GreenTongue
 member, 976 posts
 Game Archaeologist
Sun 27 Jun 2021
at 23:55
If Combat Is Not The Main Focus
If combat is not the main focus of a game, can the combat resolution be simple?

Is rolling a D6 with mods all you really need or since it is "Life & Death", should there be a more complex system for combat than for other things?
donsr
 member, 2300 posts
Mon 28 Jun 2021
at 00:04
If Combat Is Not The Main Focus
for a RP game, the combat  that is  there , should invoke some kind of 'worry'..and the effect it has on the campaign/story. ( winning ..losing..death//wounds  ect ect )

 The  GM/DM  should  be able to  say 'this is how  combat works"..no mental gymnastics , or  charts.. Just Rp +  dice rolls and your done.
evileeyore
 member, 495 posts
 GURPS GM and Player
 Joined August 2015
Mon 28 Jun 2021
at 00:16
If Combat Is Not The Main Focus
Yes, but be wary.  Simplified combat means less varied results with the "variation" coming down purely to fluff descriptions and some Players aren't going to be as happy with that.  Make sure that how ever you're doing it, you communicate to your Players the intent and how things work in advance.
Isida KepTukari
 member, 384 posts
 Elegant! Arrogant! Smart!
Mon 28 Jun 2021
at 00:25
If Combat Is Not The Main Focus
I would say it does depend on your preferences.  Combat has the greatest life or death consequences, as you said, and a great deal of uncertainty, which is why many systems have more rules governing combat than interaction, sneaking/hiding, or other non-combat things. For some, having those rules means that they have a little more control over what they do, as it's spelled out quite specifically what the consequences for their actions are. Having specific rules for weapons, armor, grappling/tripping/etc., wounds, dying, death can give some players or game masters a better handle on what is a very chaotic situation that a great many of us have never actually participated in (and hence prefer more concrete rules to govern it).

That said, you can certainly do something with a d6 sort of system if you prefer your combat slightly more abstract in the rules and more role-play focused.  Some of the systems I've played have a very basic mechanic for everything, including combat, and it still works out well.  Description is the lifeblood of any role-playing game, after all.

If your game is not very combat-focused, there is certainly an advantage of keeping the rules for combat simple (for faster resolution), and that can certainly work in your favor!
nauthiz
 subscriber, 723 posts
Mon 28 Jun 2021
at 00:30
If Combat Is Not The Main Focus
There are plenty of games were traditional "combat" isn't the main focus.

This doesn't preclude conflict, and mechanics to resolve that conflict.

However whatever conflict resolution mechanics are chosen should work to support and push whatever the game's focus is.

If a simple D6 would do that, there's nothing wrong with going that route.

The main thing is to make sure that those mechanics actually support what the group is trying to accomplish with the game.  Otherwise it might be better to find a system that has actually gone through a design and testing process which will support the group's goals rather than trying to boil something else down simply for the sake of simplicity.
facemaker329
 member, 7347 posts
 Gaming for over 40
 years, and counting!
Mon 28 Jun 2021
at 03:58
If Combat Is Not The Main Focus
I rarely get involved in games that are focused on combat situations, and even when I do, I tend to take non-traditional approaches to combat, so that the typical combat rules often require a little tweaking.  As such, I tend to prefer games that have a fairly simple combat system in the first place...if the GM is already going to have to make judgment calls on what I'm trying to do, I figure there's no sense worrying about a rules-laden combat system (it's not that I set out to find loopholes in the rules...I just get ideas and find the GM is often responding with, "Well...the rules don't really cover that...but roll this and this and we'll see if it works," or something similar.  My personal favorite system for gaming was (and is) the D6 system used by West End Games for their Star Wars RPG, to give you some idea.

That being said, you can oversimplify combat, which takes some of the tension out of it.  It needs to be a risky proposition, and even in systems which are designed to basically require a player to deliberately attempt to be killed in order for a character to die, there's still a lot of risk as far as debilitating injury, unconsciousness, extensive recovery time, etc (at least, in my experience).

