Tuesday, 19 February 2008

On the nature of weapons...

A quick discussion with that most ominous source of Great Game Ideas turfed up this little concept, which I record here for posterity. Or myself after having slept and clean forgotten.

Weapons in RPGs typically have a big pile of attached stats. In the shoddier systems, these are basically a disguise for a ranking from 'small, bad, cheap, use only for rats (small ones)' to 'big, expensive, the only things you'll ever use after level 3'.

Clearly weapons should be different, but equally clearly most weapons also evolved to fill a niche. Some are certainly easier to make and so cheaper and more commonplace. Still, the best designs will stick around, and cost is not commensurate with utility in all circumstances.

Not all reasons necessarily work for all games, mind. A bog-standard roguelike such as mine is unlikely to find a use for the easy concealment of a dagger or bladed fan. Even so...

Right. Combat will be based around a system heavily purloined from Zir'An, because of the aforementioned mechanical elegance of it. Combat will further use the three (or more) weighting system. Characters select from speed, accuracy and damage at present. I think weapon variation slots into this by providing bonuses and caps for certain axes in this kind of system, plus additional bonuses.

For example, the humble dagger provides a bonus to speed and accuracy, but places a cap on the damage axis. Not this doesn't prevent the dagger dealing X damage, it merely limits how much of a preference you can express for doing damage in your combat style. It also provides some less direct bonuses - you can use it in a variety of situations where a larger weapon is ineffective (prone, grappled, etc.), it works well as an off-hand, it can be thrown, it takes up minimal space so you can carry many of them, and certain special combat actions are available with one. It's hard to use defensively.

A generic sword is a more balanced and flexible proposition. A decent number of special attacks are possible, it makes a reasonable defensive weapon, no particular restriction on combat style and so on.

A rapier is similar to the dagger in that it provides a lot of flexibility and bonuses to speed and accuracy, probably additional bonuses to a lot of dueling-type maneuvers, and so on.

Axes and hammers are harder to use in an accurate or fast manner, but definitely dish out the damage, and so on. Staves are good for defense.

It's starting to look like each weapon will have potentially three bonuses and caps for the primary style axes, plus some kind of 'tactical use' data. Special combat maneuvers can probably be broken down into a few groups depending on the weapon types and combat styles that can use them (bladed, blunt, piercing, large, small), plus there may be some that are exclusively available for only some specific weapons. Armour penetration is a fiddly bit in the current nebulous cloud of planning, which I'll return to after beer.

Initially, the bonuses/caps will be a good start, and if all weapons have a place based solely on that then it'll make sense to balance the tactical advantages of each.

Now, armour penetration and stats-for-combat... think think, think think...

Addendum: Penetration seems like it belongs with accuracy. The weighting system splits up your attack action somewhat, and also handles how success points are spent. This leaves speed in an awkward position though...

I think an example might help me work this stuff out. I'll assume 9 points are available as 'float' in the attack calculation. An exactly balanced stance and weapon provides 3 each to the accuracy, damage and speed weightings. This might translate into a +3 bonus on the attack roll and a 9% decrease on the
energy cost (speed) of the attack, plucking numbers purely from the air. The attack yields 12 success points, again split equally. When determining the effect of the attack the points translate into, um, 6 points of armour (soak) negation, and 4 points of bonus damage.

The obvious flaws in this system come through in lightly armoured, hard to hit things and heavily armoured, easy to hit things. The former you either miss lots or waste a lot of penetration for little damage, the latter you waste damage because of lack of penetration. I guess both can be gotten around by dropping speed though. Hmm. I need to try this with some more realistic numbers and a copy of Excel...

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