On the art of combat

I know, I have mentioned these things before, but I want to consolidate all of the relevant suggestions into one thread. I want to suggest a few changes to the combat/weapons system.

1) martial prowess shouldn't only depend on strength

This has always bugged me; the fact that all weapons are either swung like a brute with no skill, or finesse. While I thinksimple and heavy weapons should remain that way, I think that martial weapons should be a bit different - sort of half way between heavy and finesse. So I suggest that, for martial weapons, your attack bonus modifier is an average of your strength and dex bonuses (rounded up). This would make the 13 strength 16 dex character a decent martial weapon user (but a poor heavy weapon user), while an 18 strength 10 dex character would be much better off with heavy weapons.

2) Finesse attacks, not finesse damage!

I don't think finesse weapons should add dex to damage rolls. The complete divorcing of strength from the equation means that a character with 6 strength and 18 dex, who wields a katana wields it to the same effect as a character with 18 strength. This shouldn't be the case. I think ALL melee weapons should only add strength to the damage rolls. The katana might be a super-powered sword that can cut three titanium tanks in half, but you still have to swing it. You can't just hold it out and let it do the work for you. Even a rapier needs strength to hold it up for a long period of time, there is no such thing as a weapon that doesn't require an ounce of physical strength to use - well, apart from a cruise missile!

3) Weapons should be non-regional

While I've come to accept the existence of the katana, I would prefer it if it was renamed to something that wasn't specific to a certain region - not that I have anything against that region, I just feel that D&D weapons should really be non-regional. Also, having a weapon from the Orient in a European setting seems a bit silly to me. I'd prefer to give such weapons a generic name - something like "two-handed fast sword", and in the description, say that it's a katana, or an elf sword, while the rapier is a "thrusting sword", etc. In fact, the weapon could even have several different names in its entry, just to indicate that it isn't a single weapon that behaves in this manner, but a certain type of weapon (of which there are variants).

4) Ramp ACs throughout

While I like the new "bounded accuracy" idea, with to-hit chances increasing less often than previously (because when you were level 20, you basically had to simply not fumble to hit anything), the addition of a +2 proficiency bonus for all characters makes hitting things in combat very easy. To hit, say, a goblin, average non-martial characters (rogues, clerics etc) without modifiers had to roll a 15 on a D20. Add in modifiers, and you're almost at the point where level 1 characters hit more often than they miss. I suggest taking every AC throughout, and bumping it by 2. This means leather armour (in its current incarnation) would also give you an AC of 13+dex, while full plate would get you 20.

5) Different weapons behave differently

While I like the new method of treating damage reduction (thrusting weapons can still hurt skeletons - it's just harder, because they have to swing the pommel instead of stabbing them), I think the weapons could use some more flavour. I suggest making axes, swords and blunts good for different things:

Swords: reduces your opponent's Dex component of his AC by 1 (swords are harder to avoid being hit with because they move faster)
Maces/Hammers/Flails: reduces your opponent's Armour component of his AC by 1 (because blunts are good for hammering people and breaking bones etc)
Axes/Picks: reduces your opponent's Shield component of his AC by 1 (because axes are good at breaking shields)
Spears: reduces your opponent's Dex OR Armour component of his AC by 1 (to a maximum of -1)
Flails: reduces YOUR accuracy by 1 (because they're less predictable than other more solid weapons)
Whips: reduces YOUR AC by 1 (because you can't parry with them)
Dagger: reduces your AC by 1 (because you can't parry with them) but increases your accuracy by 1 (they're small and easy to strike with)
Staffs: increases your AC by 1, because they're good for defending

I also think the weapons list can be trimmed a bit:

