Thursday, August 22, 2013

More Astonishing ACKS

I'd previously flirted with Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea here, taking some of the interesting class abilities out of AS&SH and making them ACKS proficiencies.

Back in the combat chapter of AS&SH there's a section on Advanced Combat Actions, and it may be interesting to see how they'd interact with ACKS, when possible (and where they don't interfere with existing ACKS rules)

Some of the stronger ones I've locked behind a proficiency wall. Others get better if you have a related Fighting Style proficiency.

As a quick clarification, these aren't meant to be proficiencies, just advanced combat maneuvers for either any combatant or extra options for proficiencies already taken, or perhaps possible answers to "What if I ..." sorts of things players come up with.

Arrow Setting: The archer sets his arrows into the ground before him, angled towards him for ease of pickup, in order to gain a faster rate of fire. When the archer has taken the necessary preparation time to do this, he may cleave with a composite bow or short bow up to 8 times, and up to 6 times with a longbow, double the usual ability. The archer cannot move away from his set arrows when taking advantage of the set arrows.

AS&SH uses multiple attacks per round, Cleave is ACKS' replacement for that. 

Combat Trickery (Shield Bind): A character may bind his shield against his opponents in order to gain advantage. The attacker makes a melee attack throw at a -4 penalty. If successful, the opponent must make a save versus Paralysis. If the save fails, the attacker may immediately attempt to strike the opponent (at a -4 penalty) ignoring AC bonus from the opponents shield. In subsequent rounds, attacks from either combatant are made at no penalty.

Characters with Fighting Style: Weapon and Shield take only a -2 penalty to the immediate attack after a successful bind.

Neither combatant enjoys their shield bonus to AC while the shields are bound. The character may hold the shield bind for a number of rounds equal to their Cleave ability. The opponent may withdraw to break the bind, and the binding character must follow to hold the bind.

As Archaeopteryx rightly points out below, this one did come out a bit overly useless. After further review, there's no real reason this can't be covered by Wrestling from ACKS Core.

Dodge: In lieu of any other non-movement action, a character with Swashbuckling (or similar proficiency) may focus on avoiding enemies' attacks, gaining a +2 to AC. If combined with a fighting withdrawal, the withdrawing combatant may not attack a following enemy.

Double Arrow Shot: A character with Fighting Style: Missile may choose to nock and shoot two arrows at the same time at an opponent within 30 feet. This attack is made at a -2 penalty. If the result is a miss, both arrows miss, if a hit, both arrows hit.

Off Hand Weapon Parry: A character with Fighting Style: Two Weapons  may forgo his +1 to-hit bonus for a +1 to AC. This bonus does not count against missile or other ranged attacks.

Parry and Block: In lieu of any other non-movement action, a character with any melee Weapon Style may focus on parrying and blocking incoming attacks with their own weapon and/or shield. This provides a +2 AC bonus (which only counts against missile or other ranged attacks if the character also holds a shield). In addition, characters with a Strength bonus may apply that bonus to their AC. If combined with a fighting withdrawal, the withdrawing combatant may not attack a following enemy.

If an attacker scores a natural 20, the character's weapon or shield is sundered. (magical weapons and shields may only be sundered by magical weapons greater than or equal to their own).

Reckless|Conservative Fighting: A character may fight recklessly, with less concern for his safety, gaining a +1 to-hit in exchange for a -2 to AC. Alternatively, they may fight cautiously, gaining +1 to AC while taking a -2 to-hit. This may not be combined with Berserkergang or similar.

Recumbent Fire: A character may lie flat on his back to take a shot. Archers or slingers must fire off to the opposite side of their handedness (to the left if right handed), crossbowmen are not restricted. Attacks are made at a -4 penalty, or -2 if the character has Fighting Style: Missile. The character is considered prone, but gains a +2 to AC vs. missile fire.

Saddle Fire: A character may fire a ranged weapon from horseback, while the horse is in motion. A walking horse has no penalty. A trot causes a -1 penalty; canter -2, and full gallop -4. A character with Fighting Style: Mounted (from the link above) halves all penalties (no penalty for a trot).

A walking horse is moving at one-half their current (based on encumbrance or other situational modifiers) movement rate. A trot is their regular rate, a canter twice that, and a gallop three times their movement rate.

Shield Cover: A character may forgo any bonus to AC from his shield or Dexterity, and instead provide those bonuses to an ally. This ability may be used to defend an ally who is withdrawing past the character.