As stated by numerous people earlier, it depends on the focus of the game.  If you're going for a hyper-simplified combat system, that should be communicated to the players before the game starts (and I'd go so far as to say it should be part of the game information addressed in the RTJ information thread).  But if everyone's on board with the idea, there's no reason combat needs to be complex...I don't know that I'd boil it down as far as the results of a single d6 roll, but I do appreciate the random variations that can come into a game with some dice being rolled...
GreenTongue
 member, 977 posts
 Game Archaeologist
Mon 28 Jun 2021
at 17:29
If Combat Is Not The Main Focus
I was mainly thinking of using skirmish miniature games as a rule system when rolls were needed and making Role Playing rolls with that same level of resolution.

Free Kriegsspiel style of game.
https://boardgamegeek.com/thre...iegsspiel-revolution

Do you think this requires a "higher level of abstraction" than players as single individuals?
engine
 member, 838 posts
 There's a brain alright
 but it's made out of meat
Mon 28 Jun 2021
at 20:52
If Combat Is Not The Main Focus
In reply to GreenTongue (msg # 1):

If combat isn't the focus of the game, then the combat that does occur is less likely to be about one side wiping out the other and more about the goals that are driving the two sides to combat. If you can focus on the goals and not people living and dying, then players might be perfectly happy to have it resolved with a die roll. It's not about whether or not they get to keep using their character, but about the turn of events and their in-game options.
ladysharlyne
 subscriber, 3124 posts
 Member before Oct 2005
 THE GLASS IS HALF FULL
Mon 28 Jun 2021
at 21:19
If Combat Is Not The Main Focus
From a Freeform game sort of view I use D10 dice rolls between two opponents, D6 works just as well.  In my freeform games no character gets killed unless they left the game or the player wishes to kill his character off and create a new one, etc.  Works fine and the lower the number like 1 is the winner and 2 gets hurt with the higher the number the worse the injury is all.  It works for me in freeform, not sure what you are playing as all systems games seem to have various rules and I don't play that kind of game so can't help you there but hope this helps you a bit.
Gaffer
 member, 1697 posts
 Ocoee FL
 45 yrs of RPGs
Wed 14 Jul 2021
at 22:46
If Combat Is Not The Main Focus
For me, when action occurs, the pace should speed up. With complex combat systems it tends to s l o W  d o w n.

I want each strike to be resolved in one dice roll. I especially don't want to go back and forth with multiple dice rolls or discussion/negotiation. I'd also like each roll to be meaningful, not a series of "1 hit, 2 hits, 1 hit..." through 124 hit points.
engine
 member, 852 posts
 There's a brain alright
 but it's made out of meat
Tue 31 Aug 2021
at 21:48
Re: If Combat Is Not The Main Focus
Gaffer:
I want each strike to be resolved in one dice roll. I especially don't want to go back and forth with multiple dice rolls or discussion/negotiation.

The multiple dice rolls might be a function of the rules, but discussion/negotiation usually aren't necessary. A concerted effort to minimize them can have a lot of success, I find.

Gaffer:
I'd also like each roll to be meaningful, not a series of "1 hit, 2 hits, 1 hit..." through 124 hit points.

What do you mean by meaningful here? I also don't want to only see numbers ticking down, though having multiple numbers ticking down, each with its own significance, can be tense. But any kind of number is just part of an agreed upon way to decide how and when an aspect of the situation hs been decided/resolved.
Piestar
 member, 963 posts
 once upon a time...
 ...there was a little pie
Wed 1 Sep 2021
at 00:10
Re: If Combat Is Not The Main Focus
Seems to me that the simplest method, if combat is always more of an aside than the point of the game, is to roll, for example, a d10, and use the result to determine how easy the parties victory is. If combat is unimportant, seems like you can assume they win, roll the dice, then write up a shot combat post explaining how hard or easy it was, how long they might have to recuperate, if at all, things like that.

I suggest this because if you are simplifying the combat, and the party loses, they would feel justifiably like their agency has been diminished or removed all together.
engine
 member, 853 posts
 There's a brain alright
 but it's made out of meat
Wed 1 Sep 2021
at 04:01
Re: If Combat Is Not The Main Focus
Piestar:
I suggest this because if you are simplifying the combat, and the party loses, they would feel justifiably like their agency has been diminished or removed all together.

