Fluid Combat Rounds Rules

  • Szilard posted an insanely complicated set of D&D 3.0 rules for a less turn-based approach to combat.

I can’t imagine actually using those rules (even if they weren’t D&D 3.0 oriented), but it did make me ponder whether there was some way to do the bookkeeping for them that would make it less cumbersome.  The answer is not that I could see (too many fiddly bits), but it gave me an idea so cunning you could put whiskers on it and call it a weasel…

Countless Moments

Each action is represented by a tile (a piece of cardboard or similar) that is 1 unit wide and a number of units long = how many moments the action takes up.  E.g.

  • Take a 5′ step forward or to the side: 1 unit.
  • Do nothing: 1 unit
  • Strike: 3 units
  • Cast a Spell: 5 units
  • Dive For Cover: 2 units
  • Step Back: 2 Units
  • Drop Prone: 1 unit
  • Stand from Prone: 1 unit
  • Run at double-pace: 5 units
  • Effects with duration (e.g. spells): N units (e.g. number of units determined by duration and scale, e.g.  a spell that lasted 3 turns would be 18 units if the scale was 6 moments to the turn).  These get their own tracks (one per effect), since they run in parallel with any other actions the characters take.
  • Bookkeeping (anything that the game rules require checking at the end of a “turn”, such as bleeding out, recovering endurance): N units, where N is the number of moments determined by the scale.  Again, this gets its own track (hopefully there’s only one…)

and so forth.  The GM would have a supply of 1 unit tiles to mark off moments.  Each player plays their intended actions by stacking their tiles one after another; they may be placed at any time at the end of the player’s current series of tiles.

Each moment the GM plays another 1 unit tile next to the players lines of tiles, and the actions that end in that moment are resolved.  Ties are resolved in initiative order (however that’s decided for the game…by Dex, by Init Bonus, by rolling). Past tiles are removed for recycling and the whole series can be slid backwards to make more room at the end.  There is no demarcation of turns, you just keep adding tiles to the end of the sequence and advancing until the combat is resolved.


Any time before the action a tile represents is resolved, you may remove that tile (and any following tiles) and replace it with a new one, but the new one begins no earlier than the current moment–not when the original tile began.  Fill with Do Nothing actions if needed to keep the sequence in sync.  Since the point of  continuous action resolution instead of turn-based is to allow the players to react to events as they unfold, the GM should generally let the players fiddle with their upcoming actions freely; still, if it threatens to bog down the game (particularly if the players start getting involved in lengthy discussions of optimal sequencing) the GM should feel free to move things along by playing new moment tiles and resolving actions–if they player doesn’t currently have an action in the sequence treat that as Do Nothing, representing the player dithering.  You might also experiment with allowing the players to play as many new tiles as they want at the start of combat and when one of their actions has just completed, but only play a single tile followed by a mandatory Do Nothing tile after an Abort to represent the cost of changing your mind all the time.


For converting durations, you have to pick a scale.  Generally you should make it so that a series of steps adds up to a normal move, e.g. 12 moments = 1 turn if characters can normally move 60′ a turn.  If you can usually move 1/2 move and attack, then an attack would be 6 units instead of 3, etc.

I don’t think I’m actually going to try this with any of our current games; it doesn’t really fit with Savage Worlds’ initiative and multi-action rules that well, and I don’t have any strong objections to the way turns play out in SW, but if anyone wants to give it a try I’d love to hear about it.

5 thoughts on “Fluid Combat Rounds Rules

  1. I will note that I don’t think the rules I came up with are high on usability. It was mostly an exercise in… something…

  2. Your calling it “Crunch Fetish” made it fairly clear you weren’t really planning on trying to run it as written…but I actually think the tile thing it inspired me to could work; I’ll try to remember it if I’m ever running a game that could benefit.

  3. I have toyed w/ the idea of tying a duration to all actions and keeping a numbered sheet to keep track of things. Such as Joe attacks w/ a long sword his next move will be in 5 units. On his next turn he uses a potion which takes 2 units. He then switches weapons to a great axe, 1 unit. His attack with a great axe takes 8 units.

    So Joe would go on 1, 6, 8, 9, and 17.

  4. Yeah, that’s the basic idea I was getting at. I think using tokens or (my friend Russell’s suggestion since I have a million of them) Legos makes it less tedious to track.

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