Combat Experiment: Timing, Precision & Force

This is an idea I’ve been bouncing around in my head for a while. I got the idea originally from games like older D&D/AD&D, where initiative was rolled on behalf of the opposing sides and not individual characters. It also took some inspiration from some various versions of Rolemaster initiative, albeit a lot simpler (I think….) I’ve been tinkering with variations of the concept for a homebrew system I’m working on, but for the sake of this post we’re going to write it for Warrior, Rogue & Mage. Reason being A) It’s released on Creative Commons and open for referencing and B) It uses a simple die mechanic that peeps familiar with d20-style games can recognize.

Alternate Combat: Timing, Precision & Force for more Dynamic Play

The conflict is broken up into two sides: The Players and the Enemies. Instead of taking turns individually, both sides take turns declaring their intended actions. That is, players will declare their intention as a group and all NPC’s will declare theirs as a group. During this phase, the GM declares which side has “The Upper Hand.”  The side with The Upper Hand gets to declare their actions last. This is to allow them to react to the opposing side to possibly counter or undermine their actions.

At this point, all actions are rolled simultaneously. The players roll 3d6, and assign each die to either Timing, Precision, or Force.

  • Timing takes the place of an initiative roll. This is the order all actions are resolved.
  • Precision is the “To-Hit” roll.
  • Force is the degree of success for the action…such as damage rolls.

The Dream Behind the Idea:

I’d like to see a combat system play out like this:

A couple PC’s attempt to jump a Wizard and his barbarian body guard. They get the upper hand, and the GM declares that the Wizard, startled by the intruders, immediately starts waving his hands to cast a spell. Meanwhile, his bodyguard snarls and lunges towards the players.

One character, a scoundrel, grabs his daggers and declares he’s going to attempt to interrupt the Wizard before his spell fires off.
His buddy, a “Man of Arms”, charges in to run interference with the Barbarian.

The scoundrel character rolls his dice, and allocates his highest to Timing (in hopes of acting before the Wizard), his second highest to Precision (to ensure a hit) and his final die to force (it doesn’t matter how much damage he does, he just wants to stop that spell from being cast.)

Meanwhile his “Man of Arms” friend puts his second-highest in Timing (this barbarian is probably slow, right?), his lowest in Precision (it was a fairly modest roll, and this twerp is just wearing leather. Surely I can hit…) and his highest die in Force (I’m gonna hurt this asshole!)

Further Considerations

  • Weapon & Spell Damage: Turn these to a flat rating. Right now I’m pondering one half max damage values, and these are added to the Force rolls. It may be wise to use the Alternate Armor options from The Art of Combat document with this setup. Note that some weapons/spells will lack in the max damage but gain in the minimum amount dealt.
  • Running TPF Combat: To speed things up for players, the GM may consider replacing dice rolls for NPCs with “Task Pools.” This is essentially a pool of points that can be divided amongst the Timing, Precision, & Force of the NPC actions in place of die rolls. Pools may very based on GM fiat, but my current testing spread is 10 Points for regular enemies/mooks, 13 points for tougher monsters/brutes, and15 for bosses/villains.
  • Exceptional Attribute / No Talent for Magic: Anything requiring the roll of an additional die and taking the best (or worst) result it handled by the rolling of an additional die along with the usual 3, and discarding the lowest/highest accordingly.

PS — Mad props to Tim Kirk for suggesting the idea of the 3 roll breakdowns when I started the hunt for a more dynamic combat system. The idea has yet to leave me alone in my noggin.

Also props to Michael Wolf for giving us a lite, fun RPG System to tinker in.