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View Full Version : Reworking the combat system [3.x, peach]



lesser_minion
2009-06-16, 03:23 PM
Over the last few months, I've been trying to think of ways to make combat more interesting, partly by demystifying the most important combat options (Grapple, I'm looking at you...) and also by trying to incorporate more options into the basic system itself.

I know a popular fix for d20/3.x combat is to simply replace fighters, monks and paladins with their ToB equivalents, but I have a few problems with that approach:


While fighters et al. should be the best at fighting, I don't like the idea of making every interesting melee option into a martial artist exclusive. IMO, representing martial arts techniques as something akin to nonmagical spells just doesn't feel right. I can just about accept systems like the ToB one and the Vancian one for spellcasters, but I think the system should really encourage melee characters to improvise more in the very least. There are problems in the combat system which Tome of Battle doesn't fix for the majority of characters I don't own Tome of Battle, so I would only be able to replace the fighter.


At the moment, the basic concept I'm thinking of using is to change attack rolls so that they establish an opponent as being on the back foot - thus vulnerable to various cunning exploits which have the potential to make them even more vulnerable. There is then a separate roll to see if the attack can penetrate armour to do damage.

The first attack roll will go up against a 'defence' score, which improves with dexterity or intelligence and armour (Int to AC isn't much of a stretch in 4e, and Int to defence makes even more sense, allowing characters to benefit from 'fighting smart').

The second roll goes up against the part of the target's AC which represents how tough they are - armour, natural armour, and possibly Con modifier in the new rules.

In addition to going for a straightforward attack, a character can also attempt to apply one or more 'exploits' - these each have a modifier, which is the amount by which the second attack roll must succeed in order to apply the exploit. If an attacker wishes to apply more than one exploit, the difficulties are added together, and the whole manoeuvre is treated as one exploit.

Characters can also choose to perform a nondamaging attack - this treats the opponent's AC as 10, making exploits easier to apply.

The available exploits will include most of the exisiting special attacks, including sunder and disarm, alongside a variety of called shots, blinding and stunning attacks, and various grapple-based manoeuvres. Characters will also have the opportunity to obtain further exploits through feats, class features and other options - this allows for things like supernaturally-enhanced martial arts (possibly quite similar to the Desert Wind).

The number of effects that can be applied to a manoeuvre will be limited to one fifth the attacker's Combat bonus - this will probably replace iterative attacks.

What does everyone think? Good idea? Horrible? More information required?

I'd like to see what people think of the concept before going on to write out the entire thing, as it could be a pretty big project, and lead into a pretty big project as well.

J.Gellert
2009-06-16, 03:49 PM
Don't do away with iterative attacks.

I like the idea of maneuvers that anyone can do in melee, and I think I haven't seen them used outside of the Conan D20 RPG. Can you post an example of how you visualize a maneuver, rules-wise?

Endalia
2009-06-16, 03:52 PM
It does seem like a decent system, though it requires much more info before I can say more.

One thing though: ToB accomplishes most of those things. It's not just martial arts, it can be, but it can just as well be something else entirely, like self taught techniques. I'd say you try to look through ToB before you decide on anything.

lesser_minion
2009-06-16, 04:07 PM
Well, a common technique would be something like:

Blinding Attack
Throwing dirt into your enemy's face, or simply hitting them, you force them to concentrate on clearing their vision instead of attacking you

Manoeuvre DC modifier: + opponent's fortitude bonus.

Effect: Your attack makes your opponent almost unable to see for a round. Treat them as blinded. They must also make a Fortitude save (DC 10 + 1/2 Combat bonus + Intelligence modifier) or suffer longer-term eye damage, imposing a -2 circumstance penalty on all checks requiring eyesight. This secondary effect can be removed by a heal check (using the same DC as the save).


The problem with iterative attacks is really the full-round action part. It means, among other things, that (unless you can obtain Pounce) your character is less effective when charging. I could offer iterative attacks which work as a standard action, but it would mean a lot of dice rolls going off. A high base attack bonus will be currently rewarded with the ability to add more exploits onto each attack and a higher defence score (very useful), so it hasn't lost its importance.

