Big Beasts and Big Hits

There is an ongoing discussion on the RMU beta test forum over weapon sizes. How do you handle a halfling wielding a trolls dagger? Is the dagger a shortsword or a broadsword to the halfling. Does the fact that it was made for different hands make a difference to how you wield the weapon? There were complications where using an under or oversized weapon such as a undersized two handed weapon may be more effective than using a one handed weapon specifically made for you race. So all your human warriors are using halfling two handed swords rather than broadswords.

This is a long rambling debate and you can check the ICE forums if you want to get involved. One of the things I find frustrating is that one never really knows what the devs have taken on board, what their solution is, if any, and is just being ignored because that part of the rules is are already written.

I will say I am not a fan of the RMU size rules. I think they sound fine in principle but they just didn’t work for my play test group so much so that the group didn’t want to play any more.  The play test lasted two sessions!

So how do I handle size variation between different size combatants? I totally agree that all things being equal a giant hitting hitting a halfling should do more damage than the halfling hitting the giant. There is just more kinetic energy in the attack!

The big monster hitting the little character requires no modification. The big monster has its size and mass figured into its OB. So that was easy, just play the RAW.

The smaller combatant hitting a larger one though does need a slight adjustment. It doesn’t need the multiplied hits or stepping up and down for criticals. The very largest creatures have this built in in C&T anyway. So what I do is for every relative size smaller than Medium incurs a -10 OB, every relative step above Medium gives a +10 OB. That results in smaller creatures doing less damage and maybe a lesser crit. Larger combatants tend towards harder hits.

Breaking 150

In another closely related rule is my ‘breaking 150’. For me I use a +1 on your critical roll for every 10 more than 150 rolled. So an attack roll total of +175 would give a +2 to your critical. This also tends to mean that massive attacks tend to do better criticals. My critical tables have an UM66 and a second 66 result. Obviously you cannot shift your critical up to the UM66 result.

Wrong Size Weapons

So how do I handle wrong sized weapons. Well the weapon uses the table for what the weapon actually is. So a halfling using a human broadsword as a two handed sword still uses the broadsword table. But for every one step in size difference gives a -10 OB. This reflects the fact that the weapon was just not designed for that size hand.

It also takes into account that a dagger is a stabbing weapon designed for pushing into the gaps between armoured plates. A broadsword is a swinging weapon designed to use speed and mass to inflict damage. A human picking up a halfling breadsword does not change the shape and design of the weapon and turn it into a dagger.

So the example of Sting. Could Bilbo wield Sting? Sting is regarded as a Elven shortsword in RM terms. So Bilbo would be using it as a shortsword but at -10 OB. Chances are that Sting has a greater than +10 magical OB anyway so even with my penalty it is still worth using Sting in combat and its orc sensing powers make it even more useful.

So in conclusion I would say whilst it may not be the idea engineers solution my rules are very quick and easy to use, easy to understand and cope with all the combinations I have ever had to adjudicate on.

20 thoughts on “Big Beasts and Big Hits”

  1. I’m actually a bit more sympathetic to the size rules. I think there is a kind of genius to the approach, and I think they could serve as the basis for a truly unique system that can encompass everything from a fly’s bite to a ramming attack from a Star Destroyer.

    The main complaint I have is that the current system seems based on what I feel is the mistaken impression that RM players are willing to do more math (upscaling and downscaling hits and criticals on the charts) in order to have fewer charts. I think the reverse is true: I believe more players are happy with more charts that they don’t have to adjust. Was that part of the issue your players had with the size rules?

    My players at least would prefer to just get one chart and print it out, without having a generic chart that they have to be constantly adjusting. They also like unique charts for each weapon, as it makes weapon more distinctive.

    I also have a secondary complaint that right now the way the system works is skewed in some ways, such that Bilbo couldn’t wield Sting except in two hands and with a -20 penalty. (I consider Sting to be an Elven dagger BTW, though you could see it as a shortsword. Tolkien says it would not have been much more than a pocketknife to a Troll, so you can interpret that how you wish).

