A Guide to Combat Roleplay

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Tharivious_Meliamne

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Combat. One of the great problem solvers for characters, and one of the great aggravations for players. I'll cover a few aspects of combat situations, and provide examples of what I'm talking about.

I'm not going to go into detail on how the various races and classes fight, as there's more than enough information there to fill a book series, and many companies have already done that. And besides that, stereotyping is what leads to unoriginality, and that's a very bad word to see in roleplaying terms.

Attacks:
One of the two most important aspects of combat, the attacks have to come first. So, here are some of the basics.
First of all, and I know this has been said several dozen times before by several dozen people, myself included, no auto hits. It doesn't matter how powerful you're character is, this is freeform, everyone is an equal and it is only in the player's skill that a character can truly shine in battle.
Second of all, it is extremely helpful for your opponent if you announce the specific part of their body that you are aiming for. This includes which side of them, which limb, which area of their torso, and also which direction your attack is coming from. Providing this information will not only help them to defend themselves, but also make the fight more vivid, as it shows where and how the attack is being made.
There are a few basic forms of attack, and I will cover some of them here in brief.:
-Unarmed Strikes:
---This breaks down into a few different aspects. There are kicks, punches, headbutts, leg-sweeps, elbow slams, knee lifts, etc, all manner of different attack forms fall into this category. To effectively use these attacks, think about what type of armor your opponent is wearing. If they're wearing full-plate, do you really want to slam your fist into their chest? Or would you be better off trying to knock them down with leg attacks to keep them on the ground and immobile? Logic is of the utmost importance to the unarmed fighter, as it can often mean the difference between success, and a broken limb. Yes, monks can often get past heavy weight armor, but that is through knowledge of where to hit as much as it is through force of the blow.
Example:
Monk_01 throws a right palm strike at Monk_02's chest, following it up with a left knee aimed at his opponent's right side.
Monk_02 blocks the palm strike with his forearms, being pushed back a bit by the force of the impact just as he is caught in the side by the knee, buckling slightly to the right as the wind is knocked out of him.
Monk_02 returns with a right elbow aimed at Monk_01's left leg, hoping to dislocate the knee joint as he aims his left fist at his opponent's stomach.
Monk_01 grimaces in pain as his knee is stricken, a slight pop being heard as his knee buckles under the force, his forearms spinning in place to move the fist harmlessly to the side.
.... And so on and so forth.


-Armed Combat:
---Slashes: The classic overhand, the wide swing, and the crossover all fit into the category of slashes. These are one of the most effective types of attacks for bladed weapons such as swords and axes, and often bear quite an impact upon the opponent stricken. Typically a cleaving blow, the slash can be best used when a wide opening provides itself to you in combat.
---Slice: A more refined and slightly less common strike, a slice is essentially a drawn cut. One made by bringing the blade against the opponent and following through with a straight pull, leaving a solid line as a part of the attack.
---Stab: A forward thrust made with a large blade, or a simple reverse thrust with a dagger, a stab is one of the most utilitarian methods of attack. A stab is made by lunging forward and aiming the tip of the blade for your opponent. It is a relatively simple manuever, but also relatively simple to defend against.
Example:
Fighter_01 lunges at Fighter_02, aiming a stab with his longsword for his opponent's stomach.
Fighter_02 swings his axe to meet the side of his foe's blade, sending the attack wide as he spins inward, revolving the blade of his axe in a slash at Fighter_01's side.
Fighter_01 is struck in the side by the axe blade, being caught undefended as the blade sinks into his armor, red being visible from the wound as he reverses his blade across Fighter_02's arm in a slicing motion.
Fighter_02's face illustrates his pain as the sword is drawn across his arm, the wound trailing crimson as he pulls his axe free and swings for an overhand slash at Fighter_01's sword arm.
.... And so on and so forth.


