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Old 02-02-2023, 03:28 PM   #1
Mr_Sandman's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: L.I., NY
Default Eliminating attack rolls in melee combat - Is it a crazy idea?

One of the issues that people have with GURPS is that combat can be slow, and often it is perceived as having a big whiff factor compared to many other games.

Often active defense is identified as something that adds a step to combat, and makes people feel that whiff factor strongly. An opponent making his defense roll can feel like it snatches away the victory of the to hit roll you just succeeded on.

Some people have tried to figure out ways to eliminate the defense roll and convert it into a penalty on the attack roll, or do it as a quick contest between attack and defense. I've never seen those work out as great solutions.

Recently, I saw a tweet from Matt Colville about eliminating attack rolls in the new game system he's working on. If someone (or something) is in position to attack, they can hit.

So I've been wondering if it might work to eliminate the 'to hit' roll in many cases. Say for example, if you have a 12 or better effective skill you hit automatically. I think it's reasonable to assume that most competent fighters can get a hit on a human sized target if nothing happens to stop them. So, just call it a success, and see if the opponent can do something to avoid it. If you have a higher effective attack skill, every two levels over 12 becomes penalty of -1 to the defense roll. If the effective skill on the attack roll is under 12, you still roll. Another approach would be a +1 bonus to defense for every two levels under 12 for the effective attack skill.

One problem is that it eliminates critical hits and misses, which a lot of people enjoy. Maybe it could be the attacker's choice, go for the more sure thing, or take a chance on missing in return for a small chance of something extraordinary happening. Or just use the defense roll to determine crits, a critical failure on the defense roll goes to the critical hit table, and a critical success goes to the critical miss table.

I think this works better for melee combat than ranged, where range penalties, aim, accuracy, etc. all come into play. Somehow to me it just feels more reasonable that random influences can play a bigger roll in ranged attacks. Plus, there are fewer defense options against ranged attacks, so making them automatic seems like it could be unfair or unbalancing.

Another big problem is that people just like rolling dice, and for some people rolling to hit is the main fun in an RPG. I don't think this alternative would be good for them.

I welcome any thoughts on my half-baked idea.
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Old 02-02-2023, 05:10 PM   #2
Join Date: Jun 2013
Default Re: Eliminating attack rolls in melee combat - Is it a crazy idea?

An immediate concern is how to handle characters who don't get a defense - due to the attack coming from behind, the character having just done an All Out Attack, or whatever. If we treat attacks as automatically hitting, even an unskilled combatant can stab one who just All Out Attacked in the eye with 100% accuracy. Of course, an easy fix there is to just have the attack roll, but essentially having two different ways to resolve melee combat is going to get confusing.

I'd also argue that the "automatic hit, roll Defense at +0" situation should be with the attacker having effective skill 14 or 15, rather than 12 or 13. With skill 12, there's a sizable chance (~25%) of missing outright, while with skill 14, this chance (~10%) has dropped low enough I'm more comfortable dismissing it.
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Old 02-02-2023, 06:53 PM   #3
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Default Re: Eliminating attack rolls in melee combat - Is it a crazy idea?

Yes. (must be 10 characters)
My center is giving way, my right is in retreat; situation excellent. I shall attack.-Foch
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Old 02-02-2023, 07:50 PM   #4
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Default Re: Eliminating attack rolls in melee combat - Is it a crazy idea?

The thing is, it's dead easy to hit someone - until they try not to be hit, and then it's quite hard even if they're just weaving side to side and back and forth a bit.

So if you're allowing auto-hits, defence probably needs to be beefed up a bit, and then you're back into attacking feeling like it's wiffy.
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Old 02-02-2023, 10:28 PM   #5
Join Date: Apr 2012
Default Re: Eliminating attack rolls in melee combat - Is it a crazy idea?

I am currently in the end stage of a 1-20 Pathfinder adventure path running a primary spell caster. Casting a spell involves all or most of the following steps:
1 - Cast spell - assuming not interrupted by a readied action counter spell(possible whiff factor).
2 - Roll to get past target(s) spell resistance(one roll per target) (Possible whiff factor)
3 - Target(s) roll saving throw (possible whiff factor - especially improved evasion = 0 damage)
4 - Roll spell damage.
5 - Apply spell damage as modified by damage resistance, vulnerabilities, immunities, saving throw results, etc. (possible whiff factor)

Characters making melee attacks have similar issues.

Not sure how a GURPS attack roll + defense roll is any more complicated or time consuming. Or how it has more of a whiff factor.

The best way to avoid time consuming combat is to allow the characters a way to avoid the combat. Sneak, talking, bribery, etc.
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Old 02-03-2023, 10:37 AM   #6
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Default Re: Eliminating attack rolls in melee combat - Is it a crazy idea?

Why is combat feeling too slow?
Perhaps look at what the players are looking for after combat and just give them more of that, or different puzzles to get to it.
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Old 02-03-2023, 10:43 AM   #7
Join Date: May 2007
Default Re: Eliminating attack rolls in melee combat - Is it a crazy idea?

In my experience, when combats seem to go on forever, it tends to be more due to successful defense rolls than failed attack rolls.
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Old 02-03-2023, 11:25 AM   #8
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Seattle, WA
Default Re: Eliminating attack rolls in melee combat - Is it a crazy idea?

To speed up combats, I often remove attack rolls for bad guys. For example:
  • With mooks or minions, I just have them all-out attack, so I just say they always hit, and never get active defenses.
  • For "typical" bad guys, I just have them *usually* hit because their skills are good enough to have a high probability. I'll only roll if they are doing something fancy, like a targeted attack.
  • Big bads, I usually roll all the time because it's more dramatic, with full on chances of critical hits and misses.
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Old 02-03-2023, 11:54 AM   #9
Join Date: Jul 2008
Default Re: Eliminating attack rolls in melee combat - Is it a crazy idea?

Originally Posted by David Johnston2 View Post
It is a crazy idea because that time will simply be taken up with calculating the modifiers so your attack with hit instead of miss.,
It does seem like actually rolling the dice isn't really the burdensome part of things.
I don't know any 3e, so there is no chance that I am talking about 3e rules by accident.
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Old 02-03-2023, 02:02 PM   #10
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Default Re: Eliminating attack rolls in melee combat - Is it a crazy idea?

I think what slows down combat the most, is players (and sometimes GMs) not being ready when it's their turn. While the other characters are having their go, players should be working out what they want to do and checking their own modifiers if they don't already know them. Having a little note of your common ones helps, or using a VTT where you can build in special attacks or modifiers etc. also helps.

If everyone has to wait for each player to start working things out when it's their turn, it slows down. Of course, combat is dynamic and things change, but most of the time you can save time by prepping before it's your turn.

And looking at what might be considered simpler systems, like having no defence roles in D&D, I always feel hamstrung and a little powerless when being attacked (unless I'm a wizard or something who can cast defensively).

Some good ideas above about how the GM can run the NPCs, particularly if there are a lot of them - it also avoids mooks critting against the PCs which is often not ideal for the narrative.
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