Sv: [MUD-Dev] Balancing Melee vs Ranged Combat in Games Which Model Space

Travis Casey efindel at
Tue Apr 3 17:10:54 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

Tuesday, April 03, 2001, 1:38:16 PM, Nicolai Hansen <nic at>
> Daniel Haman wrote:

>> How do you balance characters being able to cause damage to a
>> monster/player when it isn't able to retaliate.

> I would call this one easy. For a monster, you simply make it flee
> out of range if its unable to counter-attack.

>> The traditional approach seems to be to make ranged/magic combat
>> more effective than melee, but to balance it by making the users
>> frail and constrained by ammo/mana/etc. I'm not sure this is a good
>> approach as the outcome tends to be too deterministic. Either the
>> battle is too easy for the ranged/magic combatant, or its too hard
>> (mobs designed to challenge melee range classes tend to tear
>> through ranged combatants).

> This can be balanced with reload time. A crossbow is a very
> effective ranged weapon. Its bolts pierce through most aromur, it is
> fairly precise, but takes up to several minutes to reload (often by
> the use of special equipment that are suspect to breaking/damaging
> etc).

A heavy crossbow will take a while to reload, though I've never seen
one take several minutes -- I'd say a minute or two at the outside.  A
light crossbow can be reloaded fairly quickly with a goat's-foot or a
similar device, but doesn't have the same penetrating power.

A repeating crossbow was invented in China; it's not known exactly
when it was invented, but plans for it have been found in Chinese
tombs dated to circa 250 BC.  It's a low-power crossbow, but it was
common to tip the arrows it fired with poison.  See:

for more information.

> A bow is not as precise, do a lot less damage, and its arrows are
> not as penetrating - in fact they got a large risc of "bouncing off"
> the target doing no damage at all, but the bow is very easy to
> reload. It just requires dexterity, and to be more or less
> un-armoured (you cant fire a longbow in platermail).  A sword,
> compared to those, can be wielded nomatter what armour you are
> wearing, you can wield it from a mount, and it has got no reload
> time.

There are many kinds of bow.  An English longbow is quite powerful --
there are surviving records from medieval times of an arrow from one
penetrating mail armor, going through the leg of the target,
penetrating the armor again coming out of the leg, penetrating the
target's horse's armor, proceeding on through the target's horse, and
coming out the other side of the horse.  There are also records of
arrows fired from longbows into four-inch thick wooden castle doors,
and the heads protruding three to four inches from the other side of
the door.

The English longbowmen typically did wear armor -- not plate, which
hadn't been invented yet when the longbow was at its peak of use
(historically, medieval plate armor didn't come into use until after
guns were becoming common), but mail, scale, brigandine, and leather

Composite bows are of similar power, and can be fired from horseback.
The mongols were famous for doing so, and later the Saracen mounted
cavalry were a continuing problem for the Crusaders.

A longbow or composite bow is less accurate than a crossbow in the
hands of someone who is not skilled in its use.  In the hands of a
skilled user, a longbow is as or more accurate, has similar range, can
fire more rapidly and has more power than a light crossbow, and is
much faster to fire than a heavy crossbow.  (Presuming European
weapons here -- no repeating crossbow.)

> 1 vs 1, we got three scenarios, all starting at "long range": bow vs
> sword. The sword wielder would be able to get in close at the bowman
> and strike him down. The bowman would be defensless on close range,
> due to being unarmed

Do you mean armored?  Either way, it's not likely to be true -- as
mentioned above, the English longbowmen generally wore chain or
brigandine, and they also carried swords.

> , and the arrows would probable bounce off the swordmans armour 9/10
> shots.

That depends on the armor.  A longbow or composite bow will easily
penetrate leather or poor-quality mail, and can penetrate
better-quality mail on a good shot.  Against plate armor it will be
fairly ineffective, but, again, plate historically didn't come into
use until after guns were already in use.

> crossbow vs sword. Definately the most interesting scenario. Its an
> all-or-nothing scene for the crossbowman. If his first shot would
> hit, it would probably instantly kill, or heavily injure, the
> swordsman. If it misses, he wont have a chance to reload.

That depends on the bow and the distance.  With a light crossbow, and
most definitely with a repeating crossbow, there may well be time to

> Then how do you implement this on a MUD? The problem is here that
> most muds are using a system where the characters / mobiles got a
> truckload of hitpoints. No bolt or sword blow would be able to kill
> anyone, making ranged combat useless.

