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Postby Galloglaich » Sat Nov 01, 2008 7:18 pm

First review is out. A staff review from DrivethroughRPG I wasn't even expecting (I haven't sent any copies for formaI reviews yet as i still have some problems with the Table of Contents and the Index I need to fix)

t's short but somewhat to my amazement, it's a quite good review I think.
http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product_r ... s_id=18793


by Megan Robertson [Staff] Date Added: 11/01/2008 09:53:49
The aim of this book is to bring the flavour of real-world fighting - especially that of master swordsmen of ages gone by - to your fantasy combat. The aim is not so much realism, particularly as most attempts to do that serve merely to increase the complexity of game combat without really making it more enjoyable, but to create the flavour of the various styles and schools of thought available to those who regard swordfighting as an artform, not just a means of killing enemies. To do this, both strategy and tactics are explored, and characters given a wide range of options to use over and above the "Swing sword, roll d20, do damage" model of game combat.

The game mechanics used to accomplish this are quite straightforward, and presented in a modular manner, so that you can pick the ones you want and discard the rest - although there is a warning that if game balance is important to your group, using this system in its entirety is the best way to guarantee it. The core of the mechanic is a die pool which can be expended in various ways over the course of a round of combat, allowing a wide range of options to each character. To add to this, a range of martial feats are available to give you an even wider selection of actions. Weapons and armour are also discussed, to enable them to be utilised fully with this system.

The things you can do in a fight range from leaping into the fray to choosing to hang back and wait for opportunity to present itself. You can choose to target the weak points in a foe's armour or hack away trying to destroy his armour or weapon before closing in for the kill. Dramatic lunges and bewildering flurries of blows become not only possible but it's straightforward to judge the sucess of the action as well.

Overall, it is a well-considered variant combat system, well-rooted in real-world fighting skills - which are both quoted in the text and referenced for those who'd like to learn more. It has the potential to bring fresh enjoyment to fighting for those players who'd really rather role-play than just roll dice and consult tables when a brawl breaks out.

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars! [4 of 5 Stars!]
Galloglaich
 
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New Review

Postby Galloglaich » Thu Dec 25, 2008 4:00 am

Another review came out from another staff reviewer at RPGNow. Slightly annoying that he says I'm not trying to make combat realistic, since I was (everything in there is right out of HEMA and a few other historical martial arts systems) it's just that I was also trying not to make it complex, but, given what he meant, in an indirect way it's a compliment.

http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product_r ... s_id=19154
====================================
A fight in a d20 game is, at its heart, something of a bore. I don’t mean a combat encounter per se, but an actual melee battle between characters. Notwithstanding a couple of basic combat maneuvers (e.g. trip, disarm, etc.) and whatever feats the characters have, all they’re really doing is standing there and bashing each other until one falls over. There’s really nothing else to do but keep rolling your to-hit and, if successful, damage; it’s basically about attrition as much as anything else. It’s this problem of boring combat that the Codex Martialis looks to fix.

To be clear, the book isn’t trying to create a more realistic version of combat. Rather, it’s drawn inspiration from actual fighting to present new options and tactics to make combat more vibrant. In doing so, however, the basic rules for combat in the d20 System must be torn down to some degree, so that other options can be introduced. Perhaps the greatest change here is that of the Martial Pool. A Martial Pool is a small collection of d20’s (never more than four) that can be allocated for different things in each combat round. Do you want to make four attacks? Use one d20 for each. Do you want to make two attacks and have each stand a greater chance of hitting? Use 2d20 for each attack, dropping the lowest die roll in each case. Do you want to focus more on defense? You can use your d20’s for Active Defense (where you make a roll to defend) or even with your saving throws. It’s a great idea that unto itself adds a lot of options to even basic combat.

Of course, that’s only scratching the surface. In its opening pages, the book introduces concepts regarding how each weapon grants different bonuses to types of attack (attack types are redefined as Reach and Speed), as well as Weapon Defense. Weapons also have a Primary attack type, among other attack types they can do (a dagger can slash or pierce, but only the latter is the primary type, so only attacks of that type can score critical hits). There’s also rules on Counterattacking, the ranges at which combat occurs, Active or Passive Defense, and quite a bit more. After this is a series of feats that take advantage of these new rules, and several appendices covering things like spellcasting in battle, how animals fight, and tables with the revised statistics for weapons.