I think that assumes that losing is a problem. If combat is not the main focus (and, one hopes, even if it is) being defeated in combat need not be a significant problem. It may even be expected by the players as part of an overall scenario (not to say "narrative").
Piestar
 member, 965 posts
 once upon a time...
 ...there was a little pie
Wed 1 Sep 2021
at 04:18
Re: If Combat Is Not The Main Focus
In reply to engine (msg # 13):

I think most people would be unhappy to lose on the result of the toss of a dice. It also seems to me that players would be losing a lot. Losing can lead to interesting role-play opportunities, but not fifty, thirty or even twenty percent of the time. Would you suggesting losing on a one on a d10? Losing ten percent of the time also seems harsh.

If the party is expected/required to lose, that can be done without a dice roll, just have it happen.
facemaker329
 member, 7358 posts
 Gaming for over 40
 years, and counting!
Wed 1 Sep 2021
at 04:55
Re: If Combat Is Not The Main Focus
I think a contested die roll feels like more of a contest, especially if results are modified to account for the characters' abilities and advancements.  That way, it's not just 'you rolled badly, you lose...'  It becomes a case of 'They rolled better.'  It may be largely semantics...but to me, it's always been easier to take a loss from the dice if it was because someone else rolled better, rather than simply because I didn't roll well enough.

I mean, you CAN get carried away and oversimplify combat, which can be as damaging to the game as complicated combat.  And I don't necessarily like the 'they auto-win, but the die roll determines how severe a toll it took' option, as I actually LIKE going into combat situations uncertain as to whether or not my character is going to win.  Granted, I try and do everything I can to improve his odds (try and apply sound tactics, don't rely on the Rule of Cool to make impossible attempts valid, etc).  And, granted, in most of the games I play, my characters generally have a pretty hefty helping of Plot Armor because they're part of the Good Guys...

But I like that slim chance that this may not all go to plan and things could go very wrong.  Some of my best gaming memories are situation where things didn't go to plan and the whole party was just kind of flying by the seat of their pants to even survive.

So, consider just how much you actually want to simplify combat before you jump into it.  Some fights should be, "I'm not gonna make you roll, just tell me how you wipe out the bad guys."  But some fights should also be, "There's a very real chance you could get carried away from this one...either to the hospital, or to the morgue..."  When there's no risk, there's not really much of a reward, either.  At least, that's the way I see it.
evileeyore
 member, 525 posts
 GURPS GM and Player
 Joined 20150819
Wed 1 Sep 2021
at 05:28
If Combat Is Not The Main Focus
Piestar:
I think most people would be unhappy to lose on the result of the toss of a dice.

Really?  Except people 'lose' constantly in RPGs from the results of a single die roll.


quote:
It also seems to me that players would be losing a lot. Losing can lead to interesting role-play opportunities, but not fifty, thirty or even twenty percent of the time.

I was in a game once where due to Players just not being on the ball (real life was taxing our 'brain trust') the group just kept failing and having to flee, get pushed out, and reduced in capacity for most of a game.  So, something like 75% of the time.  And we always saw how with hindsight where we made the errors, and yes sometimes we lost due to dice going badly and sometimes due to Player error, but the game ended up being about no giving in to the losing and the titanic struggle to pull off a 'non-loss' at the end (with several PC's sacrificing themselves to help cause the non-loss to occur).
engine
 member, 854 posts
 There's a brain alright
 but it's made out of meat
Wed 1 Sep 2021
at 06:33
Re: If Combat Is Not The Main Focus
Piestar:
In reply to engine (msg # 13):

I think most people would be unhappy to lose on the result of the toss of a dice.
I know you do. I'm just saying that there are some assumptions that go with that way of thinking.

Piestar:
It also seems to me that players would be losing a lot

So? Why should that matter? Why wouldn't that be fun, particularly in a game in which combat isn't the focus? Losing can happen in any game, right, so it had better be at least somewhat enjoyable, otherwise it's going to result in some wasted time.

