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Author Topic: Thoughts on a combat system:  (Read 1073 times)
Baenlynn
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Posts: 8


« on: May 08, 2010, 08:04:45 AM »

For my RPG I'm trying to generally, compress the mathematics as much as possible to enable more RP, but still maintain a certain level of depth to whatever mechanics the system uses. Combat has been something of a challenge in that regard with all the separate types of actions (trip, charge, disarm, delayed action, grapple etc.) there can be a lot to remember and it can be pretty hard to learn it all as comprehensively as you'd like. But, when it all boils down to it each action is just a bonus and/or a penalty fed through a slightly different mechanic. So, instead of a different set of numbers for each action type I've boiled it down to one set, employed in five different ways...



Each of the circles above represents a combat 'stance' an approach to combat that each player would declare via a description at the start of their round Each stance has a weak bonus (black arrow leading away) and a strong bonus (read arrow leading away) to two other stances, as well as a weak penalty (black arrow toward) and a strong penalty (red arrow toward) to two other stances.

The five stances are:

Offensive: A stance that sacrifices defence to boost attack. (An archer stands from cover taking time to aim shots to boost their effectiveness whilst also making themselves a target) the intent is to kill or remove the enemy from battle as quickly as possible.
Defensive: A stance that favours preservation over attack. (A warrior blocking repeated blows from multiple enemies while a cleric tends to a fallen comrade)
Evade: A stance that favours avoiding confrontation and/or exiting it as quickly as possible (a rogue tumbles through a crush of goblins)
Riposte: A stance that focusses on countering attacks (a skilled fencer exploits the weaknesses in a barbarian's technique)
Incapacitate: A stance that attempts to avoid harm to an enemy whilst bringing them under control (a police officer attempts to disarm and subdue a suspect)

Each stance also has its own inherent effect involving a trade off of some kind (i.e. while fighting evasively a character sacrifices all damage to add to their agility enabling them to stun opponents and disengage without penalty. While fighting defensively a character sacrifices all or part of their attack bonus to add to their defence)

Virtually any combat action can be undertaken whilst in any stance (tripping as a riposte or while fighting defensively for example, or charging while evading in order to wind an opponent and prevent further pursuit). A combat 'stance' does not represent a characters available actions, but rather their present intentions within the battle (damage, survival, retreat, retaliate, or subdue)

Sequence would be as follows:
Players roll initiative for combat, and the first party declares their stance and actions via description:
"I dive for the nearest piece of cover (defensive) and draw my pistol."
Play then proceeds down the initiative order from highest to lowest and players can adjust their stance based on how the enemy behaves.
"The orc grabs for the handle of your axe with his free hand, failing to secure a hold" (incapacitate)
"I step inside his open guard and shove the axe up at his chin" (riposte)

Problems thus far:
I'm wondering whether or not this system is too complex, even if it does seem to have a lot of potential
Without explicit declarations of stance before actions are declared, an enemy's true stance can appear vague. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as intentions and advantages in combat are not always clear and this adds an extra layer of uncertainty to the whole process.
I'm not entirely sure the relationships between stances are right just yet.

Thoughts on these and any other commentary is welcome
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Jeff Russell
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Posts: 44


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« Reply #1 on: May 08, 2010, 08:44:56 AM »

Howdy Baenlynn,

 I'm afraid I don't have much to bring to the table just yet, but I'm something of a sucker for making combat more interesting than taking  turns whacking at each other, so I wanted to try to contribute something. First off, I don't think the 5 stances are themselves too complex, as long as they're not a layer on top of or below all kinds of other complexity (like, if you have all kinds of crazy weapon interaction rules too, then maybe the crunch is getting a bit high - but maybe not! That's a personal taste thing mostly). At first I misread your diagram and thought that the strong bonus and strong penalty were directly opposed, and I was going to say it was overkill, but I notice that I was wrong. That's actually pretty cool that each stance has *some* kind of mechanical relationship with each other stance. What happens when two guys face off with the same stance? No mechanical effect?

Also, regarding the 'implicit stance', I think that could work, but it depends on a couple of factors. First, I think making all stances explicit would encourage interest in matching up stances as a little 'game within a game' more so than leaving them implied by the actions. On the other hand, not stating the stances explicitly forces the players to describe what they're doing and what their intent is, rather than just saying "I go for Riposte stance" and roll some dice, and I'm all about engaging with the fiction. I would include some explicit GM advice (do you have a GM?) to make sure to not only describe *what* the bad guys do, but also what they're going for, since stance is entirely related to intention in your description. That would help to avoid "what do you mean he's in defensive stance? You described him as wildly slashing at me!" or what not.