    Just a quick note: the current RMU system actually does do one thing you currently do. When a Halfling picks up a human shortsword, it continues to use the Human shortsword table. So that is actually the same in the current RMU rules and your way of doing it.

    Applying OB mods for size is one way of dealing with the issues, so if that works for you, all power to you. However, there are some disadvantages to that, and you can see them in RM2 as well. Some attacks become not just more damaging, but also more accurate/harder to avoid in an unrealistic way. So for example a Tyrannosaurus’s bit is so huge it gets a lot of OB bonuses; but that makes it not just more damaging, but also harder to avoid. Maybe that is ok for the Tyrannosaurus’s bite, but there will almost certainly be attacks that should be more damaging if they hit, but not inherently more accurate as well. The same goes for smaller attacks, in reverse. It is actually trivially easy for a fly or hornet to hit you with its bash or sting, if it really wants to. You are a slow moving target and it moves much more quickly than you. What it can’t do is hurt you much with its attack. In some cases that will be fine: a severe OB penalty will have the same effect as the RMU size rules, in that both result in the hornet not doing any damage to you. But in some cases the result won’t be very good, if for example the hornet had a poison stinger and needed to do 1 hit point of damage to deliver the poison. Just giving him a severe OB minus means he can never sting you; it would be better in those cases to have a system that more accurately represented the fact that he can hit you easily; he just doesn’t do much damage when he does.

    If you want a simple system like the one you use, I think that is fine. I am hoping though that the RMU size rules can be tweaked in a way that cuts out a lot of the math players are required to do, allows for weapons to be as distinctive as they once were (i.e. individual charts for each weapon or for each major weapon), and at the same time offers players the option of running a more realistic game (where size really matters in the way it would in the real world) or a more fantastic game (where Halflings can be badasses with a blade).

    1. It was the constant calculating of both the size of the attack such as in one round charging in with a two handed badtard sword, the swapping to a single hand, the calculating of the damage and also (not size related) the combat penalties mounted up too quickly, the critical were uninspiring and too little damage was done. This was pre jdales new tables and the revisions to beta 2.

      On a separate point I think weapon specific critical are more flavourful than separate combat charts. After all 6hits delivered by a dagger are the same as 6 hits delivered by a morning star. But a cut to the chest from a dirk is going to different from a cut to the chest from a claymore.

      I use charts where all long blade are grouped together, short blades are grouped together and so on. There are damage caps so a short sword is more dangerous than a dagger because the dagger is capped. This addresses the problem of the bite not doing much damage but tyrannosaurus rex being big and dangerous.

      It is true though that I value speed and simplicity at the table over slower but potentially more ‘realistic’ mechanisms.

      To illustrate this, when I used to use arms law, I knew what weapons the players had, what weapons the beasties had and so on. I would then file just the pages I needed for that session with the required critical tables facing them in a ring binder to reduce the amount of page flipping. Before every session I would reorganize my arms law to fit the session just to save 5 to 10 seconds per attack finding the right critical chart.

      1. My group has had many of the same reactions to and problems with the combat. Penalties do add up quickly, especially for larger creatures. The criticals were sometimes fun but overall I think I liked the RM2 ones a bit better. On the issue of charging, that is one of the reasons I’ve tried to convince the developers to not use the size rules for charging: you could just use either a damage multiplier or a critical increase, but not both, because using both confuses attack size (the physical size of the weapon) with charging rules. The size rules are already complicated enough, so you definitely want to avoid overusing them for things that really aren’t about size at all.

        The damage issue is being addressed, I believe (at least that’s the impression that I get; JDale seemed to acknowledge it). In a recent session we just doubled the hit point damage weapons do, and that made combat a lot faster (and more fun!). The constant changing of the charts and the math of upscaling and downscaling attacks would I think be largely avoided if there were specific charts for each weapon, though I imagine that might not be an ideal solution for you, since you seem to like a generic chart system.

