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DM_Blake

Which is better, soak or defense?

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Hi all,

I just bought the game and my friends and I whipped up a few basic characters and tried a few mock battles and such to get the feel for the game. In our experimenting, we came up with a bunch of questions, but I think I found all our answers in the FAQ or searching here, except this one:

In our limited play so far, it seems that defense is more valuable (more protective) than soak. For example, one fighter in a Mail Shirt (Defense 1, Soak 2) seemed to consistently take fewer hits/less damage than a similar fighter in Chainmail (Defense 0, Soak 3). Really the only difference there is that the Mail Shirt has "traded" -1 soak for +1 defense.

And yet the Mail Shirt is less expensive.

So it seems odd to us that the less expensive armor seemed to provide better protection.

Or maybe it was just luck.

I couldn't find anything in my search, so I was wondering what you guys think. Which is better, soak or defense? If a genie popped out of a bottle and offered you (your character) a magical ring that added 1 to either your soak or your defense, which would you choose?

Thanks in advance!

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It's like this.  Soak can be much better then defence, but defence will almost always do something.

Case in point Soak can cancel out a success which could be the difference between no success or the base success line vs the multiple success line.  In those cases Soak is better because it could cause the hit to miss entirely or only taking base damage instead of +2, +3 etc....

Defence on the other hand, assuming the attack hits always removes damage (to a minimum of 1 wound for a successful hit).  So if you get hit you will take less damage always.  Soak on the other hand won't help if it doesn't cancel out a success or it doesn't cancel out enough successes to lower the effect of the attack.  So if they roll 4 successes canceling 1 likely won't help as most secondary success lines start at 2 or 3 successes.

 

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Kryyst said:

It's like this.  Soak can be much better then defence, but defence will almost always do something.

Case in point Soak can cancel out a success which could be the difference between no success or the base success line vs the multiple success line.  In those cases Soak is better because it could cause the hit to miss entirely or only taking base damage instead of +2, +3 etc....

Defence on the other hand, assuming the attack hits always removes damage (to a minimum of 1 wound for a successful hit).  So if you get hit you will take less damage always.  Soak on the other hand won't help if it doesn't cancel out a success or it doesn't cancel out enough successes to lower the effect of the attack.  So if they roll 4 successes canceling 1 likely won't help as most secondary success lines start at 2 or 3 successes.

 

This, but exactly backwards ;)

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Let me just go back and slap my head preocupado.gif  and apologize for any confusion.  Defense removes success Soak removes damage.

Oh for some decent forum software that would allow you to go back and edit a post.  llorando.gif

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Right, I get that (the corrected version).

I'm just wondering, in the experience of the, uh, well, more experienced players here, whether 1 point of Soak is preferable to 1 point of Defense, or vice versa.

In the long run, my character will be taking a ton of attacks against him. That will amount to roughly half a ton of successful damaging attacks, more or less. Would avoiding a few of those hits (when that one point of defense actually cancels out a success that makes a difference) net me more, less, or about the same amount of total damage sustained, compared to not avoiding extra hits but always avoiding 1 damage from the successful hits?

Anyone have an opinion either way?

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Soak > Defence

Each Defence point gives a misfortune die. A misfortune die has a 33% chance of giving a Challenge and a 16% chance of a Bane.

Opposed vs. Defence tests are weighted towards success. Often a test will generate more successes than can be used. In this circumstance even if the Defence misfortune die generates a Challenge it is pointless.

Typically a single Defence related misfortune die rarely makes an impact on the result. It relies on a marginal success (sans Defence) and a lucky (unlucky) roll with the misfortune. Soak however, is almost always significant as it adds to Damage Reduction.

Defence is a nice to have. Combined with active defence it can be a significant factor, but soak is better.

 

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DM_Blake said:

Anyone have an opinion either way?

 

Not to sound cheeky, but maybe your decision becomes easier if you imagine what your character would want to wear: how (s)he would like to appear in front of others, how (s)he would like to move, where (s)he would get the armor etc. Would you prefer to walk around in a full-length chainmail, with a chain hauberk on, dragging you down, looking somewhat weird but also very combat like… or would you prefer to walk around in a mail shirt, with free hands and maybe a stylish slashed white and red set of pants in current empire fashion?

