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Diffan
Great Reader

USA
3690 Posts

Posted - 03 Nov 2019 :  07:55:08  Show Profile Send Diffan a Private Message  Reply with Quote  Delete Topic
I checked a few searches but couldn't find anything relevant to add to here so I made a new thread.

Something that really strikes me as odd about D&D in general is the great lengths that designers go to in order to make literally hundreds of spells - lengths like balance (varies depending on edition), level, dice, range, symmetry with other spells, usage, duration, and components. I mean, when you look at any PHB there's a HUGE section of the book that pertains to them, and many classes have access to them to.

So why not even half the effort towards martial practices? I mean, magic is made-up and imaginary, so I guess to some extent it's easier to create rules for things that don't exist. Yet wouldn't it just be as easy to say take actual sword practices, their techniques, unique names (with liberties of course), and mild application to what we've historically known to be true and apply them in a more meaningful application to D&D? That sort of fits too with weapon-styles and uses but that's a bit off-topic here.

I think it's sort of a pet peeve that we've had 5+ editions of Dungeons and Dragons and really, only a little bit was ever dedicated to making martial-uniqueness a thing. Over the years we've got to-hit matrices, THAC0, Base Attack Bonus, and Proficiency bonus to measure the quality of the Warrior. This is an easy summation of their effectiveness that doesn't go into too much detail of sword/weapon styles. As a player you sort of just have to assume that your Fighter knows Posta di Falcone (Hawk Guard) and a slew of other disciplines of sword-fighting yet, there was a real opportunity I feel they missed to expand upon that. If we can have over twenty different 9th level spells that 5+ classes can utilize, so martial maneuvers and stances wouldn't be that hard to come up with.

So this is what I'm wondering, assuming something like measurable sword-fighting techniques is something you'd like to see incorporated into D&D, how would you go about it and make it more quantifiable within D&D's framework? If you feel the edition of D&D needs to be reflective of your choices, go ahead and add that in.

To go into a bit more detail, I mentioned above that while it's mostly been absent in D&D, there have been glimpses of similar elements within the game. I can't comment too much on the TSR days of D&D (my knowledge just isn't there for those editions) but I think the supplement that jumps out the easiest is the Tome of Battle: Book of Nine Swords for 3rd Edition. Now, this is a contentious book in the late stages of the edition (often pointed to as a precursor to 4E) but looking at a LOT of the concepts there-in, it makes pretty good leaps and bounds towards making martial characters more than the summation of their BAB/THAC0/Attack modifier. Where it sort of went off the deep end was that 2 of the 3 classes (and 6 out of the 9 disciplines) were rife with supernatural abilities. Nothing really wrong with that in a D&D game but it tended to give people the impression of crazy {and some people thought terrible) anime stuff.

4th Edition made these abilities better, however couched them into a mechanic that wasn't very well liked overall, the AEDU system. Having a set number of specialized attacks that you regained after resting certainly isn't new for D&D or all that far-fetched as a resource management element, but D&D up to that point had always painted the Fighter as the "easy class" and thus, managing these things took away from the ability to simply run, smash, repeat. Still, options were there like maneuvers and stances that made you more equipped to handle multiple scenarios.

5th Edition pulled back significantly with this idea, places these abilities into a sub-set of the Fighter (Battle Master) and giving others limited access via a feat. Yet despite it's easy plug-and-play use, it really lacks any sort of flavor or exceptionalism besides "I knock you back, take an extra d6 damage". *boring!*

Personally I would have loved to see some sort of maneuver/stance system similar to the Tome of Battle, yet rely on things like Concentration (a 5E mechanic) to maintain stances and when you utilize guards or strikes, it puts a tax on your body. The more you push yourself the more you have to save to endure (Constitution save) or take X-specific non-lethal damage. Continued focused attacks make it harder to save against until you're back to using those common-basic attacks (ie. what you normally see in D&D).

Anyways, some random thoughts after watching too many fantasy/historical fighting shows for one night. I'd love to read some comments and ideas of bringing these elements to D&D (any edition is fine) or just your thoughts on the fighting forms in general.

