[Sword & Sanity RPG] Combat Overview

I am going to try to ramp up the posts about some of the design decisions I have made while working on Swords Against the Outer Dark: Sword & Sanity Roleplaying, beginning this new year with an overview of combat. For me, the way I have approached combat in general is to not try to tinker with it too much, and keep it as straightforward as possible. As most know, this project began as a supplement for Labyrinth Lord, but is now going to be released as a standalone game. Much of what I began with came straight from the LL Open Game Content, but I have tweaked a few things and built upon it where I felt it needed to expand a bit to help flesh out a stronger sword & sorcery feel. All in all, this combat system should be just as simple and flexible, with a few minor twists and turns. Quickly, here is a brief overview:
  • Armor Class will be descending, beginning with 9 and going down from there.
  • Initiative is rolled on a d6, to this roll the players add their Armor Class value and the highest roll at the table attacks first. This helps simulate how cumbersome armor can be during combat. The lighter the armor the better, as the higher AC value adds more to the Initiative roll. In most sword & sorcery literature the combatants tend to wear lighter armor or none at all, and handling Initiative in this manner helps simulate this pretty well I think. (Edit: In most cases, the Armor Class value added to an Initiative roll is not adjusted due to any magical properties the armor might have. This, of course, is something each Game Master will need to decide for their own game, and also may vary from one magic set of armor to the next.)
  • Characters will receive bonuses to attack and damage, which varies with Class and increase as levels are gained. Warriors (fighters) receive the highest Base Attack Bonus (BAB) and Base Damage Bonus (BDB) of all the Classes.
  • I wanted to get away from having to use charts during combat, so this is the formula used when rolling for Attack: 1D20 + STR Adj + BAB + Foe’s AC ≥ 20 “Hits”
  • A natural 1 always misses (Critical Miss), and a natural 20 always hits (Critical Hit). Critical Hits do not affect the damage that is dealt out, but the fact that this roll penetrates through all defenses no matter what is enough of a "critical" effect in itself. An optional chart to address Critical Misses will be included in the book, but that will be covered in another post.
  • As stated above, Critical Hits do not affect damage in the game, but there is Critical Damage nonetheless. When damage is rolled and the dice yields maximum damage (i.e., 6 on a D6) as the result, another roll of the dice is made and added to the first result. The second roll (and all additional damage rolls made in this fashion) is adjusted by -1, so this roll may in fact result in zero extra damage. If the second roll also yields a maximum damage result, damage is rolled again and the result is added to the total. The player can keep rolling the dice for additional damage as long as the dice keep yielding maximum damage results. Only the initial damage roll is adjusted by Strength. Example: a combatant (with a STR: 15, which gives a +1 bonus to damage) is attacking with a short sword (1D6 damage), and rolls a six. Adding in +1 from the Strength bonus, the initial damage dealt out is 7. Since maximum damage was rolled, another 1D6 damage is rolled and added to the first. The second damage roll results in a 6 as well, which translates to 5 points of damage, and another roll of the dice can be made. The third roll yields a 3, which gives us 2 additional points of damage. Since the third roll did not result in maximum damage, no additional damage rolls are made. The total damage dealt out from these three dice rolls is 14 ([6+1]+[6-1]+[3-1]=14).
  • When damage is inflicted a character may suffer Grievous Wounds, which occur when the total damage dealt out in a single combat round exceeds a character's Constitution score. When this happens a save vs. Death roll is required. If this roll fails, the character is reduced to zero Hit Points and rendered Moribund (incapacitated and dying). If the saving throw is successful, the character remains conscience, but is affected in such a way that they are forced to take a -4 penalty on their next Initiative roll. Unless defended, a Moribund combatant can be killed by coup de grâce the following round. If the damage dealt out is non-lethal, a failed save results in the character being rendered Unconscious.
  • Weapon damage varies depending on which class is wielding which weapon. Here again, Warriors receive the highest potential damage over all other classes. Example: a Warrior and a Mystic (cleric... kind of) are both wielding spears. The base damage for the Warrior is 1D8, while the Mystic has a base damage of 1D6.
  • Formula used for potential damage: roll dice for weapon damage + STR Adj + BDB = total damage
  • Characters are not restricted in their weapon choice due to Class.
That is the short of it. These rules have been playtested and in my opinion work well in achieving a sword & sorcery flavor, while at the same time keeping combat fast and fluid. If anyone has questions, by all means let me hear them. Feedback is always appreciated.
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