Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Experimenting in Ravensburg: Abstract Combat

The final thing I've experimented with in my Ravensburg Swords & Wizardry game with Brie is combat. I've done this in three ways, importing two ideas from The Black Hack, and one idea from Sly Flourish's advice on narrative combat here and here.

Imported Idea #1: The Black Hack's Single Stat for Monsters

One of the ideas I like in The Black Hack is that monsters have one stat – hit dice. Or more correctly, hit dice are the monsters' one defining stat, the stat from which all other stats derive. In other words, hit points, armor, and damage dealt are all determined by a monster's hit dice. This makes things ridiculously simple both in terms of prep and in terms of not having to consult anything in play for monster numbers. I brought this into my Swords & Wizardry game by adapting it like so:

So my stat blocks look something like this: 

Orc (1 HD)    or    Skeleton (1 HD, immune to sleep/charm)

Now I might not use this for bosses or other special monsters, but it's great for all the mooks.

Imported Idea #2: The Black Hack's Distance System

Instead of using actual measurements for movement and weapon ranges, I've brought The Black Hack's four abstract distance bands into play – close, nearby, far-away, distant. Some people question the need for four bands, but the four-band set-up makes sense to me. Close approximates hand-to-hand range, nearby approximates thrown-weapon range, far-away approximates projectile weapon range, and distant represents people and things visible but out of range. Add to that The Black Hack's simple movement rules for switching from band to band and I'm set. This too has worked well as a tweak to our Swords & Wizardry game.

Imported Idea #3: Sly Flourish's Final Fantasy Combat Style.

In his posts on running narrative combat here and here, Sly Flourish gives a number of really good tips for that type of play. One that I carried away into our Swords & Wizardry game was what he calls the "Final Fantasy Battle Layout." The battlemat Brie and I've been using for it looks like this: 

(yes, it's a piece of blank grey felt)

"In older Final Fantasy games, combat occurred between a line of PCs on the right side of the screen and a line of monsters on the left side. There was no movement or engagement between PCs and monsters, the PCs simply chose which they would attack and the monsters did the same. We can arrange our own table layout the same way, using miniatures mainly to show who is up front, who is in the back, and who is enaged with who." – Sly Flourish's Guide to Narrative Combat in Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition

And so that's what we've been doing.

The three of these things combined have really quickened the pace of our play. The other thing they've done is situate the focus of the action in our heads, rather than on the tabletop. Now +Tim Shorts and +Ken H  get to be my second batch of guinea pigs tomorrow night when we take a run at The Black Hack for the first time, which I've set up to run using all the elements from my Ravensburg experiments with Brie.

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