Shields and Horses in FS3

Back in 2nd Edition, we represented shields and being mounted on a warhorse with stances on The Fifth World, but that led to a ton of stances: normal, aggressive, defensive, shielded, agg_shield, def_shield, mounted, mount_shield… I think that’s as far as we went, but it could have gone on to agg_mount_shield and def_mount_shield if we wanted to be crazy. All of that to provide +1 attack if mounted and +1 defense if using a shield.

Now that we’re in the glory days of 3rd Edition, what are peoples’ thoughts on representing shields and horses in Ares? I’ve included some options below (several of which came as suggestions from Fara already):

  1. Mounts as a weapon special. This is nice because it lets you indicate which weapons can be used on horseback (although currently ranged weapons don’t get this benefit because the horse isn’t exactly going to help you line up a shot with a bow) and which cannot. It’s also very clean for a way to provide a small bonus to mounted attacks.

  2. Shields as additional armor types. This would represent a shield as a small increase in armor to the left arm, chest, neck, head, and probably left leg. It has the downside of doubling the number of armor options and of not taking lefties into account, but it has the upside of making a shield work the same way as worn armor.

  3. Shields as stance. This represents the deflection abilities of shields, increasing your defenses rather than providing more armor. The downside is additional stances, but if it’s just 3 additional stances rather than the 8 it was on The Fifth World, it may not be so bad.

  4. Shields as cover. This represents the additional armor provided by shields neatly, without adding additional armor types. The downside is that it means you can’t use your shield “properly” while being aggressive or defensive, and it’s really, really effective. Probably too effective.

  5. Mounts as vehicles. This is a cool idea, but doesn’t really work, because FS3 is designed for vehicles to be the primary targets, and for vehicles to completely surround their occupants. You can’t actually hit the rider (even if the Rider is a location) without damaging the vehicle first, and then the rider is only hit by shrapnel.

And then there are the more complex “solutions” that I’ve thought of or Fara has suggested:

  1. Mounted Combatants as new Types. This would build a new hit location that included both rider and mount in a single combatant, so you could attack the mount’s body parts with a called shot, or the rider’s. Unfortunately, wounds to both mount and rider would be stacked on the rider’s damage, so it would be hard to represent the mount being KOed without the rider, and Staff would have to swoop in after combat to heal the wounds to the mount so they didn’t stay on the rider’s damage listing forever.

  2. Horse NPCs in combat. This allows enemies to attack mounts, mounts to have their own hit locations, and if the mount is KOed, then the rider just can’t use mounted specials anymore. Mounts can usually be set to Distract the enemy, to help their rider hit, but could also be set to subdue, or even to attack on their own. It’s certainly the most flexible, but it definitely clutters up combat.

  3. Hacking the guts out of Vehicle combat to allow shots to attack occupants directly. Ugh. That sounds like a lot of work. Really a lot of work.

  4. Something else? Thoughts?

If you want it to work well, I think the only good option is to overhaul the system for fantasy combat.

Shields: Make shields work like weapon specials, so you’d have Plate+Shield or Leather+Shield. Alternately make a combat/shield <type> command to toggle your shield. Then change the mechanics for whatever effect you want shields to have.

(Off the top of my head… in determine_armor, there could be a chance that it gets reduced by the shield in addition to the armor itself, and you can add a “Blocked by shield!” message when that happens.)

Mounted Combat: Mirror the vehicle system to add “mounts”. Like combat/mount and combat/dismount. Then change the mechanics so that when someone’s mounted, there can be whatever coded special effects you want.

(Off the top of my head… you could do things like a hit has a chance of hitting the mount instead of the rider, and certain weapons could have a bonus against unmounted riders, stuff like that.)

Anything else would be an awkward cludge, so ultimately it’s up to you how cludgey you’re willing to live with. Any of the options cited could work, but as you pointed out they all have down-sides. Like if you use stances for shields, then a shield-bearer can never be cautious or aggressive. Stuff like that.