Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Goblins & Greatswords: Armor and weapons

Figuring out the combat system for my fantasy heartbreaker turned out to be pretty easy compared to nailing down the particulars of the weapons and armor that characters will use in it.  I want different types of weapons to have meaningful differences, but I don't want huge complicated tables with lots of messy modifiers to look up or remember.  After a lot of false starts, I'm tentatively happy with what I have now.  

Armor comes in three types: Light, medium, and heavy, giving a base AC of 12, 14, or 16, respectively.  Light armor includes light, non-metallic, and relatively flexible options such as leather and padded armor.  Medium armors are made of metal or other hard material, but in flexible forms such as mail, scale, brigandine, and such.  Heavy armors are made of large rigid plates of metal or some other hard material.  The exact type of armor a character gets in any of the three classes is determined by the player and GM, and has no further game mechanical effect. 

Shields increase AC by 1, as usual.  I'm considering making a shield a requirement to use the character's Combat Rating defensively, too.

Weapons come in broad categories: Axe, Blade, Bludgeon, and Stick, and further divided into light, medium, and heavy types.

Axes are chopping weapons which are good at breaking through armor, and so receive a +1 bonus to combat rolls.  Damage is 4/6/8 for light, medium, and heavy types, respectively.   Examples include the hand axe and tomahawk (light), battle axe (medium), and polearms* (heavy.)  All axes use the wielder's Might modifier.

Blades are slashing and slicing weapons.  They are among the hardest to master, but have the highest damage potential at 6/8/10.  Examples include daggers and short swords (light), all of the various "normal" swords (medium), and great swords such as the bastard sword and two-handed sword (heavy.)  Light and medium blades use the wielder's Agility modifier.  Heavy blades use Might.

Bludgeons are blunt, smashing weapons.  They are the easiest weapons to wield, and also good at delivering impact damage through armor, and so receive +2 to combat rolls, but also have the lowest damage potential at 3/4/6.  Examples include the club/cudgel/shillelagh (light,) the mace and war hammer (medium), and the maul (heavy.)  All bludgeons use the wielder's Might modifier.

Stick weapons are long, slender weapons used mainly for thrusting maneuvers.  They gain a +2 bonus to Interpose actions.  Damage is 4/6/8.  Examples include the quarterstaff (light), the spear (medium), polearms* and lances (heavy.)  All stick weapons use the wielder's Agility modifier.

*Since polearms typically feature both heavy chopping blades and spear points or spikes, they may be used as either axes or stick weapons, whichever is most advantageous to the wielder.

Most light and medium weapons (except the quarterstaff) may be wielded with one hand, and combined with a shield if desired.  Most heavy weapons (except the lance from horseback) must be wielded two-handed.

Missile weapons are another can of worms with which I'm still grappling... 


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    1. That's my dilemma. My original rule allows a character's Combat Rating to be applied either to offense (combat rolls) or defense (AC.) Warrior-types have the option to split it between the two; otherwise, it's all one way or the other. Perhaps making the warrior split dependent on a shield gives it enough extra utility, at least for warriors. Other classes just get the +1 to AC. So, anyone can use a shield, anyone can apply CR to defense if they choose, but only warriors can use weapon-and-shield style to split CR between offense and defense.

      Hmm. I feared that might be too fiddly, but now I write it out, it actually looks viable.

    2. No, I agree with Glyph, actually. Yes, perhaps from a mechanical point of view it would make sense to give shields that function. But that's a choice you'd be making at the expense of verisimilitude.

      A warrior with a fencing-type blade in one hand will not always have a shield in the other - it might be a parrying dagger, for example. Similarly, an escrima-type fighter may simply have a stick in each hand, allowing each to switch between offense and defense. A warrior with a spear, staff, or other "stick" weapon is going to know how to use it defensively. Long story short, there's probably not a martial art that doesn't teach its practitioners to protect themselves while attacking and threaten the enemy while defending. And some of your players are going to know this, and wonder why they're only allowed to actually do it mechanically when they carry the token of one specific kind of fighting.

      There are plenty of ways to make shields special without artificially reducing the versatility of weapons in the hands of trained warriors. Use a "shields will be splintered" type rule, perhaps. Or work something into your ranged-combat system that shows off how effective a big chunk of wood or metal is against arrows. How's that sound?

    3. I do see your point. I'm not crazy about "shields shall be splintered" rules because it could easily produce absurd results. It would make sense against big crushing blows from battle axes or giant clubs, but what about dagger strikes or stirge beaks?

      I might have shields serve as cover against missile attacks, perhaps with different sized shields giving more cover. I'm reluctant to have them grant a larger AC bonus against certain attacks, because I'd like to avoid too much proliferation of situational modifiers.

    4. The cover idea sounds good, especially if size / target area is a factor in ranged attacks anyway (which would be logical).

      For the splintering shields, it's not too hard to imagine a wooden shield, at least, being rendered unusable (if not actually splintered) by a sturdy blade penetrating it forcefully and then being twisted or withdrawn in such a way as to detach a chunk of shield. You're right, though, that it takes much more work to justify such a rule with sturdier (especially metal or magical) shields and lighter weapons.