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All you Ever Wanted to Know- the Wall of Text

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Grandmaster Knight
Hello everybody, this is xenoargh.  This will take you through most of the things you need to know about Blood and Steel, including a lot of details about gameplay.  Please bear with me for the next few minutes of your time, and you will learn a lot about Blood and Steel.

But before I get into these details, I would like to thank (in no particular order) the following people:

Narf of Picklestink
Queen Pinky
Wei Xiadi
Jan Tuma

...and the very helpful people who have answered my questions at the Forge.  Without your kind assistance and Open Source content, building a mod like this would have been impossible, and I wanted to thank all of you for your support for mods on this engine.

What this Mod is Not
Before I begin, I want to say something unusual.  I want to let people know what this mod is not.

Usually, mods just give you feature lists.  I wanted to do a little more, because of the way that this mod works.

Basically, this mod is *not* two things:

1.  It is not a historically-accurate mod, in the sense of pretending that Calradia is Europe.  As we all know, Taleworld's conception of Calradia is a lot different than historical Europe, and I wanted to continue this tradition, instead of trying to make Mount and Blade something it's not.

While I have drawn very heavily on historical sources for most of the factions, you will find that some of them are pure fantasy.  This was done in the interest of fun.  However, players aren't required to use the fantasy troop types or equipment, and you can very well ignore these elements- it's up to you.

2.  While I use the term 'fantasy' in terms of the looks of some of the equipment and some of the troops... this is not a 'fantasy' mod.  Instead, it's a very hardcore tactical combat simulation with a lot of 'what-if' scenarios in it- for example, we get to find out what it might have been like if the Roman Empire had continued to exist, and continued to use heavy infantry tactics versus medieval shock-cavalry forces.  And the treatment of sieges and assault scenarios is a huge change from Native's approach- there is plenty of scope for serious tactical consideration of the problems you need to solve. 

There is no magic, there aren't any pointy-eared elves or dwarves, etc., and you will not be asked to do anything about a ring.  In general, once you remove the surface gloss, you will find that this mod is about combat and tactics.  So, for those of you who've seen the Day-Glo female armors in the first video... I'd appreciate your patience, because you will find that the actual gameplay is very hardcore in terms of realism and I think that most people who like the military aspects of Mount and Blade will enjoy it immensely.

So, those are the things that this mod is not.  I figured it would save time and avoid silly comments from people to let them know from the outset.

Without further ado, let's discuss the gameplay of the mod.  This is broken into several major sub-sections, and goes into some detail, so I would appreciate your patience whilst we move through the sections.

Character Creation
Character creation is fundamentally different than Warband's Native design.  Whereas Native has only two major choices that really matter (whether to be male, and whether to start as a Noble), Blood and Steel has a completely different system for character creation- an explicit class system.

What is a class?  A class is a set of skills, starting equipment and resources, and starting relationships with the outside world.  It can also have long-term effects on gameplay, both helpful and detrimental.  This system means that picking a new class isn't just a minor choice- it means that the game will feel considerably different. 

I prefer to play a game where I know what I'm getting, and how hard the game is likely to be, during the start especially, so I have taken great pains to make how it works clear to players.  Try each of the classes out to have a new experience of the same old game!

Global Difficulty Settings
There are three global difficulty settings, that operate above and beyond the Taleworlds settings.  These have a dramatic effect on how difficult the game is, both at the beginning and, more importantly, as you move up in the world and begin to conquer Calradia. 

If you have never beaten the game before, you should give Casual Gamer mode a try- it's specifically designed to be easier than Native, especially at the end. 

If you've beaten the game once, or quit when you knew you could win, give Normal a try- it's a little harder in some ways, and a little easier in others. 

If you need a really challenging experience, pick "mommy"! 

And, if you're a masochist, try playing a Peasant Revolutionary on "mommy"- it is not impossible to win, but it's pretty close.

Realism Settings
Since 1.0, I've gradually added mod options that can have a further impact on the gameplay of the mod, making it harder or easier to play.  In version 1.4, I've decided that putting these options in an obscure Camp menu wasn't enough, so I did a fairly major re-write of how they work and how they're presented.  If this is your first time playing, be sure to read through the descriptions- some of these options really increase difficulty, and they're all on by default, in the hope that more newbies try the mod the way that I, the author, prefer it to be played.  But you really don't have to, if you don't want to- I believe that different people find different things fun, especially in sandbox games like this, so they're all optional for people who want an easier experience :smile:

New gameplay changes
The overall goal of Blood and Steel is not just to put new skins on old units.  The overall goal was to explore medieval combat and command problems.  Therefore, I have built a totally new game-balance system that is a lot more mechanically and historically accurate than Native.  Here are some of the details.

A.  No more "magic" skills
There are four skills that really distort game-balance in Native, because they make equipment values an unreliable guide in terms of effectiveness, and also give extreme buffs to AI troops. 

These skills are:  Power Draw, Power Strike, Power Throw and Shield.

Because I could not reconcile their effects with my desire to create a more accurate combat simulation, these skills have been totally removed.  If you are importing a character from Native, you may want to alter your character's stats and re-allocate some points to other skills to compensate.

B.  Totally reworked equipment
Every single item has been changed, from the ground up.  For people used to Native's numbers, it will be a bit of a change.  It would literally take me an hour to go through all of the alterations that have been made- everything from re-balanced horses to new shield concepts to all the weapon changes, so, with some regret, I will simply say this:  things are different, and you will need to read the descriptions and stats closely.

One major change requires some explanation, however, and I have decided that people ought to know about it before they begin playing the mod.  That is the changes to missile weapons, and missile combat in general.

I spent many hours researching the effectiveness of medieval weapon systems and applying this research to the resulting balance.  The biggest change that people will notice, though, is that missile weapons are considerably more effective, especially against lightly-armored troops, and that there is a much larger difference between bows of various types, crossbows, and the various primitive firearms that are simulated. 

In general, you will find that bows and arrows are good versus troops that aren't armored well, and can be devastating to unarmored troops when fired by a mass of archers.  Crossbows are very realistically depicted, and are very dangerous, albeit slow-firing weapons, and early firearms are somewhat like early crossbows, but aren't as accurate, but have a slightly higher rate of fire.  In general, you will want to acquire missile-armed troops of some kind, and there are many valid choices available.

For even more details about archery (there has been a lot of discussion about this), here's a wall-within-a-wall-of-text:

When I was doing research on the topic of combat archery to determine where to set the numbers for accuracy, range, rate of fire and damage of medieval combat archery, I was struck very much by the vast difference in practice and technique between combat archery and target archery.

And there are other issues that most people aren't aware of, such as the fact that archers in the Middle Ages didn't have arrows of uniform stiffness, etc., which probably made sharpshooting over 50 meters pretty much a target-practice event, not something that was possible under combat conditions. 

And we also have to keep in mind that warbows and war-arrows weren't like target arrows, and weren't developed so much for accuracy or range, but to transmit killing levels of power to a reasonable distance- the classic tradeoffs between rate of fire, pull weight and drag.

But the real clincher for me was when I looked at the ways that combat archers draw, such as this example from a very traditionally-minded group in England,  which can be seen in this video.  It's obviously impossible to be enormously accurate when shooting that way, which is why English longbowmen typically trained to hit a clout, not a perpendicular target.

More to your specific point, there really aren't that many "famous archers" renowned for their accuracy.  In fact, most of that perception is modern, created by Hollywood and Tolkien (the Black Arrow vs. Smaug, Legolas, etc., which has spawned a million mythical Elven archers of amazing accuracy).

For example, Wikipedia's list of famous archers is mainly people from the 20th Century, or people whose real skills as archers (or lack thereof) are shrouded in mythology and whose accomplishments should be taken with huge grains of salt.  After all, one of those Japanese guys supposedly sank a ship with a single shot...

But, lest you think I'm picking on you archer folks arbitrarily (really, I'm not- archery was one of the things I did a fair amount of homework on when developing the game balance), I dug a bit deeper with the aid of Google, and found that... nope, there just aren't a huge amount of famous archers from any earlier than the 19th Century.  Famous shots are a bit easier to find... but that was just somebody getting lucky, or a medieval historian adding a bit of drama (they weren't exactly interested in what we'd consider history nowadays, their accounts were mainly entertainment for the ruling elite).

Lastly (since I've gone all long-winded here)... I have a number of relatives and friends who bowhunt.  I've shot bows of various kinds myself, but I am nowhere near expert, so my personal experience doesn't count.

They're shooting from a sniper's position, concealed and camouflaged, their target is ideally not moving... and they still rarely get a hit from more than about 30 meters, let alone a clean kill.  And that's a deer without any armor, who isn't actively avoiding the arrows and has no idea that they're being shot at... vs. guys with modern compound bows with sights.  I'm pretty sure that vs. people who are quite aware of what's going on that you can't achieve anywhere near that kind of accuracy.

Lastly, there are early cannons that are simulated.  These are done with specific troops that are armed with cannon-type firearms, which have special effects.  Players may also use these cannons as personal weapons, and may also use early shotguns (known as "dragons", hence "dragoons" of later ages).  These use special simulation code to accurately depict their effects, although I regret that their physical appearance is not what I would prefer.

And one last thing, that's somewhat important, in terms of realism changes.  You will find that Spear weapons have a new overhand strike, in addition to their underhand strike.  This means that using a spear with a shield is far more practical than it was in Native.

C.  Totally reworked sieges
This mod actually was started because of the siege assault scenarios.  I felt that they could be improved in various ways, and started off by modifying every single one of them- all 70, including all of the towns.  Again, it would, unfortunately, take too long to walk through all of these changes, so here is a very short description:

1.  You generally start much farther from the castle or town's walls.
2.  You generally have protection in place that can be used by your archers or to shelter your infantry from missile weapons.
3.  The Belfry scenarios have been eliminated, because the Belfry code was frequently buggy and it overrode the commander's control over the battles.
4.  In general, you will want to pick your troops for siege assaults very carefully, and change the way you conduct sieges.
5.  The Siege of Ichamur is the ultimate; I built a totally new level design and it's really cool.

D.  New battle system
The system for random battles has seen big changes.  The biggest is that different areas have a very different size.  This simulates how the terrain would have affected the ability to scout accurately and other things.  There are other major changes, though:

1.  You will take considerable numbers of prisoners, regardless of the weapon types your troops employ.
2.  You will find that on Normal and Mommy that enemies run away far less frequently.
3.  You will find that there is more variety of battlefield obstacles and other factors make battlefields less predictable than they were in Native.

E.  New ways to make money
There are many new ways to make money.  The chief new way is by ransoming prisoners.  This happened a lot less often in Native, due to the way that taking prisoners was implemented.  Now it is a regular part of warfare.  You will find, just like Native, that Ransom Brokers are not always available.  However, players may use the "black market", and sell their prisoners via the Tavern Keepers, if you have the cash in hand to pay a bribe.  In addition, the price of prisoners varies widely, depending on their level, so taking high-level prisoners can be very lucrative.

In addition, you may invest in towns, creating new enterprises that will earn you money weekly.  For long-term games, it is important to set up as many of these businesses as possible, as late-game armies are hideously expensive, and you will find it somewhat difficult to support them only on the gains from captives.

F.  New trade system
There is a new trade system, that is part of the new economy.  Trader characters will find that, with a bit of patience, they can amass a considerable fortune by buying products where they're manufactured and selling them where they're scarce.

G.  Inflation
Players will note that prices are a lot higher than they used to be.  This is not a bug; Calradia has seen a great deal of inflation since 1257. 

H.  Taxes
The fundamental economy of the game has been rebuilt, from the ground up.  This means that there is a totally-new system for determining how much tax money you can earn from fiefs- population.  There is no longer the dreaded "tax inefficiency" code that served as a way to make the end-game much more difficult; however, you will still need to make as many improvements as possible, and protect your fiefs in order to generate enough revenue to support your field forces and garrisons.

I.  Smarter Tactical AI
You will notice that fighting against Lords is very different than fighting bandits.  This is because the Lords use a new tactical AI, which makes them less-prone to do the "wrong thing" and they will frequently prefer to fight defensively, or may do something very unpredictable.  You will want to scout enemy movements and positions carefully to avoid defeat- charging straight in will frequently result in considerable casualties of troops that are hard to replace.

J.  Promotion of troops
In general, this system has been overhauled.  Troops now get promoted in quality, but not in kind.  There aren't "trees"- instead, a system of "lines" has been used. 

This can mean that troops that are very marginal when freshly-recruited can become very valuable at the high end, so players should experiment with all of the different cultures and troop types to find a mix that works for them.

