Friday, April 29, 2016

Two New Maneuvers for Honor+Intrigue

Over on the BASH Forum, Chris Rutowsky is soliciting comment on two new maneuvers and the idea of a new academic-focused style. I'd comment there, but for some reason the BASH Forum still refuses to allow me to create an account. I've tried multiple times with different emails and have tried contacting the admins all to no avail. Kind of a funny outcome for someone running a site focused on Honor+Intrigue. I also started a thread about Chris' post over on the RPGsite.

Here's Chris' post.

An enemy who becomes predictable becomes much less dangerous. You anticipate their mode of attack and prepare to defend against it.
Minor Action.
Choose an offensive Melee or Brawl maneuver. Your opponent gains a Penalty Die to use it against you. This lasts until you disengage (either on purpose or by Yielding Advantage), or use Guard again to name a different maneuver.
Mastery: Choose 2 maneuvers when you use Guard.

Study Opponent
Minor Action.
The GM will secretly roll a Savvy + Swordsman (Career) test for you vs. the opponent's Swordsman Career. If you succeed, you learn one fact about their fighting technique. On a Mighty Success you learn 2 facts. On a Calamitous Failure, you learn a false fact. Some examples of facts you can learn (you get to choose what type you want to learn):

  • What dueling style the opponent is using, and their level of mastery.
  • Their best Quality.
  • Their Rank in one Combat ability you've seen them use.
  • Their Rank in Swordsman career
  • What defenses they have against one particular maneuver. This would include if they are using Guard against it, as well as the difficulty to use it on them.
  • Their bonus to up to two maneuvers you've seen them do (includes whether they are a master of that maneuver or not).
Mastery: Bonus Die to use Study Opponent and +1 to resist Study Opponent by others.

As for Study Opponent, any other example "Facts" you should be able to discover?

The reason for creation of these two would be to increase the creativity of people engaged in a duel and prevent "Rinse & Repeat" use of dueling maneuvers (this hasn't been a problem in my own games, but I could see how some people with a particular technique maxed out might just keep using it all the time). If the enemy keeps using Bind, you Guard against Bind, and now they have a penalty die to try to Bind you. So they might just try something else. Since you can also choose to Guard against Bladework, you might make the enemy have to do something more risky like Lunge, or based on a less powerful Quality like Quick-Cut.

I was also considering creating a new Dueling Style that uses both these maneuvers (it is a very academic approach to swordsmanship) and one of the benefits of the style would be if an enemy uses a maneuver you are using Guard against and misses you, you can use Riposte against them.

As for execution at the table, I can see two ways of doing this.
1. Open declaration. When you use Guard, you say "I am guarding against X maneuver". This means the other person is probably less likely to use it on you.
2. Secret "match and show" style. When you use Guard, you write down the maneuver on a slip of paper. If someone uses the maneuver on you, you reveal it, and the penalty die is applied to the roll.

Both methods have their pros and cons. I'm thinking that which style (Open or Secret) be left up to the GM.

Do these maneuvers seem useful? Would you use them in your game? I am seeking questions and comments?

Comments on Guard

Adding a Guard maneuver seems useful because it will incentivize players to vary their maneuvers in combat. This is good for several reasons.
  1. Greater variety of maneuver choices is more true to the exciting swashbuckling genre. Watch Errol Flynn, Zorro, or any of the fights in the Lester Musketeer movies and you will see a lot of maneuvers and some crazy stunts. Combat in H+I should look like that.
  2. Greater variety of maneuvers makes mastering multiple maneuvers more valuable which rewards skilled duelists.
  3. The Guard maneuver rewards observant players and allows them increased scope for tactical choices.
  4. From what I know of actual dueling, repeating the same maneuver is the opposite of a formula for winning. The Guard maneuver better simulates that truth.
One might ask, is there a need to incentivize variation in maneuvers? I have occasionally seen players use the same maneuver over and over. This seems to happen for two reasons.
  1. Optimal Tactics: I have one player who does analyze and choose optimal moves and because of this he does tend to repeat the same (high likelihood of success) maneuvers.
  2. Minimal Rules Knowledge: I have one player who tends to repeat the same maneuvers not based on optimal choices so mauch as just not remembering or thinking of other maneuver choices.
So in my experience there is some need to incentivize varying maneuvers. 

Is there a down side to adding guard?

