Friday, June 5, 2020

Unskilled Weapon Users

Can you find the Unskilled fighter in this group?

I read recently a post on anther blog about the differences in fighting capability in classic D&D. A 'normal man' has less damage resistance. His to-hit numbers are higher than the PC's, and his saving throw numbers are higher as well. The post made the case for the clear superiority of the dungeon-delving adventurer. Can the same be said for Travellers?

Well, yes!

I refer to TTB, page 37.

Any character using a weapon in which he or she has no training is subject to a penalty of -5 when attacking and +3 when defending. All player characters automatically have an expertise of zero . . . in all weapons shown in this book. [I call this the Weapon Mastery advantage] This zero value is sufficient to avoid the no-expertise penalty, but it is not enough to provide a positive DM. Payer characters selecting their weapons should consider the potential benefits of their strength and dexterity levels and any DMs that might be available for those characteristics.”

The PC's Weapon Mastery advantage means a PC will never get caught at a loss owing to unfamiliar weapons. Any PC can take on ANY opponent on reasonably equal ground. A knife fight in an alley to a formal duel in the Duke's courtyard with laser pistols to open field battle. How many of us could say that?

Speaking of Weapon Master, here's one example of what it looks like. Note the way Shiu Lien's attacks change as she goes through a variety of weapons.

She uses:

  • a sword, including dual-wielding
  • a spear
  • sword-breaker hooked swords
  • a huge pole-arm (and an example of not meeting the Required Strength)
  • a massive bronze cudgel
  • a broadsword
all without breaking stride. That's Weapon Mastery.

It makes your two-term Other character seem a little more awesome, doesn't it? Fighting in a training hall, your PC could do the same.

What about “normal men”?
The vast bulk of NPCs the players will meet are not Travellers, and can be summed up with name and/or job title, and any relevant skills. There is no assumption in the rules that a routine encounter NPC has to have a UPP. There's no need for the clerk or taxi driver's background resume like the PCs. These are the people who are untrained in weapon use.

Furthermore, even trained NPCs, such as the gate guard at the military base, does not get the Weapon Master advantage that the Travellers have. If that guard loses his rifle, and tries grabbing up an SMG, he faces the unskilled penalty to use it. The two are employed differently. From my own experience, a Foil, a Blade and a Broadsword use different moves to attack. If I try using my fencing technique with a Broadsword I will not get the best use of it. Yes, I might still get a hit in, but not as often as I would with actual Broadsword training.

In my post about modifying the HTH combat rules, I mentioned three categories of fighters opposing my heroic PC swordsman. The first was a trained & experienced fighter, with Skill-1 in his weapon [skilled fighters]. Next were the Men-at-Arms, who had some training but lacked experience [trained fighters]. They have Skill-0 in their weapon. Last were the poor militia-men, who had neither training nor experience [unskilled fighters]. The above penalties apply to this last group. If we assume an NPC has STR: 7 they will not gain a +DM for any HTH weapon.

A DM of -5 for having no training in a weapon? That is more than a significant handicap. That makes it difficult for an untrained NPC to EVER hit a PC in a fight. One of the militia-men in my post rolled boxcars for his one attack. The no-skill penalty alone brought that down to below the threshold for a damaging hit. After considering the other modifiers, his final to-hit number was a 3.

Traveller's 'task system' is based on a 2D6 curve. The basic To-hit number for combat is 8+ How does the Unskilled penalty factor in this?

Suppose we have two characters fighting with daggers, wearing no armor. One is Skilled (dagger-1) and the other Unskilled. The best case for both of them would be: +1 or -5 for skill, DM +2 for STR of 8+, DM 0 for no armor, DM +1 for Short range. Note also that the Skilled fighter gets to add a DM -1 to his opponent's attack (parrying) and a +3 to his own attack.

Skilled: total DM +7, needing to throw 1+ to hit. That's 100% probable.
Unskilled: total DM -3, needing to throw 11+ to hit. That's 8% probable.
The difference is clear. The Skilled fighter is going to wipe the floor with the other guy, and walk away unscathed. And that's at Skill-1. Vincent Poul isn't the only one who would get auto-hits in this situation.

Worst case: No STR DMs, DM -1 for Close Range, DM -1 for Jack armor.

Skilled: total DM +2, needing to throw 6+ to hit. That's 72% probable.
Take your pick.
Unskilled: total DM -8, needing to throw 16+ to hit. That's beyond impossible.
See the difference? Even in a bad/worst case, the Skilled fighter is at a tremendous advantage.

The Traveller need never be 'unarmed'. Grab up just about any object lying around and your PC has a club which can be employed with confidence. And with it, your PC will lay out 'normal men' with every stroke, while likely taking little damage in return.

Tales of such one-sided encounters might not attach to every individual Traveller. But once enough tales are told, any new Traveller who shows up could get deference. Or fear. That might put a little swagger in your PC's step.

Except that you never know when that backwater planet's Constable might be a retired Traveller himself . . .

Referees, feel free to build Random Encounters out of “We know about your kind around here.”

1 comment:

  1. Skilled or just the basic proficiency is a game changer. I'd allow skill-0 in certain weapons, for those where it's reasonable to have, for minor NPC's as well. But yes, the skill-0 in all weapons is an advantage PC's have.