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Help Wanted - Fans of Combat Mechanics

Sam Crow

Villager
Hi everyone. I introduced myself over here and asked if this forum is a good place to start a thread to get some help reviewing the very beginnings of a proposed melee combat system I've been working on.

If you're a fan of realistic, harsh combat systems such those in Riddle of Steel, Song of Swords, and the like - or if you're one of those guys like me who paused a hundred times and ran a frame-by-frame of the battle with the bandits in Black Death - then you might be willing to help me get some fresh eyes on this system.

Edit - I've changed a lot of the front-end information based on feedback given. I appreciate that feedback and hope to keep it coming as I refine this idea and try to communicate it more clearly.​
 
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Sam Crow

Villager
Table of Contents
  1. Attacking - Momentum
  2. Attacking - Commitments
  3. Defending - Defensive Posture
The Conceptual Summary used to be here but it was dense and confusing so, for now, I'm removing it until I have everything worked out. The Mechanical Summary below is probably even more dense and confusing but I need to leave it for now. I think when I have all the sections written out clearly and concisely, I'll be able to clean up the Mechanical Summary quite a bit.

Each post in the Table of Contents should have a description, an example, and a notes section where I'll put some random thoughts on the ideas behind the mechanic described in the post.​
 
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Sam Crow

Villager
Overview

This proposed combat system offers a unique experience to connoisseurs of battle by capturing the story of every combat frame-by-frame. Each engagement, strike, parry, counterstrike, block, dodge, and other technique is resolved quickly and logically through a single mechanic.

Breaking combat down to this depth means that every maneuver which is assumed in other systems is tested in this one. Each engagement springs naturally from the last, building tension as one opponent comes closer to victory and the other to defeat. One tactical mistake can turn the tide at the literal flip of a coin. Parry when you should have blocked and you can lose an arm. Strike when you should have parried and you can lose your life. Fights in this system are quite deadly, and require risk management and strategic intelligence.

This isn't for everyone. While each frame of battle is resolved with a single mechanic - and, therefore, goes faster than other comparable systems - there are simply more frames in this system. Therefore, the whole combat will take longer. If you prefer fighting wave after wave of enemies in a single session, you may not like this system. Within it, every combat takes center-stage and a single encounter is designed to be dramatic enough that it becomes a story within a story.

As a consequence, however, gamemasters need not generate endless encounters to keep their players' attention. In most compelling compelling stories, there are usually few violent encounters. But those encounters are highly dramatic and have a big impact on the larger story.

Moreover, gamemasters need not make up descriptive fillers in this system. Here, if the gamemaster announces Your relentless onslaught drives your enemy back to the edge of the wall only to have him parry and counterstrike at the last moment! it's because that actually happened in the game. The battles here tell the story of themselves, leaving the gamemaster to translate them to the players in his or her own style.

Finally, this system recognizes that a combat is actually a composition of many small competitions of strength and skill that must be resolved before a combatant is prepared to actually wound his enemy. This system captures and celebrates those competitions; positioning, timing, energy management, and momentum are all brought out in consequential color. As a result, the varying abilities of each character in this system come to the fore and no two opponents will ever be exactly the same.

Continue to Core Mechanic or return to the Table of Contents.​
 
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Sam Crow

Villager
I've removed the Mechanical Summary because it was too dense and convoluted. I hope to circle back to it later once I have everything worked out.
 
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Bilharzia

Fish Priest
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Sam Crow

Villager
You've gotten so jargon heavy that I couldn't follow.
Ah, I appreciate that. I feel like I can't have both the game speed and complexity without front loading a bunch of jargon.

I think I can clear it up a bit for now at least. Let me try with an example. I’ll try to touch on all the mechanics above.

Suppose you have two fighters, Al and Bob. For now, we’ll say they have roughly the same skill level and are equipped with roughly the same arms and armor. They want to fight each other and each is ready to fight. Here’s generally how that would go.

Whomever has the higher skill with his weapon goes first. If they are tied, flip a coin. Let’s say Al wins.

Al decides to attack. Therefore he drops into offensive posture and Bob drops into defensive posture.

Al engages and Bob blocks with his shield. Al wins the exchange, building momentum and forcing Bob back, not gambling on a strike but instead overcoming Bob's defenses.

Al presses the attack, trying to build his momentum. However, Bob parries in a successful exchange, ending Al’s momentum, and counterattacks.

