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Combat as a single roll

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Rather than have an entire set of rules with armor and hit points and attack rolls and movement and stuff, I was musing over the idea of combat being just a single roll. The loser is defeated.

It would need to be in a rules-lite game, and one which doesn't have a combat focus. And defeat would have to be defined as not necessarily being death - it could be surrender, KO, fleeing, etc.

Conceptually it's easy to say, of course; in practice there would be challenges to making such a system. But it would certainly help those who find combat in RPGs a bit on the boring side. A fight is no more involved than picking a lock or climbing a wall.

It does mean PCs might lose very quickly though. Needs thought!
 

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Sir Brennen

Explorer
Morrus, sounds very much like what the latest edition of Savage Worlds has for Quick Combats. When the story isn't served by a long, involved fight, the GM can opt to have a quick combat (ambushed by mooks in an alley without any significant NPCs involved, for example).

Each player declares what they're doing in the fight, makes a roll, and the successes are added up against a GM predetermined number. If they exceed the number, PCs win. Under, they lose.

Not exactly a single roll, but a single roll per PC, which I think is significant as each player can contribute to the scene and feel involved.
 

schneeland

Explorer
I have contemplated the option of single-roll combat, too (while it does spice up things a bit, lengthy combat sequences are not quite my cup of tea). The tricky part for single roll combat for a D&Dish system will be how to factor in the influence of multiple participants (potentially on both sides). How much is a fighter worth? How much a spellcaster? How large is the difference between a level 1 and a level 10 caster? What about tactical advantages (terrain, monster can fly, etc.). Depending on the number of factors, calculations for modifiers/available dice etc. might become quite lengthy.
Of course, if you have a really slim system without levels and stuff, it gets considerably easier.
 

aco175

Hero
Used to play 3-man flip with quarters back in middle school. Basically, 3 people flip a quarter and the odd man keeps all three. Re-flip if all heads or all tails. Its very simple and I find myself going to adding more rules quickly about how to gain an edge on one side or the other.

I might like rolling a d20 better with a few modifiers depending on level or armor or something. I also like rolling lots of dice, so maybe something where you start with a d20 for the randomness and add d4s or d6s to the d20 for modifiers. Since you are only rolling once it would be good to add 4-5 d6s while the DM might be adding only 2-3.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Rather than have an entire set of rules with armor and hit points and attack rolls and movement and stuff, I was musing over the idea of combat being just a single roll. The loser is defeated.
I've played in literally dozens of live-action games that have this basic structure.

It would need to be in a rules-lite game, and one which doesn't have a combat focus.
I will agree that the focus of the game shouldn't be combat. I disagree that the game overall needs to be rules-lite. You can have great complexity and rules depth in the things the game does focus on.

And defeat would have to be defined as not necessarily being death - it could be surrender, KO, fleeing, etc.
The most successful (imho) implementations I have seen of this are essentially "if you lose combat, you are taken out of action for some period of time, and the winner gets some concession - one item you are carrying, the truthful answer to one question, etc.

In some games, where there is some form of "status", losing often entails a loss of status, as well.

Some of the issues are mitigated by noting that it isn't, "I attack, if you lose, I win." and it is instead, "I start combat - one of us will lose, and one win". The aggressor risks the same result as the defender.
 

Tonguez

Hero
Can kind of do this in Dnd my mook rule is to use just Hits (ie a 1 Hit creature will be ‘taken out’ with one hit, a 3 HD takes 3 hits) to score a Hit roll attack vs defence (I like this as opposed skill checks but Att v AC works fine too).

The result is the loser is taken out of the conflict, not necessarily dead and thus can apply to any conflct (combat, social, mental) eg an intimidation check vs willpower also can cause a hit
 


Same as Blades in the Dark I presume?
It goes even further, really. With Blades, you may resolve a PC dealing with a specific target (or at times, maybe multiple targets) with one roll, but the entire combat may consist of multiple targets or enemies, and would therefore potentially involve multiple rolls by all players.

Agon is specifically about deciding which PCs are getting involved in the challenge, making a roll for each of them, then comparing them to to Strife Score to see if they succeed and who might gain the most glory.

There are certainly multiple challenges on each island, but every single challenge follows the above play summary, with each participating PC making one roll.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Don't some of the Powered By The Apocolypse games do this? Or at least, a lot of physical conflicts are handle by a basic move called something like "Kick Some Ass"?
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Don't some of the Powered By The Apocolypse games do this? Or at least, a lot of physical conflicts are handle by a basic move called something like "Kick Some Ass"?
No, they really don't. And I think you're thinking of Dungeon World's Hack-and-Slash, which is a basic move. However, if your combats in DW are just repeated uses of Hack-and-Slash, you're doing it wrong.

If you're going to use a single roll to resolve anything, in any game, the important bit is what the stakes are and who sets them, followed by the ability of the player to judge the odds, at least at a high level.
 


Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I think it might work in a fail-forward type system. Not so much if the results are "you lost this one die roll and thus all your characters die."
Right, stakes. The issues really will resolve in how stakes are set for a contest, both in what they are and who decides them.
 


Voadam

Adventurer
In typical D&D the PCs win most fights.

When they do lose they have to run away, or they get captured, or they die. In contrast the consequences of failing a skill check are usually less game halting.
 


Voadam

Adventurer
Oh wait, so one option for this is to go full OSR fantasy Vietnam.

Make a save or die. Success means no effect and you proceed, fail you are dead.

Man I hated that in B/X and AD&D.
 

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