Archive for June, 2011
Gather round, yuenglings! This manual of ancient polearm lore has been passed down since ancient times. The polearm style, an often misunderstood weapon style, takes a minute to learn and a lifetime to master. With the help of this guide, you too can be a mobile, untouchable killing machine.
Part 1: Footwork
Footwork is absolutely critical for polearm fighters. When your enemy is at maximum range, a single step can make the difference between a hit and a whiff.
- Keep your weight balanced between your feet. This makes it easy to step forward or back. If somebody swings for your foot, you can pull it up quickly without losing your balance.
- Always be ready to jump back. Make sure the people around you know that you need some room behind you to fight effectively.
- When your enemy advances at you, he will put his right foot forward. Strike as he steps. If he’s guarding his foot with a shield, go for the shoulder instead.
- If your enemy steps forward while taking a swing at you, step back while swinging at his sword arm.
- In many cases, stepping to the side is better than stepping backwards.
- When strafing or circling around your opponent, move towards his shield side. This forces your enemy to attack around his shield, which reduces his reach.
Part 2: Offense
Whenever you attack, you telegraph a vulnerability to your opponent.
- Be sensitive to this weak point and correct for it in advance. For example, if you swing low, be ready to pull your weapon up and block your right shoulder. Make this part of your attack motion.
- Polearm style relies on speed and precision. You should only be hitting with the top six inches of the weapon. This is a “lightest touch” style – use your wrists and forearms, not your biceps.
- Feinting against a shield fighter makes him waste a lot of motion and breath. Feint for the foot to make them lower their shield, then go for the shoulder. Even if you’re not fast enough to land the hit, you’re making them spend their stamina faster than you.
Part 3: Defense
- Footwork, footwork, footwork. The best defense is to not be there when they swing. Polearm is a very mobile style – if you’re getting hit, it’s probably because you’re standing still. Be a moving target.
- Scorpion Stance: Scorpion stance is a defensive posture. It’s a good defense against somebody moving directly towards you. Turn your shoulder towards your opponent and make your body as narrow as possible. Hold the polearm blade down, keeping your body behind the pole. One hand should be high, by the butt end. The other should be about halfway down the grip. Keep your legs wide and your posture low. From this stance, it’s easy to block your entire body and thrust at your opponent’s feet. You don’t need too much motion to block, just lean away from the attack and your polearm will already be in the right spot.
- If your opponent lands a few hits on you, switch stances so they have to re-learn where your vulnerabilities are.
Part 4: Dirty Tricks
Pythagoras, the Father of Polearms
Pythagoras was a philosopher and mathematician who invented many of today’s devastating polearm techniques. He is known as the Father of the Polearm style. The Pythagorean theory of polearm maximizes reach by NOT attacking along the hypotenuse (longest leg of the triangle).
You have the greatest reach when you are attacking straight forward. When making a low attack, you get another few inches of reach by ducking.
(tip of the hat to Ted Marston)
In a line fight, a polearm is a weapon of mass destruction.
- Pair up with a shieldmate who will block for you. If an enemy draws too close, step back, adjacent to your ally’s shield.
- Don’t focus too hard on the person you’re engaged with. You can make an attack of opportunity against anybody within your reach. Swing when they swing.
- In a line fight, or if your opponent is engaged, you can often step back without giving your enemy an opportunity to advance. Stand a step out of reach, with your left foot forward. Step forward and swing, then step back.
Here’s a teamwork technique—
- If you and an ally are engaging the same target, call either “high road” or “low road”. This indicates to your ally that you will be aiming at high targets (arms and shoulders), or low targets (legs and feet). Your ally will take the opposite height.
- Coordinate your swings so that you are attacking at the same time.
- Your opponent cannot block both spots at once without entering into a totally defensive posture. And he cannot win the fight without attacking.
The Byronic Hero
Named for Sir Byron LeVolant, notable dandyman and braggart, this is a two hit combo which is designed for duels against shield fighters.
- Start with a low leg sweep. This telegraphs to your opponent that he should attack your shoulder.
- Be ready for the incoming shoulder attack. Pull your sweep up into a high block. For maximum style, this should look like you are curling a barbell.
- As you block, step back and strike your opponent’s extended sword arm.
