I occasionally see fans of current RPG design theory complain that characters should never really fail to hit (or truly fail at anything else)) as that means the character is basically “losing a turn” to ineffectiveness. As I’ve said before in this blog (see Tyranny of Fun Squared: Get Rid of Hit Rolls as Missing is not Fun from 2009), I think this “I shouldn’t ever fail because failing isn’t fun” argument is generally silly whining from players who I would probably never want to play with.
One of my players, however, has suggested an optional rule for Fighters (and only Fighters) in Microlite74 that would mean fighters would seldom completely miss — not because failing to hit is as unfun or just like missing a turn, however.
Fighter Miss Damage: When a Fighter attacks an opponent in melee combat whose level (or hit dice) is less than the Fighter’s level and which he is otherwise capable of hitting and fails his attack roll, he still does his Fighter Bonus (minus his opponent’s Natural Defense if greater than 1) in hit point damage. A combat round represents a lot of moving, dodging, blows, and parries and a successful attack roll means the character managed to hit effectively (e.g. causing noticeable damage) during the combat round. Due to a Fighter’s constant combat training, even when he does not manage to hit effectively during a round, on lesser opponents, he still manages to cause minor nicks, painful scratches, and fatigue from having to dodge and parry on his opponent.
As an optional rule, I sort of like this — especially for campaigns where magic is common enough that the fighter needs a bit of “beefing up” to maintain parity. This “miss damage” is added not because missing is boring, but because a fighter is so skilled at combat that even when prevented from landing any truly effective blows during a round of combat, he still manages to wear a lesser opponent down just a bit. It doesn’t work if the fighter had no way to land an effective blow (perhaps the monster can only be hit by a magic weapon and the fighter does not have one) and monsters with above normal Natural Defenses (like demons) are worn down less. It also doesn’t apply to ranged combat at all.
You will see a version of this “Fighter Miss Damage” rule in a future Companion volume for Microlite74 (and perhaps as an optional rule in Lords & Wizards as well). It would probably work as an optional rule in many other older versions of D&D as well, although you would have to somehow define the “Fighter Bonus”. I’m posting it here as a reminder to myself that even ideas I consider truly silly like “PC actions should never truly fail because failure is boring” might have some limited application in a more specialized form.