log in or register to remove this ad

 

"Better" Combat Systems in RPGs - Feedback Welcome!


log in or register to remove this ad



JohnSnow

Adventurer
That's an attack Vs a failed parry.
(B has a higher initiative, rolls first with a successful attack, A fails their parry)
No, it's not.

If you read the text that accompanies the image, it's an evasion combined with a counter-thrust. Both cuts and thrusts can be evaded, and doing so is a fundamental part of medieval and renaissance swordplay. You have to time it right, but you can do it. General evasions are something you tend to do as part of fighting, but you can also choose to sacrifice your attacks and jump back out of range (Volta or Evade).

For the record, I'm not just speaking theoretically, as I have been actively studying this stuff for almost 20 years.
 

JohnSnow

Adventurer
Someone posted the tail end of a fight I did with my buddy 10 years ago on YouTube. That's me in the burgundy jerkin. Please note that this is not choreographed, we're just sparring, ergo not going "flat out." We've had better bouts, but nobody uploaded them to YouTube.:cool:
 

Bilharzia

Fish Priest
No, it's not.

If you read the text that accompanies the image, it's an evasion combined with a counter-thrust. Both cuts and thrusts can be evaded, and doing so is a fundamental part of medieval and renaissance swordplay. You have to time it right, but you can do it. General evasions are something you tend to do as part of fighting, but you can also choose to sacrifice your attacks and jump back out of range (Volta or Evade).

For the record, I'm not just speaking theoretically, as I have been actively studying this stuff for almost 20 years.
In which case it's a parry(B), attack(B), failed parry(A). :p
I know what you're saying but the maneuver is impossible without the weapon, so it's subsumed within the parry action.

Martial experience is not that unusual in Mythras land tbh. Pete Nash, one of the system authors has been a practitioner for getting on 30 years now, and there are a fair few others. Dan True, who has written a couple of the combat modules, is a teacher and demonstrator. Come...to the dark and crunchier side...
 
Last edited:

JohnSnow

Adventurer
In which case it's a parry(B), attack(B), failed parry(A). :p
I know what you're saying but the maneuver is impossible without the weapon, so it's subsumed within the parry action.
If I correctly read what you're saying, you're counting "evasion" as part of parrying. Which I grant it often (typically?) is, but the official definition of "Parry" is "deflecting an incoming attack." And avoiding isn't deflecting. You can certainly evade a cut or thrust without having a weapon in hand. We do this at my school as a drill, just to teach people the importance of not just standing still. We take their weapons away and make them concentrate 100% on evasions.

I grant that once you have a weapon in hand, it's very hard to separate the two, and thus they should probably be subsumed in a single "defend" action, but parrying and evading are technically different things.

Moreover, we need to discuss the difference between "single time" actions and "double time" actions. In single time, you parry and counter attack in the same tempo, to whit...

SINGLE TIME:
First tempo: A closes and Attacks. B then simultaneously Evades and Counterattacks.

(Or alternatively, if B has two weapons (or a single one capable of doing both simultaneously), Parries and Counterattacks. Since A is already using his tempo to attack, he's screwed on a defense.)

Alternatively:
First Tempo: A Attacks. B Parries (or Evades, or Parries and Evades).
Second Tempo: B counterattacks. A Parries or Evades (or doesn't).
Repeat.

Many combat systems advocate for learning how to parry/evade and strike in single time, but it's something of an advanced move - probably best modeled as the ability to "counter-attack" on a failed attack (bringing this back to RPGs, Savage Worlds actually has an Edge called "Counterattack" that allows a character to do this).
 

Li Shenron

Legend
6) Damage matters, as weapons are DANGEROUS. In the real world, a single blow from a dagger can kill you. Attrition based health mechanics (cough*Hit Points*cough) are useful from a gaming sense, but they're problematic for believability. And they can tend to lead to sloggy combats.
I agree on mostly every other point but not on this one.

It's true that with not enough realism, there is no believability. But with too much realism, there is no game. Because someone who fights more that a few battles with swords and axes dies, or ends up maimed for life.

The required level of believability is already reached in many ways in a typical RPG game, thanks to many rules, for example ability scores (whatever the set) to represent different attitudes/abilities at the base of solving tasks. Something as apparently innocuous or subtle as a martial maneuver being usable exactly per-encounter instead of being tied to resting between encounters has a much stronger effect in destroying believability than HP.

People do not play RPG games because they want to replicate the experience of a RL character in a real-world war, they play to replicate the story of characters from movies, comics, books or computer games, characters who potentially and very unrealistically face hundreds of battles before dying, and sometimes also after.

Attrition based combat gives the players more time.