- If you time it right you will have hit them twice while they have only swung once.
today’s article is a guest post from Dan Burke. If you’re interested in submitting a guest article, hit me up!
Socialist Monster Design OR Everyone Gets to Play
We’ve been talking about total game participation. This means everyone from level 1 to level 50 gets to play. Some of the ideas that have been bounced about this, such as transforms on lower level characters have been posted up here.
On the flipside of that would be monster design: This is the portion of the game which drives the actions of the player base at a logistical and tactical level. If the story keeps putting out creatures which encourage players to stick themselves in golems…or get silver weapons…or do more damage…that comes back to how the creatures being used to push that plot were designed.
Having been around since the end of 6th edition rules and the introduction of 7th, seeing how monster design has shifted to be more inclusive over time is a good thing, but some of us are still on a crusade to eliminate ‘you can’t play this game’ moments.
A good example of things which have fallen to the wayside would be “Old Threshold”. Originally this was a skill which said “if you do not swing more than X, no damage is dealt”. On monsters this was a pain in the butt, as it essentially eliminated lower level players from participating. These creatures typically were also high body so casters had to overdo it to achieve anything or flip into bind-o-mancy.
These days we have more forgiving mechanics in monster design, specifically “Minimal” and “Damage Cap” . Rather than saying “You do nothing” if you do not break that magical X amount, you do a minimal amount of damage. So it’s something versus nothing. The other end of this is Damage Cap, which is to say that a monster will only take up Y value in damage, with exceptions within the rules for overkill (slays, assassinates).
There are still a few places where “you don’t get to play” applies. A noteworthy example would be “Magic to Hit”. Magical weapons are a rite of passage in NERO. You made it, you’ve been adventuring long enough to either luck into or maybe if you have a team, build your own magic weapon! Now you can fight death knights! How many months or years were you hating life that you would, at best, get 3 swings in with an Enchant Blade spell?
Consider if Magic to Hit monsters were made instead to “Cap 5 VS Non-Magic Damage”
Suddenly a magical weapon is the preferred weapon to use again this creature, but you can still inflict some damage. This is not something to be applied to ALL instances obviously, a boss monster should not have a gaping weakness to slays just because. Where “Cap VS Non-(damagetype)” would shine is on field and woods encounters where you cannot predict scaling. It would allow for the use of ‘Cool’ monsters, without the fear of removing a portion of the player base from participating. In a module situation (or for an appropriate Boss monster) using the standard “Magic to hit” would be fine.
Where else could you think of places that would encourage more participation without sacrificing the quality of experience for all levels of players?
A Boost Transform is a hook for a single low level character to get involved in modules scaled for a higher level party. Here’s a quick guide to building one for a specific character.
Boost Transforms can be conceptualized in other forms than as an enchantment which turns a character into another creature. This framework can just as easily be used to create Boost Artifacts or Boost Boons (granted by an NPC). Technically, the Boost can be treated like a Curse of Transformation. (9th ed rulebook p90)
The goal of a Boost Transform is to provide about enough power to let a player face the enemy NPCs on fair terms. It shouldn’t make him the toughest character there. But it should give him a unique trick, a way of supporting his allies, or a cool moment.
A Boost Transform can be measured in terms of how many effective levels it adds. Calculate the level difference between the party and the low level player they’re bringing. If a level 8 character is tagging along with a party whose average level is 28, you can build the Boost Transform with a budget of about 15-20 levels.
Add a certain amount of defense based on the Boost Transform’s level. For each level, add a point of body, physical armor, arcane armor, dexterity armor, body points, or a mix.
For fighters, the simplest route is to add a strength bonus. A quick rule of thumb is to add 2 point of strength for every 3 levels. (roughly equivalent to granting 2 profs at 15 build) If the other fighters on the module can drop a monster in 4 swings, then a boosted fighter should be able to kill it in 5 or 6. A level can also be spent on a parry/slay, 1-3 physical weapon attacks (ie “physical strike flamebolt (20)”), or the ability to swing 10s as a critical attack.
