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Default Rampant Games - Weapon Stats in RPGs

November 10th, 2010, 15:15
Jay Barnson discusses combat realism vs abstracting vs "fun" in his latest blog piece:
The thing is, D&D’s weapon tables kinda-sorta made sense in terms of the abstract, wargame-y combat system from which it was derived. A combat round represented a full minute of fighting and represented multiple attacks. Gygax even suggested that weapon damage might not even represent actual injury so much as “near misses” representing the defender’s luck running out. (The abstraction went even further afield with armor reducing the chance to hit, rather than reducing damage on a hit).
But of course, players usually treated it as literal damage. And later games did the same. And while a big ol’ bastard sword might represent a bigger threat than a dagger over the course of a long fight, an individual hit is a different thing. With any lethal weapon, damage comes down more to being where it hit than the size of the weapon. Whether it’s a .45 bullet or a crowbill hit to the head, the lethality chance is pretty dang high. And then there’s the whole added factor of how people (and animals) can continue to fight or function after being mortally wounded. Even in a life-or-death struggle, it is about taking the fight out of the opponent rather than causing instant death.
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November 10th, 2010, 15:15
This relates to something that I've always hated about some games. When the weapons are more important than the character. Instead of 'There goes Conan wielding his two-handed sword!' it turns into "There goes Megadestroyer being wielded by that human what was his name?". Weapons should complement your character(s), not the other way around.

But on the effect of damage and realism. Yes, realism needs to take a back seat for balance. Weapons need to be balanced against their usefulness. The idea is that every weapon should have a reason to be used. Most games force it into a 'class can only use this and this weapon' system, which is ok, but it doesn't necessarily have to be that way. Yes, a dagger does less damage, but maybe it has other inherent benefits like 'hide+10', so you would decide to give it to your sneaky members. An arrow also does less damage, but hey you can loose it from the safety behind the ranks. A spear should do more damage than dagger and arrow, and you could attack opponents 2 squares/hexagons/yards farther away. Swords then would do more damage than spears (for balance) but can only be used on direct melee, and, say, axes would do even more damage, but have a penalty to hit. Stuff like that.
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November 10th, 2010, 16:05
Loot finds must evolve, or rather items should provide increasingly useful benefits - to keep the carrot dangling.

You can accomplish that with a "realistic" system, but it's harder. It would be more about the material of the weapon, such as weight and handling.

However, since this is mostly about fantasy - I don't think you should overthink when something is realistic or not. Magical weaponry fits just fine with most fantasy settings.

One thing, though, is loot-bloat - which is just as bad as the opposite issue. You don't want to oversaturate the player in choices that are too similar. The balance should be to make choices meaningful and with obvious advantages AND disadvantages.

Very few games handle this very well. Gothic makes the mistake of just incrementing numbers - no matter what kind of weapon it is. Hack and slashers tend to throw way too much useless crap making excitement limited.

Actually, games like Baldur's Gate do it quite well - as long as you accept the lack of realism. It makes no sense that you could swing a sword as fast as a tiny dagger. But the sense of progression is quite good, and weapons feel diverse.

Naturally, I would design a much superior system to anything in existence - but I'm not in the business
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November 10th, 2010, 16:22
Originally Posted by wolfing View Post
This relates to something that I've always hated about some games. When the weapons are more important than the character. Instead of 'There goes Conan wielding his two-handed sword!' it turns into "There goes Megadestroyer being wielded by that human what was his name?". Weapons should complement your character(s), not the other way around.
It's like … comparing cars. Or worse …

It's materialistic thinking in its essence, I think.
Because the things are meant, not the skills and abilities.


Just for an inspiration (nothing more) : The combat rules of TDE : http://www.chromatrix.com/html/combat.html

And the weapons : http://www.chromatrix.com/html/weapons.html

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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November 10th, 2010, 16:42
Excellent read and one that is has been on my mind when playing some games. There has to be a 'fantasy' aspect to any game because in real life if you got shot even once then you are going down or even if your hit with a blunt weapon like a mace you are going down. Ever stub your toe just a little bit and remember that pain? Just imagine getting hit in the chest with even a small caliber gun or a metal weapon. Pain is going to be a factor in your fighting capabilities.

So unless ever game the PC has some sort of Warhammer-like Space Marine armor which could actually have some sort of HP on it then you just have to chalk it up to fantasy and go from there.

As for how to deal with this in a game, I have no idea. I've tried doing that in a post apocalyptic style car wars type game I was making when I was a kid. It didn't work out to my satisfaction, but one thing I did find out was that it easier to put HP on cars than it was to try and figure out how a bullet was going to effect a PC.

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I'm still just a rat in a cage.
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