Monday, January 30, 2012

Combat Models

As I've stated numerous times, I'm a Fighter guy. My attention span being what it is, I don't like characters with little margin for error. With fighters I usually have a decent armor situation and ability to roll with a few punches, so if I'm not "on my game" when combat starts, I have a couple of rounds to get my head right.

As a referee I gauge my comfort level directly by the combat system, both how it plays mechanically and how it represents the fighters themselves. Thus we approach the relevant conundrum.

I think it is impossible for me to find what I want in a combat system. Here are some things I would dearly love to have, all in one system, all working together:

  • Armor reduces damage
  • Fighting "inside" is a viable option, making knife fighters scary things (like Ray Winstone's character in King Arthur)
  • Fighting without armor is an option, harder to hit yet easier to kill
  • Shields are truly useful, actively blocking incoming hits, as well as being used offensively (a la Spartacus)
  • Combat should be unpredictable and deadly, but not so random that experienced characters can't have some confidence
  • It should not be too fiddly, but have some tactical options so that combat doesn't become too repetitive

There are a variety of systems that meet some of the above, but I don't know of any that satisfies all of them. The old Microgame, Melee, comes close, but it is a bit fiddly in spots. For me, anything that relies on maps and minis is fiddly off the top. I understand that most of those things require a system that models the combat, and anything that does that is going to be tactical in nature, and therefore probably quite crunchy.

There's no real point to this other than some bitchy whining. If anyone knows of a system that answers those desires, please enlighten me.


  1. The Riddle of Steel is worth a look. Hits all your preferences. Although the last one is debatable. Still even if it's a little on the crunchy side it's a brilliant combat system and worth a look. I liked the Spiritual Attribuets even more. The rest of the system was a bit rough though.

  2. I used to have all the TRoS books, still have the pdf's. I was trying to ignore its whispering to me. I don't want to do all that printing :-P Maybe the quickstart. I've seen some good things about it, some not so much, but I'm thinking that if I like the basic tenets of the system (which I do), I should enjoy the quickstart. There's also Burning Wheel, which I dearly love on paper. Never had a chance to play, and probably never will, but I do love it so.

  3. Yeah, the wound system requires a lot of charts. I really like TRoS, but it desperately needed a second edition and some serious streamlining. Would have liked to see SAs pop up in a few more games.

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