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D&D General D&D Combat is fictionless

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
D&D Combat is fictionless. But Frogreaver, "What does that even mean?" It means that D&D combat is incapable of representing combat fiction the way we want to imagine it. The turn structure gets in the way. Instead of having the goblin and fighter charge each other and meet in the middle. Instead we have the fighter carefully plotting out his turn and being careful to only use enough movement so that the goblin in question will need to use it's action to dash to get to him. A wise tactical decision! But that tactical decision has no basis in the actual fiction. The fiction is just that the fighter and goblin charge each other and engage each other in melee combat - I mean no one imagines the fighter advances and then stops, and then the goblin advances and then stops... right? So this wise tactical decision is solely a reflection of 'metagaming the combat turns'. That bugs me. And it's probably going to continue to bug me as I don't really see a possible solution. But it would be really nice if for my combat decisions to be wise and tactical they could be based on the fiction instead of the turn structure.
 

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FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I guess I should also add, that this doesn't mean some fictional content cannot be overlayed on top of the turn based structure. The Barbarian says - 'the ogre's mine'. Stuff like that is adding to the fiction, but the combat itself just isn't.
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
D&D Combat is fictionless. But Frogreaver, "What does that even mean?" It means that D&D combat is incapable of representing combat fiction the way we want to imagine it. The turn structure gets in the way. Instead of having the goblin and fighter charge each other and meet in the middle. Instead we have the fighter carefully plotting out his turn and being careful to only use enough movement so that the goblin in question will need to use it's action to dash to get to him. A wise tactical decision! But that tactical decision has no basis in the actual fiction. The fiction is just that the fighter and goblin charge each other and engage each other in melee combat - I mean no one imagines the fighter advances and then stops, and then the goblin advances and then stops... right? So this wise tactical decision is solely a reflection of 'metagaming the combat turns'. That bugs me. And it's probably going to continue to bug me as I don't really see a possible solution.
The problem is that you’ve already decided on the fiction before even taking the characters’ in-game actions into account. Obviously there’s no way to reconcile the in-game action of the fighter only advancing far enough that the goblin has to dash to reach him with the fiction that they both charge each other and meet in the middle, because that fiction doesn’t describe the actions the characters are actually taking in game. A more appropriate fiction would be that, judging by the goblin’s stature, the fighter estimated how quickly the goblin could run and made the tactical decision to make a slower advance, so the goblin would need to run further to reach him, potentially buying him an extra moment to get the first strike in.
But it would be really nice if for my combat decisions to be wise and tactical they could be based on the fiction instead of the turn structure.
If that bothers you, change the turn structure so that it encourages the kind of tactical decisions you want characters to make. For example, the Speed Factor Initiative from the DMG and the similar but more complex Grayhawk Initiative from Unearthed Arcana both have everyone declare their actions first and then roll initiative to determine the order in which they are executed. This removes the turn order from the decision-making process, while still maintaining the benefits of a turn-based system for the purposes of executing actions in an orderly manner.

One system I have brewed up but not implemented (because my regular players are slow decision-makers) is to have everyone declare actions in order of lowest passive perception to highest (representing the more perceptive characters being better able to read their opponents movements and react to them), then roll a flat 1d6 for initiative (representing the 6
seconds in a turn) and resolve those actions in the order of lowest roll to highest, with highest dexterity modifier breaking ties (representing characters with faster reflexes being able to act fractions of a second faster). Conceptually I like it a lot, and some day I’d love to try it with a more rules and tactics savvy group than my regulars.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
The problem is that you’ve already decided on the fiction before even taking the characters’ in-game actions into account. Obviously there’s no way to reconcile the in-game action of the fighter only advancing far enough that the goblin has to dash to reach him with the fiction that they both charge each other and meet in the middle, because that fiction doesn’t describe the actions the characters are actually taking in game. A more appropriate fiction would be that, judging by the goblin’s stature, the fighter estimated how quickly the goblin could run and made the tactical decision to make a slower advance, so the goblin would need to run further to reach him, potentially buying him an extra moment to get the first strike in.
I don't really think that works because slowing down your advance doesn't actually buy time for a first strike. The goblin could simply adjust his timing to your new pace.