* Instead of a halberd and a glaive, simply treat them as the same weapon, but rule that it can belong to both the spear and the axe group.
* The longsword and hand-and-a-half sword can be the same weapon, but does 1d8 damage when wielded one-handed, or 1d10 when wielded two-handed.
* Spears and longspears can also probably work a similar way: one-handed as a 1d6 (or whatever) simple weapon, or two-handed as a 1d10 reach weapon.
* Quarterstaffs should also appear in the simple weapons list, but as a 1d6 strength weapon (as well as a 1d8 finesse weapon).
Everything expressed in this post is my opinion, and should be taken as such. I can not declare myself to be the supreme authority on all matters...even though I am right!
1) Disagree.  There is and always has been a skill component, it is just based on class/level rather than DEX.  I think this makes a lot of sense.  An olympic gymnast is not going to be better at wielding a longsword than a professional swordfighter with no DEX to speak of (perhaps a bad example as gymnasts need a lot of strength, but meh).  When you're dealing with a weapon with as much inertia as a sword, is your coordination really as valuable as brute strength given how much raw force is necessary to change the direction of the blade and how little pinpoint accuracy matters when you're capable of hacking off limbs?  I'm disinclined to add an entirely new mechanic where one uses multiple attributes together - something that to my knowledge has never been done in the history of D&D - just to let characters get the tiny bit of benefit they deserve out of their high DEX.  I'm all for having a category of finess weapons, but I wouldn't dream of putting longswords or one handed axes in it, much less half in it.  Not in D&D anyway.

2) Disagree.  First of all, my reading of the playtest packet is that that's the way it is now, and certainly it's the way it was in 3.5.  I personally would like it changed.  At best, I would say that the katana shouldn't be a finesse weapon.  But to take a more common example like the dagger, strength just doesn't enter into damage meaningfully.  Do you have any idea how little force it takes to pierce the skin with a stab from a sharp dagger?  I think damage is a lot more about precision accuracy of your blows than about the force behind them.  Thus: dexterity should determine damage as well as attack.  Not to mention from a gamist perspective it goes a long way towards making DEX builds and finess weapons a balanced option.  

3) No complaints here.  But then I don't consider WotC authors to be prophets, so I've never had a problem saying something like "katanas don't exist in my game.  We have elven blades instead, which have the same stats."  Problem solved.  I can see how baked-in flavor can annoy people who prefer a different flavor, but I can also see how it can make the default game seem more evocative and appealing to the uninitiated player reading the rulebook.

4)  Agree-ish.  WotC has clearly decided that players should hit about 60-65% of the time, and I think this is much too high.  I would prefer more durability to rest on AC than HP, to miss most of the time but have a hit be an exciting or tragic thing.  I would sooner drop everyone's class/level bonus than add to AC, but I quibble.  

5) Mostly pointless rules bloat.  Suppose I'm fighting a guy in medium armor with a shield.  It is totally irrelevant which component of his AC I'm reducing by 1, so at best I don't distinguish and at worst I slow down the game to ask what he's wearing/explain what I'm reducing.  I suppose if swords give you no bonuses against guys in heavy armor (because they have no dex component) and axes give no bonuses against guys without shields , there's some differentiation but mostly you've just made maces/hammers into strictly better weapons because everyone wears some kind of armor (even if it's only natural armor).  

I also disagree completely with your characterizations of the majority of the weapons on the list.  I think axes and picks should be the worst at getting around shields, as they are too slow to go around the shield the way a sword could and rely too much on their edges/points to go right through it the way a blunt weapon could.  I could see a bonus to "sunder" type attacks vs shields, maybe, but that's all.  I also don't see spears as being particularly good against DEX (piercing weapons in general are easier to dodge), or flails as being particularly inaccurate in the hands of a skilled user, especially when you recognize that AC has very little to do with whether your blow actually connected with the other guy (else plate armor would reduce your AC rather than increase it).

As to your AC modifying weapons, consider that this AC bonus is now going to apply against ranged and even magical attacks, or we go back to having separate ranged/melee ACs which IMHO is way more trouble than it's worth.  If we don't separate them, you're creating as much realism problem as you're solving, if not more, and adding rules bloat to boot.
1) Disagree.  There is and always has been a skill component, it is just based on class/level rather than DEX.  I think this makes a lot of sense.  An olympic gymnast is not going to be better at wielding a longsword than a professional swordfighter with no DEX to speak of (perhaps a bad example as gymnasts need a lot of strength, but meh).  When you're dealing with a weapon with as much inertia as a sword, is your coordination really as valuable as brute strength given how much raw force is necessary to change the direction of the blade and how little pinpoint accuracy matters when you're capable of hacking off limbs?