Here's some additional info I found interesting to read, even if just for cool names and concept to add to your D&D games. I could see someone taking these and just changing the name/flavor of maneuvers or feats or what have you to fit a more thematic concept.

Stances and Guards

Discipline of the Sword

The 12 guards of Fiore

4E Realms = Great Taste, Less Filling.

"If WotC were to put out a box of free money, people would still complain how it was folded."

Ayrik
Great Reader

Canada
6881 Posts

Posted - 03 Nov 2019 :  09:46:28  Show Profile Send Ayrik a Private Message  Reply with Quote
You might want to take a look at 2E Red Steel and Savage Coast materials. Some swashbuckling swordstuff similar to the ideas you discuss, based on different "academies" which each teach a different fighting philosophy. The setting seems very big on duelling and duellists and it does a fair job of balancing (red) steel against monsters, magic, firearms, and mutant powers.

I notice that every game edition (I've seen) eventually offers some sort of magic duelling system. So spellcasters can hurl blasts at each other in style. But I find these special rules don't really add anything the game was lacking without them, they might frame the PC wizard's epic moment a little more memorably but they mostly just bog stuff down with implausible complexities and awkward contrivances. I've met plenty of players who want to go wizard-slaying, I've never met any who looked forward to pulling out the special wizard duelling rules after the first time around. And it doesn't help that everybody else at the table gets to do nothing for an hour except be spectators, commentators, cheerleaders.

While there's also a conspicuous lack of special duelling rules with sharp, pointy, heavy objects. (There's various codes of honor and such, but they're more about alignments and oaths and class-based or faith-based requirements/restrictions, not much about the nitty-gritty smashy stuff.)
Yet the combat systems still tend to work fine - and generally keep the whole party engaged - when it's 1v1, when it's not 1v1.

So maybe the lack of stylistic combat rules ain't really a bad thing.

[/Ayrik]
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sleyvas
Great Reader

USA
8339 Posts

Posted - 03 Nov 2019 :  17:02:38  Show Profile Send sleyvas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
You started to see it more late 3rd edition with the Complete Warrior book as well that you started seeing tactical feats and weapons style feats. One thing to note is personality of players too. Many of my players chose the fighter classes because they were simpler to run. That being said, I like the concept of having a warrior that CAN have a lot of options. There does need to be some balance to it though. With 5e though, you need to get a LOT of options with your feat choices, and they need to be ones that aren't all addititive to a single fighting style (i.e. one feat should be able to feed multiple things, which generally most players may only use some of those styles).

Alavairthae, may your skill prevail

Phillip aka Sleyvas
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Diffan
Great Reader

USA
3690 Posts

Posted - 04 Nov 2019 :  13:58:47  Show Profile Send Diffan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Ayrik

You might want to take a look at 2E Red Steel and Savage Coast materials. Some swashbuckling swordstuff similar to the ideas you discuss, based on different "academies" which each teach a different fighting philosophy. The setting seems very big on duelling and duellists and it does a fair job of balancing (red) steel against monsters, magic, firearms, and mutant powers.


That sounds really interesting, I'll give it a look. Does it pertain in any way to the video game Red Steel (1st person sword and shooting game?) because that would be cool.

quote:
Originally posted by Ayrik

I notice that every game edition (I've seen) eventually offers some sort of magic duelling system. So spellcasters can hurl blasts at each other in style. But I find these special rules don't really add anything the game was lacking without them, they might frame the PC wizard's epic moment a little more memorably but they mostly just bog stuff down with implausible complexities and awkward contrivances. I've met plenty of players who want to go wizard-slaying, I've never met any who looked forward to pulling out the special wizard duelling rules after the first time around. And it doesn't help that everybody else at the table gets to do nothing for an hour except be spectators, commentators, cheerleaders.


Funny you mention that, in our game just yesterday we're playing 5th Edition and my character (moon elf fighter/eldritch knight) ran afoul with this group we believed to be Cultists of the Dragon. They believed I murdered their friend (I didn't) and one of the leaders challenged me to trial-by-combat to settle the score. So it was basically 1v1 while my hoped and watched on.

