Monday, March 28, 2011

Armor Types

I've made mention of light, medium, and heavy armor before in particular to weapons' characteristics and even way back when I discussed skills. Let's put a formal definition in place.

You can quickly see the break down between light, medium, and heavy armors. The gaps in the table are there for simplicity and clear delineation between armor class types (such as for armor penetration). Dexterity modifies for AC as well, up to a maximum of -3 while wearing light armor, -2 while wearing scale or lighter, and -1 while wearing any armor heavier than that. The dexterity bonus to AC represents both a deft hand and an agile body; a portion of the dexterity bonus should be applicable even in heavy armor as a representation of superior weapon and/or shield parrying skills rather than simply being fleet of foot.

Quick descriptions: leather represents any armor made from hides, cloth, or other types of padding. Scale is metal components sewn or backed onto padding material. A chain hauberk is the typical representation of mail. Plate mail utilizes a series of plates with mail used to cover the joints between them. Full plate characterizes a high quality steel (not iron) coat of plates with mail backing.

EDIT: The way the chart above looks, it appears that a shield imparts a total AC of -1. In actuality, it just reduces AC by 1 point. Everyone familiar with D&D should understand that, but I wanted to make it clear.

Generating a Goblin Tribe

Let's have our stat blocks go a little further, combining them with a method for generating war parties and whole tribes as a sort of monster gazette.

No. Encountered:  5d6 (40d10)
Movement:  60'
Size:  Small (four and a half feet)
Armor Class:  7 (6 w/ shield, 4 w/ armor + shield)
Hit Dice:  1 (d6)
Attacks:  1
Damage:  by weapon (1d6 average)
Special Attacks:  None
Special Defenses:  None
Save:  Fighter
Morale: 6
Treasure: TBD

Goblins are semi-nomadic tribal creatures who stand taller than dwarves and are more solidly built than elves. They are green skinned due to their forest dwelling ancestry, but now make their home underground in rough terrain outside of settled areas. They have excellent night vision, twice that of humans. They subsist on a mix of limited farming and animal husbandry, scavenging, and raiding. They have no central leadership; any goblin may lead a war raiding party and the most successful raiders form a council for peace time decisions.

Goblins fight unarmored and with basic weapons. Spearmen arm themselves with short spear and wooden shield (AC 6). Javelin throwers are armed with Atlatl and 10 darts. Archers carry short bow and 12 arrows. Pikemen teams consist of two goblins wielding one pike. Braves carry two hand axes.

Raiding party. Goblins encountered outside the lair are led by a raiding leader and consist of equal parts spearmen (defensive action) or braves (raiding), javelin throwers, and archers. Ideally, they fight in successive skirmish lines, discharging ranged weapons and then falling back. Raiding parties prefer to avoid fights and rather plunder livestock, metal tools and weapons, and foodstuffs. Goblins raid by moonlight, leaving on foot and often returning on horseback driving livestock. They rarely fight on horseback instead using the animals for labor and food; goblins have a penchant for horseflesh.

In the lair. Goblins prefer to fight outside of their settlements. When their lairs are threatened, they attempt to screen their women who will hastily gather what they can and abandon the settlement. Being semi-nomadic, they are adept at moving entire villages and supply trains with surprising speed. Screening forces resemble raiding parties. Braves will arm themselves as pikemen and line behind spearmen supported by javelin throwers within the lair itself if the fight goes badly as a last ditch effort to buy time.

Tribe generation. For every 100 goblins there are:

5 leaders
20 braves
25 spearmen
25 javelin throwers
25 archers

All leaders can be a war party leader, fighting with an additional HD. 1 out of every 5 is an exceptional leader; a tribe's fiercest leader fights as a 2HD goblin plus an additional HD for every 100 members. A tribe of 200 goblins has a first level shaman, a tribe of 300+ has a 3rd level shaman and a 1st level shaman. The death of any leader will cause all goblins present to make a morale check at a penalty of +1.

Leaders are equipped with short sword and shield and a 50% chance of having metal armor (AC 4). These are both signs of wealth for the most successful of the tribe. For a settlement larger than 250 souls, one leader will fight from horseback wielding two matchlock pistols, metal armor, and a short sword and shield if dismounted.

Settlements consist of an additional, equal number of females who perform most of the village's labor. They do not go out on raids and are tasked with moving the settlement in the case of an attack. They can defend themselves as braves wielding knives instead of hand axes.

