31 January 2009

Curse of the Ranger

Am now in the process of writing up example scenarios for the No Dice Core Rulebook and have shoved in the proto-No Dice haunted house game written by my partner, the hallmark of simplicity, excellence and entertainment (I've played it). Alongside this are a scenario that is almost as easy to run based on 70s slasher movies and a last, more challenging scenario.

In this last scenario I wanted to show how developed No Dice could become from it's incredibly simple beginnings. I've packaged up a martial arts scenario that is based upon a martial arts No Dice RPG that is currently in development. This is perfect actually because one project dovetails nicely into the next, the example scenario sticks to the basics and doesn't explain things like character generation, it comes with some pre-gens, but it is the system at heart.

One of the features of the martial arts system is that it needs to have some really cool fighting moves. It also needs to have a martial arts fighting system.

The martial arts fighting system has always been something of an RPG shibboleth. The number of people disappointed by clunky kung fu melee combat systems that I have met is, well, everyone. The point is that when you're rolling them dice and seeing them scores the action goes into slo-mo, and not in a funky, John Woo, doves 'n' gunfire way.

This is, of course, directly antithetical to the idea of martial arts entertainment. We want to be dazzled by the speed, not snoring over the maths. As this is precisely the kind of problem that No Dice was supposed to tackle I hunkered down and got on with it.

You'll see the results, in brief, in the Core Book and in more depth in the finished full game setting and system.

Whilst I was engaged in the generation of a new fracas management system I stopped to think about how these rules would translate, if at all, into ranged combat. The answer was quite simple, it wouldn't. The setting of the martial arts game is historic so gunfire was something of an event anyway. Coming to consider firing a bow and arrow, however, I wondered about how ranged combat worked at all.

Essentially, the action of firing ballistics (or throwing them) into a melee is a separate event from the melee itself. A suitable observer wishing to partake in this action would find themselves with much fewer opportunities to act as the speed of the combat should be blistering.

I was playtesting the combat system last night and neither fight would have lasted more than three or four minutes in real time. Time to maybe fire two arrows to any effect. Even then the fact of the arrows probably would have curtailed the combat.

So what is all this trying to combine the two. Gun fights and fist fights are essentially completely separate beings and mixing the two oddly inappropriate. This is the curse of the ranger. You might want to be the best bowman in all of Germany (or whatever) but that means you want to take three of the suckers down in one shot each whilst they're running toward you and then get your sword out to take down the other two. The ranged and the melee are essentially two different things.

When I do come to develop a proper ranged combat system it's going to be on that basis. Immediate melee danger must happen in a different time frame to shooting. Shooting a small number of people is probably just a role play event, like making a jump, or battering down a door with your shoulder. A gun battle, well, that's where the system comes in.

Until I, or someone else with the mind to, have time to think about it in depth, I guess we will all just have to be wary of the ranger's curse.

1 comment:

  1. "I was playtesting the combat system last night and neither fight would have lasted more than three or four minutes in real time. Time to maybe fire two arrows to any effect."

    You might want to reconsider that estimate. Any reasonably skilled archer would be able to loose a surprising amount of aimed arrows per minute. I'm just an amateur longbow archer, but I've done field shoots where I've shot 5-6 arrows in 30 seconds (timed by a referee, the targets were life-size 3D models of wild boar, about 30 yards away).
    Admittedly, I did this by setting up my arrows point down in the earth in front of me before I started, rather than drawing them "Legolas" style from my quiver. The point being I'm not particularly practised though.

    I've also seen enough competitive reenactments (UK vikings etc) to be confident that an archer would have ample opportunity to pick off people in a melee with acceptable risk to their allies. Swordfighting isn't a maelstrom of spinning bodies - generally people face off against each other, which would give any nearby archer an extremely tempting target (if it were me, I'd go for legs - less risk of collateral damage and likely little or no armour to worry about).
    It's also not a big deal to ditch your longbow and draw a sword yourself in case someone takes umbrage that you are standing in the wings, picking people off.

    As a slight tangent, many moons ago I wrote my own roleplaying rules for arrow attacks, and the system I ended up with was absolutely devastating, as it was (to my eyes) quite realistic. So, if you got hit by an arrow, and didn't have sufficient armour, you were in *big* trouble. No shrugging off 1d6 of damage in my games, my players were *terrified* of archers :-)

    Good luck with your project!

    /\dam [I am a friend of Justin's by the way]