Monday, January 30, 2006

Answering Troy Costisick's Power 19 for Troll Slayer

Please see "What are the 'Power 19' ? pt 1" and What are the 'Power 19' ? pt 2 for the source and discussion of this exercise.

EDIT: Please see this thread on the Forge which has some newer comments, but please direct comments back here rather than resurrecting the old Forge thread (or open a new thread on the Forge).

I've highlighted some questions and comments in italics. I've asked a ton of questions, so what I may do is start new threads to continue discussion on questions people seem most interested in discussing with me.

1. What is your game about?**

Troll Slayer is a sword and sorcery fantasy game about a group of characters who seek fame and fortune by traipsing off into the wilds and slaying trolls, dragons, and other enemies of civilization and taking their treasure.

2. What do the characters do?**

The characters are warriors or spell casters who fight creatures and acquire treasure and experience.

3. What do the players (including the GM if there is one) do?**

Each player creates one character, controls it during the game, and makes decisions on how to advance her and spend her treasure share. The player’s characters will act as a team in responding to the challenges the GM presents. The GM is responsible for presenting opposition to the characters and controlling their actions in the game. The GM will present challenges by drawing a tactical map on a battle board and indicating the characters starting position. The GM also determines the rewards of experience and treasure. In presenting the opposition, the GM will create a situation that the players will respond to. The GM is most responsible, but the players also have responsibility, for providing color and background that tie the combats into something that brings the game beyond a war-game.

Here's one area where I'm not clear how to communicate in a reasonable amount of words what players actually do. Or do these questions need much bigger answers?

4. How does your setting (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?

The game has an implied sword and sorcery setting with untamed wilds dominated by goblins, trolls, and fell creatures. The setting provides opportunities for the player’s characters to kill creatures and take their treasure. Brief trips to civilization give the players opportunity to convert their treasure into useful magic items.

Another area, I'm not sure how to really describe the implied setting, which is more or less a D&D style sword and sorcery fantasy setting

5. How does the Character Creation of your game reinforce what your game is about?

The character creation focuses on the combat abilities of the characters (weapons or magic). Characters have attributes and skills. The attributes help distinguish the characters (one warrior might be strong and clumsy, while another is weaker but more dexterous, spell casters can chose a balance between fighting ability and casting ability). Race and some secondary abilities also provide distinction (for example, lizard men can move in swamps without problems, which might allow them to gain a tactical advantage, elves don’t need as much sleep and can see at night, dwarves can see at night or underground and resist magic).

I think this is an area where I've got a real clear idea how things fit together

6. What types of behaviors/styles of play does your game reward (and punish if necessary)?

The game rewards tactical and strategic thinking about combat effectiveness. The game avoids leading players into favoring talk over action, at least as a primary method of addressing challenge.

I think I'm clear on this one, but articulating it may need help

7. How are behaviors and styles of play rewarded or punished in your game?

Winning a fight results in a reward of experience and treasure.

8. How are the responsibilities of narration and credibility divided in your game?

Each player declares the actions for his character with the GM declaring the actions of the opposition (and any NPCs aiding the PCs). The GM is responsible for driving the negotiation to resolve conflicts of declaration. After the dice hit the table, the GM is responsible for confirming the results (though a player who rolls really well should be allowed to describe his attack – with the caveat that his narration should not conflict with the actual result – for example, it is perfectly reasonable after rolling really well to describe the opponent slipping in the mud, of course in the end, the blow might barely damage the opponent, so narrating severing the opponent’s neck is likely to end in disappointment).

Another one that could use some crisping up. Just thinking about it, perhaps some actual guidelines on when a player can narrate their really good (or really poor) roll. As a GM I often narrate something when an NPC rolls a 90 or better or an 09 or worse, the players should have that opportunity also, but since such a good (or poor) roll doesn't guarantee an effect (it depends on the actual abilities of the opposition), the narration needs to be made with care (I often narrate that the PC slipped when an NPC rolls a 90 or better - but just because the PC slipped doesn't actually mean the NPC is able to do much to the PC).

9. What does your game do to command the players’ attention, engagement, and participation? (i.e. What does the game do to make them care?)

Combats are changing tactical situations that reward players for seizing opportunities.

