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Basic roleplaying combat system

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I´ve just read through the combat system of the BRP 4th edition, and I have to say I am a bit disappointed. This is mainly because I think the simulation of real combat is quite good, but on certain, very unnecessary points brakes the illusion badly.

I hope I in some way have misunderstood the rules, and can be proven wrong by someone here :o

First: Is there any reason to have a shield? OK, it might be good against missile fire, but that is not the main reason you would carry a shield into real battle. The shield was used to parry incoming blows, and in the BRP system there is no reason to use a shield when you can parry just as well with a normal hand weapon like a sword or an axe.... :(

(Most shields and hand weapons have the same base chance of parrying)

Second: Have the game designers considered the relative efficiencies of weapons? In the BRP system a battle axe is surly better than a longsword giving damage of d8+2+db (compared to d8+db for langsword), and has no other real drawbacks. Historically the longsword was the more expensive weapon, usually worn by the higher classes. Would they really settle with the weaker weapon?

Third: Why is only one possible type of special success on weapons? A halberd or sword can certainly impale, not only make bleed damage?

All these "mistakes" can be fixed by some house rule patching, but it annoys me that the system was not more thought through by the designers. Or am I wrong? Please prove me wrong... :)

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Not sure what your talking about with shields

Pg. 206 " Your character parries melee attacks with his or her shield just as he or she would a hand weapon, using the same system."

Being protection against Missile fire is just an added bonus

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Not sure what your talking about with shields

Pg. 206 " Your character parries melee attacks with his or her shield just as he or she would a hand weapon, using the same system."

Being protection against Missile fire is just an added bonus

Just that there is no reason to have a shield, when you can parry just as well with a hand weapon. For example a short sword and a kite shield both have a base chance of 15 to parry. For a character, there is no reason to spend time and energy (skill points) to learn parrying with a shield, when the shortsword does the job.

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You cannot parry an arrow with a short sword...

Of course, RuneQuest 6 considers this, weapon size difference matters, you dont parry a battle axe with a dagger etc

Edited by Heimdallsgothi

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The longsword stats are probably a mistake, like the dagger ones. A claymore should do 1d10+1 damage, and so be on par with a battleaxe (and sturdier).

For the rest, the details you are looking for are present in RuneQuest 3ed, from which the BGB combat rules are taken. I think Jason left them out to make a simpler ruleset. You can put them back very easily.

a) Shield (and two-weapon) use: look at the optional strike rank system. There is a rule that says "You cannot parry and attack with the same le weapon in the same Strike Rank". This means that in a fight between a 2-weapon user and a 1-weapon user, all that the 2w user has to do is state "I wait until the SR he swings and counterattack". The 2w user can both attack and parry, as he is parrying with the shield, but the 1w user cannot! This is a very good reason to use a shield. Transfer this rule to the DEX Rank system, too, and you will see how useful shields will become.

B) The weapon table in AHRQ had, in fact, swords as being capable of both slashing and impaling blows. So was for halberds. You may put this rule back into the rules. However, be warned that it will lead to player abuse: medieval/ancient longswords were not primarily thrusting weapons, and granting them the impale special effect will lead to unrealistic combats where only thrusts are used.

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In Elric!/SB5 weapons are prone to breaking if hit hard enough whereas shields are nice and sturdy. I thought that made it over into the BGB, but I don't have my books with me.

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I am currently investigating the difference between what I shall call 'blocking' and 'parrying' in this context (just to distinguish the actions). Forgive my ramblings, but this is what my thoughts are at this time.

If you block with a shield, you are essentially relying on its mass and structural strength to stop the blow. The shield provides armour points, and excess damage still strikes the defender through the shield, either through blunt trauma to the shield arm or by actually piercing the shield. Blocking is essentially putting your shield in front of the part of your body that your opponent is going for, but a shield being bigger than a weapon may mean that the roll should be easier.

If you parry with a weapon, you are deflecting the blow using leverage and the angle of interception. It's still possible that a powerful blow will not be deflected completely, so excess damage can again get past the parry and strike the defender.

