Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Critical Hits & Special Manuevers : Too Much

I think something else became clearer in the play-test fight I reported as Blood on the Sand.  This is that Critical Hits and Special Maneuvers kind of overlap too much.  Several times in that fight, I had to stop and think too much about what to do when I got a roll that was both box-cars and 15+.  And that turns out to be a pretty common occurence.  So I think I need to combine those two things.   But which "trigger" to use: box-cars or a Combat Roll of 15+?

I've been debating this for a while now, but I've settled on box-cars being the trigger for a Critical Hit?  Why?  Well, getting a high roll already has an advantage built-in by the One-Roll mechanic.  Plus, I guess I'm just too brainwashed by my past, but I feel like rolling a natural "12" just ought to mean something special.  So, here's the new version:

Combat Results
During each of the three Combat Phases (Melee, Missile, and Sorcery), everyone making an attack of that type makes a Combat Roll with varying results:
Roll is snake-eyes: Fumble
Roll is 10- : Miss
Roll is 11+ : Hit
Roll is box-cars: Critical Hit 
If the attacker is using a weapon made of natural, non-metallic materials, it breaks.   The Referee should feel free to apply other results; for example, he may rule that Artifacts also break on a fumble or perhaps just run out of power.


The degree of success indicates base damage done. This is modified by the weapon’s Damage Multiplier.

Critical Hit
A roll of box-cars results in one of two effects: Automatic Hit or Special Maneuver.
Automatic Hit - if the attacker had no chance to roll 11+ due to modifiers (from Weapon vs. AC, opponent's Defense, etc.) , he still hits on box-cars.  This hit counts as a Combat Roll as 12 i.e. the degree of success is 2.   This means that everyone has at least some chance of hitting any foe.
If the attacker has no need for an automatic hit, then he can choose a Special Maneuver:
Break Natural Armour/Shield - if the foe’s armour and/or shield if made of natural materials, it breaks and becomes useless.   If both armour and shield are susceptible to this effect, the shield will always break first.

Extra Damage - the weapon’s Damage Multiplier increases by one. A Tiny Weapon goes from x ½ to x1, a Small Weapon goes from x1 to x2, and so on.
Wound - the opponent must roll on the Wounds Table (which usually happens only if reduced to 0 or less HP).  This Wound is always temporary.

Knock Down/Back - the foe stumbles back a few feet or falls down.  He needs to use a Half-Move to stand up or lose all Defense.

Disarm - the foe’s weapon goes flying out of his hand.  He must use a Half-Move to draw another weapon.

Stunning Flurry - a flurry of disorienting blows that forces the foe to make an INT Throw or lose his next turn.

Deadly Display - the character's display of martial prowess is so intimidating that the foe must immediately make a Morale Throw.  This is only useful against NPC's as player characters never make Morale Throws.
The Referee should feel free to add any other Special Maneuvers that seem fun.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Blood on the Sand II: The Finale

Here's the finale to the fight I posted about previously.  As before, first the mechanics and then the narration.

Melee - Admago attacks Wild Man 4. Rolls 8+2+10. Near miss. WM 4 attacks in return and gets 6+2+8. Nope.

Because he is so wounded, Keendo's decides he will Dodge and head toward Aban Dar (the fallen sorcerer).

Deal attacks WM 3. His first roll is 3+5=8 and misses. But his second (he's fighting with two daggers) is box-cars, for a total of 12+5=17. He pushes his multiplier from x1 to x2 and does 14 points of damage; the bugger is dead (several times over), but the pit-fighter looks cool). WM 3 strikes at Deal and gets snake-eyes! His spear is broken, which would suck for him, except that he is dead and so it's not the worst thing that has happened to him lately.

Missile - none.

Magic - none.

Movement - Admago circles around to see Aban Dar bleeding and Keendo rushing his way.

Deal heads toward Admago and WM 4.

Aban Dar lies still and bleeds.

WM 4 decides to make a run for it, giving Admago a free attack at his back. Admago rolls a lousy 4, though and misses.

