Combat Maneuvers in S&W.

At bottom, there is one reason to have combat maneuvers at all in D&D: to make combat interesting. That is really the only reason. Not to make it more or less deadly, not to make it more or less realistic, but to make it more fun to do and to imagine. Herein lies the problem, because the sliding scale of simplicity vs. complexity, realism vs. gamism, etc. means that what is interesting and fun is not always necessarily what is realistic or easy for different players. Different people prefer a different mix, easily seen through the proliferation of different D&Ds over the years.

In all my houserules, I want a simple system that can allow complex results. With combat, I ask myself the question: what do I want a fight to look like? If my players are in a tavern brawl, these are the things I want to happen:

I want someone to break a chair over someone's back.
I want someone to swing in on a chandelier.
I want someone to dump a spittoon over someone's head, blinding him.
I want someone to get doused in whiskey and lit on fire.
I want someone to lose their weapon because it got imbedded in a stool.
I want someone to bash another person unconscious with a serving tray.
I want an unarmed person to steal someone's weapon in the middle of a fight.
I want the band to keep playing throughout, just pick up the tempo.

The problem with most maneuver systems is: why would I want to waste the chance to kill someone (make a standard attack roll) for the chance to blind/stun/do something awesome and interesting?

The answer: make maneuvers more likely to succeed than attacking.

I use the Zak Sabbath d10 + stat bonus method, and I find that a 3 or 4 in 10 chance to affect the situation in your favor is often as tempting as taking a standard swing of the axe, especially if I have the bad guys doing the same thing. I typically point out the standard new school combat maneuvers as well: Push/Pull, Overrun, Trip, Grapple, Disarm, Feint, Bull Rush, and Sunder. I tend to call all the interesting things you can do to improve your tactical situation (jumping on a table, kicking a stool in someone's way, etc.) a Stunt, and usually they give the player a +1 or something like that.

Anyone can make a maneuver check instead of an attack roll. For Fighters, this is slightly different, as will be shown in my next post.

No comments:

Post a Comment