On Fighters & Fighting: Addendum

Another one? ABSOLUTELY!

…though a short one. My previous post in the On Fighters & Fighting series grew a bit too large to accommodate some of the ideas I had, and a number of people requested an Unarmed Fighting Style Generator as a companion to the one focused on fighters.

Here, then, are my final thoughts… for the moment.

Abstracting Hit Points In Melee Combat

Everyone understands, on some level, that Hit Points are meant to be an abstraction. Why? Because going up in levels does not give a character gallons more blood, extra internal organs, or bullet-proof eyes. While it is surely in-genre for many games to treat warriors who have reached a heroic status to actually be unrealistically tough in the fibre and recover from wounds that would maim others for life, that can only carry the idea of HP so far.

So what if we took a page from real life combat for some inspiration?

Here are some brief suggestions:

  • Winded – When two people are facing off in combat, one of the things on everyone’s mind is how long they can last in the fight before their performance starts to wane due to fatigue. The stronger and more enduring opponent certainly has an advantage, but the master of a fighting style can often wear down even a more powerful if inexperienced foe through the use of proper breathing techniques and far more efficient use of their energy.
    This can be reflected by describing someone who is steadily losing HP as wavering, looking desperate, and otherwise showing signs that they will not be able to stay in the fight if this goes on.
  • Collateral Damage – An exchange of blows or clash of swords is not usually a one-touch situation, where the injured side walks away with a single new wound that adds to the pile but doesn’t otherwise impact their ability to fight. Attempting to block a powerful punch might wrench a shoulder, and a battle of strength as two hardened warriors lock their blades together can lead to sliced or broken fingers, which adds up in ways that even adrenaline can’t cover.
    Reflecting this sort of HP loss is as simple as describing minor but important damage that someone can only attempt to ignore for so long before it will catch up to them.
  • Head Games – Intimidation and smack-talk has its place, but finding yourself on the wrong side of an axe and bleeding has a tendency to leave a much deeper impression. Part of fighting is having the will to press on and the confidence to seize advantages as they arise, and even if someone is very much still a threat to their opponent they might become less of one if they’re distracted by their own mortality or pride. Relating the loss of Hit Points to mental state is not common, but if HP represents the ability to stay in the fight and not get down to that last deadly wound, then increasingly leaving themselves open for such an attack – only to recover at the last moment to take a less serious wound – is entirely appropriate.
    This can be reflected by describing a character’s behavior when they lose HP as increasingly wild-eyed, uncertain, or desperate.

Random Unarmed Fighting Style Generator

Unlike the previous post I will not attempt to recreate the tables involved here on the blog, but instead will link to the random generator itself, along with the Google Document that holds the tables I used to make the generator work.

I found myself making some interesting, or odd, choices in trying to put this together and I hope you enjoy them. If not, or if you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment!

Unarmed Fighting Style Generator

UFS Random Generator Tables

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On Fighters & Fighting: Part Two

Expanding On Style

The previous post on Fighters talked about the perception of the class as boring, or bland, and attempted to provide a context that shows off how interesting should probably be. This post is going to take that a step further, and look at making sure that Fighters are as engaging when throwing down as they deserve to be.

We all want combat to be something other than a drag, and for the people who play Fighters to feel like they’re doing more than hitting the “do damage” button, but there’s no universal fix or simple solution that will work for all – or even most – of the groups out there.

There are as many different ways to give added style and flavor to combat as there are people running games, and it would be a fruitless effort to try and condense all the best advice into one small blog post. Another author on this site even gave some very good advice on how to introduce memorable elements to otherwise mundane combat.

It’s for that reason that I’m going to pick one small battle and give you some – hopefully – fun tools that are flexible enough to assist anyone looking for a little help on this front.

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On Fighters & Fighting: Part One

Fixing The Problem With Fighters

Let us begin by speaking hard truths: There is a problem with Fighters, and it’s not just the perennial concerns over how they balance against spell-casters in the long term.

