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Old 10-03-2017, 06:54 AM   #1
robertsconley
 
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Default Simple Combat Balance Question.

Given a four person adventuring group, how many skeletons (page 47-48) in a single encounter they could be expected to take out? For example 100 probably would swamp any group. While one would highly likely be taken out quickly. Somewhere in between there is a range where the odds are 50-50 of the group surviving the encounter.

I remember reading a statement about this several years ago when the first Dungeon Fantasy was released but for the life of me can't find it.
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Old 10-03-2017, 08:33 AM   #2
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Default Re: Simple Combat Balance Question.

It always depends on party composition and setup, but some rough guidelines:

Melee characters usually have access to good cutting attacks (which affect skeletons normally), while crushing attacks do really well, so martial artists (or really anyone who can swing a punch) tend to love skeletons.

For a four person group with the classic Knight - Cleric - Thief - Wizard

It's important to address the Cleric first, as they can change the entire combat situation with skeletons.

If your Cleric isn't the kind who uses the Turning ability or the Turn Zombie spell (and doesn't have Contingency Casting in his bag of tricks), he's likely still an able melee combatant, and can probably kill a skeleton every other turn, rather than merely cripple one. If he wields a mace or morning star (a good choice for smashing the undead!) he'll be in his home element. If he's swinging a pick, he'll probably be very unhappy.

If your Cleric is the kind that zorches the undead, they may render almost any number of melee skeletons pointless; just stand them off at a distance with Turning while your allies lazily throw rocks at them. If the skeletons have bows, this is more touchy! However, Turn Zombie can finish off (or rout!) a lot of skeletons in its Area of effect! the 4 second casting time means that you'll be looking at least at 4 seconds of fight before he pops that, so keep that in mind.

The knight is probably going to be plowing through skeletons like they're popcorn - if he's got a crushing attack, I'd expect him to kill basically a skeleton on the first hit. So if you want a fight to last five or six seconds, he needs at least five or six skeletons to himself. If he likes to make Rapid Strikes or Extra Attacks (as many Knights do), you could be looking at twice that.

If the wizard has a staff, they have a swing crushing attack - excellent against skeletons! If they have spells like Flame Jet, they're going to be in good shape mixing it up in melee anyways. I'd expect them to be crippling a skeleton every other turn, or doing very well "mopping up" skeletons that took a lot of damage from the Knight but survived (one per turn).
If they are the explody-spell type of wizard, all the elemental spells do damage nicely to skeletons, so that suit him too. This could potentially be a lot of skeletons in one big burst, but then he'd be either out of the fight, or back to poking with his weapon.

The Thief is in the most painful place because many thieves rely on stabbing things, and Skeletons don't respect that. Stick to the swing cutting attacks on his blades, if they have them. A knife wielding thief may actually be better off "backstabbing" with their Brawling skill of 15 and a boot to a skeletons backside!
Due to the Thief's combat effectiveness being so dependent on positioning, he's probably stuck with taking down a skeleton every two or three turns if he has a bunch of Expert Backstabbing. If he doesn't, not so good.
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Last edited by Bruno; 10-03-2017 at 08:37 AM.
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Old 10-03-2017, 10:32 AM   #3
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Default Re: Simple Combat Balance Question.

It also depends heavily on the tactical situation -- how much ability do the skeletons have to move to flank. If the skeletons have to come one at a time (narrow passage or bridge) you'll probably get bored of the fight long before the PCs are in any real danger.
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Old 10-03-2017, 11:03 AM   #4
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Default Re: Simple Combat Balance Question.

IME, running a four-character group at 125 points, no turning, and skeletons dropping at 0 HP, they had absolutely no problem with four skeletons, with either no losses in HP or FP or trivial losses. (Zombies, however, gave them fits, but they did beat them with no losses other than HP and FP, though those were much higher, and made sure they fled when they saw the demon-summoning evil cleric who was just past the skeletons.) I would imagine that a 2-to-1 ratio would cause some problems, but be beatable at 125 points. At 250 points, I'm going to guess a 3- to 5-to-1 ratio would be the spot if there isn't turning. At higher levels, your scenario of 4 heroes against 100 skeletons isn't outrageous at all, even without turning. These guys just aren't tough.
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Old 10-03-2017, 11:52 AM   #5
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Default Re: Simple Combat Balance Question.

Some possible examples from my characters (all DF made):

Jednesa (an Ogre Barbarian) could probably stand all day surrounded by Skeles and happily smash them, alone, without any friends. She's DR 10 buck naked (which is how she prefers it), her fists alone do 3d+3 and her mace probably smashes them on even really low damage rolls (5d+9!). But that Evil Cleric with mind control spells? Yeah, he's he weakness...

