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High Speed Mounted Combat and Aerial Mounted Combat


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One of the consequences of Pegasus Plateau is that we need to think about how to play aerial combats, especially from flying mounts, already early in in our RuneQuest experience when we might still be struggling with the intricacies of mounted or chariot combat.

Let's start with mounted or chariot combat - possibly a chase, possibly free-wheelng high speed action - across an obstacle course for the simpler 2-dimensional case. A good part of the difficulty in this would result from managing the obstacles without crashing into them, or minimizing damage while grazing them.

You can of course just wing it with theatre of the mind - but that's the Heroquest rpg approach, not the RuneQuest way.

I guess many of you will have played the racing simulation game where you basically draw vectors of your racer on grid paper (or overhead foil which easily makes you leave the track. You get a standard alteration cap on your move which simulates the inertia you have built up. You will want to introduce a maximum speed, which probably needs either a chart or (if you are mathematically inclined) a quick and dirty calculation (Pythagoras is your friend here). (And you thought vector mathematics was something you'd never touch in your leisure time?)

In a role-playing context, I might soften those limits depending on skill rolls for the rider and dexterity or skill rolls for the mount.

If you have less than solid obstacles like tree branches, you might intentionally take some hit (your mount won't like it, but might go along) for an extra edge in speed.

 

One point of this "momentum" thingy is that you make decisions in this melee round that may come to haunt you in three melee rounds as the obstacles rush your way and your mount might panic or be unable to avoid them even if it perfectly follows the rider's reigns.

 

The question is: how much drama can you derive from this, and is it worth all the fiddly bits?

 

If you move to aerial combat, the extra dimension makes it a bit harder to track these vectors, and speeds get much higher than they get for ground movement, which adds more momentum that may come to haunt you.

Then there is an additional option - to elect to go to free fall in mid-air, with the intent to catch the fall a bit later.

(Note that under-water combat, especially where you have strong currents, may play out with similar rules. Have your wrestling/fisticuffs match while drifting through rapids?)

The most obvious obstacle for aerial combat is of course the ground. Dive attacks need to shed inertia in order to avoid crashing (uncontrolled) into the ground. A lot of this is instinctive, at least for flying beasts who do dive attacks regularly. Houses, narrow canyons, or forests come into play in the more advanced chases. Think Endor flybike chases, but with your winged steeds instead...

 

Another thing with flying mounts is wing span, and how that forbids short melee weapon usage to the flanks. They might still be applicable above the saddle (which may still mean down or sidewards if mount and rider can perform - and recover from - wheels in mid-flight). Weapon choice may follow the things we discussed already for wind children or high llama riders.

 

In short - your players will most definitely have seen Avatar, Star Wars: A New Hope or The Empire Strikes Back and will expect something along that line once they have some saddle time on their winged mounts. How are you going to GM that?

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26 minutes ago, Rodney Dangerduck said:

When I asked about this (see ...Stall Speed...) all I got was "no physics in Glorantha"

https://basicroleplaying.org/topic/12819-stall-speed-for-a-hippogriff/

I tried to phrase my question differently - how to make presentation of this inside a game easy for GMs and players.

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I would abstract it Joerg because you also will get...

8 minutes ago, Rodney Dangerduck said:

all I got was "no physics in Glorantha"

..otherwise you will get drawn into all sorts of interesting laws of kinetics which I, for one, am glad I left behind long ago.

I still think you can make it exciting by allowing the players to make all sorts of difficult or specialist manoeuvres using their drive or ride skills with various penalties attached. Opposed pursuit rolls for drive or fly would allow you to escape or catch up. 

Want to do a handbrake turn on your Ox pursuit-wagon ?.. Drive oxen and -50% modifier. Try an inside loop with your pegasus.. Ride Pegasus and a -80% modifier. Making high risk manoeuvres gives you an advantage.. you surprise your opponent by appearing behind her. Failure might mean your pegasus has stalled and you are open to attack.

Players could practice unique skills or manoeuvres like the pilots in WW1 dogfights and mark the kills by tattooing victims on their vehicles (or animals). Lots of fun to be had without delving into Kinetics (anyway I can really only remember straight line motion.. so no turns or figures-of-eight manoeuvres) 

1 hour ago, Joerg said:

Pythagoras is your friend here

And surely Pythagoras theorem was about right angle triangles... the only use I've seen is when my German partner calculated if we could get a new large sofa in through our apartment door... we couldn't.. so had to opt for a modular design. 

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I get Players to balance their miniatures on stacks of D6es, each D6 representing how high they are. To move, they move the stack of D6es. if they rise or fall, they change the number of D6es. If the stack falls over, Boldhome we have a problem.

