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Cataclysm: Bright Nights

Stat system scaling

Minimum stat: 0 (should only happen due to penalties, instant failure in most scenarios)

Nominal stat: 8 (“average” person)

Very high stat: 14 (realistic world class human, maximum cost-effective in chargen)

Maximal stat: 20 (higher may be achievable, but we’re not worried about balancing at that point.)

Skill system scaling:

Minimum skill: 0 (no training)

Maximum skill: 10 (requires regular training to maintain, “professional” level)

Monster melee skill scaling:

Minimum skill: 0 (no melee potential; turret, fungal wall)

Nominal skill: 4 (average critter; most zeds & giant insects)

Notable skill: 6 (competent/carnivore; bear, wolf, police/survivor zeds)

Very high skill: 8 (dangerous opponent; dark wyrm, vinebeast)

Maximal skill: 10 (highest for balance purposes; jabberwock, tribot, shoggoth, gracken)


Zombies are a bit faster than “shambling”. Zombified versions of fast critters will remain fast, but in general the process slows the undead version. Further, under no circumstances should a zed be more than 50% faster than base character speed. Currently, this means “capped at 150”.

Dodge System assumptions:

Dodge chance is based on attacker’s melee skill and target’s dex stat and dodge skill.

Successful dodges negate the attack and impose a cumulative penalty on dodges within the same turn.

Dodge Use Cases:

An individual with no skill and nominal stats in ideal circumstances against a basic opponent should occasionally be able to dodge.

An individual with no skill and nominal stats in ideal circumstances against a skilled opponent should rarely if ever be able to dodge.

An individual with world-class dodging ability, in ideal circumstances against a basic opponent should have a negligible chance of failure.

An individual with world-class dodging ability, in ideal circumstances against a skilled opponent should have a moderate chance of failure.

The effect of increasing dodge skill has a growth rate with diminishing returns that accelerates sharply at the point where you move beyond the dodge a “regular” character is likely to achieve (7 and above)

The balance of melee versus dodge should favor dodge which, after all, isn’t effective against a wide variety of other types of attacks.

Even a world class dodger should not be able to dodge continuously when attacked many times a turn.


To-Hit Bonuses

To-hit bonuses start at ‘-2’ and are modified as follows for weapons that have the following properties:


Grip is a measure of how well you can control the weapon to quickly respond to situational changes.

-1 - Particularly hard to grip items, (especially those that are innately slipper or very rounded with no obvious gripping edge) such as basketballs and barrels, or which are dangerous to hold because of very sharp edges, like scrap metal and broken glass.

+0 - Any object that doesn’t fall into one of the categories below. Examples include 2x4s, computer monitors, wires, stingers and clothing. Basically, anything that has a grippable component, but which is too thick, too thin, or too flimsy to grab comfortably in a way that can reliably control the object.

+1 - A weapon with a fairly solid grip, like a pipe, a rock, guitar neck, pool cue or a heavy stick.

+2 - A weapon with a dedicated grip shaped to the hand, like a sword, axe, knife, or police baton, or that is strapped to the body (or is a piece of the body). Fists would get a +2 bonus here, bringing them to “0” total, since none of the others would apply.


Length allows more surface area for potential contact, and reduces the need to control the positioning of the body to guarantee a hit. It also allows the player to strike from a safer distance, allowing them to worry more about trying to hit without being hit in return, and allows for swings with larger arcs, making dodging such a strike more difficult.

+0 - Any object without a length bonus.

+1 - Objects that, when held, extend over a foot (1/3 of a meter) in length from the hand. A normal American 12inch ruler is the handy boundary guide for when an item should switch over to a +1 bonus (the ruler, losing several inches when held, does not get one - unless you added a handle to it!).

+2 - An object that is over 3 feet in length from the point where it is held. Includes swords, spears, quarterstaffs, poles, and a lot of other stuff.

Striking Surface

Some weapons need to strike in a certain way to be effective. Others are more difficult to use “incorrectly”.

-2 - Single-Point weapons - Picks, spears, syringes. Any weapon that has a single point that must contact the enemy in a specific way in order to deal a decent amount of damage. Also, weapons with difficult attack angles, like scythes, where the damaging part of the weapon is faced away from the enemy.

