Saturday, February 14, 2009

Proposal: Weapons vs. AC

So for a few weeks I've been orbiting around the idea of ironing out a set of weapon-vs-AC rules that I'd be happy to use in conjunction with OD&D. At the same time, James Maliszewski, on his excellent Grognardia blog, put out a call for ideas on the same topic ( http://grognardia.blogspot.com/2009/02/request-for-assistance.html ).

Having considered it today, I think now that I would only want to use an extremely simple couple of rules to put this into play in any game of mine (basically nowadays I want any mechanical rule to be outright memorizable). From a gaming perspective, almost the only thing I need is some boost against plate armor from maces and flails (and whatever else concensus opinion holds as being specialized for cracking plate).

A little research seems to suggest the following qualities for the different types of armor (note that I am discarding shields as creating any distinct types):

Defense
LeatherChainPlate
SlashGoodGoodExcellent
PierceGoodGoodGood
CrushExcellentPoorPoor
And this I would think to turn simply into the following:

Weapons
LeatherChainPlate
Slash00-2
Pierce000
Crush-2+2+2


Notes:
  • Slashing: Hand axe, sword, battle axe, 2-handed sword.
  • Piercing: Dagger, spear, pole arm, lance, pike, arrow.
  • Crushing: Mace, morning star, flail, halberd.
What I'll mostly leave unanswered at this time is the thorny question of how much of this should be applied against monsters. In general, it seems to me that most OD&D monsters can be assumed to be either wearing actual armor or natural hide of the same type as their AC (humanoids, giants, dragons, horses, chimerical beasts, slimes and molds, etc.). The significant exceptions would be creatures who appear to be semi-incorporeal or invisible in some way (wraiths, spectres, stalkers, and elementals). Those I'm not sure what I'd do about.
Now, I'm not planning on actually using this right now. But if I did want to give a taste of different weapon effects (this in combination with variable weapon damage, and the effects of reach for pole weapons, giving a nice cross-matrix of capabilities), it's about how I'd want to do it, unless there's something really glaring that it turns out I'm missing.


Update -- Weapon Classes

17 comments:

  1. I think you have to be careful with those bonuses. Somebody wears leather, and you grant his opponent a +2 bonus, that's the equivalent of ignoring his armor altogether. Plus a high bonus encourages people to obsess about arms and armor -- I'm not sure this a healthy development. That's why my proposal only grants a +1 bonus.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think you have to be careful with those bonuses. Somebody wears leather, and you grant his opponent a +2 bonus, that's the equivalent of ignoring his armor altogether.

    But in the proposal above, there is no weapon that gets a bonus (+2 or otherwise) against leather. The only modifier against leather is a -2 for crushing weapons.

    More broadly, I think the opposite -- +1 is too small to even bother with, IMO. It should result in important and significant in-game choices for the players -- otherwise don't bother doing it at all.

    My internal debate here was whether the bonuses should be 2 or 4, and I only narrowly came down on the side of "2".

    ReplyDelete
  3. If I am reading you aright, you are essentially saying here that a morning star treats mail armour as AC 7, leather armour as AC 5, and plate armour as AC 5? If so, I think that is a bit silly, ignoring the padding worn beneath both mail and plate. To me, there seems little reason to make leather more effective than mail against crushing blows.

    ReplyDelete
  4. To me, there seems little reason to make leather more effective than mail against crushing blows.

    Well, I'm just going directly with the little bit of research I did that says exactly that.

    Wikipedia: Scale Mail (which I'm counting as similar to leather): During Roman times scale armour (lorica squamata) was a popular alternative to mail (lorica hamata) as it offered better protection against bludgeoning.

    Wikipedia: Mail: Likewise, blunt weapons such as maces could harm the wearer by their impact without penetrating the armour...

    If you've got research to cite that mail as normally worn was definitively better than leather against crushing weapons, I'd of course be very interested in seeing it and revising my numbers based on it.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Yikes! So my challenge is to refute the unsubstantiated claims of Wikipedia? :D

    Seriously, hit a guy in mail with a sword, axe, or mace and you will injure him without needing to penetrate the armour. Hit him with a pick and you're pretty much guarenteed to go through and injure him. Indeed, the concentration of the impact onto a narrow axe head is probably more likely to injure than a mace blow, but that's why maces ended up flanged.