So, 1D6 is just above the ground, 2D6es are within thrown missile weapon range, 3D6s are within Sling range, 4D6es within bow range, 5D6es within crossbow/arbalest range and 6D6es out of range. They can change the height of a stack by 1 per round, unless diving, in which case they can change by 2 per round.

It seems to work reasonably well.

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54 minutes ago, Nozbat said:

Want to do a handbrake turn on your Ox pursuit-wagon ?..

I am still awaiting GTA 7 (Grand Theft Antelope) so I can try this manoeuvre at high speed!

 

18 minutes ago, soltakss said:

Boldhome we have a problem.

Now that is a statement, I had never thought to see in BRP Central in that particular context!

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49 minutes ago, soltakss said:

balance their miniatures on stacks of D6es, each D6 representing how high they are

For more difficult manoeuvres, you could balance D20s and for near impossible manoeuvres balance D4s. There's a double jeopardy..you might fail your roll (having been very high and used all your D20s to replicate it and be unable to roll, thus failing) or the dice might collapse triggering an automatic failure... seems a good solution to me

34 minutes ago, Bill the barbarian said:

I am still awaiting GTA 7 (Grand Theft Antelope) so I can try this manoeuvre at high speed!

I have a pirate copy brought in by some dodgy Lunar merchants

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4 hours ago, Joerg said:

In short - your players will most definitely have seen Avatar, Star Wars: A New Hope or The Empire Strikes Back and will expect something along that line once they have some saddle time on their winged mounts. How are you going to GM that?

I wouldn't take the "boardgaming" approach of vectors and speeds and inertia unless that's what my players are into. That's only true if the fun is derived from the actual activity of trying to beat the other racer within the rules of the chase (as in playing an actual boardgame for the sake of playing that boardgame). For RPG gamers, especially younger ones, that's maybe not the case. Players might find their fun in what happens during the race/combat, and what the outcome is.

This is why, for instance, the CoC 7e chase rules are so great: they don't bother with the simulation aspect of the chase, and only focus on the narrative aspect of the chase. Distances aren't measured in meters, and speeds aren't measured in meters/second or ever meters/round. The chase rules measure things in "obstacles" (how many turns before the next obstacle) and in how many actions you can take. Check them out!

I would philosophically take the same approach with a chariot or aerial or underwater combat where movement is more important than fight (like, say, the trench run in Star Wars). Determine the Strike Rank of each character based on some combination of the rider's skill and the mount's stats, and then let players do various actions like gain on their opponents, attack them, and so on, each with some SR cost (I would probably limit it to "fast actions" for SR 3 and "slow actions" for SR 5 or something along those lines). Get creative with the actions and their consequences... for instance, if one griffin rider, currently chased by another, wants to do a fancy Cobra-ish maneuver to end up behind/above his opponent and then attack him, you can rule that this calls for an opposed roll with a penalty to the maneuvering rider, which pays off with large bonuses to attack (or penalties to defense) next round/action... whereas doing some more simple evasive maneuvers is an opposed roll that is more similar to a Dodge in normal Melee Combat.

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10 hours ago, lordabdul said:
16 hours ago, Joerg said:

In short - your players will most definitely have seen Avatar, Star Wars: A New Hope or The Empire Strikes Back and will expect something along that line once they have some saddle time on their winged mounts. How are you going to GM that?

I wouldn't take the "boardgaming" approach of vectors and speeds and inertia unless that's what my players are into. That's only true if the fun is derived from the actual activity of trying to beat the other racer within the rules of the chase (as in playing an actual boardgame for the sake of playing that boardgame). For RPG gamers, especially younger ones, that's maybe not the case. Players might find their fun in what happens during the race/combat, and what the outcome is.

Yes, if I ran something like the Avatar battle, I wouldn't be using vectors at all. I'd have PCs jumping onto airships through cargo doors and fighting, or flying through forests/gaps in mountains, lots of skill rolls with Penalties, high action and low referring to rules.

One of the most exciting scenes that I have played was a rowing boat race across a river. The trouble is, it was near a waterfall. So, we had it on graph paper, each success meant that we could move one square, two for a special and 3 for a critical, failure meant that we didn't move and a fumble meant we either capsized or moved towards the water fall. Each round we moved one square closer to the waterfall. The Gm drew the journey onto the graph paper, so that we could see the results of several failures, as we edged closer to the waterfall, but managed to just about escape. To be honest, it didn't matter who won, the joy was in just surviving.

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2 minutes ago, soltakss said:

Yes, if I ran something like the Avatar battle, I wouldn't be using vectors at all. I'd have PCs jumping onto airships through cargo doors and fighting, or flying through forests/gaps in mountains, lots of skill rolls with Penalties, high action and low referring to rules.

