Tag Archives: Swords and wizardry

I hate 3.5 combat

27 Jun

Last night I joined my girlfriend and her friends in playing as a guest star in their Arcana Evolved campaign. (Ok, so not star, but guest player) Anyways, the game lasted from 3pm to 10pm, with about an hour dinner break. For the most part it was fun, except the last 2-3 hours.

The last 2-3 hours was nothing but combat. There were 6 players versus 12 evil skeleton monsters with 40HP and AC’s of 25. Now, one of the biggest things I like about Swords and Wizardry, or Labyrinth Lord (both retro clones) is how everything is very simple. You just play.

With this Arcana Evolved game there are just so many rules and numbers. It took us 3 hours to fight 12 skeletons. I sat and watched the clock, it took 45 minutes for me to get my turn to go again, and only 30 seconds to find out that I missed every attack because I rolled too low. I then had to wait another half an hour till it got back around to being my turn.

I’m sorry but no. Fuck no. When you have time to get up and watch a TV show or take the dog for a walk without missing your turn in a game, something is wrong. When you are bored to tears watching the other players for 45 minutes, something is wrong. All my character could do was swing at things with his sword, so it took me 2 seconds to say what I was going to do, then roll. Everybody else took forever casting spells, looking at the map, calculating damage, and so on.

Now I know for some people they love the strategy involved with combat. How do I position my character, what attacks am I going to use, etc… But I think it is absurd that in a fantasy game, that by definition asks you to suspend your disbelief, so much emphasis is put on trying to make combat realistic. The player must know every little detail, they must ask a million little questions. No! That is not realistic combat! You know what it realistic combat?!?! “Oh shit! He’s got an axe! What do you do? 1…2…BAM! You hesitated! You’re Dead!” End of story.

I don’t know my own strength….or that of a bat.

21 May

So I just finished up a gaming session with my DM girlfriend. We’re about 200 miles apart for the summer (which right now is probably a good thing for my sake) and so we played over a mix of text and g-talk voice.

I spent an hour scanning every room of my dungeon into easily send-able .bmp pictures, thinking she would continue to explore around. But no, she wanted to get a shinny glowy thing she found earlier in another room, guarded by a giant bat.

So off she ventured with her main character, the very promising Biffy Dunwhite, esq. and her masterful sidekick Kai Shiradi.

You see, Biffy had heard that there was a giant bat in the dungeon, and so late one night while she couldn’t sleep, she bought a “Bat’s day-fucker-up” device off of QVC, consisting of a bulls-eye lantern and a mirror.

qualityArmed with this great high quality tool he descended into the dungeon with Kai. After coming to the room with the bat, they spring in upon it, startling it. Kai swings at the bat and hits it with a glancing blow, but the bat crushes the fierce warrior down to one hit point before Biffy can aim the light in the bat’s face, sending it stumbling backward. Enraged, with Kai bleeding her guts out all over the floor, the bat charges at the hapless Biffy, and in one swoop kills her. Kai drags herself up and staggers towards the bat, now standing over Biffy’s lifeless body, between her and the door, she swings, but given her weaken state misses horribly. They bat turns around and finishes her.

And thus ended about 10 minutes of game play after about 3 hours of preparation. (The player’s fault) This is my first dungeon, and I was really hoping not to kill off my girlfriend’s characters, but apparently I didn’t know how strong of a monster the giant bat was. It has 8 hit dice, a challenge level of 9, and 1,100 xp…..my bad……. The rest of the monsters are just goblins of one variety or another, and I thought a giant bat would be cool. Little did this new DM know how un-cool it would be for Biffy.

Death of a hero....

D&D Armor and Weapon Weights

7 May

Like I said in my earlier post on my ship dungeon, I’m new to this whole table-top gaming thing, so forgive any ignorance. (My DM girlfriend loves lecturing me about roleplaying at the drop of a hat  ~_^)

When I first flipped through her game books well over a year ago, one of the things that drove me crazy was the armor and weapons section. Having done medieval living history for almost a decade, studied Western martial arts for 5 years in ARMA, and owning a full suit of armor (the real stuff, not bullshit leather, plastic, or stainless steel) I think I can pretty well say that I know weapon and armor weights, and what you can do with both.

For example, the buckler is a small shield that can be used defensively and offensively. It has a small hand grip and is in no way “strapped” to your arm.

The hypertext 3E SRD describes a buckler as: This small metal shield is worn strapped to your forearm.” Another thing that drove me crazy was the idea of a “locked gauntlet.” Again, the SRD describes this as: “This armored gauntlet has small chains and braces that allow the wearer to attach a weapon to the gauntlet so that it cannot be dropped easily. It provides a +10 bonus on any roll made to keep from being disarmed in combat.”

Small chains? You know why real knights never wore horns on their armor? Because horns, just like chains, give the enemy something perfect to grab at and hook you on to let them pull you down. That’s why real armor is always smooth and flowing, so there is nothing that can be caught. Chains defeats the whole point. But that’s not my biggest objection. My biggest problem with this idea is that very often in real combat you want to be able to drop your weapon.

