Monday, July 20, 2009

Combat Mechanics

The RPG that has garnered most of my interest right now is Hackmaster Basic by the folks at Kenzer Co. The combat system in particular has really grabbed my attention. Rolemaster has always held a place in my heart as one of the best combat systems around, but I have had some issues with it:

  • d100 based: For some reason, I have never been a big fan of d100 based systems, it just seems more granular than it needs to be
  • Too Deadly: I like dungeon delves, with lots of quick combats. One reason DnD always worked so well in this area is it was a game of logistics and attrition. A system in which the players become so beat up in combat that they lose the ability to engage in more combats until resting makes running the classic Dungeon Delve tricky (though not impossible). More realistic, yes, I prefer the gamier approach in this instance.
  • Chartmaster: A description deservedly applied to Rolemaster combat. A separate chart for each weapon against each weapon type is very cool. I love the detail in theory, in practice, I wish I wasn't flipping around the book so much.

So along comes the new Hackmaster basic, and I am seeing in it the unrealized hopes of the fun and detail of Rolemaster combat without my perceived drawbacks. There is a lot to like here:

  • Armor as damage reduction: I have always subscribed to this camp of thought.
  • Opposed Rolls: Hackmaster Basic uses opposed d20 rolls (attacker adds their attack bonus and the defender their defense bonus) to resolve combat. This is a nice way to keep people involved as well as create a small curve to the combat results that make the extreme values less likely.
  • Interesting Rolls: 20's give an extra attack, 1's allow your opponent and extra attack, and the defender gets a free minor counterattack on a 19. This is always interesting and fun.
  • Penetrating Dice Rolls: Also known as Open Ended roles in other games, this has always been a favorite mechanic of mine. It is just fun to roll lots of dice.
  • HP Progression: While Hackmaster boosts a character's (and monster's) starting HPs to be more than double normal (compared with early DnD) the fact that attacks do nearly twice as much damage (with the potential for lots more via Penetrating damage rolls) means each attack can be deadly. What this does though is flatten the HP/Level curve. Each level provides a more uniform boost unlike classic DnD in which you can double your HPs by passing your first level.
  • Knockback: Knockbacks are just fun, lots of fun. An excellent rule addition.
  • Threshold of Pain: In Hackmaster, when you take a large amount of damage in a single hit, you must save or drop for a variable amount of time. So far in practice, this provides a constant danger level, as well as quickening the "clean up" phase of combat by not forcing each enemy to be reduced to 0 HP to be taken out of the fight. I also like that it can take players out of a fight (making an interesting challenge for the party to adapt to) without killing them off.

Looking forward to running my next session.

A humble beginning

I have considered starting a blog for quite a while. As I find myself spending more and more time reading roleplaying blogs, especially of the old school Dungeons and Dragons variety, the more I seem to have to say.

Does anyone really care what this humble scribe has to say, that remains to be seen. I plan to use this space as a collection of my own thoughts and creations. I am a collector of rpg rules, only a fraction of those that line my bookcase have ever been played, but I do not regret their purchase. I enjoy reading rules of all sorts, and I am cursed with the never ending desire to mix and match what I feel is the best of all rules, into an unstoppable rules masterpiece. I have yet to succeed in this endeavor, and I expect many future posts to come from this pursuit.

I hope to hear from like minded people, and see what I can learn from sharing ideas.