As someone who has used swords - even longswords - before, I can tell you that it isn't just about raw strength. You need to be fast, and you need to be accurate. The martial weapons aren't great big bardiches and two-handers, they're single-handed swords with 30" blades. They're small, one-handed axes, hand flails, etc. Swing one around like a brute, with no speed or skill, and you'll get absolutely nowhere.

2) Disagree.  First of all, my reading of the playtest packet is that that's the way it is now, and certainly it's the way it was in 3.5.  I personally would like it changed.  At best, I would say that the katana shouldn't be a finesse weapon.  But to take a more common example like the dagger, strength just doesn't enter into damage meaningfully.  Do you have any idea how little force it takes to pierce the skin with a stab from a sharp dagger?  I think damage is a lot more about precision accuracy of your blows than about the force behind them.  Thus: dexterity should determine damage as well as attack.  Not to mention from a gamist perspective it goes a long way towards making DEX builds and finess weapons a balanced option.



A balanced option, yes, but not a superior one, which it is now. Piercing naked skin is one thing, but piercing it through mail, or a padded jack, or - at the very worst - wool or linen, is going to take some strength (how many people go into battle naked, other than Celtic Woad Warriors?). Finesse fighting would still be a viable option, because you'd hit a lot more. You'd just do less damage when you hit, due to your low strength - that's the trade-off of going the finesse route. It should be a trade-off, and not a substitute for being strong.

I just really don't like the idea of someone with 6 strength and 18 dex being a superior katana user to someone with 15 strength and 17 dex. In addition, it encourages people to focus on a single stat, when one stat becomes completely redundant, and encourages finely tuned powerbuilds with dump stats. ("strength? What's that now? I'm not going to be doing any swimming, or climbing, or carrying anything other than myself and my sword, so why do I need that?" *plonks a 4 in strength*) I hate dump stats, and I hate powerbuilds. If you have a flawed stat, it should be just that - a flaw. Not just "oh, I have a slightly worse chance of making some skill checks that I'm rarely going to be asked to make!". Strength to finesse characters becomes intelligence to fighters, charisma to clerics and wisdom to mages.

4)  Agree-ish.  WotC has clearly decided that players should hit about 60-65% of the time, and I think this is much too high.  I would prefer more durability to rest on AC than HP, to miss most of the time but have a hit be an exciting or tragic thing.  I would sooner drop everyone's class/level bonus than add to AC, but I quibble. 



There I agree. I much prefer hitting rarely, but when you do, it's decisive. I don't like the idea of "you hit almost all the time, but if you're rubbish then you hit for peanuts" mechanic. I can't really buy into the whole "hitpoints as AC" thing, because it breaks down when it comes to archery - am I supposed to believe that that person can take 20 arrows and keep fighting, simply because I'm a rubbish archer? Or did all those ones that "hit" not actually hit?

5) Mostly pointless rules bloat.  Suppose I'm fighting a guy in medium armor with a shield.  It is totally irrelevant which component of his AC I'm reducing by 1, so at best I don't distinguish and at worst I slow down the game to ask what he's wearing/explain what I'm reducing.  I suppose if swords give you no bonuses against guys in heavy armor (because they have no dex component) and axes give no bonuses against guys without shields , there's some differentiation but mostly you've just made maces/hammers into strictly better weapons because everyone wears some kind of armor (even if it's only natural armor).



Well, it'd be an "optional advanced rule", which people who wanted that bit of extra realism could put in. That kind of thing could easily be removed, I wouldn't insist on doing it as a core rule (though I wouldn't be opposed to it if they did so!). And it is relevant which component is being reduced, because not everyone has every component. A sword would gain no bonuses against someone in heavy armour, while a mace would make no difference if the person was wearing only clothing.

Look, I'm just trying to suggest something similar to the Warhammer system, and make the weapons more meaningful than just "X damage, Y damage and pants damage!".

