01 April 2011

A is for Armor Class, Armor Type, and Anhkheg!

Well, April has arrived and with it the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. So, let's start off with Armor Class.

Some of the younger gamers (i.e., that being late 20's to early 30's) in my gaming group missed out on the glut of gaming material from the 1980's.  thus, they never experienced really crunchy games like FGU's Aftermath! and ICE's Rolemaster. One of my fellow gamers (Louie) is thinking about playing 40K and he met a guy probably about my age who has all the old Aftermath materials. At last week's game, we were discussing it and the amount of detail present in a game like that.

Let's face it: Armor Class, and by extension Hit Points, are very abstract in the way that they function. Ideally something like Aftermath with its 30 hit locations or something like Twilight 2000 with its 7 hit locations is probably a better simulation of combat. Rolemaster tries to take a middle ground....AT (Armor Type) determines how likely and how hard a character gets hit. And the crits...well, the crits determine a nice nifty location to hit one in and do even more damage. Let's face it: if most of us were hit by a psychopath with a broadsword, we'd be lying Kerrigan-like on the ground bleeding and crying for our mommy!

So, I guess my point is this: role-playing games are not an accurate representation of combat nor should they be. I love a good knockdown, dragout game of 40K or Panzer Blitz with the best of them, but roleplaying games, while derived from wargames and occasionally sharing some of the same terminology, are NOT wargames. They are ROLEPLAYING games. Yes, there is conflict, but conflict is not the end all and be all of the game. The point of the game is the story. It's about the players and their journey to fame and fortune.

This is why games like Mechwarrior (the RPG for Battletech) have never done all that well, neither at the gaming table nor in sales. The focus is combat, not the story. Battletech fiction is fun to read but, again, there is a disconnect between the fiction, the game and the RPG. There are things that are possible in the novels that are not possible in the game. There are things in the RPG that disagree with the novels. The focus is not the same.

Possibly this also why licensed properties do poorly. I mean, Kirk is THE captain, the Enterprise is THE ship. What room is there for the players and their story? Or what about Middle Earth? We know how the War of the Ring of the ends. We cannot be Frodo or Legolas; they are that world's Mythic heroes. Another example: Greyhawk versus the Realms. There are larger than life characters on Oerth, but they fade into the background. You don't have to ever meet Bigby, for instance. there's room. The Realms? Well, there's Elminster, the Harpers, that Drizz't chap, Khelban Skunkbeard and a bunch of other "chosen" who interfere in everything. Makes it hard for the heroes to shine.

So, is it not amazing how such a thing as AC can set the whole tone for a type of game?

Last, yet not least, a quick writeup of the Anhkheg for S&W WB.


AC: 2 [17]; underside 4 [15]                         Special: Acid squirt
HD: 6                                                           Move:  12/6 (when burrowing)
Attacks: Bite                                                 HDE/XP: 8/700

An anhkheg is a burrowing insect that is the bane of farmers everywhere. Not only do they tunnel through the earth causing no end of crop damage, but they also like the occasional bit of meat, whether livestock or peasant!

Its crushing mandibles rip and tear for 3d6 damage in addition to secreting an acidic saliva for an addition 1d4 damage. The ahnkheg can also spit this saliva to a distance of 30 feet once every 6 hours for 4d8 damage. It will only do this in extremis because for the next 6 hours it does not secrete any saliva with its bite (i.e., no additional 1d4 damage per bite). A favorite tactic is to lie 5-10 feet under the surface and burrow up to grab its prey in its mandibles; it can do this with a 50% chance of achieving surprise on its victim.

Occasional several young ones can be found together (No. 1-6, HD 3 each, 1d6 bite + d3 saliva, no spit attack).
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