  • time to change your tactic if it doesn't work
  • time to try more weapons/tricks/abilities, just for fun
  • time to make a mistake (a fundamental right when playing a non-competitive game!)
  • time to run out of your best weapons and having to resort to secondary means
  • time to realise you shouldn't have started this battle in the first place, and you can still run for your life

With a "realistic" weapon hit system, one hit means you're very likely out (unless it's boxing with gloves). How are you even going to figure out you are winning or losing?

If anything, 5e might have even a bit too fast attrition for having really enough time for all those things, but 4e has proven that if attrition is made too slow AND the battle is actually going well then players tend to just drag on until winning on points.
 

LightStriker

CEO Code of Light Games
Publisher
Combat can be thematic and exaggerated as well.
In my games, from homebrew to my own custom system, it captures the style and feel of the world, the characters, and the story.

In my current game, "Light Strikers" combat is tactical, but is based around super powers. So it feels like a turn based JRPG, as well as a MOBA, and provides plenty of room for "narrative" combat as well as creative actions on the fly.
 

Bilharzia

Fish Priest
If I correctly read what you're saying, you're counting "evasion" as part of parrying. Which I grant it often (typically?) is, but the official definition of "Parry" is "deflecting an incoming attack." And avoiding isn't deflecting. You can certainly evade a cut or thrust without having a weapon in hand. We do this at my school as a drill, just to teach people the importance of not just standing still. We take their weapons away and make them concentrate 100% on evasions.

I grant that once you have a weapon in hand, it's very hard to separate the two, and thus they should probably be subsumed in a single "defend" action, but parrying and evading are technically different things.
I'm very doubtful of unarmed people's ability to "dodge" sword blows in close combat since the armed fighter does not have to defend themselves against the unarmed opponent at that reach ... ok if you say they are doing it ...

I'm not talking about a tempo-level of emulation, I'm pretty sure there are RPG systems that do that, but from what I've seen they are pure combat engines and not much else. There's a fairly large amount of abstraction in RQ6/Mythras (for example it doesn't model armour properties like GURPS does).

My basic point is there's a certain amount of movement, leaning and footwork subsumed in a Parry action, and this is the RQ6/Mythras definition. Of course all sorts of martial arts are going to use different terms, "Attacks" and "Parries" are made with all kinds of weapons, from a range of time periods across about 10,00 years of history, so talking about particular traditions periods is too finely grained when it comes to the principles. These attack and parry notions also include natural weapons of creatures without weapons as such.

Making an "Evade" during a combat is a more radical manoeuvre which can be used to defend as a parry does, but it will leave you prone (unless you have a special ability or an additional skill), and it's harder to use since it's an opposed roll Vs the attack, whereas a parry action just needs to succeed, it doesn't need to beat the attack roll, but an Evade does also need to beat the attack as well as succeed. This makes Evading an inferior defence most of the time.
 

Bilharzia

Fish Priest
It's true that with not enough realism, there is no believability. But with too much realism, there is no game. Because someone who fights more that a few battles with swords and axes dies, or ends up maimed for life.

People do not play RPG games because they want to replicate the experience of a RL character in a real-world war, they play to replicate the story of characters from movies, comics, books or computer games, characters who potentially and very unrealistically face hundreds of battles before dying, and sometimes also after.
It's true that most people are playing to emulate fictional heroes than historical ones, and sometimes fictional-historical characters and heroes, most RPGs are going to ignore or gloss over wound infections and that kind of thing, but different people have different interests and different ideas about what is realistic and interesting. Your observation about facing "hundreds of battles" might be true for some games but not necessarily all. You can have quite a realistic system where actually getting into a real fight is rare because the risks are large, which might well encourage the players to find other ways of avoiding or resolving a conflict than a straight fight. This means that events are progressing, things are happening, but not necessarily through piles of bodies and swimming pools of blood.

  • time to change your tactic if it doesn't work
  • time to try more weapons/tricks/abilities, just for fun
  • time to make a mistake (a fundamental right when playing a non-competitive game!)
  • time to run out of your best weapons and having to resort to secondary means
  • time to realise you shouldn't have started this battle in the first place, and you can still run for your life
With a "realistic" weapon hit system, one hit means you're very likely out (unless it's boxing with gloves). How are you even going to figure out you are winning or losing?
That's a nice list but I don't think incompatible with a more realistic (whatever we mean by that) combat system. All of these things can be learned and experimented with in skirmish encounters which may not be decisive, a combat is not always resolved with one side being completely destroyed, breaking off and retreating to fight again is a more common outcome.
 

Jd Smith1

Adventurer
I agree on mostly every other point but not on this one.

It's true that with not enough realism, there is no believability. But with too much realism, there is no game. Because someone who fights more that a few battles with swords and axes dies, or ends up maimed for life.
This is wrong. From 1981 until my return to 5e in 2019, i gamed using nothing but systems where one solid hit either ended a bout, or brought it close to an end.

There is a lot of gaming while using such systems. However, it is different (and better) from hit point attrition.
 

