Saturday, 25 January 2014

Combo Finish!

I'm a big fan of crazy maneuvers in RPG combat; or at least certain applications of them. I feel like they should be part of the odd strategy that comes up in abstracted gaming combat - but most of the time they are simple chances to be showy or very granulated affairs necessitating a lot of attention to specific mechanics.

This never sat well with me; there is nothing wrong with either, but I am a greedy and impatient with rules. I always wanted some simple building blocks that were clear in intent but nonrestrictive. I came up with a very simple fix for my D&D games, and its that fix I'm building on for Break!!

It goes a bit something like this;

Attacking is easy. You swing. If you hit, you do a heart of damage. If you hit well, you may do two. It works against mooks, but its not exactly optimal when fighting an War Bruun that'll hurl you into your friends, a massive full metal Battledrone or a Gargantuan Scuttler with a near impenetrable chitinous shell. You do have other options.

Tricks are maneuvers that forgo doing normal damage to apply a penalty or other effect. Normally, this is pretty standard stuff, like throwing sand in someone's eyes or attempting to disarm them with a flourish. They can get bolder though - you may try flipping that Scuttler onto its back by using your staff as a lever. As examples; the former comes with little risk beyond failure, but the latter may cost you your staff if you mess up things too badly.

Stunts are attack gambles. In essence, you make a wager to add an effect to the normal damage of your blow. The effects may mimic tricks, combine two actions, or accomplish something unique. Sometimes they may even be the only way to get to a particular monster's weak spot. The big distinction between these and Tricks is that damage is dealt and the risk is greater.

The aforementioned wagers are an additional consequence to a failed attack roll beyond just missing. A failed charge (Combining a move and attack action) gives you a penalty to your defense from being off balance. A bold leap off a balcony to land sword first on a dragon's skull may mean falling damage and being prone in till your next action.

It should be noted that among the Callings, Warriors excel at stunts. They generally do not need to make wagers for basic maneuvers and the danger of failing advanced ones are greatly reduced.

Combos are when multiple characters work together to preform a sort of advanced stunt. They are usually utilized to make a powerful enemy easier to hurt or to allow for an otherwise impossible attack. For example, several party members may attempt to distract or overpower a Battledrone so that their archer can take a shot at it's barely exposed power core. Alternatively, a burly party member may hurl a scrappy, smaller one at a flying foe in a way familiar to comic book fans. Combos often require most or all of their participants to succeed, and failure is likely dangerous.

Battle Princess have many talents, one of which is helping their party better coordinate combo maneuvers. Power of friendship and all that.

I'm yammering on here, but one last thing I'd like to stress is that that the actual mechanics for these are not terribly complicated. For example, combos take a lot of player communication, but the rules really boil down to one or more supporting actors making aptitude checks with the primary actor making the actual attack. I'm still ironing out the kinks, but I want to keep it this way. Like I said; basic building blocks.


  1. This 'strategic battle' approach should be fully baked into the rules too.

    The decision to limit damage (to a few hearts at time) goes someway to support this as it encourages/necessitates more inventive approaches to bring adversaries down.

    Monsters might benefit from a section on 'tactics' with a list of typical stunts, tricks & combos.
    ...and also detail any weak spots.

    Will you quantify the trade-offs in the rules or will it be solely down to the GM?
    Making up rules may be daunting task for the inexperienced group.

    A list of benefits & penalties would be useful to help gamers construct the mechanical impact of wagers and outcomes? The flow might be something like:

    1) Player describes stunt/trick/combo
    2) Players can pick 1 positive effect (+1 attack, +1 heart, stun, special!)
    3) GM picks a failure consequence (lowered defence, miss next action)
    4) Player accepts wager
    5) Roll is made...

    I cans terrain and equipment having an increasingly important role in combat. Maneuvering so your back is to the rising sun or utilising rope to tangle foes could be the difference between victory or defeat. So players must have enough 'pieces' to play with.

    The type of game experience you describe makes full use of the unique aspect of the tabletop play, collaborative creativity. In my opinion, traditional rpg combat (with its repetitive, predictable mechanics) are the equivalent of button-mashing in games like Golden Axe. Break!! sounds like it might play more like Shadow of the Colossus.

    Looking forward to more solid details soon.

    1. Good Eye - this is nearly all in my notes. I've got to rehaul the actually transcribed section of them though, it's gotten to be too messy for my taste.

      I want to keep monster stat blocks small, but each one will have some bit on how it would defend itself. The section on creating one's own monsters will include types of tactics as well. Certain monster types will have weaknesses and weak spots - and really big ones will have "strike points", which are important bits that one can target -mainly because wailing on a dragon's foot may not do too much unless you're absurdly strong yourself.

      Trade-offs, by nature, will be arbitrated by the Players and the GM, but its my hope to include a nice list of common (and a few uncommon) examples of each so that people have guidelines to reference. Your flow-list is pretty good representation of how it's worked in practice.

      As for environments; I figure there is no way to be entirely certain where a fight will happen, so some loose rules on things like cover, improvised weapon and acrobatics will be needed. Equipment is going to be big with Tricks!

      Spot on with the Shadow of The Colossus. Also, think Zelda Style games, where figuring out how to kill monsters is as important, if not more so, then reflexes or timing.