Physical Combat – there’s a vast myriad of ways to engage in physical combat. Think of fisticuffs, martial arts, titans battling and throwing boulders, American Gladiators facing off while balancing on a beam, knights in battle, wrestlers, aerial combat (dawgfighting), horseback battling, archery and gunplay, underwater grappling, zero-G combat & firefighting.

These cases have two major qualities that make them different from each other: environment / conditions of the battle, and tools of battle (where one’s own body is considered a different kind of tool in this case).

- balance beam, mounted, underwater, aerial, zero-G: the environment / conditions of battle that make the combat more difficult simply because of the characters’ lack of experience in these conditions. Can be treated separately from the meat of combat mechanics itself?

- unarmed (fisticuffs, martial arts, wrestling), swords and bows, non-violent tools (e.g. American gladiators), boulders, guns and lasers. These are all tools of combat;

- One element not considered yet, the tactics of combat: tripping, feinting, disarming, grappling versus melee versus ranged, etc.

- Turning the real thing into mechanics: other considerations; pacing and timing, turn-based versus real-time (e.g. LARP), quantification, effect of scores, equipment, and powers;

Using this to build a system? System must satisfy the following constraints:
- player-intention-centered;
- ability to zoom in/out (i.e. more/less die rolls representing finer/coarser scale of detail);
- easy and intuitive;
- variety of options / environments / contexts for spice;
- several tactics for entertainment;
- fun!;

Rolling Initiative .. some methods:
(1) Two characters with highest init scores compete, with highest rolling. Winner (or successful defender) is top. Repeat for remaining unassigned.

(2) Each player rolls versus an arbitrary defender score (same for all players). Initiative order determined in decreasing “percent-area”, i.e. roll – target %. Negatives okay, considered less than positive as usual.

SKILLS related to melee combat:

STR (Strength): Combat Ability, Wield, Unarmed Attack, Climb, Jump, Feat of Strength, Contest of Strength;
DEX (Dexterity): Dodge, Footwork, Throw, Fire, Tumble, Balance, Ride;
END (Endurance): Endure Wounding, Absorb Shock, Resist Extremes, Shrug off Fatigue, Run, Swim;
ITU (Intuition): Sense Intent;
INT (Intelligence): ;
WIS (Wisdom): ;
CNF (Confidence): ;
GUI (Guile): ;
WIL (Will): ;

RE: Combat Methods and Initiative issues
From: Daniel Blain (
July 22, 2007 5:05:35 PM
Simon Tremblay (

Hey dude,

this isn't CC'ed to Bryan.. just a description of a compromise (if I'm understanding what you're talking about, anyway). It takes away the idea of interrupts (which I wasn't keen on anyway but couldn't think of a better idea). The fluidity you mention is simulated by the saving of ticks and a shifting initiative order.

I don't like the interrupt thing I was talking about, but it was the best idea I could come up with at the time. If we allow players to "save ticks", they get that tactical trade-off you were talking about: spend now and get timing, or save for later? However, players wouldn't lose initiative order simply by saving ticks.

Only when something special happens do you lose initiative order: there are two methods I've suggested so far - (1) when the player rolls a "9" on the tens die, they are considered 'overextended' and drop to the bottom of initiative, and (2) an attacker can spend a crit point to cause you to lose initiative and drop to the bottom, if they hit successfully. I'm thinking we might even make it a little more common than even that, to simulate the attempts of the fighters to gain pacing advantage.

In the example you gave earlier .. initiative order starting A, B, C, but A and B both act and save half their ticks. If nothing changed, initiative order would stay the same for next turn. However, C could be tricky on his turn. Let's say he spends all his ticks going up to A and spending a crit point to drop A to bottom of initiative. If C's attack were successful, it happens. Next turn, A still gets all the ticks he's entitled to, but he is a bit befuddled from C's attack and so C has time to try other things to keep the timing advantage.

