The blog has been quiet for a while, but don’t be deceived! Behind the scenes, the HD&D-elves have been working furiously on the new Combat system. It’s been a tricky exercise, and has taken significantly longer than I would have expected, but I’m pleased to say that it is now finished. However, rather than dump all the information on you in one go, I’m going to drip-feed it over the next three weeks. Hopefully, this will both keep your attention and allow me to finish the next post on Equipment.
The Combat section of the hybrid game is divided into nine sections. Starting next week, and for three weeks, the blog will update on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays with the next part of the combat rules. In order to whet your appetite, here’s the Contents of the combat chapter. I’ll add hyperlinks when the pages become live.
Table of Contents
2. Action Types
3.1. Speeding Up Play
4.1. Attack Types
4.2. Choosing Targets
4.5. Attack Results
6.2.1. It’s all relative
7.1. Action Points
7.2. Active Defence
7.3. Aid Another
7.5. Breath Weapon
7.6. Bull Rush
7.7. Called Shot
7.8. Cast a Spell
7.12. Coup de Grace
7.16. Draw, Sheathe or Drop
7.16.1. Ready or Loose a Shield
7.17. Drop Prone
7.19. Frightful Presence
7.22. Manipulate Item
7.23. Opportunity Attack
7.25. Poison Use
7.32. Stand Up
7.34. Swallow Whole
7.37. Two Weapon Fighting
7.38. Use Magic Item
8. Atypical Combat
8.1. Seige warfare
8.2. Mounted Combat
8.3. Aerial Combat
8.4. Underwater Combat
8.5. Vehicle Combat
Overview of the System
As you can see, this is a pretty comprehensive list. The more observant of you will also notice that it follows the structure laid down in the fourth edition Player’s Handbook. I spent a while comparing the lay out of the information in various editions of D&D before coming to the conclusion that the presentation in 4e was by far the clearest and the most logical. Don’t take this as any endorsement of the content of the fourth edition rules.
If you read the HD&D combat system, and come away wondering why I bothered because it’s just like third edition, then I will have done my job well. My intention is not to stray too far away from the core mechanics of the d20 system. The changes I’ve made are (hopefully) fairly subtle, but should have quite profound affects on the way that we play the game. The HD&D combat system had two main goals:
Excise all Rules for Miniatures
We don’t play with miniatures, I don’t own any miniatures, so there’s no point having any rules that assume the use of miniatures. This means that I have made radical changes to the rules for movement and opportunity attacks. Even versions 3.0 and 3.5 of D&D heavily relied on miniatures to represent combat. It even crept in to the last couple of years of second edition material (I’m looking at you: Combat and Tactics).
In brief, Movement does not provoke opportunity attacks except in very specific circumstances. You can wander through combat without any real fear of provoking casual attacks, unless you do something that distracts you. Casting a ranged spell or using a ranged weapon while engaged in mêlée combat provokes an opportunity attack from all foes currently engaging you in mêlée combat. If you run away from combat without taking the Withdraw action then any one engaged in mêlée combat can take an opportunity attack at you. And generally that’s about it. There may be other, very particular circumstances in which opportunity attacks apply but by and large the number of times you can provoke one has been reduced to two.
Unless you’re a Fighter. He’s the king of opportunity attacks, so he gets to make them when other classes cannot. But we’ll have the full rules for the Fighter up in October, so you’ll be able to see his Combat Superiority talent for yourself at that time.
Making an Opportunity Attack is no longer a free action. It is an Immediate Action. Which means you are limited to only making one in a round. And only then, when you aren’t using your Immediate or Swift action for anything else. This could mean characters might be unwilling or unable to take the opportunity attack at all.
Feats and other abilities from earlier edition that reference movement in squares, opportunity attacks or any of the forced movement rules from fourth edition have either been modified or just discarded from the game. For example, in third edition the Combat Reflexes feat used to let you make additional opportunity attacks in a round equal to your Dex modifier, as long as you directed those attacks at different foes. In HD&D, Combat Reflexes lets you take one additional Swift action per round (an Immediate Action is a type of Swift action).
Speed up Play
The most important consideration of the new rules is to speed up play. In previous posts, I’ve stated that the average combat between characters of the same level should last six rounds. Each successful attack should inflict one third of a character’s maximum hit points and every other attack should be successful. Of course there are exceptions. Some characters have more or less hit points; healing magic or regeneration can skew these results and some players are just profoundly unlucky. And we all know who I’m talking about.
Despite this, six rounds should be the most common length of a combat. However, reducing combat to six rounds is pointless if each round takes an hour to play through. The combat rules are therefore designed to speed up table play. This is what I’ve tried to do with these changes:
Less Actions: Characters take one Standard Action and one Move action on their turn (or two Move actions). There are no minor actions and no full round actions. It’s just a choice between two options. This doesn’t mean your character can do less, but you don’t need to mechanically work out the minutiae of different actions for different action types.
Broader Standard Actions: The Standard action is your “doing” action. You can use it to make an attack, cast a spell and all the other things you would think your character can do. If you can attack multiple times per round, then you do it as one Standard Action, not multiple actions or a Full Round Action or anything as confusing as that.
Iterative Attacks use the same skill modifier: If you make four attacks and your weapon skill is +20 then you make those attacks at +20/+20/+20/+20 and not +20/+15/+10/+5 as you did in third edition. Using the same skill modifier means you can roll all the dice at once. That saves time.
Defences over Saving Throws: Normally in the game, the instigator of an action (often the attacker) rolls a skill check against a static defence. So a poisoned weapon makes an attack against your Fortitude Defence, you don’t make a Fortitude Saving Throw. If you’re sneaking, then you make a Stealth check against your enemy’s Passive Perception, the enemy doesn’t make a Perception check. This is the fourth edition way, and it is a quicker resolution system as it halves the number of dice that need to be rolled. Of course, sometimes the victim is the instigator. If you’re trying to fight off a disease you make a Fortitude saving throw against a disease’s static DC. Opposed Rolls haven’t been completely consigned to history, but they’re not used very often. And they’re used even less frequently in combat.
Critical Hits on a Natural 20: A natural 20 is a critical hit. You don’t roll to confirm a critical any more. As in fourth edition, a critical hit inflicts the maximum possible damage and not a multiple of the damage. Taken together this means you roll many less dice when you score a critical hit.
Beyond the Two Goals
Aside from these two main goals, the HD&D combat system seeks to consolidate the best aspects of second, third and fourth edition. Rules for Called Shots (last seem in second edition) have returned to the game, been combined with the rules for damaging specific body parts (from the third edition DMG) and then folded into the the rules for Wounds (which are based on fourth edition’s disease track, and Pathfinder’s rules for Afflictions). It’s as close as HD&D is going to get to rules for hit locations.
I am hoping that because the system is still built on the robust d20 system, that these changes won’t destroy the game. I could be wrong, of course. Issues still remain. Should a wizard with the Quickened Spell feat and the Combat Reflexes feat be able to cast three spells per round? As the rules stand at the moment they can. Of course, they could in version 3.0 of Dungeons and Dragons as well, and that didn’t seem to cause too much of a problem.
Hopefully, next week’s ensuing discussions should provide a starting point to clear up some of these issues. Be sure to tune in on Monday for the post on The Combat Sequence.