Strength and armor based initiative penalties

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MetalBoar
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Strength and armor based initiative penalties

Post by MetalBoar » Wed Dec 21, 2016 9:14 am

I have a question for anyone who might know. In 3rd edition Earthdawn there was an optional rule to allow higher strength scores to offset armor based initiative penalties. It appears that this has been dropped in 4th edition (that or I've gone blind - equally likely). If this is the case, does anyone know why it was removed? If it wasn't a balance issue related to other rule changes I plan to continue to use it, but would love to know if there's some good reason not to.

Thanks!

Lys
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Re: Strength and armor based initiative penalties

Post by Lys » Wed Dec 21, 2016 10:37 am

The rule was likely removed because armour-defeating hits are no longer a thing, so heavy armour is much more valuable. There has to be something to balance it, else everyone will be running around in the heaviest armour that they can get their hands on (which is realistic, but also a little dull), and initiative penalties are that balancing factor. Keep in mind that the way the game stands now, Crystal Plate makes the absolute best Thread Armour armour bar none.

Consider, a Crystal Plate suit gives you 14 Armour Points and -5 Initiative, for a total of 9 net points. While an Espagra Cloak or Padded Leather armour have 4 AP and -0 Init, for a total of only 4 net points. If both suits were to be enchanted into 6-rank Thread Items, the Crystal Plate could spend five ranks removing the Initiative penalty and one rank increasing the armour, for a total of 15 Armour Points and no initiative penalty, with Forging on top of that to weigh balance between Physical and Mystic to suit your needs. The Cloak and Padded Leather, meanwhile, could spend all their ranks on increasing their total AP and only come up to 10 AP and no initiative penalty. So provided the Thread Items are designed to get the most out of the armour, you can get more out of Crystal Plate than you can out of anything else. If the Forge Armour knack Smooth Armour is brought back, then it will have roughly the same effect as well.

Now consider a situation in which the player gets to ignore a point or two of initiative penalties. Suddenly the gap expands, the Crystal Plate now has a point or two of penalty reduction it can instead spend on armour, but the lighter armours do not benefit at all. Other armours that have an initiative penalty do benefit, but because they start off with less AP they remain strictly inferior. It also important to remember that because Earthdawn has a very high degree of setting and mechanical integration, nearly any kind of mechanical optimization that you can do out of character is something that can also reasonably be done in character. If a Weaponsmith knows that her buddy the Warrior can handle a somewhat restrictive suit without trouble, then she'll make sure to enchant the armour to focus more on protectiveness at the expense of freedom of movement.

Basically the more ways you have to reduce initiative penalties the more the heavier armours benefit, to the point that lighter armours become kind of pointless. There's supposed to be a trade-off between protectiveness and mobility, if you allow people to ignore the penalties for greater protectiveness, then there's no trade-off, heavier is just flatly better.

Slimcreeper
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Re: Strength and armor based initiative penalties

Post by Slimcreeper » Wed Dec 21, 2016 1:37 pm

I also count initiative penalties against movement tests, like swimming and climbing and moving across treacherous terrain.

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Bogie
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Re: Strength and armor based initiative penalties

Post by Bogie » Wed Dec 21, 2016 1:59 pm

Slimcreeper wrote:I also count initiative penalties against movement tests, like swimming and climbing and moving across treacherous terrain.
I'm borrowing that. :)
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MetalBoar
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Re: Strength and armor based initiative penalties

Post by MetalBoar » Wed Dec 21, 2016 9:41 pm

So I agree with the assessment that armor is better in 4th and I am a little concerned with making it too good. On the other hand I've felt that Strength is a relatively weak stat (no pun intended) in Earthdawn. Dexterity is the killer physical stat - it impacts chance to hit (which also means more damage as well as damaging more often in 4th edition) your physical defense, your initiative, your active defense talents, etc. Strength? Just damage and carrying capacity, and how much difference does a single step (OK, maybe 2 or 3 for an obsidiman) of damage matter in comparison to all of the benefits of a step or 2 of extra DEX (not to even go into the fact that the high DEX races have more karma than the high STR races - orcs aside)? In my 3rd edition games I've never seen anyone play a troll or obsidiman warrior or swordmaster but lots of elves and t'skrang and even the occasional windling melee combatants and that's with this optional rule in play.

Looking at things, I see that in 4th edition willpower based mystic armor bonuses start all the way down at a stat rating of 5 where it didn't begin until 11 in 3rd edition so using the same chart based on strength is no longer appropriate, but I feel like offsetting the initiative penalties for armor is a good place to give strength some extra value. I mean seriously, in the real world would you rather be in a life and death conflict with a fly weight or a heavy weight boxer?

I guess I'll play around with some sort of house rule and see if I want to keep it in play.

I do like this and will probably play with that as well:
Slimcreeper wrote:I also count initiative penalties against movement tests, like swimming and climbing and moving across treacherous terrain.
Thanks for the feedback!

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etherial
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Re: Strength and armor based initiative penalties

Post by etherial » Thu Dec 22, 2016 12:01 am

MetalBoar wrote:I mean seriously, in the real world would you rather be in a life and death conflict with a fly weight or a heavy weight boxer?
The fly weight boxer is more likely to have been in a real fight before.

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The Undying
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Re: Strength and armor based initiative penalties

Post by The Undying » Thu Dec 22, 2016 12:04 am

MetalBoar wrote:I've felt that Strength is a relatively weak stat (no pun intended) in Earthdawn. ... Just damage and carrying capacity
For what it's worth, Strength is also your base for Knockdown tests. :D

I think it would good to open your perspective.

