I find that RPGs, GURPS included - perhaps especially, give perverse tactical incentives at times.
Take this situation:
You're facing off with three opponents, all armed with similar length weapons to you. You have no advantage of reach or speed to put distance between you and them, or ability to channel them to fight you one on one. Despite this, you manage to put one down, briefly - either through you own attack, or a miss by your opponent, one has fallen down and is unable to fight you effectively. The other two are still armed, dangerous, and close enough to menace you.
The real-world solution is to focus on them in some respect - either defensively or offensively. You don't want to lose track of the fallen foe, especially if said foe has merely bobbled a weapon, or tripped, or otherwise become only briefly out of action. You have two foes to worry about that are potentially lethal.
The in-game solution is to finish the fallen one. Take advantage of the foe's poor situation to finish it off - reduced defenses due to weapon loss or posture, or stunning, or whatever. You need to pounce and finish the foe and make it two on one. Next foe to be disadvantaged is finished next. Rather than priority the most lethal foe, you must prioritize finishing the most helpless foe.
Why is that?
In reality, you don't take turns. You don't swing, then your foes each swing, and so on. All of this is going on at once. A weapon parrying your attack is occupied. A foe trying to attack you is one you need to deal with. A helpless foe is vulnerable, yes, but also the time you take to attack that one - if foes are still in reach - is time your weapon is not spent preventing an attack. A foe can potentially take advantage. In an I-go-you-go situation, however, you have attacks to spend that only impede your defenses if your game system allows you to prioritize defense (A GURPS All-Out Defense.) Even then, you usually don't want that because the upside (better defenses) gives up any chance to reduce your foes' lethal potential.
I think in an ideal situation, I'd have a rulesset that incentivizes more moves that make realistic sense. This is one I've been pondering recently. I don't have a solution for GURPS, but it's something I want to keep in mind as I'm going over rules design for my current game - and for future ones. I'm sharing here so others may ponder in parallel with me.
One possible solution: combat like old school AD&D: everyone declares actions, and then people go in order of speed. Maybe you can change targets if yours goes down if you have combat reflexes and make a roll. It’s a totally different style, but could work. Ideally, the GM decides what the enemies will do, then the PCs each give their actions either in turn or secretly to the GM, and then they’re revealed and resolved.ReplyDelete
I wouldn’t want to do that in the current game, but I’d like to try a hypothetical combat like that. There might be a lot more “wait and attack” moves. Hard to say. It’s a super-quick idea, not well-thought out.
Outside of a "round," though, that doesn't work particularly well. And it still means that if you're facing three guys, one is temporarily helpless, it's still the optimal tactical decision in a game to finish him off. In reality, it's the least optimal decision. That's the kind of thing I think comes out of each person having, in turn, a turn.Delete
Look at Hackmaster (the basic rules are sufficient) to see how they handle turn orders. The ten cent version they don't have rounds. Instead, the next time you go is a function of what you decide to do.ReplyDelete
I'll take a look. That sounds like an optional rule from the Rolemaster Companion. Still, in this case you'd have to impose some kind of cost to nail the down guy that was more than the cost of attacking a still-standing guy. It's more solving that kind of issue - where the in-game actions don't match realistic tactical choices well - that I think games create with turns that I'm after. We'll see if Hackmaster has some useful input on it.Delete
I think it boils down to complexity; I've toyed with 'attention points' in combat, and ways to spend them- attack at x, defense from y, situational awareness, whats going on with friend A, etc. But having to allocate those points, and filter information through the attention lens is very hard, and harder to make fun. The little foam combat I've done has convinced me that situational awareness is FAR too easy in game combat simulations.ReplyDelete
Yes, across the board. Especially less to the last part. Fight tunnel vision is very real in reality, and not at all in games. A lack of complete information is considered a real imposition on the players, and no one likes to hear, "How would you know he was there?"Delete
Tunnels & Trolls had the original solution to this in '75: total the factors of both sides and the difference is damage distributed amongst the losers. This is, however a fundamentally non-GURPS solution, and it doesn't incentivize moves in the way you seek. Players narrate intentions, then everybody rolls dice, and then the referee narrates the outcome by interpretation of the numbers, rather than declaring very specific moves and checking with a little procedure for each one.ReplyDelete
Fighting Fantasy is similar to T&T, but I found in practice that it doesn't work well in group combats, having been designed for solo gamebooks.
