1. Tabletop Combat Systems?

My friend is trying to design a tabletop game of his very own - and he's trying to decide on combat systems. Now, I'm not the most experienced tabletop player, so I don't know all of them.

Basically, he's looking for a way to conduct combat. I've told him about how Dresden Files RPG does it, and of course we both know how D&D combat works - but he's not sure he wants to use those.

Are there any other combat systems that I could make him aware of?
We're basically looking for a way to roll the dice.

2. Re: Tabletop Combat Systems?

I'm not familiar with Dresden, so I can't comment on that.

He could consider something like WW/Shadowrun (roll multiple dice, with a set target number. Count successes). I tend to like this system, it works best with dicepools in the 10-15 range,

Alternatively there's 3d6+modifiers or 2d10+modifiers, working similar to d20 but with a bell curve, weighting the rolls towards average values.

3. Re: Tabletop Combat Systems?

Your basic resolution systems are as follows:

No randomness: Simple comparison of stats or complete narrative control. Not usually desirable.

Die + modifier. D20, etc

Dice Pool. Roll dice, count successes and/or failures. Tasks tend to take successes in proportion with difficulty to work.

Roll and Keep. Roll x dice, keep the highest y dice.

Now, that's not all possible systems, but it covers the vast majority of them, though of course, many make use of mixed styles as well.

4. Re: Tabletop Combat Systems?

Thanks for the help. He took a liking to rolling a number of dice based on your proficiency with the task and trying to hit a target number. Apparently another one of my friends is trying to do some similar thing (small world), so this will most definitely be helpful to them too.

Dresden is a unique system, I think. You have a set proficiency with a skill, and roll 4d6. 1's and 2's are -1s to the total, 3's and 4's are neutral, and 5's and 6's are +1s to the total.

So if I were to roll 4d6 and I got a 3, 6, 5, 2, and the skill was at 3, it would come out to 4.

5. Re: Tabletop Combat Systems?

Originally Posted by Torapart
Dresden is a unique system, I think. You have a set proficiency with a skill, and roll 4d6. 1's and 2's are -1s to the total, 3's and 4's are neutral, and 5's and 6's are +1s to the total.
This sounds exactly like Fudge dice, although with d6s. Fudge dice have two + sides, two blank sides, and two - sides... for doing exactly what you're doing here.

Burning Wheel uses d6 dice pools, with 4+ being a success. You can also "train" a skill, a rather difficult process, in order to chance that to a 3+ being a success or (with further training) a 2+ being a success.

The core World of Darkness uses d10 dice pools, with bonuses and penalities applying to the roll, with 8+ being a success. The older "World of Darkness" books used the same d10 dice pools, but the difficulty was frequently modified by the challange, with an opponent's skill level generally being the roll needed for a success.

Iron Claw uses dice pools as well, but skills begin at d4 and increase in die size (d6, d8, d10, d12) with increasing skill. Going past d12 grants d12+d4, or rolling two dice. You also have (expensive to progress) racial and job bonuses, which only apply to select skills but grant their skill level in addition. It is a roll-and-compare system, so if one character has d12 and another has d4+d6+d8, then both would roll and compare the highest dice to see who succeeded. (The d4+d6+d8 character would have two unopposed, thus automatic, successes in this example.)

Eclipse Phase uses d%, but is otherwise a basic add-bonuses system. On the other hand, a "critical" happens whenever both dice come up the same number (11, 22, etc). Whether it is a critical success or critical failure, though, depends on if the roll itself was a success or failure.

Shadowrun uses a d6 dice pool mechanic, but adds all the dice together.

There are roll-under systems; older AD&D occasionally used a "roll d20, ability score or lower is a success" system with modifiers, when necessary. Other systems copied the same, although I don't recall any names at the moment.

6. Re: Tabletop Combat Systems?

Dresden uses FATE 3 which has roots in FUDGE. So yes, it uses the same dice by default though there are alternate mechanics such as d6-d6.

Regarding table top combat, what type of combat is your friend looking for? How abstract / detailed? What size units? How tactical? Is he looking for something for personal use or does he want to license something for resale?

