Monday 11 April 2011

Combat Rules My Players Actually Use

Whether it's the rules system, the group, or the fit between the two, I'm finding my players are taking a fairly basic approach to the combat game. That is, the game for them is getting good position vs. the foe, using the right combination of missiles, spells and melee, and working out the timing of things they call out, rather than grabbing for the options I give them or inventing ones of their own.

That's fine and it suits the rules system. It makes me think that any special combat maneuvers should be rulings- rather than rules-based, at least for this bunch. There is also something to be said for the referee as rules interpreter. The players say what their characters are doing and the referee judges the wisdom, possibility and success of that move, rather than the players working at the game rules level. My wife and I once had a session of Advanced Squad Leader run by a friend well-versed in the binders and binders of rules for that system, and it was brilliant. Given the wargaming roots of the hobby, the DM as referee is also the DM as rules expert, lowering the learning curve to participate.

Anyway, I present below the 1page-18pt version of our combat sequence. It's decidedly "OD&D/Basic" rather than "AD&D." All rules about combat actions in a skirmish should really converge on the elegant system "move, plus move or attack" seen in 4th Edition, Mansions of Madness, and so on. Testing in actual play showed some streamlining that could be put in, and ways to make initiative count (first OR last move, and first strike in all rounds of combat.) For next time I might give players pawns or cards representing their major and minor action, and see how that works.

* Missile weapons get great advantage; they go first even when attackers close to range (point blank shot), as long as they're not distracted from loading.
* There is some gamesmanship possible with spellcasting. Attackers could try lurking outside spell range (in my system either 30' or 90') to charge the caster and delay, but not spoil, the spell with a successful hit. I think this reinforces the need for minions, which is generally a good thing. I'm not sure that allowing "snap casting" of spells to hit advancing attackers is that great a thing, but your experience may vary.
* Figures get their full 12 MP (human standard) but effectively can only move 6 5' squares in each half of their move. 3 MP vs. 2 is also a neat way to handle diagonals. None of this "taxicab geometry" when simplifying diagonal moves, as in certain latter-day editions.
* As I said, everything under "instead of melee attack" is seldom used by players. That may change once they sees the foes working them to advantage ...

click to enlarge

Hm. Needs more graphics, I think. Oh yeah, and there is no free swing at the fleeing. Speed matters.

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