I see abilities falling into three basic categories: physical combat abilities/ magical (supernatural) combat abilities/ functional (useful and non-combat) abilities.
Let’s start by talking about physical combat. This becomes an important decision for the game, since the danger is that you over-simplify how things work and lose veracity. Here are the two options:
1. You have ‘fighting’ as the single attack ability. This includes all physical combat: swinging a sword, firing a bow, throwing a dart. This has support in the great epics: Odysseus hacks through foes with sword and spear, then returns home and fires a bow better than anyone in his household. If you are trained in combat, you know how to use weapons.
2. You have melee and missile as distinct abilities. Legolas doesn’t pick up a sword and swing it because he’s put all of his points into missile. Gimli doesn’t bother asking Legolas to borrow his bow; he runs up to stuff and swings his axe at it, because that’s where all his points are…
It’s difficult, because there are benefits to both approaches. However, combat has two facets: hitting and dealing damage. We can put the variety on the back end. Your ability to deal melee and thrown weapon damage is dependent on your might- how hard you hit. Your ability to deal missile weapon damage is dependent on your accuracy/precision/dexterity (not sure what to call that)… so the difference between Legolas and Gimli (who both have Fighting in the +8 or +9 range), is the ratings of the linked ability. Gimli has Might +7 or +8, while Legolas has accuracy/precision/dexterity in the +9 range. Gimli picks up an axe because that’s what will deal the most damage in his hands; Legolas picks the bow for the same reason.
Therefore, Might and Precision (liking that one more and more- I’d rather stay away from ‘dexterity’ and ‘accuracy’ feels a little more limited for some reason) determine what weapon you’ll prefer. You’re just as likely to hit with any weapon- but you deal more damage with some than others.
And now to the stickiest part of this- when you start adding your might + your weapon damage rating (for instance) and you have Might +8 and a weapon dealing +10 damage, you are going to be hitting for +18 damage. This is pretty considerable, and starts to scale past the dice. The higher your total bonus, the less important the dice are. When you are hitting for +18, whether you roll a 2 or 12 is not nearly as important; you are still going to hit for at least +20 damage. Then again, if a storm giant manages to connect with his great spiked club, shouldn’t you feel it?
Three ways to handle this:
1. You can wield a weapon up to your might rating, but you don’t add the two together, you just take the weapon damage. Blech. This feels way too limited; because you have Might +8, you get to wield a +8 weapon and you deal up to +8 damage.
2. As above. You add your might and the weapon damage rating together. Have Might +6 and wield a sword +9? Congratulations, you deal +15 damage with every strike.
3. A hybrid system; your might sets the maximum rating for weapons you may wield; with might +6, you may wield a weapon of up to +6 rating, dealing a total of up to +12 damage. You now have an incentive to keep increasing might, and your weapon damage scales nicely, but it never gets out of control.
I see option 1 being frustrating to players (“so I can NEVER deal more than +10 damage?”) and option 2 being relatively easy to bypass (I’m not going to bother upping my might rating; I’ll just keep buying a bigger sword!). Option 3 is the best of all worlds, although I think that the weapon rating limit should be might +1. With might +0, you can wield a dagger (a +1 weapon) and deal +1 damage with it. If you pick up and swing a short sword (a +2 weapon) or long sword (+3), you are going to have trouble (due to your limited might), and you still only hit for +1 damage. You don’t have sufficient strength to maximize its potential.
This seems to work just as well for precision. With precision +1, you could wield a short bow to full effect (a +2 weapon, meaning that you deal +3 damage with it), while the compound long bow (+6) requires precision +5 to get the full benefit of.
Hmmm. Let’s stack this up against some armor…
You have a fairly decent fighting type hero (+5 across the board; +5 fighting, +5 might, +5 weapon; just for purposes of our discussion). You attack at +5, and deal +10 damage.
Against a comparable foe (wearing +5 armor too!) you hit about 50% of the time; each time you hit, you score an average of 5 points of damage (you are going to roll an average of 7+10=17 damage; the target is going to roll 7+5=12 to soak).
Against a dragon (fighting +8, armor +10, might +10, bite +10), you are going to have a tough time hitting (needing to roll 3 more than the dragon’s resist to hit). When you hit, your average damage of 17 is going to be opposed by an average soak of 17… in short, as a mid-level hero fighting a dragon, you are going to have a tough go of it, but it’s possible!
- You make all attacks using fighting
- For melee damage, you roll might + the weapon rating (limited to might +1).
- For missile damage, you roll precision + the weapon rating (limited to precision +1).
Also, this has some cool implications… for example, the game can include ‘finesse’ weapons (something I included in Mythweaver and really liked) such as foils and quarter staffs. These weapons are melee weapons that link to precision instead of might. However, this should be more limited (maybe half your precision rounded up?) A light, fast swordsman can still deal good damage even though he has no might to speak of… In our Legolas example, with his precision +9, he can pick up a rapier +5 and get the full benefit of it, dealing +14 damage. This isn’t quite as effective as his bow which drops +19 points at a clip, but is a LOT better than a dagger +1 from his might +0.