Thursday, February 28, 2013

The funeral

The fallen men were brought back on their horses. The sheer number of them told the townfolk just how bad the battle had been. The unit sent had return with barely half their number. These men had fought valiantly to rid the roads of the marauding orc tribe and their goblin henchmen, now they were dead.

The celebration of the victory would not overshadow their death. The people would celebrate tonight, and tomorrow all the proper honors would be paid to these brave men and their bodies handled as a true hero deserves. Funeral pyres will be built tomorrow and at sun set their bodies placed on top and the fires lit.

The pyres would burn all night while the priests do all the rituals to ensure a safe passage to the after life. Chanting, signing and making sacrifices to the gods, the priests will help these brave men onto their last journey.

How do you handle character death in your game? Is there a time when you don't use magic to bring the character back? If you don't bring him back from the dead, what part does the character take in the last bit of role play left for him? Do you tuck the character sheet in the back of a folder or do you play out the funeral and all proper ceremonies to ensure a good afterlife?

Image source

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Music in your hangouts

Last Friday during my Era playtest I included music in my hangout game. I must say I was most pleased with the result. There was always some background to the scene at hand. I had music grouped into battle and search themes. Whenever the characters were in a roleplay part, investigating or in general just moving around I'd put some of the search or suspense tracks on. When they moved into combat I changed to something that would build up to the encounter, and finally there was a battle finished track that I played after the encounter. I added to the sense of triumph and it placed us in the mood to go over the battlefield, tend the wounded and mourn the dead of the encounter.

I've been running these hangouts using Roll20 which has a jukebox for exactly this purpose. Below is a snapshot of how it looks.

You add tracks to the jukebox and then during the hangout you can click the play button to activate the track, which can play one time or loop. As you can see I've also added special effects to the jukebox, like the "draw sword" below.

The jukebox gets its music from SoundCloud . When adding a new track to your game you can search by keywords, preview the track and add it to your jukebox if that's what you want. Below you can see an example while setting up my campaign.

For me this opens up a whole new dimension in role playing and adding more value to the story. Not only is there the verbal and visual components of the story as you narrate it and present the players with maps, dungeons and images, there is also the background music that adds more depth to the game. There is a reason movies have soundtracks. Imagine Alien without the music and sound effects. It simply would not be the same. I seriously recommend players take a look at this functionality and include it in their games. It is one of those game preparation things that should really be done.

Things I would suggest to the Roll20 team if they happen to read this:

  • Add tabs so I can separate sound tracks into groups relevant to the different parts of my adventure. Maybe link tracks to maps?
  • Add some notes or link functionality so I know when I should play a certain track during the game. For example: play when characters approach the golden vault of Kja'ish.
  • Create playlists I can add various tracks to. This allows for a longer background track without sounding to repetitive in loop mode.
So, have you used this feature in Roll20? Do you think ambient music and effects are important in a tabletop game?

Image source

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Full Plate Hand to Hand - Part II

Here are a couple of videos showing hand to hand combat in heavy armor. It's interesting to see how the armor is so good against blades the greatest weapon is the armor itself. Take a look at the following video. Notice all the hand to hand combat moves. Driving forward with a knee up, grabbing, pulling and pushing the opponent. Trying to put him in the most vulnerable position: on the ground. Take a look at the heavy beating taken at 1:10, one fighter is pummeling the other's head with his fist.

Some observations I get from this video are:

  • An armored body is a weapon.
  • A dagger is really deadly in knight to knight combat.
  • An armored hand is a club.
  • The shield is a weapon.
  • A character can roll with a punch or blow and still get up on the same move.
From a rule design perspective I'd consider this:
  • So many moves it seems hard to create so many rules to cover each move, not to mention complex to use.
  • Consider how an armored body part becomes a weapon.
  • Consider an element of bludgeoning damage in all weapons. Should weapons like swords do slashing AND bludgeoning damage?

