And, other maneuvers where you’re not actively trying to harm the other character…
Do you count the character’s AC bonus in against your attack throw? Seems like you wouldn’t. If I’m just trying to grab someone, or knock their weapon out of their hand, it doesn’t make much sense to add their Plate armor in as defense.
Is this just up to the judge? Is there some official guidance on this? I assume this is why the -4 penalty is factored in. But, I don’t know.
And, other maneuvers where you’re not actively trying to harm the other character…
well, in the “old days” there was no flat-footed or touch-ac at least officially if i remember correctly. we had houserules for not applying armor and/or shield adjustments back in these days (for example: surprised: no bonus because of a shield). so i would say: judge’s call.
we interpreted the penalty a the difficulty of a maneuver: if its not a basic attack, it has a -4 penalty (because a maneuver is more difficulty to perform than a simple hack’n slash attack)
You do count the character’s AC bonus from armor, yes.
Simulation: Consider that the context of the fight is one where both combatants are armed and capable of really hurting each other.
If I am trying to disarm you, its much easier to get you to drop your blade by plausibly threatening to cut off your arm or slice your fingers off. If your arms and hands are armored, I must resort to deft maneuver.
If I am trying to wrestle you to the ground, it’s easier to do so if I can force you into a badly-leveraged or off-balance position by threatening your unarmored areas, cutting at your hamstrings, and so on. On the other hand, if you are a head-to-toe wall of steel, I must resort to brute force.
And so on. You can loosely test this yourself by playing with SCA swords. Let Combatant #1 only be hurt in his arm pits, neck, and groin (plate armor). Let Combatant #2 be hurt from any touch anywhere on his body. See which combatant is easiest to force back, knock down, sunder, disarm, etc.
Game Mechanics: I believe 3.5’s “Touch AC” was a very bad mechanic. D&D does not provide for an increasing armor class as fighters increase in skill. Instead, it uses armor as a proxy for how hard someone is to hit, and represents increasing survivability with higher hit points. Allowing an attack to bypass both armor and hit points, then, bypasses everything that makes fighters worthwhile in combat.
HEMA nerd nitpickery coming up, sorry…
SCA swords don’t bind like steel, and SCA combat is atrocious as a model of anything approaching historical fighting. (Even dull steel doesn’t bind like sharp steel, but it’s the closest safe for practice simulator there is.)
From sim perspective disarms happen after closing in by grabbing the handle of their weapon, but that’s contrary to the genre imagery, so leaving that aside…
Closing in to wrestle is the one of the best ways to deal with someone in armor, and it doesn’t so much involve making them drop their blade as controlling it.
Armor does make is it harder, yes, but that’s because before you can close in you both pass through the “blender” range, and you can’t afford any mistakes there if you’re not in armor – whereas they can.
Touch AC goes too far, but for both gamist and sim reasons I do think trying for a wrestling hold against someone in superior armor should be a better tactic than it is right now.
…I have no ready-made solutions, though.
Hi demoss. Thanks for the feedback! I was originally going to say “boffer swords” as that’s what I actually have used to test my game mechanics. Here at Autarch HQ we wage what we call “Nerd Thunderdome…” ANYWAY, what’s HEMA? I’m not familiar with the phrase.
I think your post makes sense and appreciate the insights of someone who has fought with real steel.
In most cases I’ve found the ACKS rules quite satisfactory and much moreso than the 3.5 rules for the same tactics. But surely they could be improved from a simulation POV, if not necessarily a gamist one. If someone (you?) wants to write up some rules mods to make a better sim of medieval fighting, we can host them on the Community Downloads section of the site. That’d be cool.
Historical European Martial Arts
Sounds good guys. Just checking.
To quote my fencing instructor: “Boffer fighting breaks all the known rules of swordplay.”
I’m pretty sure I will tweak the special maneuver rules at some point, but I’m not sure what I want out of them yet, so…
Anyways, IMO it is absolutely impossible to get a really satisfying close combat emulation in an RPG: even games like Riddle of Steel that claim to be built on understanding of historical combat techniques don’t do that. It’s like writing rules for sex, and claiming they model reality even remotely. “I aim at the clitoris!” Feh.