Anyway, if I see you tonight, I see you. I might log off early and do stuff though. (Prep for work tomorrow, work on skills, yadda)


Date: Sun, 22 Jul 2007 11:03:48 -0700



Subject: Re: Combat Methods and Initiative issues
Okay, i gots an idea from what you started talking about... The system seems to be a little bit more micromanaged than dnd does, since dnd assumed you are always moving around when fighting, instead of the facings we are now using. To keep this feeling of... fluidity is the closest word i can think of... we need to do something.

This has to do with tics, and partial actions. In dnd you can "hold action" and crap like that. You got into it somewhat with the interrupt of an ability/spell (i think, youll need to explain this a bit more please). Basically instead of just being able to interrupt somebody you can also start something else (which dosent need to be in the slot you suggested, as i might want to do something to somebody after they reset their facing, or before that, or you see what i mean.

In this system, if a person uses some of their tics, they should be able to reserve the "left over" tics for use at another time (but before their next round). At any point in combat a person can say they are using their tics, and if more than one person wants to use their tics at the same time then the person with the higher initiative gets to do theirs first. This does not change the persons actual initiative place. And there is no penalty for doing something outside of your turn (ie: it does not take more tics than it normally would).

Doing this will accomplish a few things:
1. make combat less static, and more tactical "should i use my actions now, or wait until later and hopefully get a better edge?"
2. makes combat more interesting - you do NOT have to wait for all umpteen billion people / npcs to take their turns before you can do something (yes, i know the normal system can bunch them, but sometimes you cant bunch them - or even sometimes six people in a fight makes it take too long). You can do something on your "initiative slot" or nothing, or whatever you want - that is just when your points refresh (since we need some point of reference for this, and a way to keep things flowing if nobody wants to do anything). This solves the problem of boring combat, as you dont have to sit through everybody else.
3. Makes (to my mind) combat more realistic, without too much complication - basically, in a dnd fight there are six seconds, and everybody does their stuff in taht six second block - but usually without much, if any (unless they are lower in intiative order) indication of what other people are doing. In real combat you are looking around you and seeing what people are doing RIGHT NOW. Since we obviously cant do it to this degree in an rpg, i believe this is the next best thing. You can do some stuff, then look around, and respond to other peoples stuff (or just find out you can finish what you started).

There are a couple things that might cause problems, but i believe we can work around it - a person could hold off on all of their tics until their next round, and have 12 tics of stuff all at once. Is this a problem? I think it is, possibly. We could put a limit on how many tics may be strung together at once (lets say 8, for this - six plus two more if you give up almost a full round - this gives a reason to possibly hold off (as you can do a little more in a single time span), but also you lose a good amount of action to be able to do things all at once.

Then again, you two might not have a problem with the 12 tics at once, only playing and balance will figure this out - what do you all think?

sorry, this is long. Easier to talk it out, but well, im enjoying this!

FACING: i believe (correct me if im wrong if youve said this) that it should have a point cost to reset your facing whenever you want - this again keeps the idea of active combat alive. You get one free reset a round, after that it costs 1 (you turn to face a threat beside you), then 2 (you turn to face another threat), then 3... or something like that. Just increasing tic cost as you increase the amount of times you move around.

"(2) COUNTDOWN - Spell durations and spell-casting-times are decrease by a round. Any consequences happen immediately." uhhh...
*would this not be covered in your tics? lets say spell 'A' has a duration of five tics, but you used three tics already last round. So you use up the three remaining for that round, then wait. Then you use up two more tics in the new round right away during the countdown? Is this what you had in mind? (remember: im trying to decrease the dnd feel of the game, at least, the part of dnd that makes time feel really really really segmented, since that removes from the rp, and even the hack n slash i think.

