One big problem we routinely have running fast, mapless combat is that people want the benefits of the map even without the map. This happens to such a degree that my players have been known to draw a map and put their minis on it (or draw themselves on the map) and use that even if I am not. You can see how that's a problem - we're literally not on the same page, and thus we get the downsides of a map and tactical combat (costs a lot of time) with none of the upsides (we all agree the fight appears a particular way.)
I think there are three big concerns with mapless combat:
- it's hard to picture your position relative to the other combatants.
- no one wants to be flanked.
- everyone wants to ensure they can Retreat.
It often feels like the third is the main concern.
Here are three ways to deal with this.
No One Can Retreat - Simple. No one can Retreat. It's not in Combat Lite (p. B324-328) so it doesn't apply.
Pros: Simple, easy. Speeds up combat because there are more hits.
Cons: Characters who depend on Retreat to live (or Retreat-like moves like Acrobatic Dodge) feel penalized.
Roll to Retreat! - Any time you want to Retreat, make an IQ or Tactics roll. If you make it, you can Retreat. If not, you can't.
DF characters with Born War Leader can use Tactics to roll for someone else, if they spend a turn coaching them (use the same rules as rolling Leadership in DF2).
(You can just make this a flat chance roll for everyone - 1 in 6 for tight quarters, up to 5 in 6 for wide open fights)
Pros: You can't always Retreat, but smarter and more tactically adept can routinely assure they can maneuver around.
Cons: More rolling. Not likely to satisfy players who want to Retreat because they will feel their guy should be able to ensure Retreating room. Uncertainty might make players treat it as "No One Can Retreat" since they can't rely on it.
Everyone Can Retreat - Like it says - everyone can always Retreat, unless the fight takes place in circumstances that make this impossible.
Pros: Will definitely satisfy players who like Retreat. Increases the survivability of characters because they routine get a +1 or +3 to apply to their defenses.
Cons: Fights will be longer, because there will be less hits. Mapped combats will be more lethal, because you go from "everyone Retreats" to "some people Retreat sometimes."
It's worth noting these apply to everyone - PCs, NPCs, friends and foes alike. The "Everyone Can Retreat" version, for example, means Dodge-heavy foes get a +3 to defend. So for all it sounds like the best option for PCs, it's also the one that'll hurt the PCs the most. It takes a -3 Deceptive Attack to negate a +3 to Dodge, so the last option is a disguised -6 to hit in return for you getting a +1 to +3 to defend . . .
I may use one of these, if it means faster mapless combats and less reluctance to accept less detailed combats.