How much is Vorpal really worth?


Homebrew and House Rules

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I've been thinking a bit about the Vorpal weapon enhancement. Basically, I think it's cool (and definitely cool-sounding) but overpriced. The rest of my group feels the same, I think, which is why we've not ever seen an actual vorpal weapon in a game since the Reagan administration.

But if I wave my magic wand of GM Rules Rectification, I can of course house-rule the price to be anything I want. What would be a fair price for "vorpal" if we were starting from scratch?

Alternatively, what am I missing that makes +5 an actual fair price for it?


They were overpowered back in 3.0, when all it took was a crit for it to work. Coupled with a critrange of 12+ and TWF, and it became rather silly.

I'd say it should be overpriced, as it can potentially stop a fight before it begins.


Something to consider is that vorpal is more or less valuable depending on the build.

On a two handed weapon damage monster type build it's pretty meh because you drop things so quickly with your normal damage anyway that a small chance to one shot them... who cares.

I honestly think sword and board is the build where vorpal really shines. People are always complaining how it's hard to make sword and boards be a legitimate threat. Anything that has a chance to one shot you every attack can't help but be a legitimate threat.

Does that make it worth +5?

To be honest I'd have to see a sword and board in action with it to really be sure. Still something to think about.

- Torger


With vorpal you can totally one round a pit fiend/balor/solar angel/etc. It's worth it.


Vorpal on a crit build is actually pretty viable, and god help you if keen and improved critical stack in your games.


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Buri wrote:
With vorpal you can totally one round a pit fiend/balor/solar angel/etc.

Yeah, that's the reasoning behind the sucker-bait.

I don't think it's worth it, precisely because you can't actually count on killing a pit fiend. It's not reliable enough to base tactics around, and I'm certainly not going to choose to seek out and challenge a pit fiend on the off-hand chance that I'll roll a natural 20 before it stuffs a whip up an uncomfortable part of my anatomy and turns me into a King Friday XIII puppet.

So, basically, it means that you win fights you would have won anyway, just a little bit faster, and it means that the fights you would have lost anyway, you still lost.


+5 Toaster wrote:
Vorpal on a crit build is actually pretty viable, and god help you if keen and improved critical stack in your games.

Vorpal only works on a natural 20. Enhanced crit range does nothing to improve the chances of using the ability.

Shadow Lodge

Yeah its hard to optimize vorpal unless you let it be on a threat where improve crit elven curve blade with a vorpal curve blade is pretty effective and makes it worth a +5. Then you have elven fighters or funkill- i mean paladins or rangers or barbarians doing lop off heads if they don't roll sucky. if this overpowers them then throw in some multi-headed baddies too.


So, basically, vorpal isn't worth it unless you change the rules, such as letting it apply on a critical hit generally and letting Keen stack with Improved Critical, and doing a whole host of other things that aren't generally legal. I think that was kind of my starting point.

Shadow Lodge

You don't have to let keen stack, just let it be on any crit instead of a nat 20. elven curve blade is 18-20 and with improved crit its 15-20.


Orfamay Quest wrote:
Buri wrote:
With vorpal you can totally one round a pit fiend/balor/solar angel/etc.

Yeah, that's the reasoning behind the sucker-bait.

I don't think it's worth it, precisely because you can't actually count on killing a pit fiend. It's not reliable enough to base tactics around, and I'm certainly not going to choose to seek out and challenge a pit fiend on the off-hand chance that I'll roll a natural 20 before it stuffs a whip up an uncomfortable part of my anatomy and turns me into a King Friday XIII puppet.

So, basically, it means that you win fights you would have won anyway, just a little bit faster, and it means that the fights you would have lost anyway, you still lost.

That's why I advocate putting it on a sword and board. With the ludicriously high ACs you can get from a sword and board build you can survive a bit longer. The longer you survive the more attacks you get off. The more attacks you get of the higher the probability that one of them is a 20.