First, does an extra point or two of damage really matter? Yes ... yes it does. An extra point or two of damage can be the difference of an extra round or two in combat, and against strong opponents, this can mean life or death. An extra point or two of damage can also mean causing a wound, and wounds can completely turn the tide of a battle. So, yes, if your group is not combat-heavy, then Strength can seem like a wasted stat, but since each gaming session aims to have at least one 'conflict', which may or can require combat, having that extra point of Strength has a huge impact.

Second, carrying capacity should not be overlooked. Yes, at the end of the day, no one wants to count individual pounds to see if your character is over-burdened, and no one wants to get whammed by the GM because they're a pound or two over. However, have you ever stopped to look at how much an Adventurer's Kit, a few Booster Potions, clothing, basic armor and weapon, and other small scale adventuring gear weighs? If you haven't, add the numbers up once as an exercise in perspective. You'll quickly learn that your magician probably can't actually carry all the gear they say they're carrying. This should force the player into making gear compromises on their character, which adds to drama.

Now, you may say "well, we'll just dump it on Warrior" or "fine, we'll rent/buy a horse to haul stuff." That presents it's own problems. A Warrior pack mule can't have everything strapped at the ready (whereas it may be reasonable for a character to have a few core items available as Simple, or a single, Standard action). Once you leave the realm of "at the ready," you're talking ~ three turns to locate and retrieve an item from a backpack (per the Player's Guide, citation currently not available). That can be a problem. Then, an animal-based pack mule presents its own problems. You got to feed the thing. If it's not war-trained, it's going to bolt when conflict kicks up. It won't be able to go to a variety of places that adventurers can go (ever tried to get a horse to climb a rope?).

Last, just because Strength is only listed as having direct impact to damage, carrying capacity, and knockdown, your GM is well within his rights to make this stat more applicable (and, in my opinion, should). Running through a tunnel when a rock starts to collapse? That Warrior can hold up the stone, let his companions escape, and then nudge his way underneath it - magicians only, well, they're hosed. Something suspicious behind a cupboard? Warrior can likely push it out of the way with minimum noise - magicians only, well, they probably need to topple it, which is going to create quite a ruckus. Etc, etc, etc.

MetalBoar
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Re: Strength and armor based initiative penalties

Post by MetalBoar » Thu Dec 22, 2016 12:43 am

You're right, I wan't thinking about knockdown tests when I wrote this and they are relevant, but those have become substantially less common in 4th edition too if I remember the rules correctly (and you use DEX to jump up).

(Note: all my experience in play is with 3rd edition - and that from a few years ago) We do track weight pretty closely and extra carrying capacity has value, it just hasn't ever seemed to be worth enough for even our min-maxers to want to play an obsidiman warrior when it costs 15 build points to have a 16 DEX and they can have an elf with a 19 DEX for 12 build points and 1/3 more karma for free. My experience has been that even with better armor and the benefit of strength lessening initiative penalties that faster, lighter armored, higher karma races fare better in combat than trolls and obsidimen and that's with NPC's that can effectively spend all their karma in a single battle because they aren't trying to conserve any for the next encounter. Have the rest of you had different experiences? I don't get to play a lot (usually GM) but when I do I tend to play something fun rather than worrying about efficacy. That being said, I feel like a troll or obsidiman warrior adept ought to be a terrifying thing and they seem more like eh? at least it's not an elf swordmaster!

I tossed the original question out there because I'm running my first 4th edition game and I had a player asking about this and I wanted to make sure I hadn't just missed it somewhere. Thinking about this some more, it is obviously more a question about racial balance and/or utility that was triggered by the armor topic. Am I missing something, or are the big races just a bit hobbled (for close combat roles anyway) in Earthdawn?

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etherial
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Re: Strength and armor based initiative penalties

Post by etherial » Thu Dec 22, 2016 12:50 am

MetalBoar wrote:You're right, I wan't thinking about knockdown tests when I wrote this and they are relevant, but those have become substantially less common in 4th edition too if I remember the rules correctly (and you use DEX to jump up).
Technically yes, but they did that by throwing out the absurdly easy ones.

Lys
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Re: Strength and armor based initiative penalties

Post by Lys » Thu Dec 22, 2016 1:19 am

All of my experience is with 3rd Edition too, though i hope to continue that game in 4th Ed soon. The group had a Troll Warrior who in my opinion would have been the king of combat if not for his lack of aggressiveness and tactical acumen, and even then he definitely carried his weight. He and the Human Swordmaster (my character) developed a rivalry as to who got the most kills, and the score was about even when they dropped it due to the disruption it was causing in combat. However our most effective combatant was, of all things, the Elven Troubadour. Not because he has high Dexterity mind, every non-caster in the group has Dex 16, but simply because his damned dice always explode at the right moment. The funny thing is that for all of his badassery in combat, he was surprisingly ineffective in social situations due to player timidity. So it fell to the Swordmaster to be the group's face, and despite her brash and often undiplomatic approach, she still succeeded because her dice always explode at the right moment in those circumstances. This has lead to me joking that Elf is the Swordmaster and my character is the Troubadour.

Incidentally the kill count contest between the Human Swordmaster and the Troll Warrior is pretty funny in hindsight. The entire point of the Warrior's character is that he was a former raider who was tired of raiding, tired of the violence and senseless slaughter. He left to be with nature and away from everyone when the events of the start of the game shoved him together with the rest of the group. There he meets this foreign girl who loves fighting, killing, and spilling blood. She is practically the embodiment of why he abandoned his brethren, and yet he was immediately infected by her eagerness and roped into a contest of who could kill the most opponents. Kind of hijacked his character through sheer charisma there.
Last edited by Lys on Thu Dec 22, 2016 1:28 am, edited 1 time in total.

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