Multiple Attacks

I’ve never been a huge fan of the multiple attacks per round rule for fighters against weak creatures (1HD or less than 1HD, depending on edition), and am thinking of replacing them with a multi-attack rule similar to what the DC Heroes RPG did:

Multi-Attack Rules from Mayfair's DC Heores RPG (First Edition)

Multi-Attack Rules from Mayfair's DC Heores RPG (First Edition)
The Batman takes on a gang

Clearly, the idea that one character could attack up to 125 enemies per round, regardless of level, seems a bit excessive unless you’re Superman, so the details would be different. But the base concept of “the more you attack at once, the harder it is to hit” and “one to-hit and one damage roll per group of targets, damage applied to each individual in the group if the to-hit is successful” would be fine, I think.

Maybe something along the lines of:

  • Attacker may attack as many targets within range as he wants
  • -2* modifier to to-hit roll for every target after the first
  • Use AC of the best target as the AC that needs to be hit
  • One to-hit roll applies to all named targets–all are hit or all are missed
  • If the attack hits, roll damage once and apply that damage to each target

At first glance, I don’t see any gaping holes in this. It would be open to any attacker, but due to the negative modifier and the use of the best opposing AC it would still mean in practice that usually only more powerful fighter types (with better to-hit numbers) would be using it against weaker opponents (with poorer ACs).

This seems a better way (assuming it works) for a tough to plow his way through a horde of goblins, for instance. And it would take less time to resolve, which would speed battles a bit and would not leave other players waiting for the fighter to finish all of his to-hit and damage rolls.

Of course, this would work both ways. Now that troll can take on a party much more effectively. Or a tyrannosaur might be able to get a band of orcs, finally. Not sure about special attacks, though. Would a ghoul either paralyze everyone or no one?

I imagine that there are other similar systems, or systems that try to do similar things, out there. But I can’t think of one off the top of my head. Maybe something from Chainmail?

My intention is to use this with our Wizards & Warriors homebrew, but I don’t see why it (or something quite similar) wouldn’t work with standard oldschool games.

Anyone got any suggestions? For either this take or a pointer to an alternative?

* This had originally been -1 but that wasn’t enough.

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13 Responses to Multiple Attacks

  1. Stuart says:

    I like the direction this is going! 🙂

    I wonder if there shouldn’t be a limit on the number of targets you can attack at a time. Perhaps equal to the Fighter’s level or the Monsters Hit Dice? I also think some monsters seem more logical for a multi-attack (Swamp Octopus, Blade Master, etc) and some less (Dire Wolf, Slime, etc)

    • Kilgore says:

      My original plan was to limit it to the number of fighter levels, but then by making it scale in difficulty, the lower-level guys won’t want to fight 7 orcs at once, anyway, because their to-hit number will be too high.

      It might need to be -2 per additional target, though, because at -1 it isn’t quite tough enough. At -2, it might get a bit too tough too quickly, though, which is probably why DC Heroes used ranges instead of per-target modifiers like I’m hoping to. That game needed to be able to handle regular thugs, the Batman, and Superman all with the same system, so they needed to scale things differently than a typical fantasy RPG would need to.

    • Kilgore says:

      Also, I must admit that I’m coming at this from the direction of our game, which has combined multiple monster attacks into one roll and damage except in some exceptional cases. So no claw/claw/bite triple attacks.

      Those attack routines, if allowed against multiple opponents in the same round, allow a monster to “whirling dervish” it against a party. We combined attacks sort of like how OD&D did it (though often with higher damage per attack) but that left monsters unable to attack more than one target per round except for the exceptional cases like hydras, octopi, and ettins which retained multiple attacks.

      Though not originally intended to fix monsters, this would address that issue in our game. Admittedly, most games don’t have that issue.

      • Stuart says:

        I totally agree about getting rid of the claw/claw/bite triple attacks. I’ve never thought that made much sense, and I like the single attack roll for beasts.

  2. Timeshadows says:

    My input echoes Stuarts exactly.

    EPT has an (Attacker HD – Target HD = Bonus Dice of Damage) mechanism. Perhaps the same format could be used in this fashion:

    (AHD – THD) = # of Targets that can be Engaged in any one Round.

    That would suggest that tougher opponents put up more fight than lesser ones, so that even one Orc leading a squad of Kobolds makes for a more difficult combat.


    • Kilgore says:

      That would suggest that tougher opponents put up more fight than lesser ones, so that even one Orc leading a squad of Kobolds makes for a more difficult combat.

