Combat rules in P&P-RPG

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Combat rules in P&P-RPG

Postby knolli » Wed Apr 03, 2013 5:30 am

Hey guys (and probably girls),
for some time now I have been testing several RPGs, but one thing that annoyed me again and again are the same lame rules for turn based combat. In my opinion, speed is one of the most important factors in meelee, but all it does in most games is determine the initiative order. But since everyone has the same number of actions each turn, after some rounds that doesn't really matter any more. Big, heavy weapons usually do more damage per hit and have negative initiative modifiers or similar penalties, but that's it.

Are there games that have better rules to simulate combat? Anything that is more realistic than turn based combat? Or do you even have rules of your own?

At the last convention a german publisher presented a new game called "Splittermond" (sphincter moon) that tries a different approach: There are no rounds any more. Each action requires a certain amount time, slow actions like attacks with a heavy weapon need considerably more time than fast jabs with a dagger. Each player's position in the initiative order is marked on battle clock. The first player does his action, moves his marker backwards for the required number of ticks and it's the next player's turn. That way the initiative order changes permanently and speed becomes very important. E.g. a nimble fighter has a chance to act twice as fast as the knight in full plate carrying a big two-handed axe.
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Re: Combat rules in P&P-RPG

Postby mgb519 » Wed Apr 03, 2013 8:56 am

I'm busy working on my system and it uses action points.
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Re: Combat rules in P&P-RPG

Postby Tzan » Wed Apr 03, 2013 10:33 am

knolli wrote:Hey guys (and probably girls),
for some time now I have been testing several RPGs, but one thing that annoyed me again and again are the same lame rules for turn based combat. In my opinion, speed is one of the most important factors in meelee, but all it does in most games is determine the initiative order. But since everyone has the same number of actions each turn, after some rounds that doesn't really matter any more. Big, heavy weapons usually do more damage per hit and have negative initiative modifiers or similar penalties, but that's it.

Are there games that have better rules to simulate combat? Anything that is more realistic than turn based combat? Or do you even have rules of your own?

At the last convention a german publisher presented a new game called "Splittermond" (sphincter moon) that tries a different approach: There are no rounds any more. Each action requires a certain amount time, slow actions like attacks with a heavy weapon need considerably more time than fast jabs with a dagger. Each player's position in the initiative order is marked on battle clock. The first player does his action, moves his marker backwards for the required number of ticks and it's the next player's turn. That way the initiative order changes permanently and speed becomes very important. E.g. a nimble fighter has a chance to act twice as fast as the knight in full plate carrying a big two-handed axe.


The group I was hanging with discovered that D&D didnt work because if you run away 5 spaces, then the guy following runs 5 and swings at you, you can never get away.
Of course this was pointed out by the cleric who always ran away.
So back in the 80's they designed a system like you describe here.

They used a grid on paper, each player and enemy had a 1/2 inch chit on it, each space is one second.
Each action takes time, and you slide the chit to the right that number of seconds, the chit farthest left is up to act.
Each map space is 2 or 3 feet, I forget, walking is move 1, time is 1, running you can move 2, time is 1.

Base swords actions
sword 3 counts (time)
two handed 5 counts

You can also train to decrease the time it take to use a weapon.
So you could, over a long campaign get your sword use down to 1 swing is 1 count, or even further 2 swings in 1 count.

Playing a moderate sized battle with a system like this takes a long time, like 3+ hours.
The RP talk is minimized and the battles are the focus of play.
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Re: Combat rules in P&P-RPG

Postby stubby » Wed Apr 03, 2013 10:46 am

I've also seen action-point systems that incorporate a speed stat - swinging a halberd takes 8 time units no matter who you are, but a normal guy regens 3 AP per turn while a fast guy regens 4.

Final Fantasy Tactics does something kind of similar, where every unit regens a number of AP equal to his Speed per tick of the clock, and every time one of them reaches 100 they get a turn. It was great because the main character had a "Yell" ability that added +1 to Speed. They forgot to add an upper limit, so you could just have him stand in the corner and Yell himself up to having dozens or hundreds of turns for every one of the enemies'.
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Re: Combat rules in P&P-RPG

Postby Keldoclock » Wed Apr 03, 2013 12:25 pm

I think there are some optional GURPS rules for what you describe, but its still pretty confusing to actually play. I think the natural solution is to automate (or simplify or even remove entirely) all of the calculations that turn-based games require to make them fun, instead of trying to simulate the real world so much. Simulations seem like they'd be fun, but in reality they are a massive hassle, even in the case of stuff like Dwarf Fortress where you aren't thinking too much about the super-complex systems.
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Re: Combat rules in P&P-RPG

Postby Tzan » Wed Apr 03, 2013 12:51 pm

In the system I described, you take your action now, then the time is spent waiting on your recovery.
There are no action points that accumulate.

All the complexity falls on the Game Master taking care of the chart, the players just need to think about their next action.
New players have no more burden than a new player in any other RPG.
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Re: Combat rules in P&P-RPG

Postby IVhorseman » Wed Apr 03, 2013 1:53 pm

At Comic-Con one year, I got to game-test this card game that never ended up getting published which was based off of Call of Duty II (WWII style).

Instead of taking turns, you just drew cards as fast as you could and used them to move your guys around the "field" and kept going until you or your opponent drew an action card - gameplay stopped immediately until the action was resolved. non-action cards included things like cover, better weapons, etc. Either way, it was very fast-paced but it didn't feel any more "authentic" than turn-based combat does. Still, it was a cool idea.
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Re: Combat rules in P&P-RPG

Postby Zupponn » Wed Apr 03, 2013 3:48 pm

Dubloon by Banov used an interesting combat system that allowed you to have a character take an action only once their action bar filled up. How fast it filled up depended on the speed of the character. It's a pretty good free game, so it's definitely worth checking out.
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Re: Combat rules in P&P-RPG

Postby stubby » Wed Apr 03, 2013 10:17 pm

There's another system that I thought worked well, although I can't remember now where I saw it - it's a modified initiative system where the order of play each round is based on the actions each unit is taking. All the fast actions happen first, simultaneously; normal actions happen simultaneously second, and slow actions simultaneously last. Everyone still gets one action per turn, but the slower guys have a higher chance of not getting to pull off their actions at all, either due to getting killed or their targets evading them or something.

I remember the rules being kind of complicated (speed bonuses for high skill levels, trade speed penalties for extra damage, etc etc) but there's no reason you couldn't make it super simple:

  • Fast Actions: Quick Dodge, Use Small Weapon or Item
  • Normal Actions: Move, Use Normal Weapon or Item
  • Slow Actions: Labored Movement, Use Large Weapon or Item

You might also allow combo actions like

  • Normal Action: any Combo of two different Fast Actions
  • Slow Action: any Combo of a Fast and a Normal Action
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Re: Combat rules in P&P-RPG

Postby knolli » Fri Apr 05, 2013 2:38 am

That are some nice ideas. The hard part is to make them fun. And for that you have to minimize the amount of neccessary calculations or make them very easy. I'm sick of slow paced, yet abstract combat. Too often I left the gaming table asking myself: "What did we achieve today? Oh, yeah, we bet a group of second class bandits. And NOTHING ELSE."
Yet I don't want to miss all the tactical depth and the challenge of combat. Unfortunatelly most of the time it degenerates to: "I attack, I do damage, I kill, next!"

Am I asking too much?
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