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One can reasonably argue the soak point is better, but it's better only by a really slim margin. It won't really shine unless the campaign is exceptionally long (so the tiny margin, multiplied across hundreds of battles amounts to something real). With a shorter campaign, or a one-shot, your black die's rolls could vary really far off the statistical average, and thus be a total wild-card that makes comparison meaningless.


Honestly, the math is really close between a single point of soak and a single point of defense. Really close. The same set of variables (skills and strength of involved characters) that mark a soak point as about a 10% decrease in damage also mark a defense die as about a 9.44% increase in damage. Start adjusting stats in various directions and you can make the gap wider or smaller, but for nearly all characters they're going to be nearly the same, and ultimately the variable you're tweaking to push the gap in one direction or the other are really subjective. A soak and a defense are practically the same thing, with the soak being more predictable and the defense having a lot more variance.

(It's kind of like the whole red-side vs green-side debate, where most cards are actually a lot closer to dead-even balanced on both sides, despite looking much better on the red.)

So then it comes down to what will you feel more?

In general, I think you're going to all but ignore that extra 0.6% boost (or whatever) the soak gives you, you just won't notice it. It's not that often a PC gets K.O.'d by exactly one point, in my experience. Usually the second or third hit drops you a couple points below zero, anyway.

On the other hand, the handful (usually around 5%) of attacks where that misfortune die prevented you from getting hit at all will often stick out and feel more dramatic. You'll like at the dice pool and say "man, that little black die saved my bacon!" It makes for memorable gaming, which is a good thing.

 

 

(p.s.: If anyone's interested in seeing the math behind the numbers I mention above, remind me next week and I'll try to get it into a legible format I can post here. I won't have time for that formatting and clean-up till Monday at the earliest. Too much goin' on this weekend.)

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I disagree.  I prefer Defence over Soak.  Yes soak is more consistent.  But Defense especially when combined with action cards is far more effective.   Even if it doesn't always cancel a success adding a couple banes to trigger an opponents bane effect or cancel a boon effect can make a big difference.   Defence becomes even more effective is when you continue to add in other factors that would add misfortune/challenge die as well.   Ganging up on opponents gives them misfortune dice, having other combat advantages gives them misfortune dice etc... 

While it's true that in an isolated case 1 defence isn't as good as 2 soak.  Collectively anything that piles on misfortune dice to your opponent is fantastic.

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r_b_bergstrom said:

(p.s.: If anyone's interested in seeing the math behind the numbers I mention above, remind me next week and I'll try to get it into a legible format I can post here. I won't have time for that formatting and clean-up till Monday at the earliest. Too much goin' on this weekend.)

I'd be interested in seeing those figures.

I see only two cases where +1 Soak can reduce average damage taken by 10%:
 

  1. Average damage in the norminal case to be 10
  2. Average damage is less than Damage Reduction mostly results in minimal wound (1). A 2 wound result roughly 10% of the time in the norminal case - actually the precise distribution would have to be weighted to achieve a 10% damage reduction. But in any case the Damage Potential curve lies mostly to the left of total Damage Reduction.

In any case, these zones are fairly narrow.

What was your method? A Monti Carlo script? Mathcad, Excel or similar? I'd like to see your code.

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ozean said:

Not to sound cheeky, but maybe your decision becomes easier if you imagine what your character would want to wear: how (s)he would like to appear in front of others, how (s)he would like to move, where (s)he would get the armor etc. Would you prefer to walk around in a full-length chainmail, with a chain hauberk on, dragging you down, looking somewhat weird but also very combat like… or would you prefer to walk around in a mail shirt, with free hands and maybe a stylish slashed white and red set of pants in current empire fashion?

 

No worries on that score. The group here loves to RP. But thanks for the advice.

But I take my RP from the perspective that my characters really do live in their make-believe world (make-believe for me, real for them). And they know how their world works, even if I don't. They live in it, they adventure in it, they're professionals at what they do, and because they've chosen an unbelivably dangerous profession (adventurer) they want to make gods-be-damned sure that they do it right, using all the knowledge and information they have at hand (and research if they need it). Anything else is just asking to have their adventuring career end, tragically short, in some unmarked grave somewhere, or maybe in a monster's belly.

