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Combat styles and character resources

 
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Schleiermacher
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 14, 2017 9:33 pm    Post subject: Combat styles and character resources Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

We all agree that making players spend feats, class features or other significant character resources on specializing their PCs in a particular form of armed combat (Archer, cavalier, dual-wielder etc.) is bad game design. It pigeon-holes characters and it is basically un-balanceable - specializing either becomes mandatory or pointless.

At the extreme it leads to "I can't effectively fire a bow at the Harpies, you have to get them within range of my axe"-stupidity.

But for reasons of verisimilitude and character diversity, it's also dumb if every character who can profitably pick up a bow to shoot some Harpies automatically levels into a super-archer who can shoot the stars out of the sky. Archers at high levels need those abilities to be level-appropriate, and they should absolutely be cheap and easy to get, but not every high level character with bow proficiency should get them - they need to be opt in.

The same goes for things like mounted combat, dual-wielding and fighting unarmed - these aren't nearly enough to hang a character concept on by themselves, any martial character who wants to do any or all of them should pretty much be able to - but both at very low levels when fighting styles are important, and at high levels when they come with required superpowers to be relevant at all, they take up enough conceptual space that players who don't want the tools that PCs who favor these methods need should be able to leave them out of their characters' skill sets.

It is technically an option to not even try to resolve this dilemma, and accept that weapon choice only impacts your fighting style meaningfully at low levels, but is basically cosmetic past level 6 or so- but to me this sounds like cutting character options out of the game for no good reason.

What is the best way to square this circle?

Please keep in mind, Iím not talking about supporting characters whose schtick is to only ever use one spesific weapon or style regardless of circumstances -high level characters should absolutely be proficient in a wide variety of weapons and switch between them as appropriate Ė but about writing abilities to keep different fighting styles meaningfully tactically different once 5 feet of reach or a Disarm tag more or less isnít something anyone cares about anymore.
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Mord
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 15, 2017 2:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The only observation I have to make here is that there's a massive difference in effectiveness between the guy who can use a bow and an axe versus the guy who can use a lance and an axe. Whether you prefer a sword, pair of axes, or bec de corbin is substantially less important than your ability to interact with every class of threat you're expected to face. That even goes for the case where there are actual meaningful mechanical differences between a gladius and an arming sword.

A ranged weapon-sized threat radius is mandatory once you start dealing with flying or otherwise extremely mobile obstacles, just as some kind of magical damage is mandatory once you start dealing with incorporeal enemies.

EDIT: Actually, one other tangential point. You seem to be alluding to the scaling Tome combat feats (intentionally or not) in your OP, and I've been mulling over whether they were really such a bad idea. I've come to the conclusion that they're not, because it seems to me no more immersion-breaking than a high-level Wizard who has previously never used evocations picking up a feat that synergizes with fire somehow and then regularly preparing Meteor Swarm and the like.

The objection that an Axe Guy who picks up the Bows feat/game object at level 15 in some way cheapens the Bow Guy who has had the Bows game object since level 1 doesn't really hold water in the context of what prepared casters already do just by putting their pants on.


Last edited by Mord on Tue Aug 15, 2017 2:35 am; edited 1 time in total
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Lokathor
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 15, 2017 4:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Scaling feats aren't good simply because they're too long of a list of things to weigh at once against too many other long lists of things. Just break them all up into individual feats and then give out feats more often.
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OgreBattle
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 15, 2017 8:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Asking swordsmanship scholars I've gotten the answer that in a 1 on 1 fight a longsword (two handed sword worn at waist), two thrusting oriented swords, or rapier and dagger are roughly equal to each other. But these are all sidearms and will do poorly against a dude with a big ol' zweihander or nice yari.


So if you want low level realizms and abstraction you have the following weapon categories...

Sidearms- weapons you can wear at your waist and bring indoors, these include...
-longsword
-twin 1h swords
-rapier & dagger
-rapier & buckler

Superior to the sidearms are the Primary Arms, which are too big to wear at the waist (but under 150% of wielder's height) include...
-Greatsword, greataxes if you want more fantasy
-Polearms like the poleaxe, guandao

Formation fighting weapons that are too long for balanced 1 on 1 fighting are...
-Polearms that are 50%+ taller than the wielder

Shields, paired with a mace or sword or axe or whatever, are their own category and get a bonus vs missiles

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If that's not enough distinction then make one weapon slighty more damaging, more defensive, more accurate, etc. so maybe the longsword is +dmg while the buckler is +def and the poleaxe is +dmg and greatsword is +acc

I also wrote out a chart of weapon bonuses that basically went..
1h weapon- gives you a bonus in accuracy/damage/defense
2h weapon- gives you two bonuses in the above
dual wielding- gives you bonuses of each 1h weapon.

