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Re: (TFT) Random thoughts on rpg combat systems.

----- Original Message -----
From: "rsmith" <rsmith@lightspeed.ca>
To: <tft@brainiac.com>

> Yet in TFT, you have two groups run at each
> other and start hacking, you hit the 10% casualties
> in about 15 seconds.

Rick -- remember that tactical battles tend to feature higher casualty
rates, especially in modern times. The reason is that front line troops
comprise only a small percentage of a large unit's strength -- say 15% of a
division (or less). Yet they take most of the casualties. So your 10%
overall loss might equate to a 66% loss on the front line.

I doubt we'll ever know what the real casualty rates were for ancient and
medieval battles. the available estimates are usually so dependent on
dubiuous assumptions that they're mostly worthless. And we have even less
information on casualties for skirmish fights. In large clashes, most of the
casualties seem to have occurred after one side's battleline collapsed or
was penetrated. Logical, as it is much easier to hack fleeing foes down (+4
DX). In skirmishes, who knows?

> Dave Seagraves uses a system where you may
> always parry a blow by rolling two dice more than
> the attacker's to hit roll.  Thus it makes sense
> to attack with 4 or 5 dice (if you have the DX)
> because this makes your blows hard to parry.
> I had rules like this (see Inept Adept #1, I
> think) but his method is simpler.
> Dave's system successfully slows down combats
> but it reminds me of GURPS.

I detest parry rolls -- too slow and tedious (especially with GURPS' basic
parry system). If you're going to go there, I prefer a simple modifier to
the opponent's to hit roll -- my alternate sword skill rules for instance.

> Player Character - A set of numbers used to kill
> other sets of numbers.
> Non-Player Character - A set of numbers used to
> be killed by PC numbers (and very occasionally to
> kill player character numbers).
> Combat System - A set of rules designed to
> dramatically delay the killing of NPC numbers.
> I thought that these definitions had just
> enough truth in them to hurt.


> The thing about the TFT combat system is it
> is fun.  A number of people have commented on this
> saying that they enjoyed TFT combats for their own
> sake.

Yes -- it's richer than any other RPG and it's *simple* -- a benefit of its
microgame origins.

> The thing is that after you have mastered the
> rules of a fun combat system, you are always tempted
> to elaborate them just a little more.  Thus optional
> aimed shots rules, pinning rules, mounted combat
> rules, etc.  This is great for those who know the
> basic rules, but it just adds more complexity to the
> learning curve for new players.

We have seldom used them -- I told the players that if they started using
such things, I'd have the monsters use them too. They got the hint :-)

> I think that HT wanted a minimal combat system
> so people could get to the story telling.  However
> his 'TFT Lite' did little to support the storytelling
> and it lost some of the tactical richness of TFT.


> Playable means that the game is fun.  TFT's
> combat has that now, and any 'improvements' had
> better tread very carefully around this point.

Yes. And it's possible that some rules may only be appropriate for certain
types of games.

> Fast is self explanatory.  We all strive (I
> assume) to put more story telling in our games.
> Having a combat system where we can kill the NPC's
> and get on with it, has a certain theoretical
> appeal.
> Tactically Interesting folds into Playable.
> I think I should have wrote, 'Dramatically
> Interesting' instead.  My dying in TFT rules
> (Inept Adept #4) were so similar to Ty's rules:
> http://www.reese.org/tft/DEATH.htm
> that I never bothered to post them online.

Form follows function and there are only so many ways to skin a cat. Plus,
great minds think alike. Ours too, for that matter. :-)

> It might be more realistic to say that an
> archer with a heavy bow can only fire once every
> 3 turns, but this has a big impact of playability.
> People want to DO something each turn, and who
> enjoys the record keeping of '2nd turn loading'
> non-sense?
> It might be more realistic to say that a
> long bow has 5 points of piercing damage.

As I said in an earlier post, there are numerous ways to address this point
(if in fact you agree that it should be addressed). I'd summarize my
contentions thusly:

1. The physics suggest that longbows have a penetration (at normal TFT
ranges) that is indistinguishable from Heavy Crossbows.

2. Longbows appear to require more ST to use than Heavy Crossbows.

3. Longbows have a significantly higher rate of fire.

4. Both weapons were very effective at wounding and killing heavily armored

5. Longbows are far harder to learn to use than crossbows -- much more than
twice as hards (years of training vs. a few weeks).\

Thus, the TFT rules do not accurately reflect the strengths and weaknesses
of the two weapons. My suggestions to get there from here -- assuming you
agree with my assertions above:

1. Damage and penetration should be similar if not identical. I like 2+1,
which when combined with my penetraion rules below, means that either will
knbock down a heavily armored man.

2. Longbows should require more ST to use than heavy crossbows. I like ST 13
for longbows and ST 10 or so for heavy crossbows.

3. Longbows should fire faster -- the current TFT rules are fine for this in
my opinion.

4. Because of the distortions inherent in equating penetration and damage
(see my other posts), both weapons should have an easier time getting
through heavy armor. I like the simple rule of allowing them to ignore
armor. (I'd adapt this rule for firearms as well). This needs to be fleshed
out and suggestions have been made to do this.

5. I think that the crossbow talent should be gotten rid of entirely and
perhaps a new 1 point longbow talent added (prerequisite: bow). This will
make crossbows much easier to use.

> I wouldn't mind allowing a long bow do more
> damage, but I think that it should then require a
> greater ST. (A 15 ST for an English long bow that
> does 3d-1 would not bother me.)

I have a hard time believing that the average English longbowman had a ST of
15, but it is a step in the right direction. It does, however, make Longbows
utterly lethal against lightly armored targets, which I'm not sure I'd agree
with. Of course, there should probably be a bow at every ST level from 8 to

--Ty Beard
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