chinks in the armor

We had this Fight! where one character, a knight, squared off with his nemesis in a tower and it was all very dramatic and awesome, and to give the other members of the party something to do, the GM had a couple mooky men at arms in the room, too. Well one of the characters had been built as, like, an Olympic knife fighter with B6 Knife and freaky high reflexes. B5, I think. Don’t think about it too much.

Anyway, the knife fighter wins the positioning, gets inside, and starts landing superb hits on this poor man at arms on after another. The guy is dressed in heavy chain, I think, from head to toe, so the knife just skips right off, and in roll after roll the GM is not rolling any 1s on the armor roll, so the armor isn’t even coming apart. The knife fighter’s player gets really annoyed because he feels like he ought to be able to strike at the man’s face (his character is moving every hit to the head) but the system makes no provision for it. He can’t even declare a great strike because the knife is one-handed. Eventually the knight defeats his nemesis and the man at arms surrenders to the frustrated knife fighter.

TL ; DR What do you think about a rule that allows characters to spend attack successes from melee attacks to increase the VA of their strike, reflecting strikes at less-armored areas on their opponents? Stabbing your opponent in the face rather than the side of his helmet?

The options I can think of are locking the until you can stab the face without opposition or scripting physical action to pull the helmet off or around.

Burning Wheel isn’t a game that expects all weapons to be useful in all situations. Historically (I’m sure if I’m wrong somebody will be happy to correct me) knives were only used against heavily-armored men when they were down and helpless–which would be simulated by Lock, as Guy pointed out. Also, a Tackle to take him off his feet and end up on top of him might be a good way to keep him from turning his head (and taking the blow on his armor, which a knife won’t penetrate).

Even swords didn’t usually penetrate armor right away–they were used to batter the heavily-armored man until he was incapacitated or they hacked the armor apart (rolled 1’s). A knife won’t have the mass to do anything like that (although a failed armor roll may indicate that they managed to hit one of the few parts that aren’t covered in mail).

There are lots of threads on here about how to handle a heavily-armored foe. They all basically boil down to “use a high-VA weapon, or Lock until they’re helpless.” None of them suggest scripting Strike/Strike/Strike with a weapon that can’t penetrate the armor. That’s what armor’s for, after all!

A knife-fighter’s going to be great against an unarmored opponent, especially if he can get inside (and with a B5 Reflexes I’ll bet he’s winning positioning tests, too). You may want to consider giving him an unarmored/lightly-armored opponent sometime. I’ll bet he would have carved through the mooks if they’d been armed but unarmored.

Absolutely no. People wore helmets and armor for a reason: they worked.

The dice went against the player in this instance, and that happens. Next time his opponent might roll 1s or fail his armor tests altogether. That would considerably change the aforementioned situation.

If the player wants a short blade with VA, tell him to invest in a Dagger (Superior Quality weapon, VA 1). If he wants more than that, have him get some sorcerer to put a little magic on it.

I think it’s a bad idea to change fundamental rules simply because a player doesn’t want to use other options the system gives him or the dice go against him 1 time.

B6 Knife is good. B5 Reflexes are good. That doesn’t mean the character should be an insta-kill ninja.

I was the GM in the session Ten described. I also more recently ran a one-shot adventure for a couple players new to Burning Wheel. They had an absolute blast with it, except for the Fight scene. They were up against two orcs, once again wearing armor. It wasn’t even very good armor. I just roll freakishly well on armor checks for some reason, even though the PCs had way superior stats. In any case, the fight scene lasted forever, and I had to once again just use GM fiat to end it. It was booooring.

Yes, locking works. Should it be required every fight though? Again, boring to see the same technique employed over and over.

I think the house rule suggested would work well. Or, simply make more armor locations, more locations you can call the shot to. Like, a helmet shouldn’t protect your face unless you have a visor.

They’ll be happy with it until the GM starts using it against them. Everybody’s happy when they can stab an Orc in the face. They’re less happy when the Orc does it to them.

Changing tactics can often do wonders.

Then there’s the whole, “if it’s not important enough to hold their interest and prompt them to use the techniques that work then it should probably be a (Bloody) Versus test and not Fight.”

Edit: Didn’t mean to sound dismissive. It’s just that investment has always been a stumbling block for people using the Fight rules.

