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Subject: Optional Combat Rules - hard to go back rss

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James Dean
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I'd been playing, using the optional combat rules, for a couple years and really like them. I think they are an elegantly simple way of introducing some variability to the combat system that otherwise has somewhat predetermined outcomes if you understand all the rules. The only reservation I have, is that I sort of feel like they overpower the lighter, faster characters. Letting the swordsman, with a rapier, possibly kill a giant, for instance. I think maybe that's too much of a jump in capability. I think this happens particularly with the X2 speed chits. They confer a slightly larger combat advantage under the optional rules than I think would prefer. Not sure.

I did, however, run into an exaggerated example of this issue recently while playing with the Pruitt's Monsters set. I had a fighter in a suit of armor run into four crows, with an L1 attack. They proceeded to tear off his suit of armor first then shred him like confetti, all in the same round. Whereas, under the standard combat rules, the crowd would have been powerless against any armored opponent, which I think was the intent of the moster's design.

So, what's my point? Just that I realized, as talk of customizing or revamping the game continues, it makes sense to consider whether you are designing monsters (and characters) to primarily be used with the optional or standard combat rules. And also, I think maybe the optional combat rules might work slightly better if there were one or at most two more "weight" levels. That would allow the fumble table to continue to provide variability in combat but prevent light and fast attacks from being overpowered. Maybe in my crows example, if I had my druthers, the crows L1 attack would instead be Negligible-1, so that their max damage would have been medium, and thus ineffective against a suit of armor.

In any case, that crow experience made me decide the Pruitt set would be too deadly, with its greater numbers of small and fast monsters, with the fumble rules. So I rebooted and used the standard combat rules with the same fighter and found the combats WAY too simple.

In the end, I'll stick with the optional combat rules and, when I do use the Pruitt set again I'll be play the Scarecrow custom character.
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Chris Laudermilk
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It is definitely different. I know my son currently does not like the optional rules. We played a few games using the standard combat rules & had gotten a feel for them. Then we played a game at a convention using the optional rules. He had the White Knight on a Warhorse--a pretty invincible setup we thought. He charged into a pile of Lancers who proceeded to cut his horse out from under him, then skewer him on their long lances. It was an ugly learning experience for him. I kind of like how it changed the odds and seemed to add nuance to the battles, but it's going to be a hard sell now.
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Serious Gamer
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Yeah, the Swordsman vs. Giant issue is a tricky thing. On the one hand, I doubt he was originally designed to be capable of killing giants, and is meant to act sneaky-like. On the other hand, it gives the Swordsman more of a fair edge in the game, as thematically this means it's easier for him to find weak spots and land a critical hit, while the bigger slower monsters rely on brute force. Plus, I think the undercut rule kinda offsets most of the issues.

Haven't seen the crows before, until now, as I haven't looked at Pruitt's monsters. This should serve as a warning to those who are designing more monsters for the game. Hamblen invented the Advanced Combat rules with the base game monsters and characters in mind. None of them have attacks that go at a speed of 1, aside from bows (which is why they roll on the missile table instead) and magic chits or spells. Making monsters with movement or attack speeds that are too fast work against the advanced combat system simply because they are overpowered, because they are too fast or too strong. Making the crows have an attack speed of 1 implies that they move as fast as an arrow, which isn't realistic unless we're to assume they're diving, in which case you mine as well as roll on the missile table for their attacks, which realistically implies that the impact would probably kill the crow, making them kamikaze monsters, meaning that realistically they should only attack once. Overpowered expansion monsters aside, having a few kamikaze monsters might be an interesting idea.
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Jay Richardson
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James Dean wrote:
The only reservation I have, is that I sort of feel like they overpower the lighter, faster characters. Letting the swordsman, with a rapier, possibly kill a giant, for instance. I think maybe that's too much of a jump in capability. I think this happens particularly with the X2 speed chits. They confer a slightly larger combat advantage under the optional rules than I think would prefer. Not sure.

I don't think that the Optional Combat Rules overpower the fast characters at all.

Consider your example of the Swordsman vs a Giant: to kill a Giant with his Fight L2**/Thrusting Sword combination, he must intercept the Giant's maneuver (33% chance) and then roll a "4" or less on the Fumble Table (44% chance). Thus he has only a 15% chance of killing a Giant with each attack.

A heavy character like the Berserker, however, will kill a Giant automatically if he intercepts, and will probably have a 25% chance of killing it if he undercuts. This makes the Berserker far more likely to kill a Giant... about a 50% chance with each attack (if I've done my math correctly).

I can't imagine a Swordsman ever voluntarily battling a Giant 1-on-1: the chance of success is so slight that he would be much better off doing something else. Reducing his 15% chance of a kill to something less would change nothing.

James Dean wrote:
I did, however, run into an exaggerated example of this issue recently while playing with the Pruitt's Monsters set. I had a fighter in a suit of armor run into four crows, with an L1 attack. They proceeded to tear off his suit of armor first then shred him like confetti, all in the same round. Whereas, under the standard combat rules, the crowd would have been powerless against any armored opponent, which I think was the intent of the moster's design.

A crow with an L1 attack violates the "unwritten" rules of Magic Realm combat. A striking attack should never be faster than speed "2"; only missile attacks can be speed "1", and only alerted Magic spells can be speed "0". The crows should have been L2 instead of L1, and if they were really intended to be useless against armored opponents then they should have been n2 with a sharpness star.

James Dean wrote:
So, what's my point? Just that I realized, as talk of customizing or revamping the game continues, it makes sense to consider whether you are designing monsters (and characters) to primarily be used with the optional or standard combat rules.

If you want your variant/expansion to have the widest possible acceptance, then you have to design for both combat systems.
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Quantum Jack
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Minor note, but unless I misunderstood, the armored character should have survived (thhat round anyway) since all the attacks hit simultaneously. They are all to be considered hitting armor, and thus causing 1 cwound.. Next round, however, likely toast.
 
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James Dean
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Quantum, you might be right. I don't remember exactly how it went down, only that death by crow was quick and the character helpless to do anything about it. I may have been that the crows cause a few wounds and destroyed the armor on the first round and finished him off on the second.

That's a good point about no other attacks except missiles (which have their own damage table) having a speed 1 attack. I hadn't really thought about that.

I do really like the variability of the optional combat rules, and having that rare moment when a relatively weak character kills a very large foe is a good story-telling moment, in my opinion. But under the optional rules, wasn't it only the fast characters that gained something? The slower characters generally had already been able to do up to T damage, but now their slower attacks speeds increased the odds they'll do less damage. . . . yeah maybe it's just my perception and not really borne out by the statistics. And maybe that speed 1 attack is really just an anomaly that distorts the system and possibly was not intended to be played with the optional rules.

Overall though, no question about it, for the optional combat rules make the combats much more fun.

And yeah, that White Knight on a warhorse combo is a juggernaut of destruction with the standard rules, no kidding!
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Jay Richardson
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James Dean wrote:
But under the optional rules, wasn't it only the fast characters that gained something? The slower characters generally had already been able to do up to T damage, but now their slower attacks speeds increased the odds they'll do less damage. . . .

The fast characters gained the most, but the slow characters also gained the ability to run away (or at least try to run away) from opponents that they couldn't possibly run away from with the basic combat rules. At the same time, however, combat becomes much more dangerous for every character.

For any reader that might not have seen it, the following article discusses all of this in great detail:

Using the Optional Combat Rules
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/183032/using-optional-co...
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James Dean
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Just noticed this. In addition to the Crows having the laser-beam like speed 1 attack, there are also two Murkers with a speed 1 attack. They'll take out anybody in an instant.
 
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