Not exactly what my character wanted (and really, I'm not a spot-light fan) but it was necessary to end our feud so I did it. The end result was back and forth rolling, me using a spell or two, and him eventually yielding. I think, had there been more things to do besides (I roll twice, hit, damage, repeat) it would've been a bit more engaging. It was still fun but, could've been better.

I think this is certainly in the minority of occurrences though. One on One duels aren't exactly a common occurrence in most D&D games but I think something like Sword Forms and Strikes can be easily applied to more open-field combat where you're still 1v1 with monsters.

quote:
Originally posted by Ayrik

While there's also a conspicuous lack of special duelling rules with sharp, pointy, heavy objects. (There's various codes of honor and such, but they're more about alignments and oaths and class-based or faith-based requirements/restrictions, not much about the nitty-gritty smashy stuff.)
Yet the combat systems still tend to work fine - and generally keep the whole party engaged - when it's 1v1, when it's not 1v1.

So maybe the lack of stylistic combat rules ain't really a bad thing.


I feel if they can make magic stylistic, applicable to multiple play-styles, and diverse the same can be said of sword-play, even if it is a bit more limited.


4E Realms = Great Taste, Less Filling.

"If WotC were to put out a box of free money, people would still complain how it was folded."
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Diffan
Great Reader

USA
3690 Posts

Posted - 04 Nov 2019 :  14:15:53  Show Profile Send Diffan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas

You started to see it more late 3rd edition with the Complete Warrior book as well that you started seeing tactical feats and weapons style feats.


True and those were pretty fun feats, despite the excessive requirements to achieve them. They had some cool concepts there and I think it's a tad sad they didn't continue the trend. I would've liked to have seen a whole sub-system of similar elements tied into a resource mechanic that scales with level (showing growth via experience).

That was the problem with the Tactical Feats, once you got them they became a bit static and often couldn't be used (High Sword, Low Axe to trip people became meaningless when you were going up against monsters with 30+ Strength scores and two size categories larger than yourself). It's why scale and power needed to escalate along with the character (like spells do for casters).

quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas

One thing to note is personality of players too. Many of my players chose the fighter classes because they were simpler to run. That being said, I like the concept of having a warrior that CAN have a lot of options. There does need to be some balance to it though.


Agreed! I do like the idea that you can take a class, whether it's a caster or martial guy and strip it down to more basics for ease-of-play OR make it complex as one desires. To some degree, 4e lacked this trait - that is until Essentials came out - but by then it was too late. I'm just sort of tired of the "Easy" class always being the guy with the weapon.

As for the balance, that's such a contested topic because so much of it largely depends on DM style, game, setting, and the other players. But were I to make an attempt, I'd tie it to exhaustion levels, Hit Points, and stamina. Not completely like the Barbarian but more of a push of endurance than relying on raw power and rage. It would also be really situational too. Some forms would be good against a single opponent, but being more open to attack from say at range while another would be really good at defense while also losing effectiveness at attacks, and maybe a few others deal with larger opponents or mobs of people or even in close quarters.
There's a lot that can be used to play with here.

quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas

With 5e though, you need to get a LOT of options with your feat choices, and they need to be ones that aren't all addititive to a single fighting style (i.e. one feat should be able to feed multiple things, which generally most players may only use some of those styles).



Feats in 5E are really powerful, even if some of them are hyper-focused. To make the decision to bump a stat by +2 or take a feat with a lot of application is a hard choice. I think, in this scenario, a sort of sword-form / technique / maneuver system would be better as either an Initiate Feat (learn one form and one strike) that expands similar to the Battle Master path of the Fighter.

4E Realms = Great Taste, Less Filling.