It’s in the very way people think about them. If someone says that they are thinking of playing a Wizard or a Cleric or a Paladin? There are immediate implications about what type of person those characters might be and where they might come from, because even if a particular character has a non-standard origin we tend to imagine that it takes some particular training or mind-set to join those classes.

But to most people it seems that Fighter is at best just an unflavored description for a character who will be able to hit things, bring your own spice (“former soldier” “Samurai” “duelist”), and at worst describing someone who was too stupid to pursue a more demanding career.

Why? Many reasons, some of them having to do with the fact that Dungeons & Dragons has become something of its own fantasy subgenre, but the most obvious is that unless calling on a specific well-known tradition (like samurai) we don’t tend to understand or appreciate that the warriors & soldiers who inspired the class were as much dedicated experts in their craft as any scholar.

Which is not only unfair, but pretty boring.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

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Dramatic Gloves, Like a Foot Hammer, and Gilly Suits.c

You can find the ever-growing list of “Better Than Nothing” items  over on the right. Read ‘em, like ‘em, share ‘em, and comment.

Gloves of Ynx

Love is war. That’s what Grek-voke believed and in this moment, close enough to see every bead of sweat on his opponent’s brow—each weary line of the old Captain’s weathered face. He really felt close, emotionally significant, to the man. They were locked in the most honest moment of their lives.

Raef would likely try and ruin it, the child-like sneak would be circling around to the soldier’s flank and it boiled a small spite in Grek. It would only spoil this. The ache in his arms as he held his nicked and scratched falchion in two large hands, his shoulder forward and bracing was sweet and dangerous. The Captain’s own axe kissing his sword and the old man leaning into it just as deliciously.

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Play the Madness, Been Re-Reading Fables, A Cheap Trick, Tiny Lair, and Blessed Nonsense.

You can find the ever-growing list of “Better Than Nothing” items  over on the right. Read ‘em, like ‘em, share ‘em, and comment.

Kortholt of the Brigh Delac

“The Congregation wiles and pomps,
For ever day and shine again,
When Revelrie and Revelire,
Set to dance the feet of men,
The king! The king! In tally grey!
No clever boy denies the fae.

While the song pipes on and on,
And while the lights burn bright and strong,
And breathless servants play along,
There’s no time left to die today.”

–written in blood in the underjail of Kremen Hold

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Like in the Movies, Stealing Chance, and the Sound of Terror…

You can find the ever-growing list of “Better Than Nothing” items  over on the right. Read ‘em, like ‘em, share ‘em, and comment.

Hornwail Cord

“What’s to stop us just clubbin’ that pretty face flat and tossin’ whats left into the brine, neh?” First Mate Sorka’s face was a deep rouge leather, hard-baked by decades of sun out on the open waters, and Courser had never known it to hide a lie. The old boatswain meant it. They’d kill him as easy as sinning and leave him lost at sea—just another cautionary tale for the boys at the docks that dreamed of plunder.

Still, he held onto the rigging of the shilemain, the tension in the air was almost thick enough to taste. Twenty hands of all shapes and sizes, a few officers, a dead captain, and a locked captain’s chest that held the promise of easy money nobody would be looking for out here.

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Watching Too Much Netflix Recently, There Are Not Enough Cleric and Paladin Wands, and a Ranger/Warlock Combo…

You can find the ever-growing list of “Better Than Nothing” items  over on the right. Read ‘em, like ‘em, share ‘em, and comment.

Docker’s Shield

“Come on, now, Master Vacheck, surely you didn’t think I was going to simply let you and your band of petty thieves and murderers just walk into my Daima and sack it like common burglars in a jewelry shop?

“I’ve waited for this moment for weeks—you didn’t know that, did you? I was watching you when you crossed the Faetan Peaks, I sat in the grass and watched you sleep under that great oak. My creatures will take your friends, those still alive, down into the dark and play with them like dolphins might play with a baby floating in the sea.

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