Jump to content
Ragitsu

How to Build: Vorpal weapons?

Recommended Posts

Is it possible to faithfully represent the D&D 3.5e vorpal weapon property in HERO 6th Edition?

 

--- --- ---

 

Vorpal_sword-5e.jpg

 

http://www.d20srd.org/srd/magicItems/magicWeapons.htm

 

Quote

Vorpal

 This potent and feared ability allows the weapon to sever the heads of those it strikes. Upon a roll of natural 20 (followed by a successful roll to confirm the critical hit), the weapon severs the opponent’s head (if it has one) from its body. Some creatures, such as many aberrations and all oozes, have no heads. Others, such as golems and undead creatures other than vampires, are not affected by the loss of their heads. Most other creatures, however, die when their heads are cut off. A vorpal weapon must be a slashing weapon. (If you roll this property randomly for an inappropriate weapon, reroll.)

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You can build a Vorpal Sword in Hero... but it won't have the Absolute Effect that it has in D&D. A durable enough enemy might resist or survive attempted beheadment (even by a Vorpal Sword). Massey's suggestion of Limited bonus HKA is gonna be the easiest and fairest to implement.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There are times I wish HERO afforded more latitude to GMs that want to make instant death or even just "no saving throw" attacks (whether they involve instant death or merely an unavoidable effect) available for the PCs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Ragitsu said:

There are times I wish HERO afforded more latitude to GMs that want to make instant death or even just "no saving throw" attacks (whether they involve instant death or merely an unavoidable effect) available for the PCs.

There is. Make an absolute. In this case it should be expensive. But doable. Before anyone argues that there are no absolutes in Hero, i’ll note that in CC under No Absolutes there is a line that you can still make one under GM discretion naturally.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

+8 PSL's to offset hit location penalties to strike Location 5.

 

All shots are head shots.

 

This was published I the 3e era, IIRC.

 

If the target is killed, by SFX it gets decapitated.  If not, I guess you did not roll a natural 20 or you failed to confirm the critical, didn't you?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Absolutes fall outside Hero mechanics.  Outside of a handwave, consider:

 

Does the game include critical hits?  Would anything survive a head location critical anyway?

 

If we're dead set on some structure, I'd say "only on a 3" is beyond a -2 limitation, which applies cost control to:

 

Substantial extra damage on a 3

 

NND, Does BOD as a naked advantage, only on a 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wonder whether we would be nearly as hung up on "it must decapitate - no exceptions, has to be absolute" in the absence of the D&D version.  The result there is only absolute because the abstract nature of D&D combat allowed no other means of depicting a "head shot".  But if we must have a Hero equivalent, what would it be?

 

First, the D&D version requires rolling a natural 20 to hit.  That is a 5% chance. In Hero, rolling a 3 - 5 is just under a 5% chance, so let's start with that.  Unless you roll 3 - 5 to hit, it is just a normal hit.  It also has to confirm a critical - that is a normal to hit roll.  If that fails, you only get normal damage.

 

OK, let's back that up a bit - I need one roll to hit that successfully hits the target, plus I need a natural 20 (3 - 5).  In D&D, the natural 20 would always hit, so does it matter what order we make the rolls in?  If I don't confirm the critical, it's still a  normal hit, so there's that, | suppose.  

 

OK, what if we make the Hero mechanical equivalent "if you roll a 3-5 to hit, roll to hit again, and if that also hits you get your special ability".  That seems a lot like "requires a roll" to me, on whatever extra benefit we place on our Vorpal weapon.  Given we make a normal attack roll regardless, but we also need that 3-5, I'd say that's an Activation Roll, 7- or worse, so -2.  Given it is quite a bit worse, let's make it -2 1/2.

