Friday, December 20, 2013

"Electricity" Damage

So my secret project is taking way longer than I had intended. Mostly because I am lazy, hate that I need to do it in the first place, and because dicking around with other stuff is more entertaining. So I might end up posting more than never. 

Alright. So there are a few types of energy damage we are accustomed to in Pathfinder. Acid, cold, electricity, fire, and sonic. We could also lump in positive and negative energy forms of damage. I like the concept of referring to them by their 4th Edition names, radiant and necrotic. Those just roll off the tongue a lot easier than negative energy damage or undead lifeforce or whatever. Hmm. Charisma is pretty easy to roll off the tongue. But calling it Charisma damage might be confusing in situations where something actually deals damage to your Charisma. I just had another thought. So if Charisma is a measure of your undead lifeforce and attractive personality traits, does that mean positive energy is raw, undiluted, curmudgeonosity? Are bitter old men screaming for kids to get off their lawn while brandishing hoses just so overly full of the energy that fills the cosmos with life and vitality that it is forced to escape their bodies through anti-social and demented behavior? 

Alright, so radiant and necrotic damage are clearly fantasy nonsense. Let's look at the others. Acid is pretty normal, acids and bases exists and are corrosive substances that eat matter. Easy enough. Cold is pretty sensible too, frostbite and hypothermia are damaging, and your cells are mostly water so freezing them is a bad thing. Electricity, yeah, that makes sense, electricity hurts and stuff and it's a real thing. Fire, well yeah, fire burns flesh and stuff. Sonic is a little iffy, but loud noises can cause pain and there is the elusive brown note and whatnot. I'm comfortable handwaving it. There's force damage too, which is kind of odd to me. You'd think whatever is made out of the force would determine the damage type. Like a dagger made of force would deal piercing damage. If magic missiles are actually shaped like darts, they should do piercing damage. Force is force, it's a solid piece of magic, it's not energy. Well, it is, but it's solid and often used to create physical things out of magic. So yeah, force damage is retarded, but whatever. Why doesn't the (Bigby's) clenched fist spell deal force damage? It's a giant flying fucking fist of force magic? All it says is that it deals 1d8+11 points of damage. Considering it is a giant clenched fist, I would think bludgeoning damage would be appropriate. But magic missile deals force damage. Dial it back Steve, you'll need your positive energy for the rest of the post. 

Let's go back to electricity damage though. It seems sensible on the surface. Lightning strikes can kill you, and lightning is a thing that exists in the real world. It seems sensible.

Pro-tip: it's as Dogdamn fucking bat-shit crazy insane as hit points and Charisma being a measure of your leadership qualities and your undead lifeforce. 

Now, I'm not going to get into silly things like grounding or anything. I'm not going to talk about how many amps a lightning bolt generates in the sky and then loses over the miles and miles between its point of origin and some dumb fuck with a golf club and compare that to the lightning bolt or call lightning spell. That's not where this is going. 

Electrical damage does not exist in any way shape or form in the real world. You can say  something like "But Steve, lightning kills people. There are documented cases of it." and you could follow it with "But Steve, this is a fantasy game where necrotic damage is a thing." These would be rational responses. Unfortunately, I am brimming with positive energy today and have my hose coiled beside me on the floor. It's making my cats nervous. 

Electricity damage, like fire and cold and acid and sonic, is a damage type used to represent a real world thing in the game. We know lightning is electricity, so it has been helpfully color coded as electrical damage to indicate what it is. This is dumb and inaccurate. 

See, like I said, there's no such thing as electricity damage in the real world. This is a made up damage type that doesn't exist and isn't being used to represent some fantastical form of energy like Charisma or Curmudgeonosity. It's meant to represent a real world thing. It doesn't. Because that real world thing does not exist.

When flesh is destroyed by lightning/electricity in the real world, it is burned. Usually at the entry and exit points. You can tell it's a burn because of all the charring and the smell of roasting long pork. So that's the type of damage electrical spells and effects should do. Fire damage. But then you run into issues like not being able to lightning bolt a fire elemental or red dragon. Nobody wants that. As far as I know, the only thing lightning does to fire is start it. But what do I know? I'm just a dumb fuckhead playing a game I apparently hate. 

So alright, we have fire damage in the game world, and electricity does fire damage in the real world. It would seem sensible to lump the two together. Can't do that though. Electricity is way more deadly than fire, because we're bio-electric creatures. We have this little guy in our chest, our heart, and he sends out little electrical signals to himself to keep pumping blood. We have these other little guys called nerves and muscles, and they respond to electrical signals as well. 

So like I said, I'm not going to get into measuring how much juice a real world lightning bolt has and compare it to spells. I'm just going to say that we can assume spells like call lightning and lightning bolt generate lethal amounts of electricity. Eric's Wizard (Spellslinger) Karl can cast a 10d6 lightning bolt, which can do 10 to 60 points of nimbleness damage. That's more than enough to kill any 1st level NPC class member you can put in front of it. Even shocking grasp, which caps at 5d6 electrical damage, should do 17 damage most of the time (assuming a caster of at least 5th level), which is still lethal to normal mundane humanoids. So it's safe to say that these spells are lethal amounts of amperage/wattage/ohmage, whatever. I'm not an electrician. I'm the kid who sat in the corner alternating between paste consumption and licking nine volt batteries (they do not produce lethal amounts of electricity). 

So let's look at the real world, specifically tasers. Tasers are a weapon that delivers a non-lethal dose of electricity to subdue a foe. So, normally you make saving throws against a lightning bolt with your Reflex save. With the taser being a projectile weapon, it would resolve a lot like shocking grasp. The shooter would make an attack roll and you would hope your AC was high enough for it to miss/not penetrate your armor/be shaken off/abstract itself away.

So, in my opinion, a taser would use Fortitude as its save. Mainly because there are big dude tough guys that can take multiple taser hits before going down. Now, I'm going to base the following on my personal experiences with tasered assholes that piss off cops. Do you know what happens when you fail a Fortitude save against the non-lethal electrical damage of a taser? Firstly, your muscles spasm like crazy and snap a few of your long bones. Secondly, you sit on the floor for ten or twenty minutes twitching and drooling. Thirdly, you might bite off your tongue because of all the twitching and jerking and spasming. Fourthly, and this only applies if you had a big lunch yesterday, your sphincter spasms and drops a load in your pants. You might piss your pants too. I dunno. I don't spend a lot of time sniffing/looking at people's junk on scene. That's what reddit is for. I don't have to have pants on while I'm on reddit.

So that's non-lethal electricity damage. Based on the evidence of my personal experiences, lethal electricity like lightning bolts and shocking grasps and such should be a Reflex save to avoid, then a Fortitude save or die. Mainly because the whole concept of defibrillation works because the heart is an electrical organ and if we zap it with enough electricity it'll stop and hopefully restart with an appropriate rhythm. Defibrillation is a non-lethal amount of electricity too. People also tend to scream a lot of you do it to them while they are conscious. People also scream when you rip out taser barbs. There's no trick to it, you just yank those suckers out. The more you know. 

Fucking DnD. 

Oh. One last thing. Teehee. Would you like to know what kind of damage electricity based spells and effects do in GURPS? Hehe. Burning damage. Isn't that neat?