Now, maybe you can parry with a shield (especially a buckler) and maybe you can block with a weapon, I haven't got that far yet and it may be an unnecessary level of detail in any event. But I think the way to model the difference is to reduce the amount of damage that can be parried because it is dependent on both the defender's skill and his strength, more than just the toughness of the parrying weapon. The skill aspect is taken care off in that he must roll to parry in the first place, and special or critical parries will improve the effect. Perhaps STR should determine the amount of damage that can be parried?

I do believe the item damage rules are worth another look, too, to see if they can be made to reflect the real world in game terms. Shields do get battered and destroyed, and there's a limit to how much punishment your fancy bronze rapier can take (bronze age rapier, not Renaissance rapier). Replacement cost is surely another factor in the popularity of shields.

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Just that there is no reason to have a shield, when you can parry just as well with a hand weapon. For example a short sword and a kite shield both have a base chance of 15 to parry. For a character, there is no reason to spend time and energy (skill points) to learn parrying with a shield, when the shortsword does the job.

Note that if you use the optional hit location system, a shield is also an armor for the body parts it covers. A shortword is not.

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I´ve just read through the combat system of the BRP 4th edition, and I have to say I am a bit disappointed. This is mainly because I think the simulation of real combat is quite good, but on certain, very unnecessary points brakes the illusion badly.

I hope I in some way have misunderstood the rules, and can be proven wrong by someone here :o

First: Is there any reason to have a shield? OK, it might be good against missile fire, but that is not the main reason you would carry a shield into real battle. The shield was used to parry incoming blows, and in the BRP system there is no reason to use a shield when you can parry just as well with a normal hand weapon like a sword or an axe.... :(

(Most shields and hand weapons have the same base chance of parrying)

Use of the search function will reveal that this topic has been EXTENSIVELY debated here on several occasions. Shields are NOT as potent as they were in say RQIII or Elric! but they are still a (marginally) better choice than off hand weapons if one is expecting to face any significant amount of missile fire.

Second: Have the game designers considered the relative efficiencies of weapons? In the BRP system a battle axe is surly better than a longsword giving damage of d8+2+db (compared to d8+db for langsword), and has no other real drawbacks. Historically the longsword was the more expensive weapon, usually worn by the higher classes. Would they really settle with the weaker weapon?

Um, the effectiveness of a weapon is only one factor in the choice of using it - it's prestige is ALSO important. Historically, the masses were armed with pole / spear weapons (devastatingly effective and CHEAP). Swords were rarely, if ever a main battle weapon - they took a lot of expensive resources (lots of metal, lots of skill to make) and are, on balance, less effective in typical use than a spear, pole arm or an axe. Think of them as the pistol of pre-firearms warfare - very effective in the right role and in skilled hands; a highly portable secondary weapon and badge of prestige. But the Axe, Spear or Polearm are the main battle rifles of the pre-firearms era: they are the weapons the rank and file carry and the weapons that generally determine the outcome of an engagement.

Now - they are, by definition, exceptions to every such sweeping generalisation - but looking for mechanical performance differences between side arms without first looking at the social and economic factors is IMO a mistake.

Third: Why is only one possible type of special success on weapons? A halberd or sword can certainly impale, not only make bleed damage?

Simplicity, at a guess. For every session of RQII/III I played were anyone remembered they could switch modes, I must have played a dozen where no one remembered (and I've been playing RQ since the late seventies). And, speaking as someone with ten years steel weapon combat experience fighting with halberds and similar polearms, the idea that you can't crush, entangle or Knockback with a Halberd is more problematic that not being able to impale...

All these "mistakes" can be fixed by some house rule patching, but it annoys me that the system was not more thought through by the designers. Or am I wrong? Please prove me wrong... :)

Well, your "wrong" in the sense of I'm sure the system WAS thought through - it's just the decisions the designers reached aren't ones that sit well with you! :D

Bear in mind that BRP was intended as a generic core book - adding lots of detail about bronze age hand to hand combat in to a system that had to also accommodate 17th Century fencing, light sabre duels and 24 style special ops combat missions would have been problematic, especially give how large the book already was.

