Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Consequences for Contact Occurrences Involving Weapons and Armor

Last week I posted some possible rules for determining occasions of contact between weapons and armor; I thought I'd add more to that, since I've been thinking about the results of said contact.

Incidentally, I don't write these kind of posts for the attention; they don't do well in the scheme of things.  Players are resistant to new rules; they've been burned too many times, and for the most part new rules aren't worth the bother to implement them.  Honest, I write these rules more as a mental exercise; I don't expect to include them even in my own campaign (my partner would kill me, for one).  I do think that one day, should it ever happen that a group of players I have comes to recognize that dice are a tool, and an inefficient tool at that, we may be able to devise a complex combat system round (not the whole combat!) that could be resolved at the push of a button.  A set of perameters that determined the success and effect in one go--thus allowing more possible effects in a short period of time than a human being would be prepared to roll clumsy, time-consuming dice to determine.  Unfortunately, die rolling has become dogmatically sacred (and all that that implies), and we're not there emotionally as a gaming culture yet.

Getting down to the mental exercise, then.

For convenience, I'll repost last week's table:

Note for this discussion, we won't be talking about hit points or damage caused.  The present system manages that just fine, thank you very much - and as I suggested in the last post, the chances of causing damage, or the damage caused, is absolutely not affected by any of the rules discussed below, or in the post last week.  We are talking about effects to equipment, NOT hit points.

From the table above, we can see four types of contact: weapon hitting body; weapon hitting ground; weapon hitting weapon; and weapon hitting armor.

My instinct would be to say that the weapon hitting the body should have no effect on the weapon.  Success is success in the game, I think, and surely a weapon is designed to strike bone and flesh without losing its integrity.  Obviously, it might ... but for game purposes, I think the best course is to say it won't.

The weapon hitting the ground is trickier.  What ground?  Obviously a knee-deep swamp is going to have a different effect on a weapon than a rocky mountainside.  My habit in the past has been to say that if a weapon is "dropped," and in turn broken, a number of things may have happened; it may have smashed on the enemy's armor and then fallen out of the player's hand; it may have been tossed into the swamp and remained whole, but lost forever in the mud.  But if we are limiting those possibilities by specifying exactly when a weapon breaks because it hits an opponent's armor, then the whole drop-and-break rule needs review.  There are few surfaces in the wild that will smash a weapon; the more dangerous surfaces are those of a town or a dungeon.  Off hand, I'd say that if the surface under the player's feet includes stone (or imaginably, metal), there's a chance the weapon will break; even a large boulder nearby would serve.  If the surface is field or beach or heavy growth, then probably there's no chance of the weapon breaking.  If, finally, there's a chance the weapon could be lost (next to a river, cliff, pond, etc.) then that has to be rolled.  The usual chance for a break/loss is 1 in 6 once a natural 1 on a d20 has been rolled.  It would probably serve to drop that chance to 1 in 12 or less ... but I have thoughts on that I'll get to in a while.

Where the weapon hits another weapon, obviously both weapons should roll for integrity.  I don't see why, again for gaming purposes, why the defending weapon should be stronger or weaker than the attacking weapon.  The better drama occurs, I think, when both weapons have an equal chance of breaking.

(It adds considerably to the battle cry of "Shields must be Splintered" to acknowledge that everything may be splintered or shattered)

Finally, weapon hitting armor also has the quality of both weapon and armor suffering.  In this case, yes, the armor should have superiority over the weapon - but not in the likelihood of the armor taking damage, but in its degree.  Follow my logic here, and we can play around with some numbers.

I'd put a title on this table, but I haven't got one.  Doesn't really matter, does it?  I don't think anyone in the world is going to move forward on this.



If the weapon is dropped on stone ground, or hits another weapon, or hits armor, the first half of the table is rolled upon.

A blunted weapon would be the sort of thing that could be repaired by the player following the end of the combat. It would need a whetstone and time; thus it would incorporate a game purpose for weapon maintenance. If the weapon were blunted, the character would only need to mark it with a "B" on the character sheet - removing the B when it was sharpened again.

A weakened weapon would require a bit more. A resmithing, for example, or a mend spell. It could still be brought up to its prior quality, it would simply require a professional, more time and a bit of money. A magic weapon might be trickier to 're-forge.'

In the case of both blunted and weakened weapons, if the damage was reduced to zero by the modifier, then zero it would be. A DM could impose a minimum damage of 1 on any hit - but I'd argue that said minimum would be imposed after any strength or magic bonuses.

Total likelihood that something will happen to an undamaged weapon is 1 in 6.  That may seem high, but it depends on how much turnover you want incorporated in your system. If we presume that the world is based more or less on the 11th century, and you're people are using iron, this is probably accurate. If you want a better odds on favorite, replace the d6 with d8 or d10 ... that should reduce your odds effectively. A magic weapon might even use 2d20.

In any case, using 2d6, the likelihood that something will happen to a previously damaged weapon is not 1 in 4, as the table would seem to suggest.  A blunted or weakened weapon would not be more blunted or more weakened with another roll designating it so.  Thus, a blunt weapon would ignore a result of 4, and a weakened weapon would ignore a result of 3.

