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10/4/99, THE BATTLE GUIDE (version 4.1)

by Puck_, aka Damien Tobin


Roleplaying is fun. And on the Internet even more people join in on the fun. Which makes it hard to fight, since almost everyone has a different idea of how it should be done on the net. 

So, being a helpful Puck, I compiled some of the best. You see, one problem that I have noticed, is that with more and more people joining in the games, it has become harder and harder to keep every one to the same set of rules... and let's not beat around the bush, D&D was never designed to be played over the internet with 50 characters RP'ing all at the same time. (not to mention that only a small number of those characters are based 100% on the D&D Rules). So, without further ado, here's the Puck guide to fighting. 

THE REASONS FOR FIGHTING

First off, let's go over some ground rules. You have to have a bloody good reason for fighting a fight. This isn't a rule, it's common sense. 

"I'm Yraalagh the Demon from the ninth plane of hell, and of all the places I could of come to, I came to a dingy old elven tavern to fight YOU, Yorick the Yellow! Dieeeee!" is a good example of a bad reason to start a fight. 

"I orc. You elf. Orcs hates stinky elves. I smash you now." is better, although not the best. This is one based on a race's general feelings, not that of an individual. "You just killed my wife!" is the sort of thing that really demands a fight (or a medal in some cases, but I digress). 

So you see, depending on the reason the fight becomes more or less serious. Yorick should probably ignore the stupid demon, and the elf should probably not fight the battle to the death, whereas the widower probably should go psycho (or buy the other guy a drink... there I go again). 

LET'S GET PHYSICAL!

Ahh, physical combat, better known as brawling. Punch, kick, jab, uppercut and the rest. Well, let's go over it. 

First off, a physical attack takes minimal thought. Unless you're an orc (and a pretty dumb one at that) you don't have to concentrate to remember how to punch. You just do it. The same goes with jumping, kicking, pushing and the rest. So when you want to hit someone, you take one post to move next to the other combatant. This could have happened before the actual fight. This rule is just to make sure you don't run across a few rooms, go up to the character, and punch them all in one post. You then take one post for an attack. 

After the initial movement to the other person you don't have to post any more posts stating you're next to the other person, unless they retreat (See Blocking). Furthermore, I follow the common sense approach. The person on the receiving end of a blow decides how much it hurts, but they have to be fair. Yorick the Yellow is a barbarian built like a brick outhouse. Chances are if he head butts a kender, it's going to hurt like all get out, and the damage taken should reflect that. At the same time, Yorick probably is going to be at least a little winded if a dragon slaps him into a wall. 

I don't care how much he works out — a kender cannot body slam a dragon.  

DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC? AND I HOPE YOU DO...

This is the one that causes the most problems. Yes, when Yorick takes on Otik the barbarian, it could be a tough call. But when Raistlin5786 takes on Horatio the Horrid
in an all out battle of dark magic, neither side tends to think the other has a hope. A Mages' duel should reflect this, and be played more like a game of chess. 

All magic users (And yes, Luke, using the Force counts as magic) need to think before using magic (it's no fair saying your guy is so good he doesn't, by the way), and as such they have a harder time of fighting than grunts. 

Horatio needs one post to start casting a spell (the other player gets his/her turn after that), and one post to actually show the effect. If Raistlin 5786's spell should fly at Horatio, just after Horatio started casting his own spell, Horatio has to make a tough call. 

If he chooses to dodge Raistlin5786's spell, then he has to start casting his own spell all over again (well, okay, he should probably just make it a weaker spell than usual. Your own call). Horatio can either dodge the spell, saving himself from damage, or he can send his fireball burning across the room toward Raistlin 5786, then get hit by the other mage's spell. At best, you could only pull a slight dodge if you decide to finish your spell. Most of the spell will hit you.

This is why a magic duel takes more thinking than swinging a fist at someone. And, as usual, you don't call damage, but you DO specify the spell. Raistlin 5786 has to point out that the spell currently flying at Horatio is designed to turn him into a three headed fire breathing chicken, which should influence Horatio's decision for his next post. Chances are, a spell designed to make someone dizzy isn't worth the lost spell post it would take to dodge, and being turned into said chicken would be worth it. The three headed chicken spell should take more posts to cast. 

