Sunday, February 24, 2013

Fighting Capability


The following is from CHAINMAIL:

Here, each figure will do only as well as its known capabilities foretell, with allowances for chance factors which affect every battle (such as dice throwing in miniature warfare)…… combat is based on the historically known capabilities of each particular kind of fighting man and then expressed as a dice rolling probability in relation to like and differing types of soldiers.p6

The Lycanthrope will bring a number of animals of its were-type with it, and this adds to their fighting ability. If they are fighting inside of, or within 6" of, a wood, other than an Entwood, they will double their melee capability. Lycanthropes attack as four Armored Foot and defend as four Heavy Foot.  p34

They will fight in formations, and have a melee capability of six Heavy Foot. p34.

From the above we can see that the terms fighting ability, melee capability etc..are interchangeable references to the power of a particular combatant, as expressed in number and type, i.e. “six heavy foot”.

HEROES (and Anti-heroes): ..... They have the fighting ability of four figures, the class being dependent on the arms and equipment of the Hero types themselves, who can range from Light Foot to Heavy Horse. CM p7.

The fighting ability or melee capability of the hero is “4 figures” but depends also on their “type”, meaning one hero could equal 4 figures of Light Infantry and another equal 4 figures of Heavy Horse. 

So what’s a figure?  That depends on scale.  It can represent 20 men, 10 men or 1 man.  In individual combat such as in Man to Man (or OD&D) a figure is 1 man.  “When two figures are within melee range (3"), one or several blows will be struck…. The man striking the first blow….” p25.

Each man/figure that wants to melee, can: “Units within 3" of a melee may be drawn into it if the player to whom they belong so desires.” p16

Now here comes a bit of deductive logic not specified in the rules, but apparent.  Each single man/figure gets one attack and dies when hit, but a Hero has a melee capability of 4 man/figures.  Therefore a Hero gets 4 melee attacks (melee capability) in Man to Man combat; one attack for each man they are worth.  Likewise a superhero deductively has 8 attacks, since they are equal to 8 men/figures, and each one of those 8 men is worth one attack separately.

Now lets turn to OD&D.  OD&D has new rules which replace or supplement CHAINMAIL.  Hit dice, have now replaced mere hits for defense.  Another column, labeled “Fighting Capability”, is defined as “a key to use in conjunction with the CHAINMAIL fantasy rule…”p18M&M  Fighting Capability lists a character level, and the number of men the level equals.  Heroes equal 4 men, and Superheroes equal 8 men.

Again, it’s not spelled out, but it is readily apparent that OD&D Fighting Capability is the same thing as CHAINMIAL fighting ability or melee capability in terms of attack value/number of attacks.  A D&D hero has the fighting capability of  4 men/figures, just as a CHAINMAIL hero has a melee capability of 4 
men/figures.  A D&D hero therefore attacks as 4 men when using CHAINMAIL Man to Man.

So, when using the CHAINMAIL man to man or mass combat methods, the Fighting Capability table tells you how many men/figures a D&D character is worth, plus possible bonuses. 

For more discussion, have a look at this post: http://odd74.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=menmagic&action=display&thread=8509&page=1



