Sunday, December 13, 2015

Follow me

Naked Man and I have been discussing the issue of melee vs. ranged at great length.  He really dislikes how in Heroes By Trade it is challenging for a melee person to stick to a ranged target and prevent them from effectively attacking with their spells / bow.  He likes the idea that a melee character can stay on top of a caster and prevent them from accomplishing much unless the caster outright flees and doesn't do anything.  Right now most of the time if a melee person gets adjacent the ranged person will simply step back, use their attack normally, and accept that the melee person will run in again on their turn.  Everyone gets to attack, and the melee person delivers relatively little disruption unless they are fighting in a very confined space.

There have been lots of suggestions to change this.  The default one is the one that DnD has had for a long time, which is to award attacks of opportunity (AoO) to people if someone moves away from them.  In DnD I often found this to be a mess because some classes had great single attacks, like fighters wielding 2 handed swords.  Other classes like rogues would often have completely worthless AoOs so people could just away from or past them with relatively impunity... which seems bizarre because leaving yourself wide open to a special attack from the person who specializes in capitalizing on openings seems like it should be terrible, not trivial.  It also lead to a constant arms race of people finding ways to ignore AoOs and then other people trying to counter that.  The end result was usually either that people were immune, which kind of defeats the point, or that they could never afford to provoke an AoO and they were stuck next to anyone who got adjacent.  I don't like static combat where everyone is pinned in place so I never much liked these options.

The latest thing we have been kicking around in this regard is a way to let melee people maintain contact without getting to pin ranged down trivially.  The idea is that you can spend a Move to Follow someone instead of actually moving.  This would mean that if they move on their turn you can follow them, which of course is capped by your normal Speed.  So if you are rushing up to a foe you can't just pin them in place, but if you are swinging away at someone who is just standing there you can forgo your Move to make sure that you stick to them if they try to run.

This has the advantage that it isn't going to change the equation *that* much.  It would give melee another useful option but they are often going to be unable to use it.  Unfortunately it does involve taking actions on other people's turns which is always a worry - readied actions and delaying have always, always been a problem in any game I have seen and this feels like it is going to be more of the same.  It is hard to predict what kind of crazy shenanigans are going to come up when a bunch of people all Follow each other in a chain but you know there will be brokenness and bizarre rules conflicts in there someplace.

So while this isn't crazy from a balance perspective it is messy from a rules perspective.  Right now there are options for melee people to punish ranged, and they are usually things like knocking the ranged person Prone or Grabbing them to keep them from getting away.  If you are just some random dork with no powers you are limited to swinging away and you aren't going to pin down that wizard effectively... not without help, at any rate.  3 dorks, one with a weapon specialized for Grabbing like a net, would actually be very effective indeed.  People with real abilities though can just make sure that they have and use powers that keep ranged folks from getting away.

It is a tough nut to crack.  I want there to be tradeoffs for ranged to counterbalance their obvious advantages, but I don't want those tradeoffs to be too punishing.  Doing so leads to really one sided combats that are over as soon as they start and that really isn't so much my thing.

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