We mentioned a while back how we were working through the pains of countering the ‘vagaries of luck’ as one of our testers lovingly refers to it against the ranks of the skills available to the players. A couple different options have been played with, to varying success (or failure – maximum damage every time a weapon hits gets messy, quickly) and thus we felt the need to do as we always do:
Talk about it.
When you talk about Tabletop combat, it almost immediately comes with the mental sound of the die hitting the table. When you break it down, the size of that die changes things immensely. If you only have a six sided die dictating your ‘luck’ against your ‘skills’ and you skills are twice as deep as the die, your skill is the dominating factor.
Or, so it would be if ‘all other things weren’t equal’; meaning that the foes you fight may very well be just as good, or bad, at a certain skill as the player is. In which case, the only thing separating the sweet taste of victory against the pangs of defeat is a one in six chance to roll better than your foe.
In an army game, that’s not so bad, really. With dozens of miniatures marching around kicking the plastic molding out of each other, losing a handful of minutely detailed soldiers isn’t so painful; in fact it is to be expected. Casualties of war, or so we are told. But what happens when the player is only controlling one of those figures? Suddenly the idea of a one in six chance of having to make a new character sounds pretty terrible.
So what does it all mean?
It means, in an ideal world, your skills should come close, be equal to or exceed your die factor; I would advise using something smaller than the common 20-sided die in that final case. Keep in mind that everything we do takes time, and the longer and harder you make things for the players, even something like relatively simple math, the problem magnifies with each player added to the table. Keep it simple, and streamlined. Ideally, anyways.
So what else factors into combat, if not just skill and luck? For now, we are going to begin aggressively testing those two parameters and seeing how far we can push, pull, bend and twist them until it feels ‘right’. But our other variable is the tools of combat themselves; weapons. Just because some people think ‘a sword is a sword’ doesn’t make it so. Look at the Oakeshott typography of swords for fun and you’ll see what we are getting at.
As always, keep rolling 20’s and Game On!