Accordingly, I belive a martially oriented individual living in this harsh world knows exactly why a one type of armor is preferable to another, and he can and should make his decision based on form AND function, style and survivability.

All that being said, I wasn't really asking about what armor I should wear. I was more interested in getting a feel for how the game mechanics work.

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DM_Blake said:

Accordingly, I belive a martially oriented individual living in this harsh world knows exactly why a one type of armor is preferable to another, and he can and should make his decision based on form AND function, style and survivability.

All that being said, I wasn't really asking about what armor I should wear. I was more interested in getting a feel for how the game mechanics work.

And I also enjoyed the informative discussion that followed from your question!

And of course I have wondered about this too when I read the armor descriptions for the first time, so I guess I was trying to educate myself as much as anyone else gui%C3%B1o.gif

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Way back in the early days, some of us did some calculations. Defense was best against low-skill/stat opponents, where the difference of makes a more significant impact to the dice pool.  Basically, it was slightly better with an attacker with 3 or less St and not trained in WS.  Against someone with 4+ St or was trained in WS, Soak was marginally better, and the more dice added to the pool the worse Defense was and the better Soak was.

Also, do not always compare/assume that cost = effectiveness

The cost takes into consideration the prestige of the item, the availability of the item, and the amount of cost/effort to make the item.

For example, blackpowder weapons are fairly equal to bows and crossbows (some argue less effective), yet cost significantly more.

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Turns out I was wrong. In cleaning up the spreadsheet to figure out how to best post it's data here, I discovered flaws in my formulas. I had fallen victim to Confirmation Bias, and passed it along to all of you. Sorry. Looks like I was over-estimating what percentage of challenge symbols on the defense die would actually affect the quality of the hit. It was just an aspect of the specific stats I was looking at to generate my numbers, and I was seeing a pattern that didn't actually exist. I'd thought soak was just a hair's breadth better (and thus the higher variance of increased Defense would be preferable because it's more fun and memorable at what seemed like no real disadvantage), when in reality for most pools Soak is much better.

 

So, backpedaling frantically: Fresnel was right, the gap between Defense and Soak is much bigger than I was believing it to be.

 

@Fresnel:   Thank you for asking to see my numbers. I wouldn't have caught my mistake without having to reformat and re-examine them.

 

 

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Your welcome. Peer review (even the threat of it) certainly focuses the mind.

This sort of number crunching used to be my obsession. Now it's my job I have less enthusiasm… Programming the die rolling subroutines doesn’t appeal to me (easy but tedious).
 

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Fresnel said:

Your welcome. Peer review (even the threat of it) certainly focuses the mind.

This sort of number crunching used to be my obsession. Now it's my job I have less enthusiasm… Programming the die rolling subroutines doesn’t appeal to me (easy but tedious).
 

Sounds like a challenge, I'm not writing it in C though!

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Now, I think that Soak is better. Soak covers more damage dealt to You, it's a better protection. And Defence makes it only harder for enemies to hit You.

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Fresnel said:

 

Soak > Defence

Each Defence point gives a misfortune die. A misfortune die has a 33% chance of giving a Challenge and a 16% chance of a Bane.

Opposed vs. Defence tests are weighted towards success. Often a test will generate more successes than can be used. In this circumstance even if the Defence misfortune die generates a Challenge it is pointless.

Typically a single Defence related misfortune die rarely makes an impact on the result. It relies on a marginal success (sans Defence) and a lucky (unlucky) roll with the misfortune. Soak however, is almost always significant as it adds to Damage Reduction.

Defence is a nice to have. Combined with active defence it can be a significant factor, but soak is better.

 

 

 

I would generally go with that sentiment.

As Dvang explains, against lower class opponents defence can actually prevent you getting hit at all, which can be important and prevent that slow drain of 1 wound per successul hit minimum, but once you get experienced figthers against each other, defence is unlikely to prevent you being hit (although it could still be the difference between a 1 success and 3 successes line) and therefore i think you generally should try and wear the highest soak armour your encumbrance value will allow.

Defence can potentially be better than soak under particularly good rolls or conditions, but soak is more consistent in its application, I guess in a similar vein to conservative (soak) or reckless (defence) stance. There are specific times and attacks against which defence is more important (or more specifically that soak is NOT applied against so becomes irrelevant) but generallysoak is "better", in that it provides a more consistent, reliable effect.