        1. In Arms Law (RMC version) Table 2-10 Weapons Statistic Chart has Long Sword listed as a Broadsword with +5 vs AT20-17 and AT16-12 and -5 vs AT8-5 and AT4-1. It also has Cutlass listed as Broadsword with +5 vs AT20-17 and -5 vs AT12-8, AT8-5 and AT4-1.

          I think that when you talk about individual weapons tables you want the Arms Law RM2/RMC weapons tables back but these are just ‘generic’ tables but the non-headline weapon modifications have been shunted off into another table.

          As a thought experiment, open Arms Law at the Two Handed Sword page.
          Imagine that the title didn’t say Two Handed Sword, imagine it said “Great Blades” Now in the box that has the length, weight, fumble range and range modifiers imagine that has a little 6 row table. That table looked something like this.

          Weapon Stats Chart

          That is what a real Arms Law ‘specific weapons’ chart really looks like. For me I just like that all on one page, not two. Likewise I like to have criticals for Two Handed Swords read like they were inflicted by a two handed sword eg. “With a solid sweep you cut his weapon arm to the bone. +18hits, bleeding 4 hits/rnd and stunned no parry 1 rnd.” compared to “Your strike hacks deep into his thigh but stops at the bone. +13 hits, bleeding 4 hits/rnd and stunned no parry for 1 rnd.” and “Stabbing down as hard as you can you drive your blade behind his collar bone. +12 hits, bleeding 3 hits per rnd, -20 to all actions and stunned no parry 1 rnd.

          Those criticals are the same roll for Great blades, long blades and short blades.

          1. It would be great to have weapon-specific criticals. Is that what you’re advocating? I just wonder how you would do it for so many different types of weapons, though I guess you’d have one for 2-handed blades, one for 1-handed, and maybe one for small ones?

            I’m fine with the chart you gave for one-handed long blades. I think it could even be adapted for all blades, with say two-handed versions getting a general +10 across the board and then modified for weapon type (e.g. slashing blades get an additional +5 versus AT 1, etc.). That would actually be fine with me; you’d probably need 10 columns now for the 10 RMU Armor Types rather than 5, but it would actually produce more regular results, because the old RM2 AT column of AT 17-20 included rather different armor coverage (everything from a breastplate that left the legs and arms exposed to a full suit of articulated plate). So I think that would actually work well.

            Where RMU runs into serious problems though is in the fact that the critical thresholds of the various blades are not being adjusted at all. This cripples two-handed weapons and makes them not worth the DB you sacrifice for wielding a 2-handed weapon. If you made a chartfor RMU two-handed swords like the one you just gave above, the bonuses would be +0, +0, +0, +0, and +0 — that is, exactly the same as Broadsword would be +0, +0, +0, +0, +0 — because all blades in RMU have the same critical threshold. In the core rules, the 2-handed version doesn’t even do more hit points in damage (it just gets a critical severity increase if it gets a critical). Thus there is very little difference in the current RMU rules between a broadsword and a two-handed sword: they do the same hit points in damage, and they have the same critical threshold. That is in my opinion a system that is clearly worse than the RM2 system, and indeed clearly worse than even the generic system you outline above, since at least in your generic system you can give 2-handed weapons an OB bonus and better critical threshold.

            1. Imagine opening arms law and on the left page is the attack table, all the extra bits you need like to additional weapons that use that table and so on. On the facing page you have weapon specific critical a-e.

              At the moment you have all the attack tables in a block and then all the critical pages in a block.

              I am saying make each weapon a double page spread.

              I think you would 18 dedicated attack tables to cover all the weapon groups, martial arts, bolts, balls and natural attacks. That would make the charts section of arms law 36 pages long which is less than the RMC arms law but not by much.

              What you lose is generic puncture, slash and krush critical.

              If you really wanted to go down the mass/length divide route this would enable you to finesse the critical tables on a similar group by similar group granularity.

              Right now a C critical rolling a 50 does the same damage whether it was from a lance or a start which just does not seem right.

