You Bash the Balrog, I’ll Climb the Tree

Workshop 6

Combat is the most dice-ridden area of roleplaying games.
Advantages of invisible combat include a better roleplaying feel and allows the players to get into their characters. Disadvantages include that it is harder for the Game Master to run, some players like to play with their dice and the Game Master needs to keep track of the numbers (accounting system) so you don’t get lost. One thing to remember when doing combat — “uh-huh” are words for a player’s nightmare! Description is the key. Describe the damage without numbers. Numbers are B-O-R-I-N-G! Don’t feel constrained by the lack of detail. Make it up based on the die rolls. Let them see the combat in their minds, not numbers on a page. Allow your players to be creative. If you want to speed up combat — use the 50 / 50 rule. Half the time everyone hits or makes the action they are attempting. Be prepared to be flexible. Don’t ruin the game by one bad die roll. If it furthers the plot — that’s what you need. Use the terrain in combat. You are not a miniature on a flat table. You must describe the terrain. Does combat have to be to the death? NO! Realize what the beast you are using will fight to the death for: ● Protect their young (usually). ● The more hungry, the more desperate, the more likely they are to fight to death. Most intelligent beings will NOT fight to the death!

Combat may be avoidable under many circumstances: ● Compromise / deals ● Guile / sneak around ● Get them (opponents) to fight one another ● Make the enemy realize he is not going to win Give the players experience to find a way round a combat situation instead of killing the beast immediately. If the non-player character knows he is going to die, he will take everyone he can with him. You, as the Game Master, have to keep track of the math. Keep player character summaries in front of you. How can you tailor the attack to them without one? Also, keep non-player character summaries in front of you. You need all to hit scores . . . all weapon damages per each weapon they carry. . . armor effects . . . special saving throws . . . If the numbers are in front of you, the player can stay in character while you quickly reference them. Hit point check list — quickly keep a running total. Don’t give them a number, give them a description. Do the same with the opponents / beasts that you do with your players. You should have all the same numbers. However, you should expand it to typical tactics and personality quirks. Descriptions of the non-player characters / monsters will help. Don’t make a monster’s attacks predictable.

Game Master Workshop Series

Do you run into situations where you run into a lot of little things? Rats? Mosquitoes?

Balancing Combat — THE MATH Philosophy
We have to get an idealized character — a character that can be termed as “cannon fodder.” After we have this character, we can use this information to measure everything else. ● Defense Factor — the number of turns the opponent / monster can stand against the “idealized character.” ● Attack / Aggressive Factor — damage the opponent can deliver to kill the player character. It is more realistic to figure out what the monster’s most dangerous attack is, if he has multiple attacks, than all of his attacks. You can use this to scale the party against the monsters / animals. It shows only how lethal your monsters are. You are seeing if your monsters are too easy, too hard, or just right for your party. Multiple Characters 1 monster = 1 monster mark 2 monsters = 3 monster marks 3 monsters = 6 monster marks If you are using a system that changes your attack information as you are damaged, this will not work. (Weakened characters.) Magical items, spells, etc. count as special attacks. Situational changes will affect this system. A lonely orc against the party in the forest is different than the lonely orc standing on a rope bridge who is not afraid to fall. The party must meet the latter one at a time. If your characters’ / beasts’ armor class is negative, this won’t work. Treat all negative scores in this area as a “zero.” Bend reality. Especially if the die roll isn’t there!

“Swarm Combat”
In swarm combat, you treat the entire “swarm” as a single creature with multiple attacks. Swarm attacks always hit. Determine how many points of damage that round hit, not if they hit. This method saves a lot of time. Attacks on the swarm should also be automatic. You should have each attack reduce the damage each round by what it has taken. Determine the time in which the “swarm” will disperse.

Visualization
Miniatures help determine the placement of all player characters, non-player characters, and beasts. It also helps with whether a weapon can be wielded properly. The better and more realistic the figures, the more the players will enjoy it. Miniatures show who can and cannot attack. They show where obstacles are. It provides additional possibilities for roleplaying combat (leaping from tabletops, dropping boulders, and sneak attacks). If there are things that are legal for the player characters, it is legal for the non-player characters. If your non-player characters are clever, the players will notice. The only thing the dice do for combat is add randomness.

MONSTER MARK CALCULATION SHEET
Definitions Defensive Value (D): Number of turns that a given character can survive while being hit by the “Idealized Character.” Aggression Value (A): The average amount of damage that the given character can inflict on the “Idealized Character” in “D” rounds of combat. Monster Mark (M): Aggression Value of the character multiplied by a factor depending upon special attacks (magic, poison, etc.). Average Die Roll: When a number and type of dice are given (in the form of ndx), the average roll may be found by the following formula, where “n” is the number of dice, and “x” is the type of die: n*x avg ndx = —— + 2 n —— 2 1*8 —— 2 1 —— 2

Thus, the average roll for 1d8 would be

+

= 4.5

NOTE: Characters with equivalent Monster Mark values will both die in a combat.

For AD&D “Idealized Character” - level 1 fighter, wearing armor class 2 armor, bearing 1d8 sword. Formulas: 40 10 D = —— + —— 9 (AC+1)

where HTK = Hits to Kill (Hit Points)

A = D * (p1d1 + p2d2 + . . . +pndn), where p = % chance to hit AC2, d = average damage of attack, n = total number of attacks allowed M = F * A, where F = Special Attack Factor:
Attack ...........................................................................................................F Attack ........................................................................................................... F

Disease (D) ......................................................................1.5 Level Drain (L) ...............................................................2.5 2 Level Drain (LL) .......................................................... 4 Magical Attack (Ma) ............................................1.5 to 3 Magical Weapons (Mw) ..............................................1.5 Paralysis (Pa) .................................................................... 2

Petrifaction (Pe) ........................................................... 2.5 Poison (Po) .........................................................................2 Regeneration (R) .......................................................... 1.5 Strength Drain (St) ....................................................... 1.5 Strong Hug (Sh) ........................................................... 1.5

Sample Calculations: “Idealized Character”: AC2, HTK=10, 1 attack (15% THAC2), damage: Sword 1d8 (avg = 4.5) 40 D = —— 9 10 + —— = 14.81 (2+1)

A = 14.81 * (.15 * 4.5) = 10.00 Lion: AC5, HD= 5+2 (HTD=24.5), 5 attacks (40% THAC2), damage 2 * 100% d10, 2 * 16% d6 +1 40 D = —— 9 24.5 —— = (5+1)

+

18.15

A = 18.15 * (2 * (.40 * 2.5) + (.40 * 5.5) + 2 * (.064 * 4.5) = 86.88

This paper is a written record of the “Game Master Workshop Series” presented by Guy McLimore and Greg K. Poehlein, creators of Star Trek: The Roleplaying Game. This workshop was held at GenCon in 1993. There are eight pieces to this series. This account was made by Laura Rajsic-Lanier (lauralanier@comcast.net). She makes no claims to the material presented herein.

Game Master Workshop Series

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful