View Full Version : Combat System Design Help

2013-06-16, 11:01 AM
I've built a combat system that I'm quite fond of, but I'd like to get people other than myself to look at it before I decide that it is finished. Here is how it works:

Major differences from DnD:
- No attack rolls. Everything hits if it targets the right space
- People move about 1/2 the distance they otherwise would.
- People have to plan out their actions at the beginning of the round, and then play them out when their turn comes up in the round order.
- Saving throws are replaced by effect rolls. Explained below.

Players have six combat stats:
- blood and guard (like hp)
- melee damage and ranged damage (self explanatory)
- cunning (for effect rolls, see below)
- reflexes (for initiative order. Initiative order is way more important here than in dnd)

Writing Actions In Advance
- Combat is segregated into rounds. At the beginning of each round everyone secretly writes down what they want their piece (or pieces in the case of the GM) to do when their turn comes up. (/turns in the case of the GM).
- They write down where they want the piece to move, what toggles they want to turn on or off (see below), and what action they want it to take when they get there. Actions are like standard actions, and are usually used to make a melee or ranged attack.
- When making a melee attack, you don't need to pick the direction and may choose the direction when your turn comes up in the round. When making a ranged attack, you must choose the direction and how far away from yourself you wish to target.
- The players may collaborate with one another on what they will do if they like.

Action Order & Attacks
- When the round begins, each game piece precedes to take its turn in order of lowest reflex highest reflex.
- If, durring the course of the round, a piece leaves a space adjacent to another piece, the other piece gets a free attack (opportunity attack) against the piece that is leaving. They may take one of these per round.
- When a person is hit with a melee attack, the damage that it does (determined by the attacker's melee damage stat) , is deducted from their target's guard until they have no remaining guard, and is then deducted from their blood.
- When a person is hit with a ranged attack, the damage bypasses their target's guard entirely and is deducted from the target's blood. (NOTE: In this way ranged attacks essentially deal twice the damage of melee attacks. The tradeoff for this is their lack of access to opportunity attacks and their greater likelihood of missing because of having to plan their target before they move)

Combat Abilities
- Players get three kinds of combat abilities as they level up: toggles, options, and intrinsics.
- A toggle basically modifies a melee or ranged attack, usually by increasing its damage for some detriment, or decreasing its damage for some other advantage. Often this advantage involves making an effect roll to give your enemy a status condition. You can only have one toggle on at a time, and some toggles lock you into using them for a number of rounds when you turn them on.
- An option is something you can do with your action other than attack.
- An intrinsic is something like "when you are poisoned, your attacks deal more damage" or "when you are hit with a melee attack, the enemy that damaged you takes 1/5th of the damage it dealt to you".

Effect Rolls
- When you are asked to make an effect roll, there is a target number that you have to hit when rolling a D20 which is set by the thing asking you to do it. For example, a toggle might tell you to make an effect roll, and on a 15 or higher you burn your opponent.
- When you make an effect roll, you compare your cunning stat to the cunning stat of the creature you are making the roll against. If yours is higher, roll 2 dice and use the higher result. If yours is lower, roll 2 dice and use the lower result. If they are the same roll one die.


I made these decisions because...
- The writing actions in advance thing was because I wanted speed and initiative to be very important in combat
- I got rid of missing because just randomly missing doesn't seem fun to me. In this game, when you miss, it is because you screwed up in your prediction. It adds a sense of responsibility.
- The differences between melee and ranged attacks were because I wanted that dichotomy to be more meaningful. Playing a ranged character and a melee character under this system are very different, and it makes sense a lot of the time for characters to have powerful melee and ranged attacks, because attacking one creature with melee and ranged attacks is inefficient.
- Effect rolls instead of saves and things because I felt like that system in DnD was needlessly complicated, and wanted to devote one stat to statusing people.

All comments and criticism are appreciated. If I am totally missing something, or steam rolling over something that makes table top combat fun, I want to know about it. Thanks in advance.

2013-06-16, 12:53 PM
The toggle thing sounds interesting, care to give some examples?

2013-06-16, 01:17 PM

Stream Shot (Ranged) (Lock) (Damage: 4/3)
When you attack with this toggled on, if you took damage between the last time you attacked and now, this attack's damage modifier is 3/4 instead of 4/3.

This one allows you to bet on not getting hit to deal 25% more damage.You are locked into it until the encounter is over.

No guard (Melee) (Damage: 3/2)
When you attack with this toggle switched on, reduce your guard to zero, then deal your damage. The next time your turn comes up, restore your guard to what it was when you attacked.

This allows you to temporarily lose a hell of a lot of hitpoints to deal more damage. Basically it turns all melee attacks into ranged attacks, which sort of doubles the damage you take from them.

Burn chance (Choice: melee or ranged) (Damage: 3/4) (lock)
When you attack with this toggled on, make an effect roll against the combatant you damage. On a roll of 15 or higher, it is burned.

This one gives your attacks the potential to burn people, and locks you into using it. Burn, by the way, makes their attacks deal half damage.

2013-06-16, 09:54 PM
This sounds really interesting, although I think the reason that rolling exists at all is to give a sense of randomness and uncertainty, like many melees in real life. Especially in wargaming the sense of randomness would often force opponents to come up with new tactics on the fly as certain units get ousted by forces that you didn't expect would win. In terms of D&D this means things like Parrying, Dodging, and all those less than desirable tactics (ball kicking, sand eyeing, pelvis pushing) to hinder your opponent. Same with Damage and any attempt at Armour Bypass, it isn't always (and really shouldn't) always be static, because emulating a proper fight, your enemy would not let you simply cut his knackers off unless you hit his face with the butt of your sword or tripped him or something. The fluidity of combat is always meant to be random, especially when simulating one-on-ones, no one in their right mind (unless they are a Paladin/Knight/Cavalier and therefore bound by a strict code of fighting etiquette) would fight without trying to fumble their opponent at all costs. So I do think that this needs a bit of work, (you need some randomness) but it's going places.

I really like the sound of the system, I just don't really agree with all of it, but the toggle ability sounds really cool.

One thing you may need to look over however, it how long that planning thing is going to take. Because when I DM, I give my players a count of 5-10 seconds to plan their melee or something.

2013-06-17, 08:47 AM
Speaking to the 5-10 seconds, maybe this is a difference between 3.5 and 4th edition. I've been in games where players spend minutes deciding their actions and it is really frustrating. I spend a lot of games with new players where they don't even know what stuff they have, and they get really bogged down in simple choices.

Compared to my experience with that, this is way faster, (I have playtested it a little) but this could be due to the fact that players get many fewer options here than in 4e. At level one they only really get two or three verbs in combat and they are all relatively simple. I could be falsely attributing the speed.

But yeah, the game seems to move along at a brisk pace regardless. By having a minute or so to plan and playing out the round all at once, the action certainly feels more fast and exciting. I do have a note in the book about the GM limiting planning time as well as a failsafe.

As for the randomness, I take your point. Maybe completely removing it from the basic attacks isn't a great idea. And games definitely have ended on the note of "Well, if he moves I get an opportunity attack, and if not I hit him. So, that is game." and those moments are sort of disappointing and anti-climactic.

I intended to make a game where the surprises came from not knowing what your enemy would do, but there are many many instances where damage is inevitable. I'll consider putting some rolling back into the damage, or a failure chance on the attack.

2013-06-17, 09:09 AM
I rather approve of taking attack rolls out. Their swinginess is very untactical. I've played a D&D variant without attack rolls, and it sang like a charm.

2013-06-17, 02:01 PM
The thing about guard and blood is it makes having a party be a mixture of ranged and melee combatants seem to be a sub-optimal strategy. You should probably put in some stuff (maybe have classes using primarily ranged attacks not have very much guard) to counteract it.

To fix the anticlimax problem, make AoOs use effect rolls.

I think you would like the board game RoboRally. You should take a look at it.

2013-06-17, 04:01 PM
Yeah, it does let you plan very nicely CarpeGuitarrem, or at least try to predict. I do like it, but the anticlimax problem is sort of irritating. I like your idea BrookGuy, about effect rolls on AoOs, but that would require meleers to get high cunning and AoOs are really a balancing mechanism to make sure rangers aren't overpowered with their direct to blood attacks.

