Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Combat Notions for Pars Fortuna

While PARS FORTUNA started out as an experiment in randomly generated material for an RPG, I soon decided to add in optional rules for Old School games to make it a true tool box. To that end, I have an easy rule for encumbrance, a unique (I think) method of spell casting, a slightly different take on armor and weapons and an easy system for special combat maneuvers. Nothing necessarily ground breaking, but maybe bits and pieces that Referees will find useful for their own games.

Movement & Combat
Today, I'm thinking about movement and the fact that it is virtually useless in most games. My guy has a movement of 12 (or 30' or whatever your system uses) and you have a movement of 9 and, let's be honest, how often does this really come up. Maybe if we're being chased, but usually movement in the dungeon comes down to "we walk down the hall" or "we walk into the room, carefully". Movement might come into things in outdoor adventures where the spaces are larger, but it's a rare dungeon chamber indeed in which movement (and missile ranges - more on that later) make much difference. So, what's to be done?

One idea is to mark off movement on a grid, but in all my years of playing 3rd edition, I don't think movement rates ever had much effect within the dungeon - again, the rooms are rarely large enough to make a movement of 30' that much better than a movement of 20' - and we all know how much grid movement can slow down a combat.

My idea is to link initiative to movement rates, as follows:

Combat Speed
Quick = a movement rate of 15 or higher (note, I'm using Swords and Wizardry's movement rates here; in 3rd edition think 40' or higher)

Slow = a movement rate of 9 or below (20' in 3rd edition)

Everything else is considered "normal speed"

When combat rolls around, I use the following order of events:

1. Missile Fire: Ranged weapons are valuable because they attack first, and thrown weapons are included here. Determine first strike in this phase by casting dice. You can either let every person and monster (or monster group) throw a D6 and go high to low, or have each side throw a D6 to determine which side attacks first. If your character has a higher rate of fire than 1 shot per round, just make the first shot during this round.

2. Quick Creatures: Quick creatures move and attack - again, to determine first strike just throw dice, giving creatures/characters a bonus of +1 to their role if they have a longer weapon or reach than their opponent. You could also break up the movement and the attack - everyone moves, and then anyone within 10' of an opponent is considered in melee and may attack, rolling to determine who strikes first.

3. Normal Creatures: Normal creatures move and attack - as above

4. Slow Creatures: Slow creatures move and attack - as above

5. Spells: Spells are fired/cast - I'm assuming that chanting a spell takes longer than knocking and firing a bow; also gives the side without a spell caster time to disrupt the spell casting with a well placed attack.

6. More Missiles: For those with high rates of fire (see above).

In essence, creatures with higher movement rate always win initiative, though their counterparts with the same combat speed might beat them to the first strike. This way, movement rates have a very tangible effect on character survival, and those who choose to stay light and mobile get some advantage over those who are burdened with gear, armor, etc. Weight management becomes a tactical decision.

Missiles & Ranges
We all know that in most fantasy games, ranged weapons are given a range or range categories, and these ranges impose penalties on ranged attacks. Much in the same way as movement, though, how often do these ranges come into play when most combats occur in rooms that are 10' or 20' or 30' square. Outdoors, of course, ranges matter. This makes perfect sense, since the game was designed as a war game and then modified to support dungeon delving. My suggested optional rule for PARS FORTUNA is to give each creature an effective range, in feet, based on his Dexterity score. For monsters, you can just assume an effective range of 10'. Within this effective range you suffer no penalties. Outside of this effective range, you suffer a -1 penalty to hit for each increment beyond effective you go. Thus, a fighting-man with an effective range of 10' would have the following modifications based on range:

0-10 feet: No penalty
11-20 feet: -1 penalty to hit
21-30 feet: -2 penalty to hit
31-40 feet: -3 penalty to hit

For a poor slob with a dexterity of 6, the ranges would be:

0-6 feet: No penalty
7-12 feet: -1 to hit
13-24 feet: -2 to hit
25-36 feet: -3 penalty

This gives the high-dexterity character a nice benefit in missile combat, and makes "short passes" easier than "long bombs" even within the confines of a dungeon.


  1. Typically movement rates matter a lot in games I've played, lately I haven't been worrying about it too much. Movement rate based initiative looks interesting.

    As for weapon ranges they can be a big deal. We tend to have lot's of outdoor action (wilderness,urban, ruins, castles) along with the dungeon crawling.

    A Character with a DEx of 8 having range brackets of 0-8,9-16,17-24,24-36 compared to a character with a Dex of 11 having 0-11,12-22,23-33,35-44 seems a little fiddly and really weakens the effectiveness of many ranged weapons.

  2. Have to agree with JDJarvis there, the DEX-based ranges seem to be an unnecessary over-complication at first read-through. Also, as written (as far as I can see), it's a severe penalty for bow/crossbow users unless you then factor in different multiples of DEX for different weapons!

    Or is this just meant for thrown weapons - such as molotovs, daggers, rocks etc?

    However, I think the revamped Initiative system could have merit (and give some deeper purpose to movement rates).

  3. My idea on the Dex-based ranges is that, ultimately, it is the person aiming the missile that is important in close quarters, not the weapon. Maybe not a good idea, but it was worth throwing out there.

  4. I agree with you on movement, we had never used it until 3rd and 4th editions forced the issue. I like your take on making it simple and making it matter in intitiative!


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