For scholars, the basic idea is to make sure that they can throw a lot of spells without expending all their resources for the weekend. One method is to allow spellcasters to treat the adventure as if it’s a full day of spells. After it’s over, their spell pyramid will return to what it was before they began the module. Another method is to add a pool of of 20 healing or elemental damage per level which they can cast in increments of 5 or 10 at a time, similar to the element’s fury cantrip. You can grant a few times-ever spell-like abilities such as Dragon’s Breath or Cure Mortal Wounds, or allow the caster to regain a certain number of spell slots by meditating after each encounter during the adventure.
Templars Boost Transforms combine the building techniques for fighters and scholars.
Boost Transforms for Rogues are built similar to fighters, but substitute assassinate/dodge and waylay, for fighter skills and grant twice as much backstab damage as you would strength.
A Boost Transform’s stats are clustered around a theme. This often reflects a role in combat such as melee, ranged attacks, healing, buffing, debuffing, or ambush. They usually also incorporate a setting flavor such as golems, fae, necromancy, celestial magic, earth magic, tyrran forces, lycanthrope, or one of the elements.
One of the goals which NERO characters pursue is Character Transformations. These enchantments essentially allow your character to change into some flavor of powerful creature, but only under certain circumstances. Transforms can be expensive, generally they are something pursued by high level characters and teams. Most Transforms add substantial power to an already powerful character.
Our game makes it difficult to design an appropriate challenge for a group of people with widely different levels of power, so we segregate our players into bands based on level — even though this does not necessarily reflect the real social groups they’d like to hang out with. It’s very frustrating to be told that you haven’t been playing long enough to join your friends on the adventure into the mummy’s lair. This is another possible use for Transforms – allowing low level players to participate in more of the game.
A Boost Transform is designed to allow a lower level player to go on a higher level module. Because they’re designed for newer players, these types of transforms are not complicated; they don’t add wacky powers or complex abilities.
These don’t necessarily have to be enchantments cast on a specific character. The transform can be conferred by an item or other artifact that players may pass around. It might also be bestowed as a Curse of Transformation by an NPC.
Boost Transforms can be treated as a team resource. Perhaps the team has a spare golem back at the manor, or an enchanted mantle they can throw on a newcomer. It allows them to bring an extra person on a module, as long as that person is under a certain level. The team will be on the lookout for low level players to bring along so they can use their resource. This is an opportunity to give a new player a taste of the high level game and get plugged into the weekend’s plotlines.
Boost Transforms could also be granted to a specific player through their character concept or history. This makes that player an attractive choice to bring on a module.
Boost Transforms may also be linked with a plotline. For example, whenever characters visit the forest of Fae, they are greeted by a Trickster Riff who wishes to tag along and assist somebody. Consider giving Boost Transforms a power or ability which is necessary to complete one of that plotline’s challenges. This insures that a newer player gets the opportunity to be in the spotlight as the hero of the adventure.
Boost Transforms may only be used when an event director says it’s okay. Often, they simply do not work or are “recharging”. If an NPC is acting as a module hook, check with the NPC in advance if it’s alright to bring along an extra body with a Boost Transform.
Sample Boost Transforms
Here’s a few examples of Boost Transforms. If you have ideas for how they could be improved, or other ideas for Boost Transforms, hit up the comments!
- +10 Physical Armor
- +6 strength
- 1 Parry/Slay or (Steam Jets) 100 point pool of elemental flame. (May throw in bursts of 10)
Mirror of Destiny
(Designed to support a 20th level team. Can be given to a character of 10th level or lower once per day, for the duration of a module)
Description: A novice character may gaze into a Mirror of Destiny and see a glimpse of a future version of himself. The character will be temporarily inspired by this hint of his real potential.
- +10 Dex Armor
- The character is granted an extra usage of each times-per-day skill or the character’s number of weapon proficiencies and backstabs are multiplied by 1.5 (rounded down).
- +15 Dex Armor
- 2 Assassinate/Dodges or (Quickling’s Trick) 150 point pool of elemental lightning. (May throw in bursts of 10)
- Magic Inspiration x 2
- +15 Arcane Armor
- 150 points pool of elemental healing (may touch cast in bursts of 10)
- Magic Curse x3
- Magic Dispel Magic x3
- Magic Purify Blood x3
- Magic Remove Physical Affliction x3
- Magic Shield Magic x3