Author Topic: Players want a more Gameist Combat  (Read 8894 times)

Pseudonatural Kraken

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Players want a more Gameist Combat
« on: August 31, 2013, 09:34:42 PM »
I've GMed a goodly number of Dungeon World sessions, but I'm running into an interesting problem as things evolve along:

My players want more "gameist", more tactical combat. Now, the answer I know most people on this boards are going to give me is not going to fly - that the narrative will evolve its own combat. But my players are looking for more codified "assumptions" about the world, combat, and what you can and cannot do. Does anyone have any advice, or even any input on this issue?

To make that a little more clear, my players enjoy 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons and its combat, but dislike how *long* it takes and how pigeon holed characters can be. In 3.5 you need exhaustive feats just to be proficient at something like disarming an opponent - in Dungeon World it can be as simple as Defy Danger. While I realize I just gave an example of "tactical play" I'm looking for things that are more fleshed out and expansive, possibly (probably) even including +1/-1 for finding themselves, or putting others, into certain situations.

RenoGM

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Re: Players want a more Gameist Combat
« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2013, 10:24:02 PM »
This may or may not be of help but your players may like the FantasyCraft RPG a lot. It is a 3.0/3.5 based d20 game but the combat is a lot quicker and the classes are a lot more unique and customizable.

In my experience changing the fundamental paradigm of a game is always less effective than just changing games.

J. Trudel

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Re: Players want a more Gameist Combat
« Reply #2 on: September 01, 2013, 05:42:27 PM »
I agree, maybe your players are just not looking for DW. However, combat is as much tactical as YOU want it to be in DW. You can always give bonus, add or remove a defy danger based on player choices during combat. This will give clever tactics a notable advantage in play. The thing is, it is not a ''usual'' gaming approach to tactics, but it does the job of granting a tactical advantage that may be in fact closer to a real life encounter.

Assumptions in the form of rules may give the players more insights about tactics in the game, but you can always let them know that some tactics will remove defy danger or give them bonus etc etc. It might do the trick.

Jeremy

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Re: Players want a more Gameist Combat
« Reply #3 on: September 01, 2013, 07:07:25 PM »
Are you sure your players are looking for "more tactical combat?"  Or are they asking for more agency in combat?  And by agency I mean "predictability in outcomes, costs, and benefits." Because those are two very different things.

As J. Trudel points out, there's a LOT of potential for making DW fights extremely tactical, but the tactics will almost all be about fictional positioning. Like, setting up the fictional situation such that you don't have to make a Defy Danger roll or so that the like outcomes of such a roll are minimized.  The thing is, that sort of "tactical game play" is entirely based on the social dynamics, expectations, assumptions, and playstyle of your group.

Changing DW to a more predictable, "balanced" model of play is going to muck with the system and interactions of the game at a pretty fundamental level.  It's not impossible, but it's a lot of work.  I think you'd be significantly rewriting moves such as Hack and Slash and Defend and Defy Danger.  You might even go so far as rethinking Hit Points and how they are used up or regained.  And tinkering with those moves suddenly makes all sorts of class-specific moves (and possibly spells, gear, etc.) require tinkering.  You're basically desiging a new game.

Also: adding in things like tactical positioning or predictable +1/-1 modifiers are a huge part of what makes D&D3.0+ combat take so long.  By giving your players what they want, you might find that they're losing what they enjoy.

One thought on how you could add a bit of "tactics" without mucking too much the with underlying game: add in an action economy.  By that, I mean some sort of "round" structure where you determine initiative and each player gets one or two moves on their turns.  I remember someone posting about using a Marvel Heroic style of initiative/action economy, where every character (including foes, groups of foes, threats, etc.) gets to make one move (like, literally, one roll) in a turn. After making a move, that player determines who takes the next move, but each character/group/threat can only make one move each "round."