This is the key thing that needs to be visible in the combat system, but the bit about what ties the combats together is also important

10. What are the resolution mechanics of your game like?

The resolution mechanic uses a normal distribution chart to convert a die roll into a positive or negative modifier that is added to an attack rating and compared to a defense rating. The chart is open ended, and exceeding the defense rating by a large margin results in additional damage (also open ended). Characters have hit points that increase with advancement.

The resolution system, while really cool, of course is somewhat tricky to describe. I posted a description here. I would welcome more comments in that thread (perhaps indicate that you have done so here since that thread is long gone from the front page of the blog). I would entertain ideas about a different mechanic, but the mathematical beauty of the normal distribution is hard to pass up (and my experience with Cold Iron play suggests it actually works, and feels good - and once people get used to the system, really isn't that hard).

11. How do the resolution mechanics reinforce what your game is about?

The open ended bell curve makes the unexpected possible, but consistently rewards players who seize tactical advantage.

That answer seems weak...

12. Do characters in your game advance? If so, how?

Characters advance with experience, increasing their hit points, attributes, and skills. Warriors gain some additional abilities, and spell casters gain access to better spells. The characters also gain more treasure.

One thing I certainly want to question is if the spell casters get cool new spells, what do the warriors get? In one way, I like D&D 3e's feats, but I also realized they are part of what made NPC prep so difficult. I think it's important that the advancement not be purely better numbers. Of course the magic items bought with treasure give even the warrior increased access to the cool spells.

13. How does the character advancement (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?

These advancements allow the characters to face more and tougher opposition, and increase the tactical choices. The treasure system especially provides a strategic element.

I find it hard to separate 12 and 13, which I guess may be good because a cool mechanic is meaningless if it doesn't reinforce the game. Improving my understanding of reward cycles is definitely the greatest thing I have learned in the past couple years of my Forge and blogging involvement.

14. What sort of product or effect do you want your game to produce in or for the players?

Players should revel in success, whether due to brilliant tactics, or just a run of good luck.

Another weak response.

15. What areas of your game receive extra attention and color? Why?

So this is one I'm stuck on. Hmm, interesting, 14 and 15 don't have any commentary in part 2.

16. Which part of your game are you most excited about or interested in? Why?

What excites me most about the game is the way the treasure economy and advancement work together to provide a real strategic element that drives the focus on the tactical situations. Additionally, the magic system, which focuses most on supporting the warriors, but is critical so players of either type of character continue to feel relevant. I’m also excited about the relative simplicity of creating NPCs and the resulting modest preparation time on the GM’s part.

17. Where does your game take the players that other games can’t, don’t, or won’t?

The treasure economics work in conjunction with the combat system to make the continual advancement of the characters more sustainable. The tight focus on combat also avoids the confusion many combat focused games suffer when they introduce non-combat focused character options.

I need to refine this and the previous answer, but I think I'm pretty clear on what I like about Cold Iron, and therefore what I intend to focus on and refine in Troll Slayer in the process of producing a complete game that actually represents what I want to play.

18. What are your publishing goals for your game?

My goal is to have a game that I can publish that embodies some of the cool things I discovered about Mark Christiansen’s Cold Iron game which has never been published.

19. Who is your target audience?

Players looking for a solid wargamey tactical and strategic RPG that celebrates a combat (or dare I say “hack and slash”) play style. And more directly, players who might be interested in gaming with me. My desire to publish Troll Slayer is to satisfy me, and in doing so, I hope it is a coherent design that will also be attractive to others.

I'm also struggling some with just how to break Troll Slayer off from Cold Iron. Do I really want to commit to starting completely from scratch? Some of the mechanical elements of Cold Iron work really well, but some of the glue between them is just flour and water paste.

Thanks for your attention and any feedback you can give me, especially if you can help me with any of the troublesome areas (but feedback on where I think my thoughts are clear is also valuable, either in the form of pats on the back, or constructive criticism because I'm not communicating or I'm screwed up).


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Starting to think about Troll Slayer

As I start to think more and more about just building a new game from the ground up that captures the best of Cold Iron, I've been starting to try and define the game. I'm working on a list of things I want in the game, but the following just spilled out and seemed to need to be captured:


Role Playing Game

Troll Slayer is a role playing game. A role playing game is a structured cooperative creative endeavor where the participants negotiate and agree on “what happens.” The game is structured in the sense that this text provides rules to help the participants negotiate and agree on what happens. The creative part is how the participants offer contributions and react to the contributions of the other participants.