"the penalty is a +100 for the difficulty of one skill check the victim makes for one round"
*for one round only? i missed that the first time around. That seems a little bit too lose to me (but works with the 30% rate). Lets say you can augment those crit points in two ways: 1 crit point will get you one round of hurting the opponent in the way you want. If you spend two points, you have two options: add extra difficulty to the thing (like 200 instead of 100 extra difficulty), or make that 100 extra difficulty last for two rounds.

for instance: i have three crit points (lucky me!). I want to end this fight fast. I am aiming to hit the guy in the head with my warhammer. I decide to spend all three to make him dazed(a special effect when you get hit on the head, or something - use your imagination) for one round at a +300. OR i could decide to make him dazed at +100 for three rounds, OR +200 for two rounds. (100 base, +1 round, +100).

Now, i really think as i mentioned in the first email that we cannot use static bonuses for this, but it must be by the players stats somehow (we can talk of this later), but using static bonuses helps clarify my point fow now.

" - Our game might have extra funky maneuvers.. such as a potion-toss (costing two ticks to throw, one tick to catch). Or instead of a full round bullrush .. a quick shove, costing maybe one or two ticks"

*grins* no might - ill have to insist on these!

TACTICAL ERROR: if this occurs, im going to say you cannot use tics to move your facing. Or they cost extra? (double the cost?)

Tactical Step: i like the idea of this, and think that a facing (in the rule changes ive suggested) should cost double to respond to a tactical step - as its harder to react to than a person taking a full action is.

"+0, NE +100, E +200, SE +400, S +600, SW +400, W +300, NW +200" again, with this... we cannot (i cant stress this enough) have these numbers static. Ive mentioned this before, but im going to mention it again (cause it comes up again). This should come from some % of the attacker, or defender, or even having a score for each of the directions (but this gets ugly - having a different defense score for 8 directions *shudders*). The number needs to be a bonus (i can think of an easier way of doing this with negatives that makes more intuitive sense, but i dont like negatives in our system, since they lead to div/0 errors).

Lets say that the numbers go like this: (ascii incoming! badly drawn!)


the defender is XX, the directions correspond to the attacking direction. When an attacker attacks from NE or NW, he gets +10. E or W he gets +20, SE or SW +20, S +40. This sounds similar to what you suggested, with a little bit of a difference. These numbers are written on the defenders sheets - it is how good they are at defending. But an attacker also has somewhat of a say in this - through powers connected to combat training.

The problem i have with a static bonus is it is the same for a 1 mill exp character as it is for a 1000 exp character, people will start to care less as time goes on, which isnt good - we want combat to stay, well, competitive. Somehow the attacker MUST have a way to raise the flanking bonus.

Anyway, i think ive run out of steam on this topic. Send me back something tonight, or we can get together and chat (the three of us? i saw bryan on msn yesterday, we could all three get together and chat on it!).

As for feeling overwhelmed... i actually think i could play this game as you have laid it out now (with my suggestions in place) and not have to think too much about it.

It seems like a lot, but you are right - it is generally intuitive (again, more so with the changes im suggesting).

So, yeah, see you guys later hopefully online :D Ill call if i dont see either of you on.


On 7/22/07, Simon Tremblay <> wrote:
and by tommmorow, i mean tonight

On 7/22/07, Simon Tremblay < > wrote:
i dont got much time right now, but ive finished reading it. Ill email you about it later, with a few issues (mainly balance issues, but you did state we would need to fiddle with the numbers, i just wanna point out a few righ tnow).

I like the way you have this working and yes, it is a bit much to grasp at first - but i think it can be explained in such a way as to not be confusing. It needs tweaking (obviously, and i dont like the idea of 30% specials, 20% was fine i think, but that will come out in testing).

One problem i do have: the bonuses are standard, and we cant have a negative to somebodies score (it has to be a positive on the difficulty for it. For the "flanking" we cant just give 100, cause that number will mean different things to do "better" and "worse" exped players. Better exped players will not do anything for it, cause they will have enough bonus already (presumably). THe way to get around this: Make it not static, but per player OR (my suggestion) make it a lower number, and put in ways to increase this number through powers (i really like that idea. makes combat at the lower levels good, but forces you to train in combat to get better as time goes on).