Scrape

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Re: Players want a more Gameist Combat
« Reply #4 on: September 03, 2013, 12:39:24 AM »
I'd like to second the idea that these are different systems and the in-depth math creates lengthy combat. Have you tried using extensive battle maps as a method? I'd avoid numeric modifiers, but maybe using miniatures and a tactical map would make it less descriptive and more precise, when it comes to things like flanking, cover, etc.

Instead of modifiers, adjust your results according to the established map and situation. Like, if a character has cover then be sure to reflect that she takes little or no damage on even a 7-9. Stuff like that. You can get a lot of tactical depth with the system of you carefully keep track of situational "modifiers" and reflect them instead with the tiered results. A failed roll is inherently more or less dangerous, depending on the tactical circumstances.

David Bowers

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Re: Players want a more Gameist Combat
« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2013, 07:32:04 AM »
Have you ever read or heard of the "Zone" idea from reading a Fate-based game? Another game that uses a similar concept (but calls them "Arenas") is Old School Hack, which is also free. Anyway, the idea is that you draw a map (which Dungeon World also instructs you to do... are you doing this?) and divide the map into Zones, which are basically just spaces in which people could easily move, fight, and do stuff; any sort of barrier can create another zone, and moving from zone to zone could have a cost involved.

I think something like that could work well even in Dungeon World, but you might consider actually looking at Old School Hack and especially Fate, with the way it enables teammates to build up advantages for each other to use, and see if those systems are more suited toward the specific balance you're looking for.

I don't personally recommend the Marvel Heroic style of initiative for Dungeon World, though in Fate or OSH, it might work fine, because Dungeon World is strictly built on the "fiction first" flow of play. Many moves (such as Hack and Slash) are built so that the player and her opponent effectively take their turns at the same time, and anyway you really have to go where the dice and the common sense of the situation tell you to go next in terms of whose "turn" it is in other more one-sided situations.

I think you would also find a lot of useful advice in the Dungeon World Guide (http://www.dungeon-world.com/dungeon-world-guide/). Have you seen that yet?

Arvid

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Re: Players want a more Gameist Combat
« Reply #6 on: September 03, 2013, 04:05:04 PM »
I'm with Scrape here, there is room for a lot of clever manouvering, even though that manouvering doesn't happen on a visual grid. Have you checked this article out?
http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?317715-Very-Long-Combat-as-Sport-vs-Combat-as-War-a-Key-Difference-in-D-amp-D-Play-Styles

David Bower's suggestion about zones is cool, I would love to read about how that worked out if someone tried it in Dungeon World.

Scrape

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Re: Players want a more Gameist Combat
« Reply #7 on: September 03, 2013, 07:01:08 PM »
Yeah, I actually enjoy grid-based tactical combat sometimes, and I can see the appeal. A good question to ask is "what does tactical combat mean? What does it really offer that's not on display here?"

For me, the biggest difference is that tactical combat models multiple situational modifiers. From weapon choice to battlefield position, the game is about stacking odds in your favor and making the right choice at the right time. Can you make the DW engine do that? Yes. You just don't model it mathematically. Instead, you weight the tiered results to reflect the tactical choices. Check this out:

"Okay, the archers are firing on you while you're out in the open. Go ahead and roll to Defy Danger. On a Miss you'll be taking full damage and on a 7-9 you'll probably get grazed for a few points.

"Okay, the archers are firing at you, but you're behind cover, right? Go ahead and roll to Defy Danger, and on a Miss maybe you're scratched for a few points. On a 7-9 they'll have you pinned down, cool?"

"Okay, the archers are firing at you, but they're blinded by your clever light ray trick and you're behind cover, too. Roll to Defy Danger, but I can't imagine you'll be hurt. On a Miss, maybe you're pinned there?"

