A beginner's guide to combat
Combat! No matter what profession you elect for your character, you will be exposed to combat in the world of Elanthia. For most professions, combat is the primary path to knowledge, advancement and riches. Outside of a town's walls the world awaits, usually to devour your character! Denizens of the lands like trolls, zombies, orcs, and even the occasional rabid squirrel - yes, all these and more wait to send your character to meet his or her demise. In many cases, the only way to fight off these horrors is literally to engage them in combat.
Even though for the most part your character should feel safe while in town, from time to time creatures will band together to test the mettle of a town's population. Usually, these invasions are immediately noticeable, but a sure sign is if you check the town's justice status and find that the chaos has the attention of the local constabulary. In order for your character to have a chance, you need to understand the basics about combat. This guide will share these basics to give you a fair shot at ensuring your character's survival. But combat can be very complex, so don't expect to learn all the in's and out's in this guide. You'll have to take your character out and experience it for yourself to really gain any competency.
Let's simplify it a bit, though. Combat is made up primarily of three factors: What you're going to attack with; What you're going to defend with, and; The combat resolution system itself, which compares your character's skills and various advantages against your foe's skills and advantages to determine the outcome of your attack. Or, of course, the outcome of your foe's attack against your character. Let's take a broad look at each of these three factors.
Tools for the Attack
In general, if your character is going to hit something, pick something stout! To effectively wield these tools, you must make sure your character has the skill to utilize whatever it is you equip him or her with. For those professions of a more physical mindset, commonly referred to as the squares and semi professions, there are several classes or groupings of weapons to choose from.
|* One-handed edged weapons||* One-handed blunt weapons||* Two-handed weapons|
|* Ranged weapons||* Thrown weapons||* Polearms|
|Pure magic using professions will tend to use bolt or ball spells, or spells which must be warded against, generally referred to as CS spells.|
Ways to Defend
Mounting an effective defense against a concerted attack is no small task. At every turn, there are denizens waiting to test the rumor that dinner really can be found in that mobile humanoid-shaped can. Your character's defense will be most effective with training in shield, or if a pure, in skills that allow for runestaff defense. Training in armor is essential for your character to survive any attacks that may land and do damage. Other skills such as combat maneuvers like Vanish or Side by Side can help your character either alone or when in groups. The single greatest contributor to success in your character's defense is the stance your character is in at the moment of the attack. We'll explore this later.
For most new characters in most professions, the key to defending well is to have the best possible enchanted armor and shield / runestaff available at the time, good brawling or weapon skills, and to capitalize on protective spells that the character can cast or have cast upon himself or herself by some benevolent spell caster. In fact, probably the most frequently experienced introduction to other characters in the lands is for your character to go into your town's central square and ask for a 'spell-up'. Oftentimes it is an additional politeness if your character asks for the specific spells you desire - although this isn't necessary. You'll meet many characters this way and hopefully turn towards assisting others the same way, as you can later in your character's journey.
This is perhaps the most confusing of the three for new players. The combat resolution system has myriad mechanisms to determine fairly who hit whom - even though sometimes you'll scratch your head and wonder what exactly just happened to your character. There are four primary types of combat resolution that you'll see. And you can quickly determine which type of combat resolution your character is facing, based on what the combat type starts with. We'll go over each type in a bit of detail, and there's a lot of math involved. Fortunately, the combat resolution system handles all that for you, but you need to understand the components. Let's get a general view of each type, first.
If, for example, the combat starts, and you see a line of letters and numbers that starts with AS, you know you're being swung at, shot at, or some mean magic user has cast a bolt or ball spell at you - or that you attempted to do the same to a creature. This is the most frequent type of attack that you'll see when first starting.
If the combat starts and you see a line of letters and numbers that starts with CS, you'll know that an even meaner magic user has cast a warding spell at you - or you cast such a spell at another.
If, on the other hand, you see a line of letters and numbers that starts with UAF, then you're facing a combatant that is attempting to use the brawling skill to shorten your character's journey - or that you are swinging away without a weapon.
