Monday 22 May 2017

Charging Elephants

There are a few apparently unrelated areas of Explore I've long wanted to address - grappling, animal attacks, and spell area attack saves - but I've come to understand how they're strongly connected through a rather circuitous path. Starting off considering climbing, you'll see how answering that comes round to the simpler issue of charging elephants, and how answering that has wider applications.

Climbing Power

Back in January I half finished a blog post on climbing - it isn't strength that's important but your power-to-weight ratio - but in Explore your size is derived from your strength and constitution. This lead to some odd consequences (your con gave you a negative bonus on climbing as high con implied being well built and in climbing being slimmer is better), so I determined that it should be the reverse: your height and build should influence your strength and constitution. This changes around how stats work during character creation, but not how the game works - whichever system I decide upon, when you need a climbing stat bonus you sum it up and write it on the character sheet and it doesn't alter.

This meant I started revising what the stats were. Instead of getting up to +3 from Strength, you get up to a +1 from each of Height, Build, and Muscle. Con similarly gets a bonus of up to +3 from Height, Build, and Toughness. (Note that this means that Str and Con have the same range as before and still cannot differ by more than 2). It is then only the Muscle that gives you a bonus on Climbing, and that's your power-to-weight bonus. The bonuses also tie into the sizing system. A height of 0 means you're between 5'6'' and 5'11''.  As per my revised size categories, height of +1 would put you in the 6' to 6'5'' range, and a height of -1 would put you in the 5' to 5'5'' range. If you also had +1 build that would push you up two weight categories from say 160lb to 192lb (assuming the character is not overweight!) or -1 build and -1 height would knock you down to 96lb.

Do you Dodge or Parry a Giant?

From this I wondered what other advantages / disadvantages you might get from being big / small. To work this through I considered large differences - with a human versus a giant is the giant slower to swing and thus it's harder to hit the human? Or is the sword a big attack which is tricky to dodge and impossible to parry? If you give bonuses how would this affect giant versus giant combat? Should it be the same as two humans, or would it be qualitatively different? I started to think about the different situations and what the desired outcome might be, and to temporarily stop considering mechanics.

When examining a big problem with lots of variables it's easier to break it down and consider one variable at a time, so I concentrated on dodging. Looking for extreme situations where dodging was clearly the only option, I considered an Elephant charging.

The Charging Elephant

When an Elephant charges you, you're not going to be able to outrun it.

I've already assumed that size doesn't affect your speed - so by default a huge animal like an Elephant would not get any bonuses or penalties due to its size - but you can get many bonuses due to other factors than size. In fact according to this speed of animals resource, an Elephant's top speed is 24.9mph . Usain Bolt's top speed is about 30mph, so Elephants are indeed very close in speed to a well-trained, naturally fast human, so aren't getting much in the way of bonuses. However, even if you are that fast, an Elephant will tire much less quickly than you - you'll soon tire and slow down and be caught and be squashed.

Alternatively you could try and face it down, like this man did (who doesn't even seem that fazed by the experience), but for today I'm going to assume you wait until the last moment and then try and dive out of the way. I observed that as the Elephant is 7' wide you have to move a fair amount to dodge it.

Alternatively consider a bee attacking you - it is hard to hit the bee because it is small, but it is hard to dodge because you are large.

Hence a charge attack is something along the lines of a bonus for speed and agility and skill plus a bonus for the size of the larger individual (attacker or defender), versus a dodge based upon speed and agility and skill.

Dodging Fireballs

This lead to a realisation that the Elephant misses because you have to move out of the way! So when grappling a giant, it will win easily in a contest of strength, but it has to catch you first - and avoiding it means moving around (not just staying stationary and rolling a dice and saying the giant missed).

If that's the case, then the reason why the fireball missed is because you jumped out of the blast zone. (I'm thinking 5' radius blast here incidentally, not D&D's mass effect fireballs from Chainmail and war-gaming). Similarly for a rock from a trebuchet, or thrown by a giant. Treating dodging an arrow in the same fashion would mean that you got a bonus for the larger of the arrow and the target, so you'd get a bonus for the size of the target, which is exactly what I already have.

In conclusion, I don't know whether I'll ever differentiate mechanically between "I dodge" and "I parry", but I can see combat effects becoming far more dynamic and size bonuses being applied more consistently. I can see different combat tactics being effective against different size adversaries. Giants are slow but deadly and are best taken on with missile attacks, smaller creatures have to be taken on hand-hand, but area effect attacks become more useful.