Thursday, July 4, 2019

Clubs and Cudgels - What's the Difference?

From the beginning of my time playing Traveller (circa 1983) I found it odd that the combat rules included club and cudgel as two different weapons. I decided that I would look closer and see why that was. This is, I recognize, not a burning issue among Traveller players. My words will have little effect on how anyone plays the game. Well, this is my blog, and if I want to write about this, I will. I hope you enjoy my observations anyway.

There is not a lot in the official rules to go on.

Clubs are not purpose built weapons. They are, by TTB p. 38, found to hand in the brawl location. So a PC can ask the referee if there is anything lying about that can be used as a club. Bar stools, chairs, crowbars, briefcases, table legs, long handled flashlights, lamps, etc.

Looking at the combat tables, a club requires STR of 5 or faces a -4 DM. That's pretty severe, on par with the broadsword. STR of 8+ gives a DM of +2. My explanation is a club is a temporary expedient - it is not balanced or formed exactly to use as a weapon. If you haven't the strength to lob it in hard, the table leg will work against you.

The club can be abandoned at the end of the combat. It may not be, if it was originally a tool. The club base weight is 1 kg, as heavy as a sword. The referee can decide that the object the PC is using is not heavy enough and assign a -DM to the club. A pencil is not an effective club.
Nice try, bub. No DM for you.
Or it might be too heavy, and it can't really be used at all, except to drop down on someone. Clubs have the lightest penalty for weakened blows. This means a club wielder can keep going past his END score without too much worry. But I've never seen or heard of a Traveller combat that lasted that long.

Referees, have you ever had a mass brawl with enough combatants that a PC might have to fight to and beyond his END limit?

Both weapons have the same Armor DMs in the charts. Okay, fine. A wooden stick is a wooden stick. Neither weapon has a good outlook against serious armor. Battle Dress is nigh-invulnerable (DM -7). This is as it should be. Blunt weapons concentrate kinetic energy, armor spreads out the impact.

The cudgel gets even briefer description. "A basic stick used as a weapon. Easily obtained from standing trees or through the use of an unloaded long gun . . ." That does not sound different from a club in any meaningful way other than length. And in the combat charts, the Club is 800mm in length, to the Cudgel's 1500mm. Very similar, then. Cudgels have the same min STR and advantage STR, but the -DM for the weak cudgel user is only -1. This supports my assertion that the cudgel is balanced and designed as a weapon.

The first things that come to mind are the Irish Shillelagh and the doughty English Quarterstaff. The Q-staff could be up to 2700mm in length, and the shillelagh, the length of a walking stick. Or they can be shorter, like these tonfas

Or this morningstar. Not just for Clerics anymore!

A sword-shaped cudgel known as a single-stick was a 'practice' weapon by sword-fighters, and a body of instruction grew up around it. 
Ruling about the difference:
there is no Club skill, it defaults to Brawling. However, there can be Cudgel skill. The player should specify what type of cudgel they want to learn. See the list below.

The club's range modifiers are Close/+1 & Short/+2, while the Cudgel is +0 for both. (TTB, p. 46) This seems wrong to me. A temporary expedient is more effective than a purpose-built melee weapon? Why would a short club be better at attacking at Short range than a long cudgel? I have swapped the range modifiers in the combat matrix.

A club does (1977 rules) 2D-3 damage, while the cudgel does 2D. This makes the cudgel as dangerous as a Blade, and almost as dangerous as a sword or spear. This neat article includes a reenactor quoted after fighting a man with a quarterstaff "it felt like being inside an oil drum while someone hit it with a sledgehammer."

Don't stick to basics
Think of the array of improved cudgels you could have by TL 10+ The Tech Level Change factor can alter the weight, length, cost and STR min/adv levels. Clubs, being improvised, cannot be upgraded.

At TL 10, (tlcf 100%) a cudgel may have:
  • barbs/spikes for extra damage +3 (20%), stronger yet lighter material (-30%) which reduces the min STR to 4 (30%) and hits better at Close range (20%).
  • a spike of special composite for breaching Battle Dress (-2, 40%) of the same stronger/lighter material (60%)
  • compact storage (length -50%), which extends out to hit better at Short range (-2, 40%) and costs 10% less.
As dangerous as the thing on the other hip.
Cudgel weapon names include:
  • aklys
  • baton
  • baseball bat
  • cricket bat
  • jutte
  • knobkerrie
  • kubotan
  • nunchaku
  • oslop
  • telescopic batons
  • tonfa
  • waddy
A little imagination and a little historical research and even the humble cudgel can be transformed into a personalized melee weapon. A PC who regularly employs such a weapon might get a reputation for using it. Cudgels are easier to get past starport security and Legal Encounters, as they're not banned except at the highest Law Levels. It is a good backup or concealed weapon. A Travellers' life is a dangerous one, so be prepared.

Employing a melee weapon against an object:
If an NPC is brandishing a weapon at a PC at Short or better Close range, the PC may choose to attack the weapon. That is to say, to knock the weapon from the hand of the assailant. The attack throw is 8+ as usual, with no armor DM, but with the Range DM. If the PC is stronger, DM +1. If the NPC is stronger, DM -2. A successful hit puts the weapon away from the PC, and the NPC must re-ready the weapon (no other action that round). The NPC gets a saving throw of DEX or less to hold onto the weapon. A failed throw means the weapon is on the ground.

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