WEAPONS

"That's not a knife....THIS is a knife."

So Yorick's getting his face bashed in by Otik. So what does he do? He grabs the nearest sword. Otik follows suit. And they stare at each other trying to remember which
end you shove at the other person. 

Once more, I call upon the mighty powers of common sense. No gnome armed with a sharpened stick should defeat a demon ninja in a purely physical fight. If the gnome doesn't just charge the demon ninja he stands a chance. More on that later. Likewise, the gnome has a pretty good chance against a housecat. Well, a reasonable chance, anyway. These common sense conclusions should be taken into account. 

There are three main things you can do with your sword. Pretty much everything falls into one of these categories. If you found something that doesn't, tell me, I'll
include it in the next update. 

The thrust is the most straightforward and brutal attack. You take the point end of your sword, and you shove it at the other person. A thrust, at the same time, leaves a character more open to attack than any other move. If you should miss (how likely this is depends on the circumstances) and the other character should attack before you have a chance to rally your defenses, then a good player should take more damage than they should normally. 

As with all things, there are degrees. Quick little thrusts would not leave someone as open as an all out put-everything-you-have-into-it thrust, but these smaller thrusts wouldn't do as much damage either. It's a trade-off. If your character just got the receiving end of a thrust, then he/she better have good armor, otherwise he/she's out of the fight. Good armor lessens the blow slightly, but the character should still be damaged than they would be from other types of attack. 

The swing is a bit more refined than the thrust, and has many subcategories. While the thrust uses the tip of the blade, a swing uses the edge. It's still going to hurt a great deal, and used right, it can be every bit as lethal as a thrust (beheading and disemboweling are the hallmarks of the swing, as opposed to being skewered). However, a swing is less likely to go through armor. So you should probably combine thrusts and swings as the situation requires. If the two characters are about even in terms of skill, then most swings that connect should produce bad cuts. Some characters will collapse after five of these swing wounds (your average human for instance), others, like orcs and trolls, can take them in triple digits. 

Still, a troll that's asleep isn't likely to dodge a swing. Circumstances like that are where such fun things as gutting your unwary foe come into play.
 

Lastly, there's the tactical plays, the feints and the blocks. There really isn't any set way of handling these. If you think your character is in a position to block a blow, do it. You can't attack much for that turn — you can try a groin kick or something, but your sword is busy). 

In cases of thrusts, you should say which direction you blocked the thrust toward. For example, the other player thrust toward your chest. You have to consider this: did you deflect his sword to your right or your left?). 

In the case of a swing you need to be elaborate, and, depending on the force of the swing, your character might be a bit off balance afterward. I leave this to your discretion. 

Feints are even more difficult as far as rules go. If they connect at all (which isn't really the point of a feint) they should do very little damage. A feint is basically a fake thrust or swing, designed to make your opponent commit themselves to an action — one that you want to use to your advantage. If you think you really understand how to use them, go for it. I don't recommend this until you've mastered everything else. 

"Draw, varmint..."

Guns are the ultimate in difficult weapons to RP properly, although they're still easier than magic or telepathy. Let's say Yorick draws a sword, and Otik surprises everyone by pulling out a phaser. Both parties tend to get muddled after this. As such this requires the most complex rules. Stay with me. 

Guns take one move to be drawn, one move to aim, and one move to fire. In the past I've been asked if I would consider changing this rule to two moves, one move to draw and aim, one move to fire. The answer is no, I'm sticking to it. Guns are just too powerful. A gun can do as much damage as a thrust, from far away, and, while being about equal to a fireball, doesn't require as much training to use. So we have to even things out a bit. 

Keep in mind though, a sword user has to draw his sword before he can use it as well. So you're basically just a combination of the limitations of the sword user (having to draw your weapon) and the spell user (having to wait a turn before you can properly use it). However, if you want to draw a gun in one turn and fire it in the next, go for it, but I advise the other person to reply that you missed. 

Once a gun is drawn, it stays drawn unless put away. Should the other character move in between the aiming post and the firing post, then no, the aiming does not need be done again. You've taken your turn to aim. If the other character has moved behind cover though, you will need to move and re-aim. Feel like firing randomly? That is acceptable, but the other person should feel perfectly safe saying "Otik, you idiot, that was off by a mile. Now taste my steel." 