-1 - Line of damage weapons - Swords, knives, and other weapons that require a solid strike along a particular piece of the weapon, where the weapon can be said to have an attack angle, fall here. Weapons that have point attacks but are still effective without any solid hit, such as a nailboard, would also fall here.

+0 - attack-anywhere weapons - Clubs, pipes, maces, etc, where the weapon will be dealing full damage with a solid blow no matter how it is angled, because every surface is a striking surface.

+1 - Weapons that can still do significant damage even with glancing blows would fall here. Jagged tearing weapons and electric weapons like a stun baton would fall here.


A measure of how well-suited the item is for being swung/thrust/etc. This factors in overall balance of the weapon, weight is accounted for separately.

-2 - Very clumsy or lopsided items ill-suited for swinging or thrusting. Characterized by requiring effort just to hold steady. frying pan or pot, chainsaw, chair, vacuum cleaner.

-1 - Balance of the object is uneven, but in a way that at least doesn’t interfere with swinging. axes, sledgehammer, rifle, scythe, most polearms.

+0 - Neutral balance, neither well nor poorly weighted for the typical use. Heavy stick, rock, pool stick, kitchen knives, claw hammer, metal pipe, crowbar, handguns.

+1 - Well-balanced for swinging or stabbing. Baseball bat, golf club, swords, quarterstaff, knives.


Weapon’s relative strength is based on an approximate formula involving its damage, to-hit, techniques and few other factors.

Damage per second

A melee’s weapon damage per second (dps) is calculated past armor against a sample group of monsters with a range of dodge and armor values: a soldier zombie (low dodge, high bash and cut armor), a survivor zombie (medium dodge, some bash and cut armor), and a smoker zombie (high dodge, no armor). This should correctly weigh accuracy, criticals, and damage without over valuing any of them.

In code, this is calculated using the item::effective_dps() function, which takes a character and a monster. It calculates the relative accuracy of the character and weapon against the monster’s defenses and determines the hit rate from a table lookup. It also determines the number of critical hits. Number of hits is hit rate * 10,000, and number of misses is 10,000 - number of hits.

For both critical and non-critical hits, average damage is calculated based on the weapon’s stats and the user’s skill. Monster armor absorbs the damage, and then the damage is multiplied by the number of hits: either critical hits for the critical hit case, or total hits - critical hits for the non critical hit case. If the weapon has the rapid strike technique, the total damage is halved, and then the average damage is recalculated, multiplied by 0.66, and absorbed by monster armor again to account for rapid strikes.

Number of moves is calculated as attack speed * ( number of misses + number of non-critical hits + number of critical hits ) for weapons without rapid strike, or attack speed * ( number of misses + number of non-critical hits / 2 + number of critical hits / 2 ) + attack speed / 2 * ( number of non-critical hits / 2 + number of critical hits / 2 ) for weapons without rapid strikes.

Damage per second against a particular monster is total damage * 100 / number of moves (100 for the 100 moves/second). Overall dps is the average of the dps against the three reference monsters.

Critical hits

A double critical can occcur when a second hit roll is made against 1.5 * the monster’s dodge. Double critical hits have a higher chance of occurring than normal critical hits. For each hit, the chance of achieving either a double critical hit or a normal critical hit is calculated, and then if a random number is less than the critical chance, the critical occurs. Both double and normal critical hits have the same effect, but the chance of them occurring is different.

Note The critical hit system is stupid and complicated and produces weird results. Double critical hits should have a chance of occuring when the original hit roll is more than 1 standard deviation above the mean, which is simple and faster to calculate than the current system.

Other factors

Reach is worth +20% at reach 2, +35% at reach 3.

A weapon that is usuable by a known martial art is worth +50%.

Weapon tiers

Relative value should put the weapon into one of those categories:

<2 - Not weapons. Those items may be pressed into service, but are unlikely to be better than fists. Plastic bottles, rocks, boots.

2-5 - Tools not meant to strike and improvised weapons. Two-by-fours, pointy sticks, pipes, hammers.

