Showing posts with label Combat. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Combat. Show all posts

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Refined House Rule Armor Class in Old School Essentials

Facial hair is impressive, 
but does not
 contribute to defenses

I have thrown a bunch of ad hoc rules at D&D over the years. And my favorite and most workable is Armor Reducing Damage. In Unearthed Arcana, they had a suit of field plate armor that acted like a limited pool of hit points. I don't necessarily like giving the characters a way to purchase hit points. 

What I do is slightly different. I offer damage reduction based on how low the AC is, to a practical limit of AC 2 for non-magical armor. 

The AC scale is 9 to 2 for damage reduction.  

AC 9 - No armor, no damage reduction. 
AC 8 - Only a shield, no damage reduction. 
AC 7 - Leather armor, -1 to damage. 
AC 6 - Leather armor  + shield, -1 to damage.
AC 5 - Chainmail, -2 to damage
AC 4 - Chainmail + shield, -2 to damage
AC 3 - Plate armor, -3 to damage
AC 2 - Plate armor + shield, -3 to damage
AC 1 or lower, no further damage reduction except for magical armors which can reduce damage to -4. 

The damage reduction is a property and advantage of armor over speed, toughness and/or magic properties. A wolf or dragon does not receive a damage reduction because they probably don't have armor. An orc or horse in armor or barding does receive damage reduction. 

Wearing all of the armor
helps a lot. 
In exchange for this reduction of armor, the character must be fully dressed, meaning they have all ancillary parts of their armor for it to reduce: ie helmets, boots, greaves, bracers, gloves or gauntlets, etc. Having all parts covered simply removes the possibility of a light hit (a dagger or a punch) from doing harm. 

There are two weapons that are unaffected by this reduction - Long Bows and Crossbows. These arrows and bolts have so much mechanical advantage they simply won't bounce. They do skip off angled bits which is represented by a poor damage roll, not the quality of armor.  

There are two corollary rules to this. 

Each type of armor is made up of the lesser armor types. What this means is, chainmail is made up of a layer of leather armor plus the mail. Plate armor is composed of chainmail and leather. The end result is, your character's investment in an expensive suit of armor means you also have a functional lesser suit of armor in addition to the full set. Plate armor can be worn as plate, chain, or just leather. Also, you can save time by only suiting up to your comfort level. This can also come into play for retainers and followers, giving a soldier an ability to suit up in layers quickly. 

There are many stories where the hero only suits up to the first layer and fights to defend his page or squire as they suit up. This injects a bit of drama and heroism. 

History is full of examples where soldiers wore what they thought made sense at the time, say the undergarment but not the protective metal cover. Of course, what makes these commentaries notable is the soldier won or lost a battle seeming based on what they had on. 

Harald Hardrada's troops got caught wandering without their mail shirts but were also completely surprised by a massive army bearing down on them with no warning. 

Several times gladiators were pressed into service as soldiers in the Empire's legions. It could go either way. In the Year of the Four Emperors, the gladiators had the advantage of the heaviest armor but made a poor showing when thrust into traditional set-piece battles. However, in urban settings, they were dangerous in combat. Later, Marcus Aurelius pressed gladiators into the role of soldiers. The Empire was decimated by a plague so there was no lack of legionnaire standard armor for them. Or they served in a role where armor wasn't a factor. 

Numerous times, the legionaries got ambushed while wearing only their tunics but were holding heavy pickaxes and turf cutters. They destroyed heavily armored enemies. If there was one thing legionaries were more practiced in than sword fighting, it was using tools to make camp. 

Even power armor has limits, 
say if your feet leave the ground

This has an interesting social side effect on D&D which also has a good history at the table. Padded or studded leather, banded and ring mail are transitional types of armor that cannot be broken down like chainmail and plate types. They are all one piece with metal bits attached directly to the cloth or leather. They aren't layers and don't come apart. They have a place and are very descriptive of a specific type of character. A barbarian or cleric would be expected to have the heaviest but cheapest armor available, ring or banded types. A Thief or an Assassin looks like a ruffian, but never a guard. 

Back to the corollary rules for armor. I run with the idea that a person wearing armor is unencumbered in combat or movement until "one more thing" is added. Don't wear a backpack in armor. Don't walk in mud in armor. Don't let peasants jump on your back in armor. Don't get hit with a mancatcher or take a pilum to the shield. All of these will immediately encumber a character in armor in rather disastrous ways. 

When reading through those examples of historical battles involving mismatched armors, the side that moved smartly won. 

I have tried a couple of rounds of combat first level characters using the Old School Essential rules.. Damage reduction increases the loiter time of first level characters while not eliminating death. This is give combat an epic feel as one Fighter with 8 hp and plate armor can survive 1 good hit (more than 4 or 5 hp damage) or 2 average hits (3 or 4 hit points of damage) and a whole series of weak blows. 