"If WotC were to put out a box of free money, people would still complain how it was folded."
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Ayrik
Great Reader

Canada
6881 Posts

Posted - 05 Nov 2019 :  01:58:35  Show Profile Send Ayrik a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The Red Steel and Savage Coast stuff was basically the same thing published a few different times in differently-written ways, very much like Savage Coast vs The North. One version was (for a long time) available free from the Wizards download site and the old Wizard links are dead but it's been archived at countless other sites.

[/Ayrik]
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Renin
Learned Scribe

193 Posts

Posted - 08 Nov 2019 :  01:57:46  Show Profile Send Renin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I'm definitely a loud audience member to this topic.

All I've ever wanted was to do more than just 'Roll Attack-Succeed-Damage Dice-Repeat.' It's one reason I absolutely ADORED the 2nd Ed Complete Book of Elves for the Bladesong fighting style. You didn't need to be a fighter/mage, you just had to devote Weapon Proficiency slots to it.

The style allowed me to dictate how I wished my (mostly) solo fighter would approach combat. Choose 1 round to +2AC, going on the defensive versus some enemy. Switch offensively and go +2 attack, or if I wanted to really stall the enemies' attacks over several rounds, I would switch to being able to attack and parry in the same round (a big thing back then).

I could determine how battle flowed, examine my enemies, push the offensive; I loved it!

And I lost it, and any feeling like it when 3E came out. Gladly, at least, the Complete Warrior form feats came out. Like was said previously, they were costly to get, with having so many trap and 'feat tax' feats to get to it. But, I had a ranger get the mentioned High Axe Low sword form, as orcs and hobgoblins were species enemies and the campaign's enemies. Still, all those style feats just weren't enough; they felt a bit stifled as you had to be locked into the ones designed there-there simply wasn't enough for me!!!

I switched to Pathfinder when 4th came out, and even with all the books and more to keep coming out, I still never found the battle control fighting options I was looking for. Everything, as is known, is built up on feats that stack to lead to the next feat that lead to the biggest KABOOM of an attack that will not miss the intended target.

I had hoped with PF2e, that maybe part of my dreams would be realized with having sword forms/attack forms coming. I don't believe it will happen, considering how tight the math is. That, and that system is built to put conditions on the enemies and deal with that during combat.

Diffan, I bought 5th PH, and have played one solo adventure with my brother in law to feel the system move. As always, I remade the first character I ever made-that same bladesinging elf figther. What did I make? The Battlemaster, of course, to see how the fighting maneuvers pan out.

So, in a very long post, I too wonder why no other books or parts of any systems seriously went after making combat forms different.
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Ayrik
Great Reader

Canada
6881 Posts

Posted - 09 Nov 2019 :  02:44:01  Show Profile Send Ayrik a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I agree that spellcaster vs spellcaster(s) and warrior vs warrior(s) should both have comparably fleshed out rules.

But spellcaster vs warrior(s) and warrior vs spellcaster(s) should also receive attention. Each potential combination presents special tactical challenges, advantages, and disadvantages.


But, to me, 2E-style (initiative, multiple attacks, attack/casting speeds, etc) were too uninteresting and generic, while 3E-style (feats and feats and feats) were too easily stacked and powergamed far out of balance.

[/Ayrik]
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sleyvas
Great Reader

USA
8339 Posts

Posted - 09 Nov 2019 :  15:22:30  Show Profile Send sleyvas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Pertaining to what we were talking about with feats in 5e AND those tactical type feats in complete warrior, my thoughts are that with 5e one might be able to combine the ideas of the tactical feats of certain "types" into a single 5e feat. Let me explain what I mean by that more clearly, because I know that isn't clear.