Unable to parry because he is exposed, Al manages to evade Bob’s counterattack successfully but, his exertions having caught up with him a little bit, stays on the defensive.

Bob continues to engage, building his own momentum in a series of exchanges until he sees an opening. Seizing the opportunity, he commits to a strike, piercing Al’s defenses and landing a blow.


That’s pretty much the flow of things. I think this system allows resolution of all of the above very quickly once we get past all the terms.​
 
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Bilharzia

Fish Priest
There is not a single thing about anything that you have written here which makes any sense. I recommend you speak to a friend about this and work out what you are trying to say.
 

Sam Crow

Villager
There is not a single thing about anything that you have written here which makes any sense. I recommend you speak to a friend about this and work out what you are trying to say.
Yikes. As in it seems like crazy ramblings? Even the example right above? I felt like that flows pretty logically.
 
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I'm going to echo the critiques espoused thus far: your text is lengthy and rife with jargon. It is exceedingly unfriendly to anyone trying to learn the system. Compare it to a very simplistic description of mechanics:

Attack Rolls​

When you make an attack, your attack roll determines whether the attack hits or misses. To make an attack roll, roll a d20 and add the appropriate modifiers. If the total of the roll plus modifiers equals or exceeds the target's Armor Class (AC), the attack hits. The AC of a character is determined at character creation, whereas the AC of a monster is in its stat block.

Modifiers to the Roll​

When a character makes an attack roll, the two most common modifiers to the roll are an ability modifier and the character's proficiency bonus. When a monster makes an attack roll, it uses whatever modifier is provided in its stat block.

Ability Modifier. The ability modifier used for a melee weapon attack is Strength, and the ability modifier used for a ranged weapon attack is Dexterity. Weapons that have the finesse or thrown property break this rule.

Some spells also require an attack roll. The ability modifier used for a spell attack depends on the spellcasting ability of the spellcaster.

Proficiency Bonus. You add your proficiency bonus to your attack roll when you attack using a weapon with which you have proficiency, as well as when you attack with a spell.

I'd be even inclined to Strunk and White this down further.

When you make a melee attack roll, roll 1d20 + your Strength bonus + your proficiency bonus vs. your target's AC. If you meet or exceed the AC, you roll for damage.
Contrast that with your own text:
A commitment (also called a strike) is an attempt by an attacker to actually hit a target on a defender’s body. A commitment is made using any and all accumulated momentum to add coins to an attacker’s strike and thereby increase his chance of success. Thus, a commitment does not build momentum but, rather, costs momentum.
An unsuccessful commitment leaves an attacker exposed in the next instant. An exposed combatant is unable to perform any offensive or defensive maneuvers. Therefore, a commitment must be undertaken with caution and timing. A successful commitment breaches an opponent’s defenses with a success score equal to the exchange score of the committed strike minus the exchange score of the defensive maneuver. The success score is deducted from the defender’s avoidance and any points left over constitute contact with the opponent’s body, causing trauma (we’ll deal with the effects of trauma at a later time).
I understand what you're saying here (broadly) but it's obtuse and user-unfriendly. You will need to simplify. Example:

COMMITMENT
Flip a number of coins equal to [Weapon Skill]. Add additional coins equal to your Momentum and clear your Momentum pool. Count the number of successes and compare to the defender's successes. If the attacker meets or exceeds the defender's roll, he deals damage. If he does not, he's exposed.
 

Bilharzia

Fish Priest
Yikes. As in it seems like crazy ramblings? Even the example right above? I felt like that flows pretty logically.
What are the skills? How are skills measured? What is a success? How do skills influence success? How does Al win the exchange? What is momentum? How is it measured? How does it affect skills or a skill contest? If Al engages first, why does he attack again immediately afterwards? what determines this? How does Bob parry? What determines this?

Not a single moment has any explanation.

Start with the basic mechanic, explain simply and clearly how that basic mechanic works.
 

Sam Crow

Villager
What are the skills? How are skills measured? What is a success? How do skills influence success? How does Al win the exchange? What is momentum? How is it measured? How does it affect skills or a skill contest? If Al engages first, why does he attack again immediately afterwards? what determines this? How does Bob parry? What determines this?

Not a single moment has any explanation.

