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In Savage World there is a problem of Whiff (I miss) and Ping (I hit but bounce off the armour).

We have had several long combat encounters where the PC and NPC have basically done almost nothing for nearly 20 rounds.

Is there a way to either make this more interesting or fix the rules to reduce the it?

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What do you think of grogtard.com/?p=562 (You may want to advertise this question on that post...) –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Apr 12 '11 at 11:10
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This seems to be a fairly standard "problem" peginc.com/Downloads/SWEX/Combat%20Survival%20Guide.pdf is the FAQ for it. (I don't play nor know the system, so no answer for me...) –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Apr 12 '11 at 11:13
    
Thanks Brian. I read that blog sometime ago and also the Survival Guild. I was thinking of it from the other way around. The SG tries to give the players option to overcome the problem. I have found they don't want to do use them, to quote "they are no worth it". What can the referee do to make it more interesting or to make them more acceptable. –  David Allan Finch Apr 12 '11 at 14:00
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Make the enemies use the options? That might show just how much a +1 or +2 really means in SW. Alternatively, if your players are even slightly statistics-inclined, show them the raw stats on bonuses. They might be unconsciously assuming "+1 is only 5% and nothing to care about," which is a common mental block among players who cut their teeth on WotC-era D&D. –  SevenSidedDie Apr 12 '11 at 15:21
    
I in the end blessed @Runeslinger because it is more comprehensive but I find @Rain answer also true, in practice, as that extra +1 from a magic items tends to solve the problem. –  David Allan Finch May 31 '11 at 13:18

4 Answers 4

up vote 16 down vote accepted

I tend to look at the resolution to this problem more from a stand-point of visualization than system. In a slightly off-color blog post last year I called it, 'Premature Imagination.' The key point of that entry was to say that a major failing in approach that can lead to increasing dissatisfaction with, and growing focus on, the problem of whiff & ping is that players and GMs can come to forget that the outcome of the dice determines only results, not the events of the scene, or the way it is imagined and described.

I recognize that the question asks for a way to mitigate the effect of whiff&ping in Savage Worlds, and that the advice to seek out the Combat Survival Guide is a very sound first step, as is the advice from The Geek Life Project about discussing threat leveling in encounters. However, I think that premature imagination also plays a significant role, in that it colors the expected outcome for both GMs and players and tends to make it devolve into a sort of tunnel vision where all the vagaries of chance and change that combat could be, is instead boiled down to hits and misses and amounts of damage.

I approach dealing with the situation by changing the focus of the GM and the players from basing their expectations on the basic function of the die roll, to basing them on the descriptions we invoke in response to them. This is a small thing, but it can have a profound effect. By removing the concept of I swing and miss, and I hit, but did no damage and replacing them with What do these die rolls represent this turn? combat expands into a much more dynamic and opportunity-laden experience that can sometimes even be resolved narratively rather than only by applying damage.

Focusing on what people are attempting, narratively, and then applying the die roll to the attempt, rather than the expected outcome, turns the focus from failure, to a more fluid and ongoing interplay of offense and defense. This in turn helps the players and GM define hooks, openings, weaknesses, opportunities, errors, mistakes, etc in those attacks and defenses which can be turned into bonuses and penalties that can then be applied mechanically to overcome the systemic problems of being able to hit, but not damage, or not being able to hit at all; harnessing the overall creativity and imagination of the group.

If an encounter description shifts from the Player stating that they shoot the mook in the face, to "I line my revolver up on the man's head and pull the trigger!" and then prepare the dice for an aimed shot, they have shifted the focus from what they want to happen to what the character is doing to achieve it. If a miss is rolled, the scene is already partially described. It is not a cold and meaningless "I roll to hit and I miss" but rather a vivid image of the character aiming his smoke wagon at a gangster in the midst of a raid. What happened to interfere with the shot? That is where the focus needs to be to avoid the annoyance generated by Whiff. That is also where the answers to generating the much-needed modifiers to mitigate the problem will be found as the players and GM make their way through detailing the scene. Who knows? The GM might even have the villain capitulate [if that is a desired effect] now that the scene is made so graphically clear. Ping works the same way - What prevented a significant wound? What needs to change to ensure victory? A good example from film is in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom when Indy is fighting the enormous guard in the mines. He has no trouble hitting... ;) Things don't improve until he shifts his tactics to incorporate scene elements such as ore... and a huge crushing machine.

The end result is, once the players and GM have a grip on not being limited to what the function of the die roll is (hit/miss) and return it to facilitating the imagination of the scene by adding complications and results to attempted action (not verifying or preventing completed actions such as "I blow his head off") the resulting descriptions can be harvested to provide the group with the modifiers and conditional/situational information necessary to resolve the systemic problem.