One participant is called the Game Master (or GM). The other participants are called players. The GM serves as the primary rules arbiter and primary scene setter. Each player is the primary controller of one or more characters that are the focus of play. These characters are referred to as Player Characters (or PCs). The GM controls any other characters in the game, and especially controls the characters that oppose the PCs. The GM controlled characters are often called Non-Player Characters (or NPCs). Not all NPCs are in opposition to the PCs, and some may actively help the PCs.

What is the Purpose of the Game

The purpose of Troll Slayer is for the players to portray characters who slay trolls. The game master will present a setting (or world) where the action takes place. Not all opposition will be trolls, some opposition will be humans, or other “civilized” races, other opposition might be dragons or other mythical creatures. It’s possible the game won’t even focus on killing trolls. The key however is that the central conflicts of the game will be battles between the PCs and NPCs. In the course of play, the PCs will improve by gaining innate power (experience) and through acquiring treasure. As the PCs improve, they will be able to fight more, bigger, smarter, or just simply better trolls (or other opposition). The battles will be tactical in nature, with the players making strategic choices between battles (deciding how to improve their characters with experience and treasure).

Not all action in the game will be pitched tactical battles, but that will be the focus. Occasionally, the PCs will talk to NPCs, perhaps to get information on the next troll menace. Players may occasionally make thematic statements (for example, deciding it is more important to take out a traitor than to survive). This kind of creative contribution will make the tactical situation all the more interesting – but it will probably not become the focus of the game. Occasionally, “how the world works” will be an interesting factor in play, but again, it will not become the focus of play (though such play would be much better supported by these rules than making thematic statements).

I'd like to acknowledge Vicent's comments in this thread as an inspiration for the above "what is an RPG" section. Finally something clicked as to what defines an RPG for me. When I first read that, my thought was, "and this is why Monopoly isn't an RPG, but it could be, if everyone agreed to take creative contribution - because that agreement to take creative contribution is the core of what an RPG is."

I know the above statement needs a lot of work, and may be premature, but I think it's a good start at trying to capture what I want Troll Slayer to be (of course the name Troll Slayer may not stick - but I need something as a working title).

At this point, my plan is to do a bit more thinking here, and then start a conversation at the Forge (and hopefully Ron will accept a design from the ground up, even if it borrows some stuff from Cold Iron as an indie game).

I guess another thing that's worth talking about at this point is what my goal is. Ultimately, I am designing Troll Slayer for me. I want to be able to run cool tactical gamist games with a system that is easy to share. Of course if others get excited about the game that's cool too, and will make it easier for me to find players for the game (and even find games to play in instead of GM). I want to be able to publish and share my game with a clean conscience.


Friday, January 20, 2006

A couple threads that illustrate some things I like about Cold Iron

Or at least the way I use Cold Iron. Threads on Monte Cook's ezBoard:

DMing Styles
Interesting Fights?

A major sub-topic in the first is statting up NPCs, and shortcutting by just inventing a couple stats. The second has several posts that talk about making combat more interesting by inventing new monsters.

In the first case, Cold Iron's combat stats are simple enough that it is reasonable to use the correct derrived stats and not just invent stats. And with my handy monster skill cheat sheet, I can whip up a set of combat stats in a few minutes.

In the second case, people are trying to regain the fun of that very first D&D session where you had no clue what an orc was capable of. People try and regain that by inventing new monsters, or twisting old ones. But basically, this amounts to Calvinball. And it's not necessary.

One of the most enjoyable encounters in my Cold Iron history was a necromancer and his horde of typical undead. The same undead stats I had been using for ages. But with a twist, not invented, but taken straight from the rules. See, I realized the necromancer could easily afford to create anti-magic shell charged items for every single undead minion. It was really fun watching the players deal with these simple ghouls - that they couldn't hit with spells (well, at least most of them - many of the ghouls weren't protected because the items failed to activate).

While I have about 50-100 creatures written up for Cold Iron in various forms, the reality is that 90% of the encounters are run from a very small subset of this list, probably 20 creatures. And because the combat stats are fairly simple, and don't have lots of extraneous stuff (I mostly just figure out Size, Str, Dex, and Con for monsters for example), it's really quick to stat them up (and when they need to make saves, for example of a less used stat, 90% of the time, it seems like, I don't need to figure out their save because the roll either clearly makes it, or clearly doesn't make it - now perhaps sometimes I wing those).