When facing heavier damage, say 2d8 hp from a serious bite, the same 8 hp Fighter (or Dwarf) in plate is more likely to survive due to damage reduction but is by no means assured of it. An average roll would be 9 hp of damage reduced by 3 leaving just 2 hp left. On the other hand, reducing 15 points of damage does nothing. 

It is an interesting mechanic, if anything it can make your fighting types much tougher. You can try out Old School Essentials CharactersMagicMonsters, and Treasures on DriveThruRPG. 

Friday, June 18, 2021

Right Name, Wrong Game

I've written hundreds of posts about Star Smuggler. One thing I glossed over is the combat system for spaceships. I was hoping that you, the reader would download it and try it for yourself. It really is an ingenious system. 

And not entirely appropriate for this game. As the title of the posts says, right name, wrong game. There is a flaw in this system which could be a typo or perhaps something intentional. 

I have mentioned several times that this game seems to have some aspects of Traveller, a very simplified version of Traveller. In some respects that is true. The plots, the technology types, even the Antelope starship itself. But that is where the similarities end. 

In studying this game, I have come to the conclusion that it might have been a stand alone game used by the author for a science fiction setting. Some sort of super campaign. 

One of the hints at this possibility is the combat system. It is really designed well for ship to ship combat where smuggling and piracy are critical.   

The game system has tech levels, from 1 to 6. For spaceship combat, you are able to roll one die for each tech level of the ship's guns. For tech level 6, you can roll a maximum of six dice. 

Roll a 1 or 2 and you have hit. 
Simple, eh? 

Well, yes. There there are the other modifiers and statistics that come into play. If you are shooting at a stationary target, you can roll up to 7 dice. Theoretically, that should allow you to hit at least twice, maybe three times. 

The vast majority of ships in the game absorb 10 hits of damage. With the stock Antelope with the tech level 1 guns, you need to go through 10 lucky combat rounds to destroy another ship. 

However with upgraded guns the modifiers come into play. If you roll two 1's or two 2's, you do a critical plus one hit for each pair 1's or 2's. A critical will damage the radios, the engines, shields, life support, ECM or breech a compartment killing everyone inside. There are six compartment areas. 

On a roll of a 1 and 2, you do two criticals plus hits. 
This random roll of seven dice from Random.org shows the problem. 

This is three hits tech level 6 guns against a stationary ship. But how many criticals? I don't know, which is why I suspect there is a flaw in the rules. 

My personal interpretation is that it is 3 hits plus 2 criticals. The first one and two are combined for the first two hits and the first two criticals. Then the second two is the next hit. If the order had been different, this would have been one critical and three hits. 

There is a third possibility. Perhaps the author intended the player to roll one die at a time so they get a sequence of numbers that can be evaluated in order. 

The upshot of this is, if you rolled a just the first 3 dice, that would be two hits and two criticals. Now when combined with the critical table, a ship can experience hull breaches which kill the crew and disable that area. 

This particular sequence of rolls, 3, 2, 1, 6, 6, 2 would result in 2 criticals, two hits and breach of the cargo hold and destroy the ECM system, if any. 

Repeat that a couple of times and you are on your way to disabling a ship. In the next sequence, I rolled 1, 3, 1, which is another two hits and critical. The critical took out the engines, which gives my next roll an extra die. 
Two more criticals. One took out life support and the other took out the crew quarters. The enemy can still shoot back, but they can't move and can only take two more hits. Anyone not in a suit is dead. 

It sounds like boarding time to me.

The problem with this is scenario is, this can give the player the opportunity to board and take a ship by wiping out the whole crew. That cannot be intentional, at least for Star Smuggler. Having two ships is very game breaking as I have proved a couple of times. 

The author seemed to realize this. Anytime there is a programed space combat event, the enemy ship will surrender at 8 hits and two to go. They rig the ship to explode if you try to take it. So you can plunder but not capture. However, there are random combat events that don't have this rule in play.  

As a homebrewed game about pirates and smugglers, it rocks! 

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Never Surrender?

Surrender or not, that is often the end of combat in D&D for the party or their enemies.

But what does surrender mean? Death? Imprisonment?

In history, there are many cases of surrender that end in neither death nor imprisonment. At the Battle of the Caudine Forks, 324 BC, the Romans walked into a trap. The Samnites, lead by Gaius Pontius trapped the Roman Legion in the passes with barricades. The Romans quickly realized their mistake and erected a camp. However, no attack was forthcoming. Gaius Pontius meant to wait until the food and water was gone, then accept terms.

