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Ideas for the Warlord in Microlite75

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As I mentioned yesterday (Hit Points as Spell Points and the 15 Minute Adventuring Day), I received a very helpful set of comments on Microlite75 in email from Kevin Donovan and, with his permission, I'm going to post and discuss some of the more interesting/controversial nuggets in a couple of blog posts. Feel free to comment with your own views on the issues Kevin raises. Feedback is good and, outside of my Sunday campaign group, I don't get nearly as much as I would like.

Today we are going to focus on the Warlord, an optional character class. Here's the description from version 0.4 of Microlite75:

Warlords can wear any kind of armor, can use all weapons and may use shields. Physical Combat Bonus is equal to their class level/2, round up. Magical Combat Bonus is equal to their class level/4, round up. Experience Base is 25. They add +1 to all attack and damage rolls. This increases by +1 at 5th level and every five levels thereafter. When leading a group of hirelings under their command, the hirelings subtract the Warlord’s fighter bonus in any morale checks and add one-half the Warlord’s fighter bonus (round up) to their attack and damage rolls. Warlords are expert at riding and at small unit tactics.

Warlords are intended to represent fighters who are trained as leaders (e.g. knights, centurions, etc.). While they don't get the attack and damage bonuses as fast as a fighter, there can pass some of their bonus on to any fighting hirelings under their direct command.

Kevin said:

Moreover, I like the idea of the D&D Warlord (from the D&D Miniatures Rules and 4th Edition) with his/her abilities to assist multiple player characters. But here, they only influence "a group of hirelings" which means party NPCs. I know that PCs do not make Morale Checks, some influencing NPCs in that way is fine by me. But how about something for the player characters themselves? For example, using one-half of the Warlords fighter bonus (round up) to modify the attacks and damage rolls of PC involved in physical combat, not spell-casting. Even better, having about giving the Warlord the option, at the starts of every combat round, of either supplementing the attack and damage rolls of PCs or using his bonus to modify the party's initiative roll (or as an alternative, modifying each individual PC's Strike Speed) to represent coordinating the efforts of the party.

I'm afraid that here we seem have a difference of game design principle. I prefer game mechanics to be easy to describe as actions in the game world (without speaking in terms of rules). Rules that do not map well to in game world actions have become more common in later editions of D&D (what some are called dissociated mechanics). I try to avoid such rules as much as possible as they annoy me greatly -- in fact, far too much "dissociated mechanics" is one of the major reasons I can't get into playing 4e.

For my warlord class, it is fairly easy to map the rules to their game world effects (and vice-versa). The warlord gives orders in battle and the hirelings under his command obey them like pieces on a chess board, which allows them to be more effective in combat. Instead of thinking for themselves, they just follow the Warlord's orders and therefore benefit from his or her experience in battle and tactical expertise. As they trust the warlord's knowledge, they are also less likely to break morale. Note the key words, "under his command." Hirelings not under his command do not benefit from his abilities. If NPC Bob refuses to put his bodyguard hirelings under the command of the Warlord, they do not benefit from his tactical skill.

How would this work for Player Characters? Few players are going to be willing to turn over control of their character's actions in battle to another player to get a bonus. Yet this is how the Warlord's ability works, those under his command get a combat bonus because they are following his orders, using his tactical skills instead of doing what they think best.

Unless I turn the Warlord's ability into some type of magic power that inspires characters to do better in combat, I can't see any explanation for allowing Player characters to benefit from it that does break verisimilitude of the game world. Therefore, I will not be adding this to Microlite75. However, if a GM really wants to do something like this, it's his/her game and it would be easy to add house rules to the game.

Kevin added a few additional Warlord ideas in another email:

I was continuing to think about the Warlord class for Microlite 75 the other day. Another possibility for the Warlord is to deduct his/her combat bonus from the number of hit points spent on combat maneuvers during that round, but can never bring the cost below zero. The rationale for that ability would reflect motivation and coordination. Having two possible options (i.e. increased attack rolls, or better Initiative) could make for more interesting choice: do you want to hit harder, or increase your chance of hitting first? But perhaps such options would better fit a Microlite 75 supplement. (Expanded character options via a ML75 Unearthed Arcana like document).

I have the same problem with this expansion of the Warlord class that I do with the first, it just doesn't make much in-game-world sense for PCs as they aren't under the Warlord's command.

However, I really like Kevin's idea of a Microlite75 "Unearthed Arcana"-like supplement that could feature ideas from other M75 players and GMs that are interesting and well-thought out -- but don't necessarily fit my idea of what the game should be. I'm not sure what it would be called (it couldn't be "Unearthed Arcana" for obvious trademark reasons, but if there's interest, I'd love to put such a supplement together. Kevin's expanded warlord ideas would be great for such a supplement.

Next time: Kevin's ideas for Psionics.


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4 comments:
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Wickedmurph said...
June 24, 2010 at 5:16 PM  

You might want to look at the Warlord in the context of team sports. Particularly, players like Shane Battier. Some players, while not putting up extremely high numbers, are extremely good at making their teammates perform better. They do this in a variety of ways, but rarely do they just "issue orders", nor would their teammates be considered "under their command".

Having a great deal of experience with team sports, I've played with this type of teammate before - you soon learn to trust their instincts and follow their lead - that's what teamwork is about.

You might want to try and shift your idea of the Warlord from a "controlling commander" to an "excellent team player", who makes everyone around him better because of his particular skills and focus.

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Randall said...
June 24, 2010 at 9:07 PM  

Something I just thought of. If you aren't an old school gamer, hirelings may not be an important part of your game.

If you don't regularly use hired men-at-arms, the optional Microlite75 Warlord class may seem like a waste -- nothing more than a slightly weaker fighter. In old-school games (which is what M75 is designed for) where hirelings are used, the class is much more useful. A single warlord can greatly increase the combat effectiveness of a good number of men-at-arms while being almost as effective as a Fighter on his own. He doesn't need to buff PC combat abilities to be useful -- in fact, this would make him too powerful compared to the other character classes.

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David said...
June 25, 2010 at 7:59 AM  

I've found that the warlord in our 4e game is one of the most helpful characters to have in the group, and not for his combat ability! I really dig the idea that in M75 he boosts the hireling's abilities.

I'm not sure that PCs need to give up control of their characters, or even their NPCs. Like Wickedmurph said, it might be more like being a good team captain, and less like a chessmaster. The warlord helps everone else get into proper position, helps them set up favorable situations, and lets them get the best shot they can get. It isn't magic, it's just good team coordination.

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Randall said...
June 25, 2010 at 10:11 AM  

David: 4e is a much different game than what I'm aiming Microlite75 at. Microlite75 is the 0e/1e transition coupled with a number of my better house rules from the era translated into Microlite20 terms. Many 4e style rules simply do not fit into this structure as they would turn the game into something not the above.

In order for the M75 Warlord's command/control ability to make sense in the game world, if it affected PCs they would need to be under the Warlord's command. From what I can see, 4e doesn't worry too much about its character powers and such mapping to clear in-game world descriptions. That's okay if that's what you like, but it's not the style M75 is aiming for.

Perhaps my choice of class names is the part of the problem? I picked "warlord" because it was more generic than "knight" or "cavalier". It's not an attempt to translate the 4e warlord class to an old school system (as the name alone might imply).

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