At the same time, firearms, while the most cumbersome weapons in terms of fighting, are the most deadly weapons as well. Any bullet can do as much damage as a thrust. If you take a move to get nice and close to the other person, hitting them and doing this damage should almost be a sure thing. If you don't, they can always use the old "It hit my shoulder" response. But if that's what they do, then hold them to it. They shouldn't be able to use that arm in any real way for the rest of the fight. 

Of course there are non-lethal firearms (Darts, phasers etc) and they won't register a kill, but the firing technique remains the same. You're probably in a crowded area by the way. If you're RPing in a Tavern and someone pulls a bazooka or a rocket launcher on you, my advice is to slap them into ignore. That just isn't the way it's done around here. Talk all you want about high level spells being just as dangerous, I just have a problem with people packing big firearms. 

"He's got a sword. I've got... a stick."

Annoyed by Otik's stupid misfire, Yorick charges him. Otik decides to have his character drop his gun as a result. So Otik grabs a chair (NOTE: You are not in a vacuum! If you're in a Tavern, for example, there are bottles, chairs, and other possible weapons, all over the place! Use your surroundings.) 

Otik smiles. Blunt weapons are different from other weapons. This is very much like a cross between brawling and swordfights. The hits score damage like a punch, causing a headache, loss of teeth, and a nasty welt. A bigger and harder blunt weapon means more damage. A chair leg hurts, a mace may kill. 

At the same time, the attacker has two choices as to how to use the blunt object. Thrusts are not really an option in most cases, but it varies with the weapon. If you have a police officer's night-stick, a thrust might work fine. If you can;t thrust, you can still swing or block. 

Again, I fall on the common sense theory. You're NOT going to decapitate an orc with a chair, but you might knock him out. As always the combatant receiving the attack calls the damage, but it should always smart. 

"The Mystical sword of WHAT?"

Magic weapons should have their abilities explained before they are used. The Holy blade of St. Holrick dispels demons? Fine, explain that to any demon you intend on using it on. Common sense dictates a kender would be more worried about how sharp it is than its exorcising capabilities. The combatant getting hit should decide how
the weapon attacks it. A demon might be dispelled, or he might start to weaken slowly, over time. 

THE TAVERN/SALOON/SPACE STATION MURPHY 9

I repeat: USE YOUR SURROUNDINGS! Let's see that scene where Otik draws the phaser, shall we? But this time, let's have Yorick duck behind the bar. Otik now has to
follow him behind the cover provided by the bar, and then has to re-aim, leaving him two posts in Yorick's dust. 

And remember Raistlin 5786? Why didn't he levitate a few broken bottles at his opponent? That would have been one spell, but it would require multiple dodges. Be creative with your surroundings. 

Gee Mister, can I help?

For reasons best left to himself, Yorick the Yellow draws his blade and accepts Yraalagh the demon's threat. The demon then finds himself staring at the blades of Yuriel the Yellow, Yestace the Yellow, and Bob the Yellow, Yorick's brothers. Yraalagh deserves no sympathy. If you're in a tavern, you don't expect to walk in, challenge a
popular person, and get a one on one fight. 

If Yorick decides to be noble and asks his brothers to stay out of it, then they have the choice to do so, but that depends on the character. If the brothers are bad at taking orders, or if Yorick lost his honor watching the Power Rangers and decides 4 on 1 is cool, then Yraalagh better think fast as to how to save his bacon. 

It's sort of like other lines, but lower.

Ah yes, the bottom line. This section had to be added after an unfortunate altercation I had (by the way, if you ever happen to run into a Droin Starw@lker, make sure to mock him for me). The fact of the matter is that, these days, some people in the RP rooms like to be a little more elaborate with their posts than others. Which is why it's so important to look at the bottom line. Let's examine two different posts. 