Speaking as one of the play testers I do think we missed some of the wrinkles in the tweaks to combat, but I don't think any of them are egregious and frankly, depending on the campaign I am running I use different shield rules anyway. BRP RAW encourage swashbuckling MUCH more than RQII/III ever did for example (off hand parrying with a weapon and Dodging are more viable options) so I'm happy enough with them - if the BGB ever gets a revision I'd be the first to call for a sidebar spelling out some of the issues with shields as written and offering some alternatives (as the BGB is all about options), but the systems entirely usable as is.

Cheers,

Nick

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Is there any reason to have a shield? OK, it might be good against missile fire, but that is not the main reason you would carry a shield into real battle.

In real world history it was the main reason. The first phase of a battle was to advance

towards the enemy position in order to get into melee weapon range. Since few people

could afford any kind of armour good enough to protect them from enemy missiles and

a skilled archer or slinger could easily hit six targets within one minute, an army without

shields was in serious risk to become decimated and demoralized even before the actual

melee started.

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a) Shield (and two-weapon) use: look at the optional strike rank system. There is a rule that says "You cannot parry and attack with the same le weapon in the same Strike Rank". This means that in a fight between a 2-weapon user and a 1-weapon user, all that the 2w user has to do is state "I wait until the SR he swings and counterattack". The 2w user can both attack and parry, as he is parrying with the shield, but the 1w user cannot! This is a very good reason to use a shield. Transfer this rule to the DEX Rank system, too, and you will see how useful shields will become.

Thanks for the answer, but actually I cannot find the rule you are referring to in the strike rank system. Still, in close combat a dagger would be a better choice than a shield, as it has greater chance of parrying, and can deal more damage if you use it for an attack. Think of it, greater chance of parrying with a small dagger than a big round shield... that is what i would call a flaw in the system.

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Thanks for the answer, but actually I cannot find the rule you are referring to in the strike rank system.

Sorry, I do not have my e-copy of BRP at hand, I cannot recall the exact line. I will send you the link as soon as I get it.

Still, in close combat a dagger would be a better choice than a shield, as it has greater chance of parrying, and can deal more damage if you use it for an attack. Think of it, greater chance of parrying with a small dagger than a big round shield... that is what i would call a flaw in the system.

And why? Shields are designed as a passive defense against missiles, not as tools used to parry close combat attacks. A swashbuckler may well be superior to a barbarian with a round shield if no missile fire is involved.

Also, if the dagger is held in the left hand, its chance to parry is halved for off-hand use. This is not true for the shield.

In any case, it is a well-known fact that this is the weak spot of this incarnation of BRP. What we are trying to tell you here is that it is not such an imporrtant problem. You can fix it, but if you are not familiar with BRP, you risk introducing even bigger problems with the fix. Better adopt a previously tested solution.

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Note that if you use the optional hit location system, a shield is also an armor for the body parts it covers. A shortword is not.

Yep, that makes shields usable for more than arrow cover. I´m considering using that system. I overlooked this possibility.

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In Elric!/SB5 weapons are prone to breaking if hit hard enough whereas shields are nice and sturdy. I thought that made it over into the BGB, but I don't have my books with me.

p. 207 “Shields”: an attacker can try to destroy the shield or the parrying weapon. Although the parrying weapon is mentioned only once in the text and then only “shield”, I guess this rule is valid for both. Shields absorb damage with their AP, while weapons don’t since they don’t have AP but only HP. Against a high skilled foe parrying every blow, or when trying to make a prisoner, it is a good option to try to break the weapon: it would be much more difficult to break a shield.

IMO this rule has to be amended: I’m not sure a spear will make as much damage as an axe, and when parried with a weapon probably not at all, since only the shaft will be touched by the parrying weapon –but it is another debate (old RQ2 and 3 stated that shafted weapons did no damage at all to parrying weapons).

Some other advantages of shields beyond missile fire are indeed not simulated by the rules, e.g.:

- in compact drill formations like the roman legion

- when charging, no time to hit and parry with one weapon, or even to parry at all: armour and shield are the only protections against pikes.

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And why? Shields are designed as a passive defense against missiles, not as tools used to parry close combat attacks. A swashbuckler may well be superior to a barbarian with a round shield if no missile fire is involved.

Also, if the dagger is held in the left hand, its chance to parry is halved for off-hand use. This is not true for the shield.

