I wasn’t able to be in the most resent Reddit round up live steam (1/7/2022). I watched it later. One of the Reddit posts discuses in that stream was about combat ‘maneuvers’, a called shot type mechanic. I think Todd and the community missed an interesting aspect of the mechanic. And thus critiqued something they didn’t fully understand. Unless I’m that one not understanding it…
My understanding is: The idea of the mechanic is that when a hit is scored the attacker choices a ‘maneuver’ like knockdown, disarm, etc. The defender then choices if he looses the hp caused by the hit, or suffers the ‘maneuver’.
The fact that the attacker choices what the maneuver does, but the defender choices wither or not to accept the maneuver is the genius of this mechanism. This makes the combat resolution functional a negotiation between the attacker and the defender. If the attack makes the maneuver too powerful the defender will simply take the hp lose. If the attacker makes the maneuver too weak the defender WILL take the maneuver, but the attacker would have been better off just doing damage.
For example lets assume the defender has 20 hps, and he is hit for 2 hp. The attacker adds the maneuver ‘broken hip: no move or attack’. The defender takes the 2 damage because the maneuver is obviously much worse then 2 damage. The attacker mistakenly offered a maneuver that was too powerful, the defender would never accept.
Alternately, lets say the attacker does 18 damage and adds the maneuver ‘finger injured -1 to hit’. The defender choices to take the -1 to hit because a -1 to hit is obviously minor compared to losing 18 of 20 hps. The attack should never had offered such a minor maneuver.
A third example might be the attacker does 5 damage and adds the maneuver ‘knee injured movement speed reduced 25%’. Now this turns into an interesting decision for the defender. Is the movement penalty worse then the damage? Its hard to say. The defender has to think… Is the attacker confident that he is going to win and is trying to hobble the defender so he can’t run away? Is the attacker planing on running himself and trying to ensure he won’t be rundown?
If the attacker had done 12 damage instead of 5 he would have been in a stronger position to add a more significant penalty. Or he could have added the same movement penalty, putting more pressure on the defender to accept the penalty. The more damage the attack does the more powerful of a maneuver the attacker can offer while still having a chance the defender will accept it. The trick is to get the defender to make the wrong decision.
I think this makes combat functionally similar to board games where you trade resources with other players. Each side is trying to win and is making offers that they feel help them more then their opponent. An offer is only accepted when both sides believe they are getting the better of the other.
The damage done is a currency (of negative value) that the attacker is offering to trade away from the defender a special maneuver game affect (that also has negative value).
For this idea to work the ‘maneuver’ has to be chosen by the attacker after the hit is made. The attacker has to know how much currency he has to trade. In a normal called shot system it is very important that the called shot is called before the attack is made but the opposite is true with this mechanism.
Now for the less faltering section. Although I think this mechanism is very interesting I think it is not well suited to a DnD style RPG. This constant decision of should I take a maneuver or damage just isn’t the experience I am trying to create around the table, nor is it more accurate as a simulation. I also think both the attacker and defender making these decisions would slow combat considerably. Combat is slow enough.
This is a great idea for a mechanic. You might be able to build a very interesting game around the idea but it is not well suited for OSR or other such RPG.
I think you’re probably right that I may have given it a bit of a short shrift in the stream. It is a very interesting mechanic. I usually think in terms of risk/reward which may have threw me off on this one. There is an interesting decision point that gets to be made in terms of taking the maneuver or taking the damage. What I’d want to work out is how do we set a criteria for that exchange so that we don’t end up in situations in which either side of the exchange is too unbalanced.
Other than the extra analysis and possible paralysis involved, I think it could work in D&D given the right table and style but it definitely wouldn’t work for everyone. I still kinda like the idea of using graduated ranges of success to unlock extras like moves. This would also make it easy to categorize moves so that it could be easier to shove an enemy than knock them down, etc.,
Steelmaning the system, the attacker will self regulate to make sure both sides are balanced because its in their interest to do so. If the attacker proposes a maneuver too weak he is hurting himself, if he proposes one too strong it won’t be accepted.
Although I agree that if I were to use this system I would set up some criteria, like a list of possible maneuvers to choice from.
Graduated ranges of success is a temping idea. I used graduated successes in my heart breaker but moved away from them. The draw back is that you have to do that math for every attack to figure out exactly how much you hit by. If you have a simple hit/miss target number mechanic, 80% of the attacks require no math because if you hit by 6,or 8, or 10 its obvious without doing the math. But if hitting by 8 is different than hitting by 6, you have to do the math. I’m usually the guy yelling at people to stop complaining about all the math in RPGs, but if you have 25 goblins making attacks it does slow down the game.
Good points! It would probably be something I’d only apply to players or important monsters and skip mooks if I was going to do such a thing or if I was using more of a table look-up type system (think TSR Marvel) that has easy to read and shift columns for success levels. Clearly, and obviously, I have not thought this through.