      That is what I’d like to end up with, and your example of a leader with lesser creatures is exactly what I had in mind. I’m hoping to NOT put an arbitrary limit on the number of targets an attacker can go after, letting the attacker decide how much he’s willing to worsen his chances of success.

      But I DO need a way to make six kobolds with an orc measurably tougher than seven kobolds. Right now using the best AC of the bunch for everyone does that to an extent, but not enough, probably.

  3. Stuart says:

    I like that, although it adds another math step and I’ve become wary about doing that unless absolutely necessary. I think you do need to limit who can do a multi-attack though, otherwise I think the math works out that it’s almost always best to multi-attack every time you are fighting multiple enemies.

    I think you also want a system where a PC Fighter can defend some villagers from an Orc in the same manner that the Orc leading the Kobolds prevents PCs from easily multi-attacking that group.

    Perhaps an alternative to calculating (AHD-THD = # Targets) could be that you can multi-attack only if Attacker HD > Target HDs. So a Level 1 Fighter couldn’t multi-attack the Orc + Kobolds, but a Level 2 Fighter could. The Level 1 Fighter could attack the Kobolds on their own. 4 1st Level Fighters couldn’t multi-attack a pair of Ogres… etc

  4. ChicagoWiz says:

    Timeshadow’s approach is similar to the one I put in place for Fighting Men in my wife’s solo OD&D campaign. FM HD/level – Target HD/level = number of attacks. Can never be less than one. If Target is less than 1 HD, FM gets HD+1 attacks. I also apply to this intelligent monsters that are FM “in nature” – so a troll would get this, but a Mind Flayer would not.

  5. 1d30 says:

    I could totally see Batman attacking 125 enemies at once.

    “Batman fires his hookshot at the helicopter, bracing it behind the light pole. The chopper reaches the end of its rope and tilts, the rotor catching on the fiber, and swings gracefully toward the ground. It explodes against the side of the building, raining huge sheets of glass and chunks of concrete and metal down onto the goons below, who trample each other in a panic. 125 of them take 1-6 points of damage (or whatever).”

    You could simply say that a monster with x HD gets to attack a combination of creatures in a round that adds up to x or fewer HD, minimum 1 attack of course. So a 5 HD Fighting Man attacking 1/2 HD Kobolds can hit up to 10 Kobolds once each in a round. If he had 4 Orcs (1 HD) and 4 Kobolds (1/2 HD) he could hit 4 Orcs and 2 Kobolds, or 3O/4K. If he tried to hit a pair of 4 HD Ogres he would get to hit just one, because the other would bump his attack that round over 5 HD. Ignore x+1 or whatever, so Goblins still count as 1 HD. This rule should replace high-level Fighting Man multiple attacks as well. Outcome: Most of the time you get 1 attack per round, but against really weak monsters you might get 2 or even more.

    Honestly though, I don’t use multiple attacks much. Certain monsters get it (Giant Squid, etc), and certain skills (Slash Attack, Whirlwind Attack, Rapid Shot). With Haste you get an extra action or move, so that could give you an extra attack.

    • Kilgore says:

      I could totally see Batman attacking 125 enemies at once.

      “Batman fires his hookshot at the helicopter…

      You’re right, but in DC Heroes that would probably use both the TRICK SHOT and the SWEEP ATTACK (if the trick shot was successful) rules, not the MULTI-ATTACK rule. The Sweep attack is a sort of multi-attack that uses a large object to attack many targets at once.

      I had not thought about how to incorporate this with the haste spell. Would it give two attacks, each of which could be an attack on multiple opponents?

      • 1d30 says:

        In my game? The extra action works like any other full action – you can use a Whirlwind Attack using an action, so if you’re hasted and you want the haste to give you a second action that round instead of a second movement, you could get off two separate whirlwinds.

        A question I hadn’t thought of: in my game you get an action and a move, and if you do the move and then the action you lose any remaining movement. That is, you can’t move-attack-move. If you had Haste you could get a move action, then attack action, then a free haste move action. Or an attack, then a move, then a haste attack. And I think that’s okay.

        In 1E / 2E Haste doubles your number of attacks and movement, without giving you any explicit extra ability to split them up like the above. I don’t remember if the “no split-move” is actually a rule in those editions.

        I think if Haste in a given game doubles your offensive effect, then it should work with any kind of multi-attack rule to double the end effect. If the haste just adds something, such as a single extra attack (even if the game normally features only single attacks otherwise) then the haste could just add a single attack to the multi-attack. Outcome 1: if you could have multi-attacked 10 creatures, you can do 20 with Haste. Outcome 2: If you could do 10 creatures, you can do 11 with haste.

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