We’ll start out our fighter love series with that house rule I talked about ripping off from Jon in my last post.
One of the things I liked about DCC (yes, there are/were SOME things I liked about DCC) was the concept of special combat maneuvers for fighters, as well as the gradual increase in ability to perform those combat maneuvers. Having said that, I found the execution of those combat maneuvers (in play) to be frustrating in two regards:
- They happened too infrequently.
- Their effects were too limited (too rigidly or narrowly defined).
But again (and just to emphasize) it’s the execution that tanks. The concept, the idea, is an excellent one:
- It makes the fighter “special” in combat (where fighting should be the fighter’s specialty).
- It gives a mechanic that can “spruce up” battle (less “boring”).
- It adds another bennie that “levels up” (development/growth over time).
Currently, there is a certain “dullness” to Old School combat, only flavored/colored by the narrative of the DM and players. Now, yes, this can still be plenty exciting, especially at lower levels with dangerous encounters when a lucky blow can (or two) can knock a PC dead. But sometimes it would be nice to do a “special effect” with your attack, similar to DCC’s Mighty Deeds of Arms which include (for those who don’t know) blinding attacks, tripping and throws, push backs, disarms, troop rallying, precision shots, and defensive maneuvers. Done with a little tactical cunning, these things can add to a party’s effectiveness in addition to making the “hit point attrition mini-game” a little more interesting.
Because – especially at high levels, and when fighting large monsters – the steady drone of clacking dice and counting HPs becomes tiresome. How many successful attacks does it take to take down a 20 hit die T-Rex? Wouldn’t it be nice to blind the thing or do that cinematic maneuver where you jam something in its mouth (like a big bone or tree branch) to keep it from biting? Is there a way for the heroic fighter to defeat such a monster in heroic (and clever) fashion, rather than just standing toe-to-toe and swinging away? I’d prefer there to be something for the fighter, rather than just waiting for the spell-user to neutralize the big threat…why must my fighter be nothing more than a glorified bodyguard for the artillery?
So, yeah: combat stunts. That’s what I’m talking about. Interesting “add-ons” to the standard attack roll-damage roll game mechanic found in B/X.
Jon’s idea (if I’m remembering correctly) was to roll two different D20s for an attack roll, one a “regular attack die” and one a “special attack die.” If the “special” D20 scored a “hit” you could attach an effect of some sort to the opponent, even if you failed to do damage with your “normal D20” (i.e. even if you rolled a miss). The example he gave might be something like tossing sand in the opponent’s eyes so they suffer an attack penalty in the next round. If you succeeded with both rolls, you got to add damage, too. If you succeeded with the attack die, but failed with the special attack, you’d do normal damage without any added effect.
All that is too complex for my brain to remember, plus I hate asking players to call colors and whatnot (“Which die is the special attack? Which die is the normal attack?”). So here’s my riff:
- Your character can choose whether or not to do a combat stunt.
- If you choose to do a stunt, roll 2D20 for your attack instead of 1D20.
- If both D20s (with normal bonuses) result in “hits” you can narrate your combat effect.
- If either D20 misses, your attack misses.
- A successful combat stunt always does normal damage, unless you choose otherwise.
[regarding normal damage: remember that I generally use the D6 default as standard in my B/X games or D8 for slow, two-handed weapons. I might adapt this as well saying, "you can do D8 damage if you choose a slow stunt" acting at the end of the round]
|The B/X Companion has two-weapon rules.|
This for me is simple and straight-forward. There’s a little risk-reward going on here (it’s easier to roll a hit with one D20 as opposed to two). Fighters, who have better attack rolls, will have an easier time succeeding at combat stunts…and their ability to DO those combat stunts will get easier as they go up in level. Yet other adventurers can still try stunts, too.
Most combat stunts will probably be used in melee, seeing as how fighters (with their high prime requisite STR) will have a better attack roll in melee, but archer-types with high DEX might well attempt “ranged disarms” and “bullseye” type shots. Here are some ideas of the types of stunts that I'd allow:
Cripple: used to give a character a penalty for the remainder of the combat, no more than -2 (though additional crippling results might be cumulative). This could represent a cut that drips blood in the eyes, knee-capping or stomping an ankle, or giving someone a nagging wound of some sort. The opponent can withdraw and spend D4 rounds of self-ministering to recover from the crippling attack.
Delay: a temporary “stun” attack that prevents the creature from taking any action for a single round. This could be a kick in the groin, a trip attack, sand in the face, or a stick in the craw of a large monster (like a T-Rex). The creature cannot move or attack (or cast spells) while delayed. Usually only a single delay can be performed on the same opponent in a single combat. If the combat stunt occurs at the end of the combat round (after the opponent’s normal action), the opponent is delayed in the following round.
Disarm: usable against opponent’s with weapons only, though it may be possible to maim a claw/claw/bite creature’s natural attack (broken wrist, for example). If the disarm is temporary (the opponent’s weapon can be retrieved), the stunt automatically works. If the disarm is permanent for the remainder of the combat (breaking an opponent’s weapon, crippling an opponent’s natural attack), then the opponent is allowed a save versus wands to resist.
Hamper: hamstring an opponent (or leave a dagger in its paw or similar) to limit its movement. The opponent’s movement rate is halved for the remainder of the combat and for one turn thereafter.
Incapacitate: a knock-out blow of some sort. The character must have equal (or more) levels compared to the level or HD of the opponent; for example, a 3rd level fighter can’t knock-out an ogre. Giant monsters (larger than 7 hit dice), may be immune to this combat stunt unless the PC can provide some justification (like using a girdle of giant strength to slug the creature with a tree trunk or boulder). The opponent is allowed a save versus poison to resist this stunt. The creature wakes up shortly after the combat ends.
Intimidate: perform some incredibly intricate attack or maneuver to break the will of the opponent. If successful, the opponent must make a morale check. This combat stunt only works on opponents with fewer HD/levels than the PC performing the stunt. The morale check may be adjusted if the opponents outnumber the PC or PC’s party. When attempting to intimidate a group of opponents, the stunt must be performed against the leader of the opponents (i.e. the attack roll is made against the biggest badass of the opposing side).
Push: maneuver the opponent in the direction desired, driven and directed by the PC performing the stunt. This can force a creature back over a ledge, or back into a bottle-neck area (like a doorway), or turn a creature so a buddy thief can backstab the opponent.
Take-Down: this combines both the delay and push combat stunts as the character takes the opponent to the ground; the difference is that the PC goes down with the creature and must spend a round (their next available action) in order to regain his or her feet. The PC can decide to maintain the take-down, taking no other action, in order to keep the opponent on the ground in subsequent rounds, but the opponent is only delayed for a single action and may proceed to attack the PC while on the ground.
Okay, that’s all I’ve got off the top of my head for combat stunts (though others may think of others that don’t fit into these categories). I haven’t had a chance to play-test any of these yet, so I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who has a chance to use them.
More fighter stuff sometime in the near future!