Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Know your options:

Next up: Bard and Cleric! These two are both less complicated than your front-line combatants, and so require less advice.


Before we get into this, understand: you are not a combatant. If Knights are front-liners, and Clerics and their ilk are second-string, you're assuredly third rank. Stay out of combat if at all possible.

Now we'll discuss your options.

In melee, your primary skill starts out at 14. This gives you a parry of 10, possibly with a +1 from a buckler. Frankly, if you're forced into combat and are the focus of something's aggression, your best bet is to take All-Out Defense for the +2 to your defenses, retreat for another +1 to parry and +3 to dodge, and get out of there.

If you aren't the focus of something's aggression, what are you doing in combat? Oh well, we'll assume you find yourself in that situation anyway. Your primary task will probably be to soak up a defense roll so the Knight or Barbarian can land a hit. If you're certain you won't be the focus of retaliation, you should go ahead and take All-Out Attack (Determined) and trade the +4 for a -2 to your foe's defense. Or, for heavily armored foes, don't forget All-Out Attack (Strong) for the extra damage.

For ranged combat, your primary skill is a 13 or 12. You must aim in order to hit anything. This means you'll be shooting every two to four seconds (most favorable is with Fast-Draw (Knife), least is with a Bow and without Fast-Draw (Arrow)). That sounds grim, but let's be clear: this is where you should be. You should never be in melee if you can help it, and if you're not slinging songs about (which, frankly, is a perfectly good thing to be doing - it's your schtick) you might as well be shooting things.

Your primary goal in ranged combat is to soak up defenses so someone actually good at fighting can hit something. Don't bother aiming for a specific location unless you need to to be considered a threat. Just aim, subtract the range penalty, and fire.


You're a second-tier fighter, nowhere near as good as a Knight or Barbarian but still not totally helpless in a fight. With a skill of 14 in both weapon and shield, you can hit your opponent %90 of the time and defend competently. Congratulations; you meet the baseline required to be considered a threat. Unless you have compelling reason to do otherwise, aim for the torso. Don't worry if they defend against you - unless they're dodging, that's one more defense they can't use against the Knight.

On the defensive, always remember to retreat for the extra +1/+3. With a shield, your defense is 12 or 13, which gives you a %90 chance of success with the retreat. If facing opponents doing Deceptive Attacks, switch to All-Out Defense - as a cleric, you want to keep your FP instead of using it for Extra Effort. Someone will be along to help you shortly, since a cleric under attack is a high priority issue.

Let's talk Sunbolt. This is your go-to ranged option. The most important thing about Sunbolt is, you want it to hit. Unlike the Scout, for whom landing arrows is nice, for you landing Sunbolt is necessary. You spent a lot of energy and time to get it up, and all that's wasted if you miss or your enemy defends against the attack.

This means two things: always Aim for at least one second to get the +2 Acc, and pick a target that's already being harrassed or otherwise can't defend well. Don't bother with aiming for the face or eyes; the special effects are a trap.


  1. The advice for a bard is awful.

    A bard with a fencing weapon and buckler can produce a Parry of 14 with a retreat, which isn't shabby. Against a single foe, this is enough to rely on - but only if it's available, which means not making all-out attacks. Giving up defenses in hopes that no one will target you is really, really bad advice, especially if you have low HP, HT, and DR. Which bards do.

    The ranged combat advice isn't awful, but bards should use crossbows over knives. I've never seen a thrown knife do anything in a DF game (bad range, bad damage, bad accuracy, easy to parry). Don't bother. Use a crossbow, and at least get in a 1d+5 im hit so that people pay attention.

    Realistically, the bard's contribution to a fight is to return alive to town and double the amount of money that the delvers earn for selling loot. This is a very worthwhile contribution.

    As for clerics, they may want to consider a dueling pole-arm or staff. A dueling glaive allows for decent damage at Reach 2, so the cleric can stand behind the knight and fight over his shoulder. Force the foe to defend and keep the knight healed.

    I'm not very fond of sunbolt as a spell, though it's certainly better than nothing. I find True Faith: Turning or Divine Power: Smite more than justifies bringing the cleric in. Doing 2d bu to all undead within 4 yards is such a sweet ability that I don't build clerics without it anymore. (Even 1d bu area is good enough - hide behind the knight and let the skeletons and zombies burn.) Using powers/spells are important parts of combat, too.

    1. Thanks for the help. It's true that I'm not very familiar with fencing weapons. That's part of the reason I'm doing this publically - not only do I hope it'll be useful for other people, but I need feedback from people better acquainted with various bits and pieces than I.

      I'm not terribly fond of Sunbolt either, but it is a Cleric's single 'ranged' combat option - that is, option that relies on the Speed/Range Table. The uses of True Faith or Smite should be fairly obvious, I hope.

    2. Geez, I like Sunbolt. And it costs all of 1 point, no prereqs (clerics don't have prereqs), has good range, good accuracy, and low cost for a pretty good effect. It's very useful for providing ranged support and harassing attacks at practically (or actually) zero cost.

