After our recent thread on subdual damage, I decided to try to run the numbers as a reference. I'd like to request comment and correction. Please be specific.Subdual Damage and the Special Character
In combat, PCs can face two sorts of opponents, standard and special characters, and have three basic damage types to inflict on them: Lethal, Subdual, and Stress. How do these compare?
Let's first get standard characters out of the way. All three types perform the exact same way. Your GC may state that subdual damage causes knockouts and that stress causes surrender or fleeing but all three types are equally effective at removing standard characters from combat.
What about special characters? Against specials, lethal damage is straight up damage while stress and subdual act as "save or suck" condition inflicting effects. Both apply up to 4 grades of their condition and then cause unconsciousness on a fifth failed save. In both cases non-lethal damage accumulates until a save is failed then it is reset to zero, leaving only the inflicted condition.
Critial hits also act differently. Stress and subdual damage both stun on a critical while lethal damage is applied directly to the targets wounds.
Bearing this in mind, let's find out how long it takes for these damage types to remove a target from combat. Since stress and subdual damage are nearly identical in mechanism, I'll present only subdual and lethal and deal with stress damage after. Let's meet our target dummy!
Def V, Res X, Health X
Con 18 Fort +16 Def 20
500 Vitality 18 Wounds
Not too difficult to hit but very hard to kill. This should be a worse case scenario as most specials simply aren't this tough. And here's the guy who'll be doing the beating:
Soldier 10, Str 18, weapon forte, Crunch!, Killer Instinct using Superior weapon
To Hit +15 (80% hit rate versus Def 20)
War Hammer (1d12+8 Sub AP2 Keen 4 crit 20) and Long Sword (1d12+8 AP 2 Keen 4 crit 20)
For our purposes we're leaving out the effects of feats, tricks and will discuss those later.Subdual Damage
|Hits||1|| 2|| 3|| 4|
The percent failing is per round so 35% fail in 2 hits, 49% in 3, and 16% in 4 hits.
That means that the average failure time is (0.35 * 2) + (0.49 * 3) + (0.16* 4) = 2.81 hits to fail a save
and (2.81 * 5) = 14.05 hits to fail 5. It takes our soldier (14.05 / 0.80 hit chance) = 17.56 i.e. 18 swings to knock out our special. Since being fatigued drops Dexterity by 2 per grade and thus Defense by 1 per grade, we can knock two swings off and say that it takes 16 swings to finish our creature.Lethal Damage
No Crits: 518/14.5 = 38 hits /0.80 hit chance = 45 swings.
Crits: Since a single critical will kill with average damage, the important number is the average time to achieve a critical. That should be (1/2 / 0.5) = 10 swings.
Silly: Use a 14th level Soldier. One in a million gives a crit on the first swing, most deadly saves the action die, damage is high enough for an instakill. 1 swing.
Summary: Crits rule. Soldiers rule. If criticals are possible, lethal damage is the quickest method of removing specials from combat. Higher Health than Resiliance favors subdual with the reverse favoring lethal.Grade X is a bit harsh. How does grade V change things?
Making health and resistance grade V gives 250 health (and 23 swings to slog through it) and a +11 Fortitude save. That changes our last line on the subdual chart to 25% failing on the first hit, 45% on the second, and the remaining 30% on the third hit. Average time to fail a save is 2.05 hits, resulting in 13 swings, 11 or 12 after the "death spiral" is taken into account. What does increased critical range do?
For subdual damage, nothing. The stun protects the party from damage but doesn't directly decrease the time to knock out the target. For lethal, more likely crits are usually quicker crits.But I have to spend an action die to activate a critical. I need those!
Action dice, unlike action points, refresh every session. Don't hoard them. There are several class abilities and feats that either reduce the cost of activating criticals or give extra dice. Failing access to one of those, you could try roleplay to get more. What happens as Threat Levels scale?
Fortitude saves and Vitality scale but Wounds doesn't. PC Damage by itself doesn't scale but can be increased through magic and feats. In most cases PC damage will either keep up with or somewhat outpacing the increase in saves. However, higher TL creatures are often higher XP and may have more defenses (Tough, No Pain, ect.) What about Stress?
Everything said about subdual applies to stress. No weapon inflicts stress damage as its primary damage type. Two weapons (scourge and razor) have the excrutiating
quality that causes them to inflict 1/2 their normal damage in stress in addition to their normal damage type. The whip feat chain allows whips to inflict stress damage. Most types of stress are very hard to boost damage on significantly but are skill based and thus easy to score damage with. Fewer specials will have high defenses against stress than subdual. Stress will in general not be significantly more effective than subdual and often slower.How do feats and tricks affect outcomes?
Rather than trying to list every trick that could affect the outcome, I thought I'd just point out that the only weapon (unarmed excluded) that inflicts full subdual damage and has a damage affecting trick is the sap with pummel, which gives triple damage as a full action. There are several damage multiplying tricks available for non-subdual weapons.