The more abstract you keep it, the closer to reality you can get. Stepping outside the D&Dish context, opposing skill rolls + situational modifiers from weapons and armor is the probably the most realistic system you can have. Both roll, the better success wins the combat.
…but that’s not really the kind of system you want in a dungeon crawl. A bit too quick and brutal. Even more importantly, not enough choices for the player to make.
So whatever I want is about at the current level of complexity, and while I appreciate it if specific rules don’t appear egregiously contrary to reality (or my understanding thereof), simminess isn’t really what I’m after in combat.
From my limited amount of experience with ACKS’ combat rules, I do think I want to make the special maneuvers a bit more tempting: either increase the payoff (or make the payoff more obvious), reduce the penalties, or both.
This line of thinking started in the last game when I outlined the Overrun rules for a player whose character wanted to rush past two fighters to engage a third, hoping to take them down before they pulled the lever they were standing next to.
After taking in the rules the player blinked, and (IMO sensibly!) decided “OK, no. That’s not going to work. I’ll hit the guy in front of me.” On reflection I think I would have wanted him to cringe a bit and go for it anyways – and would like the rules to have encouraged that.
…but I’m still holding judgement, and want to see how the group engages with RAW a bit longer before tinkering.
Regarding the special maneuvers, what level are your PCs? Low level I think? At higher levels the special maneuvers become far more common. So my one recommendation is don’t make the pay-off so good for low level characters that it becomes overwhelmingly good for high level characters.
Yeah. I’m thinking the penalties need to at least partially be in form of actual risks – as opposed to penalties just causing “oh, nothing happened”, which should scale better with levels.
(Four characters on 2nd level, one of them 1 XP shy of third level. …but plenty of players don’t even have characters yet – so median is 1st level. The total player pool is 12, and there’s a limit of 5 players per session.)
You can use Closing In in lieu of normal Force Back, Overrun or Wrestling rules.
When Closing In you suffer a -4 penalty to your AC till your next action. Additionally, you must succeed in an unmodified melee attack throw against your opponent. If they’ve yet to act this round they can attack you as you close in, even if their initiative is lower than yours. A successful attack on their part does normal damage and aborts your attempt to close in. You cannot Close In on someone who has already hit your this round. If you successfully close in, you’ve either overrun your opponent, forced them back, or have them in a wrestling hold. Massive size differences are factored in as penalties or bonuses to your initial attack roll.
In addition to the options listed in the core book, the dominant wrestler can automatically strike the held wrestler with a short weapon such as a dagger.
A natural 20 on a regular attack throw allows you to attempt any of the following special maneuvers without another attack throw: Disarm, Force Back, Knock Down, Overrun, Sunder, Wrestling. The maneuver replaces your regular attack, and your opponent is entitled to the normal save versus Paralysis associated with these special maneuvers.
(EDIT: I’m thinking about making it a D6 roll instead of allowing any maneuver to be picked: 1=Disarm, 2=Force Back, 3=Knock Down, 4=Overrun, 5=Sunder, 6=Wrestling. The player can either perform the maneuver or just roll damage normally.)
Opportune Maneuvers seems like a harmless injection of color and variation – I’m pretty confident it’s not a problem. Allowing stabbity-stabbity with Wrestling suits me fine as well.
It’s the Closing In that I’m less sure of. In principle it seems right: AC -4 neatly mirrors -4 penalty to attack throw, and makes these maneuvers easier to do, but risky: currently they just have an opportunity cost. Replacing the saving throw with an attack throw makes fighters also better at resisting this shit than mages, which also seems right… but I’m wondering if I’m missing something else.
When you say unmodified attack throw do you mean you ignore their ac?
No, enemy AC applies normally. I used that phrasing a bit stupidly to underline that the -4 from core rules isn’t there.
"Replacing the saving throw with an attack throw makes fighters also better at resisting this shit than mages, which also seems right… but I’m wondering if I’m missing something else. "
I think that hitting AC in the first place makes fighters better at resisting maneuvers despite having a lower save probability.
Of course, if you wanted to have a wrestling contest… one where participants stripped down to their “wrestling tights” ala WWE… then the fighter is probably the worst contestant at low levels.