In any case, it is a well-known fact that this is the weak spot of this incarnation of BRP. What we are trying to tell you here is that it is not such an imporrtant problem. You can fix it, but if you are not familiar with BRP, you risk introducing even bigger problems with the fix. Better adopt a previously tested solution.

I don´t agree that shields are designed only for missile defence. If you try some live roleplaying, you will know why. Having a shield usually makes you superior to anyone at same skill level as yourself with the same weapon. Also if you read the viking sagas of Snorre (real sagas), lots of combat is described. Shields are used to block incoming blows, as well as arrows. They usually had more shields, as they got broken during combat.

As you may understand, I´m planning a viking/norse campaign ;)

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Um, the effectiveness of a weapon is only one factor in the choice of using it - it's prestige is ALSO important. Historically, the masses were armed with pole / spear weapons (devastatingly effective and CHEAP). Swords were rarely, if ever a main battle weapon - they took a lot of expensive resources (lots of metal, lots of skill to make) and are, on balance, less effective in typical use than a spear, pole arm or an axe. Think of them as the pistol of pre-firearms warfare - very effective in the right role and in skilled hands; a highly portable secondary weapon and badge of prestige. But the Axe, Spear or Polearm are the main battle rifles of the pre-firearms era: they are the weapons the rank and file carry and the weapons that generally determine the outcome of an engagement.

Now - they are, by definition, exceptions to every such sweeping generalisation - but looking for mechanical performance differences between side arms without first looking at the social and economic factors is IMO a mistake.

The main equipment of a norse warrior was a shield, a spear, and an axe or a sword, if they could afford it. Also chaimail was only for the wealthy. I find it unrealistic if a warrior would go into battle with a weaker, more expensive weapon, just because of the prestige.

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Some Gauls were charging naked with a sword, just to show that did not fear death. Bow and crossbows were dispised by knights, who found close combat more prestigious. Sword is in many culture a symbol of higher social class and were held even not at war, reserved to free men or nobles, like during Ancien regime in Europe. I guess that it was not only more expensive, hence more prestigious than an axe that a forester could possess at well, but also the only big weapon 1- carriable at the belt at any time (to show off) and 2- easy to pull out (in case of an aggression or in a battle when breaking or droping the lance) : prestige alone was probably not hte only reaon of the spreaing of swords, but has been one of it.

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The main equipment of a norse warrior was a shield, a spear, and an axe or a sword, if they could afford it.

Yep - a sword was MORE expensive and more about prestige. It took more materials, more time and a more skilled artisan to make a sword and therefore carrying one demonstrated one was a person who could afford such expense. When battle was joined, they would NOT have been reaching for the sword first, even if they were highly skilled with it.

Also chaimail was only for the wealthy.

Well, the wealthy or those who looted wealthy corpses after a battle... :P But I quite agree - any complex metal work was expensive and again, had elements of prestige bound up with its use as much as practicality. Mail is wildly overrated by a lot of gamers as a defensive protection for example - great for protecting gussets but brigandines / coats of plates / padded & faced jacks offered the same level of torso or limb protection for a fraction of the cost and were MUCH more common amongst the rank and file in mediaeval armies as a consequence.

I find it unrealistic if a warrior would go into battle with a weaker, more expensive weapon, just because of the prestige.

And yet officers in the firearms era do that - they go in to battle with a "weaker" weapon - a pistol. Because as officers their "main" weapon is the troops they command, so their personal side-arm is purely for personal defence and as a badge of status. And you'll note that I never said the sword was a USELESS weapon anyway, just that it wasn't the PRIMARY weapon: if you loose your main weapon you want something other than pocket knife or harsh language to fall back upon.

Cheers,

Nick

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The main equipment of a norse warrior was a shield, a spear, and an axe or a sword, if they could afford it. Also chaimail was only for the wealthy. I find it unrealistic if a warrior would go into battle with a weaker, more expensive weapon, just because of the prestige.

Realistic damage or not, a spear is the best weapon on the battlefield. But it is not a leader's weapon. Officers, knights, houscarls and samurais all carried swords, but they often used a spear (a lance if mounted) in actual combat. Achilles carried both weapons, for instance. However, the spear is best used in the open and in large formations. Once you enter one-on-one combat, you may start to appreciate shorter weapons. Besides, spears break or get stuck, so they will often not see the end of a battle. In a dungeon, a spear is almost useless . In AD&D, in fact, only Rangers and Druids use spears. Guess why...

