Scoot & Shoot

I suppose this happened plenty in B/X upon which ACKs is based as well, but it seems like when you have a fight on wide open plains, unencumbered archers have an amazing advantage against anyone with less than full move speed and no ranged attack. They can shoot from long range, having a low but not non-existent chance to hit, and then switch to a full run when targets get too close. In fact it would seem that they’ll eventually end up with a foe who has spent too many rounds running and is now a sitting duck.

I have a few solutions: I assume any kind of intelligent humanoid has some kind of ranged attack, for anything but plains hexes I can reasonably limit the size of the battlefield or even create tight “corridors” from natural structures that limit running potential, but for example some of my players were able to take down a skitting maw at level 1 without taking a single hit using this exact strategy.

Am I missing something or is this how RAW works? I’m not sure I NEED to do anything since it’s a fairly rare confluence of events, but it just seems a bit odd.

Fighter A: leather armor and composite bow (range 70/140/210). Move 120, run 360.
Fighter B: plate armor and polearm. Move 60, run 180.

Both fighters move closer together until they hit range 210, at which point A starts firing and B starts running. Assuming A gets the initiative:

A fires once at B.
B runs to within 30 feet of A.
A runs to 210, because he doesn’t want to eat polearm.
B runs to within 30 feet of A.
A runs to 390.
B walks to 335, just out of A’s move-and-attack range.
A waits.
B runs to 155.
A has to run again . . .

Rinse, wash, repeat. If A has a better CON, A will eventually get some attacks; if B has a better CON, A is going to eat polearm.

Note that historically, arrows were more of a problem for horses than for plate-armored and shield-wielding soldiers (arrows simply lacked the penetrating power), but this has always been a problem to represent in D&D.

you’re using exploration movement. round movement is 1/3rd those values, so the 120’ leather armor fighter can scoot 40’ and run 120’, while the heavy armored one moves 20’ or runs 60’. thus, the range of the bow allows for more shots, albeit at penalties.

Archers on a wide open plain are definitely at their best. That said, even in the best possible case, they won't inevitably win. The balancing factors are:

  1. They have to monitor ammunition
  2. They suffer severe range penalties (-5 at long range). Typically this will result in an attack throw of 20+ for low-level archers against armored characters.
  3. A melee attacker in ACKS can attack with a charge (~ 90' charge movement rate for armored characters) whereas an archer can only fire with combat movement (~ 40' combat movement rate for unarmored archers). So the melee attacker is tactically faster in terms of controlling the range, unless the archer gives up the opportunity to attack. This means that the melee attacker can keep the archer at long range, if desired.

With a typical archer carrying 20 arrows and hitting only on a 20, he's only likely to hit once before running out of ammo. One hit might be enough to kill the melee attacker, but it might not.

In general, though, it's not a bad thing if unencumbered archers dominate on wide open plains. Consider the Asian Steppes, which were dominated by the Scythians (archers), Huns (archers), Parthians (archers), and Mongols (archers). Conversely, the heavy spearmen of Greece dominated in a landscape of narrow, constricted battlefields.






Ah, my bad. That changes things.

Having a ranged attack against a slow guy is an advantage, as it should be.

But p. 101 says that you can only run for a number of rounds equal to 2xCON. Plus, there’s ammunition to consider.

So, in that one case, sure. It seems fair that a team of fast-moving dudes can outmaneuver and pick off a lone tank.

But if there was more than one skittering maw, perhaps with one not running like the other? Also, unless all of your team has CON scores of 12 or better, the skittering maw will eventually catch up. And you might well use up a ton of arrows.

I’d argue that the PCs don’t have laser range-finders on them. How do they know when the maw is inside 120 yards? But then again, these are skilled adventurers, so maybe they can eyeball it without a problem.

As you said, the occurrence is rare, and probably works as expected.

Consider a manticore with a 180’ fly speed, and 180’ ranged attack (no penalty!). If the PCs are caught in a plain by a manticore, it’s going to go badly for them.

I guess I’m saying that it sucks if you’re on the other side of it, but I don’t know that it’s inherently a problem.

Thanks everyone, I suspected this was things working as intended, but I really love the historical precedents that back it up.

In the case of the skittering maw, ammo wasn’t a concern because it was a whole party of adventurers each with a quarrel of 20. most of them needed a 12 to 15 to hit, but that was often enough to succeed.

Now they are looking at a travelling warband of hobgoblins and contemplating the same tactics, and with the hobgoblins having a move of 30’/90’, it’s possible for it to happen again, but i think now they’re much more at risk of running out of ammo.

Plus, you know, hobgoblins aren’t dumb animals, and are even depicted as being rather organized militarily, such that it wouldn’t seem unreasonable for them to run down the party for 24 turns with a smaller force, and then have the remainder catch up with them before they can rest.

12-15 to hit?! How are they getting +5 to +7 bonuses at level 1?

sorry that was before range increments. so at medium range 14 to 19 and 17 to 20 at long range.

Yeah, I definitely plan to have the hobgoblins take a tactically smart approach to having their caravan ambushed, but it’s hard to not make them seem prescient. I reasoned that an entire warband should have at least some crossbows, even if they’re sitting in the wagons at first. I also like your idea of having them be chased by a smaller party at first, though right now it’s 11 humans vs. 19 hobgoblins.