Originally you could only get an AoO if you hadn't yet moved in the round, and if you took it you wouldn't get to attack when your turn came up. In the game now you still don't get AoOs from people making ranged attacks next to you, but they can't make a ranged attack at a range of one space. Only two or three.

Relatedly, I get that cunning might seem like a kind of weak stat right now, but the status effects are very powerful in this game. As an example...

Dazed: Your turn comes last in a round, unless you have a reflex higher than another dazed combatant (then, they move after you). You may move only half (rounded up) of the spaces your field move says you can. You cannot make opportunity attacks.
Burned: Whenever you would damage someone, you may choose to either do half of the damage you normally would, or take damage equal to the amount of damage you are dealing after you deal it.
Asleep: Your turn is skipped for 1d20/5 rounds (this number is announced when you are put to sleep), or, until you are attacked. After that you lose the asleep condition.
Poisoned(x): Each turn you lose x points of blood. If any combatant has more than one poison condition, only the highest one applies.

And yes, the blood and guard system does make it less effective to have strong melee and ranged attackers wailing on the same dude * but I kind of like that for a few of reasons.
- First, it encourages people to take up secondary roles to be productive even when their damage isn't important. Generally meleers need to be there to tank and rangers can try to do status stuff.
- It discourages pile-on tactics in favor of engaging all the targets at once, which is thematically cooler and more true to chaotic combat.
- Almost everyone has access to melee and ranged attacks if they do want to contribute to the damage (though on some one is substantially weaker than the other), and it makes mixed attackers really valuable, which I like

Thanks for the RoboRally tip. I'm looking it up now.

I'm still thinking about putting a little more randomness into this, but I'm not sure how to.

* For people wondering why, because if the ranger makes the target run out of blood before the meleer breaks guard, they have essentially done no damage, and if the meleer breaks guard before the ranger depletes the blood of their foe, than the ranger has dealt less damage than the meleer and taken on a bunch of extra risk of missing.

2013-06-18, 12:46 AM
You could deal with Randomness in Terms of handling Armour as a separate thing from Guard. Then you could have each weapon deal a separate damage die for Armour Penetration, if you really want to keep the static damage. As for the fight rules, you can keep static numbers that beat each other but what if they're near equal? You can have combatants both do a d20 roll with some modifiers then like how LoTR Battle Strategy handles it.

Everything could hit, but not everything could damage instantly, that would benefit armour wearers by allowing them to be more upfront and force light armour guys to be more tactical to avoid getting out manoeuvred.

2013-06-18, 03:03 PM
Could you post sample stats for a few first-level characters?

2013-06-18, 04:13 PM

Level one samurai, Karana tradition:
Max Blood 16
Max Guard: 21
Cunning: 0
Reflexes: 4
Melee Damage: 7
Ranged Damage: 0
(No abilities)

Level one ninja, Poison tradition:
Max Blood 8
Max Guard: 13
Cunning: 10
Reflexes: 0
Melee Damage: 6
Ranged Damage: 6
Poison Pool: (Intrinsic) You get a poison pool with four points in it. When you plan a melee attack you may add "poison(x+TL/2)" where TL is your trainer level, and subtract x from your poison pool. When your turn comes up, make an effect roll against the combatant you attacked. On an 11 or higher, they gain the status condition poison(x). You get all of your points back when you rest after a battle for five minutes. Whenever you take an action which spends a point from your poison pool, that action has priority.


And I just realized something upsetting. Using your focuses (players, every other level, choose one stat to "focus" on, which gives them a bigger boost to it on that level than they would normally get.) to get more blood is always strictly better than using them to get more guard, because blood gives you just as much resistance to melee attacks as guard, and guard gives you no extra resistance to ranged attacks.

I could just make focusing on guard give you more I guess? Does 50% more sound fair?

2013-06-18, 11:11 PM
"Well, if he moves I get an opportunity attack, and if not I hit him. So, that is game." and those moments are sort of disappointing and anti-climactic.
My first thought when reading was that you don't want opportunity attacks for moving away from an enemy. I would apply them for moving through zones of control.

2013-06-19, 12:35 AM
Great system: lots of strategy and conspiring.

