I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Detailed combat rules... in one single table

I've been trying to create a detailed AND easy combat system for my Dark Fantasy Basic games for a while now.

When compared to B/X, for example, a gritty/detailed combat system should contain:

- Critical hits.
- Weapon versus armor differences.
- Weapon speed.
- Differences between slashing, cutting, piercing.
- Differences between swinging and stabbing with a weapon.
- Unarmed combat.
- Natural weapons.
- Two-weapon fighting.
- Chances of "one hit kills" like the ones you see in Conan (or Smaug in "The Hobbit").
- Combat maneuvers.
- Etc.

AD&D has lots of rules on these topics, for example - but they are incredibly complicated.

Well, it makes sense - this is a lot to cover.

But what if we could add ALL these rules in one single table?

This is not impossible - I remember playing Rolemaster and dealing with tables (with wonky results) constantly.

But this is not what I want either. 

I'd like these things to fade gently into the background, only coming up occasionally, to remind players of the blood, sweat and tears involved in combat.

This is the occasional slow motion close up you see in movie battles. 

So, the table only activates on a natural 20.

I'm using speed factor to, well... speed things up, but maybe we could do a table without using that.

This replaces the damage roll in most cases - you always use maximum damage for a natural 20. 

If maximum damage is enough to kill your foe, you do not need to use the table; this is all you get for now.

Otherwise, roll 1d100.

Here is my first attempt.

Notice it uses ascending AC and an attack bonus (AB) rather than THAC0 etc.

1-10. Maximum damage only.
11-20. +1 damage.
21-30. +2 damage.
31-40. Roll another attack against the same foe adding your speed factor (this is one single attack, not requiring a new arrow etc.).
41-50. Roll another attack against the same foe subtracting your speed factor (this is a second attack, requiring a new arrow etc.).
51-60. Double damage if using a slashing weapon against an opponent of flesh and blood, or a piercing weapon against an opponent with functioning internal organs, or a crushing weapon against an opponent with bones or made of hard/brittle material.
61-70. Bonus damage equal to your margin of success (i.e., 20+AB-AC), +2 for crushing weapons. If your margin is 10 or more, add +4 for slashing weapons and +6 for piercing weapons. 
71-80. +1 damage for each pound your weapon weights, to a maximum of 5 with one hand, 10 with two hands.
81-90. Make another attack against the same foe or another foe within reach.
91-94. Roll twice and pick the best result, ignoring this result.
95-96. Max damage x2.
97-98. Max damage x3, roll again and add the results.
99. Max damage x3.
00. Max damage x3, roll again and add the results.

Notice I didn't include dismemberment, automatic kills, etc., because I think these should be checked at 0 HP, not every natural 20.

So, while a goblin with a 1d4 rusty knife COULD potentially kill your 22 HP fighter in plate armor, it is unlikely that he would do the same to a dragon (although, TBH, even one chance in a thousand might be too much in this case).

But this is a question of quantity, not quality.

The point here is that it is possible to have a very detailed system without time-consuming, complex rules.

A different take on this would be including a checklist instead of a random table; this is what I plan to try next.

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