Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Playtesting we go

We playtested the basics of a new combat system I want to use in a fantasy campaign I hope to have up and running this summer and for the next few years. I'm grabbing stuff from a wide variety of D&D related RPGs and throwing together in a houserules doc.

The players were all happy to get to have more input into the game we will be playing. I'm a chronic rules tinkerer and we'll be going though a month or two of play-test sessions before we get to the campaign proper and hopefully have ironed out things we like and don't like.

Here's a one of the characters I handed out last night (from a random shuffle):
Sir Edmund Level 6 Knight
STR: 14 HP: 37
Battle Dice: 7(8)
Armor: Plate&Shield Move-4
Weapons: +3 t.h. Dagger 1d4/1d4 ws 4
+7 t.h. Sword 1d8+1/1d8 ws 5

Plenty of stuff not included on the sheet that will turn up later, we only played with the stats and rules we wanted to test which were the bare-bones of the combat system.

Initiative: determines order of action from highest score to lowest score. The initiative score is rolled for the next 5 rounds of action and re-rolled for the 5 after that and so on.
Initiative is reduced by 1 if you are wounded in a round (1 time or 100,still just 1 point lost to initiative).
Drawing a weapon in combat reduces initiative by weapon speed.
Initiative can go negative, if it does so that number is taken off of attack rolls, saving throw chances and damage rolls. (the sample character above has no initiative modifier listed)

Attack Rolls: compare weapon with armor on chart and roll 1d20+ attack bonus. If attack roll is exactly number needed to hit then there is a chance weapon was knocked out of hand or lodged in foe following hit. (The sample character is +3 to hit with a dagger and +7 to hit with a sword).

Battle Dice: measure how well one could fight in a round. Battle dice are spent on damage and defense as the player wishes with the following noted. (the sample character above has 7 battle dice or as many as 8 when defending)

Battle dice used for damage must be announced before the attack roll is made and defenders can use whatever battle dice they are able for defense.

One attack roll is made for a number of adjacent opponents and damage dice are split up as whole dice (before they are rolled) against each foe as the attacker wishes.

For missile combat each battle die only counted as half a die for damage.

Battle dice can be put into a damage pool or parry pool as the player sees fit. Allies and the player may draw battle dice out of one pool in a later turn at a 2 to 1 rate. No more dice may be drawn then the PC has levels.

one may not defend out of order (before initiative score comes up) unless:
- they have a shield
- they are armed with a pole-arm or spear vs a shorter arm

Parrying/Defending against ranged weapons.
-A shield is needed to parry missile weapons cast by device (bows)
-ranged weapons may be defended against at medium or long range if without shield should one not be engaged in HtH and able to move.
-Firearms may not be parried without use of magic or special ability (except as noted above)

Saving Throws and special abilities
Were 4d6 rolled under an ability score to make saves and other checks most of the time. Easier stuff was just 3 dice, harder stuff more dice.


The party consisted of - 2 Knights, 1 Archer, 1 Templar (fighting cleric here), 1 Mercenary (armed with arquebus). The party was joined by a Rake armed with 2 pistols and a sword for 1/2 the dragon fight and the Chaos Knight fight.

I put the party through a gauntlet of dungeon combats.

1st was 5 PCs level 4 to 7 vs 10 Hobgoblins hp:8 battledice- 3 (usually 2 attack 1 defense) +1 t.h. 1d8/1d8 armor- chain
The fight was quick once the players caught onto being able to attack multiple foes. Missile fire was telling but not dominating.

2nd was a big fight. 10 Hobgoblins as above. 5 goblins hp:5 battledice- 1 +0 t.h shortbows 1d6 armor leather. and an evil wizard 6th level 20 hp, armor - none and simple spells.
This fight took longer as the hobgoblins were able to gang up on a few of the PCs who hesistated and dealt with the goblins and evil wizard at range. The evil wizard badly wounded one PC with a magical bolt but was himself dispatched with archery in just 2 rounds.

3rd fight was with a Dragon. Hp: 90 Battle Dice- 15 +9 t.h. 1d8/1d8 armor as plate and shield
The dragon was a little tough to deal with as no blows were landed agaisnt it on the 1st two rounds until the players opted for overwhelming attacks and weak defense against the tough foe, all told only 5 successful blows were needed to slay the dragon. The dragon did badly wound 3 PCs but none were slain. Party joined by ally 1/2 way through fight.

4th fight was against 6 Chaos Knights Hp: 18 Battle Dice: 5 +5t.h. 1d8/d8 Armor: plate
This fight went quickly, quicker then I thought. 1 Pc wounded badly in the dragon fight was slain. but the Pcs made quick work of the chaos knights thanks to gaining advantage with good initiative rolls allowing them to make attacks agaisnt the knights who were unable to parry out of order against the PCs onslaught.
(I was surprised how quickly this fight went in favor of the PCs as they were badly wounded but the impact of the high initiative rolls was very telling)


The players took to it all pretty well once they got used to splitting battle dice for damage and defense and dumping dice into the pools. The Damage pool and parry pool were a useful tactic that allowed for a wide range of picky cooperative tactics to be abstracted.
4 fights in 2.5 hours using miniatures, me explaining the rules and a brand new combat mechanic was pretty good in my opinion. Having a range of choice to make each round that could aid the whole party made everyone very active during the combat and made them seem to go even faster then they did.
The templar had a modest number of spells (2 blesses and 4 CLW) which gave the party an edge but wasn't overwhelming.

Weak foes proved to be a threat as the PCs tended to not focus as much on defense against them. Luck won the day in the final fight showing the advantage of a high initiative .

Initiative as a score for 5 rounds proved to work pretty well. One of the players keyed his tactics to it very quickly accepting the loss of initiative on one round knowing a re-roll was coming,

The largest complaint was against the 2 to 1 trade-off for ranged attacks. I am considering having the damage dice rolled keyed to range bracket. 1-1 at short, 2-1 at medium, 3-1 at long range.

Another complaint was asking players what effect DEX had on combat (I rolled all mods into the weapons scores on the sample PC sheets). It was being used for initiative modifier and ranged combat to hit mod, given the impact of high initiative on combats of the night I might just keep the mods as is, might allow those of DEX 15+ to parry out of order regardless of arms or shield.

Next week we play with a party of magic-users (maybe 1 or 2 fighters tossed in for variation).

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