WM 6 is gone.

The Desert Man and his foe circle each other - sword feinting against spear, spear clashing with sword - but neither finds an opening.

Further on, Keendo takes the opportunity to slip away from the melee and run toward the bleeding Sorcerer, hoping to avoid any further injury. Dea-laidir watches him go, while warding off his foe's spear with his twin blades. As the Wild Man makes a powerful thrust, the pit-fighter jumps aside and hears, with satisfaction, the sound of the spear splintering against the hard ground. At nearly the same split second, he strikes with both blades: the shaggy barbarian manages to dodge one, but, in so doing, places himself right in the path of the second bone dagger and Dea-laidir claims his second throat of the day.

Rather than savouring his victory, though, the sicarius is immediately off towards the embattled Admago. But even as he does so, that Wild Man, seeing the hopelessness of his situation, begins to run off the path, into the underbrush, in a desperate attempt to save his own life. The Desert Man attempts to strike at the suddenly exposed back, but misses.

All is silent.

What I Learned
All in all, I feel pretty good about the fairly substantial changes I have made to the combat system.  It actually shocks me that I have added complexity to the basic, abstract system of Ye Auld Game; I almost feel like I should turn in my Rules-Lite Gamer card.  But, I dunno, this is all working for me.  There were a couple of intriguing dice results in this combat: a PC got box-cars while an NPC got snake-eyes in not one but two rounds.  The result in the round was inconsequential but made the PC look awesome (14 points of damage in one blow!); the sorcerer's box-cars in the previous round was nifty and had a cool double-kill effect.

But there are some kinks that need working out:

First, I should make clear that in table-top play, you can announce your intentions per phase, rather than all at the beginning of the round.  The Ref should say, "Anyone doing Melee?" and resolve that; then "Anyone shooting missiles?" and so on.  That way, if you had intended to charge someone, but they die in the Melee Phase, you don't have to charge their corpse. You could certainly say that this simulates fog of war and whatnot, but I don't find it much fun. I definitely don't want scripted combat, which is the result otherwise.

Second, I totally made up that parting shot for Admago on the spot, based on a rule in the S&S Combat section that I had heretofore ignored (it is kinda buried a bit in the book).  It occurred to me that melee could become a game of leap-frog otherwise: move in on Round 1, attack and then half-move back to your friends. I don't like where that heads.  So here's the expanded idea for movement in melee, taking cues from the B/X iteration of YAG:

Any character who attacks or is attacked during the Melee Phase is engaged. An engaged character cannot move in those rounds in which he is engaged with 3 exceptions:

1. His opponent dies during the Melee Phase, effectively disengaging the character.  The character can make a half-move the same round.

2. He dodges during the Melee Phase, which also effectively disengages him (a "Fighting Withdrawal").  Half-move possible in the same round.  This also disengages the opponent, who is thus free to make a half-move following the character and re-engage him next round.

3. He forgoes any attack or dodge, doing nothing and thereby disengaging (a "Full Retreat").  The character is free to make a full move at the same phase, BUT his opponent gets a "parting shot": a free, extra attack at the character's retreating backside.  The character in full retreat cannot apply a Shield or a Parry to his Defense against this parting shot (although his natural, level-based Defense still applies).

Monday, December 13, 2010

Blood on the Sand

Same shtick as usual: light posting, but heavy behind the scenes work.  However, I thought it might be interesting if I posted a little snippet of a combat that occurred during the current play-test as it really shows off how combat in Under the Dying Sun works as opposed to more baseline Ye Auld Game. 

The fight is between 4 PC's and 6 Wild Men, those hairy little barbarians that lurk throughout the Tharian Hills.  The PC's, all first level, are Admago (Desert Man Slayer), Dea-laidir of the Pit (True Man Slayer), Aban Dar (True Man Sorcerer), and Keendo (Mutant Survivor).  What follows is just one round; first, the mechanics, followed by a bit of narration (I always liked when gamebooks woudl do that thing on facing pages). 