I think the relationship between stances feels right, but there's a bit of oddness with 'evade' and 'defensive', since theoretically the intent of both is to 'not get hurt'. Incapacitate also makes sense as a separate stance when using normally deadly weapons, but makes less sense with weapons specific to the task (trying to hurt someone with a billy club is going to be similar if you're 'offensive' or 'incapacitate', but I guess not identical). One option would be to drop it to three stances (offensive, defensive, riposte, for example) which would simplify the relationships, but might not give you the tactical depth you're hoping for.

Finally, what sort of game are you doing this for? From your examples, it sounds like a heroic fantasy D&D type 'fight monsters' type game (except for that one with the pistol). Or is it meant to be a generic system? I only ask because this level of detail is going to encourage a pretty strong focus on combat, which can still include plenty of roleplaying, but would work best for a game where your characters can and should expect to be fighting lots of stuff and will invest themselves in a character suited to that.

Anyhow, I'll be interested to see some more on this, let me know if my comments went at all in the right direction.
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Jeff Russell
Blessings of the Dice Gods - My Game Design Blog and home to my first game, The Book of Threes
PeterBB
Member

Posts: 12


« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2010, 01:27:35 PM »

I'm very interested in this idea, as I've had similar thoughts myself. My biggest question is why things are sequential? There's no element of "making a gutsy move" if you know your opponent will make the appropriate counter. It seems like simultaneously revealing your stance leads to more interesting choices. (You could even "script" the next few stances, like the Burning games do.)

The game designer David Sirlin talks about a similar concept, in relation to fighting games he plays and a card game he designed. You might find it interesting:

http://www.sirlin.net/articles/designing-yomi.html
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Baenlynn
Member

Posts: 8


« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2010, 11:31:10 PM »

Thankyou both for your replies.

Jeff: The game is meant to be more or less generic and I'm wanting to include basic info for two to three settings (Fantasy, SF, and possibly Horror). I really don't want to add any extra crunch because I'd prefer things to move quickly, and I think this particular mechanism, done properly, adds strategy enough without numerous additional layers. The relationships are not set in stone yet, but in the intervening weeks I've settled on a few extra details for this:

1.) Stance does not restrict available actions, rather it adds a bonus/penalty to offensive and defensive actions. A defensive player can still attempt a trip but their attack bonus is penalised due to their boosted defense.
2.) Penalties and bonuses are both applied on the same side of the equation: i.e. if a player is fighting defensively against an attacking enemy, their defensive bonus is doubled, rather than applying that bonus as a penalty against the attacker's to-hit roll.
3.) Explicit descriptions are a must. This just requires a little more guidance to keep things focussed on description but also makes everyone's stance clear and unambiguous.

Peter: That article is awesome and gives me a lot to think about. Definitely going to have to go with simultaneous play. Maybe a declaration phase where everyone sets their stance with a stack of 5 cards then proceed clockwise from the combat initiator, any damage and effects coming into play at the end of a full turn. Readied actions could upset this balance much the same way as an instant effect in a Trading Card Game, but obviously with some penalty applied. For the moment I think there's enough inequality in the payoffs of each stance, but making them a little more nebulous is something to think on...

Interestingly, with a party of 4-6 players mentally facing off against the GM, play style becomes a liability quite quickly, so the GM must adapt tactics to the character of each enemy. Raiders will ambush quickly and withdraw if things turn against them, while a band of orcs is likely to just hammer at the party until one or the other side is dead. This is great because it makes normally peripheral fluff an integral part of gameplay. Culture, disposition, tactics, and even previous encounters mean more because if the GM always uses the same style, the players will overcome every challenge quickly, but by taking a bead from the villains things can be different every time. For example if the party has fought off one pirate raid in an asteroid belt, then the second band of pirates from the same group may be more cautious and/or attack harder in the initial phases of battle.
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Locke
Member

Posts: 85


« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2010, 08:44:30 AM »

the biggest problem I see with any combat system is controlling bonus and using the right dice.

for example d20 gives you a long range of variables but limits the resolution to 5% increments.   A d10 is just as good as d20 assuming you are using less bonus and changes.

I'm not sure the amount you want to change the stats based on stance, but I'm guessing most people will just pick one 90% of the time so I don't think it will be very dynamic.  Also the way you describe your sequence it seems like you are using instances and fitting ideas to them.  It seems to be arbitrary.  For instance why couldn't grabbing the axe handle be a counter attack since the axe is swung and really only the head could hurt you.  It makes sense to step inside as a counter and grab the ax with your left hand while stabbing with the short sword in your right hand.  Also the way its described seems cinematic.  Like the people are describing a scene vs tactically playing from position to position.

What I would do is work backwards.  Take your scene and try to replicate combat.  Based on your start I would guess that you come up with an infinite number of options which will make it hard to lay out in rules.  A suggestion I have is try different terms and concepts for fighting; the ones you've chosen might be fine but there may be some others as well.
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Thanks!
Jeff Mechlinski
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