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creativehum

Core Rules Battle System vs. Book of Battles 2nd

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I opened my PDF of BoB tonight and realized the rules alone are 100 pages. (A few dozen more pages cover tutorials and other materials).

The Battle System in KAP is ten pages. 

So, some questions:

  1. How much more fun is the system in BoB than the one in KAP? What kind of fun is it?
  2. What sort of narrative/story information does each system provide? That is, does BoB provide a lot more engaging details about the fiction of the fight to paint an even more compelling picture of the battle for everyone seated at the game table?
  3. How much more interesting/useful fictional detail does BoB provide over the KAP Battle Systerm for the overall Campaign? Doe it output really great material that echoes across the session or future years of the campagin?
  4. Does the Battle System in KAP hold up? What does it do? And does it do it well?
  5. Is the BoB system worth the effort to read, learn, practice, and bring to the table (as the text suggests doing)? If so, what makes it worth it? What does the time you put into it earn you? What does it offer the Battle System does not?

Thank you!

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9 hours ago, creativehum said:

I opened my PDF of BoB tonight and realized the rules alone are 100 pages. (A few dozen more pages cover tutorials and other materials).

The Battle System in KAP is ten pages. 

So, some questions:

  1. How much more fun is the system in BoB than the one in KAP? What kind of fun is it?

I don't know if it is more fun per say, but I might be more satisfactory and rewarding to the players. In the core battle system the players don't have any effect on the battle and are really just trying to survive it, avoid being captured, and maybe capture a knight for ransom. What makes BOB more satisfactory is that by adding and tracking Battle Intensity the players get an indication of how the overall battle is going -if they are winning, or losing and by what degree. Secondly, since the player's actions can adjust the intensity the players get a feeling for how their actions affected the battle, or how they didn't. Usually the 1 or 2 point differences to intensity that the players contribute gets lost in the overall shuffle, and that makes sense. Occasionally the players will do very well and their actions will have more of an impact, such as when the battle events tend to zero out and it is the -1s and -2s that bring the intensity down to the point where the enemy withdraws. The times when the PK get a shot at enemy commandeers is also nice, as it gives the players a real feeling that they could win a battle. Then there is the fact that the maneuvers allow players to use some tactics on the battlefield. Last battle I ran, the Battle of Lincoln in 446, the Unit Commander actually deliberately maneuvered into he 8th rank so he could attempt to "Attack the Rear" of the enemy army. This was a triumph, and the 10 point shift in Battle Intensity turned what was an orderly withdrawal into a rout. That sort of stuff is far more rewarding to the players than just fighting a random foe with no effect on the battle. This is also reflected in the glory, since the glory won is based partially on the foes encountered.

 

 

9 hours ago, creativehum said:
  1. What sort of narrative/story information does each system provide? That is, does BoB provide a lot more engaging details about the fiction of the fight to paint an even more compelling picture of the battle for everyone seated at the game table?

It depends. At it's heart BoB is similar to the core battle rules, but adding in Battle Intensity and tracking the PK location on the battlefield help to give a better image of what is going on, both from the knights viewpoint as well as the big picture. The maneuvers help too, since they give the players a better idea of what they were doing other than "fighting". BoB is also open to more customization of battles and factoring in special events. Things like taking key positions on the battlefield, assaulting a fort, or committing the reserves, can all be implemented, giving the GM more options as to how to use battles.

Still the majority to the battle in Pendragon are scripted, and a good deal of the narrative information comes from the script. Oh, also, while the BoB doesn't do or mention this, I have adjusted the battle intensity according tot he script, rather than using the 3d6-10 roll. So if a Battle has Arthur draw Excalibur, inspiring the Britons, who charge forward to great effect, I shift the intensity. Typically what would have been a +5 modifier to the core system becomes +-4 Intensity in BoB. If an enemy withdraws or routes during a scripted battle, then I note the intensity for that round, and control the random intensity rolls to fit the narrative. 

 Also BoB integrated better with Book of Armies, which makes missile unit more significant. A lot of the time the knights fail to accomplish much in a battle round, despite being highly skilled, is when they get double or tripled teamed and get peppered by arrows. Anyone not named Lancelot is hard pressed to win against three opponents at once. This often adds drama to the battle rounds, as the players need a certain number of wins to achieve (or avoid) a particular result. For instance in the Battle of Lincoln where the Unit Commander was trying to maneuver to the rear, he succeed in part because one PK split his skill 3 ways an won all three fights, including rolling a 1 when needed.