              1. LOL, did you really mean ‘Irish’ critical? Methinks you need to turn off autocorrect. But on the plus side, I will forever henceforth call Krush criticals ‘Irish’ criticals 🙂

                I think your idea has a lot of merit, and would like to see if it could work in practice. I think you would need specific charts for big (2hd) blades, medium blades, and daggers; the hafted section would probably need several charts to distinguish axes from maces. Having a specific chart for big blades would solve some of the RMU problems though, since you could give them a lower critical threshold.

                I can see the appeal of the generic chart for a GM, since I could use a single chart for two-handed swords, two-handed scimitars, and bastard swords. My players on the other hand would I think prefer to have a single chart with all the modifiers baked in, since they’re not going to be switching weapons that much.

                I guess one big benefit too would be that the critical charts could be a bit deadlier for the two-handed weapons?

                1. Oops. I have been having a busy few days and yes, running eerything off my phone. I have corrected by slack and irish criticals!

                  I think you would need the following tables
                  Short blades for all your daggers, knives, main gauche and sai type blades.
                  Long blades for everything from shortsword to one handed bastard sword.
                  Great blades for the five two handed swords.
                  Whips for whip, cat o’ nine tails and whips
                  Bash for blackjack, club, cudgel, jo stick and staves.
                  Bow for all the different bows.
                  Crossbow for all the crossbow variations.
                  Piecing for blowguns, rapier and darts.
                  Polearms for spears, harpoons, lances, and trident.
                  Hammers for maces and war hammers.
                  Small axes for hand axe, tomahawk and hatchet.
                  Great Axes for battle axe, woodsman’s axe and pickaxe.

                  Now you can either put maul and mattocks in the great axes or have a separate table for them.

                  I would suggest putting slings into the bash table, shuriken into the short blades.

                  That is 13 tables.

                  already have generic tables for claw, bite, stinger and such in Claw Law.

                  Some people do not like result caps. We have then in Claw Law and most people seem to accept those without problems. The other option is to handle it like Arms Law does the Bastard sword and just put in a max result (140 on the 2h-Sword Table).

                  1. I’d be happier with that than with the present RMU size rules, because it would mean that two-handed weapons could be made viable again: they could at least start getting criticals earlier than one-handed weapons.

                    Have you seen the weapon chart Merkir made and posted on the ICE forums? It was a one-page weapon chart that showed values for all the RMU sizes; I can send it to you if you like. I though that if you did something like that with your base chart, you would have the option to use the existing RMU size scaling rules too(rather than representing sizes with OB modifiers).

                    I worry that as a GM, I would forget to check the weapon specific modifiers too often (e.g. the +5 scimitars get against AT 2, or whatever), and just give the generic results. But if the modifiers were entered into a spreadsheet or program or ap (the Electronic Roleplaying Assistant for example), that would make it all very easy. And if my players could print out a chart that was modified for the weapons that they used (e.g. Scimitar and Longbow), I think they would really like that too.

                    1. Yes I have seen Merkir’s chart. It makes sense to me. I haven’t used it yet as my RMU playtest is sporadic and I am trying to stay within RAW, excepting Jdales new tables.

                      Having those modifiers all on the same page makes it easier to make sure you apply them. Right now the are on a different page and no one is going to page flip every time.

                    2. I’ve gotten firearms down to basically nine charts (seven if you take out the Burst Attack chart and its associated crit chart): Handguns, Rifles, Shotguns, Limb Crits, Center Mass Crits, and Head Crits. There’s also a Shotgun Crit table since they’re a bit different. By using the SW Mark system to divide calibers I can get (almost) all handgun calibers on one attack table. Same for the other weapons. Bursts are a bit of a special case since they’re a kind of area attack.

  2. I like the solution, and we also increased damage by adding the Temp stat’s d20 bonus as extra concussion damage.

    I think one of the ‘elephants in the room’ when it comes to damage in RMU (and most RM products for that matter) is no one seems to know how weapon damage was calculated in the first place. I know for my firearms stuff because I based the formula on actual firearms data (muzzle energy and bullet weight). That gives you the maximum concussion damage possible for any caliber (including different bullet weights within a caliber). How did they decide the max damage for a two handed sword?

