Defending Another in Fight

If the sorcerer is not engaging and another PC is going to take on anyone who comes near, it seems like they should be able to protect the sorc. Once the sorc engages to cast though, they’re in the thick of things. Also, if there’s an NPC archer out there drawing a bead on the sorcerer, the guard isn’t going to be able to stop the archer from engaging.

In this case, my question leads back to an old thread I started that was seemingly resolved with: “Don’t worry about it, Dean, these issues resolve themselves.” But they don’t seem to resolve themselves so neatly all the time…

Notice the distinct difference:

Situation One
GM: Engagement time!
Player 1: My knight engages the orc.
Player 2: My sorcerer does not engage. He’s preparing a spell.
GM: The orc engages the knight, because he has no other choice.

Situation Two
GM: Engagement time! The orc engages the sorcerer.
Player 1: Ah shoot, I wanted to stop him first. My knight engages the orc.
Player 2: My sorcerer engages the orc, because I have no choice. scripts avoids

In situation 1, you get those neat “stages” I referred to before. In situation 2, you get a nasty three-way fight. And it all boils down to who shouts out their engagement intents first, because there is no “initiative”. And if the goal is to get “situation 1” every time, we can’t just say “PCs declare first,” because the situation could easily be reversed, with an NPC the GM wants to keep guarded.

Note that these situations are not hypothetical. Situation 2 is an example of how I’ve been running nearly all of my fight scenes thus far. It’s how I understood the rules to work. In the very same fight scene as in my original question, in fact, we had one moment like this, where a player wished he had waited to declare his engagement intent until after I had declared mine.

Am I doing something wrong here, or wildly misunderstanding something?

Hmmm… Sorry for the double post, but I’m considering something here…

Quoting Luke from that old thread I linked to in my previous post:

I think this is the crux here. Intent and Task is usually used for single die rolls. It’s not explained how to apply it to a whole fight scene. Should I be asking players for their Intents before rolling for engagement? And then maybe asking for pre-engagement skill tests for certain special intents? Sort of a “set-up” for the fight before engagement is even broached.

GM: OK, we’re about to enter a fight here. The orcs intend to kill you. What do you do?
Players 1 & 2: My knight is rushing the orcs! Mine too!
Player 3: My ranger is gonna hang back and keep the sorcerer safe.
GM: Are you sure? Three orcs are advancing, while two of them remain behind to guard their archer. Your buddies are outnumbered!
Player 3: Ah. OK, When I see that, I advance.
Player 4: My sorcerer is hanging back…
GM: OK, the two knights and the ranger have to roll engagement versus the three orc warriors. The others are not engaging in the first exchange, but still get to script! Everybody get out your scripting sheets…

Is this the way it’s supposed to roll out? I am now thinking that it is. See, I’ve been doing it the old D&D way, where “initiative is rolled as soon as the monster’s sighted”. I assumed that rolling for engagement was supposed to be your very first action in the combat. But without strategic movement in the combat system, it seems BW fight scenes require a short pause for setup. Is this correct? I hope so, because this seems a lot neater than the way I’ve been running it in the past!

You’re starting your examples at engagement. But there’s a whole passel of stuff that happens before that. Like the GM describes where people are and the players get an understanding of the scene and where they are in it. So, if the GM says “there’s a sorcerer with two armed bodyguards in front of him,” when the Orc says I am going to engage the sorcerer, the GM says “How? There are two armed dudes between you and your target.”

That’s intent and task, not Fight.

We defend one another all the time in Fight! We do it by providing help dice to one another. What’s the big deal?

Yes, obviously it’s a double standard if it’s just a question of who declares engagement first. In BW, there’s always a choice of which mechanic to use, and how to apply them. The King is on the palace steps, his bodyguards are down below. Do you use Range & Cover? Do you use Fight? (Bloody versus?)

Whichever, is the King involved, or is he left out until the bodyguards are dealt with? Can the players engineer a similar situation where their sorcerer (or some noncombatant NPC they’re supposed to be protecting) is uninvolved and unreachable unless they lose the fight?

In both cases, it’s ultimately up to the GM. This is all part of the framing of the conflict, which happens outside the rules. (Much as the decision of which skill to test for a given intent is arbitrary and not part of the rules.) It comes down to a balancing act between challenging the players, plausibility, what’s most interesting, and whatever other concerns the group has.

(As an extreme example of how you might stretch it, you could view an entire dungeon as one long Fight, with Engage colored as moving from room to room and Assess revealing new waves of enemies.)

Doesn’t Luke say something upthread about it being the GM’s job to paint the scene with enough detailed description that the players can make relevant choices? I think that should include any readily apparent information about who’s engaging them in combat (if it’s not readily apparent I’d save it for an Assess). I wouldn’t create a situation where the one who speaks last has an advantage.

You’re starting your examples at engagement. But there’s a whole passel of stuff that happens before that.[/QUOTE]

I started my examples at engagement, because thus far, those are the rules I’ve been using for Fight. Yes, I’ve been framing the scene and whatnot, but once engagement is rolled, I’ve been following the rules in the Fight section of the book to the tee. And the rules have seemingly highly abstracted rules for movement. So, I understood this to mean that the scene framing doesn’t matter much when it comes to movement in Fight, that all participants in the Fight scene are reachable and engageable. I’ve been adapting my descriptions of movement within the Fight scene to take this into account.

