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Friday, May 4, 2012

Simple Combat Variations

I've been posting briefly about different weapon and attack types over the last few days: bash, hack, jab, and stab attacks, slashing weapons, and spiked weapons. These are all actually musing on some more general ideas about combat. You'll probably notice that the first four attack types form a kind of matrix, pairing a swing/thrust duality with a blunt/sharp duality:
Swingbase damage
base damage
+ bleeding
Thrustbest of 2d6
(drop lowest)
best of 2d6
+ bleeding
Thus, we have a Thrust mechanic (roll 2d6 and take the best for damage) and a Bleed mechanic (1d6 extra damage at end of day, 5+ on 1d6 Con check means heavy bleeding stops; hard armor blocks possibility of heavy bleeding.) The proposed slashing rules use the Bleed mechanic, but extends the types of armor that can prevent it; they also add armor damage rules for leather or padded armor.

The armor damage mechanic and the Con check should be familiar as just another situation roll (5+ on 1d6 means something different than normal happens.) In a sense, this mechanic "factors out" and can be applied any time you want to see if the situation changes:

Does your sharp, pointed weapon get stuck? Yes, on 5+ (1d6) (No stuck weapon if STR > Move)
Does it damage a vital organ (impale)? Yes, on 5+ (1d6) (No impale if target's CON > STR)
Does your net tangle up an opponent? Yes, on 5+ (1d6) (No tangle if target's Move > DEX)
Does your whip disarm your opponent? Yes, on 5+ (1d6) (No disarm if target's STR > your STR)

(Notice that I'm now modifying previous versions of these rules with the ideas in the Signature Moves post.)

We could also factor out the 2d6 drop lowest mechanic and apply it to other situations. Instead of describing individual attack types, we can say "Roll 2d6 and keep the highest if the attack is a thrust or a two-handed weapon, or any other situation where the attack type seems to give an advantage to damage."

What I'm getting at is that we can keep the generic combat mechanics very simple and use more conditional rules, based on imagining the fictional situation, to determine when to apply each mechanic. Our handful of mechanics is now:

  • Attack roll (d20, skip if action is applied to self or willing recipient)
  • Damage roll (1d6, or 2d6 keep highest/lowest in some circumstances)
  • Extra Effects happen on 5+ (use damage roll result)
  • Poison Save (additional d20 roll where applicable)
  • Extra Damage roll (on failed save, extra effect, or other continuing situation)
  • Additional Effects (separate d6 roll, 5+ means a bad situation is reversed or avoided)

Each of these mechanics are optional; they might not apply in all situations, and in many cases high ability scores may eliminate the need for a roll. Most of the time, we're just thinking about what's happening in the fictional situation and making a ruling; these six mechanics, plus the ability score comparisons and other ad hoc comparisons like weapon length, become our toolkit for making rules without the need for official lists of modifiers or more elaborate mathematical calculations or mechanics.

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