Maybe there’s a reason folks wear chain mail.

Here’s my rules-drift for this sorta thing. I’ll use my Fight hand-out to illustrate.

Blue: Normal rules, except I’ve renamed the BW definition of “hit location” to the more general “hit zone.”

Red: Rules drift. It merely decides a more precise area where a blow lands after the general “zone” is decided. If you think about it, this has no mechanical impact on the game that could mess it up in any way, but allows for all kinds of new variations of armor.

For example:

Leather Cap, 2D, protects hit locations 5-6 of the Head (the entire Cranium).

Sleeved Gambeson, 1D, protects the entire Torso and both Arms (except for both Hands and the Groin) and hit location 1 of the Head (the Neck).

Gorget, 6D protects hit location 1 of the Head (the Neck).[i]

Light Mail Coif, [/i]3D, protects hit locations 1 & 4-6 of the Head (the entire Neck [1] and Cranium [5-6] and the forehead [4, imagine it as the top portion of the overall 2-4 of the Face hit location]) and hit location 6 of the Arms (the Shoulders).

Orange: Additional (optional) rules drift that messes with success allocation somewhat. Reflects an attacker’s ability to pinpoint the exact portion of the body they want to Strike (though they can’t leave the hit zone they commited to).

I also suggest making Strikes to the Arms & Legs -1 IMS on a hit and the Head +1 IMS (Torso is the unmodified, normal base value). That really injects more strategy into the system (which currently only has the question of “Where is my opponent’s armor?”).

No worries! Dismissiveness versus rules drift is kind of the norm on this site. (Not to sound dismissive myself, just saying, this thread is expected to be controversial.)

This mod is kinda cool, but you still end up with that =<50% chance of armor completely negating a successful attack, if an armored location is hit. Also, the main problem is that GMs are lazy. We’re far more likely to just say the enemy is wearing a full suit of ___ armor, with equal coverage everywhere. At least, I know I would. We don’t want to determine beforehand whether or not the black knight is wearing crotch protection. And choosing that kind of information in the heat of battle can get rather arbitrary at times.

I’d throw my vote in for Ten’s VA reduction hack. It allows highly successful attacks to actually mean something. What’s cool about the existing armor rules is how abstract they are, so this drift just rolls with that. You’re wearing a helmet, but I aim for your face. Sure, try it, but it’ll cost you a few extra successes to get past the helmet. It works fine. In fact, it’s kinda like you’re paying multiple dice to call the shot, instead of just one. This is fitting!

I might suggest that the dice cost to get past VA should be the entire VA of the armor you’re trying to circumvent. I don’t think this should be necessary personally, but it might be a good rule for some people.

For campaigns that are expected to last a very long time, with PCs that are expected to eventually go up against totally badass monsters like demons and dragons with G10 Power and wild stuff like that, I might stick with the core armor rules. When a monster can deal a Mortal Wound by only landing an Incidental hit, those armor rolls are the single most important rolls you will make in the entire game. Sometimes, they’re the only thing that can keep you alive. This should not be taken away from the PCs lightly.

But in short campaigns with gritty, down-to-earth human characters, the existing armor rules often just end up in a boring whiff-fest. That’s not good. So long as they’re fighting over a Belief, let 'em take the hit and die, I say. Fighting for your Beliefs is what the whole game is about, and when you fight, death is a common outcome. Nobody should be surprised about this!

How about this rules drift?

You can use the Assess action to increase the VA of your next attack.

This is good not just for Knife Guy but for, well, pretty much everybody. So instead of writing a special action, make it a big-hitting Dt in the spirit of “cheat a bit at Fight” traits like Artful Dodger or The Killer.

(What’s the Ob? I dunno. Maybe the base Ob is the armor’s dice and you get +1 VA, plus another +1 VA for every X (1? 2?) margin of success above that. Something like that?)

Guys, maybe the easiest thing is don’t fight a guy in heavy mail with a knife.

Take an axe, a mace, a light axe, a footman’s axe, a hammer, a polearm (thrust), a spear, a lance, a dagger, an SQ longsword, a Great Mace, a Sweet Axe, or, really, anything else Superior Quality.

There are 14 weapons in BWG w/o VA.

There are 16 with VA. Half of all Run-of-the-Mill weapons have VA.

I don’t see the problem here.