Though possibly this could be treated as a feint you are using to try and create an opening. I'll have to think about that. But I'm pretty sure that there's numerous other scenarios that cannot be explained that way. So I'm a bit skeptical at this point that even if this example is answered that all will be.

If that bothers you, change the turn structure so that it encourages the kind of tactical decisions you want characters to make. For example, Mike Mearls’ Grayhawk Initiative or the DMG’s speed factor initiative has everyone declare their actions first and then roll initiative to determine the order in which they are executed. This removes the turn order from the decision-making process, while still maintaining the benefits of a turn-based system for the purposes of executing actions in an orderly manner.
Maybe, but I'm nearly absolutely positive such systems will just have different disconnects

One system I have brewed up but not implemented (because my regular players are slow decision-makers) is to have everyone declare actions in order of lowest passive perception to highest (representing the more perceptive characters being better able to read their opponents movements and react to them), then roll a flat 1d6 for initiative (representing the 6

seconds in a turn) and resolve those actions in the order of lowest roll to highest, with highest dexterity modifier breaking ties (representing characters with faster reflexes being able to act fractions of a second faster). Conceptually I like it a lot, and some day I’d love to try it with a more rules and tactics savvy group than my regulars.
I would probably have used insight. Perception just means you see what they are doing. Insight is the skill for predicting a next move.
 



Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I don't really think that works because slowing down your advance doesn't actually buy time for a first strike. The goblin could simply adjust his timing to your new pace.
Sure, and he could do so by not dashing to try and reach the fighter on the first turn, perhaps Readying to attack him when he gets in range instead.

EDIT: Also just realized a goblin is probably a bad example here since they can dash as a bonus action. Obviously you can substitute basically any other monster, just thought that was amusing to note.
Though possibly this could be treated as a feint you are using to try and create an opening. I'll have to think about that. But I'm pretty sure that there's numerous other scenarios that cannot be explained that way. So I'm a bit skeptical at this point that even if this example is answered that all will be.
My point is, if you first look at what actually happened in the game and then build a narrative to match that, this problem doesn’t really exist. The fault here is not a the system lacking narrative, but your narrative failing to account for the system.
Maybe, but I'm nearly absolutely positive such systems will just have different disconnects
Well yeah, of course they will. Any combat system you could create is still fundamentally an abstraction, and will therefore not perfectly match reality. All you can do is choose a system that models the things you consider important in ways you can be satisfied with, and build a narrative that smooths over the disconnects in a way you find acceptable.
I would probably have used insight. Perception just means you see what they are doing. Insight is the skill for predicting a next move.
Sure, that works fine.
 
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Lyxen

Great Old One
As @Charlaquin said, the problem is that you have actually decided that it was metagaming before the combat even started. First, the principle of D&D combat is that it is simultaneous and that it's only the resolution that is sequential and honestly, unless you go for a completely different system like indeed Dungeon World or Hero Wars, you will have turn because it stays tactical and it's not a computer game that can handle everything in parallel.

Moreover, the fighter staying in place and waiting for the goblin to come to him is a perfectly valid real world or fantasy world tactic, just because the fighter would be positioned better for example. And he would be expecting the stupid goblin to rush to him, only the goblin is more clever than this and also wants to draw him out, maybe to be closer to his friends, ambushed in the bushes. And maybe they don't rush, but circle each other a bit, something that you see in fiction but also in real fights when you are unsure about the adversary's capabilities and tactics (and that I've seen hundreds of times in LARPs).

So no, D&D combat is only fictionless when you decide that it is so (which is, by the way, perfectly valid if you just want a quick fight to get a few goblins out of the way, a few sword swings and gushes of blood and it's perfectly cinematic as well).
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
It doesn't have to be, it can be its own thing.

But, I don't know the number of times I have scene, in movies, A acts, B acts, A acts, B acts. etc. It can certainly feel turn based.
Well, that’s because of how action scenes in movies are choreographed and edited. Stage combat is essentially turn-based, just with very fast “turns.” If you watch real fights, they don’t play out like that. They’re generally much more chaotic, less elegant, and over much more quickly.
 