Personally, when playing I tend not to use the same maneuver over and over because that bores me and because it doesn't seem like the sort of duels I find interesting in to watch. I suspect one of my players makes decisions for similar reasons. If all your players and the GM vary their maneuvers there isn't any need for the Guard maneuver. But adding it doesn't harm anything. It just adds a maneuver that will seldom get used. But that is already true of some of the existing maneuvers. How often do your players use Blade Throw?

For highly skilled duelists, Riposte (following a successful Parry or Dodge) is the most predictably used maneuver, since mastery allows it as a Free Action. And for some duelists, Feint and Beat get used with regularity. It's unclear if reactions and minor actions like these are intended to fall within the scope of Guard, though I think I would allow Guard to work against reactions and other minor actions.. 

I agree that either open declaration or match and show could work. I'd be inclined to use Open Declaration for the players though with a possible addition of having them wait to declare until after I, as the GM, have thought about the NPC's maneuvers. Since I tend to have Pawns use simple maneuvers like Bladework or Brawling this would either give the PCs an advantage since they could reliably guard against Bladework or it would incline the GM to vary the Pawn attacks. As a GM either outcome is acceptable. It would also be possible to create a random tactical choice for Pawns and Retainers. For example one could modify the maneuver line for Pawns like so: Roll D6 (1-3) Bladework+2; (4-5) Quickcut+1, (6) Disarm+1.

The secret match and show method is going to be slower procedurally so I'd save that method for duels between PCs and for climactic duels between PCs and Villains.

Two Thumbs Up for adding Guard as a maneuver. The procedural implementation should be left up to GM option.

Comments on Study Opponent

I'm less convinced on the utility of the Study Opponent maneuver. It seems like it would be procedurally time consuming since the player needs to make decisions from a lengthy list about what they want to try to learn and some questions, when applied against nameless NPCs may require the GM to create an answer - which is also time consuming. I'll take a look at each of the "Facts" one by one.

  • What dueling style the opponent is using, and their level of mastery.
It seems to me that each of the styles has some fairly obvious tells. So I'm not sure we need a maneuver to discern that. Certainly a master of dueling style A, should be able to automatically recognize a practitioner of their style. And a master should recognize another master. And the value of the Duelist/Swordsmen career is already narrow in focus and it seems it should cover an ability to recognize dueling styles without the need for a special maneuver.

  • Their best Quality.
That seems like information that is not covered by Careers or existing knowledge. So OK>

  • Their Rank in one Combat ability you've seen them use.
I am open with my rolls and with the totals, so players can already back calculate the total modifier (which seems more important than the Ranik). Melee and Defense (or Brawl and Defense) could be covered by the Duelist/Swordsman/(Pugilist) Careers.

  • Their Rank in Swordsman career
Again this seems like it could be covered by a Savvy roll modified by the Duelist/Swordsman Career.  
  • What defenses they have against one particular maneuver. This would include if they are using Guard against it, as well as the difficulty to use it on them.
This sounds like a good use for a Study Opponent maneuver.

  • Their bonus to up to two maneuvers you've seen them do (includes whether they are a master of that maneuver or not).
I roll openly and give the players the total for their opponents, so the players can back calculate those net numbers. The Study Opponent would, in effect, do the math for them. So an advantage for some.

I don't see Study Opponent making it easier for one to conceal one's abilities. So I'd change that aspect of Mastery. The ability to conceal one's abilities seems like it would be influenced more by breadth of capability. So a master of multiple styles should be a more difficult opponent to study. 

As an alternate, allow the Master of Study Opponent to do use the maneuver once as free action against a single opponent after observing them for at least 2 rounds of combat.

Considering the Study Opponent maneuver as a whole, I like that it matches Duelist/Swordsman careers against each other as that adds utility to a narrowly focused career. I'm a bit concerned about it slowing down combat, but it seems worth a try.

One Thumb Up for adding Study Opponent as a maneuver.

Comment on creating an "Academic" dueling style

The "Academic" dueling style sounds interesting. It reminds me of something in Glen Cook's Dread Empire series where the scholars from the Rebsamen (I think that was the name) who seemed sort of like Greek philosophers, had that sort of analytical style of fighting. Certainly a master of the Academic style would be likely to have a whole library of fencing manuals - which would give me a good excuse to use my On the Shelf table of books. It also makes the Study Opponent maneuver more appealing as an addition, possibly raising it to Two Thumbs Up.

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