So early on in the beta a certain Mouthymerc suggested slapping a dangerous quality on certain weapons if used untrained, i.e. no ranks in it. The basic idea, as I remember it, was that the Dangerous rating equalled number of difficulty dice upgraded to challenge dice. I like it.
Similarly, and recently, a discussion was initiated at the d20radio forums which origin was the concern that most lightsaber duels were short lived affairs, the first hit won – mostly. The lightsaber ignores soak (up to 10 at least) and has a high base damage (higher than your average blaster rifle) with an added bonus of a crit value of 1. So as long as there’s a net success that’s 11 damage, and with 1 advantage you can either score a crit, or use sunder to damage your opponents gear – their lightsaber for instance.
The community took this concern seriously and lots of suggestions were made. Some good, some complicated (or just less simple), mainly they made lightsaber duels into a separate combat type. Which I guess is fair – as long as its a 1-on-1 affair or a climactic battle, etc. To me this change is hard to accept. I mean, the suggestion of adding in the “Gain the Advantage” action from starship combat was a very good idea… something I feel could be added into general melee combat anyway, slightly tweaked at least.
Now, for low level play and against minions its obvious that a lightsaber should cut down any enemy quite easily – and players should run from a lightsaber wielding opponent if they have any care in the world. For mid-level play I guess its safe to assume that most players will have a few defensive talents to increase wounds and upgrade defence (that is to say upgrade the opponents difficulty to hit), perhaps a few too, so that they have multiple upgrade. Defensive Stance and Dodge can be a nice combo against a lightsaber wielding villain. Still, this doesn’t really feel … good enough.
On the d20radio forums an old suggestion was resurrected from the beta-testing months (an older rule it might appear too, as there are references to opposed combat checks for brawl and melee at the very least); why not make it an opposed roll (or use the normal average if an opposed roll is worse for the defender of course). This is one way to go, but I feel this is an unnecessary punishment, or drawback at least, for those players that decide to go melee. Now, you might say “but this is only applied to lighsaber duels”, well sure, but in this case I’m in on (my interpretation of) the KISS-principle. If you’re changing a part of melee combat, you should change all of melee combat – its simpler and easier to keep track of and there is no need to adjudicate whether these special rules applies to a situation or not. This also in turn, to me, means that ranged combat should get some sort of opposed rule option. This can either be done by adding a dodge skill – which might be a good idea, or not. I’d let coordination, perhaps athletics, but I think coordination is the best fit, serve as a dodge skill. Again, I think that the player picks the best defence, I mean at long range three difficulty dice upgrade by talents (if applicable), might be better than agility + coordination ranks (the also of course upgraded by talents if applicable).
Now here’s the potential problem. This makes everyone harder to hit – except minions perhaps, and the odd henchman. Of course, minions and henchmen could be ignored by this opposed check idea altogether.
Now, defensive talents can now become a problem. If I have agility 3, coordination 3 (that’s three challenge dice in an opposed ranged attack), plus side-step 2 (add another challenge die) and perhaps even Dodge 1 (take strain add a difficulty die) its not even fun to be a sniper any more, if it ever was to start with (which I think its safe to assume that it might have been). This difficulty would of course be applied to all ranges, engaged to long (extreme), I mean adding additional dice for range would make sniping a disheartening venture – more so than the opposed roll melee route. Of course a tweak can be added here: defensive talents can only be applied to base difficulties in combat. This means that the players will either go for ranks in coordination (and melee/brawl) for defence, and trying to avoid defensive talents, or go for defensive talents and ignore the skills (for this use at least). Also, the idea of using coordination is “unfair” since melee users would get both offence and defence in one skill, whereas ranged combatants (anyone really) would have to invest in an entirely different skill for the same benefits in ranged combat. Rationalise at will.
One solution to this could be to add “combat training” to all combat skill types. That is to say, brawl and melee can be used opposed to each other for anything melee, and ranged (light) and (heavy) can be used for any ranged combat defence. The rationale for the latter is that one could assume that ranged combat training includes the knowledge and training in using terrain, cover and firing patter and whatnot in defensive ways too.