- Torger


So, I've had a lot of people in this thread tell me Vorpal is totally worth +5 if you change all the other rules surrounding it.

Anyone feel like estimating an actual value for Vorpal as written?

Shadow Lodge

I'd say if your PCs roll well then +5 or if your PCs roll mediocre +4 and if they roll suckily then +3.


Eh. If Vorpal's not +5, then what is?


Well, a modified Vorpal that beheads on a crit instead of only a natural 20 would be an obvious candidate. Alternatively, a combination of special abilities. There doesn't actually need to be a single ability worth +5.


I am surprised that Vorpal was left in Pathfinder. Most of the instant kill effects were replaced with massive damage.

Speaking as a player I think it takes more away from the game than it adds. You finally confront the BBEG and his head pops off on the second hit. Sure you won, and that is cool, but anti-climatic. I'm sure it messes with the DM's plans too. I picked one up last campaign (hadn't had one in 15 years of D&D) mostly because if the monsters (balor or pit fiend comes with a vorpal weapon) have it we can too and had the gold to buy it.

I don't think it should be discounted. +5 cost is fine and only on a confirmed natural 20.

The worst thing you could do is make it work over a wider range (not just natural 20) then monster HP won't matter. HP are replaced by the probability field of the vorpal proc.

@Torger - Great observation. Sword and Board is the best application for a vorpal weapon.

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If you're familiar with MtG terms, Vorpal is very much a "Timmy" ability. It's super cool and amazing and overcosted.

The design for it is strange, more "cinematic" than consistent with the rules. It should probably have a save and trigger more frequently if it is to be worthy of +5 and helping warriors do what mages have been doing the entire game.

Shadow Lodge

If you make vorpal work on a crit, you may want to put a cap on how high crit range is allowed to get 'cause i've heard of characters using obscure prestige classes to get a 9-20/x2 with a greatsword.


I'd remove it altogether or make it an artifact only attribute. Add in the old school sharpness effect and make it affect limbs only (don't remember if the original did heads or not) and set it as a +3 equivalent ability with a crit effect on a range your comfortable with. As an added bonus, you can now use magical limb replacement rules with some rhyme and reason to them.


5% per hit = Natural 20 = your dead without a head

No Saving Throw, no spell resistance. = your dead

00.25% per hit = 2 Natural 20 = Your dead without a head.

Regardless of how high your AC is.

---------------------------------------------

The more i think about it, the more +5 sounds right.

---------------------------------------------
For a homebrew game,

As an alternative, if i wanted vorpal to become more often used; (( which as a DM, i would not )); then i might change it this way.

1): Require that any weapon, that gets the vorpal ability, be required to have a +3 or greater enchantment to Hit/Damage on said weapon (not counting other special abilities). ~~~throw back to 2nd edition AD&D and earlier vorpal weapons~~~~

2): Allow a Fortitude saving throw on the beheading. You might still die, from the damage of the critical hit, and if it reduces your hp to below -10 on said hit; your still beheaded. But a Fortitude saving throw, to prevent instant death, would sound more reasonable to me.

3): If 1 & 2 is followed, then would drop the requirement down to +3 enchantment bonus.

anyway just an idea

-----------------

PS, side note: Back in 2nd ed, you had swords of sharpness ( which could cut of arms/leg/teneticals/feet.... but Not Heads. Then you also had +3 Vorpal swords, that could cut off just heads. Two different magic weapons.


Another alternative, if the current method isn't to your tastes, is to change vorpal to the following:

"Upon a critical threat (followed by a successful roll to confirm the critical hit), the target suffers the effects of a critical called shot to the head. Upon a roll of natural 20 (followed by a successful roll to confirm the critical hit), the target suffers the effects of a debilitating blow called shot to the head.
Immunity to critical hits protects against the extra effects of the vorpal property. Partial protection, such as that provided by the fortification special ability of some magical armors, protects the creature as though the called shot were a critical hit.
"


ArmouredMonk13 wrote:
If you make vorpal work on a crit, you may want to put a cap on how high crit range is allowed to get 'cause i've heard of characters using obscure prestige classes to get a 9-20/x2 with a greatsword.

