Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Rules development interlude

Some thoughts on combat:

Thought one:  It’s been done to death at almost every level of granularity possible.
Thought Two: It’s the place where RPGs often dive into complexity of the most baroque kinds imaginable
Thought Three:  Rock paper scissors, while the simplest and most lite resolution possible lacks a certain amount of flavor.

So, the koan for RPG combat is this: what is not a shameless ripoff, has the same  level of granularity, complexity and crunch as the rest of the system, and is fun and flavorful.  Answer:  Very little.

So, rather than just plug in a simple Roll initiative, To hit , Damage by Weapon, Save As Needed, Next round -  type system  (which you’ll probably do anyway), I hoped to do something that addressed each of the points; and not test it.  I mean, come on, this is a gaming blog, right ?

Keep in mind that part of the motivation for this system is good old “lets try something different for a change ” .  So, that’s the answer when the inevitable question “why did you do this differently than usual ? ”  is asked.

So, thusly.

First up, does the combat system have to use the same mechanic as the task system ? 

  In fact, no it doesn’t, and in fact probably shouldn’t.  Tasks are about skills, and knowledge or athletic training and planning.  Combat is and trying not to get killed whilst doing the same.   Most skill use involves concentration, thought and planning; combat is about reacting in “panic hindbrain adrenaline reflex mode” and wetting yourself.  

That said, they should be expected to overlap, some… but the main point is this:  use of a rifle at a range, or a foil in a contest, or a punch in a boxing match is different than what you do when there is somebody firing back and trying to kill or maim you for real, and probably should use a different skill at the very least.

So, as a broad generalization, I’d like a combat system to use two different resolution systems to reflect this.  However, I’m not in love with different dice rolling procedures or tables just for the sake of adding flavor.  So I’ll start off with the following base mechanics:
·        All actions are either combat or normal.  Normal resolution emphasizes what you know and are capable of when no one is trying to kill you ; , and combat resolution is when someone is.    
·        You use different skills when in combat, even if you are using the same tools to do the same things.
·        For BAGS, use very broad categories wherever possible.

So:  Combat skills are used to resolve an attack when in combat.  Combat skills are mostly a measure of how well you keep it cool in a given type of combat; weapons limit range and modify damage, but do not modify the chance to hit when in combat. 

Combat skills are based around four basic types of combat, which consider range, and type of action required.
Typical weapon
Wrasslin and rolling
Forehead, teeth
Fist City
 Arms reach
(Hand to hand)
Fist, fungo bat
  Horseshoes and Handgrenades
  As far as you can throw
T (Throwing)
Rock, football
  Sling Lead
  About 100 yds
S (shooting)
  Shooting in a firefight
Any firearm
  Country mile.
  Anything more 
  Shooting at range
  Mortar, machine gun
* Mandatory Obsessive Range Abbreviation

So, in combat at range T, your H&H skill is used, regardless of what you are trying to throw (rock, empty pistol, Native Javelin).
Similarly, when you are holding a rifle, but are in combat at H range (hand to hand) you don’t use your rifle skill but rather your Fist City skill.  If it isn’t a combat situation, such as an assassination at close range (a rifle ?  come on…but still) use your rifle skill.  But…the moment someone is tryoing to kill you back you use the combat skill.

So, some weapons have ammo –when used at various ranges they use up ammo.  These are a function of the weapon.  If a weapon is at a range it cannot use its ammo, or does not have ammo, it, itself may be used as ammo –once.

Weapon effects:
Weapons modify two things: damage, and what ranges can they be used.
·        Damage: The number of hits that a weapon does when you succeed in a combat skill roll (or, a weapon skill roll when not in combat). Some do more, some do less.
·        Range: At what ranges it is effective, limited or not allowed
More to come, especially as it becomes obvious that BAGS has a VERY rudimentry combat system, thus far.






Anonymous said...

I've sometimes thought that the solution to the combat conundrum might be to start with a combat system that is perfect for your group's taste, ignoring all other considerations, and then derive other resolution systems from that. Likely by a mix of dilation & deletion.

A knock on effect should be that only absolutely necessary resolution systems are added to the game. When you start with a base mechanic and elaborate that for combat, you sort of "ideologically mechanise" the entire game.

Doc Grognard said...

But, again, does a system that is built around inputs that apply to panic and combat really do well for thoughful or skillful activities ? Still its an interesting thought. One could argue that the unified resolution system used by 3.0/OGL/D20 is exactly that.
In a lot of ways, I think that combat should be a bell curve, whereastasks should be a straight distribution. Or not. CRAP. confused myself, AGAIN.

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