The Warrior's Job: Protecting allies

Discuss our dark fantasy adventure tabletop roleplaying game based on BioWare's computer game, Dragon Age Origins.

The Warrior's Job: Protecting allies

Postby Zapp » Mon Dec 21, 2009 3:03 am

How do you intend to make this happen in your Dragon Age campaign?

Monsters with minimal smarts will want to bypass the tin can, and kill off the softer party members first - rogues and mages that often do as much damage as the warrior if not more.

How do you as the Games Master intend for the Warrior to do his job and prevent that from happening?

(1) Make Communication focuses such as Leadership and Deception (and Intimidation if that one existed) mechanically important - make Ability Tests to make the monsters abandon their clever plans and deal with you first
(2) Import the notion from the CRPG that heavy armor somehow attracts monster attacks. If so, do you have an in-game explanation for this behavior?
(3) Provide no help at all. Vulnerable characters will have to actively hide behind the warrior to help him help them. If a monster wants to ignore the tin can, nothing stops him from doing so, unless all the "clothies" run away leaving the monster with no option (but possibly overwhelming the warrior or leaving him without support).
(4) "Cheat" - that is, make smart monsters attack the warrior anyway, because it makes for a better game, despite how killing off rogues and mages would really be a smarter battle plan. In other words, keeping aggro completely arbitrary but also invisible. (Much like how you had to handle things in the days before rpgs with explicit support to handle the issue)
(5) Add house rules - perhaps a Warrior-only stunt to cripple a foe's movement, forcing him to stick around and fight you first? Or perhaps an "enrage" stunt that makes an enemy see red and focus only on you. The possibilities are many...
(6) Other - please elaborate

Your thoughts are appreciated :)
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Postby Aldaris » Mon Dec 21, 2009 3:07 am

A mix of one and three. :wink:
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Postby Batgirl III » Mon Dec 21, 2009 4:14 am

In point of fact, the way that I would "handle things in the days before rpgs [had] explicit support to handle [this] issue" was through roleplaying, tactics, and just plain not thinking about it.

I was dumbfounded the first time I encountered an "aggro" mechanic in a video game. For two decades prior, my players (or I when playing) had just learned this by trial and error.
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Postby NathanGPLC » Mon Dec 21, 2009 5:09 am

Right there with you, Batgirl. I've always found agro (or 'marking,' in D&D 4E) to be ridiculously immersion-breaking in tabletop RPGs, and at least silly in computer games.

The warrior, in my estimation, needs to get in front of the mage and actually keep the baddies away---using chokepoints, terrain, and whatever else they can!

Now, a good taunting or threatening makes sense, but beyond that...

Blessed be,
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Postby Ryngard » Mon Dec 21, 2009 5:17 am

I use a mixture of decisions.

First off if the plate armored man with a 2h sword is waving it at the monster and threatening it, of course it will go after him. If he never hits the monster and proves no threat, then the monster may go after someone else.

But seriously though... most monsters are of limited or no intelligence... they will fight whoever threatens them. I mean take a bear... if you roar at the bear and wave an axe at the bear, the bear will attack YOU. Not the robe wearing guy in the back that it can barely see.

Add in some game mechanics that taunt, and there you go.

Now if I have an INTELLIGENT monster and it realizes that the caster is MORE of a threat (and to be honest, the warrior/rogue will be as much of a threat anyway) then they may deviate and deal with the caster first.

But to try and hamper both your warrior and caster by obviously targeting the caster instead just sucks.

I'm sorry but while I'm a big RPer and the game is more about story for me than mechanics/hack-n-slash, no "immersion" is broken by simple things like this. Its a rediculous statement to be honest. We're not in the frackin' holodeck, looking at the Cheetoh's bag "breaks immersion". :)
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Postby rabindranath72 » Mon Dec 21, 2009 5:58 am

In the old red box D&D days the fighter types would simply go side by side with weaker types (thieves and magic-users) and attack the same critter, allowing the weak characters a fighting withdrawal. If the monsters failed their morale checks, they would rout granting the fighter a free attack. It was all very abstract, and it worked very well. I like that abstract elements are used again in DA in place of positioning on a mat.
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Postby Bill » Mon Dec 21, 2009 11:56 am

Just have the 'monsters' do what the monster would do.

Hungry zombie attacks closest living thing to eat it, regardless of its own safety, and uses no clever tactics.