For example, in the aforementioned Fight, I framed the scene with the Boss at the far end of the room, with 6 Minions between him and the PCs. When Engagement was rolled and one of the PCs declared, “I Engage the Boss”, I described him as bursting into the room and running around the minions to reach the boss. I know it sounds implausible, and it never really sat well with me, but this is how I had understood the Fight rules were supposed to work.

I understand now that this was my mistake. I am pretty sure I get it now. Thanks everybody!!! However, feel free to add anything you think might clear the waters even more. I know I’m not the only one who had interpreted the Fight rules this way, as all of the players in my group were of the same opinion. I really hope this thread can be of help to more GMs out there who are similarly confused about the mechanics.

Thanks again!!!

Ah, all the participants in the fight are reachable, but just because someone is in the scene doesn’t mean they’re a participant in the fight. So, if that boss engages the PCs then he’s not out of their reach, no matter how many NPCs are between them. He doesn’t get to fire pot shots with impunity. Then those guards might add all sorts of helping dice, but bossman is fair game.

And creative players can find all sorts of ways to get past his minions. That’s what archers are for :slight_smile:

Yep. I think that was made clear enough in the rules book. To act against another character, you must be engaged, and engagement works both ways.

I edited the above slightly, but we still agree.

Having done SCA Fencing scenarios involving guarded targets, there ARE real world techniques one uses to defend another… and while the best defense is to take out the opponent, it’s often easier to parry their blade away from the target than to hit them. One of the local GMoFs I have trouble hitting, but I could usually keep her from hitting the 3rd party, at least until she finally decided the only way to get the target was to eliminate the guards. (Essentially, we kept beating her positioning intent; unlike in the game, tho’, we couldn’t prevent her from attacking, just from hitting, the guarded target and from being at optimal range…)

Sounds like a versus test. In a fight you’d both be trying to stab each other.

There’s also the matter of just staying in the way. Say, hypothetically you’ve got a guy with a shield and some sort of short weapon (axe, sword, whatever) and another person with a spear on one side. As a rule, the person with the shield should try to stay in front of the spear man, which makes it difficult for enemies with short weapons attack the spear wielder while the spear wielder can stab at them just fine. That said, Burning Wheel does cover this to some extent.

Indeed. There are also martial arts techniques for blocking or deflecting unarmed or armed attacks versus a third party with your bare hands. I’ve been trained in some of them myself, having a black belt in Hapkido.

The more I think about it, the more this keeps bugging me … If it’s possible to block access to engagement by putting an NPC in your path, why does ranged combat in Fight break this rule? Why the caveat?

Rule: You can only engage characters that are open for engagement. If other enemies are blocking your way, you must get past them first.

So, my archer hides behind his comrades, maybe climbs a tree or something to get a good angle to shoot down a foe over his allies’ heads. My archer is not engageable.

Rule: If you engage a target, you are engaged yourself, and can be acted upon.

So, my archer looses his arrow, and suddenly he is fair game. The enemy charges through my allies’ shieldwall and scrambles up the tree after me, all with a single Speed test to Engage.

How did my enemy reach me so quickly?

Rule: If you want to go anywhere during Fight, use a Speed test or the Physical Action action. ~ BWG 455

Should I be asking for a Speed test to close on the ranged attacker (separate from the Engagement Speed test that is)? Or apply an Ob modifier to the Engagement test dependent on how far away the archer is? Or is the archer really just fair game once he engages to fire his arrow?

I understand that this puts the pressure on the archers and spellslingers. Makes them fight for the Beliefs and all that. But there are dozens of situations where it would’t make logical sense in the fiction. (Players are good at setting these situations up too!) Can ranged combatants be granted “shoot with impunity” status if the game fiction warrants it?

(Actually, scratch that last question, because I’m pretty sure the answer is “No,” and I don’t want to hear that. What I really want to know is: Why shouldn’t I grant ranged combatants “shoot with impunity” status if the game fiction warrants it? Because, I’m not altogether convinced that it’d be such a bad idea.)

To make the situation even more explicit, your archer might also hide in ruins of an abandoned tower, then block the door/shatter the rotten stairs, and shoot from its window. They’d be engageable all right, but only with ranged attacks.

Archer in tree (never a good place to be) shoots down on an Orc with stick. Get out of my tree, hummee!

Unfortunately, Mr Orc the Stick has a +5 Ob to get that archer out of his tree. It’s not impunity, but it’s close.

Only until the archer shoots, when he cedes advantage. I guess the recoil knocks him out of the tree. :slight_smile:

Yeah, this. Releasing an arrow cedes advantage to an opponent 100 yards away … how? Makes sense if the opponent also has a ranged weapon (Shoot 'im now, while he’s distracted with re-notching!), but kinda senseless when the opponent is an orc with a stick standing 100 yards away with an arrow stuck in his leg.

Lone archer in a tree should probably be Range and Cover from a semi-decent position.