Strength Shortcut Back to House Rules
Strength Shortcut

If you have a lot of close combat in your Deadlands adventures, you may have to deal with the hassle of having to roll more dice and do more mathwork to resolve damage from melee weapons (and strength-based ranged weapons) than from such weapons as bullets. This is because, in addition to rolling (and adding up) the damage from the weapon dice, you must have the character perform a Strength test, and apply the highest result to the damage total.

Experienced Posse members and Marshals may not have any trouble with this, but I've found it to be an unnecessary hassle. While I find it quite natural to have Strength figure into the damage caused by a blow from a sword, to be sure, the added step of doing the Strength Trait test for every hit is something I would rather not have to deal with, especially when large numbers of combatants are involved (such as a swarm of giant rats).

For the benefit of the Marshal, I submit this alternative method of estimating an average Strength roll for a given monster. This by no means represents the wild range of possible values that may arise thanks to the "open-ended" die system, but these values represent averages of a sample of 320 rolls for any given die combination. In theory, especially in larger groups of combatants, these values should more-or-less accurately reflect comparable damage in the long run, as the high and low aberrations cancel each other out.

Below is a table that is the result of my estimates, made by fixing up a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that would simulate "open-ended" die rolls, with up to three "Aces" per die. (I arbitrarily decided that any more than four successive "Aces" per die would be rare enough to be negligible for my purposes.)

Die Type12345678910

So, how do we use this? Let us say that I have a swarm of giant rats (Let's give them 2d6 in all Traits, plus 1d6 damage from claws) attacking the Posse. Each hit would normally be the result of a Strength Trait roll of 2d6, plus an additional 1d6 thanks to the claws. Under this system, it would become 6+1d6, with the "6" substituting as an estimate for the Strength roll.

This shortcut by no means captures all the dynamics of a battle played using the regular Deadlands system. However, I don't consider those dynamics to necessarily be realistic, and it doesn't enhance game play enough to warrant the hassle of the added step of rolling Strength for each rat.

I would not go so far as to use this for Posse members when they perform Strength tests. If that were the case, they would have a very fixed idea as to what feats of strength they could perform under duress. However, these estimates could still be useful for determining a rough idea of what such a character can normally accomplish on average.

These values also might help to get some rough appreciation for the relative abilities of different NPCs and monsters. Can 2d6 be a challenge to the Posse? Against an unarmored Posse member, this would suggest that, using this method, the giant rat would be guaranteed to score at least one light wound per successful hit, to a random location. Conversely, any wild animal with 1d4 Strength and no natural weapons would be guaranteed never to do any damage to the average Posse member (though it still might be a nuisance). And, of course, these might give some rough ideas for the average, estimated values of other NPC and monster Traits.

An alternate house rule that I've used is to replace the standard Quickness roll each turn to determine actions with an estimated "average" value, and then determine the number of character actions based on that value. This method allows a way to speed up game play by taking a step out of each turn - and also allowing you to calculate what division of the character's Pace he or she should be moving during each action, ahead of time. An obvious drawback is that it removes the chance to throw chips in to try to get more actions per round. Your mileage may vary.

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