6-11 - Dangerous tools or crude dedicated weapons. Golf clubs, two-by-swords, wooden spears, knife spears, hatchets, switchblades, tonfas, quarterstaves.

12-15 - Good dedicated weapons or the most dangerous of tools. Wood and fire axes, steel spears, electric carvers, kukris, bokken, machetes, barbed wire bats.

20-35 - Weapons of war, well designed to kill humans. Wakizashis, katanas, broadswords, zweihanders, combat knifes, battle axes, war hammers, maces, morningstars.

35+ - Sci-fi stuff. Diamond katanas, monomolecular blades, lightsabers and chainswords.

Specific weapon balancing points: 20 - combat knifes 22 - short blades 24 - long blades, short axes, and short flails 26 - two handed blades, long axes, most spears 28 - two handed axes and polearms 30 - combat spears

Improvised weapons generally have about 75% of the value of a real weapon.

Other melee balancing factors

Attack speed

Out of two weapons with same dpt, the faster one is generally better. Faster weapons allow more damage granularity (less overkill), make it less likely to miss a turn (and thus dodge/block recharges) and make positioning easier. Slower weapons will pierce armor better, but currently most enemies are very lightly armored.

Damage type

At low skill, piercing damage suffers from scaling and bashing damage from damage limit due to low strength and skill. Cutting damage is not affected. At high skill, bashing damage is generally the strongest, but still suffers from the damage limit. Exotic damage types (currently only fire) do not scale with skills or crits.


Automatic Fire

Guns with automatic fire are balanced around 1-second of cyclic fire, unless the cyclic or practical fire rate is less than 1 every second. Rates of fire less than 1 shot every second are increased to 2.


Reload times

The overall balance is that magazines themselves are slow to reload whereas changing a magazine should be fast. For standard box magazines a default reload_time of 100 (per round) is appropriate with this value increasing for poor quality or extended magazines. Guns themselves should also specify reload of 100 (per magazine) unless their magazines are particularly awkward to reload (eg. ammo belts). The game logic intrinsically handles higher volume magazines consuming more time to attach to a gun so you need not consider this.


Increases proportional to capacity and should have a comparable ratio to similar magazines. Consider the base item to be a 10-round .223 factory specification box magazine which has a capacity

of 1:10. Increase the ratio markedly for poor quality magazines or more slightly for extended magazines. Smaller calibers should use a lower ratio. The material should have some effect, with plastic magazines weighing less.


Scaled based upon the capacity relative to the stack_size of the ammo. For example 223 has a stack size of 20 so for 10 and 30 round magazines the volume would be 1 and 2. Extended magazine should always have larger volume than the standard type and for very large drum magazines consider applying an extra penalty. By default most handgun magazines should be volume 1 and most rifle magazines volume 2. Ammo belts should not specify volume as this will be determined from their length.


Should be specified first considering the below and then scaled against any equivalent magazines. For example if an extended version of a magazine exists place it one rank below the standard capacity version. Damaged guns or magazines will further adversely affect reliability.

10 - Perfectly reliable. Factory specification or milspec only. Never extended magazines. Very rare.

9 - Reliable. Failures only in burst fire. Factory or milspec magazines only. Never extended magazines. Uncommon.

8 - Dependable. Failures infrequently in any fire mode. Highest reliability possible for extended magazines and those crafted using gunsmithing tools. Most common.

7 - Serviceable. Fail infrequently in semi-automatic, more frequently in burst. Includes many extended and aftermarket gunsmithing tools. Common.

6 - Acceptable. Failures can be problematic. Highest reliability possible for magazines crafted without gunsmithing tools. Includes most ammo belts.

5 - Usable. Failures can be problematic and more serious. Mostly poor quality hand-crafted magazines.

<4 - Poor. Significant risk of catastrophic failure. Not applied by default to any item but can be acquired by damage or other factors.