Now take a look at this video:

Some key moments:

  • 0:08 - unarmed knight pushed the other one back with arms and body.
  • 0:20 - knight pushes the other back with foot to make for space between both.
  • 0:26 - knight locks weapon with shield and pushes the other knight back.
  • 0:33 - knight once again pushes the other to make room between them, this time with shoulder.
  • 0:55 - part in which one knight deliberately (and quickly) lays down to wait for an attack and then gets up quickly as well.
  • 1:15 - ending part, one night is constantly hit, no apparent armor damage is done, but those sword hits must hurt some. In the end he is taken down and choked to death with the shield.
In view of these videos I find most of D&D's combat mechanics to be out of sync with reality (yes even within its "abstraction"). The concept of a sword swing and a set of damage being done until the character is dead is not congruent with what we see here. The body is never considered a real weapon. There are unarmed combat rules, but it's more along the lines of you're either armed or unarmed, not so much a mix in between.

They say that in love and in war anything goes. Have we become to accustomed to the sword, sword, shield, sword swing idea of initial role playing games that we don't think of a mix of activities to defeat one's opponent. When was the last time you killed a full plated knight with a dagger?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

No modifier should be greater than 10

I've added a new design constraint. No overall modifier should be greater than +10. This keeps the math simple when adding numbers together. A die roll plus a value up to ten is easy to calculate by just about anyone. Using a bell curve the higher end values weigh a lot more so the +10 is more like a +15 or +20 in a flat distribution like d20. Since I use a 2d10 system with opposing rolls the lower end values weigh in a lot more and the later, higher values, add less with every plus. So 10 is pretty good in covering the full range of benefits.

More so, since most activities involve opposing rolls the bonuses can be added on either end and would result in a -10 to +10 overall modifier, depending on which roll the bonus is added. This bonus limit would apply to combat as well as skill checks.

Finally I also believe this cap sets a limit on the power a character may have. There is no "infinite" amount of bonuses a character can add to things like damage and skill checks, and every plus beyond 5 would cost considerably more and provide considerably less return. This will make player think twice about investing so much into something that will pay back so little.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Impact Damage

My recent thoughts on the matter of hand to hand combat and it's importance in full plate encounters has taken me to rethink the importance of hand to hand combat itself and in so doing reconsider the modelling of armour and damage itself.
Having a strong requirement for a rules light system I have between one and two pages to explain hand to hand combat and one quarter of a page to put relevant information on the GM's screen. I can not extend it to a full chapter of hand to hand rules and tables upon tables of modifiers.

With this in mind I'm lead to think that hand to hand combat should be an extension of the armed combat, or for that matter armed combat should be an extension of hand to hand. This makes me rethink the concept of damage, which so far I've considered as piercing, slashing or bludgeoning against the armour or protection. I'm thinking about these abstract points called hit points which are a representation of damage through the armour and into the body. But I'm not thinking energy transfer through the armour or more importantly momentum.

Take a moment to view the image I've included in this post. Notice the small bulge on the bottom. There's a pocket created in the metal due to the momentum of the impact. Of course this is a hyper velocity impact (4.25 miles/second, about Mach 22), but it makes the point. When hit by a bullet, the ballistic vest may hold, but the body will still receive an impact on the skin and underlying tissue. More so a ballistic vest will not save someone from a 30m (99 foot) fall, nor by being hit by a truck.

So, when an armoured knight charges another the sheer bulk of the impact will cause some damage inside the impacted knight. It will transfer momentum to the body and give him a speed vector in a direction he may not be able to compensate for, leading to a fall. Can combat damage be reworked based on "momentum"? Can this lead to a simplified set of hand to hand rules and weapon damage? Should typical concepts like piercing, slashing and bludgeoning damage be reworked around a more unified model around momentum? Would this lead to a more realistic modelling of weapons without a greater rule complexity?


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Hand to hand in full plate

Just found this very interesting video that will make me rethink the importance of hand to hand combat in Era. First off it's clear full plate isn't as encumbersome as some rule books would make us think. Take a look at the video and see some aerobics in action while in full plate.

Secondly, weapon damage is very hard to achieve. Notice the sword swing in the beginning. No doubt that a strong bludgeoning blow would still deliver concussion damage, but a sword by itself, specially a light sword has no place in this combat.

Finally the most effective tactics are hand to hand close quarter combat. Grapple, pull, push and bringing down the armored knight is a good strategy. Pinning him down on the floor for a good knife attack is clearly a winning strategy.

So it's time to go back to the drawing board and put more attention into those hand to hand combat rules.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The entropic GM

The role of the GM is to be a disruptive force in the players' plan. The purpose of the GM is not to use or impose rules, that is just a means to an end. The more the GM is concentrated on the rules the less he'll be concentrated on the players, their needs, their desires and the adventure as a whole.