My major design concern: it presents a generals-in-the-warroom feel to combat, instead of a boots-on-the-ground feel. If that's your goal, great! If not, you might want to take a step back and ask yourself:

What's my vision for this combat system?
Do the changes I've made to D&D's rules follow that vision, or just make things more complex?

It's quite possible that you can include the cool new changes you've made in an entirely new system, built from the ground up. That way, if an existing D&D rule doesn't fit well or is simply useless, you can exclude it or create your own rule to fill the gap.

2013-06-19, 08:43 AM
Oh yes, this is intended to be an entirely different system. I was just comparing it to DnD in summary.

2013-06-19, 11:30 AM
Hmm, these are interesting. I'm not sure what Trainer Level is, though.

Can you make 5-foot steps without AoOs like in D&D?

I don't know how much of an effect focusing has, but putting more 50% more into focusing guard seems like a good starting point.

2013-06-19, 12:31 PM
Would you explain the moving through zones of control thing Dethkolk?

Trainer level is class level. Also there is no multi-classing in this.

There are no five foot steps right now because of some reasons relating to things that have since been changed, but that is an interesting option. I'll think about including that.

As for focusing, players progress form level one to level ten. At level ten, they are (approximately) three times as powerful as they were at level one. You get five opportunities to focus throughout the progression. Focusing on blood or guard gives you two extra points, and focusing on cunning, melee, ranged, and reflexes gives you one extra point. I propose that focusing on guard give you three extra points of it.

So lets say you start off with 10 blood and 10 guard. At level ten if you never focused on either you would end up with 28 blood and 28 guard. If you spent every single focus on blood (so plus two on each of the five levels where you get a focus) you would end up with 38 blood. If my change went into effect, doing the same with guard, you would end up with 43 guard.

Blood nets you 10 points of resistance to both melee and ranged attacks. Guard nets you 15 points of resistance to just melee attacks. Seems fine to me.

2013-06-19, 06:15 PM
Yes, three points of guard sounds good.

What's been bothering me now is that if you have 1 more cunning than an opponent, you get the same bonus as if you had 10 more cunning than the opponent. I have a similar issue with reflexes. I've come up with a few ideas:

1. Toggles/Options/Intrinsics that temporarily improve your scores in those areas or worsen opponents' scores

2. Add an extra d20 for every 5 your cunning is above or below your opponent's cunning, using the highest or lowest roll respectively

3. Some sort of reflexes roll (maybe a d6)?

4. Cunning and Reflexes decrease when you lose all your guard

Also, what happens when two combatants have tied reflexes?

2013-06-19, 09:20 PM
With reflexes it isn't much of a problem because generally there are lots of combattants (each player controls two pieces in one iteration of the game) which means that middling reflexes means you will be advantaged over those with none. But with cunning definitely yes. This is a problem that has bothered me before.

One is an excellent idea and I'll implement that immediately.

Two I like, and I'll think about. My only objection to it is that it makes the importance of the actual target number smaller, and target number is the only avenue I have to influence how likely or unlikely an effect is to be induced as compared to another effect. For example, there is an option that dazes the opponent on a roll of 5 or higher, and there is a toggle that dazes the opponent on a roll of 15 or higher.

I don't want an initiative roll because I find rolling for initiative to be really tedious, and the strength of a lot of characters is based in their high reflex. It basically means sometimes in combat, characters who invested elsewhere are going to be super strong and super fast, and you are just going to suck.

The third one is an awesome idea that I have tried to implement already, but it ended up being too complicated to keep track of. Maybe my formula just wasn't elegant enough.

When two combattants are tied for reflexes they flip a coin. Also as a side note, the only die you ever use in this game is a d20. That isn't there for a reason, it just happened because rolling only occurs in skill checks, effect rolls, and miscellaneous things. I would be fine with breaking that for the sake of a new mechanic of course.

2013-06-19, 10:39 PM
Alright, the status condition daze now lowers your reflexes and burn now lowers your cunning. Also I added options which used your cunning to add to the damage you dealt in specific and thematically appropriate situations, which is never done with any other stat.

By the way, I am actually making two games right now which use the same combat and skill system, but entirely different character building systems.