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Representing Reach of Melee Weapons

Octopus Prime

Retired User
So, I've been thinking about ways to represent reach/length of melee weapons in a way that's elegant, meaningful, and does not involve battle maps or keeping track of distances (of which I am not a fan).

My thoughts so far are something like this: any weapon has a Reach value associated with it. Unarmed attacks and knives would be reach 1; Swords and clubs and such would be reach 2; whips and spears and the like would be reach 3. They could be spliced apart more finely, but you get the idea.
Whenever you successfully land an attack, you add the difference between you and your opponent's reach value to subsequent attacks. Ie, so if a fighter with a dagger (1) successfully struck an opponent with a spear (3), he would then at +2 to his subsequent attack roll. If the spear wielder struck him back, the spearman would gain a +2 to instead. This represents successfully closing the gap to where the knife is effective and the spear is not, or regaining that ground back to spear-fighting range.
My only thought right now is.... is it worth it? Am I getting an adequate amount of Gameplay Depth for the amount of Gameplay Complexity that sort of system would add? Given that combat already tends to Take a While, I fear that adding a shifting distance bonus would just slow things down further.
 

John Out West

Registered User
Validated User
In real life they would drop the spear and take out a sword once the distance was closed, which is exactly what I would do as well. This would transform all of your reach-rules into a mechanic that keeps you from using your favorite weapon and promotes changing weapons constantly.
I think the real question is: When is a reach weapon useful. Its useful when you want to: Get the first Strike, Attack over an Ally, or Keep an enemy at a Distance. Obviously, which of these is most useful is going to depend on the game you're playing. Pikes are super useful in Pathfinder/5e because your Threat Range is increased enough to get another attack on an enemy (Get first Strike). In Warhammer, they're so you can get two ranks of soldiers fighting at once (Attack over ally). And when fighting a animal, its to keep the target at a distance. (Real life, where one hit can kill)

I would ask myself what kind of game i'm trying to run and add an ability that fits. I tend to find abilities more interesting than modifiers, which is why its my go-to.

I hope this helps.
 

kenco

Registered User
Validated User
My only thought right now is.... is it worth it? Am I getting an adequate amount of Gameplay Depth for the amount of Gameplay Complexity that sort of system would add?
I can't judge for you. I do generally include some assessment of reach in resolving personal combats. But it can become burdensome if you have to track it for a large number of combatants, and particularly messy (and sometimes weird) when one character fights two or more concurrently (so A is close to X, but far from Y and Z; which is good X and Z but bad for Y... and how do I explain or visualise all of that?)

If can also get messy when you deal with e.g. animal attacks, or body part attacks (e.g. a tentacle - is it long? or extremely short?)

For me the key to gameplay is creating meaningful choices for players. The choice here is a long weapon versus a short weapon. Assuming that combats will generally start with the combatants closing, the long weapon seems preferable for general use; so what price do I pay for that? And what other elements in your system already favour (or disfavour) a long weapon over a short one?

Also, you might want to check that you're not encouraging players to adopt the golf-bag approach. Much depends on the rest of your system.
Given that combat already tends to Take a While, I fear that adding a shifting distance bonus would just slow things down further.
If your system already has dice modifiers on attacks it probably won't slow things down much. It might create occasional confusion (because people disagree about what range they are currently at, or how long a given weapon should be).

In fact it might speed up combat, because you are granting bonuses to hit, not applying penalties?
 

Max

A dapper chap without a doubt
RPGnet Member
Validated User
I kinda like your idea, but it really depends on the rest of your system.

Another approach would be to link advantages to situations and circumstances rather than just people's choice of weapons, like Old School Hack does.
 

Gussick

Registered User
Validated User
Spears can turn into daggers pretty quickly. The user just chokes up on the shaft. And he can hit you with the back end as a club, or use it as a lever to grapple. I hate spears.