So 1 axe is +1 damage, a greataxe is +2 damage, and twin axes is also +2 damage.
----

Quote:
but to me this sounds like cutting character options out of the game for no good reason.


Past lvl 6 you can just have it be cosmetic. The Monkey King fights sowrdsmen and polearm wielders with his magic staff fine, and we don't focus so much about the shape of the weapons wielded but the abilities of the wielder.


Last edited by OgreBattle on Tue Aug 15, 2017 8:34 am; edited 5 times in total
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rasmuswagner
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 15, 2017 6:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I propose two intertwined solutions: Meta-currency and world-affecting power (as separate from tactical power).

Meta-currency is your basic handful-per-session hero points. Archer Guy picked "shoot many dudes" as a power, and can just do that. Sword guy can, if he's high enough level, pay a hero point and shoot many dudes, this turn (or this fight or whatever). "Shoot many dudes" covers basically every tactical situation where you might want range attacks against a number of enemies.

World-affecting power is the other thing Archer Guy picked up for choosing "shoot many dudes". Because he too can spend a hero point, to "shoot a fuckload of dudes", an ability not available to sword guy.
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Judging__Eagle
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 16, 2017 5:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Lokathor wrote:
Scaling feats aren't good simply because they're too long of a list of things to weigh at once against too many other long lists of things. Just break them all up into individual feats and then give out feats more often.


This is still the best solution I've been seen for making [Combat] feats feel more granular. Each "step" of a [Combat] feat should be categorized as an individual feat whose BaB is its own pre-requisite.

Players will then mix and match varying levels of powers to have varying levels of feat effectiveness.

An additional idea would be to just give out these [Combat] sub-feats for each BaB increase actually makes sense to me. While this would seem like a big nerf for say, the RoW fighter; someone playing a RoW fighter has the same wargaming temperment as someone playing a PHB wizard. While classes like the Barbarian would actually get a lot more flexibility in that they would otherwise have.

I could see the [Metamagic] feats Kaelik wrote up getting a similar treatment to [Combat] feats. Allowing Spellcasters to pick up sub-sections of [Metamagic] feats based on their caster level; instead of 1/3 their CR/HD.

In light of the fact that many sub-feats of the [Metamagic] and [Combat] feats are improvements on lower pre-requisite sub-feats; PCs should be allowed to retrain [Combat] and [Metamagic] feats whenever they gain a new point of BAB or Caster leve; respectively. However, all reselected sub-feats must still be with sub-feats of the same minimum pre-requisites for use. So you can exchange the +1 BAB or CL 1 sub-feats, but only for those which are of the same pre-requisits (+1 BAB or CL 1). This will encourage PCs to be diverse and varied in their power selections, instead picking a choices with high pre-requisites for use.

Regular feats that are narratively notable should chew up the regular 1/3 levels feats.

I somehow suspect that the sub-feats should be at every +1 CR; and ever +1 BAB/CL.

A normal martial character who spent their 7 feats is getting 28 sub-powers (with an indeterminable amount of rarely used xor redundant powers meaning anywhere between 18-22 actually distinct powers). So granting 20-30 sub-feats (at most) for each character doesn't seem out of line.
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Wiseman
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 16, 2017 7:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

^This

Much as I like scaling feats, I will admit that occasionally, when I grab one, I'm only interested in one ability from said feat.
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fbmf
The Great Fence Builder


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 17, 2017 5:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Judging__Eagle wrote:
someone playing a RoW fighter has the same wargaming temperment as someone playing a PHB wizard.


What do you mean by this?

Game On,
fbmf
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Mask_De_H
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 17, 2017 7:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

fbmf wrote:
Judging__Eagle wrote:
someone playing a RoW fighter has the same wargaming temperment as someone playing a PHB wizard.


What do you mean by this?

Game On,
fbmf


I'm guessing since to play a RoW Fighter you need to know the presented [Combat] feats, monster ability effective ranges and combat positioning like the back of your hand. Or because in the RoW Fighter writeup, it states they are akin to playing a Wizard in potential complexity.
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Judging__Eagle
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 17, 2017 11:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

fbmf wrote:
Judging__Eagle wrote:
someone playing a RoW fighter has the same wargaming temperment as someone playing a PHB wizard.


What do you mean by this?

Game On,
fbmf


The "Fighter" class' effectiveness in most editions has mostly been based on how cagey the player themselves are. Occasionally jury-rigging things together like some sort of Fantasy Engineer/Demolitionist. However, good wargaming skills on the part of the player will allow them to achieve goals no one (else) at the table expects are attainable.

In Races of War, Frank & Kieth explicitly described their version of the Fighter as the "martial equivalent" of the Wizard. They won't have the best "numbers" (that's Knight, Samurai & Barbarian territory imo), but they will have the best chance of achieving a plan based off of survivability/ingenuity over force. The fact that RoW Fighters get Knowledge, Move Silently & Craft as class skills really helps to indicate that as well.