How focused on the players are you as a GM when using rule heavy systems?

The GM must set the long term goals of the party, he must read the player's interests from their minds. Build a long term goal that satisfies his players, and then stand in the character's way to achieving this goal.

The success of the GM is a delicate balance between being disruptive and gratifying players. To much disruption and he fails to fulfil role #2, to little disruption and he isn't doing his #1 job, disrupting.

Player interests, desires and fears are not random. Trying to fulfill the goals of gratifying and disrupting players with random tables is at best limiting.

The GM is nature, karma and destiny, but he is also the rewarder of effort and perseverance. The party than endures and overcomes the obstacles of the adventure should be handsomely rewarded. Overcoming obstacles must have a real cost, at great work and risk. To reward the triumph over a "balanced encounter" is no good.

The entropic GM is that who introduces disorder into the players' plans. A constant drip of "disruption drops". The trickle of these drops is important for the game. Too much and everything falls to pieces, too little and the adventure lacks substance and flavor  Players work not to defeat the GM, but to overcome the natural tendency of things to fall apart. The character's efforts are invested in keeping things ordered when nature's tendency is to disorganize things.

I find the so called "balance", random tables and heavy rules to be contrary to this function. There is no "expected" outcome in life. Random tables will lead to random results and random interest for the antagonists of the story (read monsters, creatures, critters, etc). Too many rules will steal the GM's concentration from the players, their emotions and interests.

To succeed the entropic GM must turn his back to balance, and expected outcomes. There are odds for player success, but they're just that, odds. Not a set path or expected outcome. No encounter should be expected to end in any particular way. Random tables should be avoided except maybe for inspiration and to break away from some habits the GM may have. In other words add more entropy to the entropic GM, but not to set the path or outcome of an adventure.

All encounters must serve a purpose in some way at some cosmic level. Not just deplete the party of some resource, but open up a path or route for the adventure to take. In the grand scheme of things the party will succeed in banishing the daemon, but exactly how is the interesting part. The orc party isn't just there to slow down or consume some arrows or spells, it gives an option of not being attacked, to evade in some way that may lead into new discoveries and encounters. The defeat of the orcs may be more than just a military victory. It may shed information and alternatives to the party which they may or may not take. Visit a village, detour to a cave, explore some area or tower. Each event is a nudge in a direction the party doesn't want to go. Some in the general direction of their goals, others quite the opposite.

When you play the entropic GM and step away from "expected outcomes" and "balanced encounters" you  add a dynamism that makes the adventure feel real and unique. No longer are your players going through the motions of rolling dice with the knowledge that they will prevail. The attention moves away from what will I roll or how many attacks will it take to overcome this, to what will this encounter lead us to or what will be revealed or what change in our plans will come from this action. To achieve this your mind needs to be free to read your players and not burdened with reading the rules.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Magical Item - Returning arrows

Recall that pesky tendency for arrows to get lost in the bush? Wouldn't it be nice to recall them magically back to your quiver? Well here are some magical arrows that do exactly this. Return when called upon.

First step, we need a recall phrase, something simple like "return to me now". Doesn't get that much obvious than this. Then we need to have our trusty magic user translate it to proper incantation.

revertetur ad me nunc

Now comes the tricky part, the magic. To enchant the arrow the magic user must bestow some magical effect upon it and make it stay there. The magic power must also come from some willing source, and in the case so some less scrupulous magic user, from a source less capable of escaping said fate.

In Era magic items require power points to operate. Namely Q'ort points which are the equivalent of mana. These power points need to be drawn from the user and stored in the arrow. Every character in Era has magic power points to a greater or lesser degree. Magic users just know how to channel this power into spells. They take this power during rituals and use it to enchant items like the arrows.

For this incantation the magic user will draw 2 Q'ort points from the to be user (or some other source, aka sacrifice) and store them in the arrow. These points are drawn permanently until the arrow is destroyed. So the user doesn't have those points available at a later time (unless a less scrupulous source is used). If the arrows are lost they would signify an issue of lost points unless more magic is used to restore or "remotely destroy" the arrow.

