Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Shalar Maneuver

For ages I've had a player in my world whose been running a monk, who should manage the feat of reaching 8th level this winter - which is a considerable accomplishment, given what a miser I am about treasure in my world.  Anyway, the monk's name is Shalar ... and the title of this post is in reference to what my offline party says is Shalar's particular way of attacking opponents.

Because monks move faster than everyone - and because the player of Shalar really likes combat - for the longest time, any up front battle began with Shalar zipping way out in front of the party and attacking the enemy two or three rounds ahead of everyone else.

The Shalar Manuever would usually get the monk in deep trouble, which the party would seem to arrive in the nick of time to bail him out of ... so consistently that four or five times, the difference in life or death for the monk was a matter of one round or one hit point.

Now, the monk has stopped doing that.  He'd playing it safe now, probably because he's getting two attacks every three rounds and he wants to live.

Having watched a documentary about Jesse James today, however, and his time in Bloody Bill Anderson's civil war militia, I realize I've done the poor monk a disservice all these years.

It was described that Anderson would regularly attack forces three times as large as his - with the acknowledgement that Anderson never had more than 80 men under him.  Still, defenders would break and run, despite Anderson having plunged into the heart of them.  Again and again Anderson pulled the Shalar Maneuver and got away clean.

I began to consider how the morale of defenders ought to come into play at the sight of combat screaming attackers coming fearlessly at them at a high rate of speed - monks and horses and the like.  At present, I have no morale rules for an army breaking before a blow has been struck.

It seems to me the first consideration would be how many defenders there are to how many attackers.  Following that, what is the position of defenders compared to attackers - are the defenders well-installed, behind walls and fortifications and facing the attackers from above?  Finally, in what state of mind are the defenders ... sleeping, setting down to tea, marching along a road, arranged to ambush the party?  Surely, their preparedness must apply.

I had considered advancing a bunch of rules to cover such things, but I think I'd rather try playing this stuff on the fly for a bit; doing some thinking about it.   Try encouraging some of the party members to make a bluff of rushing at some exposed enemy, rolling morale without any modifiers, and seeing what pans out.

Perhaps the Shalar Maneuver was always the right thing to do.


Butch said...

The history of battle has many examples of an enemy breaking and running before a shot is fired, whether it's in the face of charging horses or advancing tanks.

I dunno about one guy, seemingly unarmed and unarmored, running toward the defenders as being worthy of breaking. Sure, you could make the argument that the guy must be a bad-ass to come charging at all of us. More likely, you dismiss him as a crazy fool, or maybe even a coward coming to surrender, at least until the kung fu begins.

Charles Taylor (Charles Angus) said...

I am reminded of Han Solo charging the storm troopers on the Death Star - they fall back, surprised at his charge, but only so far as their reinforcements!

It's another possible reaction to the Shalar Manoeuvre, other than fight or run - regroup with reinforcements and fight.

Alexis said...

Ah yes, one guy - but one guy in front of a bunch of others who are also eager to kill, just a little slower.

But I basically agree, Butch. As Charles points out, numbers make the difference.