    Since I plan to use RMU modified for modern settings, I don’t pay much attention to the size debates.

    1. I have always assumed the damage in Arms Law was just D&D damage x5.

      A dagger did 1d4 and that became 20 hits.

      1. Ha, you might be right about that. I just looked in one of the old modules for the conversion rules, and they recommend that if you are converting hit points that DnD characters have and do, just double them. That’s a pretty terrible approximation of DnD hits.

  3. I don’t think anyone has ever said how the damages for weapons were originally calculated. My guess is that it wasn’t a very scientific or systematic process. There is of course a rationale to it– a 2hd sword does more hits and a 1hd sword. But I’m not sure there ever was a formula.

    I love that you constructed a system that calculates damage based on muzzle energy and bullet weight. The changes I suggested to the RMU size rules essentially try to do something like that for weapons too: weight determines concussion hit damage, while length determines critical. Making a dagger longer thus gives it a better critical, and heavier gives it more concussion hit damage, on a scale that would see the dagger eventually morph into a shortsword (if you made it long and heavy enough). The scale isn’t entirely rational, but it would at least provide some rationale to the system. I think that is necessary, because eventually this system will (I hope) get to firearms, at least if Spacemaster does get a new edition at some point in the far future. So you need to make sure that the core rules work in a rational way, or else your foundation is not solid.

    Can you provide any more detail on how your muzzle energy and bullet weight calculations affect damage, IntoThatDarkness? It sounds like it would be useful for us here, and that it might not be too different from my own approach to the RMU size rules.

    1. I talked a bit in an earlier post about how I set up the formula, but it’s actually based on pretty accepted ballistics concepts. You take muzzle energy (NOT velocity, although I do have a formula that uses velocity if ME isn’t available), divide it by 50, and then add the weight of the bullet (in grains) divided by 10. That gives you the maximum concussion damage for a particular bullet. I use the SM weapon mark concept to tie concussion damage and crits to calibers, so a 9mm tops out at a D while .45 ACP can achieve E crits. I do that because the bigger, slower bullet (in velocity terms) is going to transfer its energy more completely and be less prone to over-penetration than a smaller, faster bullet. So you have 19 for a standard 9mm, 31 for a 230 grain .45 ACP round, and a whopping 337 for the .50 Browning round. The Big 50 also does a G crit (E firearm + a B Unbalancing).

      1. That sounds awesome, and I would absolutely love to see it in print.

        I think it is precisely the sort of thing the RMU size rules need: a core, rational justification that serves as a kind of grand unifying theory for the weapon size rules. Right now, it doesn’t seem like there is any real justification for why a sword that weighs a quarter of a pound can hit harder (in terms of concussion hits) than a sword that weighs more than ten times as much. There is a rationale of course: namely, that the developers want smaller characters to have a chance against dragons and giants. That is fine for a fantasy setting, but there are going to be settings where that is not at all appropriate: sci-fi settings where you don’t want smaller robots to hit harder than bigger robots or smaller guns to hit harder than larger guns, or historical settings where you want the physics to be realistic rather than fantastic. I worry that these concerns are being postponed to the day in the future when they become insurmountable.

        1. Based on the old sourcebooks and what I saw for RMSS I think it’s more likely they’ll be ignored and then patchworked into something that really doesn’t work well.

    1. Oh, the joys of the Gamebryo engine! I loved playing games in it.

      I’m not saying that RMU giants should hit that hard, of course, but they should at least at least always do more concussion hit damage — not less– than smaller creatures at the same attack result. That’s the current problem with the RMU rules: a Halfling Broadsword, which is the same weight as a human dagger, can hit for triple the concussion hits that a human shortsword, which is triple the weight, can. And I have no way of fixing that problem, because there aren’t individual attack charts and I can’t use the old RM2 attack charts with the new RMU Armor Types. I don’t know how I’m going to try to make this work.

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