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Author Topic: Using Realism in RPG's, part 2  (Read 7282 times)
Drifter Bob
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« on: November 03, 2003, 02:05:51 AM »

Hello Forgers (that has a criminal connotation to it, Forgites? Forgees?)  you may remember me from my earlier much reviled mechaics of melee article.  Part 2 has been more or less completed, but the E-zine I usually contribute to is down, as the whole At-Fantasy site that it is part of is switching servers or something and it's been down for like two weeks.  I don't know when it's going to come back up so I'm going to post a link to my article here :

http://bellsouthpwp.net/d/e/deodand23/MeleeChapter2c.htm

It is still a bit rough and has some spelling mistakes and typos, but the basic point comes across.  I'd be interested to see what people here make of it this time around.

DB
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John Dillinger
Jack Aidley
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« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2003, 01:54:29 AM »

I'm much more impressed with this part than the first.

Your knowledge of medieval weapons and combat seems sound, interesting and well expressed, without being patronising; obviously, since I'm no expert I cannot comment on it's actual accuracy. And it thankfully lacks the demeaning tone of the first part.

I'd like to see more discussion about how these things could be implemented in a roleplaying game, and what trade-offs you see as being present. In particular I'd like to see how you are going to have a system in which Armour Works that doesn't have long and tedious battles (my experience of systems in which Armour Works).

Good work.
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Drifter Bob
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« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2003, 02:12:31 AM »

Quote from: Mr Jack
I'm much more impressed with this part than the first.

Your knowledge of medieval weapons and combat seems sound, interesting and well expressed, without being patronising; obviously, since I'm no expert I cannot comment on it's actual accuracy. And it thankfully lacks the demeaning tone of the first part.

I'd like to see more discussion about how these things could be implemented in a roleplaying game, and what trade-offs you see as being present. In particular I'd like to see how you are going to have a system in which Armour Works that doesn't have long and tedious battles (my experience of systems in which Armour Works).

Good work.


Thanks, I have to give credit to my friend Eddy, a guy I met on the internet who liked my first Melee article, for helping me edit out some of my naturally obnoxious and sarcastic comments.  You have no idea how hard it is to restrain my evil impulses ;)

As for armor works and long tedius battles, I admit this can be a potential problem, If you are in a situation where combattants have head to toe armor.  But history does show us ways of dealing with those pesky armored dudes.

Keep in mind there was only a fairly brief period of history (say 1250 - 1450) where really complete armor was worn, and then only by the wealthiest third or so of knights.  By the end of the Renaissance period with guns ascendant, the need for really rapid manueverability dictated lighter and / or more piecemeal armor, with less protection on legs especially (see munitions armor).  Before the first crusade certainly mail coats (hauberks) did not protect arms or legs much.

If you are dealing with full armor though, special armor piercing weapons, of which plenty did exist when heavy armor was prevalent, wrestling and grapping, ganging up with numbers (more than two to one), and heavy missile weapons can all still help bring an end combat pretty quickly.  Still, it has to be admitted, in gentlemanly tournaments and judicial combats where heavy armor was worn and really effective armor piercing weapons were avoided, fights could often be long and boring and have no decisive outcome.  People actually complained about this!  But in actual no holds combat on the battlefield, often there were many field expedient if not gentlemanly ways of dealing with the armored knight.  

Welsh longbowmen bonked French Knights on the head with big wooden tent stake mallets, thus ensuring they were rendered safe to capture and later ransom for huge amounts of money.  Mongol horsemen lassooed heavily armored European knights and dragged them off for more sinister purposes.  Italian peasants regularly picked off knights with those really heavy crossbows.

And if you look at the old fencing manuals largely intended for the knights themselves, they are full of all kinds of vicious wrestling, grappling, and judo-like techniques for knocking down your opponent, pinning them etc.  If you have a helpless enemy in armor, there is usually a place to stick a dagger, as per the old cliches, in the visor or armpit, etc.

JR
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John Dillinger
Ian Charvill
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« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2003, 04:59:58 AM »

Pretty meaty article there.  I might comment more when I've had time to read it, but just a quibble that leapt out at me:

Quote
Inexperienced players would have lower morale, and more experienced players higher.


I'm guessing you mean characters there...
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Ian Charvill
Drifter Bob
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« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2003, 05:03:57 AM »

Quote from: Ian Charvill
Pretty meaty article there.  I might comment more when I've had time to read it, but just a quibble that leapt out at me:

Quote
Inexperienced players would have lower morale, and more experienced players higher.