Splitting AC up into a 'defence' component and an 'armour/toughness' stat also has the nice benefit of reducing the advantage given to large opponents - smaller characters are a lot better at surviving by getting out of the way of their opponent's attacks. At the same time, those opponents will have trouble guarding the space around them, which makes it easier for things like climbing onto the back of an ogre and slitting its throat to take place.

Devils_Advocate
2009-06-16, 04:22 PM
I dislike the 6-second 2-action round that 3.x D&D has. You're gamishly prevented from using 2 standard actions in one turn even though they don't take more time than move actions, and then additional attacks and spells are added back in at higher levels via iterative attacks and Quicken Spell.

I have a better, simpler idea. Each round is 3 seconds, and you get one standard action, one minor action, and a bunch of free actions. No more of a character being unable to respond to something because he's waiting his turn in what's supposed to represent simultaneous combat.

Nothing "provokes an attack of opportunity"; some things just don't take effect until the start of your next turn, and if you fail a Concentration check before then, then you lose the action. Simple.

lesser_minion
2009-06-16, 04:26 PM
I have a better, simpler idea. Each round is 3 seconds, and you get one standard action, one minor action, and a bunch of free actions. No more of a character being unable to respond to something because he's waiting his turn in what's supposed to represent simultaneous combat.

This would work fine to fix the charging issue, and certainly makes sense. I'm already tempted to add in one action per round. On its own, however, it doesn't fix everything I'm trying to fix.

This variant will also try to fix:

The overpowering nature of larger monsters. Splitting armour and dodging/blocking bonuses up means that monsters are more vulnerable to adventurers crawling on their backs and slitting their throats, and adventurers will have a snowball's chance of dodging a monster's attacks as well. The lack of rules for injuring particular body parts. This variant adds in called shots and extra attacks allowing you to debilitate an opponent in melee. Problems with special combat tactics which are only feasible against humanoids - the basic options will be expanded to include things which are effective against monsters. Reluctance on the part of players to try spectacular stunts, and complaints about a lack of variety in combat - in the very least, these rules should tempt players to try something more interesting than full attack. The disparity between ranged attacks and melee attacks. Ranged attacks will have their own exploits.





These rules are also not much harder to work with than the existing rules, or the 4e rules. Everything you could do before, you will probably still be able to do. Some things might even become simpler to use or simpler to understand - grappling, in particular, will hopefully see a simplification.

The only real change to 'simple' attacks, aside from (probably) removing iterative attacks, is that rolling to see whether or not your attack was parried or dodged is now part of a separate dice roll.

I'll try to work on phrasing all of this so that it doesn't confuse the heck out of everyone.

lesser_minion
2009-06-17, 02:15 PM
OK, bump?

I can get to work and write some of this out in full if people really need to see a nearly complete version before they comment.

Djinn_in_Tonic
2009-06-17, 02:52 PM
I can get to work and write some of this out in full if people really need to see a nearly complete version before they comment.

This. :smallbiggrin:

It's an interesting idea, and has been sort of done before (Tome of Battle to an extent, d20 Rebirth to an extent [I'm thinking about the fencer], and 4e to an extent), but I always love to see new takes on it.

lesser_minion
2009-06-17, 03:11 PM
This. :smallbiggrin:

It's an interesting idea, and has been sort of done before (Tome of Battle to an extent, d20 Rebirth to an extent [I'm thinking about the fencer], and 4e to an extent), but I always love to see new takes on it.

*Crawls into cage and gets to work*

OK, I'll see what I can do.

I should probably go back and look through the way Fax handled improving combat, actually - I paid a lot more attention to the d20r Sorcerer than to the other classes.

The problem I have with most fixes is that they concentrate on class balance - providing better alternatives to the weak classes, whereas I think a large chunk of the problems within the system come from combat itself being pretty boring.

In reality, though, this catches the main complaints I have about D&D combat, whereas ToB catches the complaints people have about class balance, and fixes combat for the people who do the most fighting.