In addition, you can make Companions into Lords whenever you have one or more Fiefs to give them.  They are more reliable and supportive than other cultures' Lords, so you will want to do this, especially early on.  However, you will find that the Companions aren't nearly numerous enough to protect all of your holdings, so you will want to recruit Lords to your cause whenever possible.

Technical Notes
This mod uses larger battle sizes than Native, and generally expects people's computers to be able to handle battles of 150+ troops.  If this is not the case for you, you may not be able to play this mod.  I am not Taleworlds tech support; do not report that you can't play it, or that it crashes, because other than telling you to turn your graphics settings down to minimum, there's little else I can do.

In terms of gameplay bugs, I will say this.  There will be numerous gameplay bugs.  I've tried to stomp most of them out, and I'm happy with how it's playing now, but that doesn't mean that there aren't any bugs- in particular, some of the Native bugs are still present, unfortunately.  I may or may not have time to fix them later, so feel free to report them, preferably with details about *exactly* what went wrong, or a screenshot.

Spoiler'ish Stuff and Hints (i.e., don't read this the first time).
Hints and Tips (and spoilers)
This section contains some serious spoilers, in terms of specific hints. If you don't like spoilers, please skip this section.

A.  The difficulty settings are meaningful
I can't emphasize this enough.  The difficulty settings really matter, a lot.  If you are frustrated while playing on Normal, try Casual Gamer mode, it was made to be easier for newbies and people who lack a lot of free time, so that they could have fun. 

Conversely, Mommy has been deliberately made much harder than Normal, and should provide a real challenge to most players.  The difficulty settings affect things like how much troops cost to hire and keep, how much money you can earn, and many other things, so it's very hard to summarize, other than to say that they're in the mod for a reason.

B.  You will capture a lot of enemies regardless of army composition
You do not need Manhunters in this mod, or troops with clubs.  The Manhunters are cooler and more useful in combat than they used to be, but basically you no longer have to build an army around them to earn money this way.

C.  You will want to set up long-term earning
This is seriously important, if you want to conquer the world.  Set up businesses early, and the total earnings will eventually more than equal a few towns.  And there is another factor, as well.  Populations aren't static- they can change a huge amount over the course of a long game.  Maximizing population growth by building Mills in villages and protecting Towns from being besieged or sacked can have giant implications in terms of long-term earnings.

D.  Being "Rambo" is not a good idea
To some extent, Native was a fairly heroic game, especially once a character maxed out one of the Power skills.  This is much less true in Blood and Steel, unless you are playing a Barbarian class character (which is what you saw heroically chopping through hordes in the first video). 

Your proper role is as a commander of troops; forget that at your peril.

E.  This is not a game about grinding.

Leveling is much faster than it was in Native, so you do not have to kill hordes to get up to the level 15 mark or so. 

Don't sweat keeping a character build, if it isn't working for you; you can be level 20 in less than two hours (really, I've done it) and re-spec very easily.

Some people who've played the mod have complained about this feature; it's there because grinding is un-fun, and I wanted people to concentrate on the whole becoming Emperor part.  If you're one of those people who really feels like it's not a "game" if you don't have grind endlessly to raise stats, you can edit module.ini and change the experience multipliers to 1.0; voila, now grinding takes forever, your Companions hardly ever level, and troops stay at Levy for ages.  Good luck :wink:

F.  Use tactical commands and scout the enemy
The enemy Lords will often do unpredictable things, and attempt to lay traps for your forces, or will refuse to charge blindly.  During the first 30 seconds of a battle, it is essential to place your troops well and to determine the enemy's position and intent.  You will find that sometimes you will get blindsided by the enemy making a better choice than you; this is just par for the course.  The AI is by no means "smart", it simply does the wrong thing less often.

G. Those darn [insert faction here] are too tough!  What do I do?
In general, you need to do several things:
A.  Analyze their weak spots.  All of the factions are weak against something.
B.  Use commands and terrain intelligently.  This is not a mod for charging straight ahead- that will just get you and your troops killed in large numbers, vs. faction armies.
C.  Sometimes, you'll have to face down an army of 1,500 with only 250 troops.  That's not a bug.  You've seen 300, right?  Well, now you're Sparta.  It can be done.
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