Puddles

Explorer
First things first, I would suggest you don’t dash the goblin. Instead have it also stand 35.1ft away from the fighter, (perhaps finishing with a little dance to mock the fighter’s cowardice.) As mentioned above, this causes the fiction to change. Now the fighter and the goblin are having a stand-off; neither willing to make the first move.

If your fights are becoming too cagey with the players and enemies constantly zoning each other in this manner and not closing the gap, making sure the enemies have a ranged threat to pepper them with shots can remedy this.

If you wanted to add in some house rules, you could add in a charge action. The most important aspect of a charging mechanic is making it difficult for players to know if the charge will be successful or not. In a game where all distances are known (such as D&D), RNG is a great method for adding in that unpredictable element. It could be something like:

Charge
When you take the Charge action, you gain extra movement for the current turn. To determine the increase, roll a d6 and multiple the result by 5. For example, on the roll of a 3 the creature would gain an extra 15ft of movement for the current turn. Any modifiers affecting your movement do not affect this increase. If you finish your turn within 5ft of a hostile creature you can use your bonus action to make an attack.
 

turnip_farmer

Adventurer
As @Charlaquin said, the problem is that you have actually decided that it was metagaming before the combat even started. First, the principle of D&D combat is that it is simultaneous and that it's only the resolution that is sequential and honestly, unless you go for a completely different system like indeed Dungeon World or Hero Wars, you will have turn because it stays tactical and it's not a computer game that can handle everything in parallel.
Hackmaster 5e has an interesting attempt to keep the tactical, miniatures style combat while getting rid of turns. Combat proceeds in seconds, and all characters act simultaneously each second. So rather than Dave moving 6 squares on his 6 second turn and the gibbon moving 6 squares on his, everyone moves one square on each second.

Actions have different lengths, so reloading your crossbow or casting a spell means you have to wait a few seconds before acting. Of course, though, if the situation changes you can quit reloading part way through and do something else.

Melee weapons all have a speed, representing how easy they are to use, so you make an attack against your opponent, then need to wait x many seconds to attack again depending on how heavy and awkward your weapon is.

I've never tried it out as there is far too much complexity in the rules, but I can't help but feel there's the germ of a great system in there.

And yes, I noticed that my phone changed 'goblin' to 'gibbon', but I've decided to leave it in there and stat up some dire gibbons for my next game
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Dungeon World is basically made to make combat line up with the fiction. It's much more explicitly cinematic. But the lack of tactics turns off some dnd players.

Within dnd, using side-based initiative might help things a bit. This way all the actions on each side can be resolved simultaneously
I think I looked at Dungeon World once and wasn't to keen on it. Good call on side-based initiative minimizing this.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
Hackmaster 5e has an interesting attempt to keep the tactical, miniatures style combat while getting rid of turns. Combat proceeds in seconds, and all characters act simultaneously each second. So rather than Dave moving 6 squares on his 6 second turn and the gibbon moving 6 squares on his, everyone moves one square on each second.

Actions have different lengths, so reloading your crossbow or casting a spell means you have to wait a few seconds before acting. Of course, though, if the situation changes you can quit reloading part way through and do something else.

Melee weapons all have a speed, representing how easy they are to use, so you make an attack against your opponent, then need to wait x many seconds to attack again depending on how heavy and awkward your weapon is.

I've never tried it out as there is far too much complexity in the rules, but I can't help but feel there's the germ of a great system in there.

If you like simulationism, there certainly are better systems out there, that one just sounds to me too much of something that would be much better on a computer than for TTRPG due to the complexity, but if some people are looking for that, yes, it might work a bit better if the players are disciplined enough.

