Author Topic: Disabling strikes in game rules  (Read 2652 times)

Jubal

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Disabling strikes in game rules
« on: November 19, 2023, 11:16:17 PM »
One thing I was mulling over - a logical point but one I've not thought on much before - in a recent ACOUP post about spears was the importance of disabling over killing in battle. In other words, the key aim is not to ensure death, but to ensure rapid loss of fighting ability, and those things are similar in that they generally both involve killing people but they're not the same in that a pointy neat stabby killing weapon like a rapier will not necessarily make someone lose their fighting ability quite as fast as something that destroys muscles or simply cuts a limb off, and even if that difference is measured in seconds, those might be the seconds that let someone else poke a pointed object rather hard into you.

This feels like something that few game mechanics model in any sense: I've seen health as generic pools, and I've seen systems that try to model effects limb-by-limb (though that's slow and clunky to run in most games). But I think I'm yet to see a game model that accounts for the relative disabling-ness of different weapons. Has anyone seen such a thing and can anyone think how one might separate those concepts? Would that be a useful thing to do in games (and would it make for a more accurate combat model to begin with really)?
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Spritelady

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Re: Disabling strikes in game rules
« Reply #1 on: November 21, 2023, 05:21:16 PM »
This seems to me to be an interesting aspect of a debate that I find intriguing generally, which is how to create a combat system that makes sense, is practical to run in a TTRPG (ie is not super clunky and slow, such that it maintains the sense of urgency and excitement that a combat encounter generally should have), AND usefully models 'realistic' elements of an actual fight.

It also touches on the subject of how to make melee characters interesting (especially at higher levels), and in particular, how to functionally distinguish between weapon types (which is something that I feel DnD 5e lacks, and I am not hopeful about the system that One DnD attempted to introduce to supposedly rectify this situation).

I certainly think that introducing ways for weapons/attacks to disable an opponent would be an interesting component to a combat system, although I can't immediately think of a good way to do so that wouldn't mostly just be flavouring the concept of depleting an enemy's pool of health.

dubsartur

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Re: Disabling strikes in game rules
« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2024, 01:16:04 AM »
It also touches on the subject of how to make melee characters interesting (especially at higher levels), and in particular, how to functionally distinguish between weapon types (which is something that I feel DnD 5e lacks, and I am not hopeful about the system that One DnD attempted to introduce to supposedly rectify this situation).
Ironically 1e D&D had mechanisms for that in its table of bonuses and penalties to hit depending on the weapon and Armour Class.  But the biggest issue has always been that D&D combat is so abstract and is hard to believe in if you think too much about the details of how the paladin is fighting the dragon or how the rogue in the middle of the room survived the fireball (and shouldn't it set the house and furnishings on fire?  what about smoke penalties? does a Fireball in this edition create pressure which could blow the roof off?)  Its also easy to accidentally make one weapon clearly superior in game-mechanical terms and that can annoy players who have a vision of their character using a specific weapon.

Grappling is the main way to disable people in real combat, and Doug Cole takes the view that people rarely grapple in RPGs because the mechanics are clunky and annoying.  He created his own rules modules to solve this.  Another solution is the High Medieval solution: give everyone who matters a complete covering of mail and weapons that don't thrust through mail well, and let them batter and bleed each other until one can't fight (the ordinary people who can't afford all that labour-intensive armour get a hand or a leg chopped off and die in the background while the people who matter are bashing it out).

RPGs often have a rule for 'nonlethal damage' which is not our world's physics and biology but can be a game world's.  Its pretty common in pulp and supers settings that people can be punched, kicked, and clubbed without lasting effects.

GURPS has been pretty good at weighting its combat to disability rather than death, and giving rules options for weapons which make a small deep hole (high Armour Divisor but low Wounding Modifier), but their rules for combat with edged weapons have some 'legacy code' from Steve Jackson asking SCA members in the 1980s.  And as the quality of backyard experiments improves, we are seeing some unheroic things like 'this blade shape can penetrate that armour in a random man's hands, that blade shape won't penetrate if you give it to an Olympic athlete.'  A lot of people like the tropes of the bare-chested barbarian or the short slender woman fighter and don't want to hear that one of the biggest benefits to being strong is that you can wear more armour and move better in it.