To enchant the arrow the magic user engraves the phrase "revertetur ad me nunc" on the arrow like this:

This process is repeated for each arrow to be made magical and each arrow costs the owner 2 Q'ort points. Once the ritual is completed the arrows may be recalled by speaking the phrase "revertetur ad me nunc". This will consume 1 additional Q'ort point from the owner and will bring the arrow flying back to the quiver. This additional point is a temporary loss and will be recovered at the character's Q'ort recovery rate. The arrow must be able to fly directly back to the owner. An obstacle such as a door that closes will prevent this, even if there is a way around it through some passage. Arrows can't solve puzzles and won't be able to "navigate" back to the owner beyond simple line of sight.

A more advanced version of the spell will allow teleporting the arrows back to the quiver, but this should cost more Q'ort to enchant and to use. This is left to the GM to determine, a suggested value is 3 Q'ort points to enchant and 4 to use.

PS: all characters may increase their Q'ort points over time through training. The rate of progression is set during character generation and it is based on initial attribute assignments.

Thank's +Jason Fritz for the comment that inspired this magical item.

Runic translator


Saturday, February 09, 2013

The Dog Throw - Static defense & variable skills

Why is a character's skill rating variable in DnD while defense (aka armor class) is static? Characters use their skills to overcome events and challenges, and they use AC to overcome attacks. When a character is attacked the attack itself is variable. It may or may not overcome the character's defense (AC). Yet when the character needs to overcome some issue through the usage of a skill the external event is static, a fixed DC by the DM, while the odds of solving vary, and boy do they vary!

Shouldn't we look at DC as a center point for difficulty and the die roll simply represent a variation on the difficulty. For example a lock may be tough (DC 15), but given a situation the event may be a bit less hard (low die roll) without become average (DC 10) or a bit harder (high die roll) without becoming challenging (DC 20). What is fixed is the character's skill. So the problem either falls below the character's capacity to solve it through a skill check or it does not.

So a character with a skill of 14 would be below average at solving a problem with a "though" rating (DC 15), but a low roll on behalf of the GM would indicate the DC is actually 13 (slightly less hard). Given that value the character successfully solves the problem.

A static skill value and a variable DC makes more sense to me than a fixed DC and a roll that affects skill. I've always been troubled by the issue of my character's unpredictability when resolving a skill check. Will he fumble it or will he succeed. In my mind it sounds better if my character fails because the problem was surprisingly hard rather than my character being sporadically stupid.

If you liked the image you can get your dice here:

Centrifugal Dice

Sometime this week it was announced that the International Space Station was going to do hangout. That got me thinking how cool it would be if it were an RPG hangout. Which immediately got me thinking of dice. How do you roll dice in space? Sure you can use some app to roll them, but for me there's nothing like throwing real dice. So this got me thinking...

I guess a cylinder with a radius of about 30 to 40 cm, spinning at about 50 cm per second (aprox. 1 revolution every 4 seconds) should be able to produce sufficient force to emulate Earths gravity. So dice thrown against the "drum" would settle there like a roulette. Dice could also be made particularly heavy to allow for slower rotation and make it easier to see the roll results.

If you were to spend some time in the space station, what would be your RPG of choice?

Got any ideas on how to roll dice in space? Maybe big velcro ones that stick to the walls of the station?


Thursday, February 07, 2013

New archery magic items

The dust from the fallen cover stone begins to settle and reveals a room lit from small openings high on the roof. As the dust clears the shiny magical bow is easily seen in the center of the room. Looking at it there, on the spot it has been for the last two thousand years brings a rush of excitement and makes your heart beat faster. What powers does it hold?

The party's members begin to inch forward. Who will hold the legendary bow or Lark'tu? Who has the might and will to use it? Legend says only the gods can pull on its mighty string and that its arrows can span oceans and still hit their targets.

As our brave adventurers step forward to the bow I take a moment to look at bows from a different angle. How are magic bows affected by multiple attribute dependent weapon design? In my article regarding MAD  weapons I pointed out the benefits of multiple attribute dependencies. In particular the benefits of MAD weapons to MAD characters. By making weapons leverage many attributes instead of the classic DEX or STR as a GM you can benefit certain classes in particular while hindering others.

In my recent post Building my characters bow I presented a new way of seeing bows. These are no longer the classic: short, short composite, long and long composite (if this even exists!). Instead bow attributes are based on draw weight and arrow weight. This gives a great deal of flexibility in the design of the bow. It can be custom built to the main attributes of the character. Maybe the character is not so strong so a lighter less damaging, but faster bow, would be called for. A very strong warrior might want to leverage his strength, pull heavily on the bow to increase damage and range.