And yes, I noticed that my phone changed 'goblin' to 'gibbon', but I've decided to leave it in there and stat up some dire gibbons for my next game

Good luck to them ! ;)
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
As @Charlaquin said, the problem is that you have actually decided that it was metagaming before the combat even started. First, the principle of D&D combat is that it is simultaneous and that it's only the resolution that is sequential and honestly, unless you go for a completely different system like indeed Dungeon World or Hero Wars, you will have turn because it stays tactical and it's not a computer game that can handle everything in parallel.
Maybe it would help to say this way. No matter what the narrative, the things I do within the turn based combat to be tactical aren't the same things being done in the narrative. For example, in the turn based game I stop just outside the goblins movement to get him to come to me so that I will get the first turn based attack in. So far the best narrative description we have is that I slow my movement a bit at an opportune time as a means of gaining an opening that will cause some real harm. But that still doesn't align, the fiction is about doing X to gain an opening. The turn based is about doing Y so I'll attack first.


Moreover, the fighter staying in place and waiting for the goblin to come to him is a perfectly valid real world or fantasy world tactic, just because the fighter would be positioned better for example. And he would be expecting the stupid goblin to rush to him, only the goblin is more clever than this and also wants to draw him out, maybe to be closer to his friends, ambushed in the bushes. And maybe they don't rush, but circle each other a bit, something that you see in fiction but also in real fights when you are unsure about the adversary's capabilities and tactics (and that I've seen hundreds of times in LARPs).
It's not the waiting for the goblin. It's the pausing just outside his turn based movement speed.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Sure, and he could do so by not dashing to try and reach the fighter on the first turn, perhaps Readying to attack him when he gets in range instead.

EDIT: Also just realized a goblin is probably a bad example here since they can dash as a bonus action. Obviously you can substitute basically any other monster, just thought that was amusing to note.
The can only bonus action disengage or hide.

Anyways, I don't think changing the goblins actions is a useful response.

My point is, if you first look at what actually happened in the game and then build a narrative to match that, this problem doesn’t really exist. The fault here is not a the system lacking narrative, but your narrative failing to account for the system.

I have, there's no narrative that is matching up to what's happening on the turns.

Saying, well you can mostly ignore what is happening on the turns and make up some fiction about the combat that makes sense on its own but doesn't really align to what's happening on the turns feels like a very unuseful response to this criticism.
 

Xetheral

Three-Headed Sirrush
I misread the title of this thread and thought it was going to be about D&D combat being frictionless....

(Edit to clarify: my thought was frictionless in the physical sense. As in, D&D combat taking place in the "assume a frictionless vacuum" scenario of high school physics problems. I hope everyone can teleport, fly, or brought a ranged weapon....)
 
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FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Hackmaster 5e has an interesting attempt to keep the tactical, miniatures style combat while getting rid of turns. Combat proceeds in seconds, and all characters act simultaneously each second. So rather than Dave moving 6 squares on his 6 second turn and the gibbon moving 6 squares on his, everyone moves one square on each second.

Actions have different lengths, so reloading your crossbow or casting a spell means you have to wait a few seconds before acting. Of course, though, if the situation changes you can quit reloading part way through and do something else.

Melee weapons all have a speed, representing how easy they are to use, so you make an attack against your opponent, then need to wait x many seconds to attack again depending on how heavy and awkward your weapon is.

I've never tried it out as there is far too much complexity in the rules, but I can't help but feel there's the germ of a great system in there.

And yes, I noticed that my phone changed 'goblin' to 'gibbon', but I've decided to leave it in there and stat up some dire gibbons for my next game
That's interesting. Though I think you still suffer from the same problem, it just happens at the distance 1 second away instead of 6 seconds away ;)
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I think I have the start of a system in my mind that might could address this concern.

Basic Idea: At least for melee combat, you roll 'initiative' upon becoming engaged in melee to see who gets to act first. If the engager wins he attacks now, if his enemy wins then he may attacks immediately before you as if it was his turn.

I've not yet decided how to best extend that premise to ranged allies and groups of multiple PCs/NPCs
 

The greatest obstacle for fiction are players and DM.
It start when both decide to use a grid, or when a player ask how exactly far away is the goblin? When a player is more satisfied about optimizing its action economy than making a cool move, or the DM say no to any fiction or cinematic move.
And most of all the Fear of DM fiat!
 

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