The basic idea behind this is that anyone should have the opportunity to do awesome stuff in melee - it's just the really, ridiculously awesome stuff that's exclusive to certain characters (things like running over any surface no matter how unstable).

cnsvnc
2009-06-17, 08:05 PM
The basic idea behind this is that anyone should have the opportunity to do awesome stuff in melee - it's just the really, ridiculously awesome stuff that's exclusive to certain characters (things like running over any surface no matter how unstable).

But if you extend that to other aspects of the game (magic, skills, etc), it basically removes the point of classes. I know you aren't interested in doing that, but still that'd somewhat weaken the point of the fighter if the mage can do awesome stuff in melee as well.

Not that you should let that stop you.

lesser_minion
2009-06-18, 04:52 AM
But if you extend that to other aspects of the game (magic, skills, etc), it basically removes the point of classes. I know you aren't interested in doing that, but still that'd somewhat weaken the point of the fighter if the mage can do awesome stuff in melee as well.

Not that you should let that stop you.

These options mainly cover the weakest of the heroic/awesome stuff - climbing the back of a dragon and slitting its throat, throwing sand into the BBEG's face, grabbing your opponent and throwing them off a cliff, tripping or forcing your opponent to the ground and so on.

They're basically meant to make the existing special attacks more viable, while also adding in new attacks along similar lines, such as headshots, stunning attacks, and the option to grab an opponent and climb up their back.

The extra exploits available to high-level fighters, monks, paladins and rangers will include things like running along a forest canopy, leaping many times their own height and so on. Low-mid levels will be a bit harder, but they will still get awesome and exclusive stuff there as well.

Chrono22
2009-06-18, 05:10 AM
Some time in the next week I'll be posting my progress on a new rpg system in totality. Your ideas actually fall very close to mine- but you seem to be running up against some of the pitfalls of 3.5. Heavy reliance on classes, iterative attacks being tied to BAB, the segregation of skills, combat, and magic...
I'll try to keep this short: There are no classes or levels in my system. Just experience, and the things you can spend it on. Things such as attribute increases, advancing skills, and capstones. Capstones are similar to 3.5 feats, but with secondary benefits. They include things like stances, maneuvers, the ability to create new prepared spells, and new uses for skills.
Skills in my system entirely replace BAB, ac, and saves. Skills designated as "combat" skills (and in certain circumstances a particular magic skill) can be used to defend or attack. Otherwise my system works similarly to yours. Combat maneuvers or "stunts" as you might call them modify your skill attempts. And based on your attributes and your armor, the damage from attacks is reduced.

Coincidentally, I've already implemented one action turns with my system. I've also done away with iterative attacks except in the form of capstones that allow you to take additional rushed actions.

lesser_minion
2009-06-18, 05:13 AM
Well, another thing I wanted to avoid was changing the system too far from the basic D&D one. I could homebrew up something completely new and radical, but I don't particularly mind sticking with a class and level-based system.

I also don't really consider classes and levels to be inherently worse than a points-based system.

In any event, the supreme warriors of Wuxia and the traditional mages of western mythology are both exceptionally demanding paths. I don't mind limiting characters to following those paths to completion before taking up another one.

Chrono22
2009-06-18, 05:23 AM
I also don't really consider classes and levels to be inherently better or worse than a points-based system.
I don't think they are better or worse, except that the entire concept of a class structure is contrary to the intent behind allowing flexibility in design. The characters you could make in a class and level based system is inherently limited by whatever the designer of said classes wanted them to be.
I suppose having classes would be easier for teaching new players- but so would templates for a point buy system. So, I don't see how having hard fast classes really adds anything to the roleplaying experience. It just seems like extra overhead to me. From a play and design perspective.
There are some issues with balancing one capstone in respect to another, but once that's done a "point buy" system as you called it could be very elegant.

lesser_minion
2009-06-18, 05:35 AM
Point buy has its advantages:

Characters are much more customisable, and the end results of the system feel more natural than in a class/level system Mechanics are typically unified to a greater extent than in D&D Experience picking pockets can make you better at picking pockets. Experience at running can make you better at running. Experience at beheading orcs can make you better at beheading orcs. This is an improvement on D&D's system where you can study physics by erm... beheading orcs.