I do wonder though if additonal options in OoW might try and re-address this balance slightly providing combat actions for unarmoured or lightly armoured characters that allow them a "virtual soak" value in some way shape or form, much like the slayer's ability card?

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Fresnel said:

heptat said:

 

 

 

 

Sounds like a challenge, I'm not writing it in C though!

 

 

Please, steal the glory. Make it VBA within a Excel Workbook please.

gran_risa.gif Unlikely gui%C3%B1o.gif

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pumpkin said:

I do wonder though if additonal options in OoW might try and re-address this balance slightly providing combat actions for unarmoured or lightly armoured characters that allow them a "virtual soak" value in some way shape or form, much like the slayer's ability card?

Hmmm...

You know, that gave me some thinking.

Not sure how will it work, or how much impact on the balance it could have but what if defence apart of adding usual misfortune dice could also give some additional protection against critical hits?

Something like:

If your Defence is higher than 0, and your enemy hit you for a critical wound, and at the same time rolled some chaos stars, add the number of chaos stars rolled to your Defence rating, and compare it with the critical wound severity. If the sum of your Defence and number of chaos stars rolled by your enemy is HIGHER than critical wound severity, then it is converted into normal wound.

Lets say it could be done once per round/enemy/encounter/act or something like that so it wouldn't break the balance completely.

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The 'vs. Defence' checks work very well for typical fantasy-setting combats. However, if we try to use it for a fencing duel between two highly skilled opponents it's not so good.

Narratively such a duel should be a series of attacks, parries, repostes - very few hits.

In order to model a fencing duel I suggest using competitive checks and progress tracker. For example, the progress tracker would be a tug-of-war type tracker with markers three pieces either side of neutral. The opponents would then make the competitive check and the tracker token moved. When a character reaches the end of his track, he can apply the net result of the last check to an attack action card. After each attack action the token returns to neutral.

This is just off the top of my head. I am sure a bit more thought could refine a dueling system within the toolset WFRP3 provides - as sophisticated as you like.

I hope this makes sense...  

 

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Fresnel said:

The 'vs. Defence' checks work very well for typical fantasy-setting combats. However, if we try to use it for a fencing duel between two highly skilled opponents it's not so good.

Narratively such a duel should be a series of attacks, parries, repostes - very few hits.

In order to model a fencing duel I suggest using competitive checks and progress tracker. For example, the progress tracker would be a tug-of-war type tracker with markers three pieces either side of neutral. The opponents would then make the competitive check and the tracker token moved. When a character reaches the end of his track, he can apply the net result of the last check to an attack action card. After each attack action the token returns to neutral.

This is just off the top of my head. I am sure a bit more thought could refine a dueling system within the toolset WFRP3 provides - as sophisticated as you like.

I hope this makes sense...  

Hmm, to me WFRP combat is highly abstract. One "attack" (one action played) is definitely not a single swing, and neither is one use of the Parry card a single parry.

A card played represents a style of combat you are using in a given round (with the round being of variable length depending on circumstances and what story you want to tell). With this interpretation a fencing duel can easily be reproduced narratively using the system as written. But sure, if you want a more prolonged battle with more dice rolls a system like the one you propose should work fine.

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"Hmm, to me WFRP combat is highly abstract. One "attack" (one action played) is definitely not a single swing, and neither is one use of the Parry card a single parry."

I 100% agree with this, but the standard 'vs. Defence' check is still and poor model for a fencing

Using the basic 'vs Defence' check a duel is virtually decided on the Inititive roll. I'm not sure what the rules are for Empire duels, but typically little or no armour was worn in the 'Real World' - Renaissance period. So combats will be very quick whatever the form - two or three hits. So basically the match would be ridiculously weighted to Inititive. This will be doubly true for 'First Blood' duels.

This isn't a good model for a fencing duel or even a fencing match with practice weapons. The whole fencing system is consciously developed so that it is a Skill vs Skill competition.

Also if the story involves a fencing duel its is probably an important plot-point. It's not a mass melee, it's one-on-one. So having the duel resolved by two rolls (Inititive and one attack) is going to be a big anti-climax.

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