Treasure. System TBD.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Kobolds in Pagan Communities

Kobolds are helpful, somewhat mischievous house spirits that protect the homes of pagan believers. For Christian people who still cling to old pagan rituals and beliefs, kobolds tend to be mostly unseen, helping with household tasks or cleaning after the home is asleep. However, for those people who resisted Christianity, especially at the price of blood, and retained their pagan beliefs, kobolds play a much more direct role. In this case, kobolds manifest directly to their believers and help them not only maintain their livelihood but to also ward off foes.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Goblin Skirmish Tactics

I just finished reading SC Gwynne's Empire of the Summer Moon. It is an excellent historical narrative of the Comanches that I would recommend to those people whom enjoy such things. While the time period and subject matter are far away from the EMP, it still gives me plenty of ideas to work with.

Goblins in the EMP are a former forest dwelling people who now live on the fringes of the Empire and in the Polish-Lithuania Commonwealth, scraping out a living as best as they can. Goblins subsist on a combination of limited agriculture, basic animal husbandry, and raiding. Some goblin settlements have had success settling into an agrarian lifestyle in out of the way areas of the Commonwealth and have been able to avoid the ire of humans for the most part. However, many tribes look to raiding as a means of life as they strike into the Empire and the Commonwealth alike.

Goblins value indirect warfare to preserve their strength. They avoid decisive battles and seek to engage enemies far from goblin settlements. Their typical enemies come in the form of punitive raids. If their settlements are threatened, their warriors fight a screening engagement to allow their villages time to escape. Therefore, their preferred method of fighting looks something like the following.

Please excuse my horrendous graphic design skills.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Topographia Germaniae

The Topographia Germaniae is a 17th century survey of German lands including engravings of a number of towns and other settlements along with descriptive texts. This is like the holy grail for me, a great period piece to build the world around.


Now I wonder if there are any English translations floating around. I am running the sources I have found so far through Google's half useless gibberish translator, but at least the engravings provide fertile grounds upon which to build this setting.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Dynamic Morale - Casualties

With AD&D, morale became a percentile and was now a moving number rather than a fixed value. As far as implementation in the EMP campaign, I'm still torn between an easy to use single value for any given monster or using a calculation to determine morale. At the moment, due to my rules on cavalry charges and shock attacks, morale stands at a value between 2-12 and resolves with a 2d6. However, the need for dynamic morale is present in at least one aspect, and that is casualties.

Popular cavalry tactics of the time might incorporate a volley or two of fire from pistols followed by a charge with sword or lance. Obviously, the discharge of pistol shot just before the moment of the charge was to break the cohesion of the defenders to enable a more devastating charge. This application was particularly important for firearm units to break through pike units, especially pikemen that were not properly supported. So morale should be affected by casualties, so let's see how we can model this with 2d6 morale values.

Alexis has an elegant solution he lifted from a Napoleonic war game. Simply put, every time a force suffers 50% casualties, its morale gets 1 point worse and must make a new check to remain in the fight. And there are plenty of morale rules spread throughout different wargames. I feel it is difficult to assign a proper morale scheme and would rather try through trial and error and what feels right in game play. So for the time being, we'll start here in the design phase and modify through play:

Enemy morale drops by 1 point for every 25% casualties (based on the original number of men) that it suffers and must check morale to continue the fight. For example, a group of 12 orcs may have 7 morale. After 3 have been killed, their morale drops to 6 and they must check again. Morale drops to 5 at six dead and then to 4 at nine dead.

So to use an old example, a group of regular soldiers armed with pikes would have a base morale of 7 but a morale of 9 during a charge. If a cavalry attack were to begin with a pistol barrage that inflicted 25% casualties, morale would drop to 6 and force a check. If the pikemen pass, their new morale for the upcoming charge would be 8. The cavalry charge has a good chance at succeeding in breaking unit morale with a barrage of fire and then a fair chance during the followup, more risky, charge engagement.

For now, this will sit on the shelf until it can be play tested.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Ranged Weapons

I'm not entirely happy with what I have here:

Requires Mastery. This weapon cannot be used untrained and requires 2 proficiency slots (4 total for specialization).

My issue is with the ranges. Now, the first range segment, after which weapons are at -5 to hit, represents a loss of accuracy when targeting a single person in combat. Most of these ranges are essentially the same. On one hand, this makes sense. Sure, weapons differ in accuracy, but the loss of accuracy over distance isn't entirely unique to most weapons. On the other hand, this means that there is little differentiation between weapons.

