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Old 04-23-2017, 12:23 PM   #11
Kallatari
 
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Default Re: Balanced games for archers

Funny, in my game, I have the reverse problem. I have to arrange combats so that opponents get into melee range before the archers take them down, giving the melee fighters something to do. (I also have very complex terrain for most of my fights, so there are numerous ways for ranged attackers to take advantage of terrain – and ditto for melee.)

Breaking down the archer attack, it’s a series of the following maneuvers:
1 – Ready: to draw the arrow
2 – Ready: to nock the arrow into the bow
3 – Ready: to draw the bow Edit: this is an additional Ready required when using the optional The Deadly Spring rules
4 – Attack: to release the arrow

This technically lets you attack 1 per 4 turns. You can, in between 3 and 4, add as many Aim maneuvers as you want to get a bonus to hit.

By the rules, the first Ready maneuver can be skipped with a Fast-Draw roll, reducing the attack rate to 1 per 3 turns. There’s also a rule that lets you skip the fourth action: you can release immediately after your draw (after the Ready #3), but this gives you a -6 penalty to hit (and consequently, since you release immediately you also can’t Aim). I can’t remember where it’s from… I think it was GURPS Martial Arts. This therefore allows you to attack 1 per 2 turns, by the rules, but at -6 to hit and without the ability to Aim.

In House Rules mode, I personally allow an All-Out (Double Ready) to merge maneuvers 2 and 3 together. With this house rule, this means the archer can shoot once per turn if he makes his Fast-Draw, takes an All-Out (Double), accepts a -6 penalty to the hit roll, and doesn’t Aim. Edit: This only applies when using the Deadly Spring where an extra Ready is required to actually draw the bow. In the Basic rules, that maneuver is not required and you would be able to attack once per turn at -6 without taking an All-Out.

Obviously, the problem is then hitting. If you can’t Aim, and you’re at -6, you need a really good skill. And that’s something the PCs in my game have. The worse archer has a skill of 20. You’ll need those skill levels to pull this type of cinematics offs.

Also, the Heroic Archer trait is a must. Basically, Gunslinger for bows. Lets you get the bow’s Accuracy bonus without Aiming. Most of my players have expensive bows with at least Accuracy 3. Of course, Heroic Archer may not be available in your campaign… if you allow Trained By a Master, you should allow Heroic Archer.

As to damage being less than melee, my players deal with that with better targeted attacks. They aim for the face (often doesn’t have any DR) or for chinks in armor to the vitals (-10 to hit), etc. Again, this comes down to having a good skill (or the Targeted Attack technique to cancel hit location penalties.

Hope that helped.

Last edited by Kallatari; 04-23-2017 at 04:02 PM.
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Old 04-23-2017, 12:36 PM   #12
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Default Re: Balanced games for archers

What environments are you fighting in that make it so easy to get into melee range? Environment is a huge factor. If every fight begins from 5 yards away or less, then it will be very difficult for ranged weapons to be competitive.

So the main difference is to make sure there’s ways to start fights from further away. If you know who the enemy is and can launch an attack then you should probably be choosing the distance that suits you. If the party is melee-heavy, then enemies who see them should probably notice their lack of ranged weapons (most ranged weapons are pretty noticeable) and so begin their fights from a safe distance.

This is true even of guys who are better at melee than at range, because it’s a chance to wound or disable a couple of enemies before the melee combat begins. The side with ranged superiority should never close the distance unless there is a clear benefit for doing so, because ranged superiority is “we can attack you while you can’t attack us.” We might be better in melee, but we’ll be just as good in melee if the melee starts after a few rounds of us shooting you or throwing things at you than if we move into melee range early.

Hopefully your party will notice and adopt some of those tricks – and give them a few melee-only opponents now and then so they can be the ones benefiting from those tactics.

If we have ranged weapons and our enemies don’t, then let’s put a fence in the way. Barricades, cover positions, caltrops, bear traps – anything to make it difficult to get into melee range. Plan around, “it’s about 30 yards to the fence (1 or 2 aimed shots in the time to cover that), about 5-10 seconds to tear through the barricades (another 1-3 aimed shots), then another 10-15 yards to where the archers are (maybe 1 aimed shot?).” However, if the players come up with clever countermeasures, let them.

Archers will shine in those circumstances, because they can do the counter-sniping. The melee guys will face some downtime though.

If one side gets to ambush the other, seeing the other side first, then they get to choose the range of the engagement. They also get to have crossbows loaded, and so on. Crossbowmen who shoot and then run. Melee PCs can try to chase them, but with no guarantee of catching them, and during the chase the melee guys might be facing downtime while the archers are able to draw and shoot. So much of the time spent loading and aiming for archers is spent chasing for the melee guys.