    If you are looking for a more scholarly source, then you could probably do worse than to pick up War and Combat 1150-1270 by Catherine Hanley, but on maces in particular see Western Warfare by John France (p. 23), Medieval Military Technology by Kelly DeVries (p. 26) Ancient Armour and Weapons by John Hewitt (p. 153), and Armour and Weapons by Paul Martin (pp. 243-234).

    Seriously, though, I can understand why you would be sceptical of some random bloke on the internet, but I strongly urge you to reserve some of that scepticism for uncited Wikpedia articles (generally the result of a lot of random blokes on the internet, including me ;))

    Probably your best bet is to go to the library and pick up a copy of Arms & Armor of The Medieval Knight by David Edge and John MilesPaddock.

    On the other hand, I am pretty sure your not going for historical authenticity when you divide weapons up into "bludgeoning, slashing, and piercing" or treat leather armour as scale, so maybe I am preaching to the wrong audience anyway.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Seriously, though, I can understand why you would be sceptical of some random bloke on the internet, but I strongly urge you to reserve some of that scepticism for uncited Wikpedia articles (generally the result of a lot of random blokes on the internet, including me ;))

    You're right that Wikipedia does come out ahead of any one single random Internet person. :)

    Obviously, it would be helpful if you quoted one or two specific passages from your sources, like I did above, so I know what the point being made is with reference to leather or mail and crushing blows (morning star, mace, et. al.)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Obviously, it would be helpful if you quoted one or two specific passages from your sources, like I did above, so I know what the point being made is with reference to leather or mail and crushing blows (morning star, mace, et. al.)

    Certainly, I have Catherine Hanley to hand.

    'The basic defensive item for all combatants was a padded garment known as a gambeson or aketon. This was made of resilient material such as canvas or leather, stuffed with cloth, rags, tow, horsehair or any other similar material, and covered with an outer layer of cloth, which could be anything from linen to silk. The outer appearance of the gambeson could vary according to its quality, but its basic purpose remained the same: to absorb the shock of blows in order to protect the wearer.' (this is worn under the mail, of course)

    'The principle advantage of the protection offered by mail is that the force of the blow should be distributed over a large area, and thus absorbed. The larger the number of rings which met the cutting edge of a sword, the less chance there was of severe damage to the mail and consequent injury to the wearer.' (this is why maces tend to be flanged)

    The axe was a powerful weapon, as Gamble explains: 'By combining a relatively smaller curved edge with a heavy head, all of the striking force was combined to hit in a small area, which is opposed to a sword in which the force is distributed evenly along the entire length of the blade.'

    And to mace design "During our period the flanged type was more common, the more solid head being developed in the later thirteenth century to counter the advances in plate armour."

    "The axe, with its greater weight concentrated behind a smaller cutting edge, had the potential to inflict terrible wounds if used to its maximum effect, as did the mace, whose heavy head was capable of smashing bones even through layers of armour." (p. 40).

    If you prefer online resources, I recommend MyArmoury. See particularly these two reviews of an axe and two maces:

    http://www.myarmoury.com/review_em_beardaxe.html

    http://www.myarmoury.com/review_mrl_gmace.html

    http://www.myarmoury.com/review_mrl_rtmace.html

    As you may be able to infer from the above, the categorisation of weapons into "crushing, slashing, and piercing" is a poor way to go about dilineating the properties of medieval weaponry, and the ability of the mace to overcome armour without breeching it is in no wise a special quality it enjoys against mail, but the basic characteristic of the weapon.

    So, is "scale armour" better at dissipating the force of a mace than mail? It may be better at dissipating force in general, but I know of know source that suggests it dissipates particularly bludgeoning force. Indeed, quite the opposite, the more common theory is that maces became more popular in order to deal with heavy armour, including scale.

    Should you find the above insufficiently convincing, I recommend starting a thread at MyArmoury, as my time is limited (and who knows, I could be quite wrong).

