Skirmish system tweaks

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The Dark
Hill Giant
Posts: 532
Joined: Tue Mar 25, 2014 10:05 pm
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Skirmish system tweaks

Post by The Dark »

I've been going back and looking at the skirmish system, since there's an ongoing thread about mass combat systems at RPG.net. There are a number of problems and/or grey areas, some related to the brevity of the rules and some just mechanically odd choices. The base damage makes sense - it's the average number of hits a unit deals against a target's AC, and the 50% lethality is roughly what you'd get with 1d8 weapons against 1d8 Hit Dice.

1. There are no real rules for missile fire.
2. The size of a Hit Die doesn't matter. 20 gnolls (2d8 hp each) have the same hit dice as 20 F2 (2d10 hp each).
3. Mounts either aren't addressed or aren't counted for HD (it's unclear whether the example knights are mounted, but they're dealing double damage, which implies mounted lances). This is debatable for horses. It gets weird for goblin wolfriders.
4. The dice can make things very swingy, and it's not clear how they decided on 1d8. This is where armor gets devalued, since units are now doing more damage than they "should" based on standard rules, and it's potentially a large amount compared to the base damage. In the example from the book, gnolls could do anywhere from 3 to 10 damage against knights depending on the roll of 2d8.
5. There's a mechanics/fluff disconnect because Anuirean infantry is said to rely on halberds and two-handed swords, but those are mechanically bad weapons in the skirmish rules. A thief with paired daggers is far more deadly with 1d4/1d4 than an Anuirean fighter with 1d10 because the former doubles his damage (more than 1 attack per round) and the latter doesn't (less than 1d12 damage).
5a. The number of multiple attacks doesn't matter. A creature with 2 attacks dealing 1d4 damage each doubles their damage just like a creature with 6 attacks dealing 1d10 damage each.
6. Crowding doesn't matter by rules as written. 400 peasants with daggers can pile onto 20 knights and get a 20d8 roll that will win every round and overwhelm base damage (yes, it's poor scenario design; it's also a gap in the rules).


Potential house rules:
1. Battles start at a randomly determined engagement range, and units have to move to melee range. Units with missile weapons can make attacks during this time.
2. This isn't a huge issue, since most units are going to have relatively similarly-sized Hit Dice. If someone makes a unit of magic-users, then maybe think about halving their HD.
3. Count mounts' HD for combat. Average their AC with the riders' AC. Barding matters now, and knights become much tougher.
4. Instead of everyone rolling 1d8, roll the actual damage they do. This makes it so paired daggers aren't automatically better than a two-handed sword, and makes armor a bit more relevant. To make armor more relevant, after the die rolls are compared, subtract 1 point from the winner's damage for every 3 points of the loser's AC (so -1 at AC 7, -2 at AC 4, -3 at AC 1).
5. Rule 4 mostly fixes this. Simply get rid of all the "double damage" entries and replace them with rolling the actual dice of damage. Units with multiple attacks roll the damage for each attack (so a unit of fighters with longswords and 3/2 attacks per round rolls 1d8 the first round and 2d8 the second round).
5a. This is also fixed by Rule 4. If a creature has a claw/claw/bite for 1d4/1d4/1d6, they roll 2d4 and 1d6.
6. After some back-and-forth discussion, I favor capping damage at the maximum of a single unit's rolls, so if two units of the 1d4/1d4/1d6 monster attacked a single unit, they'd roll 4d4+2d6 and cap at 14 (4+4+6). If units with different damage outputs combine forces, the cap is the highest total a single unit could generate (so a unit with a 1d8 attack and a unit with a 2d6 attack would roll all their dice with a cap of 12).

Feedback is greatly welcomed, since I haven't playtested these house rules.

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