So, in 3.5e you had things that let you do two weapon styles with say "an axe and a sword" and you had to spend all kinds of feats to get there. Then you had another chain for "dagger and axe". Then you had another for "axe and hammer". Then another for "sword and dagger". Then another for "two maces". Each of these had several options under them. It would be my viewpoint that maybe in 5e you get the "dual weapon wielder" feat as a prerequisite, and THEN you can take an all encompassing feat that lets you learn these different styles as a "pool" of options. However, maybe at any given time you can only pick a handful of options to have "readily available", but given X amount of time you can "retrain" yourself to be more favorable to another option. So, for instance, maybe you take the feat and you choose the "sword and axe" and "sword and short sword" option... and that's fine for a few levels. But then you get a really nice dagger and decide, I want to do "dagger and axe" and "sword and dagger". Maybe you can to travel to another city and train at some place that focuses on that style for a month OR you can train yourself over say 2 months (its easier to get trained than training yourself, but maybe going to a school costs money in return for saving time). You still have the same feats, you're just choosing which options to have available to you as "muscle memory". Since a normal person can't use all those options at once (i.e. you can't use sword and axe AND sword and short sword options at the same time), the feat doesn't become overpowering.

Similarly, there might be some options of a similar sort for other fighting styles like "weapon and shield" or "mounted combat" or "reach weapons" or "martial artists" or "weapon and spell/cantrip" or "heavy weapon wielder" or "bludgeon"/"pierce"/"slash" weapon wielder (this last maybe given certain abilities with certain TYPES of weapons in each category... such as the "slash" person might have some abilities with short swords, but then choose to "retrain" it to focus on scimitars or longswords). Similarly there may even be some racial feats, such that dwarves might focus on dwarven weapons, elves with elven weapons, etc.... The key to all this is obviously making the feats so that it has a lot of options, but making it such that they don't all stack.

Alavairthae, may your skill prevail

Phillip aka Sleyvas
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Diffan
Great Reader

USA
3690 Posts

Posted - 10 Nov 2019 :  14:38:33  Show Profile Send Diffan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Renin

I'm definitely a loud audience member to this topic.

All I've ever wanted was to do more than just 'Roll Attack-Succeed-Damage Dice-Repeat.' It's one reason I absolutely ADORED the 2nd Ed Complete Book of Elves for the Bladesong fighting style. You didn't need to be a fighter/mage, you just had to devote Weapon Proficiency slots to it.

The style allowed me to dictate how I wished my (mostly) solo fighter would approach combat. Choose 1 round to +2AC, going on the defensive versus some enemy. Switch offensively and go +2 attack, or if I wanted to really stall the enemies' attacks over several rounds, I would switch to being able to attack and parry in the same round (a big thing back then).

I could determine how battle flowed, examine my enemies, push the offensive; I loved it!


My experience with AD&D 2e is exceptionally limited but I do remember the Complete Book of Elves and how good the Bladesinger was, far better than either two 3e versions they published.

quote:
Originally posted by Renin

And I lost it, and any feeling like it when 3E came out. Gladly, at least, the Complete Warrior form feats came out. Like was said previously, they were costly to get, with having so many trap and 'feat tax' feats to get to it. But, I had a ranger get the mentioned High Axe Low sword form, as orcs and hobgoblins were species enemies and the campaign's enemies. Still, all those style feats just weren't enough; they felt a bit stifled as you had to be locked into the ones designed there-there simply wasn't enough for me!!!


Same feeling here. The biggest issue with me and these stylized feats were they were only good against a portion of the Monster Manual, losing a LOT of efficiency at later levels. High-Sword, Low-Axe was a decent feat (Knock-Down, 3.0, was WAY better for a lot less investment tho) until you started fighting monsters that were regularly larger than you were, making opposing Strength checks almost always a loss. Also, a lot of monsters don't wield weapons, making feats like Crescent Moon irrelevant too.

This is why I largely incorporate the Tome of Battle in my v3.5 games. Really I feel it's the only supplement in 3e that helps me "feel" more like a swordsman with a distinctive feel without relying on a LOT of feat support to do so.

You were speaking of Bladesingers and I had one similar styled character that was a Warblade/Duskblade, utilizing Intelligence on a number of cool elements that the Warblade provided. Couple the duskblade spells with Warblade stances and throw in a cool Prestige Class like the Abjurant Champion and it was a pretty cool mash-up.

quote:
Originally posted by Renin

I switched to Pathfinder when 4th came out, and even with all the books and more to keep coming out, I still never found the battle control fighting options I was looking for. Everything, as is known, is built up on feats that stack to lead to the next feat that lead to the biggest KABOOM of an attack that will not miss the intended target.