Another factor is that I only run meaningful encounters. So I don't need stats for the thousands of people in the city. Because the PCs aren't going to fight them. If they're just talking to them, I'll be saying yes. Or when we roll the dice, it will probably be an unopposed roll. And if they decide to kill a street urchin, I'll probably just say they dispatch him, and if I'm mean, I might roll 1d6 of damage for the PC or something silly like that (really no need to do that kind of thing - but that was one way of handling insignificant encounters in the past).

Of course all of the above isn't specific to Cold Iron. Rune Quest was also similarly simple. I admit that I get trapped by all the monster manuals for D&D. But what D&D doesn't have is a good quicky way to write up a monster (and with the CR system, it would be really cool to provide a variety of "generic" monster stats - a CR 5 "tank" might have AC 20, 50 HP, Attacks 2x +8 1d8+8, 1x +3 1d6+4 or something like that).


Recent Cold Iron play and thoughts

Just finished another session last night. The PCs tried to rest for a night in the swamp. They were attacked in the middle of the night by 5 swamp trolls. It wasn't until we were into the encounter that I remembered that their fighters were pretty wounded (when we had just been talking about that before...oops...what a brain fart...). Suddenly, I wondered if I had overdone the encounter. The mage went down almost immediately. He was in a tree, and a troll reached up and swiped him with claws, knocking him unconscious (and out of the tree). Because of the awful reach, the troll was at -8 attack (an adhoc penalty), but the mage was casting, and was -8 defense... The cleric much more easily fended off the troll attacking her. The two frontline fighters were caught sleeping, and went down pretty quick. The lizard woman ended up being the hero. Near the end of the battle, a troll got lucky and got the halfling into hand to hand (she was blurred, so had a 20 dodge, the troll rolled a 99 and got a 25 to tag her). Another 90+ roll resulted in a crit that rated to do 6x her hit points (twice the "head chop" quantity of 3x HP in a single blow). A halfling head went popping up into the sky. The troll tried to run off with his dinner, but was quickly taken down.

After doing what healing they could, the PCs headed into town to confront the innkeeper. The mage cast truth on the innkeeper, who refused to say anything about the guides, and called out a code word to alert the staff. He drew a greatsword from under the counter, while the bartender drew a seige crossbow. The fight quickly errupted. A couple patrons came to the aid of the staff. One patron was entranced, another was severely injured, and the innkeeper knocked out. As the party converged on the bartender, the constable arrived and called a halt. After some more truth spells and questioning (and the cleric healing up the patron and the innkeeper), the constable took the innkeeper away and thanked the party. The bartender and patrons were absolved. The bartender offered the PCs two nights stay for free. The constable mentioned that no one would notice if the the innkeeper's sword went missing so the PCs got a bit of treasure for their trouble.

I had intended to prepare for the fight in the inn, but had been so busy I just plain didn't get to it. But I was able to pull together some quick stats for the fight and run the fight in about an hour. A great demonstration of why I like Cold Iron so much. Of course in my haste, I used the wrong hit points for the innkeeper.

Some things I observed from this session:

Night time alertness checks need some work. I may be using too many stealthy encounters, but the PCs had little chance of detecting the troll encounter with warning. Also, the penalty to check alertness while asleep makes it almost meaningless to check.

I really need to define how the obscurity spell is useful to the party. I also have to define what the effect of large creatures is (it just states a cost per creature), and how tight the group has to be.

I need to define acrobatics and dexterity checks, though there weren't any problems (it basically amounted to me saying yes, though I might have called for a die roll).

I still need to decide exactly how Charisma works. I called for several Charisma checks, but they weren't really meaningful. I'm not supremely worried about Charisma because I've set it up as very cheap, and if it's mostly a color tag that allows certain characters to be the obvious face people, perhaps that's ok. This session was a nice application of talk/negotiation without bypassing fighting.

I have been giving out XP at a pretty good clip, and as a result, the PCs treasure probably is severely lagging where it would have been in past campaigns. The players haven't made huge use of charged items and potions. The fast rate of XP also means a significant percentage of session time is used for levelling up. I need to think about streamlining levelling up (while not eliminating strategic choices for the players). I'm also concerned about treasure division/shopping time. Back in college with our 8, 10, 12+ hour sessions, spending an hour or two every other session or so for a major treasure division/shopping wasn't too bad. And with a slower XP rate, levelling up didn't consume that much playtime. I should be able to get Cold Iron levelling up to be at least as quick as D20 (possibly faster since there aren't feats - or at least not so many - and skill points). Treasure division/shopping should be comparable. Part of the problem is the young couple needs a lot of help with this. Learning curve is probably also slowing down the other players.

