Sunday, July 20, 2014

Combat in Man, Myth & Magic

It is a basic principle of ADVANCED MM&M that every activity, from fighting to soothsaying, has a fundamental failure rate.
– Book II

The fundamental failure rate means that – by default – the player will need “to throw 50 or better on the percentile dice” for the character to succeed at an activity such as striking an opponent in combat.  Of course, this number is subject to modifiers.  The actual number needed to hit is appropriately referred to as the “to hit number” or THN.  The amount that a result succeeds in excess of the THN is the amount of damage subtracted from the target's Life Points.  We are told in Book I that, “Any throw of 100% (00) is scored a kill, however unlikely the circumstances.”  This rule is not rescinded in Book II, so it evidently applies to the basic and advanced versions of the game.

If a character belongs to a Class having combat as its “Prime Ability,” the character's 'Skill' characteristic may affect the THN.  For every ten points of Skill in excess of fifty, the THN is reduced by one (meaning an increased chance of success).  For every ten points of Skill less than fifty, the THN is increased by one.  This means a 'fighter' character with a Skill of 40 (or less) fights less effectively than a 'non-fighter' character regardless of the non-fighter's Skill (or lack of Skill).  How much does that suck?  Also, all else being equal, between a 'fighter' with a Skill of 100 and a 'fighter' with a Skill of 01, the difference in the THN is merely 9%.

Advanced MM&M has several, optional characteristics.  If these characteristics are in use, then they may affect a character's THN.  Different 'types' of weapons are affected by different characteristics.  For instance, a character's 'thrown weapon' THN is modified by “Sight, Strength, Skill, and Throwing.”  For the value of each of these characteristics, deviation from 50 is determined.  Every ten points difference from fifty indicates a THN modifier of one; a negative modifier when the value is greater than fifty and a positive modifier when the value is less than fifty.  (Presumably, modifiers from Skill are only applied if 'combat' is the Prime Ability of the character's class.)  For some weapon types, there are Characteristics that influence THN at different rates.  For instance, the Characteristics of Agility, Speed, and Strength can modify the 'bludgeon weapon' THN.  Each five points of Agility over fifty decreases THN by one, but each ten points of Agility less than fifty increases THN by one.  Additionally,  it is curious that 'Skill' is not one of the modifying Characteristics for bludgeons.

Each Class has certain 'allowed' weapons.  For example, the allowed weapons for a Hebrew sorcerer are dagger, sword, and trident; for an Egyptian Apothecary, the allowed weapons are dagger and dart.  A THN for a weapon not allowed by a class is not modified by any Characteristic (not even 'Skill' for a 'fighter'), instead, a fixed +25 modifier is applied.

A character may expend POWER points to reduce his or her THN.  For every 10 POWER spent, THN is reduced by one for a single attack.  I assume that POWER used in this fashion is 'recoverable' just as POWER used for magic (i.e., regained at a rate of 10 points per segment).  The intent to spend POWER in this way must be stated prior to making the roll.

“In ADVANCED combat, you must specify, in advance of rolling, which part of your opponent's body you are attacking.”  Aiming for a hand increases THN by 15; Aiming for a particular thumb, finger, or toe increases THN by 20.  Aiming for the torso or back does not modify THN.  Non-player characters, however, do not aim for hit location.  The Lore Master randomly determines hit location after a target has been hit.  Percentile dice are rolled and a table consulted.  A roll of 89 indicates “Left Foot Toe”; a roll of 98 indicates “Right Thumb.”

As might be expected, weapons increase the amount of damage a character inflicts.  A knife does +8 damage, a dagger does +10, and a sword, +30.  Armor reduces damage with regard to protected hit locations.  A loinguard (leather) protects “Abdoman [sic], loins, and thighs” with –15 damage.  If a character lacks armor, the damage sustained for each successful attack is increased by ten.

The amount of damage may be modified as a result of the attacker's Strength characteristic.  For every ten points of Strength over fifty, +1 is applied to damage; likewise, for every ten points of Strength under fifty, –1 is applied to damage.  Strength modifiers to damage do not apply when using weapons like bows or blowpipes.

Regardless of a character's total Life Points, different hit locations “cease to function” after suffering specific amounts of damage.  For instance, each finger or toe can sustain a maximum of 25 points of damage; a thumb can sustain 30.

In combat, a character can attempt a limited number of attacks before he or she must rest for two turns.  For every ten points of Endurance (or fraction thereof), a character may make one attack.  A character may make an additional attack for every twenty full points of Courage.  For every twenty-five points of Speed a character has in excess of fifty, he or she may make an additional attack per turn.  These attacks are not counted against the Endurance/Courage limit for purposes of rest.

In a turn, characters attack in order of descending 'First Strike Capacity' (i.e., Speed + Courage).  A character may try “Avoiding the Blow” of an opponent; this must be announced prior to the opponent's attack roll.  Each attempt at avoiding a blow counts as an attack with regard to the Endurance/Courage limit.  If a character attempts to avoid a blow, that character's 'Combined Modifier Figure' is added to the opponent's THN for that attack.  The rules helpfully inform us that the Combined Modifier Figure (or “CMF for short”) is the sum of the character's Skill and Strength modifiers.  Alas, the rules neglect to inform us what is meant by “Skill and Strength modifiers.”  Does that mean a modifier of +1 for every ten points (of Skill or Strength) more than fifty and –1 for every ten points (of Skill or Strength) less than fifty?  If so, an attempt at “Avoiding the Blow” could actually make it easier for an opponent to hit.  Given that some of the other rules do not seem well thought out, I fear that my surmise is correct.  Also, 'Skill' is applicable to combat only for 'fighters'.  Does this mean that only 'fighters' can attempt to avoid blows?


  1. It looks like we came to many of the same conclusions, especially about non-fighters fighting better than low-skill fighters and the paltry effect Characteristics have on a character's failure rate.

    1. I suspect insufficient playtesting. 'Combat Modifier Figure' does not appear on the character sheet; this suggests the rules were still 'soft' late in the development process.

  2. “Any throw of 100% (00) is scored a kill, however unlikely the circumstances.”

    We only played a few sessions of M,M&M, but were at one time cornered by a couple of gladiator/thug types. Not wanting to close to melee with my walking stick (I was a scholar or somesuch) I kicked off my sandals and threw one. Hit and got the '00' for damage. Everyone was floored by that,the GM decided the other thug would run away after that (I did have one sandal left...).

    The sandal trick never worked again. I think I carried 3 extra pairs around as ammunition.

    1. I would have put a notch on that sandal to commemorate the event.