[MUD-Dev] Re: Combat Was Re: Leaving characters in play

Adam Wiggins adam at angel.com
Wed May 27 10:34:35 New Zealand Standard Time 1998

On Wed, 27 May 1998, Travis S. Casey wrote:
> On Monday, 18 May 98, Orion Henry <orionZ at netcom.com> wrote:
> > -- Action times varry and are reasonable to the weight of the weapon vs.
> > the strength and speed of the attacker... thus an oger with a tree will
> > execute his swings less frequently than an elf with a rapier.
> I'd think that they should also depend on how the weapon is used -- a
> thrusting weapon like a rapier is generally faster to attack with than
> a swinging weapon like a sabre.  Further, the time to make an attack


> depends on more than just the time to move the weapon in an attacking
> motion -- the character may have to move into range to make the
> attack.  This can make a considerable difference.
> For example, a rapier is much heavier than a dagger, but the character
> wielding the rapier has a much greater reach.  The dagger-wielder
> would have to be much faster than the rapier-wielder to attack first,
> because he/she has to be able to move around the rapier and into
> striking range.

Range is handled seperately in our system.  Moving forward and backwards
are character states just the same way as an attack.  The character can
either manually move forward or back (via the "press" and "retreat"
commands), or set an ideal range (via the "range" command).
This is useful for a number of things:
- While in state "circling opponent", the two fighters are just outside
each other's ranges.  When they close to attack range they begin a flurry
of blows lasting two to ten RL seconds, before they stumble apart and
begin circling once again.  This provides pacing to the combat without
making it like clockwork.  That is, the players have a large amount of
control over the pacing of combat.  Two berserkers fighting would never be
in the "circle" state.
- If your opponent is wielding a thrusting weapon, pressing is very
dangerous, especially if you press quickly.  Imagine the guy with the
dagger pressing on the guy with the awl-pike; if he's not careful, he'll
get spitted.
- If you are inside your opponent's weapon's effective range, they end up
smacking you on the back with the butt end or hilt of it.  Fights between
different fighting styles thus often focus around the combatants trying to
keep their opponent at their ideal range - think of Bruce Lee vs. Kareem
Abdul Jabar.  Given a guy with a dagger and a gal with a longsword, the
dagger wielder is going to try to get in close where the longsword will be
mostly useless.  The longsword-wielder is going to try to keep the
dagger-wielder at a distance where his dagger will be ineffective.

But in response to the original point, above, range is handled seperately,
and therefore not calculated into speed of attack.  In the example Orion
gave, the elf would spend quite a bit of time trying to get into range of
the ogre to make an attack, since the range of the tree greatly exceeds
that of the rapier.

> > -- All blows land unless something is done about it (duck, parry).  Most
> > blows that land will be fatal or near fatal unless they landed on, say,
> > your helmet instead of your head.
> This is a very interesting aspect, IMHO -- it completely breaks with
> RPG conventions.  However, I can't say that I'd feel comfortable with
> it.  I've done a great deal of sparring, fencing, etc., and it simply
> doesn't fit with my experience.  There are several reasons why attacks
> miss in combat, even when no attempt to block or dodge is made:

The above statement is in light of attacking someone who is unconscious or
otherwise immobile.  If someone is conscious, they will always "do
something about it".  You can't help it - it's a flinch reaction.  Even
someone that has never seen a sword before will try to either get out of
the way, or at the least throw up their arms in order to take the blow on
a less vital part of their body.

> - The attacker may misjudge the distance, resulting in an attack that
>   doesn't make it to the target.

If I'm attacking a corpse or a practice dummy, this ought to almost NEVER
happen, unless I am:
- blind
- the world's worst klutz
- wielding a weapon I can barely lift
- all of the above

At the age of 8 I played tee-ball, and I never had a problem hitting the
~10 cm ball with a bat.  As an adult with fully developed motor skills
wielding that same bat and attempting to hit a target approximately fifty
times larger than that ball, I will be extremely confused and upset if I
miss more than one time in a hundred.

> - The defender may move, not because he/she is trying to defend, but
>   for other reasons -- e.g., as part of the circling for position that
>   often happens in combat, in preparation for an attack, or the
>   "defender" may make an attack at the same time.

As I said, if they are conscious, they will try to defend, regardless of
what state they are in.  (This may involve them flubbing up their current
state, ie an attack or something else.)

> - Bad luck/inattention to the environment.  An attacker may stumble,
>   trip, slip, etc.

Essentially a critical fumble.  Should happen, but not often, especially
to an experienced fighter.  Otherwise the game is just frustrating.

