View Full Version : Encouraging Melee Movement

2011-04-12, 03:58 AM
It just struck me that many of the epic duels I've been around have been less than epic. The dice rolls were exciting, but the duelists themselves...not so much.

The problem is that most game systems don't encourage movement in melee, and some (D20 in particular, with Attack of Opportunity) seems to actively discourage it.

The topic that brought it up was a discussion of Star Wars lightsaber duels in the old D6 system and the various D20 versions. The only one that seemed to encourage movement at all was Saga Edition, and only if you get the Form IV lightsaber feat. The rest of them seem to want duelists to stand still and just roll back and fourth.

Any ideas on how to encourage more variety and excitement?

2011-04-12, 04:23 AM
The Dervish's Dervish Dance and the Scout's Skirmish abilities are a good place to start. These are generally best when copied with some form of free movement, such as Travel Devotion or similar.

The above examples are D&D 3.5 specific, but the concepts can be applied to many systems without issue.

2011-04-12, 05:41 AM
D20 Conan has some good combat moves that enhance melee - forcing opponents back, flinging mooks out the way and the like.
Besides, in d20 games, those 5ft steps you can take back and forth as a combat progresses all add up to a fairly mobile fight.

The best way to encourage movement is to reward it - games that give significant bonuses for position advantage, cover, and the like tend to see more movement. In d20 games, the +1 bonus for higher ground is almost never worth losing your full attack to gain.

2011-04-12, 09:10 AM
The best way to encourage movement is to reward it - games that give significant bonuses for position advantage, cover, and the like tend to see more movement. In d20 games, the +1 bonus for higher ground is almost never worth losing your full attack to gain.

+1 to this. Find some other terrain modifiers that you can award effects to. For example, maybe a bright light in your eyes awards a bonus to your enemy and a penalty to you, so there's some value in trying to change position so that the light's in your enemy's eyes and helping you instead.

Another thing is that if you want movement to be important beyond initial charges or positioning for flanking, combats have to last long enough for movement to be a factor.

2011-04-12, 09:24 AM
works best with archery, but a chase scene can be pretty good. One of my characters came in with a heavy repeater crossbow, the shot on the run feat, ranks in jump and climb, and we homebrewed rapid reload to apply to repeaters as well, making it a standard action. the party split up in town to do their things, and he managed to get into a fight with a fairly large group of local thieves. the resulting chase scene was something out of assassin's creed.

2011-04-12, 12:28 PM
For 3E D&D, obligatory mention of Tome of Battle where you can move and still have cool attacks. However, for 3E basic you can introduce a House Rule - Every BAB iteration allows you another 5ft of movement and still full attack. That is:

BAB +6/+1 - Move 10ft and still full attack
BAB +11/+6/+1 - Move 15ft and still full attack
BAB +16/+11/+6/+1 - Move 20ft and still full attack

Options: Limit this to non-spellcasters (Paladins and Rangers count as non-spellcasters), Monks apply this to their Flurry of Blows, so +15/+15/+10/+10/+5/+5 allows Move 30ft and still be able to Flurry. (Don't have book with me, just using numbers for example purposes)

Add to Mobility Feat that you don't provoke an attack of opportunity for this movement.

Create a new Feat to allow full round actions along with such movement as opposed to only full attacks.

2011-04-12, 01:41 PM
Hm. How much of that can be transferred to games like D6 (which is really what I'm planning on using for the specific situation) or other games beyond that? Not sure I can really put the Dervish's ability to good use, but that Scout ability, maybe.

My friend suggested providing a cumulative penalty to defense rolls for every round an opponent stands still and attacks, but here I am thinking of giving a defense bonus each round they move, instead. Not cumulative, of course, but he and I have always said that players like getting bonuses more than getting penalties.

2011-04-12, 02:14 PM
In D&D it takes 2-3 rounds to drop something, less if you gang up on a single foe. Then you're forced to move. Though really even before then I find myself 5 foot stepping every round to try to get a flank or to get a start towards my future target.

2011-04-12, 02:30 PM
IMO this is because reach is abstracted away a little too quickly. For a fight to be dynamic there need to be positions where each combatant has reach advantage, with movement maneuvers to move in and out of an opponent's reach. I've spent some time thinking about systems like this but mine always break down I got to thinking about fights that weren't one on one.

Epsilon Rose
2011-04-12, 02:46 PM
Part of the problem you need to answer is why they would want to move. If they're using ranged weapons then ducking in and out of cover and trying to get a better position makes sense. In melee there are probably only three reasons you want to move:
The first is because you realize you're getting beat on and need to run away. Most PCs aren't going to want to do this and it doesn't really make the fight more epic.
The second is to lead you're opponent into or out of something. Whether this is some loose ruble, an allies sword or out of their regen field is fairly irrelevant. This could make the fight more interesting, unfortunately it's fairly situational and it starts to look silly if there's a convenient spike trap in every room.
The third is the most complicated, it's also probably the one you want. It's maneuvering to get under your opponents guard or to get them to cross their guard and has enough intricacies that I'm going to stop talking in a list now and devote the rest of my post to it.

This kind of movement generally takes two forms: forward/back to allow difference kind of strikes and to try to take greater advantage of range, strength and speed differences (it's worth noting that this runs into lots of problems with action economy in most games [five foot step changes nothing and more than that and you'll lose attacks and provoke an AoO]) and circular to mess with guard. You could probably implement facing rules to get the circular movement in but that would probably just result in people taking five foot step circles around each other to always hit partial blind spot; updating the five foot step and tumble rules to allow opponents to try to get behind each other could work but might be hard to balance. If you really want to have to movement you're going to need to start considering fighting stile and stance. A traditional martial arts stance isn't as good at circling but gives you a better base than say a street-fighter's stance which is going to focus on maneuverability, and a kicker is going to want to stay a bit further back than say a pugilist or grappler but a small fast fighter is going to want to duck in get some hits while under there opponents guard and then either duck back out or try circling. All in all that's going to take a lot of rule but if you could pull it off it would certainly make combat more interesting.