I'm guessing you mean characters there...


YEp ;
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John Dillinger
Marco
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« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2003, 05:14:12 AM »

I like it. I like the different damage breakdowns--we were looking for something like that originally but didn't have good ideas on how to divvy up the different types.

Good information. Good presentation.

I didn't like the sidebar critizing storm troopers (and saying something snarky about Star Wars fans). Let's face it--long before you get to issues of "why do they wear those suits" you have to get past a lot of other things (like why the hell can't they hit anything and how did the ewoks have anti-vehicle traps set up 10 yards from the imperial base without anyone knowing about it).

Basically, people either accept it as window dressing or have a lot more than armor to ask questions about (they wear armor so you don't have to think of them as people when they get gunned down).

-Marco
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #6 on: November 04, 2003, 09:26:13 AM »

Spot on, Marco. GURPS even has an optional cinematic rule called the "Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy" rule in which stock vilains automatically miss with their first shot in order that the heroes become aware that they're under fire. See also the Bulletproof Nudity rules as a counter to armor for genres where you expect this sort of thing.

Good detail in the article, Bob.

Quote
The hit me / hit you dynamic is basically false.

I'm so glad you mentioned that. Not only is it unrealistic, it's dull as hell, and doesn't match any sort of genre expectation that I'm aware of. So why folks cling to it (other than the obvious reason, tradition) is beyond me.

Mike
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John Kim
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« Reply #7 on: November 04, 2003, 11:46:30 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Quote
The hit me / hit you dynamic is basically false.

I'm so glad you mentioned that. Not only is it unrealistic, it's dull as hell, and doesn't match any sort of genre expectation that I'm aware of. So why folks cling to it (other than the obvious reason, tradition) is beyond me.

Well, the "hit you, hit you, hit you" dynamic is potentially even duller, particularly for the characters who aren't getting a chance to act.  I think "hit me, hit you" is often chosen because of this.  

Genre matching is a good question.  Most cinematic genres tend to have fights with a slow see-saw.  The bad guy will have the upper hand for a period of many (4-8, maybe?) blows, with the good guy getting only a few hits in response.  Then the good guy will reverse this and have the upper hand for a series of exchanges.  There will generally be at least 3 and maybe up to 7 reverses in an extended fight.  

I've never played in a system which I thought matched this very well.  

On the other hand, this isn't true of all genres.  I deliberately went with RuneQuest for my Vikings game, partly because I wanted to match saga combat.  Combat in the sagas is not cinematic or fancy.  It is fatalistic hacking which generally results in bloody wounds on both sides.  I find that RQ combat it pretty good at matching this.  (I am having problems with unarmed combat, though.)
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #8 on: November 04, 2003, 01:41:58 PM »

Interesting that Hero Quest is the answer that I'd give to the whole See-Saw thing. I agree that "I Hit, I Hit, I Hit" can be boring. What I like to see is "we clash, something happens, we clash, something happens." I've never found that to be boring.

Mike
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John Kim
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« Reply #9 on: November 04, 2003, 06:01:47 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Interesting that Hero Quest is the answer that I'd give to the whole See-Saw thing. I agree that "I Hit, I Hit, I Hit" can be boring. What I like to see is "we clash, something happens, we clash, something happens." I've never found that to be boring.

Well, as far as what is interesting or boring in general -- that is a matter of varying preference.  I don't see there's anything inherently more interesting about "we clash, we clash" than "hit me, hit you".   Personally, I tend to be interested in less abstract systems, like RuneQuest or the HERO System, as opposed to D&D or HeroQuest.  But I can understand preferring more abstract.  

As far as emulating the See-Saw effect, I feel that this needs at least another layer than HQ.  It seems to me that this needs at least two changing stats: one for who currently has the initiative or advantage, and one for the progress of the fight.  In HQ, your success in one exchange doesn't alter you chance for success in the next exchange -- so progress is liable to flip back and forth with each roll.  I'm looking for something which encourages sequences of success for each side.  So rather than sequences like "ABBABABABAAB" (i.e. alternating each time between opponents A and B), there should be sequences like "AAAAABBBBBAAAABBBBB".
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #10 on: November 05, 2003, 02:14:25 PM »

Good point. That would be Riddle of Steel. I knew we'd get there.