I would like to give the players to make a bad choice which will lead them into aerobatical trouble in exchange for a short term benefit over another flying opponent, with a vague realisation that this could come back to hurt the soon and then discovering how bad that navigational choice may have been.

Airships would be rather rare in the Gloranthan lower skies outside of the hero planes, the only published examples are the moon boats  and that lame Feldichi artefact from Dorastor: Land of Doom (highlight the preceding gap for better legibility if you don't mind spoilers). Storm Age myths have of course Blue Moon ships and Helering Cloud ships which may take off into the air, and a travel to the sky world will find other forms of locomotion independent of any notion of solid ground.

The catalogue of flying creatures that can be involved in mounted and unmounted aerial battles in the Gloranthan skies is fairly large:

  • There are Orlanthi flyers (previously called Vanganth flyers), such as the Storm Walkers of Old Wind, sylph riders or simply wind lords using Flight, and there may be levitating Pelorians from Lunar or Solar mysticism, or levitating Easterners refuting the attraction of Earth and Darkness below.
  • then there is a range of sapient airborne winged species, like the Wind Children, Swan Maidens, winged dragonewts (or Immanent Masters), bat-winged Blue Moon trolls (two kinds - four or six limbed), King Gryphon or Assyrian style griffins, Harpies, Quorns (antigod pterodactyl keets), less humanoid forms like Gargoyles, Wyrms, Elder Wild or Galgarenge Griffins, Carmanian Owl-lions, and Hippogriffs, and dream dragons or true dragons, and chaos horrors like Sky Terrors or the Crimson Bat;
  • plus a wider range of flying creatures of at best animal intelligence, including Storm Bulls, Wyverns, Pteranodons, Giant Vrok Hawks, Praxian Giant Vultures, Rocs and other giant birds (e.g. Kethaelan Guardian Cranes), Winged Horses, other celestial winged animals (look at issue 4 of Monster of the Month on Jonstown Compendium for a possible sky demon), possibly extending to winged sphinx-like demigod creatures or the quadruped Cherubim shapes associated with Solomon's temple, and the Lammasu-shaped forms of Thunder Brothers
  • various giant insects capable of carrying pygmies or trollkin (giant bees, giant flies, giant (blue) moon moths, giant wasps) and Gorakiki-cult shape-shifters
  • there are other monsters like Hoons, the giant butterfly of Loral Island (cousin of Mothra),
  • and there are certain Hsunchen who might shape-change into flying beasts (Pujaleg bat people, owl people).
  • Then there are what I would call "cloud runners", including cloud leopards and cloud rams, and possibly some cloud alynxes - species capable of running through the air, at least in the presence of clouds. Some ice giants might be able to walk through blizzards this way. There might be highly magical martial arts in the east allowing to step on air, or draconic disciplines similar to that from EWF teachings.
  • There are of course elementals able to fly - apart from earth elementals and most water elementals, basically all of them, and spirit world entities with Visibility active usually have no trouble to remain airborn either. This category includes dehori-shaped full Kitori and smoke-form vampires as well as various semi-physical Storm entities including whirlvishes and strangling Ipharan fogs, and the floating shadows of Shadow Plateau, Dagori Inkarth, and possibly a few other major troll strongholds like Halikiv or Tarmo.

Rather few of these lend themselves to cloud pirate aerobatics outside of the hero planes or the Outer World, but then the Outer World begins on the upper slopes of Kero Fin or Top of the World, and possibly a few of the lesser peaks like Stormwalk, too.

Hero Wars and HeroQuest 1st edition have some useful notes on the modes of flight. So do Warhammer Fantasy Battle rules, and probably other such fantasy miniature rules which have flying creatures or units.

Dragon Pass/WBRM has tactical rules for flying units - True Dragons, Storm Walkers, Wind Children, Wasp Riders, the Crimson Bat, Pteranodons. Nomad Gods has the Three Feathered Rivals and Vulture, and IIRC the French edition has Moon Boats (or they are in the suggestion for the Arrolian reinforcements in Wyrms Footnotes, introducing cyclical values for the movement factor). Shadows Dance prototype unit listings have Bee Riders and insect swarms. As these rules are designed to work for the hex grid that the AAA overlays over all its Glorantha maps, they may be of interest for RuneQuest players. Unfortunately the only rulesets currently available in pdf are the original Nomad Gods rules set, WBRM variations and a preview of the Corbett rules for Dragon Pass in Wyrms Footnotes.