Essentially, remember opponents don’t want to get killed, so if the main threat is melee they will avoid melee. Sure the group can try to force them into melee, but time spent doing that will be time the archers can spend aiming and shooting without “missing” several rounds of combat.
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Old 04-23-2017, 12:39 PM   #13
PK
 
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Default Re: Balanced games for archers

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Originally Posted by malloyd View Post
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.
That would just be Heroic Archer with an Accessibility limitation for range -- probably "only at range 2 or less" since that's where range penalties are no longer a factor. I'm not certain what the value of that would be; my gut is somewhere in the -20% to -30% range.
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Old 04-23-2017, 12:39 PM   #14
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Default Re: Balanced games for archers

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kallatari View Post
Breaking down the archer attack, it’s a series of the following maneuvers:
1 – Ready: to draw the arrow
2 – Ready: to nock the arrow into the bow
3 – Ready: to draw the bow
4 – Attack: to release the arrow

In House Rules mode, I personally allow an All-Out (Double Ready) to merge maneuvers 2 and 3 together.
You don't need a house rule. your steps 2 and 3 are already a single Ready maneuver. See Basic p. 383.

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Old 04-23-2017, 12:43 PM   #15
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Default Re: Balanced games for archers

Also, consider allowing a variant of the Rapid Reload extra effort stunt (found in Action, ATE, etc.) -- for 1 FP, this lets gunmen reload as a free action. You could keep this balanced for archers by requiring a successful Fast-Draw (Arrow) roll and/or requiring a special perk to use it. (Yes, it's potent, but it also eats away FP quickly; I've found it balanced in comparison to other extra efforts.)
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Old 04-23-2017, 02:00 PM   #16
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Default Re: Balanced games for archers

Thanks everyone for the replies! I'll have to take some time to process it but here are some more details on my game:

1) It's a post-apocalyptic game (thanks PK for After-The-End! :) ). Guns are fairly rare so far (since not too many settlements can repair them and manufacture/acquire bullets), so most combats so far have been using Low-Tech gear. The power level is medium-heroic (150 points), but I try to keep the "cinematic" stuff to a minimum. It's not "gritty realism", but it's not too far from it.

2) Environment is Pacific Northwest rocky mountains. This is not a "nuclear wasteland" world, so there's lots of tree and wilderness (albeit mutated in some places). So a mix of open fields and dense rain forest and what not.

3) Starting combat from far away, and having NPCs that are also non-melee fighters (psis/ranged/tacticians/etc.) is good advice, and fits what I thought I needed to do. However there have been a couple of combats that start as an ambush on the road, so this means "starting the combat from far away" doesn't work there (which is the whole point of the ambush so I guess that works!)

4) Note that I _don't_ want to make archers more powerful or anything. I want to make them _interesting_. Again, the main problem so far is in relation to the _players_ who, when they play archers, spend half their turns (at best) not doing anything interesting besides maybe a Fast-Draw roll. It's not necessarily about making the characters do more, it's about making the players do more. And, like I said, it's not necessarily a problem with the rules, and it's maybe entirely a problem of how I design the combats, and of what the players know about what they can/should do.

Any comments on being able to reload a bow while moving? (as per Basic Set, you can only step)

Last edited by lordabdul; 04-23-2017 at 02:03 PM.
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Old 04-23-2017, 02:15 PM   #17
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Default Re: Balanced games for archers

Quote:
Originally Posted by Railstar View Post
If we have ranged weapons and our enemies don’t, then let’s put a fence in the way. Barricades, cover positions, caltrops, bear traps – anything to make it difficult to get into melee range. Plan around, “it’s about 30 yards to the fence (1 or 2 aimed shots in the time to cover that), about 5-10 seconds to tear through the barricades (another 1-3 aimed shots), then another 10-15 yards to where the archers are (maybe 1 aimed shot?).”
It occurs to me that:

1) 30 yards away gives -7 to shooting. Even with All-Out Attack, you probably need to aim a round or two to be able to effectively target a limb (like I said, shooting arrows at torsos is ineffective because it probably takes 2 arrows to get an NPC to half move, whereas you can cripple a leg in one arrow).

2) On a pure gaming practicality aspect, most combat mats I've seen don't have enough room to handle scenes that require a, say, 50 yards radius... so it means either starting the combat scene without the minis for the ranged combat preamble, and then taking out the mat/minis when everybody gets closer... or somehow use a different scale/mat for the beginning of the combat, or something like. It's clearly possible, but that just never occured to me before :)


Quote:
Originally Posted by Railstar View Post
Melee PCs can try to chase them, but with no guarantee of catching them, and during the chase the melee guys might be facing downtime while the archers are able to draw and shoot. So much of the time spent loading and aiming for archers is spent chasing for the melee guys.
Well that's the problem I think -- and why I'm considering this "All-Out Ready" maneuver... how can the archers keep their distance from the melee guys running at them? They can't reload their bow while running away... so they either have to run away (doing nothing else) until they somehow get in a place where they can spare standing still for a round so they can reload... otherwise you basically have characters running after each other in a silly way until someone runs out of FP?
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Old 04-23-2017, 02:19 PM   #18
lordabdul
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kallatari View Post
Funny, in my game, I have the reverse problem. I have to arrange combats so that opponents get into melee range before the archers take them down, giving the melee fighters something to do.
How far do you start your combats? It sounds like your archers would have to be at least 50 yards away when they start taking out NPCs running towards them?