Nobody in a RPG wants to hear 'you survived the fight but with internal bleeding and you die of an infection 1d6 months later' but that happened a lot in the sixteenth century (eg. poor Luis Mendoza on the Magellan Expedition)
« Last Edit: January 10, 2024, 06:26:05 AM by dubsartur »

Jubal

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Re: Disabling strikes in game rules
« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2024, 02:39:54 PM »
Grappling is the main way to disable people in real combat, and Doug Cole takes the view that people rarely grapple in RPGs because the mechanics are clunky and annoying.  He created his own rules modules to solve this.  Another solution is the High Medieval solution: give everyone who matters a complete covering of mail and weapons that don't thrust through mail well, and let them batter and bleed each other until one can't fight (the ordinary people who can't afford all that labour-intensive armour get a hand or a leg chopped off and die in the background while the people who matter are bashing it out)
Would the bit about grappling hold true on a battlefield? I'd have assumed that in a combat with multiple opponents, the penalty of exposing yourself to strikes from your opponents' surrounding men would be sufficiently great that most of the time people wouldn't be that keen to initiate grapples and would rather stabbing and shield bashing if they had to be shorter than spear distance, because those things (at least I'd have assumed) keep you in a better upright posture for when the next opponent comes in at you.
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dubsartur

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Re: Disabling strikes in game rules
« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2024, 03:35:03 AM »
Grappling is the main way to disable people in real combat, and Doug Cole takes the view that people rarely grapple in RPGs because the mechanics are clunky and annoying.  He created his own rules modules to solve this.  Another solution is the High Medieval solution: give everyone who matters a complete covering of mail and weapons that don't thrust through mail well, and let them batter and bleed each other until one can't fight (the ordinary people who can't afford all that labour-intensive armour get a hand or a leg chopped off and die in the background while the people who matter are bashing it out)
Would the bit about grappling hold true on a battlefield? I'd have assumed that in a combat with multiple opponents, the penalty of exposing yourself to strikes from your opponents' surrounding men would be sufficiently great that most of the time people wouldn't be that keen to initiate grapples and would rather stabbing and shield bashing if they had to be shorter than spear distance, because those things (at least I'd have assumed) keep you in a better upright posture for when the next opponent comes in at you.
I guess I was starting out from "disabling without killing."

When you are fighting with weapons you often want to keep your distance becuse distance is time and time lets you realize something is coming at you and react.  But by sometime in the fourteenth century, someone in western European armour was immune to most weapons powered by muscles.  Very stiff narrow-pointed weapons like some kinds of arrows or daggers might get through mail on a solid hit, and something like a two-handed axe or hammer might break a neck or cause a concussion, but the vast majority of hits will be ineffective. 



At that point you start seeing a lot of grappling because its easier to stab one of the places which are not quite invulnerable if the stabee is restrained (and you can get into grappling distance safely because of your own armour).  It also gives you options like throwing them off their horse so the poor guys on foot can finish them off or disarm them while they are trying to sit up in thick mud while horses step on them (plus you can take their expensive horse!)  Between about 1350 and 1450 we see a lot of pictures like this.



Mr. Golden Garter can easily let go if he needs to defend himself, until then he or a friend can beat on his partner's neck and armpit and back like a pinata
« Last Edit: January 13, 2024, 07:18:17 AM by dubsartur »

psyanojim

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Re: Disabling strikes in game rules
« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2024, 09:52:43 AM »
Would the bit about grappling hold true on a battlefield? I'd have assumed that in a combat with multiple opponents, the penalty of exposing yourself to strikes from your opponents' surrounding men would be sufficiently great that most of the time people wouldn't be that keen to initiate grapples and would rather stabbing and shield bashing if they had to be shorter than spear distance, because those things (at least I'd have assumed) keep you in a better upright posture for when the next opponent comes in at you.
I thought you'd know the answer to that, given your background in Judo :)

Judo is essentially a sport/sparring form of Jiu-Jitsu, which originated as a battlefield martial art for disarmed/unarmed combatants specifically to use against armed and armored opponents.