See the difference there? It's the same roll, the same bonus, but the tactical positioning is all reflected in the results. You can get crazy in-depth of you want: you could even houserule a Hold mechanic, similar to the Defend move, that could be earned with tactical decisions and spent to adjust damage results. That might be neat!

samuraiko

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Re: Players want a more Gameist Combat
« Reply #8 on: September 08, 2013, 10:05:36 PM »
DW is already set up for tactical play. Fictional positioning is everything that you need in order to do tactical play and the system is flexible and resilient enough to handle it. What it comes down to is getting into the minutiae of what the characters are doing. D&D is a simulationist game with tactical combat. Round after round of attacks vs AC are just summations of the various things that combatants do as they engage each other. Hack & Slash does sort of the same things, but you can get more in depth with DW than you can in D&D. Defy Danger is the ultimate tool in doing this. I run DW for some friends, one of whom I met through my dojo. When we're feeling it, we get into the more specific information of footwork, strikes, counters and balance (much to the boredom of everyone else who doesn't practice a martial art). It just takes interest and imagination to break down the exchanges into different things that can be represented. Blocks are usually represented by CON, Holds with STR, Feints with INT or WITS, but all within Defy Danger. But all of this is superseded by fictional positioning. My friend literally talked his way through disarming an opponent without ever making a roll because it followed from the fiction and he carried the superior positioning within it. It's all there, it just has to be used differently.

That being said, DW isn't specifically designed for the usual sort of Tactical combat. Games like FATE, Exalted and D&D do that style better (especially the latter). If we're ever really longing for a precise FF Tactics sort of game, I usually break out the premade grid maps and run a Hero Quest-inspired game using the tactical rules from D&D 4th Ed.
"Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)" -- Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

RenoGM

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Re: Players want a more Gameist Combat
« Reply #9 on: September 10, 2013, 06:23:32 PM »
I've noticed that in the campaign I'm running the players are giving more and more "tactical description". In fact it's becoming increasingly rare for one of the players to simply Hack & Slash. They describe all sorts of interesting movement, defensive and offensive techniques, and are frequently attempting to do something other than just HP damage when they attack. They are trying to pin, intimidate, damage limbs, blind, distract, disarm, push, corner, daze, etc. etc. The more they do this the more interesting the fights are becoming. As an added bonus I find that creatures need less HP because the general flow of combat is that the heroes usually try to gain an upper hand "tactically" and then strike a couple decisive blows against the enemy to finish it off. Awesome!

One of the things that I think helped my players embrace this kind of play was seeing me use enemies in the same way. Only occasionally do I simply inflict HP damage against players. Most of the time the heroes are getting placed in increasingly worse positions as the antagonists are "successful". Players get knocked down, thrown through windows, grappled, disarmed, caught on fire, loose control of their motor skills for a moment, dazed, made to look foolish, lured into a bad position; you get the idea. The other thing that helps is that I allow most anything to be attempting in combat so long as the players keep two things in mind:

1: If they are trying something that is specifically a Move that exists for another class, but they do not possess the Move, I don't allow it (don't want to diminish the abilities of those classes that have them as class Moves).
2: Repercussions of an action are based on the amount of risk involved. The more risk a character takes the more intense the outcome, for good or bad!

Just a few thoughts from our table.

Evenglare

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Re: Players want a more Gameist Combat
« Reply #10 on: September 12, 2013, 07:57:29 AM »
This topic is interesting me as I am creating a homebrew Final Fantasy hack for DW. I would absolutely LOVE it if someone did a write up to allow tactical combat (more along the lines of 4th edition D&D than any other edition). I'm not saying that any other games are "bad"  at the tactical side, but 4th edition is so damn good at what it does in that respect. Of course I chose dungeon world for this project knowing full well how the game is played using fiction as the primary push for battles. As much as I would love it to see a tactical subsystem or "module" come about to be able to create a sort of Final Fantasy Tactics game, what I personally would like to employ would be a "turn based system" Again, I know the vast majority of TTRPGs out there use a turn based system and Dungeon World was focused on getting rid of that. That being said, if someone were to work on a turn based system I would LOVE it.

