The Infamous Over-Investing Issue and How to Deal with It

Anything related to personal combat and archaic weapons
User avatar
Siggi
Flowchart Sensei
Posts: 96
Joined: 05 Jul 2013, 04:14

The Infamous Over-Investing Issue and How to Deal with It

Post by Siggi » 24 Sep 2015, 18:49

Hello and good day!

Today while climbing half a century old apple trees I reflected upon one certain issue of the TRoS combat rules. This issue is known as over-investing dice while attacking and it even managed to find its way to the pages of TRoS Companion book (as all of us here do remember).

Indeed, my own experience of game mastering TRoS revealed this problem. The leading character was a Polish-style sabre fighter. And he had a tactic of choice: whenever he entered a fight he just hacked at foes hither and thither with his trusty sabre! Very Cossack'ish, I should note, and also very efficient. Limbs, ears and noses were flying here and there, and the hero persistently emerged victorious.

See, this is not to say that he shouldn't have won those fights (most of his opponents were intentionally designed to be of roughly the same combat skill). Neither I say that the player lacked combat thrill or enjoyment during those duels. Everybody was happy. But it still seems not quite right to me: the combat system is so well designed, yet all those manoeuvres and dividing-combat-pull mechanic just don't come into play when you can just hack - and that's it. Again, the players know how deadly the combat is so they choose the most sure way to beat an opponent - to strike him down as fast as possible!

When I faced this problem, I opened TRoS Companion on page 65 and read the recommendations therefrom. Over-investing dice is not a good tactic, they say, for there are 3 ways it can get you into trouble:
- the opponent can steel initiative;
- he can defend and you'll be left with little or no dice to defend;
- he can Counter.

Well, the first option was the only one that sometimes worked in the least. But not often ("They tried and failed?" - "They tried and died." ©). Second and third options didn't really work because, as I said, the opponents had comparable Combat Pool. Say, your pool is 13 and your foe's pool is also 13. He throws at you 12 dice - what should you do? Your DTN is on par with his ATN (or worse). How many dice you invest - 12, 11? Maybe 10? I tried 10. Short fights. You roll 11 and get the same number of successes? You don't steal initiative. You roll 12 and defend successfully? You've got only 1 die left to attack with and your opponent also has 1 die plus several points in Luck SA (yes, we did use that). I'm not mentioning Counters due to their high activation cost. I tried this and it usually ended with successes draw - no counterattack.

All that said, my question is as follows: did anybody else have such problems and how did you deal with them? And the question to our beloved designers: did you mitigate this issue in Bastards somehow? Or maybe this is not an issue at all and I'm just missing something or making thing out?..
User avatar
Agamemnon
Grand Master
Posts: 1032
Joined: 05 Jan 2013, 13:59
Contact:

Re: The Infamous Over-Investing Issue and How to Deal with I

Post by Agamemnon » 24 Sep 2015, 19:21

That could definitely be a problem in TROS. In one of my very early tests, I had a player with a rapier and an A priority. He discovered that there was very little that couldn't be overcome by going all-in with maximum starting proficiency at ATN5.
Siggi wrote:When I faced this problem, I opened TRoS Companion on page 65 and read the recommendations therefrom. Over-investing dice is not a good tactic, they say, for there are 3 ways it can get you into trouble:
- the opponent can steel initiative;
- he can defend and you'll be left with little or no dice to defend;
- he can Counter.
In principle, these were all great ideas. The problem was just that none of them worked very well. For 'Bastards, we went in the same direction but we made some important mechanical tweaks along the way.

If you have the dice to do it, Counter is always a fantastic option because it uses your opponent's dice against them. If someone has significantly over-extended (but not gone all-in), this is often a fantastic choice as you can then go heavy on your defense and count on their over-extension to give you some dice back for the next round.

The big difference though is in stealing initiative. In TROS, it was something the defender just kind of bought. You paid a number of dice equal to their Perception to be able to make an opposed roll between your WP and their Wit, with TN equal to each other's reflexes. You could wind up investing a ton of dice on a roll that costs your opponent nothing, leaving you even worse off than you were before.

It's the asymmetry of this that foils it.

In 'Bastards, we handle it differently. The defender still declares that they want to steal initiative, but all dice that are going to be rolled on both sides have to come from their remaining CP. Simply put, if you go all-in on your attack in the first Tempo, you don't have any dice left to defend yourself if the opponent tries to steal initiative.

The actual rules are slightly more complex than that, but that's the gist of it. There are a number of ways that both attacker and defender can punish over-investment, or take advantage of under-investment.
Sword and Scoundrel: On Role-Playing and Fantasy Obscura

Arrakis teaches the attitude of the knife — chopping off what’s incomplete and saying: "Now it’s complete because it’s ended here."
Collected Sayings of Muad’Dib, the Princess Irulan
User avatar
higgins
Heresiarch
Posts: 1186
Joined: 05 Jan 2013, 08:00

Re: The Infamous Over-Investing Issue and How to Deal with I

Post by higgins » 25 Sep 2015, 11:03

Agamemnon wrote:In 'Bastards, we handle it differently. The defender still declares that they want to steal initiative, but all dice that are going to be rolled on both sides have to come from their remaining CP. Simply put, if you go all-in on your attack in the first Tempo, you don't have any dice left to defend yourself if the opponent tries to steal initiative.
That's the key. Also, there's no activation cost to make the whole ordeal prohibitively or dangerously expensive. Every die you spend on pre-empting will help you. If the other party has committed everything, he has virtually no chance of landing his strike first.