Shield Wall: Three or more large shield users may overlap their shields, staying in a tight formation. They each gain a +2 to AC vs. melee attacks, and a +4 vs. missile attacks.  In formation, they may attack with one-handed piercing weapons. A second rank of combatants (of equal or lesser number) may form behind the shield wall, and they may attack with long piercing weapons through the wall at a -2 penalty.

This is the same bonus from the defend action in Domains at War: Battles. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Those 10 Troll Questions

From Random Wizard. On the bandwagon! Also, I may be the last person on the internet to do it.

(1). Race (Elf, Dwarf, Halfling) as a class? Yes or no?

Yes, with the caveat I'm using ACKS to do so, so there's more variety. Is that substantially different than split race/class? Probably not, and if you use my answer to #4 below, having an Elf Fighter is just a matter of XP table recalculating. Bolting the race on afterwards or building it from the start isn't a lot of difference in the end.

(2). Do demi-humans have souls?

I'm currently working with just Elves and Dwarves, and the difference betwixt the two is less than usual. Also, not regular souls. They're from elsewhere.

(3). Ascending or descending armor class?

Ascending, because I have that thing where I'm bad at subtraction on the fly. Is that a condition? Is it just called 'dumbness'?

Actually, it's not so bad anymore - d20 really needed ascending AC because of all the fiddly situational bonuses.

(4). Demi-human level limits?

While I doubt it will come up, I don't really see the point. See here:

Elven Spellsword, 11th: 770,000 XP - fighter/mage (actually capped at 10th)
Human Fighter, 11th: 490,000 XP
Human Mage, 11th: 610,000 XP
Human Cleric, 11th: 400,000 XP
Human Thief, 11th: 380,000 XP

Figure PCs getting to 11th level is a long campaign. Your demihumans are already virtually capped just by virtue of leveling slower - letting the Elves and Dwarves continue to 14th just means that your players with human characters have retired to run their domains and they're now playing their henchmen of whatever level best matches the Elves and Dwarves, if the game just doesn't end there with everyone retiring.

To take an extreme example. the Elven Spellsword would require 1,280,000 XP to reach 14th level. That's another 430,000 XP. If he's in a party with a Mage, Cleric, Fighter, and Thief, each at 770,000 XP, let's see what happens:

First, the Cleric and Thief already retired - the Cleric 70K XP ago, and the thief 90K XP ago. They've been replaced with 11th level versions of themselves. Let's assume each replacement is at the minimum for the level they appear at, and everybody retires immediately when they hit 14th level, and everybody is gaining the same XP amounts.

Here's a table. There's probably errors, but the general gist of the thing stands:

The Elf retired 9 other characters getting from 10th to 14th - 10 if  you count that the 4th Thief gets to retire the same day as the Elf! (ACKS XP Math is weirdly cyclical, or I'm bad at stuff) He ends his career several steps away from whom he started it with.

How many times is that really going to go on in a group? If they wanted to, and everyone was having fun, why not?

(5). Should thief be a class?

There is room in the source fiction for a class, that while she does not fight as well as a dedicated warrior, has some mechanical advantage in guile or gumption that makes up for it. Thief has been the most common of those.

(6). Do characters get non-weapon skills?

Yes, again, room in the fiction.

I'm not making any comment on how #5 or #6 goes about their game mechanics, cause there's a brazillion ways to do it.

(7). Are magic-users more powerful than fighters (and, if yes, what level do they take the lead)?

How, exactly? Man-to-man combat? I'd say that's maybe true in some range between 5th and 8th, given the mage has had ample time to prepare just the right spell load-out.

Domain-level play? I'd start to side with the Fighter - once he starts bringing massed troops, the advantage ought to be his, unless the Mage has spent the same resources doing the same, and not magical research.

(8). Do you use alignment languages?

No. There's a type of campaign world that probably works in. The one I'd run would be where it's a world heavily influenced and populated by the denizens of the Upper and Lower Planes, and it just so happens that only Lawful people can understand what the Lawful outsiders say, and vice-versa.

That being said, I'm currently bending in the winds of a more Swords & Sorcery & Planets inspired milieu, and I may come around to the idea.

(9). XP for gold, or XP for objectives (thieves disarming traps, etc...)?

XP for gold & awesome.

(10). Which is the best edition; ODD, Holmes, Moldvay, Mentzer, Rules Cyclopedia, 1E ADD, 2E ADD, 3E ADD, 4E ADD, Next ?

Whichever one you can play with the people you want to play with. My brainspace is in ACKS, and a hacked up version of it is what I play with the kids, and that's B/X on the paternal side. I play in a game with a few friends that's d20/3E modified by Trailblazer and the E6 rules (and not really played very tightly tied to the rules even then)