I'm gonna go ahead and say you wanna put a cap on that regardless of your vorpal rules.

People cherrypicking PrCs to get absurd results is fun, just not fun at the table, IMO.

Shadow Lodge

Yeah that class was banned but they might find something else. and 15-20/x2 is already a 30% threat chance


ArmouredMonk13 wrote:
and 15-20/x2 is already a 30% threat chance

No; it's less than that, because not all rolls of 15-19 will hit at all (much less threaten anything). This is a common misconception, but one that can lead people to seriously overestimate how likely crits really are.


Kirth Gersen wrote:
ArmouredMonk13 wrote:
and 15-20/x2 is already a 30% threat chance
No; it's less than that, because not all rolls of 15-19 will hit at all (much less threaten anything). This is a common misconception, but one that can lead people to seriously overestimate how likely crits really are.

Its only going to be extreme cases where a 15 doesn't hit for a martial character...


Funky Badger wrote:
Its only going to be extreme cases where a 15 doesn't hit for a martial character...

I don't know that I'd call them "extreme cases," given some of the ACs you can encounter at the levels you'd have a vorpal weapon (or crit-activated condition feat, for that matter). I suppose we could calculate a typical attack bonus and compare it to ACs of Bestiary critters of that CR... but even that ignores the critters that simply give you a flat miss chance (or the monsters that fly and strafe you while you stand there crying because you drank your last potion of fly during the last encounter, and your griffon steed was too big to fit in the doorway).


Kirth Gersen wrote:
Funky Badger wrote:
Its only going to be extreme cases where a 15 doesn't hit for a martial character...
I don't know that I'd call them "extreme cases," given some of the ACs you can encounter at the levels you'd have a vorpal weapon (or crit-activated condition feat, for that matter). I suppose we could calculate a typical attack bonus and compare it to ACs of Bestiary critters of that CR... but even that ignores the critters that simply give you a flat miss chance (or the monsters that fly and strafe you while you stand there crying because you drank your last potion of fly during the last encounter, and your griffon steed was too big to fit in the doorway).

My own anecdotal evidence? For a martial type, when a 15 doesn't hit, its eyebrow raising time... (miss chances, fortification etc. notwithstanding)


Funky Badger wrote:


My own anecdotal evidence? For a martial type, when a 15 doesn't hit, its eyebrow raising time... (miss chances, fortification etc. notwithstanding)

A 15 missing is hardly "eyebrow raising time."

That statement makes me wonder: you play a solo game or are you used to having spell-casting party members who don't use buff spells/effects and just blast things?

There is a pretty good reason 3/4 bab classes complain about hitting.


Whether or not a 15 missing is b%$~@&&% or not for a dedicated melee character depends on which attack it is. If it's your last and lowest BAB attack sure it could happen. If it's your first and best attack then yeah...

Shadow Lodge

Also a 15-20 crit range means any roll of a 15 or higher is a hit and possible crit. If flying creatures are a problem then you should have a bow or crossbow as a martial. Miss chances ignored then on the die you have a 6/20 chance of a possible critical hit and definitive hit regardless of your bonus or their AC. That is a 30% chance to hit regardless of AC.


Only a Nat 20 is an auto hit. If you have a 15-20 crit range then the 15-19 still needs to actually meet the enemies AC or it doesn't hit.

Shadow Lodge

Why not...

On a confirmed critical hit, the target is treated as being coup de graced and must make a fortitude save or die, their head loped off by the attack. This does not provoke an attack of opportunity.