Another problem in TROS was that even if you successfully stole the initiative, there was always a chance that you could strike armor and the blow was void. Then your opponent's blow landed and murdered you. In 'Bastards we also have the Precision Thrust maneuver by which you can shift your final strike location to target the unarmored body parts.

If your opponent really has sunk all his dice into his first attack, then you should have no trouble employing both these techniques simultaneously. :twisted:
"You can never have too many knives."
- Logen Ninefingers, The Blade Itself
User avatar
Siggi
Flowchart Sensei
Posts: 96
Joined: 05 Jul 2013, 04:14

Re: The Infamous Over-Investing Issue and How to Deal with I

Post by Siggi » 28 Sep 2015, 06:29

Thanks for the replies, guys! I see that you're fully aware of the problem and I'm really glad to hear that you addressed it in the rules!
User avatar
higgins
Heresiarch
Posts: 1186
Joined: 05 Jan 2013, 08:00

Re: The Infamous Over-Investing Issue and How to Deal with I

Post by higgins » 28 Sep 2015, 09:10

Siggi wrote:Thanks for the replies, guys! I see that you're fully aware of the problem and I'm really glad to hear that you addressed it in the rules!
Well, yes. As Agamemnon quite painfully pointed out last night, we've been at it since 2011. And that's after we broke away from TROSfans. The development hasn't been constant, of course, but spend that much time on a hobby and you're bound to discover 99% of its quirks.
"You can never have too many knives."
- Logen Ninefingers, The Blade Itself
User avatar
Agamemnon
Grand Master
Posts: 1032
Joined: 05 Jan 2013, 13:59
Contact:

Re: The Infamous Over-Investing Issue and How to Deal with I

Post by Agamemnon » 28 Sep 2015, 10:30

higgins wrote:
Siggi wrote:Thanks for the replies, guys! I see that you're fully aware of the problem and I'm really glad to hear that you addressed it in the rules!
Well, yes. As Agamemnon quite painfully pointed out last night, we've been at it since 2011. And that's after we broke away from TROSfans. The development hasn't been constant, of course, but spend that much time on a hobby and you're bound to discover 99% of its quirks.
Life being what it is, we've picked the project up and set it aside over the years. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone who has debated and analyzed TROS more than we have though — and that's not counting years spent on the trosfans forums doing the exact same thing before we even thought to write our own thing.
Sword and Scoundrel: On Role-Playing and Fantasy Obscura

Arrakis teaches the attitude of the knife — chopping off what’s incomplete and saying: "Now it’s complete because it’s ended here."
Collected Sayings of Muad’Dib, the Princess Irulan
User avatar
Korbel
Standard Bearer
Posts: 1147
Joined: 13 Apr 2015, 12:09
Location: Poland

Re: The Infamous Over-Investing Issue and How to Deal with I

Post by Korbel » 03 Oct 2015, 09:41

Higgins, what is the best tactic in real-life fight, when your opponent over-invests - takes a big swing for example? Would you risk stealing initiative? You can't be sure that even a good hit will stop him immediately. Let`s say you thrust him in his belly, yeah - great move, your sword sticks there... but his weapon don`t stop! And you`re in trouble...
User avatar
higgins
Heresiarch
Posts: 1186
Joined: 05 Jan 2013, 08:00

Re: The Infamous Over-Investing Issue and How to Deal with I

Post by higgins » 03 Oct 2015, 13:49

Depends on weapons used. My primary discipline is sword and shield, so, it's hard not to recommend a good whack at his striking arm while covering yourself up with the shield.

Of course there are techniques to counter that, but in general that's the safest bet. Also much depends on your opponent's skill level. My trainer has a wicked fast #1 cut that's also super accurate. Even if I predict his tactic and we strike simultaneously, my sword often hits the air instead as the arm has come, smacked my shield, and gone in an instant. Then again... That strike has been his bread and butter for over a decade, so... :)

Important part is covering yourself up through. Punishing the other guy is strictly secondary.
"You can never have too many knives."
- Logen Ninefingers, The Blade Itself
User avatar
Korbel
Standard Bearer
Posts: 1147
Joined: 13 Apr 2015, 12:09
Location: Poland

Re: The Infamous Over-Investing Issue and How to Deal with I

Post by Korbel » 03 Oct 2015, 15:03

So... if fighting without a shield and in a light / no armor - you wouldn`t "steal initiative", right? I believe this would result in a double kill (or both opponents heavily wounded) most of the times. Not funny... Assuming your skill is rougly the same.
How does this translate to BoB rules? Assuming equal skill, the Agressor goes all-out. You sacrifice some dice to steal initiative, some to actually attack - and are left with only a couple for defense. If you dont``t kill him instantly, you have some trouble - his attack is very strong and if you dont have an armour, your luck is out.
User avatar
higgins
Heresiarch
Posts: 1186
Joined: 05 Jan 2013, 08:00

Re: The Infamous Over-Investing Issue and How to Deal with I

Post by higgins » 03 Oct 2015, 16:43

Well, that's a different situation entirely. If I think I could make it, I'd try to grapple him. If I can get close and control his arm at the elbow (never try to control below the elbow, wrist moves too fast) then he can't effectively strike. I've retained the control of the fight and will pommel them, or draw a dagger.