      Just because there are other things to spend your points on doesn't mean it's not worth taking Innate Attack as your ranged skill and Sunbolt.

      True Faith (w/Turning) is a Win Button versus undead, though, so if you expect to run into them it's worth taking. It does kind of define your character, though, because it's so pricey (24 of your 25 Holy Powers points using the template).

  2. You know, I'm not sure I can ever condone an All Out Attack in melee unless you have the drop on somebody. Just because it would be "smarter" to attack the Knight who is walloping him, doesn't mean the ogre isn't going to make the choice to crush the skull of the guy who was dumb enough to leave himself open.

    Even without a fencing weapon, a skill of 14 isn't as bad as it might sound, it just means you can't do all the cool stuff and still all but guarantee success.

    * But you could take your skill down to 10- for that -2 to defenses - yes, you've only got a 1 in 2 chance of hitting in the first place, but that's better than a 9 in 10 chance if the guy is going to dodge or parry you.
    * If the problem is not that the guy keeps dodging, but that he's heavily armored, look for some weak spots. Maybe he doesn't have gloves/gauntlets? Aim for his weapon hand and try to put him out of commission there.
    * Prowl around him for a few turns, just evaluating. He'll either start to notice you, or you'll wind up with a +3 to your skill from studying him. Might even get yourself into position where he can't use his best defense without a penalty, in one of the side hexes. Or the very vulnerable back hex.
    * Or try out a rudimentary feint - if he's very skilled, you're unlikely to get very far, but all it takes is one decent roll by you and a bad one from him and you catch him wide open for your next attack, where you have some skill level to spare in doing the nifty tricks of hit location or chinks in armor.

    1. I can't either. I was thinking of situations where you know he's chosen All-Out Defense, or is stunned from a blow landed recently, or the like.

      While there are a lot more options (including dicey maneuvers like lowering your skill further), I'm trying to keep it simple. One of my strong guidelines is "Don't dip below 14 unless you can't help it" because you have to succeed in order to even see if he needs to defend.

      However, a feint isn't a bad idea, especially with a rapier. I'll edit the post.

    2. While it's okay to All-Out Attack (AoA) if there's only one foe and he's stunned, All-out Attacking into an All-Out Defense just opens you up to the foe hitting you with a telegraphed attack in someplace vital on his next turn. Similarly, it's not okay to AoA if there's a foe within Move yards, since the foe could Move and Slam and put you in a bad position. Either way, you should probably clarify the instances you think people should use AoA (or for low DR/HP/HT/Defense types, Committed Attack) in an introduction or something. I've had PCs take a low percentage AoA, fail to defeat their foe, and get clobbered on their next turn and get really mad at me for not advising them better.

      I do strongly support not dropping skill below 14 (or 12, for people with high tolerances for risk). Drawing out an easy Parry or Block is probably more useful than missing every other turn.

  3. Both entries are very light on spell advice, which is a shame since both templates pack significant magical power. Perhaps this is deliberate, but it makes both PC types seem useless on their own cheat sheets.

    1. They're meant to be. There's a lot of cool stuff to be done with spells, but that's up to the spells chosen and the ingenuity of the player in torturing Magic to suit his whims. I'm not going to try to cover either build advice or much magic advice here, both because a) that's a gargantuan task, and b) I frankly know nowhere near enough to publish worthwhile posts.

    2. Well, if it's any consolation, I'm thinking about running a parallel set of articles on build advice for various scenarios, fleshing out and expanding the list of ideas from the archetypes article text in DF1.

    3. (Responding to Patrick)
      The problem is that if you're giving combat advice for the various templates, ignoring major combat options is BAD combat advice. The bard section currently looks like "Bard: Mostly Harmless." A fine tradition to be sure but not likely to encourage efficient bard play. (Note, you should *totally* make up a fake Bard tactics sheet that just says that and hand it out the first time someone takes a bard.)

      Magic is even more complicated and tricky than 'Marital Arts,' yes, but that is not a good reason to give *less* advice. The opposite is true, even if you need to look through old forum threads and make a few WAGs to do so. Folks around here might even help.

      Even something as simple as: "Remember that you have access to the mind control college (with magery = Bardic Talent) and that any spell at skill 15 or greater can be cast with just a few words. Pick a favorite, raise it to 15+, and go nuts.

      Wizards usually stay out of melee range but with your better defenses you can directly engage foes and force them into a quick contest vs. your favorite mind control spell every turn. Since most spells take a range penalty of *-1 per yard*, this is a big deal."

      What could be more bardic than sauntering up to a raging orc berserker, whispering "Go to sleep sweetie" into his ear, and having it be so?

    4. Good point. Bards get Command, which can often be an "I win" button in melee combat. Making the ogre turn around instead of hitting you and leaving himself open to a round of Telegraphed Rapid Strikes from the knight is a great thing (or getting the filthy ninja poisoner to stab himself with his freaking 6d tox envenomed knife).

    5. Command is also a Cleric spell. Probably worth adding to the list.

    6. Good points, all around. I'm glad I posted this.