Thursday, November 25, 2010

Reading Dragons at Dawn Part IV

It's time to dive into the depth of, the Arnesonian combat system. Prepare for acceptance of new ideas!

So, it's time to cross swords and the first thing you do is check for morale. Yes, all of you, including the player characters. You base it off your Hit Dice, and the result is the morale condition you're in, and which will affect your performance in combat. If you are shaken, you will have halved effectiveness, for example. This feels a lot like a wargame. If you have been pushing cardboard chits around on a hex map or handled lead toy soldiers, you will feel at home at once. Initiative is no big thing and you usually have the players do one round of attacks and then the opponents have a go before it's a new round.

Hit Dice and modifiers
The meat of the combat system is how you calculate the combat odds using HD. They are your offensive strength, your defensive strength and also what you roll for damage. Interestingly enough, you also get the opportunity to save against your AC if hit. At least if you are a PC.

The modifiers for the attack is difference in dexterity, size and level. Double or half according to morale and then compare the total to the opponent's total on a chart and roll below the cross referenced number by 2d6-2. Roll your HD for damage if you hit. I said it looked a lot like a wargame, right?

Once again (am I beginning to sound like a broken record here, or what?) I feel these rules feel a lot like T&T. Roll your total and compare. But wait, I'm not only grasping for weak links to my favourite system, there are more similarities. Damage is dealt to the weakest character in the melee, and excess damage after a kill is spread to the next weakest. Imagine totalling the HD on one side, add and compare and it's beginning to look very familiar. Same, but different. I feel these two games could be combined in so many cool ways. I can totally see someone asking their DM to make a Save against a stat in the middle of a combat to try out a stunt. Said stund would double your attack strength or something. Sounds like Dave Arneson style to me, and exactly what I've been doing in my T&T games.

Armor and magic swords
Time to stop talking about T&T and get back to Dragons at Dawn? Sure, I will. Let's talk about Armor. Since it's good to have a high HD value, a high HPV and a high DEX, it makes sense to have a high value being the best kind of armor, right? Well, I know there are some religious feelings about this. Personally I feel armor on a scale from 1 to 8, with 8 being a suit of plate with shield making a lot of sense. Same with Dave, I guess.

What I like in this section is how the negative AC ratings are used for non corporeal and magic creatures. You will need to have magic which is at least as powerful as the AC to cancel it out, i.e. an AC of -2 mean you must have a weapon of at least +2 to hit and damage. Neat, I think. It's also very neat to have AC "roll over" after 10, so some really heavy duty kevlar armor will have AC 14 (i.e. -4) and withstand anything but +4 weapons. Bring your laser to town!

There's a lot of flexibility in the system, and you can have magical armor either subtract dice of damage, or have it add a bonus to your armor save.

General impressions
In general I think the combat system have a lot of interesting features. You can double, add and shift columns and modify it a lot but still keep the basic mechanic. Anyone who loves to have weapon quality, skill levels, magic bonuses or oddball materials can go wild, but in the end it's just defensive strength versus attacking strength on a table and roll 2d6-2. I like it, a lot.

There's also unarmed combat and some mention of criticals, but I wont go into all the details.

The next post will be about magic and campaign building, and it will wrap up this series on Dragons at Dawn.
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