Whatever route one picks, there is the argument that “its easier to pick target and shoot them at a distance” and “you can’t dodge bullets, except maybe jedi”. Sure, but I can already “dodge” bullets (or blaster bolts really) with the Dodge and Side-step talents. Granted its not the same as skill ranks, but its still dodging and side-stepping bolts. This also, once again, adds in the issue of range added to (or subtracted) from the opposed roll. Perhaps engaged and short range dodging is downgraded “so-and-so”, or even decreased … I mean, its harder to hit at longer ranges, and someone hunkering down, dodging and running in random patterns (add in narrative fun yourself) could be argued to be even harder to hit – as long as they’re aware where the shooter is located.
To me this is a fun idea, but I know that with some of my players this will bog down play, it will change the way they build characters and it will in many ways change the way combat and encounters turn out. In one way I’d love to have it this way, because that means that my villains aren’t as likely to get offed straight away by random lucky rolls – even if its those rolls that makes the game epic – or some other randomness of fate. Therefore I’m not going with any of the above suggestions or what inspired them (not yet anyway).
Now, to make lightsaber duels into opposed roll combat, with some added manoeuvres and actions, perhaps even some rules removing Breach (as was suggested on the d20radio forum), could work and work fine. I’m not perfectly certain its a good idea though for a mixed fringer group. An all Jedi bonanza is something else, and we’ll see what FFG has in store for us soon enough (yeah yeah, 2 years is like more than 700 days and all, but … meh!).
“My” current, temporary (and not really relevant to my game since there’s no lighsaber toting hippies [yet]) solution is based on some of the less extensive tweak suggestions. For one the added quality mentioned at the start of this post, together with the thread starters own thoughts. I propose two new qualities, both of which should be added to the Lightsaber. Before I detail them I should say that these could be made into one quality I guess (which I present after these two as an alternative).
Dangerous quality [rated]
Weapons with quality are very dangerous for the untrained wielder. Upgrade attack check difficulty equal to quality rating. This upgrade is waived if the wielder at any point receives 1 rank in the appropriate skill. Does not stack with the Lethal quality.
I suggest that Lightsaber receives Dangerous 2 or 3, I can also see that vibrosword, vibroaxe, perhaps even some of the heavier ranged weapons could have this quality, albeit rated 1, or 2 at the highest.
Lethal quality [rated?]
Weapons with this quality are lethal for even the trained wielder. Upgrade the attack check difficulty equal to quality rating. Does not stack with the Dangerous quality.
I suggest that Lighsaber receives Lethal 1 or 2, 2 would be in line with GM Chris’ own suggestion at the d20radio forums, but I also think that 1 difficulty upgrade could suffice. I’ve also questionmarked the rating part, because I cannot at the moment think of any other weapon that would qualify for this quality, except perhaps the lightfoil or some other crazy weapon. Hence it could be a flat 1 or 2 upgrade drawback, no rating required.
Now, a different route could be to slap the qualities together, make it slightly worse, but also make it graded, so in the long run the really proficient will have lower difficulty too:
Grievous quality [graded/rated]
Weapons with this quality is lethal for all wielders, trained or untrained. Upgrade attack check difficulty equal to quality rating, this is modified by wielders training in the appropriate skill.
For example: Lightsabers have Grievous 3, so an untrained wielder must upgrade the combat check difficulty 3 times. If the wielder on the other hand has 1 or more ranks in the Lightsaber skill, the Grievous rating is decreased by the number of ranks in the skill. So a padawan with 1 rank would only apply 2 of the 3 upgrades, while a Jedi Knight Guardian most likely has at least 3 ranks and would ignore the quality altogether.
Now this is perhaps not the most elegant solution if the desire it to keep these babies dangerous and harder to use, but it does make proficiency even more important for at least lightsabers (and any other weapons you think you should apply it to). If opting for this quality instead of the two above, I’d suggest that viboraxe and vibro sword get no more than 1, preferably 1 for sword at least, a rating of 2 for the vibroaxe might make sense, but I’m not feeling it. For heavy ranged weapons I’d also keep it at 1.
For minions and henchmen I’d ignore this rule mostly, if its the weapon they are designed to wield. Or you could just use the normal number of minions beyond first = ranks idea to apply to this, which would make the lone gamorrean minion with a vibroaxe (let’s say it has Grievous 1) have an even harder time trying to hit you… personally I’d go for the “ignore it” rule there.