Comments on 2020-04-20 To specialize in combat

I love my random mini-setting generator Hex Describe spitting out magic weapons I added to it so long ago. Like this one: “The long sword Meteorstrike +1/+3 vs. dragons, an old elven sword forged in the dragon wars.”

– Alex Schroeder 2020-04-20 17:14 UTC

I will say that from personal experience running a lot of PbtA and similar games with initiative rules like the ones in Just Halberds, those sort of rules tend to favour some players over others a lot. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a lot easier for a fighter to come up with a cool plan to keep up with a thief or wizard out of combat than it is for a thief or wizard to keep up with a fighter in combat. It also gives more talkative and outgoing personalities more attention. You can always try to put more attention back on the people that are more reserved but at that point it defeats the point of a fluid form of initiative (for me at least).

Your mileage may vary, of course, but classic D&D initiative is one of the first things I houserule into a lot of games I run. That’s the fun thing about simple rulesets though. If there’s something you don’t like, it’s super easy to change.

Malcolm 2020-04-22 04:12 UTC

Good point. For now, I think I can manage the more talkative players at the table. There’s a very extrovert dad and there are some introverted children at the table, and that dynamic has to be kept in check all the time or else we’ll do all his quests and follow all his suggestions.

Right now I fear the problem might be in the punitive consequences of failed attacks. The fire mage wants to throw a fireball in the fight. They roll +2 for being a fire mage and knowing the fire ball spell. The orcs are tough melee fighters and not particularly strong against fire so the roll +0. That is still a significant chance to take four points of damage.

In a Powered by the Apocalypse games, a hard failure isn’t always damage, it’s also other hard moves. I’ll have to think about that. On the one hand, I appreciate it more, now. On the other hand, it also puts more burden on the referee to decide the exact consequences and I don’t like that, speaking as a referee.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-04-22 05:11 UTC

In today’s game we used surprise rules again: the hidden troglodytes were well hidden, camouflaged as rocks in a dark cave, with a distraction set up, and the players looked up, expecting an attack from above. The troglodytes (6) ♡♡ ♡♡ ♡♡ ♡♡ ♡♡ ♡♡ +2 spear, stink, camouflage, had the initiative and while they had it, it was the surprise round and the players had to roll +0. It was brutal, they avoided the fighter and I ruled that as long as they were surprised, the fighter couldn’t guard anybody. One character dropped to zero and fell prone (-1 until spending the initiative to get up); another character dropped to zero and fell unconscious; others got hurt... then we rolled a few standoffs and I decided that this was enough to allow them a getaway, just as the guardian naga was approaching.

I’m happy with how it went.

Sadly I’m noticing how bad I am at basic math: I rolled an 11, they rolled an 8, that’s … uh … 3 … more than 1 … round up … 2 hits lost! It’s pathetic but that’s how it is. I wonder whether I can write a simple lookup table. 😀

I guess I still like Just Halberds because combat is so simple and by that I mean it requires so little involvement. It’s brutal and stupid, as it should be. It works well for kids and some adults alike. It’s a totally different mind space than deciding whether to risk alienating Melly the pyromancer, whether to visit Kevin the geomancer, whether to investigate the secret society of the Aurora, or to destroy two temples of Orcus. When you’re in a fight, the game is different, and I like that.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-04-29 19:10 UTC

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