All of the above leads me to my major complaint about Codex Martialis: it feels fairly complicated. The important thing to take away from the previous sentence here is that the book FEELS complicated; it’s actually not that complicated once you get used to it. However, a lot of groups probably won’t get that far, because the series of new and revised combat options, statistics, and maneuvers are presented one right after another, and are fairly intimidating in doing so. There’s no examples given anywhere in the book to help walk you through what’s presented, nor is there any kind of quick- or –easy-reference charts or diagrams (save for the weapon statistics themselves in the appendix) to break down all the new maneuvers and ideas. All of this means that by the time the new rules are presented, they feel overbearing and scary. Luckily, most of them are modular (particularly the part with the Martial Pool, which is my favorite aspect of the book), but the above is still the book’s major weakness.

In terms of presentation, the Codex Martialis does fairly well for itself. The book is fairly unassuming in its presentation, with fairly few illustrations in its pages. What illustrations it does have though are fairly stark black and white pieces that use a heavy amount of grey shading, and almost feel like charcoal sketches in many instances. Most of the pages borders are very thin, save for one rather ostentatious color border that appears every few pages. The book also periodically has excerpts from historical writings regarding combat to open and close various sections, which make for a nice touch (though the font is a tad ornate). There are, however, no bookmarks, which is an oversight in a book this long.

The Codex Martialis is a book that completely succeeds in its goals of making d20 combat into a more dynamic, tactical exercise. The plethora of new rules and structures presented in how it reworks d20 combat are excellent, and their modular nature allows you to (most of the time) freely pick and choose what you want to adopt and not adopt. However, that’s only if you can make yourself wade through the rather hefty presentation and really absorb what’s presented here. The trick is not to be scared off after the initial read-through, and carefully go over what’s presented. It may take some work, particularly to get your entire group to adopt whatever rules you pick out (since added complexity is the trade-off for greater options), but if ordinary d20 combat is boring and no longer fun, this book is the answer.
Galloglaich
 
Posts: 2009
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Re: New Review

Postby Ian.Plumb » Fri Dec 26, 2008 2:03 am

Hi,

I think this is a really good review. Shane has actually taken the time to understand the mechanics presented in the Codex. He understands the problem that Codex tries to fix (and fixes rather well I might add). He has succinctly presented what a player of d20 can hope to get out of the Codex.

I really think that's about as good a review as you can hope to get.

Could it have been more positive? Not without sounding like an advertisement. Are the negatives annoying? To me, negatives are annoying only if they're unexpected. We aimed for 40 pages of content with Codex. It is so chock-full of options that adding sufficient examples to cover the feats would have doubled the page count. So we left the examples out and created this website to handle examples of play, rule expansions and clarifications. Bookmarks in the PDF -- a good idea, and should be added with the next version.

I think Shane has written a thorough and useful review.

Regards,
Ian.Plumb
 
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Re: New Review

Postby zarlor » Fri Dec 26, 2008 1:45 pm

Yeah, I think there are some good, practical ideas in there. I think it should also be noted that the quoted review comes from Shane O'Conner (listed as "staff" at Drive-Thru RPG) and that he gave it 4 out of 5 stars. I didn't see that in the orginal post and knowing what his concluding score was helps put all the comments into context as well, I think.
Lenny Zimmermann

"A soldier uses arms merely with skill, whereas a knight uses them with virtuous intention." - Pomponio Torelli, 1596.

- Systeme D'armes, New Orleans, Louisiana
http://www.sdanola.com
zarlor
 
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Location: Metairie, LA

Re: New Review

Postby Galloglaich » Fri Dec 26, 2008 5:14 pm

Yeah don't get me wrong, I'm quite pleased with the review, I just wished he would have mentioned the website, and it's kind of curious how the fact that this is in fact a realistic system was bypassed or misunderstood in both of the reviews so far.

As with the first review, it does seem to back up my point that historical grounding / tactical realism actually makes the game more fun, and doesn't need to slow it down any. It also enhances immersion and actual role playing IMO.

I doubt this reviewer has the slightest interest in historical combat but he clearly felt the (historically based) system made fighting more fun and interesting. To this guy, and probably most gamers, the fact that it is historically based isn't initially important, though I would suggest that in the long term that fact will provide very enhanced value in a kind of synergistic way which is hard to explain.

This is important because there was / is a common belief among RPG people that anything historical or realistic was automatically, by definition complicated and boring. That's why this guy thinks the Codex isn't trying to be realistic, even though it is. A real fight may be horrible but it isn't boring, that is something I guess a lot of gamers don't know since they haven't been in any. The truth is many RPG combat systems, are acutally themselves quite complicated and boring in addition to being completely implausible and unrealistic.

