Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Weapons length and reach in combat

When posting a comment on the A Paladin in Citadel blog about the value of weapon length modifiers I realized it had turned into a post of its own. I have posted on this topic before, but it's worth revisiting. Here we go.

Those rules, adding a sense of simulation to the play, are probably jettisoned because they make combats longer.

While it might be heresy, I might suggest that those who prefer tactical crunch should take a closer look at D&D 4th ed. The teamwork and tactical play needed for efficient combat is a big part of that game. Even with the fiddly bits of 1st ed., it never was a very tactically detailed game.

Now, that being said, there are some ways to incorporate tactical details while making the game decently swift. One good way to add some depth and planning to the combat phases is to have different phases in combat. Ranged combat and magic have their own phases, and I'd suggest they go before melee.

When it comes to weapon length, I think Elric!/Stormbringer can add a simple way to handle that. This is how it works. If you have your weapons categorized as "long" or "short", the longer ones will have reach to hit before the short ones do. Simple enough.

When attacking, in whatever order you choose, let "long" weapons go first. If you use DEX order or side initiative, follow that but let long weapons trumph that order.

For fighters with "short" weapons, they will have to make a dodge of some kind to get within the reach of the "long" weapon. Otherwise they can not attack. The same thing then apply when the opponent have dodged within your reach. Wielding a "long" weapon you then need to make a disengaging dodge in order to use your weapon again.

While it reduces the reach to a binary situation, it have the benefit of being very simple, but still managing to create a lot more tactical depth to the choice of weapons. Should your game system of choice, D&D say, not have a dodge skill, use the initiative! Dice off or use DEX or whatever method you normally use. A great idea from Tomas Arfert's Saga RPG.

Hopefully that gave some food for thought.


  1. Avalon HIll's Magic Realm has a very fast and workable combat system that uses weapon length and weapon speed. I'll have to post on that tomorrow.

  2. The house rules that I use are very close to what you proposed. Good stuff! In my version, it is conceptualized in terms of size categories. Size (reach) trumps other factors whenever the reach advantage is clear. Common cases include:

    An unarmed human vs a human with any weapon
    A longsword vs a pole arm
    A charging warrior with a handheld weapon vs a bow.
    A human with a sword vs a dragon or other giant-sized opponent.

    And so forth.

    So the presence of a weapon effectively changes the "size" of the wielder by one category. Especially long reach weapons can increase effective size by 2 categories.

    So a human with a pole arm vs an bare-handed giant would still require an initiative roll.

    And in cases where the effective size difference is 2 or more categories, then attackers are forced to make a successful maneuver roll to get into position for an attack. (C&C's SIEGE checks work nicely for this.)

    Perhaps too brief, but I'm sure you get what I mean.

  3. I've not used this system much, but I like that it doesn't have any more rolls and it's synergistic with increasing skill at arms (to hit) and increasing likelihood of shrugging off reach weapon/getting in close as AC increases.

    When closing, charging, etc the long reach weapon gets first attack. If that attack hits the opponent is "held at bay" (i.e. unable to attack). The opponent remains "held at bay" until the long reach wielder misses or chooses not to attack.

  4. Norman is definitely onto something.

    In order to be usable, a system like this need to be slim and preferably no more rolls.

  5. Greyknight,

    Great to hear some play testing of the ideas!

  6. Paladin,

    Looking forward to your next post!


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