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Old 04-23-2017, 01:20 AM   #1
lordabdul
 
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Default Balanced games for archers

Hi everyone,

So I'm GMing a game where most of the party are melee fighters (axe, quarterstaff, sword, etc.) but a couple are ranged fighters (bow). I'm having some trouble balancing the game to make combats interesting for the archers.

There are 2 different problems to solve, it seems:

1) Designing enemy groups and combat situations that make archers an undeniable asset to reach victory without losses
2) Using the proper rules (including maybe house rules) to prevent more downtime for archers than for melee fighters.

For the first problem, I'm really open to ideas and suggestions. It looks like, first, I should have NPCs reflect the PCs, by having a few archers on the opposite side too, so archers can fight each other, potentially. Second, I could try to make even the melee NPCs move more tactically, in a way that makes it harder for the melee PCs to hit them, and is therefore advantageous to have someone with a bow aiming from a distance and shooting them so that the melee PCs can get at them.
Any other tactics or NPC design things I should know?

For the second problem, I'm not sure yet. Melee characters do move and/or attack every turn, pretty much. Sure, things like move and attack give them penalties that make it less likely for them to succeed, but at least the players are _doing_ something (rolling dice, describing actions, etc.). In comparison, archers typically do something once every 3 or 4 turns. Maybe once every _other_ turn if they have (and succeed at) "Fast-Draw (Arrow)" and _don't_ aim (but frankly it's better to aim at least one turn unless you are in a high-powered game). So that's a lot of turns spent not doing much, which some players get frustrated about. I'm wondering if I'm missing something there that would make it less boring to play archers? I was considering an "All-Out Ready" maneuver that lets you perform a "Ready" maneuver as usual, but with your full move in exchange for no defenses until next turn. This is because I feel it's quite hard in GURPS to play a character with a ranged weapon that would, say, aim and shoot from a position, and then quickly get to another position and shoot from there, and then move again and shoot from another position. Running between 2 cover positions while reloading a bow or gun seems like a sensible and realistic thing to do, but it seems the rules force you to stop for a turn? Or am I missing something?

A related problem is also the difference in average damage-per-turn -- I'm not sure an archer can ever rival someone with a good melee weapon there, but I guess that's OK, because they have the advantage of not being in the melee with NPCs hitting them... but that's not super awesome when you can't be too far either because of distance penalties... so the NPCs can get to you in a couple turns at most. That's where, it seems, archers are a lot less frustrating if you use location rules: it's easy (or at less hard) to cripple an NPC with an arrow to the leg and stay out of reach, but not so much when arrow damage goes to the torso (which means the archer has to aim to buy off the penalty of aiming a limb! Which goes back to the problem of spending too many turns not doing anything!). But maybe, again, I'm missing something? How do you use your bows in your games?

Thanks!

Last edited by lordabdul; 04-23-2017 at 01:25 AM.
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Old 04-23-2017, 01:55 AM   #2
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Default Re: Balanced games for archers

Archers already have it too good. If they want to inflict just as much damage and have just as many attacks as the melee PCs then they should get up close and take the same risks as the melee PCs. If they want to hang back and suffer no risk of being attacked then that comes with reduced participation in the fighting.
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Old 04-23-2017, 01:57 AM   #3
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Default Re: Balanced games for archers

Depends on the kind of game you want to run :)

If your running something a little more cinematic, opening up advantages like heroic archer, strong bow and Weapon Master (Bow) can certainly bring that back in like.

If your going for the gritty realisim, then the problem is largely irreducible because archers and infantry are really discrete and different units with different application. I find the Cinematic DF type to be the more entertaining case so lets look at that one a bit.

'Mirror Matches' where the NPCs line up with the PCS in strength and number are neat but probably better as a change up than a general solution. Better still to look at whats going on there and understand a few things.

Range is great, but combat need not be a binary value of melee or bow, there are lots of muscle powered range weapons in the middle that can fill htat range gap. Axes (WHICH I LOVE), spears, daggers etc can all be used so its not just sniper v sniper with a seperate melee goin on in the middle but a more interesting set of enemies that Melee COULD close on OR missle COULD with, but which ones, and how many and who does it makes for a more interesting tactical set of decisions.

Since you cant reallly talk about range with out at least discussing the rate at which range changes, you have to look at Basic Move as well. High Basic Moves can escape Melee fairly quickly and will likely HAVE to be cut down by ranged weapons. More over, those enemies that can run fast can close the gaps on bowmen quicker and become an immediate issue.

As to the damage, well it depends on your archers skill, ST, and the DR of the opponents. Letting the archers up the ST via strongbow is good for DR and high skill will let you target weaker locations even at increased range. Remember those speedy foes we mentioned above are NORMALLY not encumbered by heavy DR (aka Agile but Fragile).

Target Value is also important, so try to vary your enemies. Is it better for the archer to take the shot at the Mage who is on the 2nd turn of growing a fireball or is that arrow, in that second of action, better spent on the knee of an ogre whos getting the best of your ally? Again these are the sorts of tactical fun that bring out the 'game' side of RPGing and are alot of fun to play :)

Finally, how many opponents are there? We know that melee can be quickly overcome by a high number of even comparatively weak foes. For archers, withering an inbound horde so that by the time the battle is joined there is a manageable number left, AND at what point should the archers draw steel and join the fray is an interesting question.