Look at this video, at around 1:30 they start to do some techniques that are part of what is called “half-swording.” Many times, when your opponent starts to “wind” his blade the only thing you can do if you can’t out wind him is to drop your blade and grapple him.

Lastly, the other thing that drove me up the wall was the weights. Let me start with shield weights.  Again, the buckler, the 3E SRD says a buckler weighs 5lbs. I’m holding mine in my hand right now and it only weighs about a pound. Here’s a picture of me with my buckler:

mewithbucklerBut perhaps the most ridiculous shield weight has to be that of a tower shield. 3E SRD says it is 45lbs. Now something like that would unpractical to carry into battle. Even these huge judicial shields weren’t that heavy, the guys can still swing them around easily.

I also know Roman re-enactors and their tower Shields aren’t that heavy either, and they have to sometimes form a testudo:

testudo

Now on to armor:

I must say, the 3E SRD does a good job when it comes to armor weights. They have padded armor at 10lbs, which is accurate.  A padded jack like this one:

is pretty darn heavy for just a bunch of cloth. Mine has 25 layer of linen and weighs about that much dry. I don’t ever want to see how heavy it is if wet.

3E SRD has full plate at 50lbs,  Swords and Wizardry core rules has it at 70, 4E player’s handbook has it also at 50. I must say that I am surprised how close to accurate they came.  The true weights are somewhere between 60lbs and 80lbs. It depends on the time period really. Here, look at this picture:

steve and me

My friend is the guy on the left, I’m the guy on the right. My suit of armor is 1370’s ish, his is 1470’s ish. His weighs about 60lbs, mine weighs about 75lbs. The difference is the chainmaile. As you can see, I have a LOT more maile than him. As the armor got better and stronger, the knights started to ditch the maile, hence why his is lighter.

Weapons:

This is the part of roleplaying that I think is most egregious and epitomised by this clip from the 13th Warrior:

Lets take my favorite weapon, the longsword:

This particular sword happens to be called “The Agincourt“, made by Albion Swords (one of the finest places to buy a real sword, period) and weighs 3lbs 7oz. Swords and Wizardry has the longsword at 10lbs! 4E is closer with a weight of 4lbs, but then gives a greatsword a weight of 8lbs!

Ask any re-enactors in Das TeufelsAlpdrücken Fähnlein how heavy their two-handers are, and they’ll tell you not more than 4-5lbs.

All these horrible weights make me think D&D is trying to tell you all swords handle like this:

D&D Glaive weight: 10lbs, real weight, 3-4lbs, D&D Halberd weight 12lbs, real weight 5lbs. D&D dagger weight 1lbs, real weight .7 (Ok, so now I’m getting picky :-p)

My DM girlfriend tries to tell me that these weights are an attempt to signify weight + volume, or how difficult it is to carry something. I don’t know if I buy that. Maybe. But it then leaves people with this horrible idea that the real weapons weigh that much, which as a re-enactor, is my duty to dispel.

Ship Dungeon

1 May

So lately I’ve taken the plunge into role-playing. I’ve role-played in only three very short games before and never DMed. I’m mainly a computer gamer (if I can be called that, I only play when I have the time, which is rarely), yet with a girlfriend who has been a life long DM, I guess it was only a matter of time.

While I’m still clueless on the mechanics of playing (she’s helping me out with that) I have been really into trying to come up with cool settings. The first dungeon I made (which she is currently playing through) was set in a Jules Verne “Journey to the Center of the Earth” style Aztec village with a band of stranded un-dead conquistadors.

It’s only a page big, but has turned out to be mapping hell for her. For instance, I’m sure I gave her a major headache when I tried to describe this  diamond shaped room that had two more smaller diamond shaped rooms in it. Here is the lower half of the map (which she has explored):

Mapping hell

She also recently told me of some contest (I forget the name of it) where I have to create a dungeon that fits on one page. I wanted to do something other than the mundane generic medieval dungeon, so got the idea to use a shipwreck. It’s an enclosed space, that can have rooms, and dangers, and treasures. Then for setting, I tried to blend two things together, Egypt and Napoleonic France. So in short, it’s a sunken French ship coming back from French Occupied Egypt with something mysterious aboard!

Here is the map with just the ship’s outline filled out:

Ship

For the ship layout, I modified the design of a (Russian?) brig:

brig

It was the only free ship layout I could find at the time, and it seemed to work nicely. For scaling, I decided to make each square 1 meter, instead of the normal 5 feet. I measured the brig schematics and the ship is roughly 40 meters long. I was able to fit four decks onto the piece of page.

I’m planning on having one deck be the top deck with the captain’s quarters, and then the lower decks will be anything from crew’s quarters, to kitchen, to gun deck, to cargo hold. Perhaps I’ll throw in a dash of Event Horizon. ~_^

As for creating individual rooms, I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to do. I was thinking that a sunken ship has a lot of debris, and that things move around inside of the ship as it sinks. This could then create barriers that would form make-shift corridors.

I think it’ll be a lot of fun, and hopefully I can come up with some neat things to put in there.