Sunday, March 27, 2011

Round 6: Darien Dead

Albrecht’s Action: Attack Goblin 6, and if successful turning on Goblin 2 to help out the Mage. (65%)

Cailaith’s Action: Attack Goblin 2 with both weapons, and if stunning on the first blow turning back to attack Goblin 5. (50%)

Brønn’s Action: Remain in place to attack Goblin 9, and if stunning turning to melee Goblin 5. (50%)

The Advocates To Save Darien failed across the board this week, though I gave all three active characters the opportunity to run and save him. It could have been Supernal’s appeal that changed the early pattern. People might be getting bored with this … most of the votes, about 85% I’d guess, came in the first 36 hours. I could set the polls faster, but I just don’t have time during the week to do the set-ups.

The combat’s are simple to run.

Albrecht rolls a 12, which is a 13 with the bless, missing. Sometimes it pays to have a strength bonus, as he missed AC 6 by 1 point.

Cailaith rolls a 15 with the first weapon, which does hit AC 6 exactly. She causes 3 damage, which doesn’t quite kill Goblin 2 … but it staggers back, stunned. And here’s where the movement bonus comes into application: Cailaith, the reader will take note, moves five because she is not in armor. It requires two moves to attack, so she uses those in attacking Goblin 2. Because she stunned the goblin, there’s no movement penalty for breaking off the combat. She turns, moves one (that’s three moves she’s used) and attacks goblin 5. She still has two moves left, so she has enough time to do so.

Sadly, she rolls a 1, dropping the dagger just like the goblin attacking Darien did in the last round. It can happen to anyone. She rolls a d6 for the weapon to see if it breaks, and it doesn’t. She rolls to see where the dagger ends up, rolls a 1 and it winds up in an adjacent hex. The wall is in the way on one corner, so there’s five hexes it could wind up. From the top, counting clockwise, she rolls a 7 on a die ten and the dagger winds up in the hex with Goblin 5. Bad luck!

Brønn rolls a 12 too. He doesn’t have a strength bonus either, so he misses.

Here’s how it looks before the goblins’ turn:

Cailaith didn’t kill the one she hit, so the goblins still don’t need to make a morale check.

Goblin 1 grabs its sword, and both it and Goblin 11 make intelligence checks. Being goblins, and having an intelligence of average (low), this is an 8 intelligence. Goblin 1 rolls a natural 20, and Goblin 11 rolls a 17 … so they both fail. They use their weapons to split the armor and chest cavity of Darien, causing an automatic critical hit each, causing a d6 doubled. Darien takes a total of 22 damage, and his chest erupts in bloody goodness. The two goblins fall to their knees and start slopping the blood and exposed body parts into their mouths.

Goblin 6 swings at Albrecht, missing with a 9.

Goblin 9 swings at Brønn, hitting with a 19. Brønn takes 4 damage, stumbling backwards either to the left or the right of Cailaith. A die is rolled and Brønn ends up in the hex between Cailaith and Englund. The goblin makes an intelligence check, succeeds and decides and both Brønn and Cailaith are more than it can handle. It falls back 2 hexes (the goblin has a movement of 4, and has used two of them) to rejoin Goblin 6 and Goblin 2, to hold as much of a position as possible. It moves into the hex next to Albrecht.

Goblin 5 swings at Cailaith, missing with a 6. It makes an intelligence check, fails, and decides not to fall back along the wall, but to stand his ground.

Well, all, I’m done with this experiment. By now it should be obvious to anyone the benefits of running this kind of system. Because of the stunning rules, combats quickly break down from organized melees with two comfortable lines of combatants to mixed free-for-alls with a wide variety of possible outcomes. While the end of Round 5 looked good for the party, the changes in Round 6 – brought about by the single action of a single goblin, Goblin 9, has suddenly got Albrecht on the ropes. Englund can’t move fast enough to attack Goblin 9, but might accomplish something with a spell. But even then, the spell won’t come into effect until the next round, Round 8 (as it is cast in Round 7).

Even if Albrecht hits and kills his opponent, he may face two attacks from Goblin 2 and from Goblin 9 (remember Goblin 2 has already missed its turn this round, so after Albrecht attacks it will be free to do so).

But it might happen that if Albrecht kills one goblin, or if Cailaith does, the others will all break off after failing morale. But if they don’t, and Albrecht misses, he will be attacked by three goblins while Brønn has to recover. If those three goblins can then rouse the Darien eaters back into the combat, the other three players will find themselves in bad straits.

It can go either way … and one more round could completely change it over again. If there’s anything that Darien’s move in the first round proves, its that the thief never had time to hide anywhere … even if he had gotten through the enemy lines. It would have only left him out there, alone, while three additional goblins were free to attack and consume the party. Darien wouldn’t have lasted long in that event.

The normal combat system for D&D is so slow, plodding and predictable, it’s no wonder intelligent people grew exhausted with it. But the attack/defense of the die rolls and the armor was never the problem. It was a good combat mechanic. It was only the insistence that the game had to be seen as either in terms of tactical perfection (Warhammer) or as something that shouldn’t need a map that created boredom-o-rama.

I hope I’ve shown that with some simple non-tactical rules, enabling things to go disastrously wrong in just a few rolls, without it seems hopelessly random, the combat in D&D can be much better. Tactically, if Darien had not divided up the party, the bad rolls could have been compensated for and won through.

Anyone convinced?


The Jovial Priest said...

A fantastic series and a great explanation of your combat system. Thank you.

SupernalClarity said...

I'm definitely convinced. While I have my own ways of spicing up combat, I'm interested to try out some of your mechanics and see how they fly with my group.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing Alexis. One thing I've taken away from this series (and from the online campaign for that matter) is the desire to use and adjudicate stuns precisely as you do. I haven't yet, but I continue to think its a good idea.

During our game last night the party was faced with a similar situation as your scenario. Outnumbered, they used an open doorway as a bottleneck (something the example party failed to do). What they didn't account for was the enemy splitting forces and coming upon the party from the rear as well. Long story short, a well-deployed web spell prevented the fight form being a rout, but had I been using some sort of stun mechanic the spell would have never gotten off and things could have gone a lot worse for the party. Sometimes as characters get a buffer of hit points and an improved AC established they take these for granted and stop thinking as tactically as they might have at lower levels. The stun keeps them honest.

Arduin said...

Just noticed, nice blood effect on the dead Thief. Poor Darien, looks like a TPK.