7. Re: Tabletop Combat Systems?

Originally Posted by Raum
Dresden uses FATE 3 which has roots in FUDGE. So yes, it uses the same dice by default though there are alternate mechanics such as d6-d6.

Regarding table top combat, what type of combat is your friend looking for? How abstract / detailed? What size units? How tactical? Is he looking for something for personal use or does he want to license something for resale?
In no particular order....

Oh, yes, it is fudge dice. It's just since we have so many D6's, there isn't really a point in buying official fudge dice.

As I said, he found rolling multiple dice and trying to get successes on each roll very appealing. What are the weaknesses of such a system?

Combat would, I infer, be more tactical than anything else.

Also, it's just going to be for personal use. For both of my friends - but right now, I'm only referring to the one in my first post. The other one does not want any help.

Units would be uniform in size - all equal. He agrees with a standard "5 ft square" of space. Maybe I could mention hex tiles to him?

8. Re: Tabletop Combat Systems?

Originally Posted by Torapart
As I said, he found rolling multiple dice and trying to get successes on each roll very appealing. What are the weaknesses of such a system?
Depends on exactly how it's implemented. Something like ORE can't use more than 10 dice (it uses d10s) without guaranteeing a success (a double). Shadowrun's great big pools of exploding d6's weren't guaranteed a success since modifiers could stack up, but rolling, re-rolling, and counting all the dice takes time...which made combat relatively slow. And target numbers get screwy when they're multipliers of 6 or 7. FATE & FUDGE have a narrow bell curve (~61% are -1 to +1) which reduces the random factor. Savage Worlds a target number issue similar to Shadowrun's (when target numbers equal the die type or die type +1). All of those roll multiple dice yet each of the mechanics is unique. It really comes down to finding something which works for the style of game you want. :)

Combat would, I infer, be more tactical than anything else.
Asuming you're looking for small unit combat (less than ~30 individual combatants) and like fast tactical combat with roots in wargaming, check out Savage Worlds. As long as you're not looking for a smooth probability curve. ;)

If you want larger units / armies, you'll want to look at some of the wargaming systems.

9. Re: Tabletop Combat Systems?

I don't really know what you're looking for.

I will say that the most rewarding combat mechanic I've used is 3:16.
Players basically attack the encounter rather than any individual aliens.
Then, they get to roll a die to determine the number of aliens they kill.

There is nothing more rewarding than rolling a d100 to determine the number of exploding sharks you massacre with your chainsaw sword in a round.

10. Re: Tabletop Combat Systems?

First thing you should do when writing combat system mechanics is:

Don't.

The first thing, the very first thing, your friend needs to decide, is not what mechanics he want to use, but to decide WHAT HE THINKS SHOULD HAPPEN. Not in the rules, not in terms of dice rolls made, but what should happen if blokes fight in whatever genera you're aiming for. Do you want real or Hollywood or anime or something in between any of the above? How lethal do you want it? Etc etc.

THAT is the most critical part. You need to know what the answer is before you ask the question.

Once you've decided exactly what you think should happen in a combat, you can then look at making the mechanics fit to that (or pirating bits from any of the HUGE numbers of RPG and wargames rules out there.)

If you DON'T do it this way - like as many rules systems sadly don't - you will get a system that will most likely not do quite what you want it to do, because you've not MADE it to do what you want it to do. Arbitary
rules mechanics first will give you a system that will best serve the flaws in the mechanics (and the are ALWAYS flaws in ANY system), rather than what, in practise, you find you actually wanted.

11. Re: Tabletop Combat Systems?

Originally Posted by Aotrs Commander
THAT is the most critical part. You need to know what the answer is before you ask the question.
Seconded, that's really smart!

I've been looking at a field of game theory called mechanism design. It's about reverse engineering a game so that it'll produce the kinds of behaviours that are desirable. Games produce behaviours whether you intend them to do so or not so they might as well be the behaviours you want.

You've got to start at discovering what those behaviours are before you start designing system elements.

