View Full Version : More Movement in Melee Combat (First Draft, D&D of no specified edition)

2017-04-17, 08:22 PM
Copy-pasted from my tumblr (http://tenleaguesbeneath.tumblr.com/post/159689055425/more-movement-in-melee-combat).

D&D melee combat tends to stay in one place. This doesnít correspond to my real-world sparring experience at all, nor does it track movies, nor is it particularly interesting. Hereís a hack-ish first draft set of rules to increase movement. Iíve italicized my authorís notes explaining why for each component (editing note: the italics may not have survived the copy-paste in all cases. Some parentheticals, especially at the end of paragraphs, were italicized author's notes in the original). The goal here is to make combat more dynamic and make terrain more relevant to melee by making melee combatants move more, and to allow someone who is taking a beating to yield ground without suffering opportunity attacks for it.

Secondarily, this gives a melee combatant with favorable terrain a way to turn a fight theyíre losing around, because whoever takes the worst of a round of combat chooses their positioning for the next round.

First, this introduces a new phase at the end of every combat round, making combat of a cyclic exchange after the first round is finished and everyoneís taken one turn.

Second, thereís a new Action (Standard Action in 3, Action in 5; the main thing you do on your turn in any other edition): Hold Ground. If you hold your ground, you are exempt from having to move at the end of the round, provided you do not move (willingly or otherwise) that round (variant rule to possibly playtest: you can move on your turn before committing to hold your ground; thus you can move your speed to take a position and then hold it). You can still retreat (see below) if you choose to. (The rule that if youíre forced to move after committing to hold your ground you are no longer holding your ground is to make it possible to uproot defenders without killing them; forced movement seemed as good an effect as any to tie it to since itís present in at least 3, 4, and 5. I considered tying it to damage taken but that canít be done in an edition-neutral way)

While holding your ground, you can make an opportunity attack against enemies that enter your threatened area, or who attack you, but not more than one attack of opportunity for both causes (This is to make it so that you can fight at all holding your ground, since youíve spent your action. If you have some ability allowing you multiple opportunity attacks, holding your ground in a chokepoint could even be the aggressive option. This may be reduced to just allowing you to respond to attacks made against you).

If you commit to face a certain direction, you are effectively blinded for the half of the battlefield behind you, but can apply your shield protectively in an edition-appropriate manner to someone else also holding their ground on the side of you corresponding to your shield arm. You cannot use your shield against attacks from behind. If you choose to shield someone, you canít make opportunity attacks against enemies approaching them (Shield walls are cool and this makes them into a tactic you can use).

You canít dodge and hold your ground at the same time. In 3e this should not be taken to deny dexterity bonuses to AC, considering all the consequences that has, though it might do something like ďyour effective dexterity bonus to AC is +0 as though you were wearing armor with a maximum dexterity bonus to AC of +0. You are not considered to be denied your dexterity bonus to AC for purposes of sneak attack or similar abilities unless you are denied that bonus by another conditionĒ, or it could halve your dexterity and dodge bonuses to AC; in 5e I could see it removing your dex to AC entirely if you are allowed to apply it (so in heavy armor, your AC is the same holding your ground as not). (Your ability to evade attacks is based on your end-of-turn movement. By committing to hold your ground you are limiting your ability to evade)

Retreat Phase: At the end of the round, melees move around the map. First, divide up the combatants into melee engagement; at this point in the draft this is more an art than a set of rules; in general, if someone made a melee attack against someone else in the previous round and ended turn with at least one threatening the other, they are engaged in melee.

Whoever got the worst of a melee engagement (probably whoever took more damage that round) must yield ground (unless they are holding their ground, in which case they may retreat but donít have to, or if they are surrounded (maybe add charging to things that prohibit retreat; bouncing off an enemy you charged should be a rare thing)), moving half their speed. At no point in this move can they move within 90 degrees of toward anyone who is engaged with them, and they must initially move away from all possible attackers, or anyone else who made a melee attack against them in the previous round who currently threatens them at that point in their movement (e.g. someone who used spring attack to move in, strike, and move past). This movement does not provoke attacks of opportunity from anyone who they are already engaged with. (this is the whole thrust of the idea. Basically, if youíre getting the worst of a melee, youíre also being driven back)

Their principal attacker (typically whoever did the most damage) must follow, unless they are holding their ground, moving half of their move along a path where every square threatens at least consecutive squares of the retreating path, to end up adjacent to the defender if possible. Other attackers may choose to follow or not, space permitting. Attackers who are holding their ground may not follow. (this retreat doesnít mean youíre getting away, it means the melee engagement as a whole is moving backwards). Again, this movement does not provoke attacks of opportunity from anyone youíre already engaged with. For the principal attacker, this includes anyone they started this movement mutually threatening (possibly just threatened by?) even if there was no exchange of blows (This movement isnít there to milk AoOs, itís there to move the melee engagement, possibly to ground of the defenderís choice).