Drool Starcr@wler (The Nohgri killlur):. . . . msg#8546 Tue, Jun 15, 3:47PM PST 
*Pulls out his gun and points it at Dark Darkguy (the Dark).* 

Dark Darkguy (the Dark) (An evil guy): . . . . msg#8999 Tue, Jun 15, 3:49PM PST 
*Smirking at the fool that would dare to raise a weapon at him without a reason, the really dark guy pulled back his dark cape, grasped the dark hilt of his dark sword, and, with a mocking flourish, drew it from its dark scabbard. A shiver ran through his body as he felt the texture of the grip through his dark glove. He shifted to an appropriate stance, a strange gleam in his dark eyes.* Oh. Really now. Don't you think it is rather rude to point guns at people for no good reason? 

Now, if you had a broom up your exhaust pipe, you could make a big deal and say that, since Dark Darkguy did more than just post "*Draws his sword*," his post breaks
that integral "one move per post" rule, in which case I pity you. If, on the other hand, you examined the bottom line, you would come to a very different conclusion. 

Despite their very different techniques, these two people just did very similar things. Each of them drew his weapon. Forget the body language, the talking, and the little nuances that make a post special. When all else is said and done, only one fighting action has been performed. If Dark Darkguy (the Dark) wants to write a page about shadows and cloaks then tack it to the end of a simple action, that's his prerogative. It's ambiance. 

Am I thinking too loud for you?

Oh me, oh me, oh my. Telepathy. The greatest headache of them all. Even the force is easy compared to rules for telepathy, but in the end it's fair play that matters most.

Maybe in real life (or Highlander, or Marvel Comics, or Babylon 5, or wherever your character is from) your telepathic character has the ultimate edge against all comers, but this is online RPing, and you signed an unwritten contract to be fair to all other RPers. So we treat telepathy like a spell or the force. One post for gathering your power, one post to read the other person's mind, or launch a psychic bolt, or whatever. More powerful telepathic ''spells'' (like rewriting someone's memories or altering their personality) would not only take a high level telepath, but a good bit of "casting" time as well. 

What's that you say? That's not how it works in the universe you took your character from? Well that universe wasn't designed for an online RP! It's all well and good for a single author to say "I have decided my telepathic character can do whatever she/he wants," but online RPing is done by a host of authors. If every one of us decided our character could take over twenty people's minds in a single post, well, what's the point? To an extent this is common sense. 

Telepathic fights between telepaths are even more difficult. My recommendation is to actually have the fight take place on a psychic plane (a battle ground between the two character's minds). The more powerful telepath would have the stronger "psychic double" (let's say a Babylon 5 style P-12 Psi-Cop would have a Conan the Barbarian-like psychic double), while the weaker telepath would have the weaker psychic double (A P-1 gets stuck with the proverbial gnome with a butter knife). This
way you still get the stronger telepath having an edge, but there's room for skill the win the day over strength. 

This is only a recommendation though. It's worked for me some times in the past, other times it hasn't done as well. Suggestions would be sincerely appreciated.

Why all the fuss? It's the unfortunate nature of telepaths I'm afraid. A mage has to work for a lifetime to memorize all his magic, a force-user has years of training to go through before he's called a Jedi knight. In most universes, however, a telepath is born with his or her power. "Go straight to Power, do not pass work, do not pay $200 dollars," if you will. If a mage said he was born with all his spells memorized, he would be (hopefully) shoved into ignore without a batting of an eye. 

Before I get hate-mail from the telepaths I want to make it clear that I'm not against them. It isn't their fault that their character type is like that. It's not just a problem for people RPing with telepaths, it's a problem for telepaths as well. So, I repeat, there should be power and skill levels with telepaths that are from a universe where you're born with telepathy. Just because you're put in charge of an army, that doesn't mean you know the first thing about properly leading it. If General Patton were given a smaller army and was told to fight you with it, he'd properly win. Not because he's got the stronger army, but because he knows how to use it better! 

Power level of one Gazillion? I can top that!

Let me be clear here. There is nothing more pathetic than watching a poorly done Dragonball Z fight. Observe. 

Gokool Carrot (A Super Sayan):. . . . msg#8786 Mon, Jun 14, 3:47PM PST *Charges up.* 

Vegitible (A Super Sayan): . . . . msg#8789 Mon, Jun 14, 3:49PM PST *Reads your power level.* One Million? Ha! I can top that. *Charges up.* 

Gokool Carrot (A Super Sayan):. . . . msg#8800 Mon, Jun 14, 3:50PM PST *Reads you power level* A power level of one Zillion? Ha! I can top that. *Charges up.* 

And it actually goes on like that until one of them gets tired and gives up. 

