Friday, March 22, 2013

Fighters of High Technology

With the advent of technology, the warrior changes. He always changes with technology, adapting and embracing anything that would let him better slaughter his enemies in war. The spear gave way to the chariot, which gave way to the lancer. The bowman gave way to the musket, which gave way to the rifle. The spear gave way to the sword, and the sword to the bayonet.

Technology kills, and fighters lust after every moment of that.

How fighters embrace technology teaches us a great deal about how fighters in a fantasy world would act. They do not sit there as pure and passive participants, ignoring power while developing their skills. Like the warriors of technology, they seek and use whatever advantage they could manufacture or loot. When defeat leads to death, the warrior has every incentive to innovate.

To a fighter, there is no difference between technology and magic. They both exist as a means to their end. How do I defeat my enemy? What works? What doesn’t work? How do I remain effective? Who cares how it’s made?

Fighters are among the most high-tech medieval characters. Their arms and armor represent the pinnacle of modern fantasy technology. As they advance in level, their arms and armor increasingly become exotic and cutting edge. The heavy lancer, the pinnacle of medieval weapon technology, is every bit as specialized and dangerous as a jet fighter.

So, what does all this get a fighter? Not much, really. Most of what a fighter gets, he gets at first level. He might find better arms and armor as he goes up level, but that’s mostly numerical bonuses. His capabilities do not change. Given enough levels, he may eventually gain interesting weapons and armor, but I’ve always found such rewards few and far between.

The fighter does gain feats, allowing more use out of weapons and armor. Very few are universally applicable. So all in all, considering that the fighter is working with the best technology of the day, his return on investment in meh.

Do you disagree? A club, that’s a big stick, does 1d6 damage. A steel sword does 1d8 damage. One requires complex infrastructure and long training to produce while the other falls off trees. One would expect more difference than that, especially in the hands of a person whose entire career is based on exploiting and developing his skills with a high-tech weapon. That expectation would be wrong.

Obviously, use of a weapon must provide the fighter something that other classes don’t get. They spend their time learning these complex weapons. The advantages should be better than strict numerical bonuses.

These could include:

  • Bypassing DR
  • Disarming/Hobbling opponents
  • Making opponents bleed
  • Reducing an opponents damage
  • Pushing/pulling opponents.
  • Weaponizing magic which is not normally dangerous
  • Modifying arms and armor, especially with magic
  • Improvised Alchemical Weapons
  • Generally reducing disadvantages

For many editions of D&D, the fighter simply gets none of these things. 4th did a laudable job of designing in this area, while 3rd made an attempt but ultimately missed.

I would like to see Next do a better job of developing the fighters as a master of combat technology.