I would like there to be some method by which an attacker with enough of an advantage has the option to veto a defenderís first choice of retreat position, but I canít work one out right now. I could see that being given to e.g. secondary attackers, where by committing to follow they can close off an avenue of retreat.

A defender who is denied awareness of their environment (e.g. by being blind and not having acclimated to their blindness) may be herded by their attacker entirely during retreat, or possibly have their retreat position decided randomly or by the DM (basically, if youíre hit by a blindness spell, or darkness or fog cloud or something, youíre even more screwed now in an unspecified way).

As an option, this end-of-turn movement could be made available to people who are not engaged in melee (use this variant if it seems unfair/unrealistic that people engaged in melee are moving more total distance than people who arenít). In that case, I would not allow them to enter the threatened area of any enemy, nor would I allow them to move closer to anyone who made a ranged attack against them (hit or miss) unless they have total cover against the attacker for that part of the path (I see this most benefiting rogues and other stealthy types; itís a bonus opportunity to sneak around the battlefield). If they were targeted by a ranged attack and benefited from cover against it, the entire path of their movement must be through cover that is at least as good relative to that ranged attack (ranged combat involving cover tends to be fairly static, since breaking cover is a deliberate and dangerous move). If they took a full-round action that prohibits moving (casting a full-round spell, loading a heavy crossbow), they donít get this move either; the only full-round action that allows this move is a full attack involving at least one melee attack.

Interactions with Charging

Charging in D&D3 and earlier has a bunch of rules associated that this might interact with. Mostly, I can see setting your weapon against a charge to include holding your ground, or holding your ground to include setting your weapon against a charge, for weapons in that have bonuses to that, and charging to preclude being forced to yield ground that turn unless youíre subject to forced movement after moving during the charge.

This means, then, that if someone sets their weapon against a charge and someone charges them, then assuming they both survive then theyíre going to be in melee in the exact same spot on the map next turn, guaranteed barring forced movement effects. This is the normal way it works without this rule, made rare by its addition. That whoever took the worst of it is not able to reposition into a more advantageous position makes it feel to me writing this like itís exceptionally vulnerable now.

Interactions with AoE Damage (Fireball etc.)

I could see the yield ground/retreat mechanic applied to also try to force people out of AoE damage that affected them on their turn, but on the other hand, given how AoE damage can be applied precisely enough to hit the enemyís front rank with a fireball but not your own front rank in melee with them, that could just end up preventing retreat at all (they can flee their melee attackers into the fireball or the fireball through their melee attackers)

Interactions with Initiative and Cyclicity

There are a lot of one-round effects that last until the beginning of your next turn, since without this rule thereís no real natural break between rounds. This system creates one. Whether that break is when effects end or not is up to the individual groups; this does make short-durations effects a lot less viable if you have a bad initiative roll. You can make up for this by rolling initiative every round.

Interactions with Different Speeds

Sometimes an attacker is slower than a defender; in this case a defender might be able to yield ground with half their move taking them further than the attacker can move on half theirs. There are a bunch of options to resolve this. The simplest, and least satisfying, would be to allow a faster defender to simply escape a melee engagement. Perhaps the defender canít move further than the principal attacker can unless they took the total defense (3e) or dodge (5e) action (which allows them to trade their attacks for the ability to escape melee). Perhaps the attacker can move up to their full speed if they need to to keep pace with the defender (but at more than half move must move to the closest space they can engage the defender from, to prevent them from taking this as an opportunity to circle around).

Option regarding the 3e Dodge feat

I could see the 3e Dodge feat giving the added ability to allow you to retreat very narrowly, making perhaps a one-square move only 45 degrees away from your enemy (i.e. circling around them, from their ďfrontĒ to their left or right side) at the beginning of your yielding ground. Mobility might also increase your ability to yield ground, perhaps letting you use more move.