Combat is the most mechanically complex part of the hybrid game; it is also potentially the most confusing. Both players and GMs have much to remember. In addition to knowing their character’s abilities as well as their own, they need to properly visualise the scene in order to exploit every potential avenue to success. This vision also has to mesh with the visions of everyone else around the gaming table.
The last thing any player or GM needs is an overly complicated or extended system of turn taking. Your actions in combat (whatever they may be) should be quick to enact and quick to adjudicate. The system introduced here should help to expedite matters.
Your turn is divivded into three phases:
Phase One: This is the beginning of your turn. At this point you take no actions, but you perform a little housekeeping on your character. Even if you are unconscious or dying you still go through phase one of your turn, applying all effects that can apply:
- Ongoing Damage: If you are suffering ongoing damage from any source, then you take the damage now. Remembering to inflict the damage is the responsibility of the attacker. So if you keep quiet and the GM forgets that you’re on fire, then you may get away with it.
- Regeneration or Fast Healing: If you have either Regeneration or Fasting Healing then you regain hit points at the start of your turn.
- Other Effects: Some effects or conditions in the game may start or end at the beginning of your turn. If they do then they do it here in phase one.
Phase Two: This is the meat of your turn where you can take actions and influence the course of the game. Some conditions may limit the number of actions you can take in phase two; indeed some make it impossible to take any actions:
- Take Actions: On your turn you can take a standard action and a move action, or two move actions. You may also take any number of free actions the GM deems possible.
- Swift Action: If you are able to take a Swift action then you take it here in phase two.
- Any order: You can take your standard, move, free and swift actions (if applicable) in any order you like.
- Action Pont: At any point during phase two you can spend an action point to get an extra standard action.
- Other People’s Actions: Remember what you do may precipitate an action from your enemies or your allies. The chance of provoking one of these immediate actions may affect your character’s tactics.
Phase Three: This is the end of your turn. It is here that you tidy up your character and make it ready for your turn next round. Even if you are unconscious or bloodied, you must perform all the steps that you are capable of performing.
- Check ongoing effects: Any effect that you instigate that last for a number of rounds comes to an end in phase three of your turn. If a wizard casts a Shield spell that lasts five rounds then it ends in phase three of the wizard’s turn five rounds after it was cast. It’s up to the instigator to keep track of these effects, no one else will do it for you.
- Saving Throws: Most saving throws are made as reactions to events that happen to you on other people’s turns. However, some saving throws against ongoing effects, or death stabilisation checks are made here in phase three. It is the player’s job to remember to make these saving throws.
In addition to the above you may sometimes find yourself in the position of being able to take actions on other people’s turns. You can normally take Free actions at any point in the round as long as the GM is in agreement, but you may find yourself able to make special attacks designated as Immediate Actions, but don’t forget to remember any ongoing effects your character his handing out to his enemies. Ongoing damage and other effects happens on your enemy’s turns, but it’s your responisbility to remember it!
If you choose to hold your action and act later in the combat round, you are only actually delaying phase two of your turn. Phases one and three happen normally at your original initiative point. See the section on Actions in Combat (q.v.) for more information on delaying your actions.
Speeding Up Play
Here are a few pointers on how to best speed up combat play in the Hybrid Game:
1) Know your character!
All HD&D characters are complex with a myriad of different abilities, modifiers and powers that only apply in special circumstances. It may seem obvious, but you need to know and understand what your character can do. If you are a fighter with the Combat Superiority talent and you keep forgeting to make your opportunity attack at Withdrawing foes, then something is wrong. Maybe you’d rather being playing a wizard, or maybe you just need more time studying what your character is capable of.
2) Keep your character sheet up to date!
Your character sheet is your best friend. It has boxes and space for every die roll you need to make in the game. If you want to know what you should roll, then a quick glance at the character sheet should be all you need. Under no circumstances should you be calculating modifiers for skills or defences on your turn. Everything should be written down on the character sheet for your ease of reference.
3) Keep reference materials close at hand!
No player can remember the details of all the spells that their wizard knows. Even non-spellcasting PCs will have talents or feats that you may need reminding of. In these cases, then make sure you have the reference for these abilities at hand. This could be a bookmarked copy of the printed rules, shortcuts to your favourite pages of the HD&D site or simply printed pages of relevent information cut and pasted from an electronic version of these rules. Do whatever is easiest for you, but do something.
If you find yourself continually turning into a bear, or summoning the same horde of dire apes, then have the stats for these monsters ready and rolled up in advance. It will save such a lot of time if polymorph-happy summoners have everything prepared in advance.
4) Make notes!
If you’ve cast a spell that inflicts 2d6 damage every round then note down that you’ve done that. It’s the aggressor’s responsibility to remember these things. If you can’t remember then just jot it down on a sheet of scrap paper, that you can then look at when your turn comes around. A scrap of paper is also a good place for noting down spells cast, as well as your current hit point total.
5) Know what you’re going to do before you do it!
You should always pay attention to combat on other people’s turns. In addition to being polite, it keeps your mind ‘in the game’ and doesn’t leave you floundering for what to do when your turn comes around. When it isn’t your turn, you should be planning what you’re going to do when it is your turn. Other people’s turns are the best time for looking up the description of that spell you want to try, or working out your chances to hit an invisible foe. Change your plans if circumstances change, but make the effort to put your plan into practice. It’s always more fun to direct the action than to react to it, don’t you think?
6) Roll all the dice at once!
If you have multiple attacks then all the attacks are likely to use the same skill modifier. Simply roll enough dice for every attack and then declare the result of the lowest die. If that’s good enough to succeed then all the others have succeeded as well and you don’t need to declare them. If it isn’t good enough, then declare the result of the next lowest die and so on. You’d be surprised how much time that saves.
Even if multiple attack rolls represent different attacks with different skill modifiers – e.g. an attack roll vs Reflex to damage a character, and an attack roll vs Fortitude to poison through the wound – still roll both dice at once. Obviously, declare which is which before rolling. If the first attack misses you may not need the second at all, but if you do need it then it is rolled and ready for use.
Additionally, you may choose to roll damage dice at the same time as your attack roll. If you make multiple attacks then colour coordinate: roll a d20 and a damage die of the same colour or design.
The first three parts of the Combat section have been short and to the point. That’s all behind us now. On Monday we begin to look at the nitty gritty of HD&D’s combat mechanics. Come back then for the post on Attacks and Defences.