Monday, July 2, 2012

Shields

Shields have been an ongoing bugaboo for me... I end up with them being either awesome or negligible. Here are some of the thoughts for how shields could work. Shields were going to be a trait (costing 2 CPs), linked to your weapons. The options for this included:

- Add your shield rating to one evade roll each round. This would have been a bit unbalanced against foes with a single attack; the huge worm has a mighty bite attack that it uses every turn, attacking at +10. However, you have evade +4, weapons +9, and shield use; you get +13 to evade against every attack this mighty beast takes; you often turn aside his attacks, and you made little investment (2 CPs) to be able to do this.
- Add +1 to a number of evade attacks each scene equal to your weapons rating. This makes each use of your shield almost negligible; you rarely will have to turn aside more than 5 attacks a round (making higher ratings of shield virtually useless) and it doesn't follow intuitively that a huge shield gives the same protection as a small one, only it gives protection more often.
- Scale the numbers differently. Basically, your shield gives protection all the time, but at half your weapons rating; with weapons +7, you can carry a shield +4. This feels most balanced and is the option I like best, but it's the only game system that operates under this rule; there is nothing else that operates has a half-rating bonus. It doesn't align with the other game mechanics exactly, but is instead a 'new rule' for a different situation. I want to avoid this as much as possible.

However, shields could be a unique ability that stacks with evade; this is not a bad option. This means that few people will bother purchasing shields much beyond their evade rating. Evade is more useful because you can use it more often (shields only apply against attacks you know are coming- surprise attacks ignore your shield), BUT you can elect to share your shield with others, giving an ally your bonus as long as you are in the same unit. I can't see anyone bothering to purchase shields upwards of +10 (as in ever) but I could see someone who is very defensive-minded purchasing evade +4 and shields +4; for a 12-CP investment, you get 20 CPs worth of defensive ability. This is a good tradeoff for a defensive character, and makes the shield worth something. It's also easier to track, which I like.

I LOVE the concept of pools, but in play they become quite unwieldy... you have 3 points left in your shield pool, 2 points left in your resolve pool, 5 points left in your 2-handed pool... it's too much to track. I'm saving the pools for the abilities where they REALLY are needed, and making sure that other abilities give appropriate bonuses in appropriate ways to limit the number of pools to track.

Going forward, I'm jumping over to the idea of shields as a unique ability; you can carry a small shield +1 for a minimal investment, and you can carry a larger kite shield +4 with a moderate investment, and get a substantial return on your investment. If you want to be the ultimate shield bearer, go ahead and purchase shields +8 and let everyone beg you to stand next to them and guard them. Shields are a simple, clean way for a fighter or cleric to serve a broader team role; a fighter with a shield +3 can spend combat standing next to the magician and blocking arrows once in a while, making him a more versatile member of the group.