I also disagree completely with your characterizations of the majority of the weapons on the list.  I think axes and picks should be the worst at getting around shields, as they are too slow to go around the shield the way a sword could and rely too much on their edges/points to go right through it the way a blunt weapon could.



Well, they wouldn't go around it, it'd be more likely to break it.

I also don't see spears as being particularly good against DEX (piercing weapons in general are easier to dodge)



Are they? Have you ever fought against one? Stabbing is a lot faster than hacking, you know.

or flails as being particularly inaccurate in the hands of a skilled user



Those types of flails are inaccurate, because you don't know where the head is going to end up, and you're having to avoid hitting yourself. They were never actually used in battle, actually, and the only flail that was ever used was a "footman's flail", which was a long shaft, a long head, and only about 3 or 4 links - hardly any chain at all.

As to your AC modifying weapons, consider that this AC bonus is now going to apply against ranged and even magical attacks, or we go back to having separate ranged/melee ACs which IMHO is way more trouble than it's worth.



Well, yes, I think we should. Because they are different. I'm against over-simplification, because that just makes all decisions mechanically pointless, and will eventually reach the stage where all decisions are no more than RP fluff, because all numbers are the same regardless of what you do.
Everything expressed in this post is my opinion, and should be taken as such. I can not declare myself to be the supreme authority on all matters...even though I am right!
1) Again, I'm not saying there's no speed or skill involved in using a sword.  I'm questioning whether DEX is the best measure of speed and skill on your character sheet.  It has nothing at all to do with "skill" in the sense of training/experience, that's measured by class level.  "Skill" in the sense of overall ability is captured by your overall to hit/damage modifier, and dex may be a part of that but it certainly isn't all of it.  Dex is related to speed insofar as DEX is a catchall for a variety of finer muscle control stats (IRL one can have the kind of dexterity a gymnast needs to tumble without the kind a thief needs to pick pockets or locks or the kind an archer needs to use a bow). But is it as useful as strength when "speed" involves rapidly accelerating a weighty object (and even martial weapons are far from light)?  Is pinpoint really about precise control when you're targeting someone that is unpredictably changing its position even as you swing, or is it more about being able to redirect the path midswing by forcibly overcoming its inertia?  

If D&D was designed to use multiple attributes for a single roll, I would unquestioningly accept that DEX was the secondary attribute to add (in fact, in my homebrew system where all rolls involve a primary and secondary attribute, longswords do use dex as the secondary).  But I remain unconvinced that dexterity is so important to melee attack rolls with mid-sized weapons that an entire exception to the core mechanic of D&D has to be crafted to conform the game to reality.  It's not really any odder than the idea that someone with a CON of 1 isn't any worse at climbing a tall cliff, that someone with an INT of 1 is no worse at disabling an intricate trap or telling a convincing lie, or that some emaciated dunce with an 18 CHA but a 1 in everything else is awesome at intimidation.  Not to mention the fact that, with an averaging mechanic, a guy with 14/14 STR/DEX is as good as a guy with 17/15 (or at least 17/14, if you plan to average the scores rather than the mods).  Is it relevant?  Sure.  Is it equally relevant as STR?  I don't think so.  Is it close enough to equally relevant such that the net gains in realism outweigh the extra rule?  I don't think so, and if they are I wouldn't limit it to this one example of important secondaries.

2)  I'm just going to ignore your first sentence, as it makes no sense to me (finesse weapons are currently vastly inferior, not superior, and I fail to see how a dramatic improvement in the power of a supposedly superior weapon could turn it into a balanced option).  I'm not seeing this "trade-off" you're suggesting for finesse weapons: you get smaller damage dice and lower attributes because you need to build two of them, and in exchange you get absolutely no benefits at all.  Your attack bonus is not higher than the guy who's only building STR (probably lower, unless you give up on damage altogether), your AC is identical (at least assuming you wear heavy armor, and I'm not a fan of using the crappiness of finesse weapons as a balancing tool for classes that don't get decent armor proficiencies), and your damage is substantially lower.  So why would a rules-minded fighter EVER choose a finesse weapon build?  Should we force all players who like the idea of a swash-buckling DEX fighter to play mechanically inferior characters?