-Ranged Attacks:
--These break down into two types of attacks, projectile weapons ( Such as bows and slings ) and thrown weapons ( Such as daggers and throwing axes ).
---Projectile Weapons: With weapons like bows, crossbows, and slings, it's best to make certain that you aim the attack. Always announce where the ammunition is being directed, for example, arm, leg, chest, back, etc... This makes things simpler to resolve. These attacks are relatively simple to make, as they take up a quick action, it doesn't take long to fire an arrow. However, when using a crossbow, remember that there is a time requirement to reload, as one has to pull the winch back to tighten the string, and when using a sling, it takes time to build up enough velocity to hurl a sling bullet effectively.
---Thrown Weapons: With items such as daggers, throwing axes, and flasks of acid / alchemist's fire, the attack is relatively simple. Just throw the item at a certain portion of your opponent's body, Making the aim clear is just as important here as it is for projectile weapons. Thrown weapons take time to ready, and as such, it is wise to remember to either have several of the items in hand if you make multiple attacks, or remember to announce arming yourself with such weapons before taking that second throw.
Example:
Rogue_01 takes aim with his crossbow, pulls the lever, and releases the bolt from the stock, streaking through the air aimed for Rogue_02's right leg. He then brings out the winch and begins to reload his weapon.
Rogue_02 gasps as his leg is punctured by the bolt, red trailing from the point of injury. He pulls out three lightweight daggers and throws them one at a time, aiming for Rogue_01's side and chest.
Rogue_01 grimaces as he tries to dodge the daggers, two of them slicing the air as they move past him, the third striking him in the arm where his side should have been, causing him to drop the crossbow.
.... And so on and so forth.


Defense:
The second of the two most important aspects, the defense is a result of the attack, and as such, comes second. Here's a few basic tips on the subject.
First of all, as with above, this has been said many times and will be said here again, don't avoid everything that comes your character's way. It's unrealistic to dodge everything, because quite simply, there are things that should be unnavoidable, even if your character is the super-mega-god-of-all-things-combat-oriented-and-related.
Second of all, bear in mind your own fighting style when trying to block. If blocking an attack will make it so that you cannot attack in return, should you block, or perhaps dodge it? If you move a bit to the side and still get hit by the attack, will that put you in a good position to deliver a very painful strike? Keep those things in mind when defending your character, they add another layer of strategy to your actions.

Spellcasting:
Always remember, when in melee combat, it isn't easy for a spellcaster to get those spells cast. Being distracted by an opponent with a big sword can and does make things difficult when trying to send off those somatic components and those words of magic, let alone fumbling for spell components.
When using magic in battle, there are two possible paths.
-One path is to describe vividly what the spell does and how it is being cast. I prefer this path in most instances, because it is more visually effective and creates a sense of realism. Possible ways of enhancing this aspect are using specific languages for your character to chant in if not actual words, describing what sorts of gestures are made, and naming what sorts of material components your spell is using. When using spells without flashy visual effects, like a Charm spell or something of that nature, always remember to PM the player of your target, otherwise, don't be surprised if you have a confused opponent.
-The other path is simpler. Just announce that you are casting a spell and name the spell right off. There are times when using this path is best, such as a large scale battle where typing time is of the essence and you're already rushing to get your actions in just to keep up with your opponents. But in general, the first method is the best method, simply because of the more vivid visualization that it creates.

Summoned Creatures and Other NPCs in combat:
When dealing with summoned creatures and other NPCs, it's best to look at their source to know how best to deal with them. If a creature is summoned as a result of a spell, then that falls under dealing with a spell, and should be treated as such. When it comes to called monsters or created ones [ie, undead, called fiends, etc..], again, treat them as NPCs under the control of the player who brought them there. Other NPCs such as cohorts that may be present as a part of the character's description / there to carry their sword/staff/shield/etc..., should be treated like characters under that player's control, with courtesy and respect.
-This means, among other things:
--- Autodispelling is not a good thing. The player who summoned the creature chooses when his spell ends, not you. As with in the Spellcasting section, phrase the dispel attempts as an open ended phrase; leave room for them to decide.
--- Auto-hits are still as unfair as they are otherwise. The player who summoned the creature has the rights to play that creature as an NPC, which means they have the ability to choose if the creature is harmed or not. Handle attacks against these creatures as you would otherwise.