And finally, if you should see a line of letters and numbers that starts with Roll result:, then you know you're facing a creature that is attempting a combat maneuver against your character - or that you've initiated such a skilled attack.
Just because combat is so much fun, sometimes you won't see anything but the result - some calculation of damage and some effect like stunned or prone from a special creature ability. Or, it could mean you initiated an attack that resolves under the Standard Success Resolution System, the character's counterpart to the creature ability. You won't see too much of this in your character's early training, though.
In keeping with your character's personality and roleplay, you have likely decided to FIGHT! While not always your best first choice, if you're going to do it, do it well. In GemStone, attacking well means one simple thing - have the entire combat resolution come out with a number greater than 100 at the end. That's when the resolution is considered successful. Let's break down each of the four basic types of resolution briefly, to orient you to what you're actually seeing.
Attack Strength or AS
The first type of combat resolution occurs when someone swings, shoots or casts something at someone else, be it a PC or a creature. AS is always compared to DS in this formula. This type of resolution looks like this:
This resolution has four components, each made up of several factors.
Cast Strength or CS
The second combat resolution type occurs when someone casts a warding spell at someone else, again irrespective of PC or creature. Here, CS is always compared against TD or Target Defense, to resolve success or failure of the attack. This type of resolution looks like this:
This attack likewise has four components which function similarly to the AS/DS resolution type, each component possibly comprised of several factors.
Unarmed combat or UAF
The third combat resolution type occurs when someone attempts using unarmed combat (referred to in general as UAC) based on their brawling skills to bring about another's demise. There are several subtleties in the unarmed combat system that make it a bit more complex than just swinging a blade or tossing a bolt spell. Here, UAF, or the unarmed attack factor for the attacker is always compared against UDF or unarmed defense factor of the defender, to resolve success or failure of the attack. This type of resolution looks like this:
This attack again has four components which function similarly to the preceding resolution types, each component possibly comprised of several factors.
It's surprising what a little hug can do in these lands, or how devastating swatting with your shield can be! These types of attacks are generally the purview of the more physical adversaries in the lands - the warrior and paladin types - but all professions have some maneuvers that can be learned. And they can be very effective!
This resolution looks much simpler at the outset to understand. But be warned, that's simply because a lot of the advantages and penalties are not directly shown. This makes explaining what you will see straight-forward, and understanding what you will see the journey of your character's lifetime. This type of resolution looks like this:
Simple, right? This resolution has only two visible components, but there are a couple of peculiarities.
One helpful note: The same rule about comparing values holds true here. The difference between the final result and the d100 role can give important insights into the potential success of your character's attack or survival. The greater the difference between these two numbers, the more skilled or less disadvantaged the attacker is over the defender. It is well beyond the scope of this beginner's guide to explain all the nuances that make up the final resulting number as each maneuver has different factors involved. But with a little research and exploration, those nuances can be understood.
This all seems pretty daunting, doesn't it? We've only scratched the surface to create a general understanding of what tools your character can use to attack, how your character can defend, and what you, the player, see reflected on screen that can give you some important indicators about the likely outcomes. But with all the factors each component has to consider, it seems almost a nightmare trying to keep track of it all. But rest assured, with experience comes a familiarity that in time will seem almost second nature. It is that experience that allows a player to explore the unique depths the GemStone game has to offer in combat, and that allows the entertainment to last. Exploring a second or third profession can return you, the player, to these early days of excitement, where there's so much to learn to master your character's advancement.
Fortunately, for the earlier levels of the game, and for most first-time players, there are some general suggestions that - if built into a practice of habit - can greatly simplify the first few outings. Success will then allow you to explore other options and gauge the effect on various outcomes. There are four categories of suggestions we'll cover here in this beginner's guide: Prepare for combat; Dance the combat dance; Recover from short term effects of battle, and; most importantly, know when to Run!
To face these unknowns, it is important that your character put his or her best foot forward, so to speak. If you're reading this guide, you likely have explored some of the companion beginner's guides to various professions. If you haven't, spend a bit of time with these beginner's guides. Their intent is to get you on a solid footing with the nuances of your chosen profession - including any peculiarities or subtleties in combat associated with that profession.