If there were no way to come to a reasonable explanation for why DEX is more important than STR in determining damage with finesse weapons, MAYBE I'd agree with you and say yes.  But there is.  Yes, it takes a certain amount of force to pierce even wool with a dagger.  But first of all we're not dealing with STR 4 characters, the vast majority of PCs are going to have a strength of at least 8.   They're capable of lifting 80lbs over their heads.    So let's just assume their blows are powerful enough to punch through the chainmail, or that they found a gap in it - after all, if they didn't get through the armor they'd be missing altogether not rolling crappy damage, and I don't see you arguing that daggers should use STR to hit.  Once they've pierced the armor/cloth, damage is again going to be far less a function of how much pressure you're applying than on what part of the body you're applying it to.  IE, a function of DEX not STR.  I would argue it's better realism, and it certainly isn't so much worse realism that we should gimp dex based characters to make it happen.

3) I did mention that it would occassionally be relevant when the target had no DEX, armor or shield component.    My point stands, however, that in many if not most situations it will make no mechanical difference at least between two of the three groups (swords, axes/picks, blunts).  So you're slowing down every fight and adding a rule to keep in mind every fight that will give you at best a small increase in realism in some fights.  Not to mention a balance headache, as you are unquestionably making blunt weapons and spears better and axes, daggers, and whips worse.  As to your defense of the specific choices of bonuses/penalties for weapon groups:

Axes: I meant "get around" in the sense of "circumvent the problem" generally, not necessarily by physically traveling around it.  Explain to me how your axe is breaking through the shield as if it weren't there (given that shields only provide a +1 to AC in Next) without the shield actually being damaged in any way for purposes of future attacks?  I could see swords getting a bonus against shields because they can (literally this time) go around it thanks to their maneuverability, or blunt weapons getting a bonus because it'll still break your shield arm even if the blow doesn't damage the shield, but if your axe/pick is breaking the shield than the shield should be broken.  
Spears: stabbing is faster than hacking, yes.  But you also don't have to move as much of your body as far to avoid a stab as you would to avoid a slash, unless we just assume that everyone is always at the extreme edge of weapon reach (which is an odd assumption to make when not all weapons have the same reach).  And spears hardly have a monopoly on stabbing weapons, are daggers reducing DEX bonuses by 1 too?  Are swords losing their ability to reduce DEX when used to deal slashing damage?  I'm even less sure how you're explaining the potential bonus against heavy armor, since they have neither the mass to punch through the way an axe or a hammer would nor the maneuverability/flexibility(in terms of angle of attack) to find gaps the way a dagger would.
Flails: Really.  So you decided that the appropriate response to inaccurately drawn versions of real weapons was to gimp the entire group and assume generations of smiths and warriors continued to make and use inferior weapons to defend their lives, rather than just rule that the artists don't know what they're talking about but the in-world characters do.  Are you planning to apply a penalty to the AC of female characters who are drawn with revealing armor?  How about to characters of a race whose female members are exclusively drawn in revealing armor, despite the fact that the player of this particular character has never drawn her PC with revealing armor any more than she has drawn her PC's particular flail with an over-long chain?  It's a fantasy setting, give them a little leeway.

Parry-penalties: OK.  If you're going to have a different AC for melee/ranged/spell, I'm on board with giving better melee AC to the people who can actually parry.  I'm not sure I'd put people with greataxes or surprised people in that category, and I'm even less sure the different ACs are a worthwhile rule to keep track of, but I'm not going to argue with the idea given that caveat.  I don't for a second buy your slippery-slope towards RP fluff argument, though; just because I think some realism gains are not worth the price in system complication doesn't mean I favor a system where no mechanical distinctions exist.  The line can absolutely be drawn somewhere and I happen to think it may be closer to simplicity in this case, but that's a matter of taste.  You want a module with separate ACs, poor-parry penalties, and melee attacks vs ranged AC or even a fourth flat-footed AC when the target is surprised, knock yourself out.  But don't assume that anyone who values questionable gains in realism less than you necessarily wants to push the line all the way to the far end of the spectrum.  
Sorry, but you can't parry with a dagger!? The dagger is the most common off-hand weapon of a fencer, and is used specifically to parry...
This is a much more complicated subject than one might think at first glance. 

