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Balance of weapon types

Posted: Thu Jun 23, 2011 12:39 pm
by aduial
I've been looking at the weapons and their skills for a while now.

Brawling is okay. It is a speciality skill, and there's not really any other skill that it's worth comparing it to.

Bows and throwing also seem good. I haven't looked too closely at the the balance between throwing weapons and archery weapons, but they both seem to have their strong points.

But what about main melee weapons? Let's compare them in categories. (Note that I'm not bringing Daggers into any of these categories, as Brawling is quite useful, but not comparable to the other weapon categories due to the -3 penalty of wielding them against someone wielding other weapons.)

Damage output, 2-handed
We have the following 2-handed weapons to choose from: Battle Axe, Greatsword, Polearm, Quarterstaff.

Of these, the Greatsword dwarves everything else in damage. It has the best maximum damage in the game. The Battle Axe beats it for minimum damage, but there are very few things in the game that give a penalty to the damage roll. There are several that give a bonus. And without bonuses and penalties, the Greatsword has a better average damage. So the Greatsword is better.

Damage output, 1-handed
We have the following 1-handed weapons to choose from: Handaxe, Club, Mace, Warhammer, Morning Star, Spear, Sword, Short Sword.
(Note: I count this as a 1-handed weapon, as shield+spear is a common enough armament in most fantasy... you could count it as a 2-handed one without disturbing these arguments.)

Of these, the Sword is the best for total damage track, and among the best for maximum damage as well as minimum damage. It is, quite simply, the best one-handed weapon in the game for dealing damage.

Polite weapons
Let's look at "polite weapons", arguably something you can carry in a city without anyone really taking too much notice. We have the following to choose from:
Short sword (noted in the book as being polite), Handaxe (being perhaps close enough to a tool someone might use for chopping wood), Quarterstaff (being a common traveller's implement). Maces and clubs might also count, but I feel these are a bit more warlike.

The Quarterstaff deals the most damage of these, but is also 2-handed. The Shortsword deals the most damage of the singlehanded ones (unless you allow the mace, in which case the mace is hands down the best of these weapons). The short-sword is also arguably the one you're most likely to be able to carry at a nice dinner-party.

So the shortsword and quarterstaff are good options. The mace might be better, but is more situational.

Off-hand weapons
Short sword and dagger are the only options here. The short-sword is better.

Concealable weapons
None of the non-brawling weapons are easily concealable. The Short-sword is probably better than most, however. You might get away with the quarterstaff.

With a Director who might give you penalties for wielding weapons that need you to swing them against the enemy in narrow corridors and so on, going for the best stabbing-weapon you can could be a good idea. Weapons I would consider stabbing-weapons are the Shortsword, Spear and possibly the polearm or the sword.

In either case, go for the swords-skill for single-handed damage and the polearm-skill for double-handed damage.

From what I'm seeing, barring some very special circumstances the Swords skill offers the best or one of the best weapons in every single category.

Is there any compelling game-mechanical reason ever to take another main melee weapon skill than Swords?

I'm considering a total redesign of the weapon tables due to this. I'm not looking for total balance. But Swords really seem to be completely dominant among the main melee weapon skills...

Posted: Thu Jun 23, 2011 2:17 pm
by aduial
Okay, clubs have one thing going for them: There are a couple of creatures that take more damage from blunt weapons. But from what I see, not really enough to warrant making these your primary weapon type...

Posted: Thu Jun 23, 2011 10:02 pm
by spaceferret
A few thoughts:

Ranged weapons (bows or thrown) would make sense if you want a more agile character that doesn't have heavy armour - thrown is less powerful but does cover improvised missiles.

For maximum damage, axes seem only useful if you want a battle-axe, in which case a greatsword deals more damage and could be just as unwieldy.

Clubs include maces and hammers, which seem to be two of the most consistent weapons, doing pretty much 3 points of damage almost whatever you roll - maybe good as part of a slow-but-sure approach?

Polearms (spears, halberds, lances, poleaxes) seem to give no real benefit over more wieldy weapons. If one of my players wanted one of these, I'd consider house-ruling a bonus for using one of these in mounted combat.

Staves is just the staff. I guess this is the easiest type of weapons to make, so there's an argument for taking this along with craft instead of the brawl skill to be better than an improvised weapon, if you expect to have time to cut down an 8 foot pole. Also useful for poking traps from afar :)

Swords are the most common of weapons for heroes in FF, so in some ways it makes more sense that they have more advantages?

Posted: Thu Jun 23, 2011 10:57 pm
by bottg
spaceferret wrote: Polearms (spears, halberds, lances, poleaxes) seem to give no real benefit over more wieldy weapons. If one of my players wanted one of these, I'd consider house-ruling a bonus for using one of these in mounted combat.
Of they could be used from behind another hero, especially in a dungeon corridor? Forcing the opponent to defend against 2 attacks, and gaining a +1 outnumbering bonus, but without exposing the spearman to much risk

Posted: Fri Jun 24, 2011 7:27 am
by torus
Perhaps beef up the damage roll from a battle axe. However the main reason people used weapons other than swords, such as axes, is that swords are much more expensive, harder to make and repair. So I would change the prices perhaps, and make swords rarer. A good sword is a prestige weapon.

