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 Post subject: Hit locations and favoring defense
PostPosted: Mon Nov 12, 2012 8:49 am 
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I'm very very slowly gearing up for a Blade game. A big part of this seems to involve me musing over the combat rules.

We played a couple of fights over email, being busy with all kinds of IRL things. One thing I noted was how the players would (of course) always target the weakly armored locations. I can't remember if this seemed to be an issue in live TROS play some years back, but because of the relaxed pace of email gaming, we all had time to figure out more or less optimal attack angles. For example, a mail hauberk and a pot helm did little good for the axe wielding guardsman, since his lower legs were a valid target for Geralt.

Mix-and-match weapons and armor fits the S&S genre, so I'm thinking if Geralt were to fight again he'd just target the lower legs or other weakly armored spots.

To help me in this, TROS already has the optional rule that successive attacks to same location have increased activation cost, and if this is printed into the reference sheet maybe it will be used. I'm also thinking of two modifications:

1) Introduce a little bit of randomness into the hit location tables. Right now, it is impossible to hit above knee if targeting the lower legs. Some locations already shift to another location with a certain d6 result -- "roll on location VII (Arms)". By adding similar shifts to most all locations, there is at least a chance that a strike lands at an armored location even if not intended.

These shifts would only occur on 1 or 6, so if the attacker spends even 1 die to targeting, he can avoid hitting wrong the location.

2) The favoring rule, revisited. My TROS books are not at hand and I can't recall what exactly is the favoring rule in TFOB(?). I want favoring to be very easy to use during the game, so make it similar to throwing red/white. The combatant NOT having initiative may choose to favor high/middle/low defense before the aggressor declares his move. This is done by taking a colored die in hand (different colors for different favors - maybe white indicating no favoring in case you want to play mind games). After the attacker has declared, the defender now must reveal the die color, and gets some benefit or penalty, depending on how the favoring went.

I think 1 die penalty/benefit would be enough (with bigger gambles this would become a guessing game). So if the defender correctly matched the attack location, he'd get one extra die to any defensive maneuver. If the match was wrong, the defender would have to pay 1 die activation cost on any parry or block. Maybe evasions would not be penalized, so they would get used slightly more often (e.g. you fail to see the incoming attack, so evasion is more favorable). Maybe the favoring would also not penalize offensive moves.

I don't know how the favoring would affect feints. Maybe the defender would just lose the bonus die in case of a feint to another zone, and gain it in case the feint brings the attack to the favored zone.

Well, comments are welcome, especially to whether you've experienced problems with the hit locations in actual play. Maybe I'm just anticipating things where there just aren't any.


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 Post subject: Re: Hit locations and favoring defense
PostPosted: Mon Nov 12, 2012 5:10 pm 
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Overdrive wrote:
To help me in this, TROS already has the optional rule that successive attacks to same location have increased activation cost, and if this is printed into the reference sheet maybe it will be used.

I'm none too keen on this. There is still a good degree of abstraction in the combat mechanics, and two attacks to the same location may actually be executed in wildly different ways. The fact that somebody does swing at the shins twice or three times in a row does not necessarily mean that the attacks are executed in similar ways; actually, it is unlikely, as every attack will lleave both combatants in totally different positions than before the attack,making it actually impossible to attack in the same way once again. So I'd only begin penalizing the third and subsequent attacks to the same zone. And then I'd give a small bonus if the attacker does suddenly break his pattern of attack after, say, four or so attacks to the same location.

Overdrive wrote:
2) The favoring rule, revisited. [...] After the attacker has declared, the defender now must reveal the die color, and gets some benefit or penalty, depending on how the favoring went.

From what I understand about actual fights with melee weapons, I think that this wouldn’t work, because it is too random. You see, in my understanding, it is plainly visible what body part is being favoured.

In a real melee combat, during the “favouring phase”, that is, before blows are actually exchanged, a combatant assumes a guard position threatening some of his opponent’s body parts. Discerning the likely attack, the threatened opponent does in turn shift into another guard protecting the threatened areas. As a response, the other guy shifts again, and so on, until one decides to actually commit himself to an attack.

Making favouring a guessing game is therefore exactly contrary to melee combat how I understand it.

Overdrive wrote:
1) Introduce a little bit of randomness into the hit location tables.

This strikes me as more feasible, even though I am not a big fan of this fix. It is largely a matter of personal taste, though. Anyhow, it shouldn’t take too much work to reassign the numbers to the tables.