Again, I'm asking honestly here. I'm not saying you're wrong, I'm hoping you'll explain your assumptions.

Piestar:
Losing can lead to interesting role-play opportunities, but not fifty, thirty or even twenty percent of the time.

Why not?

Piestar:
Would you suggesting losing on a one on a d10? Losing ten percent of the time also seems harsh.

What is an acceptable loss percentage, in your view? Why?

Piestar:
If the party is expected/required to lose, that can be done without a dice roll, just have it happen.
True, but to be clear I'm not saying the party is "expected" to lose, at least not in a particular situation. I'm saying that the players might expect defeat to occur in a certain percentage of situations, and so not have an issue when the dice are rolled against that percentage and they lose. It would just be part of the overall fun of the game.

Now, I don't tend to play games like that. I tend to play games in which combat is one focus of the game and there are rules that pace it out and, yes, slow it down. My overall point, really, is that defeat in combat, whether from a single die roll or a long complicated progression of them, doesn't really need to be a problem at all. If it's an aspect of the game and the players can't deal with it occurring, then they might want to consider playing a different game.
Piestar
 member, 966 posts
 once upon a time...
 ...there was a little pie
Wed 1 Sep 2021
at 07:15
If Combat Is Not The Main Focus
In reply to evileeyore (msg # 16):

Do you mean a single die roll determines the entire battle, or just a single die roll after a long battle? I can see people being okay with the second, but not the first. "You see a dozen orcs. Roll the dice. A one? You lose." If you mean that, I'm glad I don't play in your games.

As to your game where people lost 75% of time, clearly it was no simplified combat, because you were able to look back and see where you made your mistake. I am saying people would hate to lose all the time of the combat was very simplified, and there was no learning to be done.
Piestar
 member, 967 posts
 once upon a time...
 ...there was a little pie
Wed 1 Sep 2021
at 07:18
Re: If Combat Is Not The Main Focus
In reply to engine (msg # 17):

It feels to me like the end result of your simplification would turn the combat into a game of craps, and that is no fun.

If combat is not your main focus, then losing from combat seems silly to me if it isn't in the service of whatever your main focus is.
evileeyore
 member, 526 posts
 GURPS GM and Player
 Joined 20150819
Wed 1 Sep 2021
at 07:45
If Combat Is Not The Main Focus
Piestar:
Do you mean a single die roll determines the entire battle, or just a single die roll after a long battle?

Yes.  I've "zoomed" out sometimes where winning or losing was a foregone conclusion and , as GM, I simply wasn't interested in running a combat* for one person (or a few people) and the combat wasn't "important" in the grand scheme so I had "margin of success or failure" (as well as success or failure) determined by a single die roll.

Sometimes I asked them make a choice of skills "Do you roll sword, meaning you are aggressive in the fight, Shield meaning you're defensive, or [another skill] meaning [you fight some other way]?"

For instance if winning is a forgone conclusion, a failed skill/combat roll can mean that your side takes heavy causalities but manages to just barely win.


* In my current group we do board games and tactical miniatures wargames.  Me and another person sometimes decide we just aren't interested in playing our wargame fight out and play rock-paper-scissors to see who wins.

quote:
If you mean that, I'm glad I don't play in your games.

I only do this if the Players also agree that playing out the fight over several hours (face-to-face) or several days/weeks (message board) isn't as much fun as "roll and shout and move on with the game".

quote:
As to your game where people lost 75% of time, clearly it was no simplified combat...

Actually it was almost never due to combat at all, part of our failures was avoiding combat as much as possible and not stopping certain problems before they became worse.  But sometimes it was a single roll*, we just gambled wrongly on being able to pull off a 'hail mary" roll when we could see any other way forward and gambled wrong.

* It was a very simple home brew system with a lot of things coming down to single contested or simple skill rolls.  We played three campaign using those simple house rules, the games were great, just, game number two was grim, dark, and full of fail.