So, let's examine reality.  Imagine that Sun-Tzu, brilliant Chinese general and author of "The Art of War", has fallen through a time warp and finds himself at a computer, RPing with Jared Walker, a 13 year old pimply RPer. Jared is playing as an incredibly high level mage, and Sun-Tzu has a kobold. 

Who should win? In a physical one on one fight, Dragonball-Z style, Sun-Tzu is toast (remember the demon ninja vs. the gnome armed with a sharpened stick?). But life isn't like Dragonball Z. There's more to fighting than just who's strongest.

Use your intellect. David beat Goliath. There's no reason that an umpteenth level mage/Jedi Master/P25 level telepath should be able to beat your kender with a stick/force sensitive kid/barely P1 telepath. This is provided you fight with skill. Sun Tzu's Kobold runs into a forest and slowly wears down Jared's mage, or what have you. In an arm wrestling contest a kender would lose to a dragon. That doesn't mean you have to automatically assume the dragon will win in a real fight. To use a real life example, Britain, everyone thought, could smash the 13 colonies to pieces. 

THREE'S COMPANY, FOUR'S A PARTY.

So far the guide has had a primary focus on one on one fights, but RPing isn't always about one on one fights. There are, of course, different types of group fights. I'll do my best to cover each one fairly. 

Several people against one person
This isn't particularly fair. But it happens. For your average fighter (no spells, telepathy, or guns) that's being attacked by a group, things go strictly turn based for the attackers, and get a bit interesting for the defender. The attackers get one turn, as usual, but the individual gets a chance to react to each post.

So, if the attacking characters are A B and C, and the defending character is Z, then the fight order would be A, Z, B, Z, C, Z, A, Z, and so on. Gunslingers work the same way they usually do, but their accuracy should suffer from overwork. 

For the special cases (spell-users, telepaths and the rest) things are more difficult. You are allowed to move around just like Z did above, but your use of the force, spell or whatever is restricted. You start casting the spell after the first attacker posts. You finish casting that spell when the first attacker posts again. The in between posts give you time to dodge, move around, take damage, throw stuff, or whatever, but the spell has to wait. 

So the battle would occur something like this. A attacks, Z starts casting, B attacks, Z dodges, C attacks, Z dodges, A attacks, Z finishes his spell. It's harsh, but realistic. If three people attack you with knives (not a great mental feat), and you have to try to remember the incantation of Mo-Dem-Lin (a greater mental feat), they've got a distinct edge. 

A group against a group
Each individual picks someone to fight (if several people gang up on one person, that guy is allowed to use the "Several people against one person" rules listed above) and fights as normal. However, you do not have to say with the same fighter through the fight. 

Let's say that A, B, and C are taking on 1, 2, and 3. A attacks 1, B attacks 2, C attacks 3. 1 defends against A's attack, but attacks B instead of A. You're allowed to do that. Mix and match. Remember, you're allowed to reply to each
individual attack against yourself, but you're (usually) only able to attack one other person with each of your posts. 

Spell-casters have to follow the limitations put on them in the "Several people against one person" however. Still, if a spell caster has a group of fighters that can defend him, that group has the edge over a group without a spell caster.

WAR: MORE THAN JUST A CARD GAME.

Let me make this clear, right off the bat. Nobody controls an entire army — well, okay, there's one exception, as listed below. You cannot walk into a room and claim to have the armed forces of the United States of America under your command. It doesn't work like that. There is a limit to how many NPCs you can have under your command, and, generally speaking, it's lame to use your fighting units against someone who doesn't have NPC fighting units (having your 20 Orcs pop out of the woods to attack someone you're having a fight with isn't fair). 

Let me clarify. For each room the amount of units you can have under your control should vary. 10 elven archers should be about the limit in the Silvermoon Forest (or
most of the Fantasy rooms) while in the Star Wars rooms you might want to take control of a squadron of tie fighters.  More powerful units mean you get to control less. Your opponent could have 10 archers to your 5 orcs or one catapult (or your opponent could have a squadron of X-Wings while you have one Star Destroyer). 