A similar issue happens at the 2nd range interval. Sure, a longbow could fire a flight arrow to 1000 feet or more. However, the arrow at the end of the flight is bereft of most of its kinetic energy and is primarily delivering a blow through gravity after descending from its arc. It's like dropping an arrow on someone. So really, the maximum range represents a combination of extreme loss of accuracy as well as final penetrating power. Again, the same issue creeps up, most of these weapons tend to max out at around the same range.

So differentiation comes in through damage and reload time. That's ok. It just bothers me that after all of this research into these weapons' ranges, I came to a rather unsatisfying conclusion. Of course the longbow could outdistance a short bow, but at the end of that distance, a flight arrow isn't going to do much damage to even lightly armored foes.

I condensed the values for reload times into a single value even though I previously had it broken down by skill level for firearms. I could have given every weapon similar treatment and allow for more proficient users to cut down on reload time and increase their accuracy range. Instead, I'll keep it simple and maybe throw this aspect back into play when it comes time to work on weapon proficiency and specialization and derive a general rule to apply to all weapons.

I will let this stand as is and maybe I can revisit it over time. I might add a third range category to represent a range that the weapon is only effective in a massed and/or indirect fire role.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Some Excellent Military History Resources

Sorry for another fluff post, but here's a great resource for military history concerning this time period.

There is a great article on the evolution of cavalry towards adopting pistols over lances. Which reminds me that I need to work lances into my weapon system even though they had fallen out of favor. A long multimedia presentation of siege tactics and their evolution through the 16th and 17th centuries is an excellent feature. Tactics and formations nuts can go hog wild over schematics and animations of 17th century troop formations. Finally, an in-depth presentation of the Battle of Breitenfeld showcases a pivotal battle of the 30 Years War and the evolution of field artillery tactics.

More weapons posts coming up soon.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Shields, More Than -1 AC

Through most versions of AD&D, fighting classes are better off grabbing heavy armor and a two handed weapon than trying to go the sword and board route. Since I'm spicing up combat, I'd like to give the shield a little love and help justify why someone would sacrifice greater damage for just a measly -1 AC bonus. Note, neither of these ideas are mine, but they are both great.

Shields Shall Be Splintered. Upon a successful attack, a defender may sacrifice their shield to avoid the damage from a blow.

Shield Wall. A shield wall may be formed by 2 or more combatants wielding shields and single handed 3' weapons. Any combatant with a shield wall ally immediately to his right gains an additional 1 point bonus to their AC.

I like this implementation of a shield wall. A shield is carried in the left hand, so you need your ally to the right to protect you and continue the cohesion of the shield wall.

Note that any weapon that has the Ignores Shields traits is unaffected by both of these shield traits. A shield may not be sacrificed to absorb a blow nor does the shield provide any AC bonus whether in a wall or otherwise.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Thrown Weapons

Similar to the previous post on melee weapons, here's a chart of thrown weapons' statistics.

Note that there is no listing for Traits here, thrown weapons do not benefit from them. The Rate of Fire is the best case limit on how fast these weapons may be thrown. It assumes that the ammunition is on hand and readily accessible, such as a number of javelins stuck in the ground at the side of the thrower. Otherwise, the rate of fire would be dictated by how fast the thrower could grab more ammunition.

Range has two values. The first entry is the distance at which a weapon may be thrown with no penalty to hit; anything beyond that has a -5 to hit. The second value is the maximum range a weapon may be thrown. Another way to think of these ranges is that the first number is the optimal distance for man-to-man combat where accuracy is needed and the second would be for mass combat or indirect fire where accuracy is not as important.

The ranges are a simplification of real world values and are a combination of actual range and effective range for dealing significant injury. Sure, you can throw a dagger more than 30 feet, but that range reflects a combination of difficulty hitting the target square AND with the right blade orientation.

Next up, ranged weapons.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Melee Weapons

Here's a chart of melee weapons along with their stats and characteristics.