Overall balance is that pistol magazines are twice as common as rifle magazines and that for guns that spawn with magazines these are always the standard capacity versions. Consider 9x19mm and .223 to be the defaults with everything else more rare. Some locations have more specific balance requirements:

LocationDescriptionWith gunsDamagedExample
Military siteOnly source of milspec magazines and ammo beltsNeverNeverLW-56, .223 ammo belt
Gun storeStandard and extended capacity magazinesNeverNeverSTANAG-30, Glock extended
Police armoryMostly pistol magazines, especially 9x19mm, never extendedSometimesNeverGlock, MP5 magazine
SWAT truckPolice or military magazines, occasionally extendedSometimesRarelyMP5 extended
Survivor basementAnything except milspec weighted towards common typesOftenSometimesSaiga mag, M1911 extended
Military surplusOlder military magazines that are not current issueNeverRarelyM9 mag, STEN magazine
Pawn shopAnything except milspec weighted towards unusual calibersNeverRarelyMakarov mag, AK-74 mag
Everywhere elsePredominately 9mm and 223. Always with standard magazineOftenSometimesRuger 223 mag, M1911 mag

Archery damage

Bow damage is based on the momentum achieved in the projectile. Since arrows and bolts have sharp cutting surfaces, the penetration and therefore damage achieved is based on the projectile’s capacity for slicing through tissues. The arrow has a modifier based on construction, material and design, most critically centered around the effectiveness of the head. Base damage is calculated from momentum by taking momentum in Slug-foot-seconds, multiplying by 150 and subtracting 32. This was arrived at by taking well-regarded bowhunting guidelines and determining the damage numbers necessary for a kill of various game on a critical hit, see tests/archery_damage_test.cpp for details.

Ammo stats

Base Damage

The damage (Dmg) of firearm ammunition starts with the square root of a round’s muzzle energy in joules (Energy, J) rounded to the nearest integer with an arbitrary increase or decrease to account for terminal ballistics. These numbers are modified depending on certain criteria (see Adjustment Criteria, below). Damage of handloaded ammo is set to 92% (rounded down) of their factory counterparts. A similar system for calculating recoil is planned but not currently being worked on. The figures used to calculate stats and any other relevant information are presented in table below.

Base Barrel Length

Each cartridge also has a Base Barrel Length (Base Brl) listed; this determines the damage for the connected guns. A firearm has its damage modifier determined by it’s real life barrel length; for every three inches between it and the listed baseline here, the gun takes a 1 point bonus or penalty, rounding to the nearest modifier. For example, a .45 ACP gun with a 7 inch barrel would get a +1 bonus (against a baseline of 5 inches).

Ammo IDDescriptionEnergy, JDmgBase BrlApplied Modifiers / Comments
.22 CB18gr CB bullet3967.87in
.22LR40gr unjacketed bullet141126in
.22LR FMJ30gr FMJ bullet277176in
.32 ACP60gr JHP bullet218154in
7.62x25mm85gr JHP bullet544234.7in
7.62x25mm Type P120gr bullet245159.6inFired from the Type 64 SMG; need more data here
9x18mm 57-N-181S93gr FMJ bullet251163.8in
9x18mm SP-793gr bullet417203.8in
9x18mm RG02893gr hardened steel core bullet317183.8indamage reduced by 4
9x19mm FMJ115gr FMJ bullet420245.9in
9x19mm JHP115gr JHP bullet533235.9indamage increased by 3
9x19mm +P115gr JHP bullet632255.9in
9x19mm +P+115gr JHP bullet678265.9in
.38 Special130gr FMJ bullet256164in
.38 FMJ130gr FMJ bullet256164in
.38 Super147gr JHP bullet660264in
10mm Auto180gr FMJ bullet960314in
.40 S&W135gr JHP bullet575244in
.40 FMJ180gr FMJ bullet598244in
.44 Magnum240gr JHP bullet1570407.5in
.45 ACP JHP185gr JHP bullet614255in
.45 ACP FMJ230gr FMJ bullet447215in
.45 ACP +P200gr JHP bullet702265in
.454 Casull300gr JSP bullet2459507.5in
.45 Colt JHP250gr JHP bullet610257.5in
.500 S&W Magnum500gr bullet3056558.4in
4.6x30mm31gr copper plated steel bullet505227.1indamage reduced by 4
5.7x28mm SS19031gr AP FMJ bullet5342310.4indamage reduced by 3
7.62x39mm123gr FMJ bullet21794616.3in
7.62x39mm 57-N-231121.9gr steel core FMJ bullet20364516.3in
7.62x39mm M67123gr FMJ bullet21414616.3inTODO
5.45x39mm 7N1056gr FMJ bullet14023716.3indamage increased by 3
5.45x39mm 7N2257gr steel core FMJ bullet14613816.3in
.223 Remington36gr JHP bullet15243920inUses 5.56 NATO barrel baseline; damage increased by 5
5.56x45mm M855A162gr copper core FMJBT bullet18434320in
.300BLK supersonic125gr OTM18404316in
,300BLK subsonic220gr OTM6752616insubsonic
7.62x54mmR150gr FMJ bullet36296028in
.308 Winchester168gr hollow point bullet35706024in
7.62x51mm NATO M80147gr FMJ bullet33045724in
7.62x51mm NATO M62142gr tracer bullet32325724inBelt with 1/5 tracer rounds
.270 Winchester130gr soft point bullet36636124in
.30-06 Springfield165gr soft point bullet38946224indamage increased by 4
.30-06 M2165.7gr AP bullet36766024indamage reduced by 10
.30-06 M14A1Incendiary ammunition38946224indamage reduced by 10
.45-70 Govt.300gr soft point bullet38676624indamage increased by 4
.300 Winchester Magnum220gr JHP bullet52997324indamage increased by 5
.700 NX1000gr JSP bullet1210011028in
.50 BMG Ball750gr FMJ-BT bullet1708313145in
.50 BMG M33 Ball706.7gr bullet1801313445in
.50 BMG M903 SLAP355gr tungsten AP bullet1708313145inCan’t be used with M107A1
.410 000 shot5 000 pellets15303918in