Mask_De_H wrote:

I'm guessing since to play a RoW Fighter you need to know the presented [Combat] feats, monster ability effective ranges and combat positioning like the back of your hand. Or because in the RoW Fighter writeup, it states they are akin to playing a Wizard in potential complexity.


Essentially this. It bears stressing that the people who were playing "wizards" in the proto-D&D eras of pre-1974 had a lot of experience with a variety of historical; and later fantasy, wargames. So they had spent lots of time grinding their ability to gauge positions, range, movement, flanking, etc. with tiny men with spears before they were gambling with wizards who had a spell slot for each 24 hrs. Wizards have generally been "hard mode", for people who have gotten long since grown bored with the mundane combat mechanics of most wargames, and the RoW fighter encapsulates that wargaming mentality in ways that the Knight, Samurai or Barbarian aren't meant to give a damn about.
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Last edited by Judging__Eagle on Thu Aug 17, 2017 11:18 pm; edited 2 times in total
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hyzmarca
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 17, 2017 11:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Give fighters a list of superpowered combat techniques that they must spend 8 hours a day memorizing. All problems solved. Divide these techniques into schools depending on weapon type.
For example, Cut Space and Cut Space Without Error are blade technique, and therefore can't be used by mace guys, hammer guys, or bow guys. There are 8 weapon classes. Each fighter has one specialty and two prohibited classes.
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nockermensch
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2017 2:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

hyzmarca wrote:
Give fighters a list of superpowered combat techniques that they must spend 8 hours a day memorizing. All problems solved. Divide these techniques into schools depending on weapon type.
For example, Cut Space and Cut Space Without Error are blade technique, and therefore can't be used by mace guys, hammer guys, or bow guys. There are 8 weapon classes. Each fighter has one specialty and two prohibited classes.

</tussock>
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MGuy
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2017 3:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Eh if we're talking about different tactics for high level weapon users I'd really lay that possibility at the feet of what tactics you expect to be using at high level. High level DnD is a flying/teleporting rocket launcher tag game. You find what fucks your opponent the most and what can keep you from getting fucked and you go out and use those things. Weapons and weapon styles don't do much in that arena. Hitting someone with something is always going to be hitting someone with something and as far as DnD goes I really can't think of too many different tactics weapons have ever come with other than "Reduce HP to zero in one turn". With or without Tome Feats that's all I see high level weapon use as and regardless of whether you give out more feats or less and allow people to be equally good with 3 or more weapons I don't see that as changing up the paradigm.

Don't get me wrong, I would also like there to be some variance in tactics depending on what golf club you happen to be swing with but at the highest levels of DnD I don't see this as a thing. So somewhere along the line when I was working heavily on my DnD surrogate I decided to lower the ceiling of my game so things never get to the point where teleporting around with the a handful of the best 'straight to death/loss' spells are the way to go. If you want the size of the sword you're using to matter beyond average damage or fishing for crits then you would need to fundamentally change the way the game is played and make weapon based maneuvers important in high level game play.
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Finally a thread about fighters!


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tussock
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2017 8:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Most of this rubbish that people want to use a particular weapon arose from the 1st edition Unearthed Arcana hacks that let Fighters use their largely superfluous weapon proficiencies for Weapon Specialisation to give themselves a better attacks, up to +3 to hit and +3 to damage with an extra half attack by 4th level. Which was a huge change for the better.

WS was supposed to be folded into the Fighter class in 2nd edition, by giving them better core attacks and better core damage than other classes, and instead they just put the weakest WS option in core and took away the other attack bonuses that the Warrior classes used to get for having the best weapons (which were instead penalised by being used last in a turn), and lost the sweep attacks, and just generally made fighters less good at Fighting.

Then 3e did it again, only more so, in that you had to spend most of your "choices" on the same thing to be even remotely competent at all against the massively more powerful monsters and hugely improved spellcasters. If that thing was a sword, then fuck you, if you can't sword it, you can't do anything at all.

So the basic fucking thing you need to understand to make a Fighter class is they need to work as a Fighter. When they are swording things, when they are doing archery, that shit needs to work. Your feats or whatever the fuck other choices, they can do whatever else is not included in that.

Like positioning and stuns and locks and taunts and other basic battlefield control, in case there's not a Wizard or Druid about to do it for you, in a way that isn't stupid and prone to ending fun. Stop letting Fighters have an option to not be capable against closet trolls and kiting dragons at the same time. Thank you.

In a 3e clone, note that none of the basic numbers work at all, past low level, Fighters do not usually hit the monsters, they do not kill the monsters they hit, they do not make their saving throws, cannot avoid the monster attacks, and cannot survive the damage from them. I would suggest not doing that for a class idea, but if that's your base you do indeed need to give them hugely powerful fighter-spells to throw about to keep pace.
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