Daring Adventures: Combat

Often I see one of two things out of gamers at a table. If combat offers lots of crunch, some players will get into it. The more ostentatious or outlandish their exploits can be, the more they desire to play the game. While I’ve seen others have their eyes glaze over as soon as the GM says roll for initiative. I tried melding elements together to get the best out of both worlds. I wanted people who dislike combat in role-playing games to feel like it is simple enough that they can have their character do what they desire without having to memorize a codex of options, and that it doesn’t take forever to resolve their actions so that they can move on to something more interesting to them while still feeling like they are contributing to the group’s goals. Yet, I still wanted those same options people have come to expect in rpgs, such as repeating fire being useful in general, or ambidexterity or dual wielding being awesome.

I get around most of these issues by simply stating that you, as a player character, can attempt almost any action you want. There is a penalty that the GM can impose for using your off-hand, for making two attacks, for attempting to box in enemies instead of hurting just one of them, etc. Then if you choose certain options in character creation or advancement, then you can break the rule that says you have a penalty for attempting these actions in certain circumstances.

For example:

Run and Gun • Training
Requirements: Agility +2 or better
Cost: None
Effect: You can lower the multiple action penalty resulting from moving more than your Speed and making a ranged attack simultaneously by 2.
XP Multiplier: x2

Anybody can move more than the free amount of meters/yards per round and take an action to make a ranged attack. For most people this imposes a -2 multiple-action penalty on both actions (although running doesn’t require a roll so in reality it’s just a penalty on the shot). A character who possesses Run and Gun just doesn’t suffer this penalty at all. Only if something else lowers their chances or they spread themselves thin does it get worse. Run and Gun is an example of a power by the way, I figured I would call them what they really are, and Power was the shortest word I could find to convey the meaning of special ability that most people would understand.

So to recap, the game doesn’t restrict you from attempting much of anything, it does however reward careful construction by allowing characters to break rules in certain contexts, garner bonuses for themselves, or impose penalties upon enemies. All of this allows someone normally bored by combat in roleplaying games to get on with it, and perhaps even find something they like in a niche provided by a power or three. Most powers are limited by situations only sparingly, so that they have a wide range of application.

I’ve also tried to throw out complex timers in an effort to minimize accounting at the table. Where given a choice between a physical timer and an abstract one, I often try to accomodate a simple physical timer, and where the expression of such a timer requires more effort than a simple cyclic set of actions to keep track of, I have avoided it entirely.

For example, one of the supernatural power systems relies upon tokens (or power points if you will). The options are that they refresh at the end of the scene or as an in game reward, or they refresh exactly one round after they are exhausted. This means that for the former, they transfer out of the player’s pool until refreshed after the combat or roleplay scene ends, or they travel out of the pool into limbo, and out of limbo back into the player’s pool. Both actions can happen in one round, but it’s no more complex to keep track of than 3 piles of tokens which feed from one to the other in order.

Dealing Damage
Characters often find themselves in trouble, and when the weapons come out, it’s time to figure out how much of a hurt you’ve put on the other guy with that shot in-between the eyes. So naturally you roll dice for damage. I tried this with a comparison to Toughness, but that didn’t fly for me. One, you get a rush from rolling a handful of dice, even a small handful, in the hopes that you can put down an enemy with your action. Some games deal with this strictly based upon how well the hit lands, and this system accounts for that as well, but the most important thing is that weapons deal dice of damage, and it’s fun to use a better weapon against a target, and scary to find yourself targeted by a similar weapon across the field of battle.

A typical weapon does 2D6 damage. A particularly vicious one deals 5D6. That’s the approximate range for weapon damages caused by enemies the size of adult humans. When you hit better, you add your Result to the value of the damage roll, increasing the damage with a more precise hit. But what does Damage mean? I didn’t want a hit points system, not really. They are fast in play, but nobody cares about losing hit points until they are down into the low double digits or less. You should feel confident ignoring a small amount of damage in this game, but worried about taking a lot of it.

I also didn’t want to try something purely dynamic similar to Savage Worlds. A large damage code should seem dangerous on its own, and a low one should not hold much fear. So I’ve split the difference. Every character has a Toughness stat, and you can take that much damage without having to worry about it really. This amount varies based on character attributes and options, but it falls within a predictable range. You can use Armor to reduce damage before it’s taken, and you can use a Recovery action to reduce damage slightly after it’s determined or even after it’s applied.

However, when you have to deal with more Damage than your Toughness, you lower your damage total by your Toughness and take on one Wound. If your damage total still exceeds your Toughness, you do it again, accruing Wounds until your damage total is less than your Toughness. There are a few things that happen after that, first you have to determine if you have more Wounds than you have Health, another figured statistic. If you do, you start dying. If not you can still function without help. The next thing you have to do is check if you fall unconscious or not. Lastly, if you are both not dying and not unconscious then you suffer the Wounded status, which is a penalty. Still, you only have to worry about these things if you take enough Damage to become Wounded, and being Damaged doesn’t affect a character at all.

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About Byron D. Molix

I am an information technology professional in Missouri. I've been an avid fan of fantasy and science fiction novels, comic books, pen and paper role-playing games, computer games and console video games for the last two decades. My dream would be to one day make a comfortable living while having the time to pursue writing (novels, rpgs, etc.) as a full-time hobby.

Posted on May 20, 2013, in DA, Editorial, Gaming and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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