Wightbred

Explorer
This is wrong. From 1981 until my return to 5e in 2019, i gamed using nothing but systems where one solid hit either ended a bout, or brought it close to an end.

There is a lot of gaming while using such systems. However, it is different (and better) from hit point attrition.
I’m interested in the realism end of the spectrum for some of my games, so keen to hear more about these systems. Care to share?
 

GSHamster

Adventurer
It's true that most people are playing to emulate fictional heroes than historical ones, and sometimes fictional-historical characters and heroes, most RPGs are going to ignore or gloss over wound infections and that kind of thing, but different people have different interests and different ideas about what is realistic and interesting. Your observation about facing "hundreds of battles" might be true for some games but not necessarily all. You can have quite a realistic system where actually getting into a real fight is rare because the risks are large, which might well encourage the players to find other ways of avoiding or resolving a conflict than a straight fight. This means that events are progressing, things are happening, but not necessarily through piles of bodies and swimming pools of blood.
But would it be worthwhile for such a game to invest a great deal of time/effort/resources into combat rules? Like if combat in your game is so deadly that players never engage in it, then spending 50+ pages on elegant and comprehensive combat rules seems like a waste to me.
 

Bilharzia

Fish Priest
But would it be worthwhile for such a game to invest a great deal of time/effort/resources into combat rules? Like if combat in your game is so deadly that players never engage in it, then spending 50+ pages on elegant and comprehensive combat rules seems like a waste to me.
Sure, there's a balance here, I did say "rare" rather than "never", and really the emphasis is as much on "interesting" as "realistic", in fact whatever combat system it is, it should give the players interesting choices to make while having the feel of some degree of realism, and most importantly, risk. The distinction I am making is between a typical d&d style dungeon bash with a series of combat encounters, and a different system where there might be a single combat encounter in a typical game session, if that.

Even though the system I'm most familiar with, Mythras, is fairly realistic and can be deadly, combat encounters are rarely resolved with the massacre of one side, since combatants will most likely be knocked out, too badly wounded to continue, or they have fled and made an escape, or they may have surrendered. PCs have the special benefit of a small number of luck points which allow characters to downgrade a lethal wound to a dangerous but non-lethal one, this makes PCs much more likely to survive than an opposing NPC or creature, until they run out of luck points.

What is important is that the combat system be interesting and engaging for the players and I would put that above realism or 'deadliness' (I don't think the two are the same). Not everyone is interested in realism which is a very nebulous concept in any case, and not everyone is even interested in combat encounters at all! A detailed and dynamic system (where player choice counts) may be of interest to those players that like that aspect of RPGs, and those people may well be very cautious about starting a fight or getting involved in one, they still may want something quite realistic because they want the full consequences of getting into a melee to hang in the balance, because it should always be risky.
 


Bilharzia

Fish Priest
I’m interested in the realism end of the spectrum for some of my games, so keen to hear more about these systems. Care to share?
As I've detailed quite a bit earlier in the thread, I think Mythras is pretty good. There's a free quickstart "Mythras Imperative" which gives the essentials of the system, including most of how combat works from the publisher's site - Downloads
 

JohnSnow

Adventurer
As I've detailed quite a bit earlier in the thread, I think Mythras is pretty good. There's a free quickstart "Mythras Imperative" which gives the essentials of the system, including most of how combat works from the publisher's site - Downloads
I downloaded the rules and really like some of what I've seen of Mythras, but I find its character creation and skill systems to be more than a bit fiddly. It also seems highly dependent on the GM doing a lot of setting legwork - establishing his world equivalents of "Hoplites," or "Mongolian Horse Archers," et cetera, etc.

I might use it for a game set in, say, Ancient Rome, but I'm disinclined to do that level of cultural development for a fantasy world. I don't want my players to have to work that hard to go from concept to the character they want to play. Because realism nods are rather nice...except when they're not. Like...size/frame and culture are things you roll? WTF?
 

Jd Smith1

Adventurer
I downloaded the rules and really like some of what I've seen of Mythras, but I find its character creation and skill systems to be more than a bit fiddly. It also seems highly dependent on the GM doing a lot of setting legwork - establishing his world equivalents of "Hoplites," or "Mongolian Horse Archers," et cetera, etc.

I might use it for a game set in, say, Ancient Rome, but I'm disinclined to do that level of cultural development for a fantasy world. I don't want my players to have to work that hard to go from concept to the character they want to play. Because realism nods are rather nice...except when they're not. Like...size/frame and culture are things you roll? WTF?
Hoplites were not part of ancient Rome. Mongol horse archers likewise didn't appear until long after the Roman Empire fell.

Did you choose how tall you were going to be? My parents didn't. I turned out to be an utterly amazing physical specimen simply by luck of the DNA.
 