 

Now, what should the effect be?  "Instantly kill anything reliant on having a head" seems pretty powerful.  We don't actually get the benefit of a head shot (we probably don't get a hit location roll either, much like a choke hold), so let's start by doubling the damage done.  If the Sword was a 1 1/2d6 HKA, let's add up to 3d6+1, limited to doubling the damage the attacker would have done.  So if your attack would have done 3d6+1, you do 6 1/2d6, but if you added one DC for STR, and would have done 2d6, you instead do 4d6.  Call that a -1/2 limitation?  And it only works on targets reliant on having a head to survive.  Is that common enough to be worth a limitation, or do we chalk it up to SFX?

 

So we have +3d6+1 HKA, 0 END (75 AP) max double (-1/2), Requires a Roll (-2 1/2), OAF Sword (-1), so 15 real points.

 

But I can think of lots of targets this won't kill, especially if the character is not maxing out the damage of the sword with STR and other DC adders.  Maybe that's OK - how many characters powerful enough to have this artifact won't have the ability to max out damage routinely?  Maybe we handwave it - it kills anything reliant on its head, and has no extra effect otherwise.

 

Or maybe we make it AVAD, NND (not needing a head - how common is that? - let's call it +1 1/2), does BOD (+1), so now we have:

 

+3d6+1 HKA, 0 END (+1/2),  AVAD, NND (not needing a head +1 1/2), does BOD (+1) (200 AP) max double (-1/2), Requires a Roll (-2 1/2), OAF Sword (-1), 40 real points

 

PLUS 

 

Naked Advantage AVAD, NND (not needing a head +1 1/2), does BOD (+1) for up to 75 AP (3d6+1 0 END).  That means rebuild the sword and reasonably any related STR, with the naked advantage, so we go from 3d6+1 KA, 0 END (+1/2) 75 AP, OAF Sword (-1) 37 RP to 3d6+1 KA, 0 END (+1/2), AVAD, NND (not needing a head +1 1/2), does BOD (+1) 200 AP, OAF Sword (-1) 100 RP, so the Naked Advantage costs [100-37 =] 63, 0 END (+1/2) = 94 APP, Requires a Roll (-2 1/2) 27 RP

 

for a total cost of 67 points.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Practically, I'd say +8 PSLs, only to target the head location, is a way better purchase. 

 

Anything that only works 5% of the time does  not feel like a great idea in Hero, yet D&Ders drool over this.  Why?  Well, how many attacks will a high level D&D fighter roll in one game session?  Compare that to a typical Hero session.  Hero characters tend to get more powerful attacks, not more frequent attacks, where that L16 fighter is swinging four times in one full round action.  As well, Hero battles tend to require 3 - 5 solid hits to take down an equal opponent.  D&D fighters typically have to hit many more times to take down an equal opponent.

 

It's a different system.  

 

So let's give our Warrior automatic head hits.  What happens next?  Well, he's effectively doubled his standard damage, so what does the GM do?  

 

Beef up the opposition?  Either the other characters need to be equally powerful, or they become ineffectual.  In D&D, everyone else is probably scaling up similarly.

 

Use a lot more mooks?  Who cares if one hit from Vorpal Blade takes down someone that one or two normal hits would take down anyway?  Plenty more where that came from.  That sounds like a lot of D&D dungeon crawls.

 

Use a lot of enemies who don't rely on having a head - lots of skeletons attacking as their skulls roll around on the ground?

 

Use a lot of enemies who stay at range when they fight so they don't get attacked by the vorpal blade?

 

Challenges that are not combat-focused at all?

 

Give the opponents similar instant kill attacks?  The game now shifts to rocket tag (he who moves first wins) and/or a lot more blocks or dodges (since a single hit will end the fight).  That's a common description of high level D&D, especially since defensive actions aren't nearly as accessible.

 

Maybe that means we go back to the one that only works 5% of the time, but that 5% autokill will come up at dramatically inappropriate time.  "Swing on the Dragon - a 4!  His DCV was what, 2 thanks to his size?  I hit that on a 14- since all my levels were in damage.  Whack - so, 6 1/2d6 [roll roll] 20 BOD, NND .  Dead dragon?" 

