Modifiers for Melee
A brief essay on how AOR Modifiers affect melee weapons.
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
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