Using Attack Ranks Defensively

Battle of Castillon (source)

In the ratling post, I alluded to an ability to use attack ranks for things other than just an increased chance to hit. Specifically, ratlings can use attack ranks to improve their armor class on a round by round basis, with each rank so applied improving the effective AC by one armor category. Ratlings naturally have light armor (AC 7). For example, a ratling who fights at attack rank 1 may choose each round whether she wants to have AC 7 and attack rank 1, or AC 5 and attack rank 0.

Fighters (but no other class) may also use attack ranks defensively in a similar way to improve their AC from round to round. In addition, fighters may spend their attack ranks to improve the AC of companions they are defending if that makes sense situationally. For example, consider a first level fighter wearing medium armor, using a shield, and fighting near an unarmored magic-user. This fighter has AC 4, the magic-user has AC 9. The fighter has the following options:

  1. Fight at attack rank 2. All armor classes remain unmodified.
  2. Fight at attack rank 1 and improve her own armor category one step (AC 2).
  3. Fight at attack rank 1 and improve the magic-user’s armor category one step (AC 7).
  4. Fight at attack rank 0 and improve the magic-user’s armor category two steps (AC 5).

Armor class may never be improved beyond AC 2. Defensive assistance from multiple fighters does not stack. Defensive assistance may be divided between multiple companions if that makes sense. I am not sure whether or not this floating defensive bonus should stack with armor. For now it does (as I would like to see people use this option some of the time). Fighter retainers may be instructed to defend their employer. Fighters must be armed with melee weapons or shields when defending companions (not missile weapons).

This ability is similar to the defense trait from the Hexagram path of arms. I think it is a nice addition to the fighter class, giving them some ability to defend other characters mechanically without resorting to other cumbersome subsystems. I could also imagine attack ranks potentially being usable for other things too, though I don’t want to overload the system too much.

5 thoughts on “Using Attack Ranks Defensively

  1. LS

    Congratulations on creating a simple, working parry system. That’s a significant accomplishment.

    My only questions is; why is “one step” better AC an improvement of 2?

    1. Brendan

      One step better means an improvement in armor category by one (so, for example, from unarmored to light armor, light armor to medium armor, etc). Since light armor is AC 7 and medium armor is AC 5, a single category improvement is 2 AC points (this is in some sense an artifact of the AC system, which I see as secondary to the armor category system, if that makes sense). It also meshes well with the stepped attack ranks, which generally improve by steps of 2 as well (the original matrix is not so regular; I rationalized it slightly).

      In a game that uses attack bonus directly and ascending armor class, a 1 to 1 point system would probably be reasonable, though it makes the player’s choice set more complicated (closer to a continuous than discrete function).

      I think there is some benefit to not streamlining the math too much, because then people will need to process more possibilities when making a decision (also, I like keeping things tightly bound to the objects in the game world, such as which armor is worn, rather than just the abstract mathematical defensiveness).

    2. Brendan

      Not necessarily; it depends on whether or not the character being defended has a shield. For example, one attack rank spent on defending a character wearing chain and using a shield (AC 4) would improve that AC one armor category (to AC 2, plate with shield). One attack rank spent on defending a character wearing only chain (no shield) which is AC 5 naturally would be improved to AC 3 (as plate).

      In all cases, the improvement in AC is two points.

      Is that clear?

  2. Gus L

    Combined with you last post though ratlings canbot use their defensive ability til level 5 at least? Is that intentional. Lvl 5 is a lot of leveling.


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