 

"No, just bleeding out..." 

 

"But...I wanna instakill!!!"

 

"OK - instakill - dead dragon - game over - see you next week"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Let's say that in the campaign, the creature with the highest BODY (and a head) has a BODY of 30. A 5D6 HKA will deliver 30 BODY of killing damage on a successful Critical Hit. When using Hit Locations, a blow to the head will produce x2 BODY, in this case 60 total, which is enough to kill the creature outright. However, we need the vorpal effect to completely ignore defenses. So, something like this maybe:

 

2D6 HKA Long Sword w/ "Vorpal Effect" (Triggered on a Critical Hit roll)

 

Vorpal Effect

5D6 HKA, NND (defense is being a deity), Does BODY, 0 END, Only when Head Hit Location is scored

 

So not only must the attacker score a Critical Hit on the To-Hit roll, they must also hit the Head with a following Hit Location roll. Alternatively, if they try a Placed Shot to the Head, their To-Hit roll must still be a Critical Hit even after applying the -8 OCV penalty.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You don't need NND or Does Body.  Those advantages don't make sense once you can already do damage to people.  You guys are overbuilding it.  Your normal attack has gotten through the bad guy's defenses.  Everything after that is effectively "already NND" because the defenses are already overcome.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not sure how we can just ignore the issue of defenses. We can imagine that our creature with 30 BODY also has, say, 20 rPD (dragon-scales or some such). Our 5D6 HKA will only get 10 BODY through on a Critical Hit, which when doubled to 20 isn't enough to insta-kill/decapitate it in an appropriately vorpal-ish manner. Vorpal swords are like lightsabers in that they just cut through all intervening materials like they were butter, hence the NND/Does Body combo.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Part of the issue is defining when this comes into play.  The D&D version only operates on a confirmed critical following a natural 20.  In Hero, a head hit is already pretty critical.  Zslane's build works fine if we are playing in a game where a critical does maximum damage (actually, we could just add to the existing damage, rather than build an all-new attack, but putting it all in one attack is neater).

 

Maybe we should make it "no stun" to reduce the cost for limited loss of utility so it does not also KO something with multiple heads, or whose head is not a critical organ.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not sure we really care about the cost of this thing. After all, nobody cared how "fair" or "balanced" it was in D&D, and its capabilities reflect that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Id just build it with extra damage, either only on a head shot or only a specific location (like 5 to represent the neck).   If you're doing a 7d6 KA (average body 24.5) then whatever gets through is doubled.... you're going to pretty well kill anything you hit.  That will probably even autokill a dragon.  Let's see:

 

Per the 6th edition Hero bestiary (to use a shared version) a dragon has 18 (juvenile) to 30 (greater) Body.

They have 10-20 rPD

So on a Juvenile Dragon you did an average of (24-10=14, 14x2=) 28 body to a single location, which by the disabling/impairing rules = instant death, and will do almost enough damage to totally kill the thing with a single hit (18 body x2=36).

On the Greater Dragon you're just going to make it angry unless you roll really high, at least 35.

 

So you'd likely need a lot more damage or to make it AP at least to be a more reliable Vorpal effect on really powerful monsters.  With armor piercing, the Juvenile Dragon goes from full body to utterly dead instantly (24-5=19, 19x2=38 body), and even on the greater you get an average body through defenses of 28, nearly their body total and an impairing wound, assuming you allow those on such a creature.

 

Given the nature of the Vorpal Sword, you'd have to put in a limitation that it does no extra damage if the total extra isn't enough to instantly kill.  Which is a weird mechanic: you'd do all the math to see if it does anything special.  For example on the Greater Dragon, you'll just to base sword damage without the Vorpal effect.

 

Oh, and I agree with Hugh that it should do no stun with the extra damage, either it kills or it does nothing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, zslane said:

I'm not sure we really care about the cost of this thing. After all, nobody cared how "fair" or "balanced" it was in D&D, and its capabilities reflect that.