By far the easiest solution is to except that the movement rules and placement on the grid are meant as generalizations and approximations and to fluff the descriptions to have them doing all the movement you want; after all, despite all of there ducking in and out and circling they're probably going to keep to a 2x2 or 3x3 square.

Gamer Girl
2011-04-12, 07:51 PM
I guess the trick is, what do you want?

Most games have simple combat...you move to the foe, attack and do damage. You want to stand still as you will do more damage(full attack). And moving does not get you any advantage. And worse, you can't attack if you move away from the foe.

And how would moving around enhance combat and the game. "I swing at the orc..then move away?''

Most games do have movement as part of combat, it just needs to be used. 3X has bull rush, charge, tumble and such.

2011-04-12, 11:05 PM
Well what I'm really trying to replicate is the swashbuckling feel of Errol Flynn as Robin Hood (or as anyone, honestly, it was the guy's bread and butter) and, most especially, the lightsaber duels of Star Wars. Those duels are what got this thread started, after all.

I want a legitimate reason for doing battle up a flight of stairs, or for moving down a hallway and jumping across platforms. Most of those seemed to be for reason 2, though.

Hm. Perhaps we're just putting our duels into narratively weak locations.

Epsilon Rose
2011-04-12, 11:53 PM
I should probably mention that this kind of combat doesn't work very well in the real world, of course since this is a game that doesn't matter.

The type of movement your talking about isn't really one of the ones I listed, simply because for the most part it's not voluntary. There might be a little of number two happening but it's mostly the attacker forcing the defender back. This is actually a good thing because it's allot easier to set up.
If you can find some way to have your players rolling apposed roles for attack and defense all you need to do is make it so when the attacker beats the defender by a certain amount the defender gets forced back a step (probably with the attacker following) and takes a small penalty to future roles (you could also have this happen when the defender wins but it should take a significantly larger victory).
This is a very good thing in my opinion since in a real fight once a fighter starts to get in good hits they're liable to keep getting better as they throw their opponent further and further off balance. That said you're probably going to want to include a recovery mechanic so that fighters aren't doomed to defeat after a couple of bad roles (that's not very fun for a pc nor very epic for a monster) but that's also a good thing because it lets you set the flavor. Generally there are four ways to do that.

They can't. The only way to recover is to beat your opponent back. This'll lead to the most brutal but also the most linear combat since there's very little incentive for sideways movement and once you've been knocked back a bit you don't have many ways to recover.
The next step up is to allow them to voluntarily take a step back to recover a little. This introduces a little more strategy because you need to decide if you're going to do it before or after an attack (the former precludes non-reach attacks while the later has you attacking at a penalty). This combat might also be a bit less linear since they can move at a diagonal, but that's probably going to be a bit situational as there's no inherent advantage to it.
The next step is to allow them to try and move around their opponent. This is probably the most movement you're going to get while keeping it realistic, but it probably will result in more intricate combat patterns. If you do this you will have to change how five foot step works a bit, otherwise there's no tactical reason (baring environmental factors) not to circle, which will greatly reduce it's impact (perhaps giving up an attack, lowering initiative temporarily or provoking an AoO?).
The last version is more final fantasy in flavor than Errol Flynn, but it can probably be expanded to include most wushu. In this version you'd come up with some uses for tumble and jump that allow you to close or create a good deal of distance and recover a lot of points. This will probably result in the most movement and should be fairly interesting to watch, but it'll also be the most work and might be more movement than you want. It's worth noting that this is the only version that will reliably result in 3d movement.
Of course completely breaking off combat can be used to completely reset penalties as could certain magics, but neither of those really count for our purposes.

That said, if you wanted to you could probably tack on another layer for flight and get some really cool dog fights going, but that'll probably have some relatively complicated rules and I'd wait till after I got the ground based stuff down.

Also, all higher layers should include the lower ones.

Edit(but not really): In retrospect you could leave AC as is and make the steps back a factor of how much you beat (or miss) their AC by, but for some reason I originally thought opposed roles would be better and I'm going to leave the main part of my post as is to reflect that. :shrug:

The Big Dice
2011-04-13, 05:30 AM
And how would moving around enhance combat and the game. "I swing at the orc..then move away?''
If you're playing a Hare bushi in L5R 3rd edition, that is a winning tactic. You can move further than anyone else, eventually getting to the point where you can move more than twice as far as anyone else. At which point you run in, attack, run out. And since the game doesn't allow for held actions to take place during someone else's turn, it's an invincible strategy.

2011-04-13, 02:03 PM
It comes down to Terrain and Tactics. If your games involve combats which last only a brief time then you aren't going to see much of this. Have opponents stage ambushes, use hit and run, feints (real tactical ones - not just some feat) to draw the players into an encirclement, run away or persue, etc. This is really a huge subject, but it can be done.

2011-04-13, 04:39 PM
Also consider that you can encourage movement in your players by including movement in your opponents. If you have occasional monsters that can do a fly-by attack or a spring attack, it will foster the development of movement tactics in your players as well.

Also, sometimes just the presence of a playground will encourage the movement. If one of your players is playing a swashbuckling character, include a chandelier in the tavern brawl or throne room fight, and you probably won't have to encourage the player at all. The character will jump for the chandelier just because it's cool and they can. Now you have to adjudicate it so that it's cool. Look at the Combat Panache feat in PH II for some possible inspiration on how to reward this sort of thing. (I think the feat's meh as written, but it can still be used as inspiration fodder.)