What I wanted to do with the Codex was show gamers that historically based and realistic combat are potentially more fun than artificially contrived systems we find in 99% of RPGs, because the real world physics and historical martial arts actually flow together naturally.

But all in all I'm pleased with the review, sales are up a bit this month as well, though still pretty slow :)

G.

EDIT: I also agree with the idea of putting bookmarks etc. I'll try to figure out how to do it.

I wonder if it's possible to contact the guy and ask him to put in a mention of this website for all the 'fluff' missing in the Codex itself. There is a URL for this website in the front page of the PDF now.
Galloglaich
 
Posts: 2009
Joined: Sat Sep 27, 2008 5:30 pm

Re: New Review

Postby Ian.Plumb » Sun Dec 28, 2008 10:26 am

Galloglaich wrote:Yeah don't get me wrong, I'm quite pleased with the review, I just wished he would have mentioned the website, and it's kind of curious how the fact that this is in fact a realistic system was bypassed or misunderstood in both of the reviews so far.


In the current version of the PDF, does the reference to the website include what can be found here? If it doesn't, then a few bullet points might really help future reviews as well as the readers (I mean, have all of your sales translated into members of the website? If not, why not?).

I might be opening a major can of worms here -- but what does "realistic" mean when it comes to RPG rule design?

Over on The Forge I once saw "realistic" described as the least useful word for describing the goal of a game's design. Initially I didn't agree but now I do. Unfortunately, "realistic" isn't an objective descriptor as it means very different things to different gamers. Most designers want their game to be thought of and described as realistic, but most people who will use the descriptor do so because they like the game. And they like the game not because it is objectively realistic, but because the game focuses on those aspects of gaming that they like.

For myself I believe that any RPG design worth playing should have a combat system that is exciting. If combat isn't exciting to play, if it doesn't have sufficient risk to the participants to make the player believe that this fight could be their character's last fight, then for me the combat system design hasn't managed to capture the reason most gamers enjoy combat scenes.

With that in mind I say that Codex is a great supplement. It takes a game that has quite a dull combat system and gives gamers the tools necessary to make combat exciting. Such a benefit comes at a cost. The player has to come up with a winning strategy in combat -- and as opponents change that strategy may need to be modified.

This brings us back to "realism". It is the character that is the expert swordsman -- not the player. So if the player makes a lame tactical decision -- is it realistic that their expert swordsman character would make that lame decision? To some players this very notion is inherently unrealistic. On some level the only way for a player with no personal interest in the combat system to role-play a character that is extremely proficient in combat is to have a combat system that is totally abstract. One where there are no tactical decisions to be made, only a dice roll against a flat number where the expert, experienced combatant has a greater chance of success than a lesser opponent. Which sounds familiar...

Personally I don't agree with this line of thinking. As a player I want a game that challenges me, where I have to have a sound knowledge of the rules and to out think my opponent if I am to be successful (however I choose to define that) within the game. In terms of combat, Codex provides that kind of gaming environment. So I'm a fan! I also think that there are many players out there who might be dissatisfied with the basic combat model. Codex is for them too!

In the end though realism is in the mind's eye of the gamer.

Regards,
Ian.Plumb
 
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Re: New Review

Postby Galloglaich » Sun Dec 28, 2008 11:18 pm

Ian,

I agree I should probably expand the blurb on the website in the Codex, I'll put a little ad for it in there on one of the blank pages maybe.

I started a new thread on the 'realism' debate.

J
Galloglaich
 
Posts: 2009
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Re: New Review

Postby Ian.Plumb » Thu Jan 01, 2009 8:21 am

... and the review made the RPGNow newsletter! It is one of the five reviews in the current issue. That's good exposure.

Regards,
Ian.Plumb
 
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Re: New Review

Postby Galloglaich » Thu Jan 01, 2009 4:25 pm

Ah, that must explain the jump in sales we had toward the end of December.
Galloglaich
 
Posts: 2009
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Re: New Review

Postby Ian.Plumb » Thu Jan 01, 2009 8:32 pm

Hi,

Just a thought -- maybe you could create a "locked" thread here in the FAQ section covering "The Design Philosophy Behind Codex Martialis." Use quotes from this review as a starting point for each of your posts in that thread. In each of those posts you could agree with or gently refute what the reviewer said, and use that as the starting point for expanding on a particular design point.

I think this would be quite handy for gamers who've come to the Codex via the review, as well as those with an interest in game design.

Regards,
Ian.Plumb
 
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