AOR Modifiers for Melee Weapons

A brief essay on how AOR Modifiers affect melee weapons.

        We've received a few excellent questions on the lack of AOR Modifiers for melee weapons in the Core Rulebook. The issue, specifically, is that if you look at the category descriptions on page 130 we tell you that melee weapons may have AOR Modifiers but do not include them in the individual weapon descriptions. Nor do we adequately explain to you why that is. This has understandably confused some players, so we felt we should take a the opportunity to explain why we mention it as a concept but do not include actual stats.

     The reason is that we absolutely wanted to incorporate AOR Modifiers as a concept for players to use and customize, but ultimately didn't feel that it was appropriate to include them in the "official" description. This is because it is damn near impossible to model those modifiers realistically on a broad scale.

     To understand why, you first have to think about what an AOR Modifier is; it's a mechanical representation of how the use of an item affects the speed of future actions. With a gun this concept is easy to understand--it takes time to recover from recoil and bring your sights back on-line, so many guns suffer an AOR Penalty after you shoot them. That makes perfect sense.

     But is the same true with a melee weapon?

     The answer is yes, absolutely, in the case of things like nunchaku, morning stars, and even some of the larger polearms. Regardless of how proficient you are with the weapon, it takes time to bring your hurty-end back around for another attack--so a penalty would seem obvious. But with almost every other melee weapon a good fighter can move seamlessly from attack to attack without pause--frequently at a rate that is actually faster than you can attack unarmed. This should mean that they actually give bonuses, rather than penalties, to the user's AOR.

     So we tested accurately modeling bonuses for things like batons, katanas, rapiers, daggers, and sabers--weapons that are especially easy to make short, quick, flowing attacks with--and found that it was completely unbalanced. There is a threshold in game design where reality has to take a back seat to playability, and large-scale AOR Bonuses crosses it. What's more, you couldn't give bonuses to melee weapons and then not give it to firearms that would also deserve it. In the end this led to a power-gamer love-fest with players creating characters that would get exponentially more attacks than everyone else. It was ridiculous and unacceptable from a design standpoint.

     Then we tested just having the penalty officially listed for those three or four weapons that should legitimately suffer them and found it to be too much of a deterrent for anyone to actually use them. Finally, after dozens of hours of arguing, dice throwing, and hair pulling, we simply decided not to include melee modifiers in the official stats--but we did want put a bug in the player's ear about it as a concept. Hopefully leaving you to add them in when you feel like it.

     And when do we think you should feel like it?

     Well, we like to add Bonuses as an AOR Modifier in those dramatic moments when a character is chaining short, fluid attacks together into a terrifying dervish of destruction. Or when they're focused on performing the same quick-repetition action, such as a thrust, over and over again. Or if one combatant is using an innately fast weapon, like a short sword, and the other is using an innately slow weapon, like a morning star. Or when the character is fighting an opponent who circumstance has made inherently slower or unbalanced.

     We like to add Penalties when a character is using a weapon that is much too big for them. Or when a weapon is slippery or difficult to grip. Or if, after a particularly damaging hit, a weapon might be temporarily stuck inside of an enemy's body. Or if a character is radically shifting targets, say from a person in front of them to a person behind them.

     In other words, we like to add modifiers when they make good, dramatic sense--particularly when it increases the excitement and tension of a roleplaying scene.

     But if that's still not enough information on the subject, you may want to check out this piece's sister article: Customizing AOR Modifiers.



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