Anyway, ill write a bigger email tommorow.

ta ta!

On 7/22/07, Daniel Blain < > wrote:
Okay folks,

here it is .. my attempt at a set of Combat Rules for our game, all of it just suggestions. Questions, comments, complaints? Let me know. This is just a rough draft and there's heavy D&D influence in it. Obviously, if we don't decide to scrap it, we'll still have to test the hell out of it and balance it. In this game, the battle-grid is that same 5'x5' as D&D. Also like D&D, the grid is encouraged but not strictly necessary (though stuff like "flanking" becomes more difficult). Also, I'm not going to talk about "how" initiative is rolled, and just say that it is.

SIMON Please note I increased the "crit point" range even further. See my notes on armor and shields.. the increased probability of crit points makes armor & shields more interesting and visa versa.


- round: As in D&D.

- tick: 1/6th of a round.

- facepoint: The direction that the character is facing. There are eight main directions, corresponding to N, S, E, W, NW, NE, SW, SE. Although a character can face in any direction ( e.g. for firing off an arrow or casting a spell), he is considered to be pointing in the nearest of the eight compass directions for flanking bonuses and tactical movement, etc.

- free facepoint: If a character has a free facepoint, he is considered to be not facing any particular direction (or at least to have not chosen one).

- fixed facepoint: The opposite of a free facepoint, the character is facing in one particular direction. Foes around him get specific flanking bonuses.

- interference, interfering action: In terms of game mechanics, an interferer tries to prevent a die-roll he's afraid of or vulnerable to, with another die-roll that is favourable; for example, exchanging an enemy's attack-roll with a spell-resistance check against your spell is a good exchange for a wizard. An interfering action is an attempt to prevent another action before it even begins. Bringing up a shield to block a sword-blow is NOT an interfering action, since the defender did not try to STOP the attack, he just tried to make the attack unsuccessful.


- Determine which combatants are aware. Those that are not are considered "flat-footed", and suffer expected penalties. Aware combatants roll for initiative.

- In initiative order, each combatant takes a turn as described below.

- Everyone who hasn't rolled initiative yet, does so.

- In initiative order, each combatant takes a turn as described below. Repeat as necessary.

TURN SEQUENCE - A player's "turn" consists of the following steps:

(1) RESET - The player's facepoint becomes free.

(2) COUNTDOWN - Spell durations and spell-casting-times are decrease by a round. Any consequences happen immediately.

(3) MAINTAIN - The player rolls whatever checks are required, such as concentration checks to maintain a spell, or survival or balance checks if the player is in an extreme or unusual environment. Consequences of failed checks happen or begin immediately.


(a) The player is allotted six ticks (defined in "terminology" section above);

(b) The player declares an intent to act. If the action would take less than six ticks, he can choose an additional action so that the number of ticks >= 6;

(c) Any other player that is lower in initiative may declare an intent to interrupt, but it costs the person a tick and they must make a Sense Intent versus the current player. If they fail, no interruption occurs. If they succeed, they may perform their own actions *alongside* the current player, up to the limit of their ticks. Any number of players may interrupt, and even an interrupt can be interrupted (but each level costs a tick, so to interrupt and interruption costs two ticks).

(d) The players actions proceed (possibly interrupted) until six ticks are reached. If an action get interrupted, the current player may declare a new intent to act, and is again subject to interruption. If the current action would exceed the limit of six ticks per round, the action is completed on the player's turn next round. If the action was an attack, the step (1) of that player's turn is delayed until the end of the attack.


- The game also will have rules to perform special maneuvers, just as in D&D, such as a Trip, Sunder, Grapple, etc. Most are just specialized skill checks.

- Our game might have extra funky maneuvers.. such as a potion-toss (costing two ticks to throw, one tick to catch). Or instead of a full round bullrush .. a quick shove, costing maybe one or two ticks.