 

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19 hours ago, soltakss said:

I get Players to balance their miniatures on stacks of D6es, each D6 representing how high they are. To move, they move the stack of D6es. if they rise or fall, they change the number of D6es. If the stack falls over, Boldhome we have a problem.

So, 1D6 is just above the ground, 2D6es are within thrown missile weapon range, 3D6s are within Sling range, 4D6es within bow range, 5D6es within crossbow/arbalest range and 6D6es out of range. They can change the height of a stack by 1 per round, unless diving, in which case they can change by 2 per round.

It seems to work reasonably well.

When I ran a Dragonlance campaign we had I think two aerial combats, and we ran them in a bit similar way. The dice showed the height in some unit. We played it on a grid, where every square was of certain length. D&D has a system for flyers' agility, which specified how tight turns the creatures could make and so on. So we basically played it on RAW. It was fun at first, because it was different from the usual combat, but it grew tiresome surprisingly fast. Imo instead of a specific rules, the GM should ask the players what maneuver they want to do, and perhaps then modify to roll with something. Then the player and the opponent roll against each other, to see which one succeeded.

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6 hours ago, Joerg said:

I would like to give the players to make a bad choice which will lead them into aerobatical trouble in exchange for a short term benefit over another flying opponent, with a vague realisation that this could come back to hurt the soon and then discovering how bad that navigational choice may have been.

To me this can be simply done with risk/reward-based rolls. If you take my previous example of doing a complex acrobatic maneuver to end up with an advantage over the opponent, I had suggested taking a penalty to the first roll (Riding or similar) so that you get a bonus to your next roll (attack roll). The first roll might fail dramatically, with the character crashing through the trees... or they might succeed, but something unforeseen might happen before the second roll (some unexpected tactical choice on the part of the opponent, some friend fumbling a dice roll and crashing into you, etc.).

Basically what I'm saying is that if you're looking for narrative opportunities to make cool stuff happen in the story, often, a couple of simple rolls are enough for that, because the GM and the players can interpret those rolls in whatever way they want, and then build up on these interpretations for more rolls and more cool stuff happening.

Arguably, a system that's built around this kind of stuff (like 7th Sea or Year Zero Engine, where additional successes let you add more "interpretations" and further build the narrative) makes it easier, but even with BRP you can do that to some degree where a normal success/special success/critical success would let a player do smaller or bigger things. You can also use the type of augments the payer used for a roll to guide the narration (an action might be narrated differently if augmented with Love vs. Hate).

If you still want *actual* mechanics for aerial combat, with clear tactical choices and consequences for dive-bombing and stalling and high-speed turns and so on (maybe because you want the same "granularity" as with melee/ranged combat... I know I'm bothered by these types of granularity differences in some systems!), then I'd suggest the following (assuming you're using miniatures, which I assume you are otherwise you wouldn't need tactical rules):

  • Use the previous recommendations about using d6's for raising miniatures, or invest in "combat raisers" or "elevation indicators" or other such things that let you elevate minis.
  • Design some action economy based on Strike Ranks for moving, maneuvering, and so on. I imagine it would be a simple extension of the existing mounted combat and chariot combat rules, with things like:
    • First round after take-off, Move starts at half its maximum.
    • Each round in the air, the rider can increase/decrease Move by 3. They can roll Riding to push it to +/-6 but risk stalling or hurting/losing control of the mount. If you're feeling brave, come up with different maneuverability stats between different mounts... but I think using fixed numbers or, at best, numbers derived by their Move, is good enough.
    • Going up/down by one "level" (with a total of however many levels you can balance things on d6's :) ) makes you move along 1 less hex/square on the board than when going straight (since you're traveling diagonally). Going up *also* decreases your Move by 1 (so you advance by 2 less hexes/squares in total). Going down increases your Move by 2 (so you advance 1 more hex/square in total), and you can exceed the max speed with this bonus. You can pick up more speed by going down several rounds in a row. You keep this new max speed for more rounds until you go up again or voluntarily slow down.
    • Going over max speed gives +20% to attack and defense (which you can augment further), but more things will require a Riding roll if you're getting close to the ground.
    • When stalling (usually after failing a Riding roll), the mount falls by 2 levels, or 4 if a fumble. Keep moving on the board in the same direction by half your Move.
    • A mount attacking another mount will halve the attacking mount's Move. The defending mount's Move is also halved if they defended with anything else than a Dodge. It's very possible that at this point they circle each other or (if they can) fight while hovering more or less in place.
    • Etc...

I hope this gives you ideas.

6 hours ago, Joerg said:

The catalogue of flying creatures that can be involved in mounted and unmounted aerial battles in the Gloranthan skies is fairly large

Nice list, thanks! There are a few cool ones I didn't know about!

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