It would help to describe the situation if we knew the Bow Skill and DMG to help prescirbe some suitable opponents also :)

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Old 04-23-2017, 02:31 AM   #4
simply Nathan
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Default Re: Balanced games for archers

Quote:
Originally Posted by DanHoward View Post
Archers already have it too good. If they want to inflict just as much damage and have just as many attacks as the melee PCs then they should get up close and take the same risks as the melee PCs. If they want to hang back and suffer no risk of being attacked then that comes with reduced participation in the fighting.
Yeah, you could just do what videogame RPGs tend to do and just ignore range and ammunition as factors both ways.
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Old 04-23-2017, 07:24 AM   #5
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Default Re: Balanced games for archers

Starting combat outside of melee range gives archers a chance to wear down the approaching combatants before the melee fighters get a chance to fight. Priority targets that either stay out of melee (enemy archers, spellcasters, and warlord-types) or that you really don't want to reach melee (giant ogres swinging tree stumps) also give the archers foes to engage that the melee characters don't really have the option of going after. If your melee players are insistent on rushing headlong into battle with Move and Attack and similar, have their foes actually capitalize on their reduced defenses - after being (hopefully non-fatally) cut down a couple times, they'll be more willing to hang back and let the archers get a bit of the limelight. Martial Arts has rules on Quick-Shooting Bows, allowing you to draw and shoot in the same turn, albeit at a penalty. On Target (Pyramid #3/77), on the other hand, changes Aim from "skip my turn" to something like an attack roll, where success gives you a better chance to hit next round than even baseline Aim does, and where critical success can turn Aim into a free action (so you can Aim and shoot in the same turn). If you want to be able to do multiple things at once in a turn, this system might be of use. The previous post on the blog goes through how I came up with it, so if you want something a bit simpler, those musings might be of use
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Old 04-23-2017, 07:33 AM   #6
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Default Re: Balanced games for archers

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Originally Posted by simply Nathan View Post
Yeah, you could just do what videogame RPGs tend to do and just ignore range and ammunition as factors both ways.
Maybe you can just turn it into a melee weapon - imagine a Melee Bow skill that lets you use a bow as a weapon without a ready maneuver or available arrows to "reload", doesn't take range penalties, but has a maximum range of 5 hexes or so. Effectively it's a virtual pole arm or long jet. No it isn't remotely realistic, but that's sort of the point.
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Old 04-23-2017, 07:51 AM   #7
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Default Re: Balanced games for archers

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Maybe you can just turn it into a melee weapon - imagine a Melee Bow skill that lets you use a bow as a weapon without a ready maneuver or available arrows to "reload", doesn't take range penalties, but has a maximum range of 5 hexes or so. Effectively it's a virtual pole arm or long jet. No it isn't remotely realistic, but that's sort of the point.
Dungeon Fantasy 11: Power Ups has Bow Fencer for the Scout, which allows you to use Bow to strike with your bow and arrow in melee, as a baton for the bow and as a dagger for the arrow, without breaking anything.
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Old 04-23-2017, 08:02 AM   #8
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Default Re: Balanced games for archers

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Originally Posted by Varyon View Post
Dungeon Fantasy 11: Power Ups has Bow Fencer for the Scout, which allows you to use Bow to strike with your bow and arrow in melee, as a baton for the bow and as a dagger for the arrow, without breaking anything.
That's too realistic.

What you actually want out of this is the *imagery* of drawing the bowstring back and launching an arrow, but the *performance* of a melee weapon - you need it to be as fast as swinging a sword and limited to ranges opponents with melee weapons have a chance to fight back at.
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Old 04-23-2017, 09:10 AM   #9
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Default Re: Balanced games for archers

Basically in a typical "dungeon crawl" or similar fantasy adventure the effect of archers depends a lot on the point levels.

At low point levels the archers will struggle to even hit a target due to range penalties and the slow rate of fire makes them even less effective.

At medium levels (like basic DF) archers are overwhelming killing machines a lot of the time, they have the skills to target eyes for one hit drops of targets, they can run away and still hit well and have high rate of fire.

At higher levels the archers are again limited as the targets will be more and more immune, being able to target eyes does not help a lot against targets with no eyes and more and more targets are unliving/homogenous making the impaling damage type based on thrust damage quite bad compared to melee characters that can do swing damage and tend to do cutting damage.

At the low and high things the total value of archery is about right as they are in turn away from the enemies and so targeted by fewer attacks. At the medium level archers tend to be overpowered overall.

AS to what you can do in the lower bracket if you think that the balance is not ok: there are many things in Martial arts that can help. Start by reading the "Quick-Shooting Bows" on page 119.
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Old 04-23-2017, 11:38 AM   #10
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Default Re: Balanced games for archers

Uh - what kind of campaign do you run?

Are the pc soldiers who face their enemies mainly on the battlefield?

Or are they the classical party who roam the land and look for trouble?
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