Then there's Stenet (Dwarf Holy Warrior). Solid armored DR 6, so he won't be ignoring them, but he's also got solid Block skills. He does adequate damage, 2d+1 cut with an axe. He can't stand around all day mobbed by skeles, but that's not his job. His job is to go cut down that Evil Mind Controlling Cleric... (he has quite frankly impressive Resistance to Evil Supernatural powers)...

Then we have Ulo (Troll Wizard). Low DR means she wants to avoid standing around getting hit and her only real spells aren't high enough to be truly impressive. As a backline skirmisher, she needs to avoid being surrounded and mobbed at all costs!


My only DFRPG character:

Argua (Premade from the GM's Screen): She can stand around getting mildly mobbed, decent armor, likely to drop 2 Skeles per turn. However she will be taking damage so she can't do this all day. And her defenses are garbage, so she really needs to be dropping 2 (if not 3) Skeles a turn. She embodies the old saw "the best defense is a good offense".
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Old 10-04-2017, 08:00 AM   #6
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Default Re: Simple Combat Balance Question.

Thanks for the responses they have been helpful.
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Old 10-04-2017, 06:39 PM   #7
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Default Re: Simple Combat Balance Question.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruno View Post

The knight is probably going to be plowing through skeletons like they're popcorn - if he's got a crushing attack, I'd expect him to kill basically a skeleton on the first hit.
I agree with Bruno's excellent post, except for one addition: if your Knight doesn't have a crushing attack, shame. A Knight's primary job is to be really excellent at combat in general, so a Knight should be prepared for every kind of enemy that is reasonably bashable. That definitely includes enemies that are especially vulnerable to crushing damage. Every Knight should have some kind of crushing attack. A sling is a decent choice for a ranged weapon if there's a Scout around, because a Scout is going to pincushion anything that's vulnerable to ranged impaling anyway, so might as well diversify. A crowbar is also a generally useful thing to carry, for smashing doors and chests that you wouldn't want to bend your primary weapon on, as well as the occasional skeleton. Even if a Knight goes for the one-weapon-at-skill-20 option, one lousy quirk point put into a backup weapon skill goes pretty far with high ST and DX, way better than swinging at default.
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Old 10-04-2017, 06:58 PM   #8
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Default Re: Simple Combat Balance Question.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dripton View Post
Even if a Knight goes for the one-weapon-at-skill-20 option, one lousy quirk point put into a backup weapon skill goes pretty far with high ST and DX, way better than swinging at default.
Nah, just use the crushing weapon within your speciality. Your choices, based on primary weapon type:
  • Axe/Mace: mace
  • Broadsword: light club
  • Flail: already crushing
  • Polearm: poleaxe, or maul at polearm-4, or staff at polearm-4
  • Shortsword: baton
  • Spear: use staff at spear-2
  • Two-Handed Sword: use quarterstaff 2-handed.
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Old 10-05-2017, 07:52 AM   #9
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Default Re: Simple Combat Balance Question.

On the one hand, crushing attacks are the damage type that suffers the fewest modifications from special enemies. There will inevitably be some kind of rubbery enemy that halves crushing injury (or something like that) but overall it's pretty reliable.

Of course on the other claw you don't (usually) get nice wounding bonuses the way cutting and impaling do, except on things like Skeletons with special weaknesses.

On the gripping hand, almost everything that takes bonus damage from impaling has a brain, and a crushing attack to the brain gets x4 damage just like everything else. :)
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Old 10-05-2017, 08:17 AM   #10
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Default Re: Simple Combat Balance Question.

Crushing attacks get a bad rap. With weapons, two things to remember are (1) you want swing damage whenever possible, and (2) you want big damage adds. A nice thing about crushing weapons is that you can meet these goals on the cheap and end up with something heavy enough that your poor delver won't need a replacement. Of course, these are good goals for almost any adventurer to try to meet.



On the subject of smashing hordes of undead: In the fantasy campaign that inspired GURPS Dungeon Fantasy and ultimately the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game, dumb skeletons and zombies that just walked directly to the nearest opponent and started swinging were rarely challenging on the basis of numbers per se. When the players had the delvers circle up or get their backs to something, no number of such foes were a problem – boredom was. When the players insisted on the heroes running around willy-nilly, even a few such enemies were a problem, because someone always ended up surrounded. And when the undead cooperated and used sneaky tactics, all bets were off.

The wildcards were critical hits by the undead and critical failures on the heroes' defenses. Those could be bad. Luck makes the biggest difference here. In this situation, for two groups of delvers of equal size, each with $1,000 apiece in gear, I'd bet on a group of 150- to 200-point heroes, all of whom have Luck, before I'd bet on a group of 250-point heroes, none of whom have Luck. Luck is disproportionately effective in such situations. After that comes armor.
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