Monday, December 10, 2012

Combat Nigglings

Today, I just wanted to talk about a couple of possible rules for combat.

Whether or not you're familiar with my combat system - and there are many posts about it, plus these the newbie should start with - you may be able to fit this idea in with your present system.

One of my house rules is that when a '1' is rolled on the 20-sided attack die, the weapon the player has is dropped.  Apart from determining if the weapon breaks or not, the weapon ends up in one of these hexes, determined by a 8-sided die:

Admittedly, I've considered a version using a 30-sided die, but it is a bit overwhelming:

It  changes the odds of the weapon falling at the user's feet from 1 in 4 to 1 in 5 ... and definitely increases the annoyance of dropping a weapon by having it fall two hexes away 40% of the time.  It is, unfortunately, a difficult table to memorize, and thus the reason for using the simpler version.

Having  combatists drop weapons, however, I find myself thinking of a different matter entirely.  And I'm surprised I have had a player ask me about it.  Strangely, it's taken for granted that you'll have to go get your weapon, wherever its fallen.  I have had players pick up someone else's weapon in a moment of combat - particularly an axe or dagger that makes a missile weapon - but I've never had anyone suggest kicking away a weapon that's hit the ground.

Take the following situation:

White has dropped his own sword in the hex he's in, and it's Blue's move.  Normally, blue would attack White, White would recollect his weapon and attack Blue, and so on.

Let's suppose, however, that Blue decides to either kick away White's weapon, or possibly hook it with his own sword and sweep it behind him.  We can assign numbers on a 12-sided die to determine his success, so that if Blue manages, he moves the dropped weapon to hexes 1 through 12.

What determines success?

We can easily assign the weapon a given AC ... for some, this might be high.  For me, I'd say the AC is no better than 10.  There must be something that stops people from hitting a creature without armor or shield (AC 10) ... that something must be the weapon the defending creature is using.

We could modify the roll easily.  The defender's dexterity ought to come into play, to stamp on the dropped weapon before it can be moved away.  The attacker's dexterity ought to be ignored, as it is ignored for all combat attacks.  The attacker should have to choose to "attack" the dropped weapon instead of the defender, so the defender wouldn't take damage no matter the success of the attacker.  If the dropped weapon were in the same hex as the defender, possibly -2 could be included because of the reach ... but perhaps not.  If the dropped weapon were not in the same hex as the defender - but in reach of the attacker - Blue should be able to easily move to the left or right and have a just about automatic chance of kicking away the weapon.  If it were in the hexes behind White, that might depend on how much move Blue has.  So that would mean there was no comparative situation vs. which the -2 modifier ought to, or ought not to, be included.  Might as well just call the dropped weapon AC 8.

It could be a good thing to go for the weapon and not the defender ... after all, if you get the weapon far enough away, that takes care of that defender for a round.  And if the combat is on the edge of a cliff ... goodbye magic sword.

The other idea I had for combat ... and this has nothing to do with the above ... involves a rather cliched scene where someone about to be hit is - in the nick of time - snapped out of the way by a friend.  The only one I can think of right off is the scene in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, where Quartermain pushes Sawyer out of the way in the nick of time, keeping him from being hit by a roof tile (or whatever Hyde throws).  I liked the movie - I know people don't, due to the sad, inconsistent special effects and other reasons - but try to concentrate on the actual event.

What else might a back-up do?  Taunt the enemy?  Jab a weapon at the right moments, not near enough to hit but enough to harrass the enemy into missing a defender?  While the apparent positions for the game may seem static, we must assume that people are floating all over the hexes they're defending ... perhaps that gives opportunities for a back up to make themselves especially useful.

What would it offer?  Would it simply mean a 1 better armor class could be added by someone behind the fighting creature?  A two better armor class?

It would have interesting possibilities.  If +2 AC, then a line of defenders two deep would certainly be harder to take down than a single line.  And if the depth was continuous, a host of low-level creatures with a normal AC of 5 would have that pushed to 3 ... making them notably difficult for a low level party to take down.  It would reduce the overall chance of hitting just 10% ... but if you consider that a first level fighter will hit AC 5 only 30% of the time, the rule is reducing combat effectiveness by one third.  That is very significant!

Would players deliberately not fight so they could empower their companions?  If you consider the number of situations in which a low level mage "runs out of spells" and has to just throw daggers, would it be better if they simply helped the fighter get hit less?  It would be interesting to see how difficult it would be to run, and if it were worthwhile for the players.

