Thursday, February 9, 2023

Notes on Melee

I'm well aware that there's a hateful attitude towards combat tactics in D&D, as though its the most sinful thing imaginable to know where my character is standing in relation to the enemy.  As though that doesn't help the players decide what to do, or give them a sense of what's going on ... without total dependence on the dungeon master.  For that is what the anti-tactical stance fails to address: the simple fact that without clear evidence of how far the enemy is, and rules that dictate how far that enemy can travel, or who it can actually attack, I'm utterly at the DM's fiat.

Those who have seen my online combats know that I run my combats on a hex map, rather that on squares.  There's an equidistant factor in that every hex is exactly the same distance from every other, which cannot be said with squares.  The sole benefit to squares is that they are easier for publishers to represent things ... the company's choice to opt for this choice is plain evidence that they don't give a fuck about the user.  But then, most of the users drink the koolaid and believe in their deepest, dumbest hearts that squares are definitely better.  So maybe they get the products they deserve.

The combatant demonstrated here is inaccurate for the scale of the hex, which is 5 feet in diameter, from flat side to flat side, not point-to-point.  This is only a representation.  Judging the combatant to be 2 feet in diameter, with armour and equipment (which is still judging the size in excess of the truth), the correct size would be something like the example shown below.

This, however, gives less detail for the user, hampering the ease with which they can instantly recognise their character during a combat, where there can be a lot of junk on the battle map ... not just individual characters.

Still, the question arises as to how much space this provides.  If we assume combatants in an adjacent hex, the gap between the two seems to be four or five feet, which seems irrational.  However, I put it to the reader that the combatant's comfortable arm reach is at least 15 inches, and that the effective reach of the sword is at least 3 feet.

This, I stress, is very conservative ... the reality is probably much better, but a distance of 4-and-a-quarter feet is enough to make my point.

The image below gives an approximate reach for the combatant's arm, centering the circle just beyond the character's left shoulder, as this person is presented as left handed.

Note that it reaches well into 0304 and 0404, well past the boundaries of 0405.  We may presume just as easily that the enemy's reach does the same, creating a Venn-diagram in which the shading would indicate the point of contact between weapons.  More about that in a moment.

Different weapons would have different amounts of reach, so that we could argue a dagger's reach would strongly weaken the combatant's offense, while really having little effect on defense, assuming the defender was just as proficient with the dagger as the opposing combatant with a sword.

Remember the dagger is lighter, more flexible, so that in the hands of an experienced defender, it's possible to turn the swing and the weight of the sword-wielder against him or her.

If we imagine the combatant indicated making a move that's a mere one foot to the right, or back, we can easily recognise how much better coverage of the defended hex, 0405, really is.  It's important to remember that while the representative image is static, the actual combatant in a fight would not be.  The individual is perceived to move freely throughout the hex, which includes movements greater, turning, twisting, giving ground and diving in.  Every time the combatant changes position within the hex, the Venn-diagram of where the weapons touch changes, with an ebb-and-flow that a combat map can't demonstrate.

The best way is to think of every combatant like an electron moving within the envelope of an electron shell ... in which that electron is both everywhere and in a given position at the same time, in the time frame of the combat round.  The battle hex is merely a simple way of defining the approximate location of the multitude of combatants, who might actually be outside the designated hex at the moment of causing damage or taking it.  That doesn't matter, because the mean remains where the combatant is proposed to be on the battle map.

This helps explain how a friendly character can move through a hex occupied by a character in combat, because the ally's movements are judged and the hex owner lets the ally move through.  There is plenty of space, after all.