The throws and joint-locks definitely DO work against armored opponents, and things like foot/leg sweeps are arguably MORE effective against opponents unbalanced by heavy armor. In thick mud etc, a heavily armored opponent can be in serious trouble once they lose their footing (think Agincourt).

It's definitely dangerous to use if outnumbered, for the obvious reason that while you are rolling around in the mud with one opponent, another is free to do something very unpleasant to you.

So yes, grappling is a plan B rather than a plan A on the medieval battlefield, but its a useful plan B to have nonetheless if you find yourself disarmed or with a weapon ineffective against an opponents armor.

*** the mere thought of being hit with something like a hiza-garuma or tsuri-komi-ashi while weighed down with 20+kg of extra metal makes my knee and ankle ligaments hurt just thinking about it!!
« Last Edit: January 13, 2024, 10:01:20 AM by psyanojim »

dubsartur

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Re: Disabling strikes in game rules
« Reply #6 on: January 14, 2024, 07:12:11 PM »
These swords in the Oakeshott Collection are good examples of some swords that suit my 'high medieval' approach.  They are not going to pierce any kind of iron or copper-alloy armour, because the points are wide and the blades are flexible.  But some of them might bruise and shake up someone through a mail coat, and in the meantime they can cut up anyone without that expensive armour. 

https://yewtu.be/watch?v=yIIypm61WE4



My Oakeshott type XV takes the opposite approach to a medieval sword for war.  Its about the same length, weight, and maximum breadth as those swords, but it has a stiff diamond section, last time I measured it its 6.5 mm thick at the cross and never less than 4.5 mm thick (today I get 6.0 and 3.0 - ed.)  This is not the type of sword which can casually remove heads or legs, but its the kind of sword which can go through some kinds of mail on a solid push (and which you can easily grab with the left hand on the blade and use as a lever without worrying too much that you will accidentally cut your fingers).  Its also going to make a smaller hole when it thrusts, 2 cm back from the point its only about 12 mm wide.

You can find swords with a similar profile which would be much better cutters, a lot depends on how the thickness varies from cross to point (distal taper).
« Last Edit: January 15, 2024, 02:49:40 AM by dubsartur »

Jubal

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Re: Disabling strikes in game rules
« Reply #7 on: January 14, 2024, 08:16:11 PM »
I thought you'd know the answer to that, given your background in Judo :)
Well, that was what got me thinking about the dangers of grappling in a situation where there are other people that can come in from the sides etc - but I know I'm very far from being the person who's thought the most about combat in this forum, so I do like to throw out questions to cross-check my own brain :)
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Pentagathus

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Re: Disabling strikes in game rules
« Reply #8 on: January 14, 2024, 08:23:10 PM »
I wonder if there are many (or any) accounts of actually how combatants were captured during battle. I imagine that it would usually involve a lil bit of rasslin.
Given that the primary melee weapons of the era of full plate are fairly long two handed polearms afaik I'd expect that the majority of disabling blows (in pitched battle between infantry) come from thrusts into gaps/weak spots or from just smashing into the forearms or hands and breaking bones. But as pointed above, in duels and presumably small scale engagements that we'd see in TTRPGs fights between armoured opponents often devolve into grappling - and it's worth noting that the weapons themselves can be used as levers to grapple once you're in that range, which I don't know how you'd model in an RPG.
Of course the other point that's usually overlooked about plate armour is that it is a weapon in itself to some extent, if an unarmoured combatant attempted to grapple with a heavily armoured opponent they'd most likely be pummelled to death by gauntlets, kneecops or the elbow thingies. Hell, just imagine getting squarely headbutted in the face by someone wearing a heavy steel helmet.