The longer weapon will have the initiative because it can strike before the shorter weapon. So the shorter weapon user has to counter the first attack. Countering is more than just getting close. It would involve neutralizing the longer weapon long enough to get an attack in with the shorter one. For example grabbing a spear shaft and stabbing/cutting with a sword or knife in the other hand. Or locking out a spear attack with the longsword, then doing a cut. Or attacking the hands, then moving in. So the user of the shorter weapon has to roll twice--once to neutralize then once to attack. The longer weapon only requires one roll to hit and the wielder only loses if the attacker performs two movements successfully. That also kind of represents single versus double time weapons
 

Octopus Prime

Retired User
Spears can turn into daggers pretty quickly. The user just chokes up on the shaft. And he can hit you with the back end as a club, or use it as a lever to grapple. I hate spears.

The longer weapon will have the initiative because it can strike before the shorter weapon. So the shorter weapon user has to counter the first attack. Countering is more than just getting close. It would involve neutralizing the longer weapon long enough to get an attack in with the shorter one. For example grabbing a spear shaft and stabbing/cutting with a sword or knife in the other hand. Or locking out a spear attack with the longsword, then doing a cut. Or attacking the hands, then moving in. So the user of the shorter weapon has to roll twice--once to neutralize then once to attack. The longer weapon only requires one roll to hit and the wielder only loses if the attacker performs two movements successfully. That also kind of represents single versus double time weapons
So this is definitely the type of Riddle of Steel-level of simulation that I want to avoid.
 

Gussick

Registered User
Validated User
Well let's break it down into mechanics. At the earliest attack opportunity the weapon with 3 range can hit, the weapon with 2 cannot hit. That isn't too complex. The weapon with 2 range has to take an additional step to successfully close to 2 range. It could be as simple as two dice rolls instead of one. So here I am "rolling" and displacing a spear thrust with S&B, but because I already have the left leg forward I was unable to succeed with the second roll and land an attack. Whether or not to include the details is entirely up to you.
 

Second Variety

Registered User
Validated User
So, I've been thinking about ways to represent reach/length of melee weapons in a way that's elegant, meaningful, and does not involve battle maps or keeping track of distances (of which I am not a fan).

My thoughts so far are something like this: any weapon has a Reach value associated with it. Unarmed attacks and knives would be reach 1; Swords and clubs and such would be reach 2; whips and spears and the like would be reach 3. They could be spliced apart more finely, but you get the idea.
Whenever you successfully land an attack, you add the difference between you and your opponent's reach value to subsequent attacks. Ie, so if a fighter with a dagger (1) successfully struck an opponent with a spear (3), he would then at +2 to his subsequent attack roll. If the spear wielder struck him back, the spearman would gain a +2 to instead. This represents successfully closing the gap to where the knife is effective and the spear is not, or regaining that ground back to spear-fighting range.
My only thought right now is.... is it worth it? Am I getting an adequate amount of Gameplay Depth for the amount of Gameplay Complexity that sort of system would add? Given that combat already tends to Take a While, I fear that adding a shifting distance bonus would just slow things down further.
I tend to agree with your last statement, and from experience. You are basically tracking what happened last round, more overhead and room for forgetting.
I like your numbers and effect, would keep that but only have it to apply in situations where it matters, and would consider applying it to initiative.

So if a person with a dagger gets in close to a spear wielder, I'd give the spear wielder a -2 and the dagger wielder no penalty. Likewise if the spear wielder has the drop on the dagger wielder I might give the spear wielder a +2 as the dagger wielder is more open to attack as they get in close.

Now what to do when the PC says I close with my dagger on the spear wielder? I like to give options, so might say take an automatic hit and you do it, or the spear wielder gets a +2 to hit and initiative and if they miss you do it, etc.

In short, like the concepts but would apply them situationally and not necessarily automatically. I myself also use these concepts in tight spaces.
 

Starcrash

Registered User
Validated User
I like PbtA tags, myself. The mutant dog is rattling down the corridor at you, you see it coming, sure you can spear it when it pounces. The mutant dog was hiding in a pile of trash and lunges up as you pass? That spear's only as good as a staff until you figure a way to get the point in play.
 

Anton Idegran

Registered User
Validated User
I might not add much, or change someone's mind. But did try to approach this in the game The Combatants. A spear would get a bonus to a long attack action. A knife would get a bonus to bind or damage when in a clinch.

But whatever you choose to do, it will state how that weapon performs in that world (if it is the fighting style or the natural laws is up to you).
 
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