- Crit Points: A single crit point is gained when you make an attack roll, and get a "0", "1" or "2" on the tens' die, and also successfully hit the opponent. This rule does NOT apply if you are only capable of hitting your opponent successfully by rolling a "0" on the tens' die. All unused crit points are lost once combat ends.

To use a crit point, on any subsequent attack you can declare the penalty you want to give to the victim, and how you intend to deliver that penalty. For each crit point spent, the penalty is a +100 for the difficulty of one skill check the victim makes for one round. For example, if I have three crit points available and am attacking a goblin, I can declare I want spend all my points in my next attack to reduce the Goblin's "dodge" score, by stabbing him in the leg. The DM might veto this plan if the Goblin is, say, standing behind a low fence so his legs are protected, but let's say he allows it. If I successfully hit the goblin with my attack roll, attackers get +300 against his dodge score for the next round ( i.e. til the end of my next attack).

Alternatively, if you expend a crit point and attack successfully, you can force the opponent to become overextended and be dropped to the bottom of the initiative order (see below).

- Overextended: If you fail to hit your opponent and also roll a "9" on the tens' die, you have misjudged the timing of your attack. In addition to simply failing to hit, you are moved to the bottom of the initiative order. This rule does not come into effect if you can ONLY fail to hit the opponent by rolling a "9" on the tens' die.

- Spectacular Hit, Tactical Error: On a double zero, "00", the hit is automatic and an extra point of damage is scored. On a "99", a tactical error is made. The attack automatically misses, the attacker's facepoint becomes fixed in addition to him being Overextended.

- Flanking and facepoints: In a given round, all characters have free facepoints until they are first attacked or make a tactical error (described above), though they can choose to fix their facepoints earlier if they wish. Once chosen, the facepoint is fixed for the rest of the round. Flanking bonuses are gained in a circle around the facepoint. If the defender is righthand and his facepoint is North, attackers gain the following flanking bonuses (listed clockwise from facepoint): N +0, NE +100, E +200, SE +400, S +600, SW +400, W +300, NW +200. If the defender is left-handed, the order is reversed.

Typically, if you're fighting a single opponent, you can always choose your facepoint so that there is no flanker bonus to either party. However, check out the "Tactical Step" mechanic, below. Also, attackers that are significantly bigger than yourself or have a feature such as a long neck ( e.g. dragons, hydras), can gain the NW, NE, and possibly even the W, E flanker bonuses even if you're facing them one-on-one. This would be listed in the monster's guide though, no need to clutter the players handbook with this information.

- Tactical Step: A bit like the "five-foot" step of D&D but this one has more meaning. When in combat, you can expend two ticks to take a five-foot step to a flanking position beside your opponent. This gives you, the attacker, a brief but valuable gain in advantage. For example, if two right-handed warriors are fighting, they are each in the other's "North" facepoint, because they both want to minimize their vulnerability. However, if one warrior wins initiative, he can take a tactical step to the "Northwest" facepoint and therefore gain a +200 to his attack.

- Shields: Unlike D&D, I'm thinking of giving shields more purpose besides just a static AC bonus. They also deny flankers on the NW and W their flanking bonuses to attack (or NE, E if the shield-bearer is carrying the shield in his right hand).

Simon, you were stressing about being able to play the game without having to look up rules all the time. TOTALLY agree. I'm expecting you might be a bit overwhelmed by the volume of rules I've just written. However, I believe they're straightforward enough that, although the learning curve is a bit steeper than D&D, it should all be pretty intuitive (like street signs) and easy to play once you get in the swing of things.

Otherwise, what do you guys think? Talk to y'all later,


Date: Sat, 21 Jul 2007 15:16:53 -0700



Subject: Re: Combat Methods and Initiative issues


PS: Bryan, right? or the other one?
On 7/21/07, Simon Tremblay <> wrote:
Okay, we all like huge emails...

im going to be bouncing around a bit, replying while i read.