Mike
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Devlinhugh
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« Reply #11 on: November 07, 2003, 03:49:43 PM »

One method me and my friends used once for the see-saw battle was where you have the person winning initiative 'setting the pace' so he strikes first then both combatants get a certain number of actions available in combat. You can move,block, hit, dodge or do a offensive/defensive counter.

The way this worked was a block was the simplist maneuver but it didn't change the pace,

hit and dodge were on par (but a succesful dodge changes the pace)

the defensive counter was even more complex(blocking in such a way it sets the defender up for a strike changes the pace)

then the trickiest maneuver was an offensive counter(where you time a strike so precisely that you hit the person with your weapon just before they hit you attacking & defending sivultaneously which also changed the pace).

Battles always seemed to see-saw when we did this but also it introduced tactics and risk in battle the person who controls the pace says what their going to do and you have to react taking risks to change the pace knowing if you just keep blocking they are eventually going to land some blows.

just my 2 pence.

By the way the essay is fantastic I have done various reinactments with a variety of medieval weapons and I'd say your assesment is spot on!

Best regards

DH
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #12 on: November 12, 2003, 08:42:08 PM »

Bob--it looks good, although it's quite long; I printed it out nine days back, and have only now finished reading through it in the cracks of spare time I was able to eke out here and there (although it has admittedly been a busier than average week).

Apart from the sheer length (which is probably necessary given the excellent depth and breadth of coverage) I had a couple of quibbles.

At the end of the paragraph third above the major heading on Initiative, Momentum, and Movement, "a suit of plate armor should probably cost tens of thousands of gold pieces....rather than just a few hundred." This is something on which a well-schooled OAD&D would call you.

The "plate mail" of the players handbook, at 400 gold pieces, is not the full plate armor you envision. It is described as a combination of chain with strategically protective plates. Field plate and full plate were introduced in Unearthed Arcana, and cost significantly more--2000 and 4000 respectively. Also, these had to be custom made for the wearer, and required a significant investment in fitting time. It's not quite the price you envisioned, but it's more than the price you claimed.

In the Intitiative, Momentum, and Movement section, there is a heading that reads, "The hit me/hit you dynamic is basically false."

Agreed; it also is not intended by the OAD&D system (and the whiff factor of which people complain is similarly not intended.

In essence, if the game says you get two attacks per round, it means that twice in a minute you might have the opportunity to land a telling blow. It does not mean that you necessarily had that opportunity, or that you attempted to take advantage of it. A successful to hit roll means all of you saw an opportunity to hit, took advantage of it, and succeeded in landing a blow against your opponent which counted. If the roll fails, it does not tell you where it failed--whether you didn't get the chance to attack, or whether your attack was deflected by the shield or armor, or something between the two.

The hit me/hit you dynamic is a player misunderstanding of the game mechanics; it is a quite understandable mistake to make, but it's not actually hard-coded in the rules, which do express the other view of combat in constant motion, strikes and parries and tactical movements through which those opportunities are created.

I'm not saying it can't be done better; I'm just saying that a system that uses taking turns in its attack sequence doesn't necessarily mean that you're trading blows. Particularly if the chance of attack success is low for either or both parties, it is much easier to see it as a matter of opportunities successfully exploited, rather than back-and-forth hits. Further, it's quite reasonable to see the improvement in chance to hit and number of attacks per round as the character's increased ability to create those opportunities.

Later under multiple opponents you comment, "One primary factor which actually has been recognized by RPG's now is the idea of flanking." That implies (or at least, I would infer from it) that this was not recognized earlier. OAD&D did include flanking as a tactic; it was not emphasized and probably rarely used. However, it was clear in the rules that shield protection was discounted against attacks from directions other than front or left, and that rear attacks were bonused. By and large this was ignored, in part because players moved away from miniatures (and so had considerably less idea of the directional relationships between the characters), and in part because there was a second rule which specified the number of attacks against which a shield was useful based on its size (which meant that there were two rules to determine when a shield did not afford protection, and referees who did not ignore both generally used only the simpler one). I don't know that it was done well; I would say probably not--but it was not ignored.