For this category, Prepare, the single most over-whelming observation is:
Without covering all the material we already have, this breaks down into six general pro-tips:
Make sure you're wearing your armor before you decide to start out. Nothing is more embarrassing than dying during an encounter with your armor in your hands or your backpack. It may seem overly simplistic, but it happens more than one might imagine - even to old pros. Most often simply an oversight, get into the practice of always checking before your character heads out. It simply isn't done to enter the battle field under-dressed for the occasion!
Equip or Ready your character's weapon and shield (if used), or your character's runestaff before you start to move. This is probably the most frequent reason for a character meeting his or her demise ahead of Lorminstra's plan, although it is slightly less embarrassing. Not by much, though!
Check your spells in particular with SPELL ACTIVE to see which spells your character currently has protecting him or her self. If your character's protections are not what they need to be, get those spells before stepping into the unexplored frontier.
Check for necessities in your inventory, like arrows, if your character is trained in the ranged skill, and healing herbs your character may opt to carry to offset wounds received in the field. This step is particularly critical if your character intends to hunt undead creatures, which require blessed weapons to effectively strike. Look at your weapon (or gloves and boots) to see if you see a glow that indicates these items are currently blessed. Seek out a cleric or a member of the order of Voln to assist you if you need your equipment blessed.
Check your character's general readiness in health, mana and encumbrance and if necessary put some of your inventory into a storage location. If your character is weakened or burdened to the point of dragging his or her feet, the dance becomes very short.
And finally, make doubly sure your character is in a defensive stance by typing in the command STANCE DEFENSIVE. Do this twice, just to be sure. This one suggestion is so important that the game makes sure your character starts the game session in a defensive posture automatically, to give your character the best possible chance of survival. Learn from it, and be sure to always be in a defensive stance before seeking out a foe. And check it again. It's a great habit to build.
Although not a pro-tip, also remember that hunting - the active pursuit of multiple foes across a region - is safer and oftentimes more enjoyable in groups! Be sure wherever possible to take along a partner or two and build a friendship through travails overcome and foes defeated.
Well, this is it. In this section, you are exposed to the core of combat. Everything that you learned above about the combat resolution system will be brought into play right here. You've chosen to have your character brave the wilds in order to gain knowledge and riches. You've ensured your character is well-prepared by following the habits suggested in the six tips above. You're all set, and with your heart pounding slightly faster, you move along a faint trail until your character encounters a foe!
For this category, Dance the single most important observation is:
The Dance is called many things informally, such as 'Stance Dancing' or 'Parry Tag' (a term the elders of the lands may sometimes use). The intent of the Dance in combat is to minimize your foe's opportunity to strike you while maximizing your own chances for success in striking back. And all of what follows in this category is based on the premise that you are following that most important pro-tip in preparing - your character is in STANCE DEFENSIVE when a foe is first encountered. Always.
Appraising your opponent when your character first meets a foe will give you important insights as to the size and potential risk that creature poses. Use it liberally and your character will likely survive many an encounter. This step is very similar to sizing up any other partner as a suitable dancing companion.
In the early levels, it's ok to let your foe attack first. This pro-tip won't hold true for very long, so be careful. But when you, the player, are first trying to learn various components of the combat system, most of the creatures your young character will run into will attempt to physically attack you. If your character is in a full defensive posture, the odds are very good that he or she will survive this first probing and gain key insights. And if mischance should occur and your character is struck despite the best defenses that can be mustered, that's a clue!
In the early levels, get a sense for the timing of your foe's attack sequence. Yes, this might mean you let your foe swing twice before you attempt to attack. If your character simply cannot be harmed while in STANCE DEFENSIVE - as evidenced by a negative number in the combat resolution determination - there's no harm but a few wasted seconds. Count those seconds! Knowing that your character's foe is faster or slower than your character's ability to dance in combat is often the key to success. Expect the creature's roundtime - or the time between its attacks - to be between four and nine seconds as a general rule during the character's early levels. Then observe and confirm it.
- If your character is a spell caster, prepare the spell your character will attempt to cast during this phase of the dance. Your character can maintain a spell readied for about 15 seconds before it will disappear, long enough in most cases to allow you to watch an attack or two from the foe while your character is holding in readiness to obliterate it!