Can you hire a guy to stand behind you and improve your AC?


jbeltman said...

This is sounding like fourth edition stuff!

Alexis said...

I'm insulted.

Lukas said...

Nah, 4th edition would turn these ideas into powers limited by class. The weapon kicker would probably be a non-damaging at will. The AC booster being a daily utility with a round limit.

My main concern would be how the third line's... jeers and whatnot would make it all the way over past one or two rows of people. Perhaps only as far as your weapon can reach for limitation purposes?

Especially in a real thick line I could see it getting a tad nonsensical... Though not as nonsensical as making kicking a sword a class dependent power ;)

qommy said...


Just wanted you to know that I have been following this blog for a long time. Your campaign strikes a chord with me, I think because we share a love of simulation and statistics.

I absolutely love your economic systems (trade, commodities, etc)!

It may sound crazy, but I just won an eBay auction for a Collier's Encyclopedia set... 1952. I just couldn't resist, and wanted to let you know.

Now if I can only decide on a year to start the campaign... I understand why you picked 1650, but I'm thinking about having the "new world" play less of a role, so I'm wavering between 1350 and 1450.

Alexis said...

Thank you Lukas,

It was such a ridiculous accusation I didn't know where to start describing how wrong it was.

I don't really know if I would ever implement the added AC bonus for backing up. I did try the weapon kicking last weekend, my players accepted it immediately as something quite normal and it worked out rather well. Forced a player to use the morning star they've been toting around because their long sword was kicked into the bushes.

Alexis said...


I can't tell you how weepy that makes me. Utterly fantastic. Did you get the Prospectus too? My 1952 set came with the book they used to give door-to-door salesmen in order to hawk the encyclopedia ... its an encyclopedia sized book with bits and pieces of the various volumes.

If you want a good laugh, look up Libya natural resources for the small comment about "possible oil resources" and the whole tiny article on space.

Far, far less scientific information that later encyclopedias, but a ton on history. I guess history became less important in the later 20th century.

If you want to be historically accurate, 1350 makes an interesting time - its right in the middle of the plague, scary for players, but lots of empty houses/towns for free-for-all play.

Circa 1450 offers a lot of civil wars, a period of power consolidation in virtually every part of Europe, plus the rise of the Ottomans. I'd love Spain, fighting back the infidel and all that.

Arduin said...

I like this idea, if only because it helps illustrate how effective a shieldwall or phalanx was in combat, something I think doesn't flow as tidily under the game as-is.

Of course, I'm also of the opinion that shields should be better than AC 9, so perhaps that's bias.

I definitely do think a +1 AC for having someone behind you seems reasonable, and might argue that having someone on your flanks might offer the same.

In truth, I'd really think it would be an attack penalty for the attacker coming up against the line, but since the net effect is the same, it sounds better to the player to just make it a defense boost.

qommy said...


I didn't get the prospectus. It is a 20 volume set, so it appears to have the index volume.

Yeah, both 1350 and 1450 are toss ups for me. I'm leaning towards the later dates (maybe even 1550ish) simply because I love what you did with your trade system, and I would like to follow in your footsteps and develop a similar system as well, based on my own reading of the Colliers set. I'm sure there are more opportunities for trade in latter years versus earlier years.

Heck, I'm not in a rush. I haven't DM'ed in years and have no players at the moment either. My kids are too young for D&D right now, but I'm planting the seeds by telling them interactive "Adventure Stories" for the bedtime routine (letting them tell me what they choose to do as if they were in the story themselves).

I think simply setting up the trade system alone would be sufficient entertainment for me, even sans players. I know reading through every post in your blog (some entries have been read dozens of times) has kept me interested for the last couple years.

Keep it up!

Charles Taylor (Charles Angus) said...

Re: kicking weapons away.

One possible reason why people aren't too keen on it might be that they don't need the weapon to defend themself, like they would in real life. The weapon is purely an offensive tool in D&D.

And from a historical perspective, it was common for men-at-arms to be armed to teeth - I can't find the source at the moment, but I remember reading that a man-at-arms would go into battle thusly:
poleaxe in hands, arming sword right hip, long sword left hip, dagger at small of back.

It seems clear that someone armed like that at the very least wanted the option to simply abandon a dropped weapon.