Skilled ninja assasin attacks from stealth with poison, tries to restealth and lead persuers into a preplanned pit trap.


What you never want to do, is have the zombie act like a ninja, or the reverse. never have monsters use tactics based on 'beating' the player characters. Use monster tactics that the monsters are capable of, and that may or may not be 'good' tactics. In fact, often the enemy is too stupid to win, and should be played accordingly.
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Postby NathanGPLC » Mon Dec 21, 2009 1:26 pm

Ryngard wrote:
But to try and hamper both your warrior and caster by obviously targeting the caster instead just sucks.


This I can definitely agree with, but:

Ryngard wrote:I'm sorry but while I'm a big RPer and the game is more about story for me than mechanics/hack-n-slash, no "immersion" is broken by simple things like this. Its a rediculous statement to be honest. We're not in the frackin' holodeck, looking at the Cheetoh's bag "breaks immersion". :)


I'm sorry to disagree strongly there, but while I'm sure you don't mean to be offensive, my gaming groups and I tend to seek immersion when we roleplay. We don't find it ridiculous at all.

This can take a lot of forms; my favorite was running a year-long Planescape AD&D game without ever letting the players see their character sheets, so they never knew or talked about level, stats, experience points, or other numbers; only I ever touched dice.

Other times, it takes the form of 'in-world' maps and letters drawn on parchment, worn, smudged, faded, etc; props like 'potion' jars to represent treasure found (for example, giving them a jar they found, which contains a blue, viscous liquid is more fun than telling them they found a lesser healing potion, when the characters have never seen one before--how do they find out if it is poison or potion?); or tossing someone a leather bag of replica gold and silver coins when an NPC hands over payment, and letting them count their loot to see if they were shorted any.

The opposite is, for me, D&D 4E's 'mark.' For some unknown reason, when a warrior hits someone, the target suddenly receives a 10% attack penalty to hit anyone else. Uh, what? At least Paladins have holy magic behind the effect, which makes more sense.

Same for 4E's 'healing surge.' There are _no_ realistic, heal-over-time rules in D&D 4E; even assuming that HP represent abstract concepts like luck, fatigue, and so on, even descriptively broken limbs are magically healed by five minutes of rest in the RAW. Fun game, but lacking in immersion; I don't feel like I'm really roleplaying, I'm just running a character in a board game.

Mechanics like those, that are clearly great for game balance but throw roleplaying out the window, are tough to swallow. If this was Earthdawn, where all PCs have magic powers, I would accept that, but in this case there is no in-world explanation for those abilities.

Blessed be,
~Nathan

EDITED to fix my potion example.
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Postby mrofni » Mon Dec 21, 2009 5:04 pm

I think you could probably add in threatening effects in the game pretty easy. It all has to be subjective and not cast in stone, but so long as both the players and the gm realize that, it seems like a good option. The best way I can come up with is using stunt points. Create something like:

2 stunt points - Angers the target, making them want to attack you more.
4 stunt points - Angers all enemies, making them want to attack you more. (If possible)

For it to make sense, you have to imaginative in how they would do it. Mocking, antics, desecration, intimidating, feigning weakness, to name a few. It would be a good way to create an option for someone who doesn't role-play much/well but is there for the experience to have some threatening effects. Tying it into stunts also makes sense role-playing wise while creating more interactive fights in game.

As I said before, it would have to be subjective. If you had a monster that would always want to attack mages, it would be pretty hard to get them to attack a warrior instead. Some monsters might also have opposite/no effect depending if you want to actually role-play out the stunt. If a monster has Focus(Self Discipline) you might very well want them to ignore the effects of this stunt all together.

I would also tie in these stunts to be used for any of the classes, so you can have situations of the Rogue or Mage wanting to taunt because an ally is low life. Everyone can appear threatening depending on the situation, so I don't see a reason to limit it to a class.
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Postby NathanGPLC » Mon Dec 21, 2009 6:26 pm

I like the idea, Mrofni; and it reminds me that Mages _already_ have a stunt to help them out in this area, Imposing Spell (4 SP):

DA Player's Handbook, page 50 wrote:The effect of the spell is much more dramatic than usual. Until the beginning of your next turn, anyone attempting to make a melee attack against you must make a successful Willpower (Courage) test. The target number (TN) is 10 + your Magic ability. Those who fail must take a move or defend action instead.


