Thursday, 25 April 2013

RPG combat and realism

Noisms' latest post on creating gritty and realistic tactical combat struck a chord with me for a number of reasons.

I swing between a variety of moods when it comes to RPGs in general, and their combat systems in particular. Sometimes I think that D&D combat works fine on an abstract level, hit points are not meant to represent actual damage, and it's fine that a hero can take on a dragon and win. Usually I need something grittier, and think all PCs should be afraid of dying to mundane threats, and certainly shouldn't be able to shrug off attacks from dozens of lesser foes. And occasionally I think that PCs have it far to easy in even the grittiest system, and anyway we just don't know enough about medieval / renaissance combat (despite the wonders of YouTube!) to create a remotely credible system so why bother!

Most of the time though I'm happy that combat in WFRP1e is "good enough", and appropriately gritty for me. I would like to put that to the test a bit, and for example model some of the following, in order to put some sort of metric on the lethality of the system -
  • Lightly armed militia versus unarmoured labour
  • Unarmoured dualist versus each of the above
  • Fully armoured dwarf judicial champion versus each of the above
Hopefully at the end of things I'll still be happy that it's gritty enough. If not I might have to adopt Noisms' system.

Meanwhile, I need to learn more about the life expectancy of a Roman gladiator.

"Fixing" WFRP 1e - what to house rule?

Thanks to the WFRP A-Z blogging challenge, in particular some great posts from +Marc Torley, I stumbled across the nostalgia fest that is Let's Read: WFRP First Edition and hence Zweihänder's Whiff Factor discussion.

This led me back to a topic that's been on my mind if I ever do ever get back to GMing WFRP, which is what if anything I would house rule?

I don't remember us having house rules back in the day, although I know I overlooked at least two rules as written - the +10 bonus for winning, and critical skill failures (30+ over the target number). I also had a dwarf warrior player in my main group, and while he and the party knew he was very hard to kill it also never led to the mindset where they could just fall back on violence at any opportunity. WFRP players know that the world is against them, even if right now they may be winning...

So, with the benefit of hindsight, what if anything do I feel is wrong with the WFRP 1st edition rules, and is serious enough it needs fixing?

Not broken, in my opinion (but commonly viewed as such)

  1. The imbalance of starting careers (that's life)
  2. The extremely slow progression of spell casters (magic is difficult)
  3. Elves dominating with high Initiative (they're not human)

Broken, but leave as is

Strength / attacks for large creatures. Clearly dragons and giants should be on a whole other strength scale than the characters are, and in the case of giants should probably be slow but hard hitting (miss, dodge, miss, miss, dead character). However I can't see myself using anything larger than a troll in a campaign, so this doesn't bother me enough to house rule

Slightly broken

  1. The "whiff" factor
  2. Naked dwarf syndrome
I don't think the "whiff" factor (i.e. starting characters being a bit rubbish) is nearly as big an issue as the Zweihänder author does (for example). He has valid points - the chance of critical failure versus success is too high for starting characters, and the multi career characters are conversely powerful. There is also the common complaint that in some circumstances (often elves again) an unskilled character with high stats is better than an average character with the appropriate skill. I think my house rule here should be to follow my earlier ignorance, and for first career characters at least to play critical failures for comedy rather than danger value, rather than forgetting about them entirely. Otherwise I feel the rules as written are good enough (though clearly not perfect).

The naked dwarf syndrome I'm also not sure is a huge issue, but they probably are slightly too tough in some circumstances. I'd probably have a rule something like for creatures of above average strength (4+) an above average hit (either 6, or perhaps 4+) does a minimum of 1 wound. So I'm happy to have goblins beat on an armoured dwarf all day, but at some level they do have to worry about attrition from tougher opponents, even without the possibility of an exploding dice.

So that's my starting point, though I do have a big list of discussion threads to review from around the interweb to see if there's anything I've overlooked. Meanwhile, what glaring holes are there in my list?