this for V20. I’d like to lose the Dodge Talent entirely. The ultimate objective here is to streamline combat without radically redefining it or breaking the understood flow of the Storyteller system.

One of the possible solutions is to continue to allow a dodge action, but have it based on either the Brawl or Athletics Talents instead of a separate Dodge Talent. Using Brawl again is a bit perilous because it makes that a very potent Ability, so that’s probably not the best solution. Athletics expands the value of that Talent, and tying Dodge to Athletics is how Orpheus handled it, so there’s World of Darkness precedent there.

Late Edit: Remember, too, that narratively, this defensive action need not be considered in terms of litteral, narrow, exlcusive “Dodge.” It’s potentially any defensive action by which you get out of harm’s way, whather that’s a tumble away, avoiding the blow, skirting the attacker’s peripheral range, or just a general sense of bob-and-weave that, systemically, makes you harder to hit.

On the other hand, Vampire didn’t work like this in any of its previous versions, so the change is a potentially significant departure from the expectation of Vampire heretofore. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?

My objectives with the refinement are:

  • It can’t radically change the usual order of WoD combat. The sequence remains attack, “dodge,” damage, soak.
  • The solution shouldn’t complicate the straightforward Attribute + Ability equals dice pool mechanic. That is, no “Defense” derivative subsystem like nWoD uses.
  • Optimally, the solution should allow flexibility in defense, rather than simply replacing Dodge with “Defense” or some other equally narrow application. (For example, I briefly thought of just renaming Dodge and Brawl to “Combat Offense” and “Combat Defense,” but that neither solves the problem nor contains any modicum of flavor. And it’s too much of a departure from the existing Vampire system.)
  • Has to be cool and world-relevant.

Weigh in! If you have some input, I’d love to hear it.

Leave a Comment