 

9 hours ago, creativehum said:
  1. How much more interesting/useful fictional detail does BoB provide over the KAP Battle Systerm for the overall Campaign? Doe it output really great material that echoes across the session or future years of the campagin?

It can. It's not automatic, but it can. Just how much it adds depends a lot on the situation, how the GM presents the battle, and how well the players can deal with the situation. Sometimes things can be truly epic, such as one battle where the players were broken down into two units. One managed to capture an enemy Battalion Commander, and the next round the other group captured the enemy Army Commander. As the PKs were oversees working on an alliance for the King, they did a great job impressing their potential ally, General Flavius Aetius, and  they got a lot of prestige and recognition both in Rome and back in  Britain with their King. Something like that couldn't happen with the core battle system.

Well, actually it could, if a GM were to add intensity to the core rules and let the PKs actions adjust it by +/- 1 or 2 points per round, and apply an adjustment for the 3d6 events roll used in the core system. That little change would give a GM a good chunk of the BoB's features for very little added complexity.

 

9 hours ago, creativehum said:
  1. Does the Battle System in KAP hold up? What does it do? And does it do it well?

Yes the Core system does hold up. It works, and is easy to grasp and run. What it does well is provide a quick and easy way to simulate the scale and chaos of a battle, and does so without having to move beyond the "personal scale" of the player knights. You don't need to track individual units, or roll for a bunch of NPCs. It's all player centric.  

9 hours ago, creativehum said:
  1. Is the BoB system worth the effort to read, learn, practice, and bring to the table (as the text suggests doing)? If so, what makes it worth it? What does the time you put into it earn you? What does it offer the Battle System does not?

Thank you!

Yes it is worth it.. Not that the core rules are bad, it just that BoB adds more to things, much like how expanded chargen has always added more to top the game beyond the standard knight from Salisbury. It added a lot more to what the players are doing, what effect it has, and how the overall battle is going. Where in the core rules the players would only know that they fought another round and whatever the current random events were, in BoB there is a much greater feel of where the PKs are, what they are doing, and how the overall battle is going. If a battle doesn't have a scripted outcome, BoB can actually be used to resolve the outcome in play, and even give the players a chance of winning the battle! It's not a good chance, as they are only a handful of knights on the battlefield, but it is there. The core battle system can't do that. At least not without modifications.

 

Also much of the complexity of BoB is for unusual cases -for instance most of the maneuvers don't get used, and most of the time the PKs will alternate between a handful of maneuvers such as Charge, Withdraw, Push Deeper, Stand, Stand against Two, Attack, Attack With Another, and Attack vs. Two. Most of the other maneuvers are for special situations. And some things in BoB could be streamlined, simplified or ignored. For instance there is a d6 table that determines if enemy archers shoot at the PKs or not if ignored, and since it comes up a lot, it means the GM has to reference that table a lot. I suggest either printing the table out, writing the numbers on the Battlezone Sheet (which is what I did, maybe I should post that) , or replace the d6 roll with a d20 roll against 2 x the Battle Zone (the percentages are close).

 

That said, the BoB isn't required and might not be for everyone. It does add complexity, makes battle the focus for an entire session, and does have a few drawbacks. For instance the rule where the enemy army routs if the PKs get to the camp, doesn't quite hold up, and encourages the PKS to do everything they can do do so (especially since they get triple loot for doing so). While I understand the intent of the rule, I just do seen an army that has a battle nearly won turn and route because a half dozen knights got to their camp.  If it worked that way the French would have won at Agrincourt, where some French troops actually managed to do it. Also increasing the Battle Intensity based upon the size of the battle doesn't work. It leads to the PKs tending to loose more battle just because the battle are larger, and is impossible to adjudicate if the players have units on both sides.  Plus it can lead to situations where the Intensity goes up (gets worse) because of having more allies. I suggest ignoring that part of the calculation and just go with a 20, adjusted by odds, terrain, etc.    

 

I hope that helps.     

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That does help! Thanks!