Anyway, as to the actual topic of the topic idk but I think it's generally best to abstract the rules enough that this kinda thing doesn't really come up or it gets too crunchy. I think most combat systems should do away with initiative though (in terms of striking in melee combat) as that leads itself to a really dumbed down narrative (fights don't typically involve the combatants taking turns to swing at each other) and you'd get the opportunity to hit each other simultaneously, which as this topic alludes to is a pretty common thing irl.
For example of how that might work, if it's my turn to act and I attack you, instead of rolling to exceed your defence stat or AC or whatever, we could both roll attacks using the relevant skills/attributes of the system (with any modifiers that make sense here), with the chance for me to take damage if you beat me. I think this would work with a system such as the ASOIAF RPG, where you have "degrees of success", so if there was only a small difference between our rolls we could call that a parry and neither side takes damage, if we rolled the exact same number perhaps we both land a blow.
I feel like this would make combat much more dynamic as well as just making more sense, though it would perhaps start to get confusing when you want to add in modifiers, fight multiple opponents (I think that part could be easily resolved though) or want to use tactics - for example using a defensive stance might mean you subtract 2 from your attack roll but your opponent's degrees of success is reduced by 1 if they land a strike (degrees of success in ASOIAF are used to multiply damage for successful attacks btw).
And to bring my rambling back to the topic of the topic you could create some kind of rule for weapons that tend to have high stopping power, or for types of attack that do (slashing with a sword vs thrusting).

The ASOIAF RPG is pretty interesting from a realism perspective btw, I'll write more about it later if I remember but essentially it does some things very well but then it also throws in a ton of the classic RPG tropes that make it wildly unrealistic at times. It also needs a lot of rebalancing for certain aspects in general, particularly for power levelling (and combat should be an opposed roll reeee)

dubsartur

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Re: Disabling strikes in game rules
« Reply #9 on: January 14, 2024, 09:11:11 PM »
The ASOIAF RPG is pretty interesting from a realism perspective btw, I'll write more about it later if I remember but essentially it does some things very well but then it also throws in a ton of the classic RPG tropes that make it wildly unrealistic at times. It also needs a lot of rebalancing for certain aspects in general, particularly for power levelling (and combat should be an opposed roll reeee)
Interesting, G.R.R. Martin is not the kind of fantasy author who knows anything about material culture or combat.  Maybe the RPG developers were more interested?

GURPS has had the Armed Grapple technique for a while.

The blow-by-blow model of combat in GURPS has its problems (like failing to simulate that sometimes its the right time to try something other than trading blows) but I don't know if I have seen a good one that focusses on outcomes or a quick-contest mechanic.  My days reading RPG rules are long ago though.

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« Last Edit: January 14, 2024, 09:21:51 PM by dubsartur »

psyanojim

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Re: Disabling strikes in game rules
« Reply #10 on: January 15, 2024, 12:00:21 AM »
Of course the other point that's usually overlooked about plate armour is that it is a weapon in itself to some extent, if an unarmoured combatant attempted to grapple with a heavily armoured opponent they'd most likely be pummelled to death by gauntlets, kneecops or the elbow thingies. Hell, just imagine getting squarely headbutted in the face by someone wearing a heavy steel helmet.

I could never get my head around the Agincourt melee situation, where lightly armored English men-at-arms and longbowmen were able to defeat heavily armored French knights.

Surely, I thought, even though the French couldn't move, their armor still worked and they could still swing their weapons?

Then I saw this video. Nothing to do with historical battles, its a video from a protest in Germany taking place in a muddy field.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9l3bLAx4Ng

Those riot police are wearing equipment that is probably significantly lighter than medieval plate, and yet hundreds of them are rendered completely ineffective by the weight of their gear.

That protestor in the monk robe is simply dancing around them with impunity knocking them off their feet for fun.

Another thing is the definition of 'grappling'. It doesn't have to mean WWE-style suplexes or rolling around in the mud. A simple trip, shove or leg-sweep to knock over an opponent in heavy armor is very effective, and indeed these kind of techniques feature very heavily in a 'battlefield' derived grappling martial art like jiu-jitsu.

After upending an opponent, a skilled grappler has a choice to continue into a wrestle, or simply leave the opponent on the floor and move on or strike for a weak point in their armor, which would definitely be the choice against an armored opponent.

