Sight Unseen

The controversial game design topic de jour is attacks that deal damage even on a miss. It’s a heavy topic that overlaps with the debate of hitpoints as meat or energy as well abstraction in the game.

Like most of the recent gamer debates, opinions on damage-on-a-miss can be condensed to simulation versus gamist logic. One camp prefers D&D to lean towards emulating reality, while the other camp does not care about reality and simply wants a solid or fun game. This makes the debate fundamentally unwinnable because it comes down to a matter of personal taste. Neither side is wrong because both sides are technically right.

It’s a case where the inclusion of a rules element causes conflict but its absence will not; gamers who hate damage-on-a-miss will be uncomfortable with a game that includes it, but gamers who are alright with damage-on-a-miss won’t dislike an edition that reserves damage for hits. The debate has raged repeatedly since attention was drawn to the mechanics, but prior to it’s addition there were no threads or discussions calling for damage-on-a-miss to be added to the game.

Personally, I lean more to the side of simulation. I like a game with a sense of verisimilitude, where the mechanics do not overly stretch my suspension of disbelief. But I also concede that sometimes a game has to pull away from hard reality for reasons of balance, playability, and speed.