Rogues could go for something similar if we add in to the generic combat stunts:

Imposing Presence (4 SP): Your attack is much more dramatic than usual; your footwork, handling, and stance project confidence and danger. Until the beginning of your next turn, anyone attempting to make a melee attack against you must make a successful Willpower (Courage) test. The target number (TN) is 10 + your [Dexterity or Strength, your choice] ability. Those who fail must take a move or defend action instead.

This fits something I always loved about the old AD&D 2nd Ed "Blade" kit for Bards---Blades were assassin-bards, always wielding weapons in flashy, fancy patterns, looking very impressive. In the kit description, there was a sidebar addressing this---why, if they are so good with the weapons, aren't all fighters playing as Blades instead? Because they actually aren't as good, but if you were a thug caught between two people, and you have the choice of charging either the stocky guy in battered chain mail and holding a sword, or the lithe, black-clad figure deftly twirling a bladed staff between his hands, the point dancing and flashing in the flickering torchlight, who are you going to go for? Because the Blades looked so good, they didn't have to be the stand-up fighters :-)

Blessed be,
~Nathan
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Postby Jekias » Mon Dec 21, 2009 6:43 pm

To modify slightly on NathanGPLC's suggested Stunt:

Imposing Presence (4 SP): Your attack is much more dramatic than usual; your footwork, handling, and stance project confidence and danger. Until the beginning of your next turn, anyone within range must make an attack against only you (ranged/melee/magic). Only with a successful Willpower (Courage) test will that npc be able to take an action against a different target. The target number (TN) is 10 + your [Dexterity or Strength, your choice] ability.

Perhaps it might even use Focus(Intimidation) as well.
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Postby NathanGPLC » Mon Dec 21, 2009 6:53 pm

Hmm; I can see a different stunt doing exactly that, Jekias, but the point was to mimic the already-existing "Imposing" stunt, which a character can use to keep baddies away, rather than nearby.

What you have there is a pretty good rule for the stunt mrofni suggested upthread, but I would change the flavor text---the theory is that by being 'imposing' and intimidating, you are scaring the enemies away from yourself (and thus making them attack the warrior/higher HP and armor target).

Blessed be,
~Nathan
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Postby Jekias » Mon Dec 21, 2009 8:58 pm

Could change it to be a taunt ability which makes the enemy forcibly attack the warrior en-masse. Perhaps it would be an AoE-taunt like effect or similar.

I was only using your original post as a guide nathan - perhaps it would be better as a Talent for taunting rather than a stunt?

How about this:

Talent Taunt
Classes: Warrior only.
Requirement: Strength(Intimidation)
The warrior can taunt his enemies into focusing their attacks on him
Novice: Until the beginning of your next turn, one foe within within a 10 yard range must make attacks against only you (ranged/melee/magic). Only with a successful Willpower (Courage) test will that npc be able to take an action against a different target. The target number (TN) is 10 + your Strength(Intimidation). This is treated as a minor action.
Journeyman: Taunt affects targets up to your communication stat (ie if communication is 3 then you can affect up to 3 targets) - all within a 10 yard radius of the warrior.
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Postby Batgirl III » Tue Dec 22, 2009 4:11 am

Why not use the existing stunts and such, and simply allow the player's to narrate appropriate actions from their warriors?

"Gunter swings his axe for a brutal overhead chop." (Roll dice, tell DM result, oh look, a Penetrating Hit and a Skirmish) "My axe bites deep into a chink in hurlock's armor, blood sprays from his neck as he staggers him backward. Gunter shouts in triumph, 'Have none of you the courage to face me! I am Gunter Thorinson, Slayer of Fen'ral the Black Ogre! Face me and face death! Arrrrgh!'"
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Postby YourSwordisMine » Tue Dec 22, 2009 5:13 am

Please... Dont add aggro mechanics to the game... They work fine in a computer game but not in a pen and paper RPG...
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Postby NathanGPLC » Tue Dec 22, 2009 5:38 am

I don't see Taunt/Intimidate as aggro mechanics; taunting somebody and scaring somebody are both in-world options, to my thinking.

However, as Batgirl points out:

1. Mages have Imposing Spell already. That helps keep them safe, given how often stunts get rolled.
2. Warriors and rogues (and mages) can use the normal stunts Skirmish, Knockdown, and Disarm (and Seize the Initiative, perhaps) to defend themselves/others, keep bad guys away from the mage, and so on.