As draw weight, damage, range and rate of fire become variables to play with I begin to think in all the possibilities that open up in regards to magical bows. Here are some examples:

  • The magical bows add strength bonuses to the character. For example a +2 STR 100 lb bow. It will make the character stronger, but it still requires a great deal of strength to use. So weak characters won't be able to use it because they simply can't pull 100 lbs., even with the +2 STR bonus.
  • The magical bow improve aim, giving a +1 to hit, but given Era's damage mechanism, a hit does not ensure damage. Damage and soak rolls have to be done. If the target's armor is too good an aim bonus won't be enough, the bow still needs a powerful fighter to pull on it.
  • Since damage drops by range, a magical bow can have an improved range. Making it more effective against armor at farther distances. Nonetheless, given the damage and soak mechanics, its benefits will wear out over longer distances. The magical bonus is only effective at close range.
  • The bow has magically enhanced pull, that means that a 50 lb bow will behave as an 80 lb bow. This will be an 80 lb bow for all practical purposes except fatigue. It enjoys the lower DynE of a lighter bow so the archer fatigues slower. This will allow the archer to let off more arrows per round. This can be a very significant improvement against close range knights. An extra arrow hitting the target may be the difference between life or death.
  • Arrows may have magically altered weight. The behave like heavier arrows, but can be fired from lighter bows with lower strength. This gives the benefits of added range and damage without the limitations of character strength or endurance.
So the more attributes that come into play when using a weapon the more interesting and personalized the magic item can become. As a GM I can fit the weapon to a particular character in the party or leave it altogether inaccessible to any of the members. Maybe they need to complete another quest to gain higher strength and then be able to use this bow. Nonetheless MAD magical bows open up a lot of possibilities.

Image source

Monday, February 04, 2013

Building my character's bow - Part 2 - The Damage

Now I come around to testing the bows and arrows I designed in my previous post. This article will go over the effect of the arrows over varied armor types. In D&D damage per range is fixed so damaging a full plated knight at long range is just about as probable as damaging him at close range. That is, after you hit the damage is automatically done to the knight, and said damage is constant regardless of range.

In real life we know this to be quite different. Range makes things harder to hit and the arrow is less prone to penetrate armor the more it flies to get to its target. So to have a more realistic model of the bow and arrow I must consider not only the drop in to-hit probability, but also the penetrating power of the arrow at medium, and longer ranges.

As I will show you Era's damage mechanics allows for this to work perfectly. We'll see how penetrating power remains practically unaltered over range for unarmored or lightly armored targets, but suffers greatly when metal is introduces into the armor. But first I'll do a quick overview of the soak and damage rolls in Era.

Era has two rolls during combat, one to hit and one to deliver damage. Both are opposing rolls, that means the attacker and defender roll during the to-hit phase and if a hit is made then both parties roll for damage. The attacker rolling the damage for the weapon and the defender rolling for the soak of the armor. The damage and soak rolls are compared in a particular way, one which allows the dice to represent the penetrating power of the weapon. Instead of adding the dice and comparing the result, the dice are compared one to one in descending order. The soak roll must equal or better the damage roll for the damage to be stopped by the armor. For example the attacker rolls 4 and 6 for damage, the defender rolls 5 and 4 for soak. The 6 and 5 are compared and the two fours are compared. The 6 beats the armor's 5 and the armor's 4 matches the weapons 4. The total damage delivered is 6, the sum of all "unstopped" dice.

With that in mind I introduce you to the weapons and armors. The arrows were presented in the first part of this series. I'll be working with two types the so called 500 grain and the 800 grain arrows. (Note : They're not really 500 or 800 grain, just a name I gave them and some reader feedback has called for a renaming). For convenience sake I'll keep using the names of the original publication. The damage rolls will be given according to the following table which has been reproduced from the first article. The selected arrows are highlighted in red and show the damage each delivers per range.

STRHuman 32” arrow shaft
light arrowheavy arrowArrow Weight (grains)30yds60 yds100yds150yds200ydsDynE





Now I present you the armors.

