Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Armed vs. Unarmed

Thomas wants to know when you take "Armed" Strength vs. "Unarmed." Let's explain what that means: When simulating super-strong characters we tested them "barehanded" and "with a sword." When we tested them with the sword we'd deduct the 4 AP the sword cost from their strength--but the combination made the whole strike PEN damage at Medium Reach. Because the test character were L3 they were all as fast as a punch.

It turned out that having a sword + Strength was better than 4 AP of STR + Strength. In other words, adding a sword to your character was better than the cost implied. On the other hand, having a sword without strength was the right cost so just increasing the cost of Sword didn't work.

So we came up with the concept of "Armed" Strength vs. Unarmed Strength. The rule-of-thumb is this: if your character will commonly carry an edged weapon or deal PEN damage of any sort then you pay the Armed cost. If not? Unarmed.

The most clear cut cases of Unarmed STR are:

  • Chi Martial Artists who fight emphatically without weapons
  • Superhero 'bricks' who never use weapons of any sort
  • Club-using barbarians or giants who don't "know how" to use a sword
The most clear-cut cases of Armed STR are:
  • Super-strong swordsmen (duh)
  • Cyborgs with cyber-claws or cyber-blades
  • Animals with claws or teeth or other PEN-damage bio-attacks
The gray areas are:
  • Everything else.
So what do you do if you are in a gray area? Do you pay the Armed cost as a matter of course?

Short answer: yes.
Long answer: yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss.

Real Answer: The first position you should take is this: if you take the Unarmed STR then you cannot arm yourself. This is a meta-game rule and it's simple and you can dance to it. However, we can, of course, see how you might find that uninviting. So there are some Advanced/Optional rules you can use.

1. You can track and, uhm, switch strengths (so you use the lower value when armed). This is more complex and might "make no sense" but, hey, balanced.

2. You can use a bladed weapon or, for that matter, any weapon up to and including a 'nuclear cannon' if the game allows it--and not pay AP. However, if you are using our suite of optional rules then named NPC and PC targets can use one of several "special defenses" against any weapon you didn't pay AP for. One of these defenses is, for example, 'automatic dodge' (you pay the REA and the attack misses--no roll) so if you do carry the nuclear cannon ... or arm yourself having taken 'Unarmed STR' then when you go up against a serious foe they'll have some very effective defenses. Again, this is is advanced/optional so you don't need to go to the back of the book to make this work unless you're interested in using these kinds of rules.

3. There are some games (think "Super Agents") where the PCs will pay for innate abilities but get gear (including weapons) issued to them or otherwise free with respect to AP-cost. In this case you could take Unarmed STR because your fellow super-agents (or whatever) might be carrying assault rifles or something and if you've got a katana and super strength you might not even "keep up with that" anyway (of course you could also have an assault rifle but presumably they spent the AP you spent on STR on being more effective with theirs).

So there are several options around this--but if you are not interested in going into the complexities of JAGS games and gear (there's a whole section on this) then you just make the decision: will I ever arm myself? And if you decide 'no' then you aren't gonna do it--and you can take Unarmed STR.

Or, you know, you could calculate both numbers and write the "Armed" number on the side of your character sheet and not worry about it too much ;)


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