However, this doesn't mean that classes and levels don't have advantages of their own:

Balance between characters is often much easier to achieve (an advantage which cannot be reproduced with templates) The various abilities characters can obtain are often easier to explain in terms of the character, as characters follow clearly-defined archetypes Players must consciously choose a path, and it becomes harder to change path the more invested a character is - this mirrors the real world to an extent. Being given the choice of several clearly-defined archetypes makes character creation much faster and easier. It also gives players a much clearer idea where to go next, which is an advantage you cannot reproduce with templates.

Chrono22
2009-06-18, 05:50 AM
Point buy has its advantages:

Characters are much more customisable, and the end results of the system feel more natural than in a class/level system Mechanics are typically unified to a greater extent than in D&D Experience picking pockets can make you better at picking pockets. Experience at running can make you better at running. Experience at beheading orcs can make you better at beheading orcs. This is an improvement on D&D's system where you can study physics by erm... beheading orcs.


However, this doesn't mean that classes and levels don't have advantages of their own:

Balance is often easier to achieve The various abilities characters can obtain are often easier to explain in terms of the character, as characters follow clearly-defined archetypes Players must consciously choose a path, and it becomes harder to change path the more invested a character is - this mirrors the real world to an extent.

Hmm, I didn't know the list function for this forum. Thanks for that, it will come in handy.

I don't think the advantages of classes and levels you've presented are necessarily because of classes and levels. It doesn't follow that designing a list of powers and class features, and comparing them en masse against another large list of powers and class features is easier. It seems to me, class based design is much harder, with more potential for exploits since it is easier to overlook an aspect of a class. I also think levels are a bad form of balance- they impose it on the game. Balance should come naturally, from player choices and the cohesion of the rules, not from an arbitrary set of increasing scores. Finally, I've never seen people use the archetypes you are referring to as more than a baseline for a build or concept. It seems to me that people more often multiclass to create the desired build for their individual character. If people were satisfied with classes as-is, multiclassing would be unnecessary.


Being given the choice of several clearly-defined archetypes makes character creation much faster and easier. It also gives players a much clearer idea where to go next, which is an advantage you cannot reproduce with templates.
You can so reproduce it with templates. Listing a set of archetypes, and for each including a template for said archetype, works just as well as a class- except it's less work, and gives the user more flexibility and choices since he always has the ability to change or replace an aspect of the proposed build.
A point buy, or experience buy system as mine goes, can have all of the things you are talking about. I think I'll stop derailing your topic now. I look forward to getting your input when I post my rpg to these boards.

lesser_minion
2009-06-19, 03:48 AM
I don't believe that a point-buy system with templates is as effective as a class-based system in telling players exactly which archetypes their characters are following.

There are also plenty of ways to customise a race/class/alignment combination - selectable class features, feats, skills and so on.

At the same time, levels are actually quite useful - your character's level says a lot about how powerful they are in game terms, and can be useful in creating a balanced game.

There is actually no way to create a system which doesn't rely, on some level, on "arbitrarily increasing scores", and encapsulating everything about your character's experiences, confidence, conviction and so on in a single number isn't a bad way to go.

PairO'Dice Lost
2009-06-19, 08:14 AM
lesser_minion, could you get back on the posting-stuff-for-us-to-evaluate track? The beginnings of your system sound intriguing, and I'd hate for this to completely devolve into a levels vs. point-based debate.

lesser_minion
2009-06-23, 04:30 AM
OK, so I'm away for four days and this falls to the third page?

It's going to take a few days for me to type up everything I have in mind, and I also have a few changes in the pipeline:

New rules for spellcasting, ranged attacks and movement through threatened areas (instead of getting a free attack, you may be able to cancel the action) I'm trying to decide whether or not to stick with the "all or nothing" approach, and I've decided that it would probably be best to limit players to one exploit, plus basic damage if they want it. Each will be rolled separately. This adds up to two dice rolls to a standard attack, but as full attacks will no longer exist, the overall result should be faster resolution at high levels. Another question is how to handle damage. I think the simplest method would be to come up with a workaround for the toughness/injury system which removes the problem of one dice roll ending a fight, but I'm open to other suggestions.