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Quasi-Playtest: OSR Fighter

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
You are making combat involved, with a lot of dice rolling, with all these defense and parry and whatnot actions. That's not OSR. OSR was pretty plain, with only how to do initiative, and the optional weapon speed and vs. AC table slowing it down... and they were optional.

A fighter having more defense rolls is, mathematically, the same thing as the fighter having more hit points. The fighter having more attacks is the same thing as the fighter doing more damage per attack. . .

But you are introducing a LOT of dice rolling, which slows down play. So you might want to think about that a bit harder, and have all these extra attacks a more 'hardcore' version of what you are trying to do.
That's a good reminder; OSR is the goal, here. I'm trying to walk the line, which any interesting OSR should do, of making a game that feels old-school without reproducing the old-school rules verbatim.

You'll have to help me though; I don't see any extra rolling. With three actions per round, each character makes only three d20 rolls each round. Of these, movement doesn't often require a roll, and parrying assumes you rolled a 10. So that's one d20 roll in a typical round. Also, damage rolls are limited to a single die, so you won't see 10d6 of anything occurring (although the Magic-User can add a hero point to a damage roll with the right perk, and some spells attack multiple targets at the same time, for one damage die each).

Unless...you're concerned about the 10th-level fighter's five actions in a round, and possibly seeing a party of 10th level characters each taking 5 actions in a round, for up to 20 rolls in the round (not including NPCs!). Consider:

  • Movement and parrying generally don't require rolls.
  • As I mentioned to Lanefan, these rounds play out quite differently than what you might be used to. Each one feels more like a scene than a combat round.
  • Rolls draw rolls. An attack tends to draw a parry, as well as ripostes, and movement. So when one action happens, it's generally in a clump of other actions, which means the PCs aren't stuck making 20 rolls in a monotonous sequence.

If I recall, AD&D2e allowed a character to make her second attack at the end of the initiative order. So if you're right, I could require three different actions of the three standard ones: fight/magic, parry, and move. With additional actions occurring later as a sort of tacked-on round, and allowing a little more flexibility of action type. I don't mind a slow combat round, as long as it's interesting. So if five-actions-each turns out to be awful for the high-level party, I'll know what to do!
 

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Aelryinth

Explorer
It may not sound like much, but each dice roll now comes, by your own words, with framing a scene.
Now multiply by three to six or more. Then include henchman. Now include the bad guys.
Then add in the normal conversation and tactical planning that goes on at the table.
I'm just pointing out that same effect through different mechanics might be a better way to go. Adding in defense and parry rolls increases complexity, it doesn't reduce it.

People like to poo-poo armor as something to be hit, and not a damage absorber, but the math basically goes back to the same thing most of the time: Not getting hit is the same thing as getting hit but soaking up some of the damage... or, conversely, having more hit points.

Just a reminder that what you want to do might be done more easily and elegantly a simpler way. But if you like throwing dice, it's your system.
 

MattW

Explorer
How I would do it (attack five puny, yet mean, kobolds with darts): use one action to move to cover. With initiative, this would allow dart attacks, but the distance would reduce those attacks to minimum (1) damage. Use another action to hide near a choke point, so no more than one or two kobolds could reach me at a time. Use final action to wait until wandering kobolds reach sword-range and attack. Non-actions would include whistling to draw them in.

Approach 2: try to drain their ammo by inviting attacks. Use a parry action to attempt to evade -all- incoming darts for one action - a little song and dance? The difficulty of this parry is higher than that of a single dart, but with good armor, dex, or parry skill (for defensive classes), five kobolds could suddenly find their hands empty and an angry fighter charging at them.

Also, think about how this situation would play out in cinema, not typical RPG: fighter pops his head out from cover, 5 darts fly at him. Fighter ducks back behind cover and makes witty comment to nearby ally.

What? Why are your kobolds suicidal? Are they clinically depressed after seeing this wise-cracking paragon of martial virtue?

These are the actions I would expect after the Fighter has taken cover.

1. Kobolds breath sigh of relief. Messenger runs off to alert rest of the tribe and/or their employer.
2. Remaining kobolds stay ready to throw darts if the Fighter pokes his head out. They do NOT approach.
3. If he charges, they throw a dart and scatter. They've done their job. (They've given time for the alarm to be sounded)

But that's just a question of DM style.

Your final paragraph mentions "cinema". Is it your intention to have a more "cinematic" approach to combat? If so, there are probably simpler, quicker, and less dice-heavy ways to do it. Pulp Cthulhu, or Adventure! could provide inspiration.

QUICKER is important, by the way. You said that each round of combat would play like an entire scene. Which is great if it works for you and your players - and I can see it working well in a wargame that attempts to simulate gladiatorial combat. OTOH, some people who are used to "old school D&D" may find that boring and frustrating. I know some players will take an attitude something like... "It's taken us an hour to defeat one encounter. We're only 20 feet from where we started! Where's the plot?"
 
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GMMichael

Guide of Modos
QUICKER is important, by the way. You said that each round of combat would play like an entire scene. Which is great if it works for you and your players - and I can see it working well in a wargame that attempts to simulate gladiatorial combat. OTOH, some people who are used to "old school D&D" may find that boring and frustrating. I know some players will take an attitude something like... "It's taken us an hour to defeat one encounter. We're only 20 feet from where we started! Where's the plot?"
Oh yeah. I take that attitude every time I finish a D&D combat... which is why I'm not basing my OSR on D&D. That being said, there will be similarities.*

One reason the scenes-of-combat don't seem slow is that PCs can act at any time, which means they're involved instead of waiting between turns. PCs still have the option of saying "I attack" and then rolling the d20 and a damage die (somehow, the less-boring possibility, per your quote?), but it's hard to get a role-playing- or difficulty-bonus from the GM if you don't describe what your character is up to. Another reason these combats don't take too long: unparried attacks go straight to damage. So there's no "slog" of wearing down hit points, unless your opponent is well-armored and intent on staying defensive.

*For example, several editions ago, a skill check was just a glimmer in a designer's eye. Ability checks were almost an afterthought, because non-combat play was supposed to be about creative thinking, not rules-thinking. The combat rules spelled out what each class could do in combat, effectively limiting players to those options. So I'll be using a list of combat actions, effectively creating the wargame you mention (which is also the origin of D&D): fight, parry, move, hide, flee, cast spell, save(ing throw), grab, and other.
 

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