Start with the basic mechanic, explain simply and clearly how that basic mechanic works.
Well I haven’t gotten to that part yet. Let me give each mechanic a shot. I recognize what I’m trying to do is tricky - give an overall explanation of the whole system first without explaining each mechanic. It’s admittedly a brain dump. But if what I’ve already posted is already too clunky imagine what it would look like if I broke down each mechanic in it.

I intend to go item by item. I agree that if I can’t explain each step succinctly and clearly then I oughtta go back to the drawing board.
 
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Sam Crow

Villager
I'm going to echo the critiques espoused thus far: your text is lengthy and rife with jargon. It is exceedingly unfriendly to anyone trying to learn the system. Compare it to a very simplistic description of mechanics:


I'd be even inclined to Strunk and White this down further.


Contrast that with your own text:


I understand what you're saying here (broadly) but it's obtuse and user-unfriendly. You will need to simplify. Example:
I understand. I especially like your addressing the reader directly.
 

Sam Crow

Villager
Core Mechanic

Description


Every maneuver in combat has its own skill level. That skill level is a combination of factors (to be described later) including the combatant’s physical abilities, his proficiency with the item he’s using, and the characteristics of the item itself.

When engaged in combat, you’re either attacking (that is, engaging or committing to strike) or you’re defending an attack (that is, blocking, evading, or parrying).

When attacking, you flip a number of coins equal to your skill level plus any momentum you’ve gained plus or minus any situational modifiers.

When defending, you flip a number of coins equal to your skill level plus or minus any situational modifiers (defenders do not have momentum).

The winner of the exchange is the one with the most heads. He subtracts the number of heads his opponent got from the number of heads he got. The remaining heads become points that can be used for maneuvers in the following exchange as described in the type of maneuver, below.

The winner of an exchange gets to act first in the next exchange.

Example A

Al engages Bob. Al has a skill level of 10 when engaging with his sword. Al has not gained any momentum so far and there are no situational modifiers. Al flips 10 coins and gets 5 heads.

Bob parries Al. Bob has a skill level of 10 when parrying with his sword. There are no situational modifiers. Bob flips 10 coins and gets 4 heads.

Al has won the exchange and gained one point of momentum while Bob must escape his square to one of Al's choosing. If Al presses his attack in the following exchange, he will flip 11 coins against Bob’s 5.


Example B

In the next exchange, Al continues to engage, trying to build more momentum. He flips his 11 coins and gets 6 heads.

Bob again parries. He flips his 10 coins and gets 7 heads.

Bob has won the exchange by 1 point. If he elects to counterattack, he shifts immediately to offensive posture in the next exchange and attacks with 1 momentum while Al is still in offensive posture and can't parry.

Bob need not counterattack; he can use the point he gained in other ways, such as to recover ardor or avoidance.


Notes

Conceptually, success just means doing something better than your opponent such as engaging better than he evades or parrying better than he engages. The effects of success can be subtle (such as gaining better positon) or dramatic (such as cutting his hand off of his arm) depending upon the circumstances.

Next

Proceed to Beginning Combat or return to the Table of Contents.​
 
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Puddles

Explorer
On a quick read, the first thing that jumps out to me is this is a very crunchy system but uses coin flips for its RNG. This strikes me as an interesting choice because I would imagine players that are after crunchy systems would not be the same who also enjoy flipping coins while playing an RPG. Also, flipping 10 coins will take substantially longer than say rolling 10 d6 and counting the dice of 4+, slowing the system down.

Have you considered a card based system instead? There could be a deck that the attacker draws from and a deck the defender draws from - or there could be a single deck and the cards have a top half (used when attacking) and a lower half (used when defending).

All of the little bits you've added like parrying and counter attacking could be cards that are played in sequence. This might recreate the same feeling of fencing and delivering ripostes as players go back and forth playing cards to counter each other's last move before someone lands a blow. :)
 


Sam Crow

Villager
Virtual toss makes it instant. For tactile you can also use those tiny coins colored different on each side. You flip them all at once and it’s easy to see. Or yeah dice are fine but two colors no numbers you could do too. Hadn’t thought about cards. Seems intriguing but different system.
 

Bilharzia

Fish Priest
Look up the Ubiquity RPG, it uses what you are trying to figure out - a die pool system based on success/failure, or d2 dice. You can use any dice and just count the odds or evens. You can get Ubiquity dice which reduce the number of dice you actually need to throw.