Saturday, February 2, 2013

On the Character of Histories and the History of Characters


The past doesn’t exist; you can’t poke it with a ten foot pole.  It is a tale created from our memories and from such media and material we are able to reference in the present.  The task of a scientific investigator of the past is daunting because facts don’t speak “truth” themselves except in the most uninteresting, limited of ways.  What people really want to know, the why’s and the how’s, is often more ephemeral than the data and so arguments must be crafted and stories told.
                It is exponentially more problematic when the only records are verbal, written or otherwise, and it took a long time – well into the twentieth century - for researchers to abandon the comforts of positivism and realize that documents are but a tool, a guide, a starting point, and a not a whole and obvious truth unto themselves and never the whole truth in any case.   In our case, as part of the interest to groke the roots and compass of our hobby, we’ve looked forever at how D&D and AD&D are heavily dependant on both the mechanics and fluff found in CHAINMAIL, which in turn is directly linked to earlier wargames, fantasy literature, and ultimately cultural mythology.  Lots of people, myself included, have had a field day over the years of linking CHAINMAIL to the corresponding bits of D&D.  Yet the question of how CHAINMAIL, a table top wargame, came to be gutted and remodeled as a “Role-Playing” game, remained elusive. 
Speculations about that process often involve a discussion about what a role playing game is, but that question is, I think, both simply answered and misleading.  Rather obviously, role playing games are games where people play roles.  Cowboys and Indians is a roleplaying game, so is any movie or play you have ever seen.  Role playing is as old as time.
                “RPGs” have more to them than playing at roles, so lets be more specific. There are really two distinguishing factors between “wargames” and “RPGs”.
                  1)      Character mechanics
                  2)      Victory conditions
First, tabletop RPGs feature open ended character driven gaming.   Central to RPGs is the idea that characters affect outcomes through all their individual characteristics.  Unlike wargames, where only the material strength of the playing piece applies, RPG’s apply any of the various aspects of the character to the game.  So a character will have some kind of intelligence score, a strength score and so on.  The character may have a reputation or social standing: a set of skills, abilities, saving throws and so forth, things that define the character and can be applied to any appropriate situation that may come up, not just martial skill.  These things can be scores, numbers, or simply descriptions.  But in all cases the outcomes of challenges within the game are adjudicated with reference to both the martial and extra-martial characteristics of the Character.   
Second, the character is unbounded, both in terms of the mapboard and in terms of agency.  Theoretically the character could travel anywhere and pursue any activity and still be in the game.  Wargames, such as CHAINMAIL™ are bounded by their victory conditions, which essentially entail overcoming an obstacle on the gameboard via martial ability.  Typically, that obstacle is the enemy army, or some similar battle condition.   Victory conditions in RPGs however are determined entirely by the player.  They may follow a path of opportunity laid out by the game master, or they may go their own way and seek their own objectives, and still progress in the game.  Geographic and career agency are significant breaks from previous games where if a character or a playing piece were to leave the “campaign” to found a moon cult in the Atlas mountains, or search for the source of the Nile, it would effectively end that characters role in the game.
           There are many games which some element of character comes into play, Diplomacy and Fight in the Skies, for example, but what we call “RPGs” were the first to tie variable, open ended victory conditions with the requirement that any and all aspects of the singular character (skills, nature, background) can be brought in to play.
          In short, “tabletop RPGs” are character driven games, in which multiple and varied personal characteristics matter and the characters choose which obstacles to overcome to achieve a self defined victory goal.   
          This brings me back to the ephemeral aspects of history and a concept I’ve long argued on DF and elsewhere about David Wesely.  His Bruanstein was exactly this sort of character driven game, and such play was a new revelation to his players.  Wesely created individual characters with broadly defined roles, character backgrounds and skills, and turned them loose on the world he created for the game.  The players then decided what they wanted their characters to do, setting personal goals, and maneuvering toward that end, within the bounds of their personal characteristics.
         This unique “Braunstein element”, the player character driven and defined game, is precisely what distinguishes “tabletop RPGs” from other games, including other conflict games like CHAINMAIL or Chess.  Wargames have built in, externally defined, victory goals.  You win when you defeat your enemy.  RPGs have no external victory goal assumed by the rules.  The “end game” is player character success as defined by the player.  Along the way player victories may be won by achieving a level or creating a spell, or simply stealing all the loot in the local bank – whatever goal the player has set out to achieve with the character. 
          Take away the Bruanstein element and RPGs are left with nothing.  All RPGs are variant Braunsteins in a sense, each employing their own mechanics and set design.  At heart, D&D is a Braunstien;  Traveller is a Braunstein;  Burning Wheel is a Braunstein.   The exact mechanics and window dressing don’t change the primacy of design centered on personal characteristics and character agency pioneered in Wesely’s game.  
          Conversely, add the “Braunstein element” to almost any tabletop game and it becomes an “RPG”.  Imagine, for example, creating a Chess RPG.  One could use the rules of chess, and the names of the pieces as a basis for creating characters with various roles, positions, skills, and powers.  The chessboard must be transformed into an open map, and each character left to chart its own path in the great war of black verses white, or good verses evil, perhaps.   Is victory for John Q. Pawn promotion to bishop?  Or is it amassing a huge fortune selling arms to the knights on both sides?   The Player must decide how they will play their character, make use of its’ strengths and what direction it will take in the scheme.
That is Braunstien.  That likewise is D&D and all of its descendants.