- If your character is a ranged weapon user and you haven't already done so, now is the right time to GET an arrow or bolt and be ready to fire.
Immediately following a foe's attack, go to STANCE OFFENSIVE and give it what-for! Armed with a sense of the difficulty and a good idea of how fast your character's opponent is, you're in a great position to attack, shoot at, or cast a bolt or ball spell at your character's opponent. This will cause your character to incur roundtime, just as your character's foe did - a period of time where you're engaged in making the strike and very little else can hold your character's focus or attention. It is at this point that your character is the most vulnerable to another attack.
- If your character is one of the warding spell caster persuasion, you do NOT need to go STANCE OFFENSIVE. You can cast your spell while in a defensive posture. This will result in a different form of roundtime, called a 'Soft' or 'Spell' roundtime, during which you can perform actions normally not allowed in roundtime. It will also result in your character being forced into a GUARDED stance, not quite as good as a full defensive posture, but far better than being stuck in a full offensive posture.
- If your character's attack results in the foe being stunned or knocked down, as soon as you can, press the advantage by having your character attack again! In the case where a foe is prone, that foe uses an action to stand up rather than to attack, in these early levels - giving you an opportunity to have your character put a decisive conclusion to the dance.
Immediately following the expiration of your character's roundtime, go to STANCE DEFENSIVE to minimize your character's vulnerability. And thus the dance completes a turn - the first tentative strikes are made and the results tabulated with the combatants returning to their starting state, and ready to step off again. If your character's attack was successful, and your character's defenses are strong enough - you stand an excellent chance at defeating your character's antagonist. The dance may need to be repeated a few times, switching between stances to best effect, but your character should come out on top!
- If your character is a spell user casting bolts or ball spells, you should immediately go to STANCE DEFENSIVE, as the roundtime your character experiences is the same 'Soft' roundtime that the warding spell users experience. This likewise will put your character into a GUARDED stance, with all its benefits.
When the foe expires, don't forget to gather the creature's loot. This is the riches part of the hunting experience, and leaving behind items of value will definitely make your character a candidate to join the House of Paupers, which isn't bad. But having the silvers doesn't hurt, either!
Before moving on, make sure your character is in STANCE DEFENSIVE. Never give a foe an opportunity to 'sneak' up on your character without being as fully prepared as possible to withstand the surprise.
It is important to note that the tip about allowing the opponent to attack first is sound for your character's first few levels. It is vitally important to learn fast, however. Beginning sometime around your character's 12th to 15th level, depending on what your character hunts, foes will start casting warding spells that can seriously detract from your character enjoying the sojourn. Here, the key is to 'know your opponent' before your character has a chance meeting. Exploring the attack attributes of the creatures your character intends to engage is a vital key to your character's survival in the later reaches of the game. A fairly good example of a creature that might surprise your character is the Nedum vereri. Pay particular attention to the 'Near level creatures' feature box at the bottom of that article. Asking for advice from experienced hunters in the region doesn't hurt - some of them may even be willing to take you along on an introductory hunt!
From time to time, the foe will hold all the advantages on the battle field. Your appraisal of your foe may indicate that it is simply too tough a match for your character. The foe may be wielding a drake weapon, or worse, a feras weapon and your character simply doesn't want to risk a scratch from these deadly devices. Your character may be injured beyond the ability to properly defend him or her self.
All of these, and more, can indicate it is time to Run!, for as the wise wizard once observed:
Keep track of your character's foes and status. As more foes may pile into the confrontation with your character, your character's ability to defend against a substantial force rapidly degrades, especially without training to offset it. In the earlier levels, all the creatures will likely swing or otherwise attack in unison, allowing you a false sense of security in which to continue the practice of observing roundtimes and picking the moment for your character to strike. But there is a risk that by sheer numbers your character's best defense can be overcome. As a rule of thumb, try to keep your character engaged with a singular foe, certainly no more than two! Unless you're group hunting, which then turns the tables on the poor creatures.
