Combat with ancient weapons

  • 4 Replies
Combat with ancient weapons
« on: August 19, 2012, 04:57:53 PM »
How would this be different? Although the combat (and peripheral combat) moves for regular AW work great for firefights, they don't satisfy me for hacks which use ancient weapons (swords, spears, bows, etc.).

As I'm currently revamping my Conan hack to be more than just a re-skin, this is important to me. Also want to make a Slaine hack as well.

Thoughts on other hacks I've seen:

Saga of the Icelanders- Not very clear rules for combat as it's not very focused on fighting but more on 'getting into a fight'. If that makes sense.

Dungeon World- I love DW, but HP and Class damage dice are not what I want for my hacks, I want my hacks to have more of a S&S or Sword & Sandal feel.

World of Algol- I am paying close attention to this!

Here is my idea thus far (using standard AW stats for clarity):

When you DO BATTLE, roll+ Hard. On a hit you exchange harm as established. On a 10+ you either avoid the enemy's harm completely, or hit your foe's vitals (+AP) but take harm as established.


Light Weapons: 2 harm (may use Cool-optional)

Ranged Weapons: 2 harm (may use Sharp-optional)

Reach Weapons: 2 harm (+1 to Do Battle)

Heavy Weapons: 3 harm

Two-Handed Weapons: 4 harm (-1 to Do Battle & Act Under Fire-physical)


Leather or Hide     1 armor (concealed-optional)
Chain or Scale      2 armor
Panoply               3 armor (-1 to Act Under Fire-physical)
Shield                +1 armor (-1 to Do Battle when used as a Heavy Weapon)

Alright folks, please comment on what you think about this or offer suggestions, they will be greatly appreciated.

Re: Combat with ancient weapons
« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2012, 02:44:20 AM »
World of Algol- I am paying close attention to this!

I'm pretty much committed to using the second move I described here, although I've added "You seize definite hold of an item or a tactical position" to the 10+ options. I'm also thinking that for the 7-9 options, in close combat your enemy picks 1, but for attacks at range, the GM picks.

I was thinking of compressing the weapon damages, because there's only 5 hit points in World of Algol, instead of 6. So, knives and improvised weapons do 1-harm and hand weapons do 2-harm. But now I'm thinking I will just make the recover move better and keep AW-compatible harm ratings. I like having a recover move but sometimes I have to remind the player who's helping me playtest that it exists.

I don't like the fiddly aspects of weapon types, with +1 here and -1 there.

Couple questions:

1. Why is AW harm more S&S than hit points? Would DW hp work if you assigned fixed damage ratings to weapons?

2. What is the difference between a Conan hack and a Slaine hack?

Re: Combat with ancient weapons
« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2012, 04:27:38 AM »
Thanks for the reply. I have read the move that you described and I like what you are going for but it seemed a little complex. Upon re-reading it however, it may be much less fiddly than I imagine in actual play. I will have to try it out and play with it (if you don't mind). It seems we may have a similar goal.

'The +1 here and -1 there' was meant to balance the weapons and make them feel more unique (although simplifying the list of weapons in general). Consider how my (tentative) Do Battle move works when using a spear. You do the same damage as a knife, this makes sense since it's basically a knife attached to a long handle. But the +1 represents you can avoid harm (reach) or inflict ap harm (impalement) better than a knife. Those aspects work with the intended move to make them feel like more than just a harm rating. In my mind they are just like tags, only more appropriate for ancient weapons than the ones in AW are.

A1: It's not so much that AW harm is more S&S than HP. It's that HP is more D&D. I imagine HP would work with fixed dmg ratings but I just like keeping numbers small and using health levels or a countdown 'wheel'. This Battle move I'm tinkering with was inspired from DW's Hack & Slash move btw.

A2: I made a Conan hack, and I'm kind of re-doing it after I've ran a campaign using it. Slaine is another hack and slash badass from a comic book inspired by the CuChulainn legends. If you haven't heard of him, check it out. The comics with Simon Bisley art are very evocative. The world of Slaine has more fantasy elements than the world of Conan.

It may also be worth noting that I'm planning on merging the "impress/terrify your enemies" option with the Go Aggo move (10+).
I plan on renaming the move, "Show No Mercy". I see it being used as a "Finish Him!" move when npcs are down but not out.

Re: Combat with ancient weapons
« Reply #3 on: August 20, 2012, 06:33:50 AM »
Yeah, it's definitely a long move, when written out. In play, though, it's been a nice back-and-forth, with only 3 components: player's statement of intent ("I kill it," or "I disarm him," or "I rush through them into the other room, wildly swinging my sword around") and then the enemy makes a choice, and then there's either the 10+ choice for the player, or the 7-9 choice for the GM (and by all means, try it out and tell me what works/doesn't work for you!).

So, here's the thing about turning weapon tags into actual mechanical modifiers and whatnot -- or rather, here's my argument against them. The AW rules are meant for "fiction-first" role-playing, right? And when you start modelling the differences between weapons with mechanical aspects instead of tags that describe the fiction, you're essentially providing players with a sense of the setting/game physics/experience of the characters by way of mechanics instead of through a description of the fiction. Like, you feel that reach weapons are more accurate than 2-handed weapons because of that +1/-1 modifier, not because this is a thing that is described in the fiction.

The ideal way I want to see an AW-derived game work is that you use all the tools you have in the fiction itself, the description, to set up advantages and disadvantages, and only when they set up a specific move do you go to moves and dice. The move provides a limited set of possible exits back into the fiction, and the dice narrow that down to a very slim window. Then you go through that window back into the fiction with whatever seems plausible based on both the original description and the outcome of the move.

And don't get me wrong, I could go on all day about designing the most elegant system that actually encourages the use of whatever weapons were actually popular in historical times and places, but I feel like that's something for a different system altogether. For me, the best place for the different merits of, say, spears vs. swords lies in the fiction, not so much in the mechanics, except maybe n-harm rating. If you have a sword and you're 50 feet away from a spearman you want to attack, well he has a reach weapon and should be able to just skewer you before you get close -- so you need to successfully go into danger (act under fire/defy danger) in order to close without getting skewered. And once you're in a position to attack, roll the move as normal.

(does all that make sense?)

So (obviously) do what's best for the game you want to play, but that's my pitch as to why I think you should by wary of attaching mechanical bits to weapons above and beyond harm ratings.

A1: Cool beans. I'm not using D&D-style hp either, so that's also my preference. I'm throwing conditions in too, so there's a fictional record of all your injuries and whatnot.

A2: Yeah, I saw your Conan hack, and I've read Slaine (years ago). What I mean is, why do you need two different hacks? Are they that different, in your mind? why not one heroic S&S game that has as much or as little supernatural stuff as players and MC want to put in?

Re: Combat with ancient weapons
« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2012, 02:07:02 PM »
I imagine HP would work with fixed dmg ratings but I just like keeping numbers small and using health levels or a countdown 'wheel'.

This is how Talislanta 4th edition works. And Since Vx took the success level thing from Tal...

So longswords do 8 damage on a full hit, and 4 damage on a partial. And characters have fixed HP too (no character levels).