Overall though, I'm very satisfied with how things are going. I'm not killing myself on prep. I can handle unexpected/unplanned for changes in direction. The players seem to be enjoying the system, and figuring out good tactics and such.

The bad news is that I am definitely losing the mage player until summer, and may be losing the young couple. If I lose them also, I think I'll cut off the campaign, and do some serious work on Trollslayer (as a working name), and look for playtesters in a few months.


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Can a gamist, tactical combat game like Cold Iron be an RPG?

All of this discussion about Cold Iron has me thinking about what can be a role playing game. As I consider this post on Deep in the Game, I wonder. If Cold Iron play is stripped to what really matters for resolving combat situations, what distinguishes it from a war game? At one time, I would have said that part of what makes an RPG is that you can do things the rules don't cover. But that means there are floaty mechanics, and the ruleset is missing something. And if RPG play has creative agendas, then there is something being created. And this creativity, which in a system like Cold Iron falls outside the explicit rules, seems to be important.

My games aren't just a sequence of combats. The combats are linked, even if the connection is sometimes very tenuous.

I also wonder if all the CAs actually come into play.

In this week's session, we had two players make thematic statements, one through play, one through what he would have done had his character not gone down. The PCs were getting overwhelmed, and their guides turned on them. The player of the PC who went down stated that had he not gone down so quickly, he would have concentrated on killing the turncoat. The other player didn't flee when he had a perfect chance because he didn't want to give up the small amount of treasure he had on his mule (and the mule itself). Now the first player did make another statement. One NPC was able to escape. And in a fit of stupidity, I had her ambush the turncoats. And she took them out. I should have let the players set that up (with improvised weapons). But at the end of the session, the player who didn't get to make a statement with his character said the NPC should gain 2 renown for taking down the traitors.

Now these thematic statements are not at all the focus of the game, and don't indicate a narativist agenda, but somehow the ability to make those statements, and be affirmed for them (and not just be that "crazy minis gamer who always does XYZ, even if it doesn't really make sense for the current scenario") is important. And maybe in that wargame example, if the player really is making those kinds of thematic statements, maybe that wargame is actually an RPG.

On the simulationist angle, the campaign map, and the geographic relationships seems to have some importance. And that you need to go to a city to get the higher level magic items.

On the angle of a wargame actually becoming an RPG, when I run Evil Stevie's Pirate Game, I'm pretty sure that what I'm running is an RPG, not a pure wargame. Of course they way I've run it, there's lots of floaty mechanics, and I've become horribly disillusioned with the game because the rules don't actually produce the type of game I want.


Possible name for my version of Cold Iron

As I get closer and closer to deciding to publish my own game based on Cold Iron, I'm considering that it needs it's own name.

One name I've got in mind is Troll Slayer, which doesn't seem to be the name of any game out there.

One reason I thought about that name is that I use trolls of various sorts quite freqently (though goblins and undead are frequent also). But maybe the fact that I use other creatures also is a problem for that name...

I also thought about something like Hot Steel that ties the game to Cold Iron, but that seems cheezy.


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Grappling (Hand to Hand combat) in Cold Iron and PC vs NPC abilities

Chris Chinn (bankuei) asked a reasonable question, does Cold Iron really need a separate grappling system. My initial answer was that it is something that is used frequently, and it presents interesting tactical challenges.

But last night I got to thinking about what the system really enables. Basically it makes two types of opponents more powerfull against typical PCs than the regular melee system does. For very large and strong creatures, it allows them to use their full strength against weaker opponents, and it allows them to use their full strength as a defense, and add their size to offense and defense. It is most useful to non-weapon using creatures (which get no benefit of strength in defense, and are penalized for size). It also allows weak creatures to gang up more easily.

The result of this is that it's almost never beneficial for PCs to be in hand to hand combat. Sure, they can play neat tricks, like have a fireball charged item, which they trigger when multiple creatures gang up. Sure, they take damage too (but they could also use fire resistance with it), but each of the bad guys takes the same damage, so in the ideal case where the PC is in hand to hand with the maximum 4 opponents, the good guys take X (or even 1/4 X with fire resistance) while the bad guys net 4 X damage (with fire resistance on the PC, this is a 1:16 damage ration - pretty darned good). A PC could even be a decent hand to hand combatant. But PCs will rarely benefit from the ganging up rule (if PCs outnumber their opposition, they are better off in melee).