Turning / Rebuking Undead:
Whether the undead is a player character or an NPC, I recommend treating them the same way. A Turn/Rebuke attempt is an attempt, not a garauntee. As such, phrase it that way, leave room for the attempt to fail, because logically speaking, it could. Phrase the attempts by describing the energy used in the attempt, be it positive or negative, and be clear on your character's actions; make it seem like he truly holds some holy authority, but without making yourself seem to the the holy authority.
Example of Turning: Cleric_01 raises his holy symbol before him, muttering a prayer to his deity as he focuses his mind on driving the undead back, channeling the holy energy forth from his symbol.
Example of Rebuking: Cleric_02 holds forth the symbol of his dark god, chanting low under his breath as he focuses the negative energies through his talisman, pressing the forces forward in hopes of wresting control of the undead to his own will.

Taking Damage and Showing Damage:
This one is incredibly important. I've covered this one on my rant thread, so I'll give it another spotlight here. When a character is stricken, it will affect their ability to perform in battle. Whether you like it or not, that's the nature of physiology, and yes, I'm bringing science into a fantasy setting, but that's necisarry in this case. When someone's arm is injured, it doesn't function as strongly, of at all. When someone's leg is damaged, it will slow their movement if they can't fly. If someone's back is broken, they aren't going to moving much. Think logically.
Granted, with the CoC limitations on graphic violence, there's a limit on how wounded you should allow your character to become, so here are a few pointers.
-Show a little blood, but no torrents of blood gushing out from severed limbs. Just saying that red is visible around a wound is good enough, no need for gore and viscera to be spilled all over the place.
-Broken limbs can be a good thing. An injury of this sort can be a great way to roleplay the aftermeth, especially with a broken leg that causes your character to limp for a while. Anything that opens up roleplaying opportunities is a good thing in my book.
Example of what NOT to do:
Look at Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the scene with the Black Knight. "It's just a flesh wound!"

Beginning the Battle:
This is an aspect that can be somewhat difficult at times, and at other times, quite simple.
-In the more simple instances, a character goes forth and strikes, thus beginning the fight and it moves along from there. As always, it's best to ask permission of the other player as to whether or not a fight is to happen, as it is as much their choice as it is yours as to whether or not a combat will happen, and as always, if one declines, then drop it for the time being; it's their decision to make.
-The other extreme is when a fight is difficult to start up. This can happen for any number of reasons, from a character being too busy to take part in the battle at the time, to a character already being injured from an impromptu fight of their own and the player not wishing to let their character die as a result of it. The best way to handle this sort of situation is to talk to the player, discuss the matter, and set up a time where a fight can occur. Other ideas include:
--Consider a proxy character; where the player of the unavailable character could select another viable person to take the place, which works best if the player selects one of their own characters to step in. This could be reasoned out in a storyline as the character choosing a champion to step in and fight for them, which was known to occur in the medievil era, especially among the nobility, but not limited to such by any means.
--Play out a short skirmish where the unavailable character flees from the battle before getting too deeply involved. Whether by escaping a grapple and slipping out the door, or teleporting away, this is a simple enough manuever to utilize. This also leaves room for a storyline hook where the unavailable character seeks out revenge for their lost honor, potentially giving them more reason to fight when the opportunity presents itself.