 

By D&D 3e, there was some attempt to balance magical properties, equating them to "+X".  I don't think anyone in older editions would just toss a Vorpal Blade into a kobold's lair in 1e either.

 

"Autokill" isn't really a concept in Hero.  As well, I'd suggest that any D&D character with access to a weapon this powerful probably also has access to "raise dead" magic, so being decapitated isn't the career-ender it would be in many Hero games.

 

To me, the balance issue needs to be addressed on several fronts.

 

 - How random do you want this to be?  The Magic Items version that just applied PSLs so every hit strikes the head location was a pretty elegant solution with no randomness.  The D&D model relies on a critical hit, which is pretty random.  I find that works better in a D&D dungeon crawl for reasons expressed above. If you have a lot of combat, pretty lengthy, with disposable opponents, the random aspect of an occasional easy win is no big deal.

 

 - How does it compare to other characters?  Auto hitting the head means 2x BOD, 5x STUN every time.  That pretty much doubles the weapon damage.  But if our Wizard is hitting entire groups for DCs our warrior can only deliver one target at a time, with similar frequency and reliability, giving the Warrior a power-up seems quite reasonable.   Balance cannot exist in a vacuum.

 

 - How often will it matter?  In a game with largely undead or demonic or aberration opponents, maybe it doesn't seem all that powerful, as the enemy just keeps coming with no head.    If you typically deal with groups of mooks. maybe most average hits take them down and lopping off heads is little more than SFX.  Dealing with one Big Bad at a time, this becomes much more relevant.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It is noteworthy as well that the Vorpal Sword was written for a system that lacked the ability to make called shots. Which HERO is not.

Even just a sword that deals a few extra DCs of damage to hit locations 3-5 is going to be a lot more unbalancing than it first appears. In D&D there is pretty much nothing you can do to raise the chance of Vorpal triggering above 5% (because of the nature of Critical confirmation rules). In HERO Called Shot PSLs are cheap enough that you could easily build a warrior that can trigger a Vorpal weapon at-will, and decapitate any opponent with less than a given amount of DEF+BODY.

Add to that the fact that warriors in fiction rarely wear helms (and thus have no DEF vs. a vorpal sword in HERO) and you've got the recipe for lots of dead mooks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A rational GM would not allow players to buy heaps of Placed Shot SLs in the first place. Such characters would be problematic in a campaign even without a vorpal sword.

 

A Hero System GM must decide just how closely he or she wants to mimic the D&D version. Do they want the fixed 5% chance to trigger the effect, or do they want to go with the concept of triggering on a critical hit, even though "critical hit" has different mechanics (and a potentially higher chance of occurring than a mere 5%) from system to system? Or do they want to go with the concept of triggering on a hit to the Head location (and if so, does the GM want to allow Placed Shots, or do they want Hit Locations to be completely random)?

 

A Hero System GM has lots of decisions to make with something like this. I think Ragitsu needs to clarify what aspects of the D&D vorpal mechanics he wants to replicate, and which ones he wants to discard or translate into a more native Hero System interpretation. There are too many variables that need to be set before arriving at a definitive build.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote

In D&D there is pretty much nothing you can do to raise the chance of Vorpal triggering above 5% (because of the nature of Critical confirmation rules). In HERO Called Shot PSLs are cheap enough that you could easily build a warrior that can trigger a Vorpal weapon at-will, and decapitate any opponent with less than a given amount of DEF+BODY.

 

It depends, 3rd edition you could take feats to slightly increase your chance, but the original AD&D version, it was natural 20 or nothing.  But you raise a good point, which is why I'd be inclined to make it a straight chance.  7- is 6.9% and 6- is 4.6% so your choice which you think represents the original concept better.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd go back to the source material:

C.S. Lewis' Jabberwocky

 

The word vorpal appears twice:

 

"He took his vorpal sword in hand;
   Long time the manxome foe he sought—"

 

"One, two! One, two! And through and through
   The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
   He went galumphing back."

