Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Detailed Combat Posts - More Initiative & Movement

There are some additional aspects of breaking combat, joining combat and forcing a new initiative roll that I have yet to cover.  Consider this example.

Here we have Albert (white) and Bertrand (blue).  Suppose Albert is unarmored and has a movement of 5.  Suppose Bertrand is in chain mail and has a movement of 3.  Albert wins initiative.  He attacks Bertrand (2 moves), breaks from combat (1 move) and moves two hexes (2 moves).  In effect, he attacks and runs away:

Bertrand is slow.  He can move two hexes forward, but it does him no good, as when he gets next to Albert, he won't have enough movement left to attack.  Logically, he has nothing to gain from moving forward, so he remains where he is.

Now Albert is free to turn around (no movement cost, as its presumed he manages it with a bit of the last round and a bit of this one).  He is two hexes from Bertrand, and because Bertrand did not attack him the previous round, the initiative order has been lost.  If Albert moves two forward to attack again, they must both roll initiative, and the winner attacks first.

Albert's tactic works best if Albert has a higher dexterity, and can expect to win most of his initiatives (great for thieves!).  On the other hand, Bertrand can circumvent this tactic by possessing a weapon that can be thrown: a hand axe, hammer or dagger can be drawn with one move and thrown with two more.  Alternately, Bertrand could have a weapon with a reach of 7 or more feet.  If Bertrand were using a polearm, he could step forward one and attack Albert from two hexes away.  Aha!  Suddenly a pole arm has a logical purpose:

If Bertrand wants to be in armor that slows him to 3 or even 2 movement, he must necessarily take a defensive stance against anything that moves faster.  A guard defending a gate in plate mail would likely be supported by a bowman, as the guard could not run after lighter attackers who struck and moved back.

There are a number of space issues with using a pole arm, but I shall take this up in another post, to be written another day.

Let's move on and consider the following:

Albert is fighting against Bertrand and Calvin (green); because Bertrand and Calvin are fighting as allies, they have one initiative rating - they do not determine their initiatives separately.  It was stated in the last example that all four persons were independent; not so in this case. 

Let us say that Albert wins initiative, attacks Bertrand and misses; let us further say he does not break combat.  Bertrand then attacks Albert, also missing; he also remains where he is.  Now, Calvin attacks the same round as Bertrand - and as he moves forward to attack, his initiative has already been determined.  But if we assume that Calvin has a movement of 4, and already has his weapon out, he may take one of three paths - A or B or C:

Both paths A & C leave him with no movement at the end of his turn; path B permits him one more move.  However, B & C permit Calvin a bonus of +1 to hit against Albert's flank.  I don't grant +2 to attack from 'behind,' as combat in this system is nowhere near as static as the Gygaxian ficton.  It is presumed that Albert is in constant motion, showing neither Bertrand nor Calvin his back.  Some might argue - but it is in the interest of removing argument that there are only two positions: forward and flank.  The back position exists ONLY when the intended subject is attacked by surprise and from behind - in which case, yes, a +2 is granted.

Thus, all this makes possible the sort of complex battle strategy that doesn't exist in ordinary D&D combat:

Albert, Bertrand, Calvin and Dennis (orange) all move 4.  Albert gives up his attack and moves four around his opponent in order to better surround the enemy.  Bertrand shifts right and attacks.  Calvin advances two and attacks the enemy that was previously attacking Albert from the flank.  Dennis moves around two and to better encircle the enemy and attacks.

I think I'm ready at last to talk about stunning.


Butch said...

Bertrand is slow. He can move two hexes forward, but it does him no good, as when he gets next to Albert, he won't have enough movement left to attack. Logically, he has nothing to gain from moving forward, so he remains where he is.

Actually, Bertrand's best option is to move two spaces backward.

Alexis said...

Perhaps. But Bertrand may not have anywhere else to move back to, and in any case will be forced to roll initiative against Albert again when battle is rejoined. If Albert's dexterity is 17 or higher (and Bertrand's is not), Albert has a 50% chance of attacking in the very least simultaneously.

This brings into the game an important point for thieves and assassins - they may not fight as well as fighters, but on average, they will attack fast and first. If they keep themselves lightly armored, they can play hell with a defender in plate mail.

Anonymous said...

Alexis, have you ever considered giving characters more movement points than the maximum of 5 based on high dexterity scores (and conversely less movement points for low scores) and if so, why did you ultimately decide not to do so?

Alexis said...

The number 5 is a reference to the original AD&D system, where Gygax defined an unarmored person moving at 15" - since all the movements in the DMG and Monster Manual are given in multiples of 3, it seemed logical to divide those movements by 3, designate a time for the round and define the distance in 5 foot hexes (an easy scale to map in).

Strength increases your move vs. armor; and monks do increase their speed as they gain levels. But the last thing I want to do is give even more power to a high dexterity - STR, CON & DEX already offer a lot of benefits, and giving another to dexterity (movement) would unbalance the game. Dexterity may get you a quicker start, but strength makes you run faster and when it comes down to distance, its your constitution that rules.

There's a balance here that works, and I don't want to screw with that balance - even if screwing with it might be logical.

Anonymous said...

I understand and agree on the matter of game balance.

If you would humor me, though, I was actually considering Dexterity in its full capacity for gracefulness as well as speed.

Your combat movement system actually accounts for the whole of what can be accomplished in a given period of time, not just how far one can move. It stands to reason the dextrous person would be better able to execute several serial actions, or make otherwise serial actions simultaneous actions, than the non-dextrous person.

Standing up from a prone position and attacking in one round, for instance, is not possible for anybody wearing armor. But if that person were particularly dextrous might it not be?

Alexis said...

Oh, I agree. That is absolutely logical.

But if you are a party member, and you don't have dexterity? How happy is this going to make you?

I think the danger is in having dexterity becoming so necessary that every class immediately begins choosing it for their highest stat; there's already some of that I notice in my parties. I don't want the stat system to go the way of the skill set.

Anonymous said...

It's a delicate balance one must strike, but yeah if it means possibly one extra action per round I'm jacking that Dexterity up.