The Mechanics
Melee - Wild Men (WM hereafter) 4-6 were charging Admago and Aban Dar. Somehow, I forgot that these three guys were in between Admago and the further group. D'oh! Even with the Desert Man's speed, I don't see him running around three charging foes who were only 20 feet away. So, I say that Admago intended to move up, but meets WM 4 halfway (10') and clashes. Each gets a charge attack.

Adamago rolls 9+2=11. He does 1x3 with his bronze sword (3 because he charged) points of damage, not quite killing the Wild Man. His foe gets in his attack at the same time: WM 4 rolls 6+2=8 and misses.

Meanwhile, the WM 5 and 6 charge Aban Dar, who meets them with his wonderful iron dagger. The sorcerer rolls boxcars for a Critical Hit! No point in breaking the Wild Man's armour, so Aban Dar chooses to bump his damage multiplier from x1 to x2. His roll was 12+1=13, so he does 3x2 damage and obliterates WM 5.

But WM 5 gets his attack in. He rolls 11+2=13. Uh-oh. That's 3X3=9 damage. More than the sorcerer has, so he must roll on the Wounds Table. He gets 3:5, which means that his Left Shoulder is wounded; lose 1 STR. He then rolls to see if it's permanent and gets a 4; yep, that shoulder is permanently screwed. Which kind of sucks, but only if he doesn't die right now anyway

WM 6 rolls and gets snake-eyes for a Fumble! He misses and his spear breaks.

Meanwhile, Deal rushes back toward WM 2 and 3, who are rushing Keendo. He goes for the wounded WM 2 [No. 2 was hit by Admago's spear previously]. Deal rolls 6+5=11. Because he is charging he does 1x2=2 damage with his dagger and WM 2 is dead.

Before he dies, he strikes out at his target of Keendo. He rolls 3+1+4 and misses. His partner, OTOH, rolls 10+1=11, doing 1x3=3 points of damage to the mutant (who now has 1 left).

Keendo gets in his licks and rolls 7+2=9. Nada.

Missile - None.

Magic - None.

Movement - Admago and Deal charged so no movement this round. Keendo can do a half-move if he wants to try and get away from the WM. Aban Dar is on the ground bleeding from a massive shoulder wound and needs immediate attention.

All WM charged and so don't get to move this round either.

Summary - Aban Dar is ground zero, next to WM 5 whom he killed. WM 6 is with him, holding a broken spear.

10' on, Admago and a very wounded WM 4 stand.

35' feet from AD, Keendo and Deal, with WM 3. WM 2 is dead on the ground.

WM 6 decided to run from the party in the direction his whole group had originally been taking. He'll gone unless someone wants to chase him.

WM 4 attacks Admago.

WM 3 doesn't want to stand around between Deal and Keendo; he decides to try and run past the otherwise engaged Admago and get away like WM 6.

The Narration
The tense seconds of combat , which had seemed an eternity, suddenly explode into blood and death! Admago tries to reach Keendo, but is intercepted by one of the charging Wild Men.  The Slayer dodges a spear-thrust and delivers a stout backhand to his foe's chest.  The Wild Man isn't dead, but he looks ready to drop.

Behind him, the other two spear-men race forward and find Aban Dar alone.  Alone, but not helpless. He dodges one attack and sees his foe's spear shatter on the ground.  The sorcerer then whirls his flashing steel dagger and cleanly puts it directly into the marauder's right eye!  Yet even as he does, his opponent's spear pierces through the muscles of Aban Dar's left shoulder; pierces and rips through. Blood flashes about both foemen as they sink down together, the third man standing mutely with the broken haft of his spear dangling from his hands.

Meanwhile, two other Wild Men charge Keendo, even as Dea-laidir of the Pit charges them. The Slayer catches one off-guard, parries a spear-thrust, and plants his dagger in his foe's throat. But even as that one falls, the other stabs Keendo in his side with a wicked thrust. The mutant feels burning fire and knows that he can't last much longer.

What will happen?  Will the party triumph?  And, if so, at what cost?  Stay tuned...