However,  Gaius Pontius was too pleasantly surprised by this victory and sent a message to his father, Herennius, asking what he should do with the Romans. He hadn't expected this outcome. Herennius replied that Gaius should let them go. Herennius was a general in his own right, and this message didn't sound right to his son. The next message was much clearer: "Kill 'em all!" But Gaius was convinced that his father was going senile and sent for him.

Herennius arrived and explained that freeing the Legion and sending them on their way would position the Samnites and Roman for eternal peace through practical magnanimity. The other option, killing them all, would result in peace for a generation as Rome rebuilt it's legion to attack the Samnities.

Gaius Pontius decided on a third path, the yoke. Each Roman would be disarmed and forced to stoop under a spear lashed across the path home. Being wildly driven by honor, the Romans did this but marched home burning with anger. Either the Senate refused the treaty terms or merely waited until an excuse for war in 316 BC is unclear.

In either case, this appears to be a retelling of a tale from either the Punic Wars or a contemporaneous account of something Alexander the Great pulled off in his many campaigns. Truth or no, it establishes many cases where one side will let the other side to walk off relatively intact. Battles to the death in ancient times had a tendency of wiping out citizen farmers, which could result in massive disruptions of the economy or society of both combatants.

So, Herennius message is valid for gamers and generals alike. In the context of lawful or good characters, an honor bound solution is within the realm of possibilities.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

A hit, a palpable hit.

I am off hunting swordsmen, so of course I can only find heralds. This morning, I decided to ensorcell my baby blue kakore runestaff. It was a good choice.

>incant 719
You trace an intricate sign that contorts in the air while
forcefully invoking Dark Catalyst…
Your spell is ready.
You gesture at a putrefied Citadel herald.
CS: +325 – TD: +280 + CvA: +17 + d100: +48 == +110
Warding failed!
… and hits for 11 points of damage!
A putrefied Citadel herald is suddenly engulfed in flames of pure
essence!
… 25 points of damage!
Flames incinerate right leg to the bone. Not a pleasant sight.
It is knocked to the ground!
… 15 points of damage!
The Citadel herald’s left arm trembles with the cold.
… 20 points of damage!
Heavy shock to left leg. Gonna limp for awhile.
… 25 points of damage!
Strong blow to chest!
You feel 5 mana surge into you!

Necrotic energy from your kakore runestaff overflows into you!
You feel energized!
Your kakore runestaff flares with a burst of flame!
… 15 points of damage!
Burst of flames chars neck a crispy black.
You hear a sound like a weeping child as a white glow separates itself
from the Citadel herald’s body as it rises, disappearing into the heavens.
A putrefied Citadel herald writhes on the ground then spits, “This
cannot be defeat…” before lying motionless.
The very powerful look leaves a putrefied Citadel herald.
The white light leaves a putrefied Citadel herald.
The dim aura fades from around a putrefied Citadel herald.
A white glow rushes away from a putrefied Citadel herald.
A putrefied Citadel herald seems slightly different.
A putrefied Citadel herald seems hesitant.
Cast Roundtime 3 Seconds.

I tagged him with DC which triggered a flare from my kakore staff and then an ensorcellment flare. I wish someone had been there to applaud.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

3.5 House Rules - Arrows

I don't like tracking arrows. Treasure Hunters HQ has posted on this very issue. Treasure Hunters HQ has a whole collection of posts to make your game more interesting and flow better than ever before. Everything from shields to magical unguents. Go ahead and follow them, the HQ is full of good ideas.

Ah... back to the point. Arrows. Tracking arrows on character sheets simply burns holes in the sheet. It is annoying and subject to abuse. Many years ago, I realized that player's will cheat on ammo more than any other thing. Why? Because, it is annoying. To avoid it, I tended to have the players encounter lots of arrows, either because the enemy had them, they were working from a fortification, or they had a natural pause to collect up their used arrows. Some players will want to roll a number to see if the arrow broke, but that is as exciting as my other pet peeve, save vs. drowning.

After a while, I decided to impose a rule that if a player rolled a 1 with ranged weapons, they fumbled the quiver and dropped all of their arrows on the ground. Picking one up, pulling one from a target or returning an arrow shot at the player takes time, a single action. If the character doesn't take any other action, they can refill a quiver in a single round. It seemed reasonable, since the standard has been changed from a quantity to have something or don't have something.

My primary issue with running out of arrows as a DM is, the rules don't take "out of ammo" into account. It is assumed the characters have a functional method of attack, and a certain quality of weapons. But if the requisite ammo is missing, they have neither. Suddenly striping the characters of missile weapons isn't really accounted for in the rules. While a good DM will give players and characters time to reprovision, the DM really can't account for 4 character's missile counts on the fly.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Black Ora Weapons

My sigil-etched black Ora mace is sort of a disappointment. I thought it would flare, but it doesn’t because it has been uncursed. Pity.
However, today Serendipity was able to ensorcell it. Right now I just have a level one temporary ensorcellment, but soon I shall have a permanent cast on it.

