Adding Crunch to Super Simple Combat Maneuvers

Based on some of the comments on my post on Super-Simple Combat Maneuvers, some people are looking for more crunch to the system, or at least a more reliable way of forcing the issue.  Here are some possible added fillips, bearing in mind that to the extent that you make maneuvers a more attractive option than just doing damage you tilt the combat towards being resolved by the use of applicable maneuvers instead.  The original rules were designed so that you probably couldn’t use them to win a combat you would otherwise lose, at least not without a big dollop of luck.  The result, though, was that you probably wouldn’t bother to employ them unless circumstances gave you a specific reason to (we don’t need to defeat all these enemies if we can just get the MacGuffin to the Altar of Doom); it gave you a nice way of adjudicating attempts to do things outside the scope of the normal roll to hit/roll for damage/rinse and repeat cycle of combat, but it deliberately didn’t give you a lot of incentive to do so or choices to make in how to go about it.

If that’s not adequate, then here are some optional rules to try:

  • Advanced Maneuvers: accepting some penalty in return for increasing the chance of a critical that forces the issue.  E.g. for every -1 you take to your defense, or -1 to the damage done if they refuse the maneuver on a normal hit, you increase the critical range by 1.
  • Special Training: in return for spending resources on special training in using maneuvers (e.g. Feats in D&D 3, or Edges in Savage Worlds) you get either an increase in the critical range, or an increase in the damage done if the defender refuses the maneuver.
  • Upping the Stakes: for every -1 you take to your To Hit roll, you increase the damage done by 1 if they refuse the maneuver.
  • Reducing the Cost: if you think that forgoing a critical is too high a price to pay, so nobody would try the option, you could make it do regular damage plus the maneuver on a critical, or you could defer the decision to apply the critical damage or the maneuver until after the damage is rolled.

The exact numbers would vary depending on the system being used (a +/-1 is a lot bigger deal in Savage Worlds than in a d20 system) and the feel you’re going for.  You probably wouldn’t use all of these unless you wanted a very maneuver-centric game, and you should be prepared to tweak the exact numbers or even which ones you’re employing depending on how they work out in actual play.

Of these, I think I like Upping the Stakes the best.  There’s something conceptually kind of nice about the idea that you can press for extra damage, but you have to leave a way for the defender to weasel out of it if they value their hide more than whatever the tactical disadvantage might be.

As far as my actual play goes, it’s too early to tell.  Friday we only had one combat, and it was pretty much a straight-up hackfest, as the party fought off a group of Neanderthals.  Nobody tried anything fancy except for one wimpy mage who tried playing dead.  There was one PC death to a nasty crit, but nobody expected Expendable 1401 (yes, that was his name) to last more than a session or two in the first place.

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