Today I'll dig into combat in piecemeal a little more. The flaw is the general one of "roll to hit, roll damage, next round". Now in terms of player involvement I already talked a bit about defensive rolls to keep people at the table. I'll go a little bit into keeping each round of combat from being a simple problem to pick the good solution and more into a choice of different tactics (before options like magic and the like are involved)
Combat follows the basic premise that each round, those involved declare actions and then roll initiative. Each round mind you.
Initiative is your agility die (varies based on stat), + your weapons speed, + your exceptional intelligence modifier.
Someone who is quick on their feet may be faster, but someone with a quick brain almost always will go faster.
Then we get into into fighting options. Each round a character chooses one of these options (before initiative).
Dodging, Parrying, Blocking (if trained in shield use), Power Attack, Wild Attack, Brace (with spear)
Dodging: A character always gets a defense roll (modified positively by things like having a free hand and negatively by wearing armour), but loses any remaining attacks for the round once they start dodging. Thus winning initiative is important.
Parrying: A character who parries only gets a defense roll AFTER they attack. Their defense roll is modified by things like their skill with the weapon, and the weapons quality. Winning initiative is also important to this option.
Blocking: This is the ideal choice, but requires both training and a shield (or cloak). The character always gets a defensive roll and an attack. The defensive roll is modified by the size of the shield.
Power Attack: This is ideal for an ambush. The character forfeits any defensive roll and deals more damage, either adding their strength die or an additional damage die from the weapon (whichever is less).
Wild Attack: This is an option of the desperate. Your attack rate goes up by 1 per round, but all attacks are at -5. Its usually the last thing someone does before being mobbed by zombies, as you have no defensive roll.
Brace: This is used by knights lances and defending spear men against charging opponents, the basic concept is probably familiar (hold the spear steady) and do multiples of damage on a single attack. This doesn't factor into the usual combat decision tree so I won't go much into it.
Then comes time to deal damage (in either luck points or body points).
This is where that armour that seemed counter productive in the dodging section comes into play. Armour gives you damage reduction (barring highly armour piercing attacks). So Chain mail, with its Damage Reduction (DR) of 5 versus piercing attacks may cause you to get hit by many more arrows you cannot dodge easily...its unlikely any will do serious damage.
As a side note: What about helmets? Helmets are used for both lowering your chance to succeed at awareness checks, and lowering the chance you suffer a critical hit, which I'll expand upon in another post.
Why is this good?
This makes there be a lot of variation in what a "good" warrior should be, good against what? Against the goblins with their d4 damage hunting arrows and daggers a strong warrior with a two handed sword and chain mail can walk through power attacking everything. But against a giant he will find the armour worse than useless as he tries to dodge the giants club every round. In those cases an unarmoured fighter with a quick blade will work best. It also really cranks up the value of SHIELDS which are often nigh useless in fantasy games. They are one of the most valuable piece of military hardware a warrior can have, and now they showcase that.
Now obviously this can still create a bit of "OK, so in this fight I DODGE every round", which is where "Opportunity Attacks" come in, being tommorows post. These have NOTHING to do with the "Attacks of Opportunity" that came into d20 games. These are your opportunity to swing from chandeliers, pulls rugs out from under people and are tomorrows post.
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