So I think there are indeed already plenty of options to help the 'warrior do their job;' I might add in the Imposing Presence stunt I wrote upthread, but even that isn't really vital.

Blessed be,
~Nathan
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Postby Bill » Tue Dec 22, 2009 6:46 am

NathanGPLC wrote:
Ryngard wrote:
But to try and hamper both your warrior and caster by obviously targeting the caster instead just sucks.


This I can definitely agree with, but:

Ryngard wrote:I'm sorry but while I'm a big RPer and the game is more about story for me than mechanics/hack-n-slash, no "immersion" is broken by simple things like this. Its a rediculous statement to be honest. We're not in the frackin' holodeck, looking at the Cheetoh's bag "breaks immersion". :)


I'm sorry to disagree strongly there, but while I'm sure you don't mean to be offensive, my gaming groups and I tend to seek immersion when we roleplay. We don't find it ridiculous at all.

This can take a lot of forms; my favorite was running a year-long Planescape AD&D game without ever letting the players see their character sheets, so they never knew or talked about level, stats, experience points, or other numbers; only I ever touched dice.

Other times, it takes the form of 'in-world' maps and letters drawn on parchment, worn, smudged, faded, etc; props like 'potion' jars to represent treasure found (for example, giving them a jar they found, which contains a blue, viscous liquid is more fun than telling them they found a lesser healing potion, when the characters have never seen one before--how do they find out if it is poison or potion?); or tossing someone a leather bag of replica gold and silver coins when an NPC hands over payment, and letting them count their loot to see if they were shorted any.

The opposite is, for me, D&D 4E's 'mark.' For some unknown reason, when a warrior hits someone, the target suddenly receives a 10% attack penalty to hit anyone else. Uh, what? At least Paladins have holy magic behind the effect, which makes more sense.

Same for 4E's 'healing surge.' There are _no_ realistic, heal-over-time rules in D&D 4E; even assuming that HP represent abstract concepts like luck, fatigue, and so on, even descriptively broken limbs are magically healed by five minutes of rest in the RAW. Fun game, but lacking in immersion; I don't feel like I'm really roleplaying, I'm just running a character in a board game.

Mechanics like those, that are clearly great for game balance but throw roleplaying out the window, are tough to swallow. If this was Earthdawn, where all PCs have magic powers, I would accept that, but in this case there is no in-world explanation for those abilities.

Blessed be,
~Nathan

EDITED to fix my potion example.



The 4E 'Fighter Mark' represents a skilled warrior imposing his will/meleeskills/deadliness/etc.. on an adjacent foe. The penalty is because the fighter is dangerous. I see no problem at all with a fighter mark. Perfectly good real world ability.

Healing surge? perhaps if you consider that hit points are not actual wounds it makes more sense. A 3rd edition dnd fighter recovers from the most grevious deadly wounds in a week. Thats lame. But, rpg's usually make healing quicker for fun factor over realism. 3E had healing surges, they just called it 'heal level in hp each day' or whatever.

I have no real preference between 3e and 4e, but the fighter mark makes a lot of sense to me. Otherwise a fighter can be ignored too easily. And that's immerssion breaking and unrealistic to me. Perhaps it makes sense that if you are adjacent to a skilled swordsman his blade messes you up if you ignore him?
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Postby Zapp » Tue Dec 22, 2009 10:03 am

Remember, there is no wrong and no right answer, regardless of which of the six options you choose for your own game.

My only other comment other than thanking you for your replies so far is that: unfortunately, the genie is out of the bottle: expecting all gamers to run their games with no rules support for monster attacks like in the "good old days" is expecting too much.

Even if you ignore the issue you can't expect all others to ignore the issue - we must be allowed to discuss solutions that work even for gamers who have played D&D or WoW.

Right. Carry on! Lots of good ideas on all fronts so far! :)
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Postby Balgin Stondraeg » Tue Dec 22, 2009 3:50 pm

NathanGPLC wrote:The warrior, in my estimation, needs to get in front of the mage and actually keep the baddies away---using chokepoints, terrain, and whatever else they can!


Additionaly he is the big threat.

The monster will tend to look at the situation like this:

1: Magic blokey at the back chucking nasty hurty spells at me. They hurt. Sometimes they hurt a lot. I'd like to get over there and smash his face in when I get the chance.