Shadow Lodge

@chaoseffect: Not in any of the games I have ever played. The threat range of a weapon has always hit. PFS or otherwise. Also stories I've heard like the 9-20/x4 scythes are invalid if only 20 hits. I think you need and update. Critical hit means you are hitting a part of your opponent that increases the amount of damage done by your attack due to it being very vulnerable to your attack with that weapon. One could argue that an attack never does double damage because it has a high enough crit range to be negative. For instance, if a scythe does 2d4, then maybe instead it only does 1d4 and has a -20/x8 and the crit is only noticed by the 20 because neg. crit is simply more damage dice.


Really the property should just be reworked. Instant-death effects are horrible.


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ArmouredMonk13 wrote:
@chaoseffect: Not in any of the games I have ever played. The threat range of a weapon has always hit. PFS or otherwise. Also stories I've heard like the 9-20/x4 scythes are invalid if only 20 hits. I think you need and update. Critical hit means you are hitting a part of your opponent that increases the amount of damage done by your attack due to it being very vulnerable to your attack with that weapon. One could argue that an attack never does double damage because it has a high enough crit range to be negative. For instance, if a scythe does 2d4, then maybe instead it only does 1d4 and has a -20/x8 and the crit is only noticed by the 20 because neg. crit is simply more damage dice.

Then all the games you have been in, have been using house rules, because the rules clearly states otherwise:

Core Rulebook Page 184 wrote:
Increased Threat Range: Sometimes your threat range is greater than 20. That is, you can score a threat on a lower number. In such cases, a roll of lower than 20 is not an automatic hit. Any attack roll that doesn’t result in a hit is not a threat

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ArmouredMonk13 wrote:
@chaoseffect: Not in any of the games I have ever played. The threat range of a weapon has always hit. PFS or otherwise. Also stories I've heard like the 9-20/x4 scythes are invalid if only 20 hits. I think you need and update. Critical hit means you are hitting a part of your opponent that increases the amount of damage done by your attack due to it being very vulnerable to your attack with that weapon. One could argue that an attack never does double damage because it has a high enough crit range to be negative. For instance, if a scythe does 2d4, then maybe instead it only does 1d4 and has a -20/x8 and the crit is only noticed by the 20 because neg. crit is simply more damage dice.

Only 20s auto-hit. If you've played like that in PFS, your GM needs to read his Core again.


I think it's worth a +3, but no more.

It basically makes crits go from "Probably an instant kill, but I get to roll lods of damage. =)" to "Instant kill, decapitation".


Guys, two words: "Vorpal Bear Trap"

You step on the bear trap and...*rolls die* and your head is snapped clean off.


Da'ath wrote:
Funky Badger wrote:


My own anecdotal evidence? For a martial type, when a 15 doesn't hit, its eyebrow raising time... (miss chances, fortification etc. notwithstanding)

A 15 missing is hardly "eyebrow raising time."

That statement makes me wonder: you play a solo game or are you used to having spell-casting party members who don't use buff spells/effects and just blast things?

There is a pretty good reason 3/4 bab classes complain about hitting.

Neither. In PFS (mainly) and AP campaigns, 15s (on primary attacks) miss very rarely. Don't understand your coment about spell assistance, blasting would make missing more likely surely?


ArmouredMonk13 wrote:
If flying creatures are a problem then you should have a bow or crossbow as a martial.

Yeah, so, your stance is that vorpal is really good if (a) you use houserules for auto-hit threats, (b) you always ignore all miss chances, and (c) you make sure to always get vorpal weapons in pairs: one melee and one missile.

And that doesn't seem like kind of a stretch?


I'm still amused by the idea that the most expensive weapon enhancement in the game is really effective if you use house rules to buff it and design your character from level one around the possibility of getting it. And by "really effective," I mean "well, situationally effective -- it's useful if you're fighting the right kind of monster."

I'd think that one would design the capstone weapon enhancement to be something that everyone wants, even the pacifist monk.


Funky Badger wrote:
Neither. In PFS (mainly) and AP campaigns, 15s (on primary attacks) miss very rarely. Don't understand your coment about spell assistance, blasting would make missing more likely surely?

