Friday, July 1, 2011

Quick Post

We got a bug in the simulator around Resisted Attacks fixed--so I should be able to do some testing in the near future and hopefully close that out. But today I wanted to talk about ... Armor ... in Fantasy.

That Fight In Game of Thrones
In HBO's Game of Thrones--which is some excellent fantasy brought lavishly to life by HBO's budgetary prowess--there is a battle between an armored knight and a bare-chested horse-lord barbarian (so to speak--I'm not sure the guy's actually a knight and ... well, whatever). The battle shows the difference in speed and agility the muscled horse-lord has, while the guy in heavy armor takes a few blows and then the sickle-shaped sword the horse-lord is using gets stuck in his armor and [ SPOILER! ].

So anyway, what do I think about that?

I think a few things.

I'd Like RPGs to Play Out Fiction and Real Life When I Want Them To
I like it when a game system can mimic something I see in fiction that I like. I like it when I'm playing an RPG and I think "I could tell the GM I do that and have the results be cool like on the screen!" (or in a book). Often this is the case--much action and most RPG rules are reasonably generic so we can fit our images into them.

Take the Lobby Battle in The Matrix, for example: while it has some problems being translated to many RPGs the basic action: no one can hit the PCs, the PCs move about and execute kicks and punches and shots that take out enemy soldiers--is all easily handled by any game system that gives you a "hard to be hit" power that you can rely on against mooks.

If you're willing to accept that 'Hit Point' damage can equate to being missed then almost any system could work. Maybe. But even beyond that, although each kick and flip and so on may be lovingly detailed by the fight choreographers there is usually no need to have more mechanical detail than most RPGs give you.

There are a few things. The first is the damage that the auto-fire weapons do to the support columns. Most RPGs don't contain rules for the distribution of missed shots. Most RPGs have only a cursory handling of attacks on walls and support columns. The GM could say they all look like chewed up apple-cores when the battle is finished--but there's rarely a mechanic that'd tell you that (as opposed to, say, the roof coming down).

Furthermore, while nothing in the combat scene in The Matrix is even supposed to be real given the movie's internal logic, it does stretch belief that a bunch of .22 long-rifle bullets could really chew up support columns like that--even with sustained fire on-target (which wasn't the case: the guys would've been spraying bullets all over the place rather than concentrating on a support beam). So that's a case where, because of the Rule of Cool (or at least a version thereof) I don't want the game to be "completely real."

Back To Game Of Thrones
In the game of thrones battle we see a few things. The first is that the armor really protects the guy he maybe blocks a few shots--but he also definitely takes a few on the armor and isn't really hurt. Even in JAGS a sword blow from a barbarian would likely deal some damage to a guy in plate armor. Maybe the dude took a little bit of damage--but it didn't look like it.

Secondly, the horse-lord was attacking several times more than the armored knight over the same period of time. Does armor--even heavy armor--cost you attacks? I can't speak for every game system but I can tell you that in JAGS that would mean plate armor would have to protect you substantially more than it currently does.

Finally there's the issue of the weapon getting (temporarily) stuck. That wouldn't be a hard rule to make and, in fact, GURPS 3rd even had one--for weapons like picks. You roll to hit--there's some kind of stuck check--and then you can't block or strike until you get your weapon out.

The problem with this is that (a) it shouldn't be happening all that often--it'd be bad for the feel of the game and (b) although it showed up for a moment in a particular piece of fiction the cost of having to make that check all the time would really, really bog the game down. There are other things we'd probably want to check for too if we were checking for weapon-stickage: did your weapon break? If you punch someone bare-handed, did you hurt yourself? And so on--there are a huge number of things in that spectrum that we could check for--but doing so would likely be prohibitive.

So What Did I Conclude?
I was watching the battle and I thought: heavy fantasy armor ought to give you an Initiative negative--slow you down--without costing you REA.

Will we do that? Probably as an optional rule--or maybe an advanced one. I don't know that I'd do it as a standard rule (it seems fairly inconsequential in most cases to warrant the extra handling time).

But it would serve to make armored knights a bit slower than guys in leather armor and I think that would, in fact, be a good thing.



  1. Regarding the stuck sword: most games I've seen represent this as a fumble on the attacker's part. As I recall, JAGS already has at least a basic, non-detailed fumble system, no?

    That can represent a lot of things, after all; the guy who ends up on his behind because he slipped on blood, the one where the fencer has his foil hook its bell on the opposite fencer's and when you recover comes apart (one that actually happened to me in real life!) and so on.

  2. It's not apropos to the post. But given JAGS-2 is FDL is the source (e.g. Wordprocessor / Page layout file) available for download anywhere?

    I ask because getting the text into a VGT / VTT form (such as Traipse / OpenRPG or Fantasy Grounds II) would be made much less labor intensive.

  3. Leny2010--yes. There's a Rich Text File. When I'm home from traveling I'll find the link.


  4. Leny2010: here is the link to the JAGS FDL RTF:\jags\content\JAGS2FDL.rtf

    Sorry it took so long.