And +1 to PK^H^H^H Edge's comment -- you have one too many rounds spent loading the arrow. Without any custom things like perks and Fast-Draw(Arrow) and whatever, the basic rate of fire for bows is once every 3 turns (1 turn to draw the arrow, 1 turn to ready the bow, then 1 turn attacking without any accuracy bonus, but no penalty).

Last edited by lordabdul; 04-23-2017 at 04:17 PM.
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Old 04-23-2017, 02:26 PM   #19
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Default Re: Balanced games for archers

Quote:
Originally Posted by lordabdul View Post
2) On a pure gaming practicality aspect, most combat mats I've seen don't have enough room to handle scenes that require a, say, 50 yards radius... so it means either starting the combat scene without the minis for the ranged combat preamble, and then taking out the mat/minis when everybody gets closer.
That's how I generally handled lost distance fights in my face to face games. "These guys are 100 yards away and they'll get on the map in 10 seconds." You can condense the turns, too, if the bad guys are just running forward and the PCs are either waiting for them or firing arrows.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lordabdul View Post
how can the archers keep their distance from the melee guys running at them?
The melee PCs are in a line of battle with the PC archers on the flanks. As the enemy melee types close, the PC archers shoot and step back. If the enemy melee types run past the PC melee types, the PC melee types hit them from behind. If the enemy melee types do the sensible thing and engage the PC melee types, the PC archers run past them for a round or two and turn and shoot them in the back.

Good tactics make up for a lot of apparent difficulties.
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Old 04-23-2017, 02:54 PM   #20
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Default Re: Balanced games for archers

Quote:
Originally Posted by lordabdul View Post
It occurs to me that:

1) 30 yards away gives -7 to shooting. Even with All-Out Attack, you probably need to aim a round or two to be able to effectively target a limb (like I said, shooting arrows at torsos is ineffective because it probably takes 2 arrows to get an NPC to half move, whereas you can cripple a leg in one arrow).

2) On a pure gaming practicality aspect, most combat mats I've seen don't have enough room to handle scenes that require a, say, 50 yards radius... so it means either starting the combat scene without the minis for the ranged combat preamble, and then taking out the mat/minis when everybody gets closer... or somehow use a different scale/mat for the beginning of the combat, or something like. It's clearly possible, but that just never occured to me before :)



Well that's the problem I think -- and why I'm considering this "All-Out Ready" maneuver... how can the archers keep their distance from the melee guys running at them? They can't reload their bow while running away... so they either have to run away (doing nothing else) until they somehow get in a place where they can spare standing still for a round so they can reload... otherwise you basically have characters running after each other in a silly way until someone runs out of FP?
The range penalties are a little harsher than I remember (for some reason I assumed it was 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 rather than 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 15, 22, 33). However, the idea is that some of those rounds spent aiming are also spent moving up for the melee guys. Aiming a round or two is fine under those circumstances, the rounds will probably go faster if it's melee guy moving and ranged guy aiming.

Also focus fire. It probably takes 2 shots in the torso to get someone to half-move, so have two people shoot him.

As for the hit-and-run tactics, it depends how much armour each side has. I'd assume the melee guys would be more heavily equipped, or maybe the ambushers have hidden some of their gear in a concealed stash so they will be less encumbered than the PCs. Or they lead the chasing party into disadvantageous ground or hazards or traps (have them take a strange route and see if the PCs try to mimic the route or take a shortcut).

If there's more of them, they could scatter, and therefore the melee guys can't chase everyone. The ones not being chased can then continue shooting.

Or, they can stick together while running. If only the faster party members can catch them, then that faster party member has left the rest of the group behind, which means the enemy can turn and gang up on the one guy who managed to catch us.

In Pathfinder, I used to use Bleeding Attack with hit-and-run tactics, because enemies would keep taking damage while chasing me. I know the bleeding rules for GURPS are not quite so brutal, or if you use them, but you could create a "chase" encounter in which an extended pursuit could lead to HT rolls for bleeding damage or similar problems.

And by the way, give the PCs chance to use similar tactics against their foes where appropriate. Have your NPCs act suitably irate when it happens.
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