The Adventure Paths are designed around a party of four characters with the assumption of a 15 point buy. Even assuming these rules are being followed, I can see why you'd be surprised if a 15 on a primary attack might miss. While I can't speak to any PFS rules (I don't play online), deviation from the "expected" (in terms of number of players, optimization, variant point buys) in APs can have a huge impact on how encounters play out. My players, for example, would simply annihilate an adventure path without significant modification, even if I used a 15 point buy.

Regarding spell assistance, you're right on the money. Many GMs have to adjust for the playstyle of their players. If your players are team players and take into account buffs for the party in lieu of blasting, they can and will trivialize many encounters if they are not adequately adjusted.


Buri wrote:
With vorpal you can totally one round a pit fiend/balor/solar angel/etc. It's worth it.

If you take holy and evil outsider bane and a decent char you can 1 round a pit fiend too. And you don't depend on luck

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Vorpal works on a 20, and 20's always hit.

Thus, the key to Vorpal is to generate lots of attacks.

Think of it this way..at levels 15+ where you have 4 attacks, you are probably going to one-shot something every 4 rounds.

If you are a TWF, using two vorpal swords, you are likely going to one shot something every 3 rounds.

And you don't even need maxed out weapons. Since the 20 always hits, a +3 Adamantine Vorpal Short sword set can generate you 7 attacks a round on a full attack (base), and you'll one shot something every 3 rounds no matter how big or bad it may be.

If it is a monster you can't damage otherwise, you are STILL going to kill it in 3 rounds. You're just waiting for that 20.

So, what vorpal is doing is setting a 'max' on the time any opponent is going to stick around. Sure, the math can be against you, but on average, if you can get off a full attack, you're going to kill pretty much anything that is not immune to decapitation in 5 or 3 rounds, OR LESS.

That's pretty significant. The only way the enemy can stop themselves from being annihilated is to stop you from getting off multiple attacks.

So, vorpal is of most use to things that get more attacks, i.e. a TWF wielding a pair of them.

==Aelryinth


Aelryinth wrote:
Vorpal works on a 20, and 20's always hit.

Er, Vorpal works on a 20 that is confirmed to be a critical.

Quote:


Think of it this way..at levels 15+ where you have 4 attacks, you are probably going to one-shot something every 4 rounds.

Every eight rounds, since you have a 50/50 chance of confirming. Sure.

Quote:


If you are a TWF, using two vorpal swords, you are likely going to one shot something every 3 rounds.

Six rounds, yes.

Quote:


So, what vorpal is doing is setting a 'max' on the time any opponent is going to stick around. Sure, the math can be against you, but on average, if you can get off a full attack, you're going to kill pretty much anything that is not immune to decapitation in 5 or 3 rounds, OR LESS.

OR MORE. If, for example, there's a miss chance.

Quote:


That's pretty significant.

Not really. I try very hard not to fight things I can't kill ordinarily in six rounds. Generally if I haven't started winning by then, it's because I'm not going to win at all.

Shadow Lodge

It depends on how lucky you are. I have a friend who crits once nearly every encounter and rolls nat ones less often than he sky dives. We've made him use store dice to make sure he's not cheating. If he uses vorpal, you die.


Orfamay Quest wrote:
I try very hard not to fight things I can't kill ordinarily in six rounds. Generally if I haven't started winning by then, it's because I'm not going to win at all.

... and by the time I'm rich enough to affort TWO vorpal swords, combats are lasting 1-2 rounds, max, anyway. That's up into Rocket Tag level.


Orfamay Quest wrote:
So, I've had a lot of people in this thread tell me Vorpal is totally worth +5 if you change all the other rules surrounding it.

Isn't that what you're suggesting with your desire to change it from natural 20 to full threat range?

Orfamay Quest wrote:
Anyone feel like estimating an actual value for Vorpal as written?

As written, +5, which seems to correspond to the value from 3.5 to current.

You really don't seem to be interested in anything suggested by anyone that doesn't agree with your stance on it.