And the definitions of each trait:
Armor Penetration. Whether through precision, penetrating power, or blunt force trauma, this weapon grants a +1 to hit foes in medium armor and +2 against heavy armor.
Catches Riders. When used to dismount a rider, automatically succeeds on a successful to-hit (defender may not choose to take damage instead).
Defensive. Grants user a 1 point improvement on Armor Class.
Ignores Shields. This weapon strikes over or around shields, negating their defensive benefits.
Light. Balanced for throwing and may be dual wielded in the off hand.
Long. Ill-suited for melee combat; this weapon may only strike in the first round of a melee. Does not apply when wielding from back ranks.
Pike. Grants +2 on morale checks when resolving charges.
Reach. Reach, followed by a number, is the rank that a weapon may hit from.
Two Handed. Despite being 3' in size, this weapon requires 2 hands to be wielded effectively.
So these weapons cover a lot of ground with many different combinations of size, damage, and traits. One aspect that isn't apparent here is cost and quality. The weapons that are derived from agricultural tools (scythe, pitchfork, pick, and machete) are clearly inferior weapon choices when it comes to comparable weapons' damage, size, and traits. However, being weapons adapted from tools, they are significantly cheaper and only come in lower quality. They represent peasant weapons and are a cheap way to arm fodder and hirelings.

Every weapon should fill a niche. No one weapon is ideal in all situations and they each have strengths and weaknesses. Whereas a great sword has the best damage output, a poleaxe or halberd would be better suited for a mounted, armored opponent.

If anyone spots a weapon that is clearly superior in multiple/all situations, let me know so I can tweak the numbers. If anyone wants to discuss how some weapons are unique, please feel free to chime in. This weapon list is still living and I might decide to add some more exotic weapons from outside mainstream European use. Plus, I also want to tackle thrown weapons and ranged weapons and give them a similar treatment. And I have a few ideas for shield use as well, none of which are original.

EDIT: Pursuant to the comments below and further thought, battle axes inflict 1d10 damage and short spears are not considered Light weapons. Short spears may be thrown but can not be dual wielded.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Making Weapons Matter

Design Goal: Devise a system to differentiate weapons and create additional tactical decisions for combat and characters that rely on melee combat.

Most D&D weapons suck. There are a few clear winners when it comes to choosing weapons and a lot of chaff. Going for a two handed weapon? Greatsword, check. One handed and shield? Bastard sword, check. Cleric restrictions on weapons? Morningstar, check. Take a look at the AD&D weapon list and then count how many weapons there that see almost no use at the game table.

For the EMP game, every weapon will have some functional difference from every other weapon and any weapon which cannot be differentiated from another will be removed. First up, weapon size.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Kobolds in the Early Modern Period

Kobolds are house spirits, small sprites that protect the homes and dwellings of pagan believers. They can take on many forms with some of their favorite being child-like figures or small animals and may also take the form of mundane objects. Most kobolds are relatively harmless and help to protect those who treat them well while playing tricks on those who do not.

Only believers will have the chance to interact with kobolds, otherwise the sprites do not directly reveal themselves but may make their presence known in other ways. Belief in kobolds has survived Christianity in some circles and is most strong in communities that still hold onto pagan practices. In particular, dwarfs and goblins have a strong connection with kobolds.

While most kobolds are flighty sprites, many are aware that fewer mortals display belief in these spirits. These kobolds are much more active within pagan communities and will show a rare focus in utilizing their powers to fiercely protect the way of life for those who believe.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Goblins in the Early Modern Period

Goblins are a dying race. Having coalesced into a people in the deep forests of Europe, they were neighbors of the burgeoning elven society. Yet, it was not the elves who diminished their numbers and forced the forest dwellers underground. Elves considered goblins more as a younger cousin, a mischievous neighbor who, from time to time, needed a sound beating to remember his place. The goblin race didn't start its steady decline until it met humans.

Even from the times when humans inhabited Germania and Gaul in sets of tribes, men made war with goblins. While men and elves would eventually integrate, men and goblins were at constant odds. The dominance of Roman legions and culture did little to change this dynamic. While many 'barbarian' tribes were integrated into Roman society and its military, goblins remained on the fringe and always at odds. The eventual degradation of the Roman Empire was not enough to stem the slow tide of the goblin's decline. It was instead replaced by the zeal of conversion to Christianity which fell hard upon the pagan goblins. Conversions by the sword were typical; goblins would not give up their superstitious religious ways. Crusades through the Baltic regions finally succeeded in routing goblins out of their ancestral forests for good and forcing them to dwell underground to scratch out a living.

Today, goblins have long since lost their place among the great wilderness and are consigned to fringe areas outside of the Empire. Clinging to existence underground, various goblin tribes subsist on a combination of scavenging, limited agriculture, husbandry, and raiding. What few small congregations of goblins remain are typically found in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth hiding among the decentralized country side regions and enjoying a small measure of tolerance. Small pockets are also found under the mountain ranges ringing Europe proper.