1. "instead of the method I described earlier, we might just arbitrarily have initiative order = decreasing dexterity order."
*i have to say no to that, sorry. Reasoning: Higher dex dosent ALWAYS mean you go first in any given situation, it just means you are more likely to go first. I like the roll-against-the-lowest-guy system. The only problem is... what does the lowest guy do? Since he has to go sometime, and it is unfair that he go last. My suggestion: make him roll against the highest guy. This keeps it relatively simple, and allows him a chance to go sooner.

2. "build a game that simulates a good movie (be it a comedy, action, or mystery flick). "
*side note: star wars tried to do this, with "scenes" instead of full out playing, from what i understand.

3. "between simplicity and variety ... variety"

4. "For example, we may decide typical in-game combat should last five to ten minutes, while out-of-game that same conflict should take a good half hour"
*Do you mean in game time 5-10 min, out of game time 30 min?
If so: keep in mind the 'zooming' aspect. This could be put up/down very easily, depending on the TYPE of combat we want to do. Oh, btw i agree with everything up to this point (and with this point, havent read further yet).

5. " attacks shouldn't be just hit/miss; otherwise it reduces to a game of Battleship. However, by the same token.."
*Well... i agree. Tink about how our system works though. We can only have a pass/fail grade on hitting the person. Then we can only have a pass/fail on the amount of damage (two damage numbers). There should be an... ill call it an "rp" rule, for now... there should be a rule set in place that if somebody makes a miraculous roll, that the dm can (and probably should) augment the roll (either good OR bad). Like, no hard rule that says "100 is always a crit". It puts it more at dm discretion for other increases, and these increases/decreases do not have to just be with damage. You could hamstring somebody and do just as much damage if you slashed their arm. Same damage, different effect. Question is: Do we want to let just the dm do this? Or a set of rules?
And if a set of rules, do we want to do something like the d8, head/body/leg/leg/arm/arm/foot/hand? or something else? Id suggest we leave it up to the DM, and we can 'suggest' ways to determine this randomly if it is wished. More maleable for the people playing the game this way, and this probably means more fun.

6. " timing need not be uniform, regular:"
*it dosent have to be, but can help greatly if it is. The system where we can put different skills together into one (run, backflip, shoot, land, etc) will allow us to "stretch" time, or compress it (depending on how you look at it). I think a good middle of the road is to have some sort of set time slot, im not sure how exactly we want to do that though. Hmmmmm, i just got a spark of an idea, not sure if its worth it, but cant hurt to think about: Your idea of initiative, what if we made the amount of time available to one person dependant on how well they rolled in that? I mean, if you get AWESOME initiative, you have a jump on the others. The better you do, the more time you have in your "round" to do stuff. The only downside i can think of is this is going to be a bitch to keep track of, and for that reason shouldent be used...
If we make a "round" system, with a given amount of time, and give each action a time it takes to complete that action, it will add complexity to the game. Not just that, it will stifle people somewhat, and make more ways to bend the rules. I cant think of another way to do it though... I guess we could use a round time system, and put in the multiple action thingy we have been talking about. Seems like a good compromise to me, unless you have another suggestion?

Oh, send what you have on the systems (not just what you are working on, but HOW it works), please. Ill probably see you online today, have a weather day.
On 7/19/07, Daniel Blain < > wrote:

Bryan, feel free to offer thoughts if you wish; otherwise I'm just cc'ing you to keep you in the loop.

yup okay Simon, I'll keep replying instead of sending new emails. I'll be speaking about competition first, and throw around some ideas for building a combat system.

Hrm, firstly though.. check out this link: .. specifically the "Attributes" section (though I like ours better). I suppose the only original thing about our system really *will* be just the conflict wheel. Excuse me for two seconds while I go back and remind myself why the wheel is our competitive advantage in the market.

Anyway .. yes, competing skills would be a natural extension of the system. This can be likened to arm wrestling; direct competition of skills. However, the issue with initiative is making me think this it is indicative of a bigger issue we might have to figure out. Namely, how to resolve issues with more than two competitors (actually Simon, I'm pretty sure you brought this up earlier, but I'd just assumed we could always "add up" the individual competitors into a smaller number of forces, like competing armies; this is not the case when everyone is out for him-/herself).