 

Gygax decided "vorpal" meant "tends to behead easily" but that is not at all obvious to me from the poem; in fact, the meaning of "vorpal" is pretty obscure and before I encountered the word again in D&D I always thought it referenced some imaginary metal like adamantium or mithril. It could also reasonably be a style of blade, like longsword or broadsword.

 

Note that "He left it dead and with its head He went galumphing back" could easily mean he slew the monster, than beheaded it post-mortem; there's no reason I see to conclude that he definitely slew it by cutting off the head.

 

All the poem tells us is that if you go "one two! one two!" with it, it will go "through and through" and go "snicker-snack!"  This does not really distinguish it from any other sword in the hands of a capable warrior courageous enough to brave "the jaws that bite" and nimble enough to evade "the claws that catch." At most, it suggests that the sword easily cuts through the hide, flesh, and bone of a jabberwock. Or of "The Jabberwock" as it seems possible the monster was singular and unique.

 

So perhaps I'd give a "vorpal" weapon a combination of Armor Piercing, Penetrating, Reduced Negation, and some extra damage.

 

Lucius Alexander

 

And on a palindromedary I went galumphing along.

 


 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
19 hours ago, Cantriped said:

It is noteworthy as well that the Vorpal Sword was written for a system that lacked the ability to make called shots. Which HERO is not.

Even just a sword that deals a few extra DCs of damage to hit locations 3-5 is going to be a lot more unbalancing than it first appears. In D&D there is pretty much nothing you can do to raise the chance of Vorpal triggering above 5% (because of the nature of Critical confirmation rules). In HERO Called Shot PSLs are cheap enough that you could easily build a warrior that can trigger a Vorpal weapon at-will, and decapitate any opponent with less than a given amount of DEF+BODY.

Add to that the fact that warriors in fiction rarely wear helms (and thus have no DEF vs. a vorpal sword in HERO) and you've got the recipe for lots of dead mooks.

 

All true.  To me, the simple build of +8 PSLs to strike the head location was an elegant mechanical solution demonstrating the Hero system had more flexibility for such a build than the D&D system,  but "every hit strikes the head" is very powerful regardless.

 

9 hours ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

 

It depends, 3rd edition you could take feats to slightly increase your chance, but the original AD&D version, it was natural 20 or nothing.  But you raise a good point, which is why I'd be inclined to make it a straight chance.  7- is 6.9% and 6- is 4.6% so your choice which you think represents the original concept better.

 

The description of the Vorpal property is clear that it only works on a 20 (even if the weapon has a wider critical hit range).  Many slashing weapons have a 19-20 crit range, so specifying a 20, rather than any critical, seems pretty clear.  I agree that, if the goal is an ability that works only 5% of the time, 5- is about right. 

 

BTW, 5- is a 4.63% chance.  Rolling exactly 6 is a 4.63% chance, so 6- is 9.26%, while 7- is a 16.2% chance, or roughly one in six (exactly 7 is 6.94%).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It is true that the original source has been warped quite a bit. The Vorpal Sword as described by C.S. Lewis could easily have just been an Armor Piercing HKA (or even Penetrating).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote

BTW, 5- is a 4.63% chance.  Rolling exactly 6 is a 4.63% chance, so 6- is 9.26%, while 7- is a 16.2% chance, or roughly one in six (exactly 7 is 6.94%).

 

Ah, that's where my math was wrong.  I'd probably go 6- for this, since it shouldn't be less likely to go off than the D&D version in my opinion, but that's up to the GM.  I wonder what that would be worth?  -1½?  The book says a -1 limitation (plus the -½ for 'must roll every phase/use) for "7- or worse" but it seems like it should be worth more the harder the roll gets.  At least -1¾ seems called for here.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×