The RuneQuest III Dodge Flaw & Fix

Copyright 2013 Peter Maranci

As written, the RQIII Dodge skill is suicide to depend on. That's because an incoming special-success attack can only be avoided by an special-success dodge, and a critical attack can only be avoided by a critical dodge. Lesser Dodge successes are completely useless against special or critical attacks.

[A special success is a roll equal to 20% or less of your skill. A critical success is 5% of your skill.]

The odds of coincidentally rolling a special or critical dodge at the same moment as a special or critical incoming attack are virtually infinitesimal - okay, not really infinitesimal. It's merely 20% of the skill of the dodger if they're hit with a special attack, and 5% of their skill if the opposing attack is a critical. This means that those who depend on Dodge are far more likely to receive special and critical hits without any mitigation of the damage whatsoever. The dodger has effectively not dodged at all, even though they did succeed in their skill! Compared to parrying (either with weapon or shield), this is grossly unbalanced. Those who depend on parrying get the benefit of normal successes even when their opponents roll specials or crits; those who Dodge must meet a much more difficult target number (5% or 20% of skill) to get any benefit. And since the unmitigated effects of a special or critical attack can be devastating, particularly against lightly-armored characters who typically rely on Dodging, the dodge skill is unsurvivable in the long run.

This is a problem. If Dodge remains a hopeless option, why would anyone use it? Without survivable Dodge rules, thieves, rogues, duellists, and swashbucklers vanish from RuneQuest campaigns. Running any setting or genre that doesn't include parrying and armor (such as modern-day or many science fiction settings) becomes impractical. That's simply not acceptable!

And although parity between skills isn't a necessity, the logic of the skill as written doesn't seem to map as well to the real world as the rest of the system does. If you dodge successfully, and someone manges to hit you anyway, it's not as if you were just standing there, waiting to be hit. You dodged. In most cases, that should lessen the impact of the attack somewhat.

The Fix

Luckily, Dodge can be easily fixed. Each level of Dodge success reduces the effect of the incoming attack by one category. So a normal dodge negates a normal attack, reduces a special attack to a normal success, and reduces a critical attack to a special attack. A special dodge negates a normal or special attack and reduces a critical attack to a normal attack. A critical dodge completely negates all attacks. If this seems confusing, perhaps this table will demonstrate it more clearly:

Dodge vs. Attack Results


Attack Roll:

    Fumble Failure Normal Special Critical


Fumble Both fumbles apply Dodger fumbles Dodger fumbles
+ Normal Hit
Dodger fumbles
+ Special Hit
Dodger fumbles
+ Critical Hit
Failure Attacker fumbles No damage Normal Hit Special Hit Critical Hit
Normal Attacker fumbles No damage No damage Normal Hit Special Hit
Special Attacker fumbles No damage No damage No damage Normal Hit
Critical Attacker fumbles No damage No damage No damage No damage

As you can see, failed Dodges and attacks are unchanged, as are normal-vs-normal, special-vs-special, and critical-vs-critical attacks and Dodges.

This change makes Dodge still dangerous, but at least not fatal. And it makes sense; a successful dodge should enable the dodger to partly reduce the effect of an attack, by partially pulling away from or evading the full force of the blow. Chaosium's updated multi-genre Basic Roleplaying, which I consider the authoritative modern version of the RuneQuest rules, uses this same revised mechanic. The same solution was independently developed and applied by many other gamers during the long RuneQuest hiatus, of course. It's probably the obvious solution.

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Copyright 2013 by Peter Maranci. Revised: October 19, 2013. v.1.1