Spotty Logic (spottylogic) wrote,
Spotty Logic
spottylogic

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RPG thoughts--combat resolution--

There was a conversation a few nights ago between jerseytude, Badger, the_october and myself--a little bit of a rough road, because Jersey's not going to win the all-comers "don't go there" contest, and October and Badger can both get a little testy and prickly. But it was a reasonable way to pass a Wednesday evening after a looong day at work.

Anyway, the discussion turned to gaming, and of course to the sticking point for most game systems--combat. Combat is meant to be fast-paced and exciting, at least in real life it ends up that way. Certainly even the non-life-threatening bopping Badger with a whiffle sword gets the adrenaline running, and it's mostly safe, except for the occasional loss of dignity. Heck, even playing "airzooka sniper" with a friend gets the heart going.

But combat in any current game system stops the game. It takes it from fast-paced plot or dialogue or exploration with one roll every 10 minutes, max, game-time to two rolls every .5 seconds, game time (conservatively--old school White Wolf had roll to hit, to dodge, to damage, and to soak the damage. That's a lot of D10s for a single attack!) Then, on top of it, most people (not all) want their characters to live, and even some that are generally good role-players will get hung up in a combat and turn ruleslawyery in the heat of the moment. Anyway, dice don't add to the verisimilitude. Unless you're playing old-school D&D, anyway, in which dice-crunching is part of the geeky fun.

October is of the general opinion that a combat is a single conflict, best resolved, really, by a single test. That seems a bit harsh. My old In Nomine game master would tend to let combat run as long as he thought it should, but that smacked of favoritism.

So what about this--a three-phase resolution. The first phase is strategy and setup--as long as it's narratively appropriate, it can be played out (if your player is good at chest-puffing bravado, let him face off with his opponent. If you're playing a sneaky little bastard, set up the traps and explosives in advance.) This scene boils down to a single roll for "setup."

I'm not sure if the "setup" roll should come beforehand (that is, if you roll REALLY well in the Setup phase, you can dictate things like "caught the black spirals by surprise while they were eating the body of our fallen packmate. Maybe the theurge is engaged in entrail-reading and is distracted," or "ooh. Well, you WERE going to sneak up on them, but such a pity that they had already rigged up that sensor beam to trigger when you came to their camp...") or afterward ("After a few well-placed comments about the heft and general durability of the French poof's rapier, as compared to the weight and girth of cold British iron, he's rattled and off his guard, and attacks without thinking. Take a +2 to your Setup roll, he's coming at you with more stupidity than finesse.")

Anyway, the next phase would be "Combat" or "Melee" or something like that, and represents the actual conflict scene--the cross of swords, bows and arrows, or chucking in a grenade. Again, I'm not sure if the roll should be before or after the match--with before, you have a rough idea of who'll win, and can tailor your narrative and the fun descriptives to your heart's content. After, you can figure any good RP into the roll.

I think probably with the combat phase, the roll should be at the beginning, since this really *is* where things get truly random. Anyway, there'd be a hefty modifier based on the Setup phase, to show that your opponent is at a disadvantage, or that you are.

Last, the "resolution" phase. Beaten and bloody, but still functional, your opponent can now make a last ditch chance to escape, possibly (on a botch) getting in a parting shot. Or, he can choose to fight to the bloody end (another melee-type round.) Or maybe, once he's flat on his back, you'll want to raise your sword as if to cut off his head, then let him go crawling back to his dark master. Or tie him up for interrogation, or tickling and sublimated bondage fantasies in a 'toon' game. Anyway, the way this phase should probably go--both parties announce their general intentions, then make a roll (secret, maybe? Don't know...the open die roll adds to the suspense IMO, but the concealed roll lets the narrator surprise the players a bit, and it's good to be able to fiat the escape in a pinch. The roll would probably have some strong circumstantial modifiers based on combat. This is the phase where you say "his femural artery is severed and he's dragging a leg behind him" (mid-difficulty, it still leaves room for narration) or "the witch escapes cackling in a cloud of red smoke, cursing the party as she departs" (low difficulty) or "I tear out his entrails with my Mighty Claws, and take his hide for a blanket for my cubs" (high difficulty, there's no coming back from that!)

The actual terms of the resolution would be in the hands of the victorious party, though they could still get burned by a crappy roll.

Anyway, just some thoughts. I hate the idea of a one-shot kill, but combat is always so deadly-dull, particularly since I go more for the hare-brained schemes than actual pumped up stats.
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