- If your character faces more than two foes simply move a room or two away and recenter your attention. Wait for a short time, as the odds are one of the foes will follow your character into the temporary haven. And if it should be more than two, simply move again. This technique can also serve if your character engages a spell casting foe which has prepared a spell and you're not interested in witnessing the outcome. Fade into the environment and pick your time to strike! It can be useful to peer into the room or area you just left, to observe how your foes may be responding.
- If your character faces more than two foes and your character has managed to stun or knock one down, then fade anyway, and peer. When the other foe moves from the area, step in and finish the dance with the foe that is disoriented.
Know when to call it quits! Check your character's encumbrance and health often, and if either isn't what it should be, move your character back to town. Seek an empath's assistance and save the salad for another time. Put the coins in a bank, and unload some of your character's inventory to get back in dancing trim. If your character's unabsorbed experience reaches numbed or beyond, give yourself and your character a rest and head back into town anyway. Ultimately your character will advance in training faster for resting when absorbing experience.
If your character is hunting undead pay particular attention to when the blessing on your weapon or UAC gear should run out. There's no sense remaining behind to fan the opponent ineffectually while facing the brunt of its attack.
All of this dancing with foes will have one of two possible outcomes: The good outcome is that your character may have accumulated enough experience to feel a bit muddled, numbed or in need of a rest, and; the less good outcome is that your character may need to be seen by an empath or use herbs to heal - or in the worst of potential outcomes, may need the services of a fairly prominent cleric to restore life to your character.
Irrespective of whether the outcome is on the good side of the spectrum or at the farthest and darkest other end, you need to know how your character should Recover from the rigors of combat. The single most important observation is:
In extreme circumstances, your character may have to recover 'in the field' so to speak. Extreme loss of hit points cause your character to lose combat effectiveness, both in the attack and in the defense! Your character may suddenly be embarrassed to experience a severed arm or leg - and there won't be an option to bite off the foe's kneecap. Ultimately, if you don't plan for these in-field experiences, your character may be slain where he or she stands. Then there's nothing for it but to depart the field of battle in Lorminstra's grace, or wait to be rescued. Far preferable it is to make one's own way back to town, to rest and recover.
Here are a few pro-tips to help your character in recovering from the rigors of the dance.
In the field, tend to your wounds if you have skill in first aid, in particular those that are bleeding. Even better, that preparation that you undertook for your character's success hopefully included herbs that your character is carrying. Use them! But be wary, you'll have to stow your weapon or your shield to have a free hand to use herbs. And herbs lead to hard roundtime. Imagine being unable to focus on anything but eating a healthy salad to restore your character's readiness only to have a troll wander across your character, looking for its own meal.
At home (in town) establish a routine to sell any unwanted items, gems or equipment and deposit your character's bounty in the local bank. Each town has various shops that support these activities: As an example, see the Landing's beginner's guide. Don't be afraid to solicit advice from fellow adventurers, particularly when the value of an item at a pawnshop seems high, or is of such worth that the pawnshop simply will not take it. A good standing association with a bard is essential in those moments. Don't forget to offer a tip. Some won't accept any silvers for services, but its considered polite to offer.
At home (in town) move to a gathering spot to take the best advantage of comradeship and recovery rates. Once at that spot, stow your character's weapon, and shield or runestaff. It is critical to remember that if you're using the PUT verb to put away your character's items, you should always use the MY keyword - PUT MY BROADSWORD IN MY BACKPACK, as an example. Many is the item that has found its way to a new owner inadvertently and for no reason better than to have put that item into the wrong container, like someone else's backpack! For this reason, STOW is the preferred method to put away your weapons or shield.
At home (in town), most likely while at that gathering spot seek out the services of an empath for healing, or other spell casters, such as a cleric for weapon blessing, and wizards or sorcerers who can help your character refresh those defensive spells that were so important in preparing for the dance. Again, offering to tip is considered polite.
And so the cycle has been completed. A new foray is in the offing, with opportunities to act upon what your character has learned in the continual struggle for advancing in knowledge and riches. Be absolutely sure to start Preparing again, and follow the habits you're learning to give your character the best possible odds of survival in these early levels.