Balance vs Realism

An older post on RPGNet about The RPG/Dinosaur Paradox got me thinking: are the dinosaurs in Dinosaur Cowboys different and unique and awesome enough compared to plain human posse members? Let’s look at what differentiates a dinosaur from a cowboy:

  • Tons of HP – Even the smallest vegetarian dinosaur (Runner) has 10 HP, which is 2 more than a starting cowboy. The top is a Longneck with 35 HP. This means dinosaurs take a huge amount of punishment, and can become a focal point of the battle in a way.
  • No Equipment – I’m still considering the possibility of dinosaur specific equipment like extra saddles, armor plating, etc. but for now dinosaurs can’t buy or use any equipment.
  • No Upgrading – Besides buying more HP dinosaurs can’t be improved in any way (for good or bad) using Improvement Points.
  • Can Transport – Dinosaurs can be mounted and can carry passengers, so they act like a vehicle in that regard.
  • Allow Lassos – While mounted a character can use a Lasso weapon, like a plain Rope Lasso or something exotic like a Barbed Lasso.
  • Different Natural Weapons – Instead of punching and kicking dinosaurs can Trample and Gore as natural weapons.

Besides these points dinosaurs, at their core, are treated the same as cowboys in regards to moving and attacking.
I wanted to post today about possibly changing this. I don’t think too drastically, as split rules are always annoying (see Warhammer 40k with it’s infantry / jump infantry / motorbikes / tanks / monstrous creature mess). In this case I ask: Should dinosaurs ignore Difficult Terrain? From a thematic and realism sense the answer is yes as they’d smash through trees and charge up hills without any problem or hassles that human sized characters have. But from a balance sense it means dinosaurs are faster and can reach close combat sooner, as well as transporting human members closer to the front earlier on.
Also I might change how Dinosaurs move slightly, like perhaps they can move a random distance (instead of preset) to represent them being a bit uncontrollable. Or maybe they have a “Fear Scale” that increases as they are attacked, instead of just a blanket Bravery Test.
Anyways maybe I just need to playtest this and see how it works out. I think it’ll really vary by posse and table layout and so on, which makes it hard to come to a definite conclusion.

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