I'd like to start this new serial for the fantasy gamers amongst us.
In a system like Band of Bastards, where fighting is more than a couple of plain attack roles against artificial defense values, one wonders how creatures fight that have no access to human advanced fighting techniques, like the occasional wolf, bear or - and now comes the purpose of the new serial - skeletons, zombies, beastmen, orks, ogres, etc.
This first topic shall now focus on skeletons.
*Credit: This picture is part of the published concept art made for the Computer game Battle Brothers
Now what is a skeleton? Let’s have a look at one of the most widespread of sources:
Let’s have a look at which traits are most commonly associated with our beloved run of the mill servants of evildoers and how they would translate to a BoB fight. Skeletons…Dungeons & Dragons 3.5E Monster Manual I wrote:Skeletons are the animated bones of the dead, mindless automatons that obey the orders of their evil masters. A skeleton is seldom garbed in anything more than the rotting remnants of any clothing or armor it was wearing when slain. A skeleton does only what it is ordered to do. It can draw no conclusions of its own and takes no initiative. Because of this limitation, its instructions must always be simple, such as “Kill anyone who enters this chamber.” A skeleton attacks until destroyed, for that is what it was created to do. The threat posed by a group of skeletons depends primarily on its size.
So at least some magic is needed to re-assemble the loose bones of the long-dead. This magic not only aligns the bones to the positions they had in life but also serves to substitute sinews, muscles and cartilage that would normally be essential to execute movements and provide stability. One might question the stability of this magic energy - in comparison to living flesh - when hit with a sledgehammer. Anyways, to avoid unnecessary complexity, I would just say that both are equal in this matter.■ …are re-animated bones, held together by magic and the willpower of their masters (most commonly referred to as “necromancers”)
Still, this seems an easy trait. If no order is given, a bastard can disassemble a skeleton without resistance.■ …don’t show any initiative themselves.
If the necromancer orders a skeleton to “fight”, it does its best to obey. The three gaming systems I have compared on that matter (Dungeons & Dragons 3.5th Edition, The Dark Eye 4th Edition and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying Game 2nd Edition) list only a few viable orders like “move”, “guard”, “fight” or “wait”.■ …can only follow simple orders.
It is unclear though, how the summoned creatures are able to perform those rather badly defined tasks without any mental ability.■ …are mindless.
- In the TDE rule system, simple undead like skeletons have an Intelligence rating of 1 on a scale of 1 to 24. It can be increased if the necromancer invests more astral energy and spell complexity though.
- In D&D they have no Intelligence at all, but a Wisdom of 10 instead (but I also wonder how skeletons can have an alignment of “neutral evil” while being mindless at the same time?).
- In WFRP, skeletons have neither Intelligence nor Willpower.
Anyways, let’s again assume that “magic” enables skeletons (and other lesser undead) to understand the necromancer’s order and enter a fight with a couple of bastards. If we do that, I can even see a number of skeletons controlled by the same necromancer to cooperate and coordinate their movements and attacks, as they are all controlled by the same source.
Now, how does a skeleton behave in a bout? Do they parry? Do they grapple?
I would argue on the basis of the D&D description cited above, which uses the descriptive word “automatons” for their jerky robot-like movements combined with their inability to feel pain or fear and say that they would just attack without using any maneuvers other than Swing or Thrust, not trying to pre-empt but just doing their same thing until disassembled. They would just half their pool in both Tempos of the Phrase and only grapple if forced to or without options. Shields would only passively protect the covered body parts and neither them nor weapons ever actively used to defend.
Concerning targeting I’d say skeletons should mostly target areas with high level of life (lots of blood) like the neck or torso because assuming that they have a basic “magical” perception that does not rely on eyes (lenses, light, brain) but on some other way to “feel” their opponent. If armor obscured the “lifelines” they would “automatically” (that fits just right) target less protected areas.
If one bastard faces multiple skeletons, they should at least try to coordinate (spend a few dice to oppose in the positioning role) or otherwise they would end being slaughtered one after another.
I believe this could make for an interesting fight for the bastard(s), trying to disassemble the skeletons as quick as possible while having to be as careful as possible about not being hit. The skeletons just need to have enough numbers to provide some challenge. Otherwise they are maybe too easily one-hitted with over-invested killer strokes
And as such no maneuvers requiring the other to be tricked wouldn’t work. This works just fine with Feint because they wouldn’t allocate dice to defend themselves anyways.■ …so they shouldn’t be affected by any kind of psychological influence either.
This would definitely be an application for the Steel skill. Maybe you could even ask for a Steel test paid for with CP at the beginning of every Phrase, but I believe this can get cumbersome very quick…■ …are causing fear.
Means no fatigue.■ …don’t exhaust.
I’d say this is an automatic “Grin and Bear it” all the time. So TN penalty reduced by one. A higher penalty would reflect damage to the material that cannot be ignored.■ …don’t feel pain.
Additionally they are immune to Knock Out but not to Knock Down.
hector wrote:I would be tempted to ignore impact and TN increases for any wound, but take any broken bones to mean that that limb is no longer usable. The skull would have to either be shattered or severed in order to make the skeleton stop fighting.
No Bloodloss ever.■ …don’t bleed.
The relevant outcomes of the wound tables would work as normal. Just eyes, ears and inner organs are not counting.■ …nevertheless are effected by broken or severed limbs.
Self-explanatory.■ …don’t eat, drink or breathe.
To be described by the narrator.■ …move jerkily.
I’d say that thrust damage is converted to blunt, but with halved wound level. This seems easy enough even though you might think about putting pointy weapons at a disadvantage when attacking. But as you count only one disadvantage at every test, this might invite exploitation…■ …have a certain build that makes it difficult to hurt them with pointy weapons or projectiles.
I’d definitely like to put together a stat sheet in the near future, but would also like to read your comments on the above analysis and proposal!
@ Moderators: Please shift this topic if you think it wrongly placed!