Strange tactics

Gemstone IV has a lot of depth. There are many classic tactics you can use, such a parry tag, combat maneuvers or spells to slow opponents down.
However, the are some more subtle  tricks built right into the game. For example, going prone before an elemental wave hits will not hurt you. The same for shield bash. It is also unlikely that you would sucked into an implosion.
Going prone affects affects both offense and defense by 50 points. Choose carefully.


Sometimes, a minus 50 is better than vaporization.
Other tricks include the basic warding check. If an  opponent has Fasthr’s Reward running casting a low level warding spell can trip the Reward, ending the spell. For example, Dark Catalyst costs 19 points to cast and is really expensive to cast against Reward. Blood Burst costs one point and has the same chance to trigger and eliminate this defense. Other good choices are Corrupt Essence against spell casters and Spirit Barrier against swingers. The nice thing about these cheap spells is that they can trigger the Reward even if the creature is not subject to the attack type.
For example, Purified Citadel Heralds are immune to Blood Burst due to their undead status, but Blood Burst still forces a warding check. This effect is the same as casting Limb Disrupt on a creature with no limbs, you can succeed in overwhelming their TD or Target Defense, but that success will not effect a creature with no limbs.
Old Golems used to be puncture immune; it is the exact same situation, you can hit them with an arrow but it doesn’t do anything. This has been remedied my changing Golems to “puncture resistance”, so current Golems aren’t a good analogy any more. Certain creatures are completely immune to magic, trying this stunt is a waste of time. Vvreal and Constructs come to mind.

Rock is paper vs cold and fire

An ingenious attack method built right into GSIV. Cold and fire spells against stone creatures cause extra damage. Casting Dark Catalyst against stone trolls or giants causes their skin to crack to horrific effect. The temperature differential adds another round of damage a moment or two later.
This is different than the standard Fire Spirit against trolls. That merely slows or stops regeneration for a time. The temperature differential is extra damage. This is a good thing because that stone skin is as tough as metal.

My pet theory - Monster Combat Tactics

I have a pet theory. If a creature can’t hit you with weapons, it switches to magic. If that fails, it will try combat maneuvers.

This is roughly how a combat maneuver appears to a sorcerer.

At level 60, I can’t help but notice how often Hisskra will attempt their dart maneuver or how shield bashy Tomb Trolls can get.

One of these days, I will roll up a swinging type character and take them to the Tower or Keep to see if they get the same effect. At level, I suspect that cman’s are just one tool. When fighting at a disadvantage, cman’s will be used to affect characters.

Remember, this is just a theory.

A hit, a palpable hit.

I am off hunting swordsmen, so of course I can only find heralds. This morning, I decided to ensorcell my baby blue kakore runestaff. It was a good choice. 

>incant 719
You trace an intricate sign that contorts in the air while
forcefully invoking Dark Catalyst…
Your spell is ready.
You gesture at a putrefied Citadel herald.
CS: +325 – TD: +280 + CvA: +17 + d100: +48 == +110
Warding failed!
… and hits for 11 points of damage!
A putrefied Citadel herald is suddenly engulfed in flames of pure
essence!
… 25 points of damage!
Flames incinerate right leg to the bone. Not a pleasant sight.
It is knocked to the ground!
… 15 points of damage!
The Citadel herald’s left arm trembles with the cold.
… 20 points of damage!
Heavy shock to left leg. Gonna limp for awhile.
… 25 points of damage!
Strong blow to chest!
You feel 5 mana surge into you!

Necrotic energy from your kakore runestaff overflows into you! 
You feel energized!
Your kakore runestaff flares with a burst of flame! 
… 15 points of damage!
Burst of flames chars neck a crispy black.
You hear a sound like a weeping child as a white glow separates itself
from the Citadel herald’s body as it rises, disappearing into the heavens.
A putrefied Citadel herald writhes on the ground then spits, “This
cannot be defeat…” before lying motionless.
The very powerful look leaves a putrefied Citadel herald.
The white light leaves a putrefied Citadel herald.
The dim aura fades from around a putrefied Citadel herald.
A white glow rushes away from a putrefied Citadel herald.
A putrefied Citadel herald seems slightly different.
A putrefied Citadel herald seems hesitant.
Cast Roundtime 3 Seconds.

I tagged him with DC which triggered a flare from my kakore staff and then an ensorcellment flare. I wish someone had been there to applaud.