2: Sneaky bloke skulking in the shadows. Doesn't even wear armour and that's a knife! Does he really expect to hurt me with that? He's not an issue 'till he comes within arm's reach. I only hope I notice him when he does.

3: Big nasty bloke in lots of heavy armour with a big sword stabbing me IN THE FACE! Okay, this guy's top priority bigtime. Maybe I can knock him aside to get at that annoying spell flinger but that sword's well choppy and I ain't no fool! If I can deal with this guy quickly then I'll go for one of the others but while he's still a threat I'm not giving him any opportunities.

Now the way a warrior can handle situations like this is by threatenning things and defending things. Threatening will involve taunts, beating his weapon on his shield, and generaly getting as much attention as he can (and generaly being covered in shiney armour makes it easy to be seen). Defending can involve blocking (either physicaly standing in front of a weaker ally), harrassing (being within arm's reach and smacking anything that comes near them) or brave interceptions (hurling himself in front of oncoming damage or using stunts to grab their oponents and haul them round to face him).

Why am I even typing this? It's just common sense :p. SImply play it in character and it should all work out just fine :D.
Last edited by Balgin Stondraeg on Tue Dec 22, 2009 3:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby mrofni » Tue Dec 22, 2009 3:52 pm

Batgirl III wrote:Why not use the existing stunts and such, and simply allow the player's to narrate appropriate actions from their warriors?

"Gunter swings his axe for a brutal overhead chop." (Roll dice, tell DM result, oh look, a Penetrating Hit and a Skirmish) "My axe bites deep into a chink in hurlock's armor, blood sprays from his neck as he staggers him backward. Gunter shouts in triumph, 'Have none of you the courage to face me! I am Gunter Thorinson, Slayer of Fen'ral the Black Ogre! Face me and face death! Arrrrgh!'"


I specifically mentioned in my post that it would be most appropriate for players who don't want/cant role-play combat. Some groups enjoy role-playing combat, but not all groups. Some find it really tedious and pulls away from the actual role-playing of the campaign. I also believe that introducing some kind of taunt is only really appropriate for players who are combat savvy, and the GM making difficult fights for them. I am one of those styles of GM which likes to have a lot of difficult fights for my players. I like giving them more tools to use in the fight as well, but that's me.
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Postby Saisei » Tue Dec 22, 2009 3:57 pm

Balgin Stondraeg wrote: Maybe I can knock him aside to get at that annoying spell flinger but that sword's well choppy and I ain't no fool!


Huh. Apparently the party are fighting Mr. T. ;)
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Postby Balgin Stondraeg » Tue Dec 22, 2009 4:16 pm

Saisei wrote:
Balgin Stondraeg wrote: Maybe I can knock him aside to get at that annoying spell flinger but that sword's well choppy and I ain't no fool!


Huh. Apparently the party are fighting Mr. T. ;)


I'm glad someone finaly spotted one of my many witty in jokes. They're well hidden (such as "well choppy" being "orc speak").
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Postby Brokensoul » Tue Dec 22, 2009 7:31 pm

I am thinking of using an engaged rule.

Engaged if you are within 2 yards of an enemy you are engaged, if you move away from the the enemy or enemies without taking a minor action to disengage then they get a parting swing on you.

I would not make it anymore involved than that, no penalties for using magic or ranged weapons while engaged or such nonsense.

This makes the two handed weapon style talent a little more worth it and makes skirmish a better choice sometimes.

If you want some kind of agro mechanic, all I do is eyeball how much damage the PC has done to a particular npc if you want warriors to be more sticky have their damage count for more I guess.

Another thought on this is alot of darkspawn have enough tactics to use focus fire, all of them attack the biggest looking threat first and bring it down.
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Postby Balgin Stondraeg » Tue Dec 22, 2009 7:34 pm

Brokensoul wrote:Engaged if you are within 2 yards of an enemy you are engaged, if you move away from the the enemy or enemies without taking a minor action to disengage then they get a parting swing on you.


Perhaps you could use the Skirmish stunt to safely disengage.
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Postby Brokensoul » Tue Dec 22, 2009 7:43 pm

Perhaps you could use the Skirmish stunt to safely disengage.


My thoughts exactly.

This makes the two handed weapon style talent a little more worth it and makes skirmish a better choice sometimes.
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