That's about it; however, I noted your comment under Acrobatics and Swashbuckling, "Ideally I think such abilities should have degrees of skill associated with them rather than just being 'on or off' (or having various 'enhanced' versions of the feat in question) but all kinds of special skills such as acrobatics, juggling, rope climbing, backflips, tumbling..., uncanny balance and etc. and etc. can spice up combat in a variety of ways." Multiverser incorporates much of this; I can think of in-play experience with acrobatics, backflips, tumbling, and balance in combat off the top of my head, and climbing and juggling are viable options for which I just don't know any players who have used them (yet). Also, they do have their own skill ability levels, and a variety of mechanical means to bring their effects into play which allows you to customize a skill to work as expected (e.g., penalties on attacks, bonuses on attacks, reduction or increase of damage, initiative adjustment are all potentially within the bounds of what a special skill can impact). I think that there are a few things you suggest which would be challenging to incorporate in Multiverser--but nothing which is not possible under the rules as written, that I noticed.

Hope this helps.

--M. J. Young
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Tomas HVM
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« Reply #13 on: November 14, 2003, 04:11:00 AM »

Quote from: John Kim
I'm looking for something which encourages sequences of success for each side.  So rather than sequences like "ABBABABABAAB" (i.e. alternating each time between opponents A and B), there should be sequences like "AAAAABBBBBAAAABBBBB".
The problem with this is that the cinematic sequence you describe as "AAAAABBBBBAAAABBBBB" is in fact quite dull, if not for the dialogue and various camera angles. In a roleplaying game it is quite as dull as the "ABBABABABAAB"-sequence described by Mike. It is a cinematic element evolved through fine tuning of both acting, directing and clipping teqnicue. To use your creative energy in simulating cool filmscenes is in my view to consider RPGs some servant of cinematics, not an independent form, and thus missing the true objective of gamesmiths; to make good games (not films). To me your stance seems to be of value only in the restricted area of conveying some cineastic feel to some RPgs, not as an overall discussion of RPGs and combat (or conflict resolution in general).

In roleplaying games the conflict resolution tends to halt dialogue (the dice take over the focus), so you should try to keep it short. The die is the preferred tool for randomly based conflict resolution because it is speedy in use. This should not be misused to make dierolling the main focus of the roleplaying experience. The true potential of RPGs is to be unearthed in focussing on the drama in escalation of conflict, the drama created by the outcome of the conflict, and by considering the conflict resolution the turning point ("point" as in small and quick, but significant). This is true in political, social, intimate and physical conflicts.

You should try to adapt a sequence like this: ... abcabcabc -> A/B -> abcabcabc ... The first "abcabcabc" is the escalation of conflict. The conflict resolution is initiated simulataneously; "A/B", and resolved with speed, to create a dramatic outcome. The second "abcabcabc" is the outcome of conflict, and how it is modulated by the involved parties.

The "c" represent the ever present third party in all conflicts (other characters, surroundings, family, allies, potential "champions of the cause", etc.).

That's my two cents.
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Tomas HVM
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www.fabula.no
John Kim
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« Reply #14 on: November 15, 2003, 08:50:38 AM »

Quote from: Tomas HVM
The problem with this is that the cinematic sequence you describe as "AAAAABBBBBAAAABBBBB" is in fact quite dull, if not for the dialogue and various camera angles. In a roleplaying game it is quite as dull as the "ABBABABABAAB"-sequence described by Mike. It is a cinematic element evolved through fine tuning of both acting, directing and clipping teqnicue. To use your creative energy in simulating cool filmscenes is in my view to consider RPGs some servant of cinematics, not an independent form, and thus missing the true objective of gamesmiths; to make good games (not films). To me your stance seems to be of value only in the restricted area of conveying some cineastic feel to some RPgs, not as an overall discussion of RPGs and combat (or conflict resolution in general).

You misunderstand a bit.  My talk about cinematic talking was intended as a branch from the main discussion, not as a solution for all RPG combat.  I started it as a branch off from Mike's comments about "hit-you, hit-me" as not matching any genre.  My original branch point was this:

Quote from: John Kim
Genre matching is a good question.  Most cinematic genres tend to have fights with a slow see-saw.  The bad guy will have the upper hand for a period of many (4-8, maybe?) blows, with the good guy getting only a few hits in response.  Then the good guy will reverse this and have the upper hand for a series of exchanges.  There will generally be at least 3 and maybe up to 7 reverses in an extended fight.  

I've never played in a system which I thought matched this very well.  


So here I'm not saying that all systems should match this cinematic pattern -- just that if you do want to match the cinematic genres, that's what you should do.  I do think there is some value in genre emulation.  Such games can be fun and insightful, but I certainly agree it's not a necessary goal of RPG design.
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