Of course, really powerful units should take several turns to use. Five mages would be about as many as a person can RP per turn, and would take as long to cast a spell as mages would usually. A Death Star (besides being lame) would be as many units as a person could control, and would take, oh, 25 turns to charge up (c'mon, it blows up planets). 

Fighting should take place, in a war, between several people, each with a certain amount of units under his/her control. The rules of fighting are the same as the "Group vs. Group" rules above, except that you're allowed to move several units in a single turn.

There is one, and only one, exception for the rule that you're not allowed control an entire army by yourself. Imagine that people in your room have been preparing for weeks for the great Smurfs vs. Transformers war. And only one person wants to play the Smurfs. Then, if everyone is in agreement, that person can take control of the Smurf army. We shall refer to this RPer as the warlord. In this case, the rules are the same as the "Several people against one person" rules, except that you move several units each turn. 

"Hold, take my sword. There's husbandry in heaven—" 
"Um... die!"

What does your skill with writing have to do with whether or not you win a fight? Bit of a touchy subject, this. Theoretically, it shouldn't matter in the least, but let's not fool ourselves. If J.R.R. Tolkien and our friend Jared Walker were both given exactly identical characters, which one would win?

C'mon, admit it. You know who you're rooting for. Tolkien would waste the kid. Likewise, if both were given identical characters again, Jared should be able to wipe out a 4th grader. I'm not saying you have to be Shakespeare to win a fight, but it wouldn't hurt you either.

"No, no, no," you say? "It shouldn't matter at all," you say? Perhaps another example. Imagine, offline, two Dungeon Masters. The first one says something along these lines: "Your guys, they, like, um, walk into the dark room. And there are these five other guys in there. And they shoot at you." 

The other Dungeon Master says Okay "Chummer, your small band of bad-assed mercenaries have managed to make it into the forbidden inner sanctum. But your troubles aren't over. Within this pitch black room are no less than five impressive looking hitmen in Armani suits. They're wearing shades, and packing heat. And as they turn to fire at you...they smile."

Now which DM would you prefer to spend a night with? Probably the second, right? Everyone in the chat room is a DM as far as the others are concerned. If you're the second type of DM, people will likely enjoy themselves more. 

What does this have to do with the fight? Which DM would you say is more skilled? The second? You don't know a thing about how he runs an RP, yet you guessed the
second? So you're saying that you're more inclined to think, just because they can handle ambiance, that they might know more about running an RP? 

It's the same way with the fight. Someone that handles their posts in a complex manner, well, chances are they have a better idea as to what they're doing in the fight. It's not that someone is the better fighter because he/she can type a more detailed post. The better player (and thus, usually the winner) is just more likely to be the one that's put more effort into his/her post. 

TALL FELLOW. SKINNY. CARRIES A SCYTHE. 

You've been told it non-stop. Only you decide if your character dies.

Well, yeah, duh. 

And, um, no.

There are some situations where you just have to croak, where it's lame to do anything else. The most extreme example would be if your character was on the planet when it was blasted by a Death Star. You're the one that has to type "*Dies screaming*," but you don't really have a chance of survival.

Another is, if your character fell into a really deep hole, and someone threw in a dozen short-fuse hand grenades. There are less extreme examples though. Imagine you're disarmed and cornered in a sword fight, for instance, and the other character stabs for your heart. 

If you're put in a situation where, realistically (even within the Fantasy or Sc-Fi definitions of realism) your character can't escape certain death, then you have no right to say "Wait, you can't do that, that would kill my character, and I don't want my character to die!"

No, you say that you've died, lament the loss of a good character, and chalk one up to experience. 

No...don't go!

Oh, but I must. This is the end of the guide — well, in a matter of speaking. I will continue to update it as I feel the need. So check back often. And, if you want to tell
me I've got something all wrong, do so. Write to DamienTobin@hotmail.com, and I'll show your letter to all my friends so we can laugh at it (I'm kidding).

Links:

Illusionary Minds Chat. I hang out in Silvermoon Forest, Babylon 5 chat, and any room I haven't been thrown out of yet. 

The Silvermoon Stories Archive. There are RPs stored here. Good ones. Read and learn. 

Lady Ashlar's RPs. Worth reading if only for the near legendary RP with Kiljoy Ninkogan.