This got me to thinking, to what extent is it reasonable to give creatures abilities that PCs don't get. And more importantly, to what extent is it reasonable to have extensive rule systems to govern NPC abilities.

Now it is traditional for RPGs to distinguish between PCs and NPCs, and many systems reserve abilities for NPCs. Especially D&D Fantasyesque systems. In original D&D, in fact, PCs and NPCs were created entirely differently. They used different combat charts, and their hit points and AC were derrived differently. Game systems slowly developed towards an ideal of describing PCs and NPCs in the same terms (even if they are generated differently). Cold Iron got on that bandwagon, and other than defining special abilities (breath weapons, regeneration, immunities [though there is a spell that confers the same immunity to non-magical weapons as were creatures have], etc.), monsters in Cold Iron are defined the same way as PCs are, even to the extent of having fighting and magic levels (always - as opposed to D&D 3e/3.5 where monsters have HD which are almost like levels, but not quite).

D&D 3e/3.5 is interesting to look at with an eye towards how does it work to try and make any monster available as a PC. Some monsters just will not be worth playing as a PC (non-intelligent, overly specialized, etc). But others that appear worth playing still have problems. One bizarre thing can come out of the LA/ECL system. In an attempt to balance the multi-encounter benefits of creatures special abilities, the LA system makes a creature with lots of special abilities effectively a higher level PC. On the reverse, the CR system tries to take into account the specialization of the creatures and their ease of defeating. This produces a weird effect when combined with the XP system. A starting Fire Giant PC would be ECL 19 (15 HD +4 LA). The CR of a Fire Giant is 10. A one on one fight between a Fire Giant PC and NPC would earn the PC NO XP! Despite their stats being identical (and so presumably an even fight - though granted the PC gets more magic items, but that shouldn't be so much as to render the fight trivial).

So clearly it's reasonable for there to exist NPC creatures that can't be PCs, and even reasonable for them to have special abilities not really available to PCs.

But is it reasonable to have a whole sub-system that benefits NPCs and dicks over the PCs? I think I'm coming to the conclusion that such a sub-system is not good for the game. On the other hand, it's nice to have a way to make a swarm of weaker creatures a challenge. The melee system does that to an extent, but only if the PCs can't form a defensive line.

Of course one interesting possibility would be to allow a player to play a horde of weak creatures as a PC. I suspect that wouldn't actually work well.

One thing that fueled this brainstorm is that last night, I ran two encounters featuring swamp trolls. In the past, I would have had the swamp trolls use hand to hand extensively. Last night they mostly fought in melee. And they provided a just fine melee challenge. Sure, some good rolls took some of them out quickly, but with decent numbers, they were able to do serious damage to the PCs (though they were also aided by traitorious guides the PCs had hired - but without the guides, the encounters still would have been challenging).

I also got to thinking about some related things. One is how and whether unarmed combat by PCs is ever worthwhile. I'm mostly inclined to leave it not worthwhile. Weapons were invented for a reason. I'm ok with leaving "cool unarmed combat" to heroic martial arts themed games.

I was also thinking about the fact that there is no magic that enhances dodge, but not other defenses (Coordination enhances Dexterity, and thus enhances all defenses, Blur affects all defenses). So a PC built around dodging (the PC with the best defense last night was the NPC halfling scout who has a very high Dexterity (+8), +2 defense for size, and a bonus to defense from swashbuckling - as a two handed weapon user, her parry will be 2+enchantment better than her dodge). If she dodges, a strong opponent can only use +6 Strength in their attack, so even when she has a +5 weapon, netting her a 7 better parry than dodge, she will still be better off dodging against many large creatures (Strength adjustment of +14 or higher). And if she's fighting two fairly strong creatures, the 2nd creature will generally be attacking her dodge (since 2nd parry is -6, so a creature with a Strength adjustment of +8 or higher - with the +5 weapon, with a +3 or lower weapon, she will always dodge). A cool benefit of being so dodge based is that there was no penalty for her turning and running (defend with dodge only), which is a good effect (the PCs best fighter on the other hand has a 13 difference between primary shield parry and dodge).

I'm interested in other folks thoughts on NPC only abilities, and rule sub-systems that will primarily be invoked by NPCs.