You've demonstrated why I still play using 4th Edition. Battlefield Control is something of a 4e Fighter specialty. Combat Challenge basically means he can keep a lock-down on anyone trying to run by him (Opportunity Attacks stop a bad-guy in their tracks, similar to 3.5's feat Stand Still - but as a build-in feature) and the focus on your weapon-style really plays a key role in the exploits you pick. Having a Spear, polearms, or heavy blade has a specific feel than a Big two-handed hammer or a light blade.

Still, it could've done a better job in this department. Where all of the Exploits are build on level and got better with higher versions.

quote:
Originally posted by Renin

I had hoped with PF2e, that maybe part of my dreams would be realized with having sword forms/attack forms coming. I don't believe it will happen, considering how tight the math is. That, and that system is built to put conditions on the enemies and deal with that during combat.


I've only looked briefly into Pathfinder 2e and I wasn't all that impressed. There's a lot of talk during development and now about how PF2e is too similar to 4th Edition (tighter math as you said, class feats as "power", etc) but with how many penalties for everything, I don't get that impression.

quote:
Originally posted by Renin

Diffan, I bought 5th PH, and have played one solo adventure with my brother in law to feel the system move. As always, I remade the first character I ever made-that same bladesinging elf figther. What did I make? The Battlemaster, of course, to see how the fighting maneuvers pan out.


There's an actual Bladesinger option in the Sword Coast Adventure Guide that is an Arcane tradition for Wizards beginning at 2nd level. It's actually pretty good as you get proficiency with light armor, one type of one-handed melee weapon of your choice (doesn't have to be a blade) and the Performance skill. You can also enter the Bladesong, giving you better speed, AC, and Concentration checks. You get Extra attack and some other weapon-based stuff. All coupled with the normal casting of a full-wizard. It's pretty cool. A level 1 dip into Fighter can get you a Fighting Style and Second Wind (self-heal 1/rest). That might actually be my next character.

quote:
Originally posted by Renin

So, in a very long post, I too wonder why no other books or parts of any systems seriously went after making combat forms different.



Officially, probably because of a few reasons already mentioned:
The Fighter is the "easy" class, making more rules for it removes that distinction.
For some really odd reason, people have a harder time accepting or using Suspension of Disbelief when a Fighter can do some really amazing stuff with a sword.
It'll resemble 4E too much

We might see something later on down the road for 5e, but big emphasis on might.

4E Realms = Great Taste, Less Filling.

"If WotC were to put out a box of free money, people would still complain how it was folded."
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Diffan
Great Reader

USA
3690 Posts

Posted - 10 Nov 2019 :  14:45:16  Show Profile Send Diffan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Ayrik

I agree that spellcaster vs spellcaster(s) and warrior vs warrior(s) should both have comparably fleshed out rules.

But spellcaster vs warrior(s) and warrior vs spellcaster(s) should also receive attention. Each potential combination presents special tactical challenges, advantages, and disadvantages.


I wonder what such rules would look like? I've never done a mage duel in D&D but I have seen rules on how to run one, aside from basically: Roll Initiative, cast spells, one wins. In my duel a few weekends ago, that's basically what it was.

quote:
Originally posted by Ayrik

But, to me, 2E-style (initiative, multiple attacks, attack/casting speeds, etc) were too uninteresting and generic, while 3E-style (feats and feats and feats) were too easily stacked and powergamed far out of balance.



Well the designers of 3E didn't really cross-reference feat combinations when they were designed. They basically had a book, designed within that bubble, and moved onto the next. They didn't look at a feat (like Leap Attack) and say "Gee, this feat coupled with Shock Trooper from Complete Warrior makes a single charge attack absolutely broken!" But maybe the designers figured that DMs would ferret all that out on their own for their games?

4E Realms = Great Taste, Less Filling.

"If WotC were to put out a box of free money, people would still complain how it was folded."
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