Something I've been considering is having everyone roll against an "intermediate", a third party (so to speak). For example, if there are ten players, each of the ten 'competes' against an arbitrary value (possibly some convenient number, or maybe the value of the lowest competitor of the ten). The magnitude of success determines the order of the winners, i.e. the "distance" from your die roll to your target %. The more skillful you are, the larger your "%-to-succeed" is, so the higher your magnitude of success can reach.

For our game, I was thinking it would be best if initiative is not a skill, because then it could be trained seperately.. I like the way D&D does it. How is it you can train up your response time *independently* of your manual dexterity? For ease of play, instead of the method I described earlier, we might just arbitrarily have initiative order = decreasing dexterity order.

Okay here are some brainstorming thoughts on melee combat design.. I'm mostly just thinking out loud here so pardon me if I ramble. There's a couple of different, competing goals we can strive for: realism versus entertainment & fantasy, simplicity versus variety. Ideally, you want as much of *all* of it as possible; some game developers try and do a somewhat decent job, others don't bother and aim for the extremes ( e.g. "Savage Worlds" went for utter simplicity, to favour entertainment).

What do we want? Well, I'm not sure what you think .. but *ideally* I'm striving to have us build a game that simulates a good movie (be it a comedy, action, or mystery flick). Therefore, entertainment takes first place over realism, but the game must still have what's called "verisimilitude", i.e. feel like it *could* be real. The best movies allow you to suspend disbelief by minimizing the things you can disbelieve in, in the first place. This is a sweet compromise that is, in my mind, not really a compromise at all.

Secondly, if I had to choose between simplicity and variety .. I'd probably go in favour of the latter. My reasoning is: variety makes one's choices matter, gives us control. Part of the reason we play RPG's instead of going to a movie is because it allows us this power of control, these choices. By the same token, too many choices or a system that isn't simple enough will draw us out of the fantasy and into the statistics, which will get boring fast. Of the RPG systems I've seen (which is admittedly few), they do a good job of allowing variety while not bogging down in complexity. D&D in particular has a pretty good set of choices; however, because they are static they can get bland quickly. ( e.g. fighters, wizards, and thieves are *always* the same and there's only a few recommended "builds" .. if you get bored, you need a new rulebook to inject variety).

You might be asking, "WTF does this have to do with melee combat design?" My reasoning is this: our melee combat should reflect these goals. I imagine the ideal set of melee combat rules to allow combat to play out more like a sport, than a board game. So here's my recommendations, you might disagree:

- hit points should be shallow; we've already done this by having damage-resistances, and weapons that only do a point or three damage. This will take the game out of the numbers. Sports enthusiasts care about the final score of the game, sure, but they'd really prefer to watch the game itself.

- hit points should be challenging but not near-impossible to reduce; besides the fact that shallow HP totals will mean characters will be that much more mortal, difficult-to-reduce HP totals means combat will last longer. The rate of approximate HP-loss should be measured and tested so that combats last a "decent" amount of time both in-game and out-of-game. For example, we may decide typical in-game combat should last five to ten minutes, while out-of-game that same conflict should take a good half hour (to warrant setting up the pieces, and to have a good time). The numbers should be balanced to make this happen.

- attacks shouldn't be just hit/miss; otherwise it reduces to a game of Battleship. However, by the same token..

- critical hits/fumbles should NOT be looked up on an "effects" table; i.e. roll a d20. If you get 16, you hit him in the eye and he's blind for a round. I've seen a LOT of systems like this, which seem to be either an attempt at roleplaying which fails miserably, or a simple indulging of gore-lust. The problem here is that the game very rapidly starts looking silly, with characters regularly suffering effects that really ought not to happen so often. This seriously strains credulity.

