Sunday, October 27, 2019

Abstract & Experimental "Storygame" Combat System

I once saw a blogpost about this concept. I think it had something to do with “cinematic combat” and used a picture of the Lurtz fight in The Fellowship of the Ring film with pictures as an example of the combat system. I still can't find this blogpost again after like a year, so I think I'll just write out my thoughts and outline the concept.

Basically I had this concept for highly abstracted, “cinematic” combat for a while now, but never found a good way to implement it in a game. This is very experimental, and is more for a “storygame” as opposed to a regular tabletop roleplaying game's combat system.
Edit: I actually found an old blogpost where I described this combat system already. This post still helps explain it better, so I don't think it's redundant.

Abstract Combat
Unlike normal games, characters don't deal damage. The “Fighter” class still exists and probably just gets a +1 to hit each level, which is very powerful in this system. Players still have Hit Points of their own, as well as AC and so on, they just don't carry weapons that deal damage. Instead, all weapons deal as much damage as they are fictionally capable. Monsters deal regular damage and players get normal defenses against it, to keep it from feeling unfair or that the DM is “sniping” players.

When you attack another human or an orc, for example, a spear will kill on a successful hit if you aim at their heart or throat. All combat attacks are “called shots” in other words. Monsters use an AC equal to their normal AC of that body part. If the attack is intended to be lethal or a “killing blow”, they add their HD to their AC. Because of this, armor only applies an AC value to the parts it covers; logically, monsters and people will try to cover their vital spots; poorer bandits will only cover their chest and head with armor, for example. This also applies to weapon hardness and material toughness; no normal blade can penetrate a dragon's scaly hide, and as such a normal blade cannot harm a dragon. You will need a magic sword- weapons only deal as much damage as they normally could do. Magic weapons bypass armor or deal extreme damage through their physical mechanics, not simple +1 modifiers.

Of course you can perform less deadly attacks to more vulnerable body parts to weaken creatures. Chopping off limbs with an axe, or performing drag cuts to cause bleeding, which can still be lethal if a living creature loses enough blood. Certain monsters, such as golems, zombies, or oozes, will become nearly unkillable due to this system- only a full destruction will fully stop them. As such, fights with these creatures more become about driving them off or disabling them in order to move past them.

This system means that Fighters will more or less keep up with creatures and need to spend turns rocketing for lethal attacks; since monsters don't deal any more damage then normal, you could instead use this system against players as well, making every character much more vulnerable. Having special features like a mutation to grant a second heart or an iron-hard skull suddenly become much more valuable then just having a +X to AC or maximum Hit-Points.

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