Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Combat experiment

First off I'm going to say I wrote much of this up last week and I thought I had a great idea...It was even working out that there were a spate of posts on the OSR blogs about how the combat rounds sorted themselves out, which kind of fed the idea.  I was going to post this, but I thought I should think about it more.  Well a week later and I'm now trying to think of better* way and not considering this idea as much, but I thought I should post this anyway since it is a design blog and this is how I design.  Who knows I might figure out a way to make this work in the end.  So with that preface, here goes:

Following on the heels of my desire to make the combat 'round' more better, there is a good breakdown of the different versions of D&D and how they resolve combat by Arkhein at Rather Gamey.

And look, AD&D has missiles before movement even.  I knew there was something to having missile actions before movement - probably something left over in my mind from AD&D - the system I learned first.  In any case I want combat to be fast (which is why we dropped d20 initiative) but I also want it to be fun - and fun for me means a dash of tactics.  I don't want to have all actions declared before initiative roll - that seems like it would take all the momentum out of things.  I do however think that I should be able to call out a phase and everyone doing that type of action will then have to do it at that time.  So one proposal I've been thinking of for resolving combat is 3 Phase combat: Missile, Movement, Melee.  It would look something like this:
Surprise roll or determination:
Roll for initiative:
Then all sides do each following phase in initiative order:
  1. Missile attacks / prepare spell 
  2. Movement /weapon changes 
  3. Melee, 'minor' actions, spells 
I haven't been doing spell declaration, but I think I should be doing it.

So a combat would look like this:
Two groups meet on the road.  Each consists of an mage, a hunter and a fighter,  I determine there is no surprise (so no free attack).
Round 1: Group A wins initiative.
Missile Phase:
  1. Hunter A fires two arrows at Fighter B (misses, hits), 
  2. Mage A declares a spell, mage B declares a spell, 
  3. Hunter B throws 2 daggers at Mage A (miss, miss).
Movement Phase:
  1. Fighter A closes with Hunter B, 
  2. Fighter B closes with Fighter A
  3. Hunter B switches to short sword and shield.
Melee phase:  
  1. Fighter A attacks Hunter B (hit), 
  2. Mage A does counter spell, 
  3. Fighter B attacks Fighter A (hit), 
  4. Mage B spell is countered
Round 2: Group B wins initiative.
Missile Phase:  
  1. Mage B prepares a spell
  2. Hunter A fires at Fighter B (hit, miss)
Movement Phase:
  1. Mage A readies a crossbow
Melee Phase:
  1. Hunter B attacks Fighter A (miss)
  2. Fighter B attacks Fighter A (hit)
  3. Mage B casts Spell (magic Missile) Hunter A
  4. Fighter A attacks Hunter B (hit - Hunter B dead)
Round 3:  Group B wins initiative
Missile Phase:
  1. Mage B prepares spell
  2. Hunter A fires at Fighter B (hit)
  3. Mage A fires at Mage B (miss)
Movement Phase:
  1. Fighter B runs over to Mage B
  2. Fighter A closes with Fighter B
Melee Phase:
  1. Mage B casts Mage Armour on Fighter B
  2. Fighter B attacks Fighter A (hit)
  3. Fighter A attacks Fighter B (miss) 
And so on.

It looks complicated but really if the GM is calling out each phase name it shouldn't be too hard to keep the pace up.  The benefits I see are that it makes ranged combat more interesting of a choice and it would certainly be more dynamic if you were using miniatures.  It's also a bit more interesting to me than having the  side who wins initiative getting to do everything and possibly wiping the other side out before they get any actions, or at even simply taking out their mage or archer with an alpha strike.

The problems I see with it are: loosing initiative is probably better in some cases - like magic users if they want to counter-spell, or for movement.  Well that might not be a problem actually...   Also it might be hard to keep track of which actions have been done that preclude other actions - like firing a missile precludes a melee attack so you have to wait to get hit - or if you are closing with someone and changing a weapon you wouldn't be able to hit them.  I think it would also be hard when you are breaking up player actions this way to keep everything straight if you aren't using minis.  I also didn't have the mages make any kind of check to cast their spells after they got hit in this example.  I'd have to figure out if that should happen and how it would be implemented.  Maybe it's not so different than regular combat however - if you got initiative you would beat the opposition melee attack and get your spell off so really it's only archers you would be worried about (missile shield anyone...).

Now, I did think of another option which I'll try to post tomorrow.

* a better way would have to be a simpler way I think.

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