###Adjustment Criteria If the resulting base damage is below specific thresholds, apply one of three multipliers. If the base damage is less than 20, the multiplier is 1.333. Else, if the base damage less than 30, the multiplier is 1.222. Else, if the base damage is less than 40, the multiplier is 1.111. Ammunition with damage of 40 or higher will generally have no arbitrary multiplier given to its basic variant.

For liminal cases where the base damage is 20, 30, or 40 there is room for discretion regarding which balance increase to apply, if any. Discretion should be exercised based on which solution makes that ammunition distinct from other ammunition of similar power, as having two different ammotypes with identical power should be avoided.

As for terminal ballistics, hollowpoints variant should be at least 25% more effective against a completely unarmored target, in order for the difference to be considered relevant. Conversely, the base FMJ variation should have a combined damage and armor penetration whose total is at least 15% greater than the damage of the hollowpoint variant. This recommendation will inform how much armor penetration the two variants should have. Armor-piercing variants have seven-eigths the damage of the standard FMJ variant, and enough penetration to make the combined value 30% higher than the damage of hollowpoint.

The relative combined damage plus armor penetration for each variant can likewise be summarized as follows:

  1. Hollowpoints are considered to have 100% combined damage (example: 100 damage, 0 arpen)
  2. Standard/FMJ variants are considered to have 115% combined damage, 80% damage and 35% arpen (example: 80 damage, 35 arpen)
  3. AP variants are considered to have 130% combined damage, 70% damage and 60% arpen (example: 70 damage, 60 arpen)


Multi-charge items are weighed by the charge/use. If you have an item that contains 40 uses, it’ll weigh 40x as much (when found in-game) as you entered in the JSON. Liquids are priced by the 250mL unit, but handled in containers. This can cause problems if you create something that comes in (say) a gallon jug (15 charges) and price it at the cost of a jug’s worth: it’ll be 15x as expensive as intended.

To that end, here’s a list of containers with non-one volume. If you have something spawn in ‘em, divide the “shelf” price by this value to arrive at the correct price to list in the JSON.

  • plastic bottle: 2

  • glass jar: 2

  • glass bottle: 3

  • plastic canteen: 6

  • 3L glass jar: 12, as expected

  • gallon jug: 15

Diamond weapons

Diamond weapons should be uniform in their CVD machine requirements. Coal requirements are floor((weapon_volume+1)/2)*25. Hydrogen requirements are coal_requirements/2.5.