The problem is when you have dumbass GMs like me who throw armored mooks up versus PCs who are secondary to the Fight scene (beliefs irrelevant). The players don’t get to choose that. Does that make me a bad GM? Possibly, but I doubt I’m alone in this.

I think some of this is definitely an issue of expectations. Combat in Burning Wheel is a different monster from combat in other games in a few ways, and this discussion highlights that. In a medieval setting, I don’t think one would normally expect a knife-fighter to (barring some genius tactic) be able to crack the armored shell of such an opponent. The trouble is, fantasy RPGs have given us exactly that expectation.

Crack the armor with a knife? No, of course not. Facestab somebody who is wearing a skull-cap? Yes, I believe that’d be quite plausible. Hard to pull off in the middle of a fight, but really, everything in a fight is hard.

The armor exponent on a Skullcap is 1D. Default armor obstacle is Ob 1. Whenever you get enough successes to move a shot to the face, there’s a 50/50 shot of doing just that with a VA - weapon.

The armor system in BW is different, and doesn’t seem obvious the first time players engage with it. The second time they tend to come ready and deadly.

I’ve seen the problem illustrated in this thread. I’m sure many BW GMs have seen it one time. The next time there will be maces, axes, armor-crushing spells, locking, and physical actions to tear away shields and rip off helms.

If you institute a new rule to allow people to create VA (effectively) with successes on any weapon skill test, you devalue armor. Armor in BW is already difficult and expensive to maintain, but players do it since it’s awesome. Make it less awesome, and you’ll see less armor.

If that’s what you want in your game, enable additional VA methods.

Again, I know exactly the problem you’re talking about, but I think it’s a problem with the way we’re used to engaging combat mechanics and not with the RAW.

So I think most of you are saying the rule is unnecessary, and that’s obviously true. We’ve all been playing BW for quite some time and it’s so playable we keep playing it. What I’m proposing is a modular shift that will give you a little bit of a different effect, that’s all. It’s like Wayfarer was saying here about swashbuckling games, advising that you can get a less gritty, more heroic feel by giving low obstacles for stuff we’d scoff at in most BW games, like parrying arrows with the flat of your blade or cutting Catherine Zeta Jones’ clothes off while you’re dueling her. Not right for every game, but oh so right for some.

What I like about spending successes for VA is that only a really masterful fighter will have the option (barring artha dumps), since successes are hard to come by, and spending successes for VA will mean you’re not spending them for adds, meaning weaker hits. It’s a tactical tradeoff for most characters. Dart at the face and scratch him, or thrust for the chest and hope to penetrate and end him?

I’m not sure it would reduce the PCs use of armor, since armor would still be tremendously effective at reducing harm (whether stopping blows entirely or stealing adds and so softening the hits), but I bet it would have the effect of making armored fighters wary of skilled opponents in ways they might not be now. If you’re a Song of Ice and Fire fan, this is Syrio Forel defeating armored Lannister guards with his wooden sword. How is that not cool?

MyKelsss, your hack is good, but it’s more rolls and more recordkeeping, which is not the effect I’m after here.

Alex_P, that would work, but it would have the odd effect of making nerds wicked dangerous, since Assess is generally Perception-based. I’d rather leave this in the hands of weapon masters, I think.

Both of you, I appreciate your constructive approach. People like you make forums worth reading, since a quiet forum where nobody is pitching ideas is pretty dull.

Or use it with my great mace in conjunction with Great Strike for a VA 5 hit to crumple a Full Plate breastplate (7D) like paper. My opponent would have to make an Ob 6 Armor test. Chances are, he fails that, takes a wound, makes a Steel test, and I win easily against the strongest defense in the game.

Now, with 1 success, my Poor Quality shiv can render your Superior Quality gambeson utterly worthless, and has a real chance of slicing through Reinforced Leather or Light Mail.

Giving skills the ability to add VA to weapons reduces armor effectiveness across the board, and makes light armor useless.

With this rule there would be virtually no reason to invest in light armor, and less reasons to invest in heavier armor.

Boosting VA with successes doesn’t make armored guardsmen wary of skilled fighters. It makes skilled fighters with good weapons death to anyone no matter what they’re wearing.

That’s why I suggested it be a giant die trait with an appropriate “I AM THE MURDER-MASTER” type of name.