Why are weapons different?

Over at B/X Blackrazor JD discusses how to make weapons different without making the combat a mess.

My two groups have been playtesting a system where all weapons do the same damage, with two-handed weapons roll two dice and pick the highest. Players liked the fact that they characters could pick any weapon without caring for the effects, and having machete-wielding, shuriken-throwing magic-users totally rocks. Simple design and great style is win.

Anyway, after a few sessions we started playtesting rules for weapon-specific rules, similar in scope to what JD proposes; here’s the list we currently use:

  • maces, war-picks and unbalanced, top heavy weapons: +2 to hit against armoured opponents (and equivalent like dragons). Also appropriate for crossbows, axes and the like.
  • axes and unbalanced, top-heavy blades: once per round, if the wielder’s melee attack fells an opponent, an additional follow-up melee attack can be carried out. Also appropriate for maces and swords.
  • flails and chains: the wielder’s opponent does not benefits from shield bonuses against the wielder’s attacks.
  • swords and long blades: +1 to DEF against a single melee opponent. Also appropriate for spears and staves.
  • spears and polearms: if the wielder haven’t attacked in a round and is being attacked in melee, the wielder can opt to preempt the attack with his round’s melee attack.
  • daggers and very small weapons: really easy to conceal (2+ on a d6).

Players really like it because the character customization impacts in a greater way in fights. Also weapons have been changes in the middle of really critical fights (a scene quite cool in movies that I’ve never seen before in RPGs).

On Playtesting and (Unintended) Consequences

Playtesting is an odd beast: when there are no problems and the game goes well, you’re not trying hard enough.

In the past weeks I’ve not being posting much as – unbelievably – I’ve being playing games; not only some new boardgames like 7 Wonders and Colyseum, but also the last revision of the Civilization boardgame (all of which I warmly recommend you to try).

In addition some work has been done (not only by me) on putting together a faux-retroclone fantasy adventure game. I’ve been trying a variety of combat systems to find where the fun is while keeping the combat as abstract as possible and, in order to do so, a lot of gaming blood was shed. In the process some fighting systems clicked immediately, while some others were more hit and miss; an example of the latter, my favourite system treats melees as a set of fighing contests, with winners wounding losers.

A significant aspect that became apparent in the fourth playtest session was that, being the game d6-centric, matching melee +1d6 vs melee + 1d6 makes even a small difference in melee very significant: a difference of 2 means a two-fold reduction in damage inflicted and, at the same time, receiving 1.5 times as much damage. And, obviously, fighting hand-to-hand against someone with a melee way higher that yours is ground for character termination.

While this might seem a bad combat system per se (and sure it seemed to me when I noticed), we must not forget that no rule exists in a vacuum, that rules drive the game in specific directions. That we put rules in place, ultimately, to make players win in the easiest way they can come up with.

For example an expert swordman might have no problem entering a low-level dungeon with no armour, knowing well that mobility and skill will protect him enough, allowing for a fast extraction (of treasure), while a more modest fighter will don heavy armour, a large shield and surely bring plenty of mates, preparing for long and worrying fights.

For some we want some games we want melee skill to impact heavily in fights: fighting against a way better opponent should be deadly: in this case using d6s instead of d20s makes for a less luck-based, more strategic game, where fights are treated seriously by at least one side and, at the same time, makes clever use use of terrain, cover and missile weapons critical. It makes for a game where being slowed by the burden of heavy armour can be fatal as not knowing when to flee from a one-sided fight.

More playtest sessions will follow, both Sunday at the Glasgow University Occupation Charity Gaming Fundraiser and Monday at the usual Glasgow Indie Gamers meetup. If you happen to hang around western Scotland, come join us! 🙂

OSR Conservation Process: an update

A quick update on the OSR Conservation Process:

  1. The software is coming together slowly but surely. Nothing hard, it’s just a bit boring and, as I’m busy with other projects, it gets only a limited quota of my attention. I decided to write a barebones system that does what I think it needs instead of getting a Gallery installation that provides instant gratification but, well, doesn’t do what I need. Slowly but surely.
  2. “Nothing whatsoever” is sadly more or less the amount of attention the whole conservation initiative got from publishers and authors. I wonder if it’s because the site is not there yet, because I have scarce visibility in the OSR blogosphere or because it’s deemed not important by the cool kids.

Slowly but surely. If you build it, they will come. Blah blah blah. 🙂

69: Random Unsubstatiated Hypothesis

A floor plan demonstrates the organizational logic of a building; a section embodies its emotional experience.

Mattew Frederick, 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School

Yep I know dungeon geomorphs dice came out already, but a webapp that mashes up side cuts and planimetries would be awesome. As I’m a lazy-thing, enjoy the photoshop I should have done a long while ago using Stonewerks’s & Dyson’s geomorphs… as they are awesome and must be used to build cool stuff.

By the way, I finally wrote a really easy tutorial on how to modify geomorphs to build maps like this.

Yep that’s an isometric axonometric projection. Yep it looks a bit off, and my photoshopping skills are not that good so you can see seams. But it’s late and wanted to share. Feel free to populate, mash it up and use it for anything: leave a comment or a message and I’ll put a linky thing to your content if you want. 🙂

If I’ll ever do this again, I’ll just write a batch transformer for the tiles…

UPDATE: Qubish polished the map and numbered the rooms on his blog “Of Dice and Djinn“.

UPDATE: grab the one page dungeon: Axo’s Dungeon!