- timing need not be uniform, regular: in every RPG I'm aware of, time passes in discrete chunks, and actions are chosen by players during those chunks. The way I have things in mind, it would be possible for time to pass in greater or lesser chunks. I realize it's a pretty alien concept, but I don't want to rule it out just because of that.

I'm trying to figure out a middle-of-the-road solution between attacks that aren't just hit/miss, but don't use the bland goreness of critical-hits tables. These are my thoughts so far. I'm still working on building a system from them.

Anyway, talk to ya later. (And PS, Simon.. I know ya busy up there, sorry for rambling. Feel free to take your time answering; unless of course, you're bored).


Date: Wed, 18 Jul 2007 08:43:34 -0700



Subject: Re: Combat Methods and Initiative issues


OKay, seems im in camp for the start of the day

First thing - can we keep this in one set of emails? Its easier to leaf through them that way.

About initiative - is it a skill? Is it just the base dex? I want to know what it is, before we starting figure out how to use it.

It seems interesting though that here the opposed rolls are the same thing... both 'initiative'. This leads to a vastly different outlook on rolling that i havent thought much of before. Certain skills are their own opposites... is this what we want? Can we work with this? It loeads to an interesting notion though, imagine two PC's out for some dungeoneering, and you want to see who saw something better. You could have both roll against the "hide" of the draconian waiting behind the bush, OR you could have one player roll against another player for spot - here the "winning" player would see it better than the other one.

Its not an absolute "you saw XXX and he has 13 nose hairs, 1 facial wart, and 4 eyes... etc etc", its more like "you see something rumbling in the bushes, but frank dosent. Or, i dunno. run with this idea a bit, see where it takes us mayby? Its just a thought i just had...

On 7/18/07, Simon Tremblay <> wrote:
I think that this is too complicated to grab at a glance, ill have to read it over more later. But... is it quick?

On 7/18/07, Daniel Blain < > wrote:
Hey guys,

I was going to write this email on combat methods, because I have one I'm working on that I'd like to discuss, but it's getting a bit late and the system is still a bit fuzzy. I want to work it out a bit more. I'll write something up in another email tomorrow.

That aside, in thinking of combat system, I've come across an interesting idiosyncrasy of our normal engine: Yowzah! Determining initiative is a lot more complicated with our system! No easy roll-a-d20, at least not if we want to take the natural dexterity and speed of the characters into account (which we do .. it doesn't make sense that a massive earth elemental and a tiny air elemental would both have equal chance to win initiative).

Here's the easiest system I could come up with, but I'm open to other ideas. The method is to repeat the following steps until all characters have been assigned an initiative position. Unlike D&D, the characters won't have an "initiative score", simply an order. Now that this has become apparent, however, I am perfectly willing to abandon the idea of a quick single-roll-initiative-resolution in our system, as long as it's not MUCH longer.

(1) Characters that have already been assigned positions will be going earlier in the round. Of the unassigned characters, the two with highest initiative scores "compete". In case of ties for init score, next competitor is chosen randomly.

(2) Character with the highest score rolls, unless they already rolled, in which case the roll is used again. If he succeeds, the defender is assigned the next position initiative order, and the winner goes back to step 1. The reverse happens if he loses, with the defender going back to step 1.

(3) Repeat until all characters have been assigned. When one character is left, he is put on the bottom of initiative order and goes last.

Here's an example:

Albert (init 150)

Bob (init 200),

Carly (init 50),

Dan (init 100),

Elmo (init 150).

First to compete are either Bob and either Albert or Elmo. Random determination gives Elmo. Bob rolls, and wins. He goes first.

Next, Albert and Elmo compete. From the determination above, Elmo gets to roll. He fails, so Albert goes next in initiative order.

Elmo competes against Dan. Elmo already rolled, so the same roll is checked, but it is a failure. Dan goes next.

Elmo competes against Carly, using the same roll. He wins, finally, and so goes next.

Carly is left. She is last.

Initiative order is: Bob, Albert, Dan, Elmo, Carly

What do you guys think?

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