Dexterity should indeed do more damage.......sometimes. That rapier-wielding fencing master is going to do more damage not because he is stronger, but because he will accurately puncture your organs where he needs to. He'll hit your heart, shove it through your throat, etc.

That katana wielder won't do more damage because he's stronger, but because he swings faster and with greater accuracy such that the sweet spot on the blade strikes at the right place, and at the optimal angle. 

For many weapons, even big two-handed weapons, how fast you move, how well you utilize momentum, how quickly you turn a stroke into a counterstroke, etc, is just as important as strength. 

Also, Cyber-Dave is correct. Many daggers are indeed made for parrying. That's half the point of them. That, and if you parry with your sword and move close, you stick them with the pointy bit of the dagger. 



There I agree. I much prefer hitting rarely, but when you do, it's decisive. I don't like the idea of "you hit almost all the time, but if you're rubbish then you hit for peanuts" mechanic. I can't really buy into the whole "hitpoints as AC" thing, because it breaks down when it comes to archery - am I supposed to believe that that person can take 20 arrows and keep fighting, simply because I'm a rubbish archer? Or did all those ones that "hit" not actually hit?





Actually, that gets into the whole problem with what Hit Points are and what a "hit" represents, because losing hit points in not (necessarily) an attack successfully landing on the target - instead it isthe vague conglomeration of physical toughness to absorb a blow that lands and effort that is spent to dodge or parry or whatnot at the last minute a blow that would otherwise land. So really, a "hit" is not a hit, it is a potential hit, but the full blow does not land until (as of the current playtest rules) the attack that reduces the target to 0 or less HP connects.

While my friends and I never really questioned the whole HP thing and were fine with it as an abstraction for a game, coming to the forums I can see that the separation from realism (as well as "a hit is not a hit") is a real problem for many, so I think that something should be done to address this.
Sorry, but you can't parry with a dagger!? The dagger is the most common off-hand weapon of a fencer, and is used specifically to parry...



I agree - as an off-hand weapon, when you're using something else, and the other person has a similar weapon.

But when you're ONLY armed with a dagger, and the other person has a bardiche? I'd like to see you parry that. Sure, you can dodge, but you can't parry AND dodge, like you can if you have a bigger sword. Hence the slight reduction in AC (I should have added "if a dagger is your only weapon").

Dex is related to speed insofar as DEX is a catchall for a variety of finer muscle control stats (IRL one can have the kind of dexterity a gymnast needs to tumble without the kind a thief needs to pick pockets or locks or the kind an archer needs to use a bow). But is it as useful as strength when "speed" involves rapidly accelerating a weighty object (and even martial weapons are far from light)?  Is pinpoint really about precise control when you're targeting someone that is unpredictably changing its position even as you swing, or is it more about being able to redirect the path midswing by forcibly overcoming its inertia?



Firstly, I've fought with single handed swords. They move quite quickly, and you need to be able to react quite quickly to fight with them.

Secondly, if it was only the rapier and dagger that behaved in this manner, I'd say "sure, leave it as it is". But when the katana and scimitar - CUTTING weapons - now require no physical strength whatsoever, it seems unfair to rule taht every weapon is either wholly dependent on strength or can be wholly dependent on dex instead. This just perpetuates the commonly held belief that "Euro weapons = suck, Japanese weapons = awesome, because you have to be strong to wield a heavy, highly cumbersome and unwieldy arming sword, but not to use an awesomely powerful katana!!"

Thirdly, I'm a fencer. I know that having no strength is going to severely cripple you in even rapier combat.
Everything expressed in this post is my opinion, and should be taken as such. I can not declare myself to be the supreme authority on all matters...even though I am right!
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