> - Tension.  An inexperienced combatant tends to tense up, or even to
>   become shaky.  Adrenalin changes the speed of one's reflexes and
>   makes one stronger, able to move the weapon around faster.
>   Unfortunately, since a new combatant isn't used to these effects,
>   he/she can't compensate for them, and may miss even an easy target.

Also modeled seperately.  This is the same set of variables that will
cause you to go into a berserker rage, or 'lock up' under stress, or any
number of effects.  In other words, stuff JC hates. <wink>

> - In anything more than a one-on-one duel, things are even worse.  An
>   attacker can be accidentally bumped by someone else or distracted or
>   startled by something happening nearby.

Also modeled seperately.  Multi-person meleees are, in our system, total
freakin' chaos, unless you have an extremely well coordinated team going
after a single target, and even then things get confused quickly.

> As one gains experience in combat, one becomes less likely to make
> these mistakes, and thus, more likely to hit the defender.

Naturally.  But the last thing we wanted was for newbies to be total
klutzes - fighting someone of an equivilent skill level shouldn't be a
three-stooges routine.

% attack newbie
You swing your dagger at the newbie.
Dang it!  You tripped!
You pick yourself up off the ground.
The newbie dives at you, but misses completely and lands in a heap on the
You swing your dagger at the newbie.
Butterfingers!  The dagger flies from your grasp and sticks into a nearby

Very frustrating, and IMO not that believable.  Given two non-fighters,
they should be able to at least land a blow here and there, even if it's
not too impressive:

% attack newbie
You make a clumsy attack at the newbie, which he blocks just in time with
his shortsword.
The newbie swings his shortsword at your leg, but you jump out of the way.

A clumsy attack is met by clumsy defences.  If the target is conscious,
they will almost always make some sort of attempt at defence, except for a
few extreme cases.  Even if they are not moving or conscious, there is a
second role for how glancing the attack was.  Thus given a newbie
attacking a training dummy, their attacks will always land but wil usually
be glancing or to non-critical locations.  An oldbie would make the same
number of hits, but they would all be to critical locations with maximum

> For missile combat, though, it doesn't work.  Even a small variation
> in aim can cause a miss, and even under the best conditions, a gust of
> wind can spoil everything.

Yes.  Missile combat is very different, and we purposely made a thousand
possible means of disrupting the attack, ie the wind you mention, just for
playability's sake.
Once again, the simple act of hitting a target with a missile is not
difficult.  Give Junior one of those kid's bows and some arrows and he'll
be hitting 1 meter targets at 15 meters in no time.  (I know, cause I had
one of those bows as a kid :))
But hitting a bale of hay in an open field when you can take your time is
a bit different from aiming at a moving target through a probably not-open
space in a small period of time (ie, the period of time between when they
start running at you, screaming with sword raised, and when they reach
you) is much more difficult.

> > -- Most fights will last 15 - 20 seconds like this with the exception of
> > the rare meeting of the two masters who could make a display of flashing
> > blades and whitty one liners until one or the other drops from exhaustion.
> Or if someone who's much better than his/her opponent *wants* combat
> to last a long time.

Nods.  Even if you suck you can actually draw it out by continualy
retreating if you so desire, although this doesn't gain you much except
maybe time to talk ("Wait!  I can explain...")

> > -- ( It was joked about that if one was good enough he or she could execute
> > combat actions at priority menial, so one could chomp on an apple and read
> > a book while parrying the thrusts and swings of one's adversary ;-) 
> There's a scene in Zelazny's first Amber series where a swordsman
> shows off how much better he is than his opponent by cutting the
> buttons off the opponent's jacket, one by one.  Oddly enough, he loses
> the fight -- but I'll let you read it yourselves to find out how.  :-)

This seems to be a popular showing-off maneuver.  Other places it shows up
are the Scarlet Pimpernell and Inigo vs. the six-fingered man in Princess
Bride.  I suppose we'll have to implement buttons now...

> > -- Luck will rebuild itself with rest, warm food, spicy mead, and some
> > music down at the pub to soothe ones rattled bones.
> > -- Pushing ones luck too far might damage it for good. "I shall not come
> > with you Frodo, I am old and I feel my luck is running out...." -B. Baggins
> The first edition of the paper RPG Top Secret had an interesting
> variant on luck points -- each character started with a random number
> of fortune points.  Spending a fortune point could make any action
> succeed, or could save a character's life, but fortune points never
> came back, and the players didn't know how many fortune points their
> characters had.  Thus, eventually, one's luck would run out -- and you
> never knew just when that would be.

Cute - what kind of range was there on starting luck points?


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