Thus, the odds of something more happening to an already degraded weapon - breaking, that is - would only be 1 in 18 for a blunted weapon, and 1 in 12 for a weakened weapon.  This would mean there were many more blunted or weakened weapons in the world than perfect ones.

Virtually any weapon found is bound to be either blunted or weakened.  Thus, if you get a weapon from a goblin, it might be serviceable with a bit of time ... but on the fly, in the middle of the combat, it's going to have limited usefulness.
Another consideration is how this balances the effectiveness of bludgeoning weapons.  Obviously, blunting a morning star or a flail isn't going to do anything (thus the result is ignored and damage wouldn't be reduced).  Arguably, the weakened weapon result could also be ignored.  This means that although a morning star does the same damage as a broad sword, it is a more reliable weapon - which makes a nice balance for the fact that it can't be used with a shield.  "Sure," says the cleric.  "Keep your swords and your knives; I'll take a good trusty mace any time!"
(Perhaps that's why a cleric uses bludgeoning weapons - he has more important things to do than sharpening the damn things all the time)
If the armor is struck with a weapon, the second half of the table is rolled upon.  Again, total likelihood of a result is 1 in 6; and dented armor would not be made more dented, fractured armor would not be made more fractured and so on.  Only the roll of 11 or 12 would decrease the AC for damaged armor - a 1 in 12 chance.
Of course, that could be changed.  The 11-12 result could be moved to 5, for instance, increasing further damage to 1 in 9.  Its really up to the DM how he or she wants to goof with the numbers.
Armor, like weapons, could be repaired.  A dented shield might be useless for defense, but it could be argued that hammering it out was possible (or the DM could argue that any reduction ruined the shield's wooden portion, and the metal would have to be hammered onto a new wooden frame).  Certainly, a fractured shield wouldn't be repairable in the field (the wood portion would be split).  A smashed shield would be worthless and unrepairable.
But what of padded armor?  it only reduces AC by 1, and it can't be 'dented' - no metal parts.  Well, it wasn't practical to come up with a symbol for every kind of armor, so you could simply assume that 'dented' padded armor was rent and had a gaping hole in it.  'dented' leather armor might have a split in it.  'dented' studded leather, a smaller split, and any kind of armor above that would be reduced.
I discussed this with a couple of players who suggested that armor driven into the negatives is ruined -  beyond repair.  But armor reduced to zero could be fixed again.  A mend spell would return it to normal; certain cantrips could arguably improve the armor at least one degree.  An armorer could fix it with time and at a cost.  Finally, the player in the field with time should be able to improve it one degree as well.
Arguably, any armor reduced by more than 50% of its original strength couldn't be improved again above, say, 75% of its total original worth.  That is, if plate mail (-7 AC) were reduced by 5 AC, it couldn't be repaired by anything short of magic (not including cantrips, which is jury-rigging) to a better state than the equivalent of chain mail.  The damage overall is just too great.  Them's the breaks.  It serves a DM well for a player to have to spend money on new plate armor.
The reader may take note that a result of '7' has been shown with the option 're-roll.'  This would increase the chances of something bad happening by above 16% ... which could be a modifier for armor or weapons made by a less than savory source.  Goblins vs. humans, for example.  Or it could be a way to recognize superior craftsmanship with the same basic material - ordinary weapons re-roll on a 7, while crafted weapons do not.  Also, the re-roll could be designated at any number between 5 and 10 ... allowing minute gradations in strength and value.
As I suggested above, steel, magic, bronze, iron - even wooden weapons such as used by the mayans - could all use different dice to designate the weapons strength.  With 2d8, the relevant effects would occur still at 2 to 4, on a 9 (re-roll) and on a 15 or 16.  With 2d10, the high relevant effects would occur on an 11, a 19 or a 20.  And so on.  You could even muck with the table other ways, working with 3d4, 3d6 or 3d8 ... whatever got you the satisfactory odds you wanted, that worked in your world.
I suppose that's everything.  In reality, the above is staggeringly simple.  It would be staggeringly easy to implement and memorize - if the gentle reader cared.
But why else would I write this?


Kaspar said...

I am happy to say that I already have that kind of players – and I now have Excel to do all the number crunching for me. It tracks equipment weight (down to the last gram if you want to), compares it against your current STR to calculate encumbrance penalty, adds that to the attack rolls, rolls damage (also depending on the weapon you have equipped at the moment) and even the hit-location chart.

I’ve never been big on dice- I only have a single set in fact – and since I was the one who introduced my friends to tRPGs, they never got the bug either.

Scarbrow said...

It's certainly a simple and colourful system. And quite easy to implement, too. Most players would quickly and easily memorize it, achieving the quickness requirement.

Oh, I realize you're thinking about a mostly-automatic combat resolution system. But then, I'm thinking about a board game. I'm high on board games lately. I find their focus on strategy mixes well with some of the decisions you make on the RPG table.