Why is it useless?  Surely weakening an opponent before engaging in
melee is of value?  Further, one could use tactics like those used in
the real world -- sniping, having multiple archers, firing from
multiple directions, using terrain or other means to keep opponents at
a distance...

Something I've noted is that the two replies so far have both assumed
a medieval-style mud, where magic hasn't been applied to the problems
of ranged weapons.  On a modern-day or SF mud with some form of guns,
you're not going to be able to use reload times as a problem.  On a
mud with high magic, wizards may start wondering why they can't invent
a spell that will make a crossbow re-cock itself... or, if your system
allows it, they may go ahead and invent such spells themselves.
Combine a spell which makes a heavy crossbow re-cock itself with the
mechanics of a repeating crossbow, and you could have a weapon to

On a Star Wars-themed mud I used to work on, we had ranged combat in
the form of blasters and such.  We couldn't use reload times to limit
it there, but we did limit the amount of ammo available, and took some
pains to make monsters and NPCs react to being fired upon.  Here's
what we did:

 - Those with ranged attacks would try to shoot back.  This was done
 by sending the NPC a message indicating who was firing on them, and
 the direction they were firing.  A table was used to look up the
 reverses of the common directions (up, down, east, west, etc.).

 - Those without ranged attacks could do several things:

   - NPCs who were free to roam would move -- if possible, at a right
   angle to the direction the fire was coming from.  This would often
   take them out of the line of fire, requiring the shooter to at
   least move between shots.

   - NPCs who were not free to roam would begin to dodge in place.  A
   "dodging" flag was set on them.  The ranged combat code tested for
   this flag, and, if it was present on the target, would
   significantly reduce the chance to hit.  Engaging a dodging NPC in
   melee would stop it from dodging, and the flag would time out if
   the NPC were not fired at for some time.

     (Players also had a command they could use to dodge, which worked
     the same way.  Moving would stop you from dodging, though (since
     only NPCs who couldn't move in their situation would dodge), so
     it was rarely used.)

   - Area builders could set NPCs they created to be aggressive in the
   face of fire -- which meant they would move in the direction the
   fire was coming from and try to attack the shooter when/if they
   reached it.

   The first and third of these had fallbacks; the first would fall
   back to the second if it could not move away, the third would fall
   back to the first, and then to the second if that couldn't be done.

NPCs also were made hostile to those who had shot at them -- thus, if
you entered a room where there was a monster you'd shot at fairly
recently, it would immediately attack.  In doing so, it would get the
first attack, which made "shoot-move to melee to stop the monster
dodging-move away and shoot again" more dangerous.
I personally implemented a system where my own NPCs with ranged
weapons could carry spare ammo and would use it when appropriate.  I
was going to make it part of the standard NPC code, but didn't get to
before I got married, got a job, and lost my free time.  I don't know
if it was ever put in.

One of the initial coders for the game inserted in the newbie area --
which was also designed as a sample area for new coders to look at --
an NPC who used a trigger to act as a sniper.  If a character moved
into a particular room, that NPC would fire on them.  Unfortunately,
few of the builders bothered to set up anything similar.

I started on, but didn't finish, implementing special tactics for
certain NPCs in the area that I was building when I left.  For
example, I had one NPC who would check the range to someone who was
firing on him, check the ammo in his weapons, and make decisions on
how to fight back based on that.  I did that because I'd noticed that
players tended to shoot from just one room away instead of making full
use of the range of their weapons.  Among his weapons were grenades,
which only had a range of one room, but did god-awful damage.

If I remember right, there was also code to make it so that if you
missed your target, you might hit someone else who was in the path you
were firing on, but that may have only been planned.  Don't remember
for sure now.  This made (or would have made) sending one character in
to melee a monster while having others fire at it from range more
dangerous.  That was also another special tactic I started putting in
some teams of monsters, after seeing players do it.

       |\      _,,,---,,_    Travis S. Casey  <efindel at>
 ZZzz  /,`.-'`'    -.  ;-;;,_   No one agrees with me.  Not even me.
      |,4-  ) )-,_..;\ (  `'-'
     '---''(_/--'  `-'\_)   

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