November 22, 2013
AoE’s Give No F’s
Be it an evil wizard‘s fireball spell, a dragon‘s breath weapon, or a really angry corp-sec guard with a grenade, player characters have learned to fear the devastating power of an Area of Effect attack. Areas of Effect are difficult to evade, they bypass many protective abilities characters might have, effect multiple characters at once, and they inflict a great deal of collateral damage, making them one of the more devastating abilities in all of role-playing games.
Different games handle AoE’s differently. In some, they are treated as normal attacks that hit everyone individually. In others, they call for a special defense or saving throw to avoid. Other games have much more intricate (read “complex”) rules for handling them. Some base a character’s ability to defend themselves on if they are fast enough to escape the radius of the effect, which in turn rewards faster characters a great deal over more heavily armored, “tank” characters depending on how often these effects come into play. There are even games where the expression “AoE’s give no F’s” is truly literal, as an AoE will affect everyone in the blast radius, not allowing for a defense against it. The logic being if you want to avoid such an attack, do not be within its radius when it goes off. Most often these rules are used for things like grenades, missiles, and other explosive devices, but sometimes translate over into magical based effects as well, especially in games where the two cross paths fairly regularly.
Fighter characters tend to be built on taking hits, and in that regard they are the most suited to dealing with the damage that an AoE will inflict on them. However, avoiding an AoE tends to be difficult for the more iconic fighter archetype characters, as they tend to be slow and rely on heavier armors to withstand damage. In many games Area of Effect abilities reduce the effectiveness of armor because armor does not tend to protect 100 percent of a character’s body. Rogue archetypes tend to have mixed reactions to AoE’s. On the one hand, rogue archetype characters tend to be fast, so they are often the best able to avoid these blasts, but on the other hand many rogue characters like to try and hide, ambushing their foes. Area of Effect abilities might be reduced by the cover a rogue might have while hiding, but often they will still have some effect, making hiding not an effective defense against them. Mystic archetypes tend to have the same problem when they rely on abilities like invisibility to conceal themselves. While the protective shields other spells of a mystic might be effective, even these can often be worn down over time. Of all the character types, the healer is the one who has the hardest time with Area of Effect abilities. Not because they are any less able to protect themselves, but because it is the healer’s job to heal, and Area of Effects hurt everyone in the blast radius. This means that one attack might do damage to an entire adventuring party, which the healer must then tend to – most often – one at a time.
Players, beware the boom. Area of effect abilities can spell disaster for any well thought out plan, and be careful if you rely on them too heavily yourselves. Nothing draws a Gamemaster’s ire than something proving overly effective time and time again. Be wary of your enemies responding in kind.
As always, good gaming everyone.
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