If no one does, after I get a bit of work done for my hack I might try to tackle this myself. As I am typing this off the top of my head I think a very very easy way to do this would be giving the classes a "speed" value.  In essence a turn would work like acting out a mini scene. In other words, everyone can play the game as normal, but characters can make as many moves in a round as their Speed value. So once everyone has used up their speed then a new turn begins and you simply repeat until the battle (or scene or whatever) is over. Hmmmm, I think that really could work for me, seeing as Final Fantasy games use (the old ones anyway) an "active time battle" system and I believe the speed trait would emulate this perfectly. This also could open up a wide varieties of moves and gear.

Yep, I better write this down......

Scrape

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Re: Players want a more Gameist Combat
« Reply #11 on: September 12, 2013, 03:03:33 PM »
I would be interested to see this turn-based hack. The system will definitely fight you on this: the moves are structured in a reactive way, specifically so combat flows just like the exploration segments of the game. It'll be hard to turn that into a strict "turn" system, but of you do it, share it for sure!

RenoGM

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Re: Players want a more Gameist Combat
« Reply #12 on: September 12, 2013, 04:06:06 PM »
From personal experience I can tell you that one of the down-sides to any turn-based system is that players pay less attention when its not their turn. In Dungeon World the players never know when they are going to act or react to something. They focus, they're drawn in, they are more completely engaged in what's happening in the moment. It took a while for the players at our table to embrace this but now they are always on the edge of their seats waiting to jump in when opportunities arise; in fact I'd say that nearly half the time my players are jumping in and not just sitting back waiting for me to "call on them" or for their turn.

Scrape

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Re: Players want a more Gameist Combat
« Reply #13 on: September 12, 2013, 05:30:23 PM »
From personal experience I can tell you that one of the down-sides to any turn-based system is that players pay less attention when its not their turn. In Dungeon World the players never know when they are going to act or react to something. They focus, they're drawn in, they are more completely engaged in what's happening in the moment. It took a while for the players at our table to embrace this but now they are always on the edge of their seats waiting to jump in when opportunities arise; in fact I'd say that nearly half the time my players are jumping in and not just sitting back waiting for me to "call on them" or for their turn.

I agree with this 100%. As a player, I find turn-based systems to be difficult, even when I am engaged. You're just kinda waiting and planning until your turn. In DW, the players never know when something will threaten them and demand immediate response.

Related thought: the Active Battle System is super fun in a video game, but is it necessary to port it to tabletop? A lot of videogame-inspired hacks try to directly port the system/math into the tabletop version, but that's not necessarily how you emulate the game. It's a system designed for one medium, and certainly not optimized for others. It's often better to ask yourself "what makes Final Fantasy feel like Final Fantasy? I wouldn't say that it's the turn-based combat. I'd say it's the flexible class/job system, the enemy strength progression, and the wild locations. Then I'd work on implementing those core ideals.

That's just me, though! Maybe for you, FF is all about the tactical turn-based combat. If that's the case, as much as I love DW (and that's a lot, I'd recommend using a different combat system. One that's more accommodating to the turn-based ideal. Then, start hacking this other system with the stuff you like from DW: tiered successes, simplified rolls, whatever. That's my take on it.

Evenglare

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Re: Players want a more Gameist Combat
« Reply #14 on: September 13, 2013, 04:36:09 AM »
Man, I totally hear you on the other system stuff, but creating ANYTHING for other systems is far far far more complicated than creating stuff for Dungeon World, which is one big reason why I chose to use this system. Also, for the turn based idea mentioned above, I absolutely agree with you that players get less focused when it's not their turn, but this wouldn't be a turn based game in the sense of rolling initiative and proceeding in that order, it's more of a dungeon world battle system in smaller increments. Where everyone has so many actions they can perform, they don't necessarily have to perform them in any order, so it still plays like dungeon world. Of course this is like pre-alpha planning stages, i'm sure It'll get modified the more I research and refine it. Anyway good talks guys!