Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Armor Weapons Tech Table

Recently, the post I wrote in 2011, Rethinking Intelligence, has make a terrific jump in page views. I have no idea why. Recently, however, I have been rethinking some of the ideas I had for applying Civ 4 technological development for monster intelligence (and I have no idea where that original post is), which has led to this.

The basic premise would be that monsters would have a "cultural intelligence" which would not necessarily correspond to that of the monsters individually. For example, humans would have a cultural intelligence of 18, even though individually their intelligence is average. This is because while most humans are not necessarily geniuses, they are able to take advantage of the inventiveness of genius ... and therefore, able to use technologies which individually they could never have invented.

The tendency in D&D is to assume every monster has the same cultural intelligence. Goblins and kobalds, described as low intelligence, are able to use bows or make armor every bit as well as most other cultural races ... while the 'very' intelligence of dwarves or the 'high' intelligence of elves does not expressly improve their armor class or weaponry past a +1 bonus to the latter - which isn't enjoyed by certain other creatures of similar intelligence.

This homogeneity grew from a lack of strategy; having invented intelligence, there was no follow through on how that intelligence practically affected the gaming world.  Intelligence was primarily invented as a limitation for magic spell use; later it was incorporated as a generic die check for the purpose of limiting character comprehension below that of player comprehension.  But the actual scope of varied monster intelligences in terms of how that affects monster cultures - for that, there are no details at all.

The first problem, then, would be to determine just what makes a cultural intelligence. Obviously, the intelligence notes in the various monster manuals are insufficient, since as I said it only takes a few geniuses to raise the cultural intelligence of the entire race. The problem is, I think, that a practical range of intelligence was never suggested. Clearly the range for humans is not 9 to 11; the range for goblins can therefore not be 5 to 7.

But need it be 3-18? Isn't it desireable that various races be given a wide-spread range on stats like intelligence and wisdom, whereas for other races the range is very narrow indeed. Why not designate some humanoids as barely out of the stone age? Why not limit gnolls, for example, at an intelligence of 12? We could posit hill giants at 8, stone giants at 10, frost giants at 11 and so on ... giving us a wide range of differing technological availability for each. Humans and demi-humans, obviously, would enjoy the intelligence limitations imposed in the Player's Handbook ... but all the other races are entirely up for whatever particular the DM of that world feels appropriate.

Suppose that we took the various elements of weapons and armor development as composed in the Civ IV tables and stretched them over the cultural intelligences we designate. Clubs for warriors, axes and spears for bronze age, swords for iron age, short bows for archery, long bows for medieval culture, crossbows from machines and polearms at the highest. Once again, yes, I'm ditching all gunpowder development for D&D. And I'm saying that an 18 cultural intelligence for a D&D world equals the equivalent of 16th, 17th century technology.

What we might arrive at is a table like the one below. Now, this isn't meant to be historically accurate, not by any stretch of the imagination. It is intended to determine specific technologies which can be applied to specific intelligences, loosely derived from hints or clues from the various books describing monsters:

Brittle weapons would be those that break easily; my clubs, for example, break on a 1 in 4 when a natural 1 is rolled on the 'to hit' d20. Durable weapons would break on a 1 in 6; tough weapons, on a 1 in 8 or better. The various weapons chosen for each intelligence level are meant to portray a general increase describing flexibility of use, convenience and damage done.

Proficiencies is a measure of the culture's education system, nothing more. It takes time to learn a particular weapon; a more efficient education system enables faster, more complete learning of more weapons in a similar amount of time. Thus, a goblin fighter may train as long as a human fighter, but the human fighter will learn more because the education system is BETTER.

Those multiple weapons are not designated to be alternate power weapons. Why would you train with a long sword if you already knew how to use a battle axe? Your second weapon would be something you could throw ... and then, as technology improved, something you might fire instead. Eventually, something you would throw AND something you would fire. Specialist weapons would be a bludgeoning weapon, or a pole arm specifically for battlefield encounters.

Yes, I'm saying that not all armors would be available to all cultures. The lower cultures would have to get by on leather; the very low cultures, with nothing at all. Of course, there's a chance upper cultures would want to advantage themselves of the increase speed and movement of not being in chain or plate ... the increase in intelligence, specifically, would allow them the option of either.

At last, magic. Humans and demi-humans would know how to make a +5 weapon. Goblins would not. Incidentally, "specials" includes things like the +3 frost brand or the +2 giant slayer. Those items would necessitate a more advanced culture.

Food for thought. Run with it as you will.


  1. Hmm. I kind of adore the idea of a 'cultural intelligence' stat, but that's partly because it meshes pretty well with how I treat Intelligence as an individual stat.

    For a while now I've been treating everything above animal intelligence as more of an 'Education' stat than a measurement of mental aptitude. The wise sage, for example, doesn't have an 18 Intelligence because he's quick-witted; he has an 18 intelligence because he's spent the last 20 years boning up on natural history, philosophy, alchemy, engineering, and languages. He has the depth of knowledge to make connections that others don't see and work out problems on that basis. Similarly, the 7-intelligence goblin is hampered by the fact that he can't read and has only the vaguest idea about how the world works beyond his daily experience.

    A cultural intelligence would become the natural 'upper bound' for a creature of that type; you can't go any higher than that (except possibly by being one of those once-per-era geniuses who ends up raising the cultural stat a notch.)

    I think this is a different spin than you're taking, as it sounds like you're treating the cultural INT as a harder limit per creature type and I'd see it as potentially more flexible, but this post has certainly given me something to think about.

  2. And now for a comment that may be more directly relevant: I'm curious about the weapon order in the technology table, in that I would have imagined the two lowest ranks would be reversed - Thrown/Battle rather than Battle/Thrown - under the theory that the most primitive technologies would be adapted hunting tools rather than purpose-built weapons of war.

    So the cultures on the extreme low end of things would be hurling a barrage of rocks or simple spears, and falling back on unarmed and/or natural attacks if a battle came to direct blows. Does that sound like a reasonable alternative structure, Alexis, or do you think I'd be off base in assuming that?

  3. Two things. You forget that clubs can be thrown.

    And that since a 'spear' does the same damage as a club, you may presume that the primitive spear may be thought of as a 'club' in relation to the later developed spear of bronze age cultures.

    What IS missing from this table are animals ... but I haven't quite worked those out yet.

  4. That's a fair point on hurled weapons. I look forward to reading your thoughts on animals!

  5. What about cross-culture contamination? Or does that way lie madness?

  6. It's an interesting approach. But how do you handle technological dissemination? If I understand correctly, the sentient monster races of your world routinely engage in commerce with humans and such. What stops them from learning how to make better armor, or at the least from trading for better armor, or the like?

    "Intelligence" in role-playing systems is usually treated as the innate ability of someone or something to comprehend new information and react to new situations. If you're just tracking technological development, then calling the stat "technological development" rather than "intelligence" may avoid some confusion.

  7. Perhaps the best way to think a group's "cultural intelligence" it is as an indicator of how far behind/ahead of the technology curve they are. The highest intelligence groups are the ones most likely to come up with the next advancement. Some other groups will adopt it quickly. Some slowly. Groups would have limits on what they could recreate versus what they must barter for.


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