As for axes and swords, you have to live with the fact that sometimes the weapon was preferred because of prestige and not effectiveness. Ancient/medieval swords do not do more damage than an axe, and they are more expensive. Many knights used axes in fact, but NO knight would give up carrying his sword. So there is really no reason to give swords a mechanical advantage over axes to justify the fact that leaders carry them.

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IFirst: Is there any reason to have a shield? OK, it might be good against missile fire, but that is not the main reason you would carry a shield into real battle. The shield was used to parry incoming blows, and in the BRP system there is no reason to use a shield when you can parry just as well with a normal hand weapon like a sword or an axe.... :

There used to be. The damage abosrption of weapons has changed a bit with various versions of the rules. In RQ, shields could stop more damage than most other weapons.

If you want a quick and easy houserule, shields should be easier to defend with, so you could make shield parries EASY (2xskill).

Second: Have the game designers considered the relative efficiencies of weapons? In the BRP system a battle axe is surly better than a longsword giving damage of d8+2+db (compared to d8+db for langsword), and has no other real drawbacks. Historically the longsword was the more expensive weapon, usually worn by the higher classes. Would they really settle with the weaker weapon?

Except in BRP longsword can impale (at least they could, I got to check the table) and axes cannot. Once again, in earlier version of the game, the sword had better damage soaking capability as it was all metal.

Third: Why is only one possible type of special success on weapons? A halberd or sword can certainly impale, not only make bleed damage?

Mostly because impale has been with he system since the begging, while bleeding, crush, knockback and other specials were latter add ons, and usually inferior ones to boot. There is nothing wrong with an either/or approach for some weapons.

All these "mistakes" can be fixed by some house rule patching, but it annoys me that the system was not more thought through by the designers. Or am I wrong? Please prove me wrong... :)

It's not so much a lack of thought, more too much thought. The core game system was printed over 30 years ago, and was fundamentally the same. Over time, as new versions of the system came out, various tweaks and rule changes were applies, and these usually had unforeseen consequences. The parry mechanic alone has been changed at least 3 times over the years. And the BRP core book is a compilation of various rules that were not always meant to be used together. It's a great toolkit, but probably not a great system "as is". A GM needs to figure out which tweaks and options he wants to use.

Probably another thing about BRP that works against it is that many of us old timers are so familar with the rules, or a specfic incarnation of them that we don;t always check to see what is actuall printed in the book.

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If you want a quick and easy houserule, shields should be easier to defend with, so you could make shield parries EASY (2xskill).

Yes *sigh* I have to fix the system (as always, has there ever been a perfect rpg-system? ;))

I think that houserule fix the problem quite easily, without having to use the clunky hit location rules.

Regarding the sword/axe issue I´ll give the swords possibility to do impale as well as bleed damage, but also raise their value one step. They might have a -10% to hit when used for impale, since impale seems to be the better special success.

I have to think through this, but i guess this is what I´ll go for.

Thanks for your advice!

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Or get the RuneQuest 6 rule set

Where Battle Axe does1d6+1, Longsword does 1d8

Weapon size matters in parry attempts.. shields by virtue of size alone allow for more effective blocking..

It sounds very close to what youre looking for

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As mentioned, BRP is a generic system, and there will always be the need to

modify it more or less for any specific setting, and often for any specific si-

tuation, too.

This is slightly off topic, but a while ago I had a "shield rules problem" when a

player remembered the famous Norman tactic during the Battle of Hastings, a

missile attack with a combined force of archers and crossbowmen. While the

archers used "indirect fire", with the arrows hitting the enemy formation from

above, the crossbowmen used "direct fire", with the crossbow bolts hitting the

enemy formation from the front. The poor victims could raise their shields to

protect against the arrows or keep their shields in front of their bodies to pro-

tect against the crossbow bolts, but they could not protect against arrows

and crossbow bolts at the same time, so the attack caused chaos and their

previously invincible shield wall broke down.

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