'Bastards models this perfectly. Let's say you have a CP of 12 and want to be absolutely sure to steal the initiative. You sink half your dice into it. You need a single success to land your strike first if this was red/red. If he started off with initiative, you need two successes to land first (original attacker gets one auto-success). If he had dice, he could counter your pre-emption attempt, but he doesn't. Two successes on 6 dice is hardly a stretch. Now, you have 6 dice left. Spend one as activation cost and Grab at him for 5 dice. You need a single success to succeed, since he can't resist. If you pull that off (again, almost impossible not to succeed), then the offensive Grab has a restraining quality. It essentially means that you've controlled his arm -- and all the the dice he committed are discarded. In addition, the MoS on your Grab reduces his remaining CP, which is zero, so, that will be deducted at refresh, tipping the scales to your favor.

If you'd be willing to settle for two die activation cost and 4 die grab, you'd also have a good chance to throw or disarm him, depending on your MoS. :twisted:

Sorry if this got long winded. I had to explain all the nuances to paint the complete picture.

Outstanding questions, by the way. :)
"You can never have too many knives."
- Logen Ninefingers, The Blade Itself
User avatar
Agamemnon
Grand Master
Posts: 1032
Joined: 05 Jan 2013, 13:59
Contact:

Re: The Infamous Over-Investing Issue and How to Deal with I

Post by Agamemnon » 03 Oct 2015, 17:04

Good timing on that question, too. We were just reviewing/double-checking our maneuvers list and the grappling mechanics.
Sword and Scoundrel: On Role-Playing and Fantasy Obscura

Arrakis teaches the attitude of the knife — chopping off what’s incomplete and saying: "Now it’s complete because it’s ended here."
Collected Sayings of Muad’Dib, the Princess Irulan
User avatar
Korbel
Standard Bearer
Posts: 1147
Joined: 13 Apr 2015, 12:09
Location: Poland

Re: The Infamous Over-Investing Issue and How to Deal with I

Post by Korbel » 03 Oct 2015, 17:10

Yay, that`s clever! While a regular attack might not stop your opponent for 100%, a grapple should do the trick. Simple, but effective.
So basically this means over-investing can be very, very uneffective and stupid to do, as even an unarmed man can exploit this, grapple you and gain advantage. Looks great!
User avatar
higgins
Heresiarch
Posts: 1186
Joined: 05 Jan 2013, 08:00

Re: The Infamous Over-Investing Issue and How to Deal with I

Post by higgins » 04 Oct 2015, 03:59

That's precisely it. Plus anyone with a free hand can Grab, as it's a basic maneuver, which means it's available for every proficiency.

Now, the next level of over-investing problem would be the opponent sinking most of their pool into a strike, but leave a some dice in reserve to bid against your pre-emption or grab attempt. However, given equal CP, that makes him subject to Counters and all other kinds of nastiness. Not a safe bet at all for the attacker.
"You can never have too many knives."
- Logen Ninefingers, The Blade Itself
User avatar
Agamemnon
Grand Master
Posts: 1032
Joined: 05 Jan 2013, 13:59
Contact:

Re: The Infamous Over-Investing Issue and How to Deal with I

Post by Agamemnon » 06 Oct 2015, 18:43

Korbel wrote:Yay, that`s clever! While a regular attack might not stop your opponent for 100%, a grapple should do the trick. Simple, but effective.
So basically this means over-investing can be very, very uneffective and stupid to do, as even an unarmed man can exploit this, grapple you and gain advantage. Looks great!
Our unarmed combat has been given some real love. Between the fact that quite a few maneuvers can be used unarmed (you're simply using "fist" as a weapon), and the grappling maneuvers we have, we spent a lot of time playing Fight Club just to feel it all work together.

Take this as you will, I obvious have some bias, but 'Bastards is the first game where I really want to play with daggers, brawling, and wrestling. You can make some extremely nasty close-quarters combatants.
Sword and Scoundrel: On Role-Playing and Fantasy Obscura

Arrakis teaches the attitude of the knife — chopping off what’s incomplete and saying: "Now it’s complete because it’s ended here."
Collected Sayings of Muad’Dib, the Princess Irulan
User avatar
Marras
Grizzled Veteran
Posts: 856
Joined: 22 Apr 2014, 03:19

Re: The Infamous Over-Investing Issue and How to Deal with I

Post by Marras » 07 Oct 2015, 04:38

Sounds great! This would really make a it feasible to have a game of city thugs that are armed with only daggers and clubs or even unarmed.
Post Reply