If you really want game mechanics for all these weapons, I suggest looking at Rolemaster Arms Law. It's fun, but a world away from AFF.

Posted: Fri Jun 24, 2011 9:17 am
by aduial
torus wrote:Perhaps beef up the damage roll from a battle axe. However the main reason people used weapons other than swords, such as axes, is that swords are much more expensive, harder to make and repair.
Not entirely true, if you care to do a bit of research. Axes and axe-like weapons have dominated more than swords in several periods of history also among nobility and elite soldiers, for whom we must assume that cost wasn't an issue. There are several examples in the history books of Kings using axes in one battle or another.

Instead, it seems that various axe-designs have been popular due to better chances of breaching some kinds of armour, and other tactical considerations. Of course, this is far beyond the abstraction level of AFF2.

For house rules, I'm thinking along three lines:

Option A: Redesign of weapons
Give the high-end weapons in each class the same total damage, and a rule that the 7+ slot should always be exactly 3 points higher than the 1-slot. (This in order to make weapons roughly the same value for +x damage roll bonuses.) Now, differentiate weapon types by saying, for example, that swords-damage grow gradually, while axes jump in a very narrow band, and hammers provide as flat a damage curve as possible. You could end up with something like the following:

Warhammer: 2-3-3-3-4-4-5
Sword: 2-2-3-3-4-5-5
Handaxe: 2-2-2-3-5-5-5

Of course, to this you can add rules about the weapon swing and so on, concealable and polite weapons. Etc.

Option B: Go the WFRP route
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, at least edition 1 and 2 (not sure about 3), abstract weapons into Hand Weapons (axes, swords, maces, warhammers) and Great Weapons (greatswords, battle axes, mauls, etc). Then they add stats for some more special weapon types (daggers, halberds, spears).

This is a very simple solution, which seems to fit with the basic premise of AFF2. For AFF2, I would suggest the following weapon types:

Great weapon (axes, halberds, longspears, greatswords, mauls, etc: all two-handed.)
Hand weapon (all single-handed weapons meant as primary weapons for war)
Shortsword (slightly less damage than a hand weapon, but polite and off-hand-worthy)
Dagger (slightly less damage than a shortsword, but concealable and can be used in grappling/brawling)
Quarterstaff (slightly less damage than a great weapon, but polite)

+possibly others such as lances, flails etc.

Option C: Skill redefinition
In addition to one of the above, or possibly instead of either (as it would eliminate need for choosing skills based on weapon effectiveness), consider the following redesign of the weapon special skills:

Axes, Swords, Clubs and Staves are mixed together into a new Melee skill, which can use any weapon in normal combat. The Mounted Combat, Armour, Brawling, Bows, Thrown and Strength skills keep working as they already do.

The Polearms skill is renamed Formation fighting, and works as Mounted Combat but only when fighting using spears, halberds and other polearms. While fighting in such a formation - a group of at least 2 people working together where everyone is constrained by their Formation Fighting skill - get bonuses equal to those of a mounted fighter and be able to attack past one friendly fighter (if that fighter is part of the formation).

Posted: Sat Jun 25, 2011 7:56 am
by torus
I'm less bothered about having the game mechanics make each weapon type or skill equally attractive, though I appreciate that encouraging variety is good. I do think the damage rolls should try to reflect each weapon's effectiveness, but given the level of abstraction involved and the requirement of simplicity, there are limits to this.

I would be happy with your melee skill suggestion, but I would add the stipulation that certain more specialised weapons, including all 2H or 'Great' weapons, morning stars, flails etc, require an additional specialisation or suffer -1 to use.

Polearms are problematic since the combat system doesn't attempt to represent weapon reach. Perhaps give the wielder of a pole-arm a ranged style attack initially: ie they do damage if they hit but their opponent doesn't. Only if the opponent wins a round are they considered to have closed in and can attack normally.

Posted: Sun Jun 26, 2011 1:15 pm
by cragglerock
Maybe add some extra "riders" on different weapons at the 7+ damage column, so say a warhammer pushes your opponent, a spear pins them, a quarterstaff knocks them prone, and a dagger inflicts on-going bleed (as they tend to suffer penalty against armed opponents).

Posted: Mon Jun 27, 2011 12:19 am
by torus
This discussion and the other ones on weapons make me feel that maybe ir would be good to collect and discuss a set of optional combat rules.

The basic system should remain exactly as it is now, nice and simple. But perhaps the current set of optional rules could expand to include:
  • More combat options and manoeuvres.
    Additional skills and weapons.
    Alternative rules for critical hits, eg instant kills, or perhaps even a critical hit table.
    Weapon-specific rules (eg for polearms, 2H weapons, daggers).
Quite a few rules have already been suggested in this forum.