    ReplyDelete
  8. Matthew, thanks for writing that information up, I do apreciate it. In general, it looks like generally the same kind of information I was looking at when I made my tables in the first place.

    Maces are indeed more capable, and take away more of the protective value, from the heavier armor types. Swords are indeed less effective against mail than flanged maces.

    Now if you're specifically aggrieved at lumping axes and swords together, I agree, I was also somewhat torn enough to consider putting axes in the "crushing" category to distinguish them from swords... but I felt that the one-handed type represented by the D&D battle axe should not be lumped into the same power level as the massive two-handed poleaxes (represented by halberd, etc.).

    Let me ask this: How many weapon categories do you feel would be necessary to cleanly represent the different types of action?

    ReplyDelete
  9. My main criticism of the table is still that you are rating the protective value of leather against crushing blows too highly. Leather (like mail) is probably more vulnerable to the thrust than the chop (which is to say it requires less energy to penetrate 30 jules versus 90 jules according to p. 93 of The Knight and the Blast Furnace). Obviously if you move axe to the crushing blow column then you are exacerbating the problem (unless you think leather is better protection against an axe than mail?)

    Underlying that issue is certainly your decision to treat metal scale armour as leather, which I think is difficult to justify, even in as abastract a combat system as that provided for D&D. Here are a few threads from MyArmoury discussing scale armour:

    http://www.myarmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=2834

    http://www.myarmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=7393

    http://www.myarmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=8000

    As far as I understand it, mail and scale are virtually equivalent in the degree of protection they offer, depending on coverage and quality. For every person willing to say one X is better than Y at Z, there is another willing to say Y is better than X at Z. However, drawing a line under that topic...
    ________________________

    Weapon types. The are basically three types of attack: chop, cut and thrust. A chop is exactly as it sounds, as is a thrust. A cut is when you draw a weapon across the target, rather than directly impacting it. The "cut" is partly why swords are often treated as very effective against unarmoured targets.

    All weapons are compromises between these three modes of attack, with swords generally being the most versitile (which is to say relatively "good" at all of them). Axes, picks, maces, flails, and hammers are impact weapons that put emphasis on the "chop", but are broadly designed on different principles (edge, point, flat), and many specific examples combine principles (a flanged mace, a spiked hammer, a narrow edged axe, etcetera).

    Similarly, many spears are designed to "cut" as well as "thrust" with broad heads, though this is often more evident on polearms (many of which go further and become a combination of cut, chop, and thrust).

    Dividing up weapons into categories most often results in concentration on one mode of attack (Gygax particularly does this, denoting "principle modes of attack" for pole arms), which is what leads to something like the 2e "slashing, bludgeoning, piercing" table, and your own efforts. Treating a pick as though it has the same properties as a spear, or a sword as though it is an axe.

    Of course, if you start over thinking these things you end up with RoleMaster and there are compromises that have to be made for an abstraction like D&D that demands relatively simple combat resolution.

    The easiest thing to do, in my opinion, is to designate some weapons "armour piercing" or somesuch thing and give them a +1 to hit against mail and plate, but reduced damage compared to other weapons (I do not recall if you are using d6s or variable damage).

    If you were using D6s for example:

    Normal weapons (sword, axe) = +0/+1
    Armour piercing weapons = +1*/0
    Two handed weapons = +1/+1

    So a sword would have +0 to hit and do 1d6+1 damage.

    A mace would have +1 to hit* and do 1d6 damage.

    A two handed axe would have +1 to hit and do 1d6+2 damage

    A two handed pick would have +2 to hit** and do 1d6 damage.

    * +0 against lightly or unarmoured opponents.
    ** +1 against lightly or unarmoured opponents.

    Of course you could go into much greater detail or do something completely different, just some thoughts.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Wow, long comment Matthew. I appreciate your time, but unfortunately I think there's a number of misinterpretations you're making.

    (1) I don't treat leather as metal scale. (2) I decided against putting axes in the crushing category. (3) I don't use flat 1d6 damage (basically Greyhawk, ignore L column).

    Frankly, I'm having a great deal of difficulty trying to figure out how to read your suggested rules above; I don't think it's something I'd want to try and reason out in the middle of a game. The sword and the battle-axe wind up with the exact same characteristics, is that correct?