I recently played BG3, and many of these mechanics already exist - shoves, trip/knock prone, disarms, throw, falling damage, joint damage effects (eg one character got a dislocated shoulder) etc. These can already simulate an awful lot of a 'grappler' skillset, even without the full-on 'grab/wrestle' side of things.
« Last Edit: January 15, 2024, 12:15:38 AM by psyanojim »

dubsartur

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Re: Disabling strikes in game rules
« Reply #11 on: January 15, 2024, 12:27:14 AM »
Another issue is that most pre-20th-century shoes are not very 'grippy.'  Aside from some hobnailed boots and clogs or pattens, most shoes and sandals had bare leather or rope soles.  Its relatively easy to slip in shoes like that, but falls are less likely to cause knee or ankle damage.

What rules does Baldur's Gate 3 use?

psyanojim

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Re: Disabling strikes in game rules
« Reply #12 on: January 15, 2024, 01:04:57 AM »
Its modified 5e DnD. Excludes the specific 'grapple' rules of 5e.

But again, I don't think it would take much tweaking to make an effective 'grappler-lite' skillset with what is available in BG3 (shove/disarm/knock prone etc), such as
- the ability to knock prone/shove/disarm as combined actions
- extra choices around how to follow up such a move, such as
-- simulating a joint-lock by applying joint damage effects
-- simulating a 'makikomi' by knocking yourself prone after the throw and doing extra damage to the enemy
-- far more control of enemy positioning (being shoved off cliffs is already very effective/irritating)
- the ability to 'reverse/counter' shove/trip/disarm attempts with a successful saving throw
- changes to prone mechanics to make being prone far more punishing in heavy armor
- reduced fall damage (grapplers spend a lot of time learning how to fall)

Lots more possibilities I'm sure.

Jubal

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Re: Disabling strikes in game rules
« Reply #13 on: January 15, 2024, 11:14:29 PM »
Yeah, the shove of BG3 is largely unuseful except to throw someone off somewhere, for which it's borderline OP (because "disengage" or misty step are better ways to get a non-close-combat character out of melee range, which is another major reason for shoving, and because shoves don't cause knockdown).

But yes, I'm sure there are ways to do this, though making them streamlined is always a challenge - one can either end up with too many mechanics for the average player to remember, especially because D&D's spell system is already middling-weight, or you end up with all these things being specific actions for a certain class, such that you end up with a "grapple fighter" who can do makikomis as a bunch of special actions and nobody else can. BG3 feels like it has rather few positioning and control focused options compared to most things in its genre: often the front-line fighters have more options to control a larger area of space than seems to be the case in that game.
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psyanojim

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Re: Disabling strikes in game rules
« Reply #14 on: January 16, 2024, 06:35:10 AM »
Yeah, the shove of BG3 is largely unuseful except to throw someone off somewhere, for which it's borderline OP (because "disengage" or misty step are better ways to get a non-close-combat character out of melee range, which is another major reason for shoving, and because shoves don't cause knockdown).

But yes, I'm sure there are ways to do this, though making them streamlined is always a challenge - one can either end up with too many mechanics for the average player to remember, especially because D&D's spell system is already middling-weight, or you end up with all these things being specific actions for a certain class, such that you end up with a "grapple fighter" who can do makikomis as a bunch of special actions and nobody else can. BG3 feels like it has rather few positioning and control focused options compared to most things in its genre: often the front-line fighters have more options to control a larger area of space than seems to be the case in that game.
Yeah, one problem with grapple mechanics (and 'control' mechanics in general) is that it can be quite irritating to 'lose control' of ones characters.

One of the more annoying fights I encountered in BG3 was an enemy with the 'garrotte' ability (prevents the user and target from moving, silences target and applies damage per turn). However, the major irritant in this case was the critters also had the ability to teleport, taking their target with them... so the fight basically involved chasing teleporting enemies all over the map who were strangling my silenced and immobile casters.

*** and yes, of course they teleported to the most annoying, difficult to follow locations possible - roofs, platforms, round corners etc... and of course the casters capable of casting fly/teleport etc were being silenced and strangled >:(
« Last Edit: January 16, 2024, 06:42:36 AM by psyanojim »