I think starting with the Battle System makes the most sense for the earlier sessions of the game. The PKs are newly knighted, after all, with no battle experience at this time. And the Players themselves are new to the whole game, and I don't want to bog them down with a whole new game as they are already learning KAP.

Then, as the PKs gain more prowess and it would make more sense for their Knights to be able to affect the battles, we could introduce BoB on a case-by-case basis. The Players, too, will have more familiarity with the game system and ready to expand the core principles of the game in a new direction. 

I especially liked your point about the "scripted" nature of battles that form a large part of the GPC. Using the BoB for scripted battles seems a bit of a waste of time. I mean, I can still see some of the value. But the fact is, in such battles what does matter is how the battle buffets the PKs, not how the PKs can turn the tide of the battle.

I think holding off BoB until the Anarchy Phase, lifting the scripted nature off the battles, and seeing how hard the PKs want to press themselves into battles for conquest makes the most sense.

Finally, thank you for your notes and experience about a few of the rules. Great appreciated. 

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Not much to add to @Atgxtg's comment. So a bit my experience:

What I like about the BoB system is that it gives the PKs the idea they have some influence on the outcome. (as mentioned by @Atgxtg during scripted battles I do not roll dice, but add and subtract depending on the script of the battle). BoB gives a lot of maneuvers, but not many are used. Most of them are only in certain circumstances. 

I find that the system makes it easy to add some special events to a battle and it makes it easy to control the battle as a GM. It takes two or three battles to get the an idea of the system. So do not be overwhelmed when you start. 

What I try to do is put one round in the battle that is special. Something the PKs can act in reponse to. That will make the battle memorable and will remove the idea of a lot of the notetaking done during the other rounds.

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1 hour ago, Cornelius said:

What I try to do is put one round in the battle that is special. Something the PKs can act in reponse to. That will make the battle memorable and will remove the idea of a lot of the notetaking done during the other rounds.

I whole-heartedly endorse this. Especially if you can tie it into something the PKs would like to accomplish on their own. Take down a hated enemy. Try to capture an enemy nobleman in order to get his permission for one of the PKs to marry his daughter. Save your own liege lord. Something that makes it more than just randomly bashing people before the battle is over.

Introducing enemy heroes helps a lot, too. It is instantly more memorable when the fight is against Sir Meriot, the Mace of Morrowind, than just 'Famous Knight template'.

I am seriously thinking of just ditching the whole battle round system entirely and simply roll like Battle and weapon skills once vs. the typical enemy to see how they did, give some wounds based on the result, and then off we go to the IMPORTANT skirmish/combat of the battle.

For example, I just ran Battle of Autun (slightly abbreviated, since I didn't want to have full 9 rounds of grind) today, and thanks to the PK unit commander failing some battle rolls, they got stuck in enemy infantry and lost their horses. So they missed out on a lot of the things that I had planned for them. Oh well, I just have that in store for the next battle, which will come soon. Still, I doubt that they will soon forget the hail of plumbata that the enemy infantry hurled at them... "Hah, no archers, this will be... HOLY SH..." :)

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7 hours ago, Morien said:

 

I am seriously thinking of just ditching the whole battle round system entirely and simply roll like Battle and weapon skills once vs. the typical enemy to see how they did, give some wounds based on the result, and then off we go to the IMPORTANT skirmish/combat of the battle.

I've done that for some battles. I tend to use a one rou8nd battle resolution for the backup characters where they fight one round to see who their best opponent is, and then get generic glory for the reaming rounds. It really depends on how  epic I want to make the battle. There are also some non-Pendragon methods of handling battles that work, and couple be adapted for Pendragon. Some of them just had the player roll to see if they had any special events during the round, otherwise they got standard battle awards. 

BoB is great when the GM wants to play up the battle as the major event of the year, but not so hot when he doesn't want to do that. It all depends on what the GM wants to do, and that can change from case to case.

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For beginners, the rulebook battle rules are perfectly fine.

BoB is for experimented players frustrated with the limitations of this abstracted system.

Edited by Tizun Thane

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4 hours ago, Tizun Thane said:

For beginners, the rulebook battle rules are perfectly fine.

BoB is for experimented players frustrated with the limitations of this abstracted system.

I suppose the same case could be made for any of the new rules introduced over the years. The all tend to expand upon the core rules and go into more detail.

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