Saturday, April 23, 2011

Offensive vs. Defense

It seems to me that most FRPGs are all about offense and not enough about defense. What do I mean? When’s the last time one of your players used cover as he advanced on a foe? Do your players want super powered weapons or super powered shields? (OK, they want both, but which one more?) Which has better bragging rights: I did 400 points of damage or He swung at me six times and never touched me? If your players are balancing a good offense with a good defense, then I think you’re in the minority. Even adult players would rather be bare chested barbarians than shield and armor types. What about the whole “glass canon” mage types? It’s not that they never consider defense, it’s just that the standard defensive strategy is to bring a healer.
My biggest problem with this is the shield rules in most games. Shields in most games are a flat modifier to defense. In Legend Quest, you use your shield levels, so you can be a skilled defensive fighter. Not surprising seeing my biases. In college, my character was known as the “damage sponge”. I was a paladin with way too much armor, who would keep the bad guys busy while my damage dealing friends knocked off the other bad guys. Now a days, the computer games have taught us the value of a “tank”, and yes, I often play one.
I think it comes down to an experience I had in my late teens. I have to say I was more of a leader than a follower in my youth (hopefully now too). We were somewhere we should NOT have been, and the other guys looked at me and said, “You go first.” Man, that sucked! While this was going on, we accidentally walked into an even more dangerous situation, and I was the dude in front. (The statute of limitations has likely passed, but I do not want to give details for fear of encouraging bad behavior in others.) After that it has always occurred to me, that no matter what the standard party formation is, it takes some balls to stand in front, especially if you expect that a lot of nasty guys are going to try and kill you.
My point is simply this. In real life, people avoid getting hurt. They do this by hiding behind barriers, advancing in covering teams, using shields and other protections, and countless other means, not all of them all that beneficial. It just seems that characters should do the same. No, it’s not as heroic, but it might add a level of strategy to your game that could be very interesting!

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