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.

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