No armor : no soak roll
Leather armor : 2d4 soak roll
Chain mail armor : 3d6 soak roll
Banded armor : 2d8
Plate armor : 2d10 
Full plate armor : 2d12

I generated 100000 combat rounds for each weapon/armor combination and graphed the average hit point damage delivered to the character. Plotting the data for the 800 grain arrow gives the following graph:

We can see how the average damage delivered drops as range increases. This is consistent with drag and loss of speed (momentum) as the arrow flies further down range. It is important to note now that in Era characters have fixed hit points and the value for the common peasant is 12 hit points. The 800 grain arrow delivers and average of 13 hp at short range. Proving to be a lethal hit at just about any range except maybe extended range. The 800 grain arrow can deliver a very good punch against an armored knight at close range. An average of 8 hp per hit at short range is a very good number and would certainly injure a knight, but as range increases the damage drops off quickly and at 4 or less hit points it is improbable that a wound would be deadly given Era's stamina and wound rules. Fighters have high stamina scores and these act as "shields" around hit points. A fighter will just suffer a cut from 4 hp of damage, 8 hp on the other hand is something entirely different.

Let us move now to the 500 grain arrow who's graph is shown below.

First think to point out is that the graph zeros out at extended range. The 500 grain is just too light to be effective so far off. Second point to notice is that damage to unarmored peasants is practically the same, down to 11 hp from 13 with the 800 grain.  A 500 grain arrow will also easily kill a peasant at close to medium range. The damage to armor is something else. At short range the damage against full plate has dropped by 40% and now, at 4 hp per shot, the 500 grain arrow is hardly a concern for the fully armored knight, but it is still a concern for the chain mailed fighter.

To simplify the comparison I've created the following graph (shown below) which graphs the damage drop when changing from 800 grains to 500 grains arrows. The lower the % value on the graph the less effective the 500 grain arrow is compared to the 800 grain. As you can see the blue line (no armor) stays practically flat and in the of 90 to 73%, meaning an unarmored target is just as vulnerable to a 500 grain arrow as he would be to an 800 grain one. Leather armor provides some improvement over longer ranges, but at short range the damage done to it is the same for a 500 or 800 grain arrow.

When metal is put into the equation things change drastically.  The effectiveness of the 500 grain arrow drops considerably the heavier the metal armor. Chainmail provides a 25% drop in effectiveness when using a 500 grain arrow, banded a 30%, and plate and full plate a 40% drop. The response of the 500 grain to heavy armor is practically flat (and quite miserable btw). The plate and full plate lines go hand in hand and drop from 60% to 35% of the 800 grain arrow's punch, nothing I would call a flat response, but certainly better than banded's and chainmail's curve.

Chainmail and banded begin being quite vulnerable to the 500 grain arrow at short range (25% and 30% less than 800 grain), but as the range increases the effectiveness of the 500 grain drops and becomes just as poor as plate or full plate at very long range (reaching 65% drop at very long range).

To summarize I can list the following benefits:

  • The system provides a very realistic model for damage. One in which armor type and range come into play. In doing so it exploits the benefits of the weapons and armor of the time. Giving a real advantage to the strong character able to carry such armor or to the strong character able to use heavy bows. No longer will a weak character be as capable of bringing down a full armored knight.
  • All this is done without any overhead to the system. No extra tables, modifiers or adjustments are needed. The proper choice of damage rolls for a given range and arrow type is all that is needed and this is easily recorded on the character sheet during the equipment purchase.
  • The heavyweight lifting is done by the game designer when modeling the weapon. Once this is done and trimmed through playtest and expert advice the benefits are easy to utilize by the player without any extra rules, modifiers or lookup tables to add realism to the game.

Image source

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Building my character's bow - Part 1 - The Range

In this article I'll go over the set of new rules I'm creating for using bows. Bow use will encompass attributes like STR, DEX and CON and will have a different spin on range and arrows. I'll allow for light arrows which give less punch, but better aim and heavy arrows which allow for more punch at the expense of less aim.

First change is doing away with the long, composite, and short bow paradigm of D&D. These types of bows will still exist, but they represent the actual manufacture of the device and not so much the range or damage. A composite bow will be smaller and more expensive than a normal bow (self bows) for the same draw weight. So a composite bow will be smaller and lighter than a bigger bow of the same pull, but will fit better in a dungeon.

Your character's STR value defines the maximum draw weight that can be pulled. The following table show draw weight to STR values.