12. Re: Tabletop Combat Systems?

Originally Posted by Totally Guy
Seconded, that's really smart!

I've been looking at a field of game theory called mechanism design. It's about reverse engineering a game so that it'll produce the kinds of behaviours that are desirable. Games produce behaviours whether you intend them to do so or not so they might as well be the behaviours you want.

You've got to start at discovering what those behaviours are before you start designing system elements.
Yes, that's exactly it. Essentially, where you end up playing to the rules (because that's what offers the best advantage) as opposed to playing to the in-world continuity.

It's most noticable in wargames, admittedly - especially historical or modern period wargames, where the result you get often have very little in common with real-world tactics and results (where we know the "answer", as it were).

A very mediocre example in (3.x) D&D would be the cat-and-commoner phenominon or the caster/noncaster split, sorta; I'm trying to think of a better one - oh yes! The RAW of "heal drowning" (i.e. that the first time you fail the drowning check you get set to -1 hits points, phrased in such a way that if you were lower than that you'd actually go up.)

There are far better examples, I'm sure (though 3.5 was reasonably free of them, in comparison, compared to many rules sets.)

First edition Warhammer FRPG's "naked Dwarf" syndrome is probably a good one, wherein, given the way the damage system worked, verses the monster stats, a Dwarf with a very high toughness was more-or-less invulnerable, even before armour (or at least as tough as regular human in full plate armour with a shield).

13. Re: Tabletop Combat Systems?

Originally Posted by Torapart
Dresden is a unique system, I think. You have a set proficiency with a skill, and roll 4d6. 1's and 2's are -1s to the total, 3's and 4's are neutral, and 5's and 6's are +1s to the total.

So if I were to roll 4d6 and I got a 3, 6, 5, 2, and the skill was at 3, it would come out to 4.
Dresden utilizes the FATE system. It's definitely not unique.

And yes, def set goals before deciding system. Always. Rules exist to produce a game you like. Not vice versa.

14. Re: Tabletop Combat Systems?

Originally Posted by Aotrs Commander
First thing you should do when writing combat system mechanics is:

Don't.

The first thing, the very first thing, your friend needs to decide, is not what mechanics he want to use, but to decide WHAT HE THINKS SHOULD HAPPEN. Not in the rules, not in terms of dice rolls made, but what should happen if blokes fight in whatever genera you're aiming for. Do you want real or Hollywood or anime or something in between any of the above? How lethal do you want it? Etc etc.

THAT is the most critical part. You need to know what the answer is before you ask the question.

Once you've decided exactly what you think should happen in a combat, you can then look at making the mechanics fit to that (or pirating bits from any of the HUGE numbers of RPG and wargames rules out there.)
Additionally, I'll add that you should also think about what decisions you want players to make - as decisions are the core of any game.

15. Re: Tabletop Combat Systems?

Originally Posted by Aotrs Commander
First thing you should do when writing combat system mechanics is:

Don't.

The first thing, the very first thing, your friend needs to decide, is not what mechanics he want to use, but to decide WHAT HE THINKS SHOULD HAPPEN. Not in the rules, not in terms of dice rolls made, but what should happen if blokes fight in whatever genera you're aiming for. Do you want real or Hollywood or anime or something in between any of the above? How lethal do you want it? Etc etc.

THAT is the most critical part. You need to know what the answer is before you ask the question.

Once you've decided exactly what you think should happen in a combat, you can then look at making the mechanics fit to that (or pirating bits from any of the HUGE numbers of RPG and wargames rules out there.)

If you DON'T do it this way - like as many rules systems sadly don't - you will get a system that will most likely not do quite what you want it to do, because you've not MADE it to do what you want it to do. Arbitary
rules mechanics first will give you a system that will best serve the flaws in the mechanics (and the are ALWAYS flaws in ANY system), rather than what, in practise, you find you actually wanted.
This is so true that I generally get as much information about the feel of the game and setting from the rules as the fluff.
(I prefer to start with the rules, cause they can't lie (unlike some settings ))

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