This message was last edited by the user at 17:09, Wed 01 Sept.

engine
 member, 855 posts
 There's a brain alright
 but it's made out of meat
Wed 1 Sep 2021
at 15:39
Re: If Combat Is Not The Main Focus
Piestar:
"You see a dozen orcs. Roll the dice. A one? You lose." If you mean that, I'm glad I don't play in your games.

First of all, I think you're making this unnecessarily personal. This is mostly hypothetical anyway, and I don't think anyone is trying to convince you to play a particular way.

Second of all, what are you assuming "You lose" means in that situation? Are you assuming the party is slaughtered?

Piestar:
As to your game where people lost 75% of time, clearly it was no simplified combat, because you were able to look back and see where you made your mistake. I am saying people would hate to lose all the time of the combat was very simplified, and there was no learning to be done.

We're talking about games in which combat is not the focus, so there's not necessarily a benefit to learning, in the sense of learning how to change the numbers to improve one's odds.

My assumption, when it comes to games that include combat but in which it is not the focus, is that failure in those combats is not a huge deal. In games where it is a huge deal that's tends to be because it can lead to a game state in which the game not only ends, but the players have to give up their characters and make new ones, or some other unpleasant stakes. When the stakes are unpleasant and there's little upside to losing, learning how not to lose becomes a focus of the game.

If combat isn't the focus of a particular game, then I don't think game-ending consequences are viable.

Piestar:
In reply to engine (msg # 17):

It feels to me like the end result of your simplification would turn the combat into a game of craps, and that is no fun.

It's not my simplification. It isn't anything. It's just a discussion. What you or I personally would find fun isn't all that relevant to this, since I don't play games in which combat is not a major focus, and I don't get the impression you do either.

Piestar:
If combat is not your main focus, then losing from combat seems silly to me if it isn't in the service of whatever your main focus is.

It's only silly if the effects of losing would be hugely significant to the game, as in the case in which every character dies. That's not always what losing means, and doesn't even have to be an outcome likely enough to bother rolling for

This is the point at which people often say "Well, if you can't die in combat, what's the point?" so, I'll go ahead and give my usual example: in The Fellowship of the Ring/The Two Towers, the "party" encounters a huge number of "orcs" (uruk-hai) and they lose. But only one of them dies. The enemies "lose" too, in that the stakes they make off with (Merry and Pippen) are the wrong ones, but the loss is still significant to the "PCs." A "TPK" might have happened, but that wasn't the goal of the monsters. In fact, the monsters had clear instructions not to kill the halflings.
V_V
 member, 955 posts
 Resting. I hope to find
 peace and vigor return.
Thu 2 Sep 2021
at 10:11
Re: If Combat Is Not The Main Focus
If a combat has permanent outcomes, that is a major part of the game, whether it's frequent or not. So I'd make sure you understand focus and importance are both most relevant to a game's design. A big desicion or event, even if rare, is nonetheless a major event. I've never been ina car accident. I've had my home be casualty to fire. It was one month of trauma out of nearly 500 months of my life. Still, it was something I had agency in, and something if I were character in a game, would want to extrapolate every option I had, to mitigate the loss of my possessions and comfort of my daily life.

An example would be if you ran a slice of life game, and a note of the game is that there is a criminal gang in the city. Most of the time, the PCs would be shopping for groceries, avoiding getting traffic tickets, dating (and more...) working at their job, and paying bills; maybe getting nice furniture, pets, or electronics. Then when gang member mugs a PC, it may be the only point in the game a PC could die. You, as GM, should decide, "how likely is that?". If it's zero, such as the gang member will stab the PC if they resist, but it'll take half and hour to bleed out, and another PC can get an ambulance, or get them to the ER, then that's fine too. In this case though, the gang member probably took their ID, their credit card, their cell phone, and their cash. The PC might also have a a medical bill too. Then you have to ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for me? What about the player?" If no, ask "Is this a good way to punish failure, and show actions have consequence, as to make the game feel more real?" If no, then you shouldn't be introducing the combat at all. It's not fun for anyone, and doesn't lend to ground the characters, it's distraction. Character sleep and eat, and do other things that are vital; but no time is spent on them. You can say the gang is in the area, but just assume it's background, like the architecture of the city. The gang isn't a character in the narrative sense, but a quality of the city, that is more a character than the gang itself.