In one post you ask for the "value," totally ignoring what Rynjin and some others suggest, while in another you think changing the rules to allow for full threat range is a "good starting point".

You seem pretty dead set on your stance on the matter, so I'm not really sure why you bothered to post the question in the first place.

ArmouredMonk13 wrote:
It depends on how lucky you are. I have a friend who crits once nearly every encounter and rolls nat ones less often than he sky dives. We've made him use store dice to make sure he's not cheating. If he uses vorpal, you die.

I have a friend with similar "luck". My solution was to institute a new method of rolling dice: the die cup. Everyone uses it, when it is your turn it is passed to you. Die rolls hit the table and are not touched until the person to the left of you confirms the number. It slowed things a bit at first, but corrected the problem - all without calling out a friend.

A supplement to this rule is as follows: if you can't hit the table, you can't hit the monster.


Da'ath wrote:
Orfamay Quest wrote:
So, I've had a lot of people in this thread tell me Vorpal is totally worth +5 if you change all the other rules surrounding it.
Isn't that what you're suggesting with your desire to change it from natural 20 to full threat range?

Hardly. I'm asking for suggestions about the actual value of Vorpal, because +5 is manifestly wrong unless there's something I missed.

Hence:

Quote:


Orfamay Quest wrote:
Anyone feel like estimating an actual value for Vorpal as written?
As written, +5, which seems to correspond to the value from 3.5 to current.

As I mentioned, this is manifestly wrong. It's tremendously overpriced, because Vorpal has no effective tactical implications. One attack out of every 40 (roughly) will be an instant kill. Since no monsters take forty hits to kill, this doesn't reliably increase your effectiveness. There's no way to improve this percentage (the way there are for other weapon enhancements) nor does it produce substantial synergy with any other abilities.

This is implicit in the number of house rules that have (as demonstrated in this thread) grown up around vorpal weapons; you wouldn't need to buff it if it were actually a useful ability. if anything, people would be screaming "Vorpal is overpowered; how do I make it stop?" This is also implicit in the number of character opmitimization guides, DPR Olymptics, and sample characters floating around that use vorpal weapons -- I don't think I've seen any at all. This thread is, in fact, the only one I've been able to find in in which overpriced vorpal weapons isn't an instant and overwhelming consensus, or that doesn't rely on buffing the rules-as-written. (See this thread for a typical exchange.)

Of course, I knew all this before I posted the question. So at this point coming back at me with arguments that have already been considered and rejected not only by myself personally but by the community at large doesn't add value.

So given that +5 is not a fair price, what would be a fair price and why?

If you have an actual reason to argue that black is in fact white -- to support the +5 other than history, feel free to provide it and I'll re-consider.

Quote:


You really don't seem to be interested in anything suggested by anyone that doesn't agree with your stance on it.

That's because no one's actually suggested anything.

You gave me an ipso facto +5. Rynjin suggested +3, again without justification. My lucky d6 suggests a +2.

Quote:


You seem pretty dead set on your stance on the matter, so I'm not really sure why you bothered to post the question in the first place.

I posted the question because I wanted a well-reasoned answer. I still would like a well-reasoned answer.


Stating your opinion as fact doesn't make it so. It is your opinion, which is far from broadly supported in this thread. A "fair price" will vary widely. It's subjective.

Many of the "house rules in this thread" look more like off-the-cuff brainstorming to help you with "your" problem - mine certainly was. That in no way demonstrates the usefulness or lack of usefulness of the weapon property.

You are under the unfortunate assumption we have to prove something to you. That's not the case. The individuals weighing in on topic were attempting to help you - you know, providing ideas to hopefully help you make a decision. You've yet to provide any solid evidence that +5 is not a fair price or why and continue to be antagonistic with opposing view poiints. At this point, I'm sure you care as much about my opinion as I care about yours.

In my opinion, the only real relevant argument regarding vorpal weapons (see what I did there? Stated an opinion as such), since all other save or die effects have been removed from the game, does this effect exist at all?

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