Draw-weight (lbs) STR
NA 3-6
NA 7
NA 8
30 9-12
40 13
50 14
70 15
80 16
90 17
100 18
110 19
120 20

With so many variables in involved when shooting a bow and arrow it became clear early on that some serious simplification would be necessary to keep things under control. So after doing some calculations and looking up some references I came up with the bow table below that shows damage by range given a character's strength and the choice of arrow weight.

For example, my character with a 14 STR has basically two choices: a 200 grain arrow which will shoot surer or a 300 grain arrow which will hurt more. I can also equip both in the quiver so when precision is more important than damage my character can select the better of both arrows.

If my character fires the lighter 200 grain arrow the effective range given his STR is 100 yd. He gets full damage (2d6) at short range (30 yd.). At medium range (60 yd.) damage suffers a -1 penalty and at long range (100 yd.) a -2 penalty. Below the bow table is the range table. When shooting a lighter (flight) arrow my character enjoys a +2 at short range, +1 at medium and +0 at long range. The clearance row indicates how much roof clearance I need to use that range effectively and it is based on the arrow drop per range. My character can use direct fire at 30 yd. range, requires a 10 foot clearance at medium (maybe not possible in a dungeon) and high clearance (no roof, no tree line) for longer ranges.

If damage were more important I can switch over to the 300 grain arrow which has more momentum. The difference is that all ranges include a +1 to damage bonus at the expense of the to hit bonus. At short range my +2 bonus is gone, at medium range I get a -1 and a -2 at long range.

Stronger characters will be able to pull event higher draw weights and use heavier arrows more effectively.  This will increase the damage deliverable by each arrow and increase the effective range of the bow. Heavier arrows will have more momentum and be effective at longer range. The downside is that they require more energy to propel and thus have higher DynE.

DynE is a value used in Era's combat mechanism and relates directly to fatigue during encounters. More of this will be covered in the next part of this series. In subsequent parts I'll go over bows for smaller humanoids (dwarf and halfling sized characters) and I'll take a look at how this relates to attacks per round.

STR Human 32” arrow shaft
light arrow heavy arrow Arrow Weight (grains) 30yds 60 yds 100yds 150yds 200yds DynE
9-13 9-12 150 2d4+1 2d4

14 13 200 2d6 2d6-1 2d6-2

15 14 300 2d6+1 2d6 2d6-1

16-17 15 400 2d8 2d8-1 2d8-2 2d8-3
18 16 500 2d8+1 2d8 2d8-1 2d8-2
19 17 600 2d10 2d10-1 2d10-2 2d10-3 2d10-4 16
20 18 700 2d10+1 2d10 2d10-1 2d10-2 2d10-3 18

19 800 2d12 2d12-1 2d12-2 2d12-3 2d12-4 20

Range modifiers

30yds 60 yds 100yds 150yds 200yds
light arrow 2 1 0 0 0
heavy arrow 0 -1 -2 -3 -4
clearance direct 10 feet 30 feet + 30 feet + 30 feet +

Image source

Reading material

English Longbow Testing against various armor

Javascript Archery Ballistics Calculator V2.08

A New Artefact Typology for the Study of Medieval Arrowheads


On the Mechanics of the Bow and Arrow

Friday, February 01, 2013

MAD D&D Weapons

Multiple Ability Dependent (MAD) is a term +Douglas Cole used recently in a comment to my D&D bow house rules. MAD is a term used commonly with classes, the paladin is a classic example of this alongside the monk. Both require many attributes to be high for the character to be competent in that class.

My bow house rules took three attributes into consideration when determining the effectiveness of the bow. This made the bow a MAD weapon, and MAD is generally seen as a bad thing in D&D, at least in regards to classes.

But wouldn't a MAD weapon benefit a MAD class? If your character requires three attributes to be good at the chosen class, but the weapons used only rely on one, isn't that an awful lot of benefit for non MAD (SAD, single ability dependent) class? All other classes are equally good with the weapons without being MAD (no pun intended).

There's plenty of conversation whether classes should be MAD or SAD, but shouldn't the discussion also include weapons? What do you think? Should weapons keep being SAD and rely on STR bonuses for melee and DEX bonuses for ranged? Or should they become MAD? Any house rules that make your SAD weapons MAD?

Image source