Flow charts and statistics help with this decision to roll. If any flowchart has catastrophe, and only your group can decide (they may not agree though!) what that looks like, then you should kill that whole channel of the flowchart and not roll.

In war games, I like the minutia of combat. Unlike evileeyore, I woulld be extremely dissatisfied in settled mech warrior, mage knight, or Warlords: SotS battle with a mere rock paper scissors, or a roll of 1d20, highest wins. If ever I had the chance, even in very scarce cases, to settle a war game with a robust system; I would.

As GM, if I don't want to roll out a combat, I just default to the players winning, or avoiding combat. Just this week I GMed, and earlier the group had the chance to kill some people (they are infernals on the Blessed Isle--stuck over enemy lines) and I just said "You all avoid this, I assume. If not, you'll easily kill the group of men, but leave body count for later" they opted to kill some the first time, and we rolled it out. The third time they understood the consequences, and chose to avoid combat. In the second case, they killed without a roll, not even one. The first gave me benchmark, and I used that to determine they'd not need to use any magic to have good chance of success, but if they did, they'd certainly win with no reasonable chance injury they couldn't recuperate in a few hours. They did, however have a body count that was piling up, to implicate serious threats, thus they chose to try to let the heat die down, and so avoided the local police.

That was in a combat heavy game. If I don't want to roll it out with the system, I don't at all. I just settle actions but declarative statement and reasonable outcome. If it's major, I want the multitude of factors that govern combat, to come into play. It is a combat heavy game, even if it's only 35% of the session play time. Combat has a likely outcome of death. In the region, combat would lead to death for the characters. It is out of character for the canon area not to kill the characters, except in rare cases. Death is also not the end for a character. A major setback, but not game over.
V_V
 member, 956 posts
Thu 2 Sep 2021
at 10:17
Re: If Combat Is Not The Main Focus

This message was deleted by the user at 10:53, Thu 02 Sept.

GreenTongue
 member, 1055 posts
 Game Archaeologist
Thu 2 Dec 2021
at 15:28
Re: If Combat Is Not The Main Focus
In reply to engine (msg # 21):

"A "TPK" might have happened, but that wasn't the goal of the monsters. In fact, the monsters had clear instructions not to kill the halflings."

How often do players accept being captured? It seems to be something rare to me.
They would rather "fight o the death" then be captured.

If losing was "being captured" would that be something most players would be happy with.
Got caught looting a hoard and were sent to prison or labor.
engine
 member, 867 posts
 There's a brain alright
 but it's made out of meat
Thu 2 Dec 2021
at 18:29
Re: If Combat Is Not The Main Focus
In reply to GreenTongue (msg # 24):

Great question. Capture is problematic, to be sure, potentially more so than death, though I don't think you'd have trouble finding players or GMs here who believe it's a perfectly fine outcome.

(Capture is a very common fall back position for DMs who realize they've set up a TPK. Despite the monsters being out to kill for most of the fight, the GM decides on the fly that the PCs are just knocked out and taken. The capture itself might just be a speedbump, since it probably wasn't the original intent, and the GM realizes the players won't have fun with it.)

If I were to make "capture" the goal of the enemies in a game, my focus would be on NPCs. I'm not trying to debate who would or wouldn't be NPCs in a recreation of The Lord of the Rings. One can do things with characters in books that wouldn't fly in all games.

Also, a goal for the monsters doesn't mean the PCs can't just fight to the death. That's what the warriors in LotR would have done, and what Boromir did do. But we don't know if the monsters would have bothered fighting to the death to achieve their goal. I think it's likely that if Merry and Pippen had not been captured that the enemy would have retreated, intending to try again later.

The overall point, though, is that one can have interesting and challenging encounters even when the goal of the monsters isn't to kill all of the PCs.
Jobe00
 member, 337 posts
 Role-Playing
 Game Mechanic
Thu 2 Dec 2021
at 22:45
If Combat Is Not The Main Focus
Combat not the main focus?

*confused grunting*