Ending the Battle:
Similar to starting a fight, this can be tricky if not done right. Often enough to be a generalization, but not a rule by any means, players' pride can become an obstacle to finishing a fight as well as it could be. Whether this is through a player being unwilling to let their character lose or a player who refuses to give in when beaten, this can be one of the more frustrating occurances in a fight. If this happens to you and your characters, there are a few ways to deal with it.
Alternatively, some fights are easy to handle the ending for. If a character is to die, select the means of death in advance of the death blow, that way it can be signaled for when the time comes, this makes things go more smoothly. If both are to survive, one can just as easily walk away to fight again later. Whether this is done with a swearing of vengeance to be taken later or a wounded warrior leaving to heal their injuries, this is a perfectly viable option in nearly all cases.
-With a Stubborn Player/Character:
--If your character has clearly shown the stubborn opponent up by skill and ability, they might take pity on the other. This doesn't always work, but if it is possible, there are a few roleplaying opportunities that can come of it. Perhaps the clearly victorious character would decide that the stubborn personality of the other combatant is something that could be cultivated into a better warrior? This could not only allow the fight to end without too much frustration, but it could provide a solid building point for a partial storyline, which is always a good thing. Especially if the other player has shown to be skilled and capable otherwise, this sort of finish could even help to wear down that stubborn streak. Not all characters would be willing to do this, but those that would can make a good example from this course of action.
--If a peacable solution isn't possible, always remember, there's nothing wrong with walking away as long as it is done reasonably and without direct OOC rudeness. Have your character get a bit frustrated, realizing that they are wasting their time and have better things to do than continue a pointless fight. This won't make the character a coward, it makes them intelligent. There's no shame in knowing when to walk away. Of course, some characters would never do this, which is certainly alright.
--If these don't suit your character, perhaps you could have another character, one of yours or one of an online friend's, step in and take your character away from the battle. This works best with exceedingly stubborn characters who would never walk away from an unfinished fight, as it gives them a way to leave without their pride being too battered in the process.
--If none of those options work, have your character offer the fight as a draw. This doesn't always work in a true battle, but there's still a chance for it.

Lastly, Know When To Stay Out of Other Players' Business:
That's right, another of my old points. There are times when you can feel free to help out your friends in battle, such as when you ask them and their opponents and all parties give permission, but their are also times where you should just stay out of it. Don't interfere with other characters' storylines if they haven't given you permission to do so, it's just good manners.
I will however say that there is one time when interfering without permission of both parties is alright is when one character is about to die and that player asks you to save their character. I see this as being alright, especially if the character on the brink of death has no means of returning from the afterlife.
 

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Nugan

First Post
Nice job Mel. :)

Good points all around. You covered this topic with more thoroughness than I ever could have hoped to, and all of your points are spot-on.
 

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Tharivious_Meliamne

Guest
:bow: Thanks Nugan. I aimed to be thourough.

If there's any aspect that I may have missed that anyone has questions about, I'll be more than happy to take questions on it, just let me know with a post here, and I'll respond. :)
 

Nevine

First Post
Possible ways of enhancing this aspect are using specific languages for your character to chant in if not actual words, describing what sorts of gestures are made, and naming what sorts of material components your spell is using.

For languages when spellcasting, I find Latin to be a good choice for verbal components. There are several free translators on the internet and I find it adds a little flavor.
 

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Tharivious_Meliamne

Guest
Latin is definately a good idea for a language to use for spellcasting, if one can find the sites to translate with.

But there are also a few fantasy language sites out there that can add to the flavor as well. I've found translators for Drow, Elven ( Tolkien's version, also called Quenya{sp?} ), and Draconic, and I'm sure that there are more out there that can be found with a little bit of work and determination.
 

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Ssussunriyh

Guest
I've found an elvish site that includes a phrase book and a word translator. I believe it pertains to Ultima Online, it seems to be a variant/dialect of Faerunian (Forgotten Realms) elvish.

The phrase book includes a section listing the names of commonly-used D&D spells, so it should be easy to copy and paste from it for a combat scene.

Here are links for the phrase book and the word translator
 

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Anonymous_D

Guest
Well, you lead me to water. Now lets see if I can drink. Thanks for the guide Thar, its a big help.
 

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Tharivious_Meliamne

Guest
You're Welcome

Anonymous_D said:
Well, you lead me to water. Now lets see if I can drink. Thanks for the guide Thar, its a big help.
You're welcome :). Best of luck with your future combat fun.
 

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Tharivious_Meliamne

Guest
*smacks forehead*

Main post editted.

New section added: Ranged Attacks.

I don't know why it took me so long to realize that I had forgotten them, but it's likely because my characters typically wind up in hand to hand combat and rarely use their ranged weapons. My mistake. So, it's fixed now :D.
 

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Tharivious_Meliamne

Guest
*Joins the ranks of shameless self promoters everywhere*:D

Shameless bump.:smirk:
 

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