Monday, December 14, 2015

Combat in The Arduin Adventure

Art by Marshall Frantz

Characters in The Arduin Adventure (hereinafter ArdAdv) have a Defense Factor (DF) which “is a numerical rating for the natural (Armor Class) or worn armor a character has.”  Armor Class is defined as “The sum total of a character's ability to actively or passively defend himself.”  Armor Class starts at nine (“Person in normal clothes, with no special protection”) and descends.  However, unlike D&D, ArdAdv AC does not extend into negative numbers.  AC 2 represents “Full plate armor and small shield” or “Half plate and standard shield” or “Scale and Chain mail with tower/kite shield.”  The next AC is not 1, but instead “2+1.”  “Full plate armor and tower/kite shield” is AC 2+2, which is the limit of Armor Class.  However, due to modifiers, Defense Factor extends up to “2+7” (at least according to the Combat Chart).  The rules state, “for each DEX and AGIL point LESS THAN 7 a character has, subtract 1 point from his the same token, for each DEX and AGIL point MORE THAN 12, ADD 1 point to the DF.”  By 'subtract', I suppose Hargrave means impair and by 'add', I suppose he means improve.  “Targets in flight” add four to their DF; characters benefiting from partial cover get a bonus of two.

Wearing armor imposes a penalty on both Dexterity and Agility.  For instance, “Small shields and cloth armor have a penalty of one each...A set of full plate armor with tower shield has a combined penalty of 8.”  Defense Factor modifiers are determined before armor penalties are applied to Dexterity and Agility; however, movement rate is determined after penalties are applied.  The number of feet a character may move per melee round (six seconds) is determined by the formula:  5 × (Dexterity + Agility).  (Each ten pounds of weight carried reduces movement rate by five feet.)

ArdAdv characters also have an Attack Factor (AF) – “a numerical rating of the kind of weapon or attack used.”  The Combat Chart indexes a column of twenty-five weapon types against a row of Defense Factor values.  Examples of weapon types include Maul, Short Spear, Throwing Knife, and “Non-Weapon.”  If I had created the Combat Chart, the laws of semantics would prevent me from including “Non-Weapon” as a “weapon” type.  Instead of weapon type, I would use attack type and have two “Non-Weapon” categories:  pummel and claw.  Anyway, the intersection of Weapon Type and Defense Factor provides a number (Attack Factor) which is the minimum number required to hit on 1d20.  A character's Strength can modify Attack Factor.

Characters attacking a target from the rear get “a +3 bonus to their AF...”  By this, I suppose Hargrave means characters get a bonus to their attack roll.  Also, a target being attacked from behind loses the “AGIL/DEX and shield bonuses” to Defense Factor; this also applies to “downed” targets.  (I suspect that penalties from Agility and/or Dexterity still apply.)  Attacks from the side provide a +2 bonus and attacking from an elevated position grants a +1 bonus.

When attacking, a roll of twenty indicates a critical hit.  If a roll of 20 was required for a successful hit, then the hit is a normal hit instead of a critical.  Unfortunately, ArdAdv does not make use of Hargrave's Arduin Grimoire critical table; instead we are presented with a 1d10 table with each result representing a different body location.  For instance, a roll of '4' means an arm was hit for three points of damage with a 'side effect' of:  “Major artery cut, bleed to death in D20 combat rounds.”

A roll of '1' when attacking typically indicates a fumble.  Just as ArdAdv lacks the Grimoire critical table, it also lacks the fumble table.  Instead, Hargrave presents a 1d10 junior version with results like “Trip and fall, 1 to 5 melee rounds to get up” and “Hit wrong target FULL DAMAGE.”

Weapons in ArdAdv inflict a fixed amount of damage (e.g., a short sword inflicts five points, a flail inflicts ten).  A high Strength score provides a bonus to inflicted damage, but a low score does does not subtract from damage.  Each weapon type is associated with one or more types of damage:  bruising, crushing, puncture, slashing, stab, and tearing.  How these different types are supposed to affect game play is not explained.

Chapter VI, “How to Have a Melee,” begins with:
A melee consists of two parts:  movement and combat.  First comes movement, each character moving all or part of his allowable movement distance.  Then comes the actual combat.  Both parts are carried out in the order of the fastest (dexterity for combat, or agility for movement) to the slowest.
When opponents have the same Dexterity, the character with the weapon that “has length (or reach) advantage” attacks first.  Chapter XI, “A Glossary of Terms for the Basic Adventurer,” does a good job of describing various weapons and types of armor; however, not all of the weapon descriptions include the length of the weapon.

In his Introduction, Hargrave explains that ArdAdv “has a unique modular learning system that permits the gamer to apply any part of it to another system, or part of another system to itself.”  Gamers are apt to 'mix & match' rules in a blithe fashion without regard to whether the systems at issue “permit” it.  As such, there is nothing unique about the ArdAdv system other than Hargrave's acknowledgement that such customization is to be expected.  In this spirit, Hargrave offers “Optional Advanced Rules” for combat.  Said rules focus on the concept of “Coordination Factor,” which is the average of Agility and Dexterity.  (Why not just have a Coordination attribute instead of Agility and Dexterity?)  Instead of a melee round consisting of movement followed by attack, characters have a number of actions based upon Coordination Factor (CF).  Any given action can be movement or attack at the player's discretion.  Characters with a Coordination Factor less than five have only one action for every two melee rounds.  Otherwise, characters have at least one action per round.

In essence, there is a “CF COUNTDOWN” each melee round.  The character with the highest Coordination Factor acts first.  Other actions take place on subsequent counts.  “For example,” the rules state, “my character’s CF is 15, so I divide that by three, which gives me the number five...I now know that every five counts of the melee/movement round my character can perform an action...Thus at 15,10, and 5.”  A character's movement rate per action equals the rate per melee round divided by the number of actions the character has per round.  Such calculations start to get wonky when characters have less than one action per round.  Although Hargrave admonishes that “the GM as well as players will have to exercise a little common sense,” I think that a minimum of one action per round (instead of one action per two rounds) would offer a more elegant process.

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