If I ever found the exploitation of weakly armoured spots to be an issue with any given group, I’d use one of these two fixes:

1) Decree that the target of very low attacks (i.e. usually the lower legs) are one range band more distant than the rest of the body. This is actually very plausible, as the defender’s shins actually are much farther from the attacker’s shoulders than the defender’s chest.

2) Decree that all very low attacks (i.e. usually those to the lower legs) require +1 Activation Cost to simulate the awkward angle of attack and the greater distance to this low location. This is the solution I’d prefer.

You may notice that either does only deal with atacks to lower legs, not to repetitive attacks to the arms. This is not a bug, but a feature:

From gaming experience, the lower legs are the area most likely to be unarmoured. Torso, head, and thighs are much more likely to be armoured than the lower legs and are therefore less attractive for exploitative repetitive targeting. At least the upper arms are also quite likely to armoured, and I am not overly worried about hits to the lower arms – lower arms seem to have been a prime target. When I recall my Miyamoto Musashi correctly, he recommends cuts to the opponent’s lower arms and hands above all other attacks.

And speking of favoured taget zones: As some of you may know, the bodies of the hastily buried casualties of the Battle of Visby proofed very enlightening. The vast majority of the casualties had two injuries: One to the legs and one to the head. As nobody who has already cleft his opponent’s head will stop to then also hack at his legs, it is safe to assume that the leg injury was suffered before the head injury. What seems to have happened is that the combatants were taken down by an injury to the leg and then dispatched by a swing to the head. As the vast majority of casulties displays this exact pattern of injuries, I am disinclined to discourage hits to the lower legs overmuch – this is how people actually preferred to fight.

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 Post subject: Re: Hit locations and favoring defense
PostPosted: Tue Nov 13, 2012 10:31 am 
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Thanks Michael, I know I'm jumping the gun here. The thing is, I'm fond of play aids, like condensed damage tables in this case, and it's not fun to redo those if I decide to introduce e.g. the hit location shifting. Creating the play aids forces me also to think through the rules and this in turn makes me wonder.

I think the existing hit locations and armor coverage, combined with the overall TROS combat system, are about as clever as you can get. The best thing is that if your opponent is targeting say, your arms, and you have the upper arms protected by chainmail, you can decide to rely on that 1/3 armor coverage (or not). It seems to me that if you are keen on not getting hurt, even 5/6 coverage on some zone might not let you relax on the defense one bit, but on the other hand it might just give you the opportunity to do something unexpected by letting the armor soak the damage (and probably killing or maiming you 1 time out of 6). You decide.

Thinking this thing over, maybe radical number-tweaking in the hit location tables is an overreaction. I might rule that for lower and upper legs, you roll on the other zone with 1 or 6 (and correspondingly reduce the chance of a knee hit to 1/6). Otherwise for cuts the tables already have some overlap, e.g. it's possible to hit the chest and arms (shoulders) with an overhand strike.

Another straightforward solution is of course to have metal shin guards, greaves, and similar, so there is always a chance to hit the armor, whatever zone you target.

For the lower legs in particular, I remember an old illustration detailing exactly that when two combatants fight with longswords, and one goes for the lower legs, the other should strike at the head because it's closer. An activation cost of 1 when targeting the lower legs is probably enough in game terms - though reach difference could be more proper but causes some complication (would affect stealing initiative etc.).


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 Post subject: Re: Hit locations and favoring defense
PostPosted: Tue Nov 13, 2012 11:30 am 
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Overdrive wrote:
I might rule that for lower and upper legs, you roll on the other zone with 1 or 6 (and correspondingly reduce the chance of a knee hit to 1/6).

Sure, why not? A very decent tweak.

Overdrive wrote:
Another straightforward solution is of course to have metal shin guards, greaves, and similar, so there is always a chance to hit the armor, whatever zone you target.

Shame is that those aren’t appropriate for all settings. Not so much of a problem for my own gaming, which often draws inspiration from classical antiquity, but maybe a problem for some…

Overdrive wrote:
An activation cost of 1 when targeting the lower legs is probably enough in game terms - though reach difference could be more proper but causes some complication (would affect stealing initiative etc.).

The added complication of being at two range bands at the same time is exactly why I am not so fond of the solution of effectively placing the lower legs farther away.

Overdrive wrote:
It seems to me that if you are keen on not getting hurt, even 5/6 coverage on some zone might not let you relax on the defense one bit, […]

And it seems to me that if you are keen on not getting hurt, you should avoid combat in the first place! :lol:

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