    ReplyDelete
  11. (1) I don't treat leather as metal scale.

    Then why do you say above that you treat leather as similar to scale mail? Hmmn, looking at your "wikipedia" post it seems you have conflated "leather scale" with "scale mail".

    (2) I decided against putting axes in the crushing category.

    Well, that's why I said "if", but the point was that swords and axes function differently against armour, grouping them together as "slashing" is a bad idea (in my opinion)

    (3) I don't use flat 1d6 damage (basically Greyhawk, ignore L column).

    Fair enough, as I said, I wasn't sure either way.

    Frankly, I'm having a great deal of difficulty trying to figure out how to read your suggested rules above; I don't think it's something I'd want to try and reason out in the middle of a game. The sword and the battle-axe wind up with the exact same characteristics, is that correct?

    Depending on how you decided to categorise. I was basically suggesting two qualities: "armour piercing" and "non armour piercing" weapons. Non armour piercing weapons are better against light armour (+0 to hit and 1d6+1damage versus +0 to hit and 1d6 damage), armour piercing weapons are better against heavier armour (+0 to hit and 1d6+1 damage versus +1 to hit and 1d6 damage).

    I also suggested (which is probably what is confusing you) that two handed weapons should get +1 to hit in general.

    Since you are using the Greyhawk variable damage table I would just suggest giving mace, hammer, pick, flail, and morning star +1 to hit versus mail and plate. No real need for anything more complicated than that.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Since you are using the Greyhawk variable damage table I would just suggest giving mace, hammer, pick, flail, and morning star +1 to hit versus mail and plate. No real need for anything more complicated than that.

    Well, it sounds like we're mostly in agreement then, except as stated above, I think situational +1 modifiers are too small to bother with. And while I could consider separating the action of axes and swords, your suggestion treats them as identical, too.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Well, it sounds like we're mostly in agreement then, except as stated above, I think situational +1 modifiers are too small to bother with.

    I think +2 modifiers make too much of a difference for game balance, but as I said in my opening comment, my main complaint is with regards to the bonus leather armour (or leather scale, or whatever) receives against crushing blows relative to mail.

    And while I could consider separating the action of axes and swords, your suggestion treats them as identical, too.

    Of course, because it only distinguishes between "armour piercing" and "non armour piercing" (which I think is more detail than is really needed in any case) in the context of Greyhawk. You could make axes +1 (or +2) to hit versus mail, and swords +1 (or +2) to hit versus leather, but it's more detail than I care for.

    Your question was "How many weapon categories do you feel would be necessary to cleanly represent the different types of action?" My answer was three: armour piercing, non armour piercing, and two handed. Of course, that is relative to the amount of detail you want to include.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Your question was "How many weapon categories do you feel would be necessary to cleanly represent the different types of action?" My answer was three: armour piercing, non armour piercing, and two handed. Of course, that is relative to the amount of detail you want to include.

    Of course, your suggested rules overlap, creating 4 actual categories: (1) AP-1H, (2) AP-2H, (3) NonAP-1H, (4) NonAP-2H.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Of course, your suggested rules overlap, creating 4 actual categories: (1) AP-1H, (2) AP-2H, (3) NonAP-1H, (4) NonAP-2H.

    Yes, though I presented it as three categories that could be combined. I suppose you could conceivably combine all three to get a "normal-armour piercing-two-handed-weapon", depending on exactly how you implemented the rule. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  16. This is a collapsed version of the 2e system. There is a major problem with it: pikes and daggers are both stabby, but there's no question which is better against ANY kind of armor.
    What I have in mind is like Chainmail, every weapon has a certain to-hit target against a class (not a number) ot armor, for example rigid plate, half plate (or Lorica Segmentata), flexible metal (chain, jezeraint) and soft armor (boiled leather, leather and jack, etc.). Or, using Adventure Fantasy Game, making weapons have variable dice based on Armor Class (armor is damage reduction in AFG).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, the broad idea is similar to 2E, although the numbers here are different. Note the later post on what I actually do now (give some benefit, not necessarily to-hit, to each category of swords/spears/axes/clubs -- here).

      Delete