Bilharzia

Fish Priest
I downloaded the rules and really like some of what I've seen of Mythras, but I find its character creation and skill systems to be more than a bit fiddly. It also seems highly dependent on the GM doing a lot of setting legwork - establishing his world equivalents of "Hoplites," or "Mongolian Horse Archers," et cetera, etc.

I might use it for a game set in, say, Ancient Rome, but I'm disinclined to do that level of cultural development for a fantasy world. I don't want my players to have to work that hard to go from concept to the character they want to play. Because realism nods are rather nice...except when they're not. Like...size/frame and culture are things you roll? WTF?
It is not a beginner's system, and it does demand quite a lot of the GM no doubt. The system is more of a toolkit than most and it's for more serious players that want a game that's more realistic, which is more tailored to a specific setting that sits in a particular time and culture, although it does support more fictional and fanciful settings. I don't disagree with the impression it is more demanding of the GM, I'd say less so of the PCs as I have had quite a bit of success running RQ6/Mythras games for players with no experience of the system.

Mythras Imperative is very condensed and is not the friendliest when it comes to character creation, the full rules are much better. The system could do with a more approachable quickstart, although at the same time Imperative is the reference document for the "Gateway" licence so there's a lot in there.

Combat Styles are a lot easier to establish than they look, it is just a set of weapons and one or two traits. It is left open in the rules because it covers 10,000 years of combat styles and weapons, any examples are going to be inadequate and always need to be tailored to the campaign setting and to the GM's style. Notesfrompavis has collected 100 of them here Combat Style Cards for Mythras and a big list of traits here Encyclopedia of Mythras Combat Style Traits

An example from Mythic Rome: (4th Century)
Hastati and Principes - Cautious fighter trait
Iron Rimed Oval Shield (Scutum), L, S, 5 AP/15 HP Passive Blocks 5 Locations
Sword (Falcata), M, S, 1d4+2+db, Bleeding
Heavy Javelin (Pilum), H, ‒, 1d8+1+db, Impaling

It also comes with armour details:
Bronze Half Hoplite Armour
Large Pectoral (Lorica), 4 AP (Chest)
Single Greave (Ocrea), 5 AP (Left Leg)
Helm with Cheek Flaps (Cassis), 5 AP (Head)
There are quite a range of campaign settings that do get very specific on these details:

Mythic Earth so far covers: Mythic Britain, Mythic Logres, Mythic Rome and Mythic Constantinople.
Mythic Babylon, a true bronze-age setting will be coming out in 2021.


There is a substantial ancient-world fantasy setting, Thennla, which is a mix of Persian, Greek and Roman influences

Monster Island is a substantial sword & sorcery supplement which has separate culture entries for lowland tribal animists, corrupt decadent 'civilised' sorcerers, and island colonists. I would almost recommend it for any system but the rules details are quite extensive.

Classic Fantasy translates 2nd edition D&D tropes into the system, mostly the humanoid PC types, classes, magic and monsters

Luther Arkwright, based on the comic, is a more gonzo-dimension hopping steampunk low-powered superhero-ish setting

Lyonesse is the licenced setting for the Jack Vance series, this is a self-contained book

There's urban fantasy with "After the Vampire Wars", a 'hard' SF setting is available as "M-Space" which is an independent publication under the Gateway licence.

So, there are a lot of examples published, any of which can be used for a homebrew campaign. For example, Mythic Constantinople is set in the mid 15th century, so it can be used as some basis for any European, Mediterranean campaign of a similar time period. The Thennla and Monster Island supplements can be combined for a Hyborian Age Conan campaign, the system and these supplements make it a great one for a S&S game.

Size - yes you do have a SIZ stat! It's quite important in Mythras, as will be familiar to RQ and BRP players, being an elephant makes you stronger and tougher than a mouse! This is still true for smaller and bigger PCs. Giants can be really giant and their size makes a big difference, both to how much damage they can do but how tough they are as well.

As for rolling culture - you might do this depending on the campaign. In a more restrictive campaign like Mythic Britain you have one choice - British Celt and that's it! (unless you're playing a Saxon in which case you're in Mythic Logres) and you get a specific and specialised character creation process to fit that culture more exactly. In other campaign where the PC group might be a mix of cultures you might come from one of any number of cultures - for example in Mythic Constantinople you could be Greek, Turkic, Frankish, Arabic, or a non-human Arimapsoi, Astomatoi, Blemmyai, Kynokephaloi, Minotauroi, Skiapodes or Tripithamoi. If you imagine a Conan Hyborian campaign, a typical PC group is likely to be a mix of cultures from all over that world.

More combat styles from the Hyborian Age (Ranger Dan 90 Hyborian/Generic Combat Styles) - Ranger Dan Combat Styles - Google Drive
 
Last edited:

COMING SOON: 5 Plug-In Settlements for your 5E Game

Advertisement2

Advertisement4

Top