Runeslinger has a number of videos going through the system, this is a big mechanics one:

I am afraid you have spent far too long talking to yourself. I now have a hazy idea of what you are trying to do, which is - in a fight, the opponents slowing build up an abstract resource called "MOMENTUM", this can be used to overcome an opponent's defences. That is one of your mechanics. You have invented a way of slowing down combat to simulate walking through a pool of treacle, and this is just the beginning, there is also "trauma, ardor, and avoidance" ...

Try playing out a combat with someone you know, you might find a way out of this. Look at the Ubiquity system, as it is doing something like you are at least where skills, dice and mechanics are concerned - there are over 100 Ubiquity system books on DTRPG, and many Runeslinger videos about it on youtube.
 

Sam Crow

Villager
Beginning Combat

Description

There is no need to determine initiative. When you and your opponent choose to fight, you simply declare whether you attack (that is, engage or commit to a strike) or defend (that is, block, evade, or parry), and proceed from there. If you both choose to attack, you do so using your chosen attack maneuver. Whoever wins the exchange is deemed to have successfully attacked and enters offensive posture. Whoever loses is deemed to have unsuccessfully parried and enters defensive posture.

Thereafter, combat is resolved in exchanges; brief, elastic moments lasting from less than a second to several seconds depending upon the circumstances. In any consecutive series of exchanges, whoever has won the preceding exchange gets to act first in the exchange following it.

Should the opponents disengage during the combat - say, to rest - then they reengage per the rules for beginning combat.

Example A

Al and Bob square off, weapons drawn and ready to fight. Al drops into defensive posture, waiting for Bob to make the first move. Bob engages, entering offensive posture. The first exchange begins.

Example B

Al and Bob each declares that he wishes to engage the other. Each flips a number of coins equal to his engagement skill plus or minus any modifiers.

Al flips 10 coins and counts 3 heads. Bob flips 10 coins and counts 5 heads. Their swords clash. Bob has won the initial exchange and therefore is deemed to have successfully engaged Al. Al has lost the initial exchange and is therefore deemed to have unsuccessfully parried Bob. Because Bob has won the initial exchange, he gets to act first in the next exchange.


Example C

Al and Bob mutually disengage when Al ceases pressing the attack and Bob remains in defensive posture. They circle each other for a time, trying to catch their breath. At any point, either may attack the other, in which case the one that doesn't attack assumes a defensive posture. If both attack, they reengage as per Example B.

Notes

As should become clear later, ideas like speed, weapon weight, and other concepts traditionally related to "initiative" are already factored into the relevant skill for each maneuver. Therefore, there's no need to roll it or determine it separately.

In the case of multiple combats occurring (e.g., two or more pairs of fighters engaging each other), the above still applies. Should it become important to determine which pair of combatants starts fighting first, the GM can either simply choose or start with the pair that has the highest ratings in the relevant skill they're using.

Next

Proceed to Attacking - Offensive Posture or return to the Table of Contents.​
 
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Sam Crow

Villager
Look up the Ubiquity RPG, it uses what you are trying to figure out - a die pool system based on success/failure, or d2 dice. You can use any dice and just count the odds or evens. You can get Ubiquity dice which reduce the number of dice you actually need to throw.

Runeslinger has a number of videos going through the system, this is a big mechanics one:

I am afraid you have spent far too long talking to yourself. I now have a hazy idea of what you are trying to do, which is - in a fight, the opponents slowing build up an abstract resource called "MOMENTUM", this can be used to overcome an opponent's defences. That is one of your mechanics. You have invented a way of slowing down combat mechanics, and this is just the beginning, there is also "trauma, ardor, and avoidance" ...

Try playing out a combat with someone you know, you mind find a way out of this. Look at the Ubiquity system, as it is doing something like you are at least where skills, dice and mechanics are concerned - there are over 100 Ubiquity system books on DTRPG, and many Runeslinger videos about it on youtube.
Alright. I’ll check out the video. I don’t have anyone to play test my system with (which is kind of why im here). But I’m gonna keep posting in case someone else comes along in the next few who thinks it might be worth looking into. Failing that I’ll move on.

Edit - regarding “slowing down combat mechanics,” that depends on what you mean. I think the mechanics of the combat will move along very quickly - faster than say, a round of 1v1 combat in D&D. But the combat itself will last much longer because each moment of the combat is dealt with. The combat will tell its own story based on the math with the GM only adding flavor to each exchange.
 
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