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This is a fantastic answer and a good thing to remind people of. It can be easy in some groups to let role play devolve into roll play. –  lathomas64 Dec 4 '11 at 16:39
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Try coming up with 20 rounds' worth of reasons why you missed, though. I prep monsters with two or three ways for describing misses (monks chose a defensive stance, fire elementals flicker like a candle as your blow whooshes past, satyrs dance beyond your reach), but you just can't make up something new every time. It does help if your characters change tactics or opponents when they are having trouble hitting, so that the first set of misses is due to the cleric's full plate, and the next set is because of the rogue's dodging. –  Noumenon Mar 16 '12 at 3:17
    
It is a skill like any other, but I do agree that if the descriptions from one of the players or the GM become static, then it gets progressively harder to generate details. Prepping in advance helps, and remembering to focus on really talking about what and how things are done, rather than using shortcuts or maneuver names helps as well. Keep it fun and visual. –  Runeslinger Mar 16 '12 at 11:07
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The combat survival guide has an updated URL: peginc.com/freebies/SWcore/Combat%20Survival%20Guide.pdf –  user4284 Aug 21 '12 at 21:55
    
The answer has thoughtfully been updated by SevenSidedDie to relect the new link provided by @Tomes. –  Runeslinger Aug 22 '12 at 9:08

I understand that most of these examples assume that you get an actual hit in every once in a while, but they should make hitting on successive rounds easier.

There is a house rule I read about somewhere (Savagepedia?) that suggested going straight to the Injuries table on Called Shots. E.g.- a called shot to the arm, and now your opponent is one armed, and unable to wield his weapon. Aim for the head and put out an eye, aim for a leg, and now it is lame, and moves at half pace. Of course, maybe they could make a Called Shot with the intention of lowering its Agility, and therefore its Parry.

Another alternate rule I read concerns Armor Damage. For every success and each raise, roll a d10. For every 1 rolled, the Armor takes one damage.

Of course, I suppose you could combine these two rules and make a Called Shot to the Armor. Use Acid, for example, to eat away at it. Or Ice Bolts (Or liquid nitrogen) to make it brittle. There is an Edge floating around called Ghost Touch that ignores Armor altogether.

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From what I remember of Savage Worlds, you're supposed to deal with this by trying to gain tactical advantages for some bonuses, and also team up on actions. It was from the revised corebook though, which I no longer have, and I've never seen Explorer Edition, so I can't point out the details, but that's probably your easiest solution while staying in the system. If you're considering alternate systems though, then there are several alternatives.

Solution 1: Don't use task resolution systems, use conflict resolution systems. You make a single roll, or a short series of rolls to determine the outcome of the entire encounter. If the problem with whiff & ping is that it takes too long to get somewhere, this will work, although some people don't like having it handled by everything.

Solution 2: Use high hit points, and relatively high attack rolls and damage. This way you have a Final Fantasy effect, except not to that degree of inflation. At least each time you feel like you're doing something. I believe post-errata D&D 4e is like this, while D&D 4e at launch could produce more whiff & ping.

Solution 3: Don't use hit points. Use status effects. Mutants & Masterminds is like this, you roll to see if you hit or miss, and then based on that you can inflict a status like "stunned" on your opponent. M&M also has difficulties set up so that spending a hero point prevents whiff when it's really bad. You'd still have some whiff, but ping should be largely avoided.

Solution 4: Use a FATE based system. The stress track is like hit points, but being able to apply aspects to enemies, and then free-tag them for a subsequent +2 or reroll means you can do things that inflict situational effects. This is not too different from the modifiers Savage Worlds suggests using, but in FATE they're integrated into the core task resolution system, rather than an optional recommendation to prevent it.

Solution 5: Use a system like Leverage or Dogs in the Vineyard. Both systems use an escalation based system, where you have an exchange and choose to give or keep going if you think you can get some higher results. They have a different method of implementing it, with Dogs in the Vineyard being more complicated, and Leverage being a straightforward system of just rolling to see if you get a higher result (which ends smoothing out excessively low results, but still makes unusually high ones rare).

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D&D only produces Whiff, never ping... or more correctly, never distinguishes between the two. –  aramis Apr 12 '11 at 23:12
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DR produces ping, as do saving throws for anything other than damage. D&D 4e works the saving throws in, but you still have DR for certain types of attacks. Also, early 4e had high hit points with low damage, which in terms of annoyance is close enough to ping to be discussed with it. –  migo Apr 13 '11 at 0:08

It is a touch heavy handed, but I've had success with a higher availability of magical or other high-end equipment. The net effect is giving the PCs (and Major NPCs) some significant bonuses to hit and amping up the total amount of damage done.

This approach seems to feel satisfying for the players and has the added benefit of being a something you can introduce subtly in an ongoing game.

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