You're right about T&T, but it's essentially abstracting more away so the choice basically doesn't really come into play. I'm wondering if the real-world consideration can be easily modeled in some way. That consideration is that I need to keep my weapon in line with my active foes and attacking an inactive one will open me up too long to defend effectively. You can't just lance out a strike at a fallen foe without being open to attack from a standing foe. I'm thinking of how, in a tactical combat situation, I can make that the better choice. In TOTM I could just say, he's down, and the other guys are pressing too close to finish him. On a hex map . . . not so much.Delete
I find this happening often in most games even before the foe has fallen. Either because it pays off to gang upon those with fewer hit points (one fewer combatant in play) or because you just try to deplete their defense actions.ReplyDelete
Quite a few RPGs have rules penalizing you if you break off combat entirely (attacks of opportunity etc.), but there's few that make it harder switch focus between all the enemies within your reach.
On the other hand, if you introduce a penalty for "breaking the exchange", this probably would result in a lot of corner cases, adding an entire layer of modificators to the probably already complex combat.
That's the trick, right? Finding a way to do it that doesn't make it more complex, and works in a tactical combat situation.Delete
When I think about this kind of problem I tend to come back to "action points." The idea is that action points would refill at the end of your turn, and that you'd spend them to defend against enemy attacks and maneuvers. (To avoid situations where players don't get to do anything except defend for long stretches, perhaps allow them to take actions beyond the AP limit but at a compounding penalty to rolls, cost in fatigue, etc.?)ReplyDelete
If this works as intended, it could model the way an aggressive offense, or strength of numbers, can keep even a strong fighter on the back foot for a while.
I wonder how Doug's system would play here. Seems like you'd still benefit most from killing the downed guy . . . but in reality that one time beat you spent whacking them is the one your foes will attack during.Delete
My experience with Action Points saw players putting a LOT of thought into their actions and trying to hold some points in reserve just in case. It also saw those with fewer AP getting clobbered by those with more in any sort of 1-on-1 fight.Delete
I don't think I've ever seen this rule actually used, but in OD&D melee with a group of enemies players can't choose which particular enemy they attack. In this example there'd be a one-in-three chance an opportunity to reach the downed opponent arose, and otherwise they'd be too focused on one of the foes still standing.ReplyDelete
Random targeting is definitely an extreme solution to the problem, however!
Yes, for sure - it would solve the problem by taking out the incentive because it takes away your decision-making and narrative control. It's a baby/bathwater solution in a lot of ways . . . but it made sense for the "it's a swirling, random 1-minute round melee" approach of a very abstract game system.Delete
I see this as less of an artifact of the "turn by turn" nature of the combat rounds and more an artifact of "still has full defense against those still up despite having shifted focus to the downed man."ReplyDelete
If the number of foes facing one should actually impart some sort of defense penalty, aside from iterative defenses, but a penalty of say -1 per foe beyond the first, then when surrounded PCs would need to chose more defensive tactics. Or just suck up a -5 (or more with neighboring foes with Reach 2+ weapons) to their defenses.
Could even have this penalty be reducible by Weapon Master and TBaM. Though, in that case it means it hasn't done much for you, since your PCs would then only be facing a -1 or -2 to defenses.
Alternatively to that, my original idea was to have a 'focused foe', and then any other actions taking against other foes suffered a penalty based on the number of foes you are facing... with a PC being able to declare "I'm ignoring these foes" so they get no increased penalties from their existence, but also cannot attack or defend against those foes... but that starts getting very complicated and messy.
Which leads me to a simpler idea I've been noodling of "Focused Facing", whichever facing the PC chooses as their focus gets no penalty to actions, adjacent facing suffer -1, facings 1 over are at -2, the opposite facing has a -3 penalty to all actions.
By default the center front Facing is the Focused Facing, however Players could designate side or Rear facings if they chose and have the capacity to be aware of what is in them (Peripheral Vision for Rear facings). So they could face one foe, but be focused on another as a "fake out" play.
Some kind of penalty like this is probably the way you want to go, yeah.Delete
I say it's an artifact of turn-based because one person completing their actions before another goes means that you get these discrete moments where - in reality - someone would interrupt or take advance but - due to turn and action constraints - cannot. GURPS covers this with Wait, but it's as kludgy as any other solution that gives you individual turns and then lets you break into them on other people's turns. 3e tried to split it even more finely with Riposte. Ugh. Having played with that, ugh. But to my point - it's the turn order that makes these situations come up so clearly.
Possibly give a free Evaluate to everyone who didn't get attacked? That gives an incentive to force a defense roll on every foe.ReplyDelete
That's a pretty good solution. It's probably easier to incentivize the results I'd like to see with a penalty on the outnumbered than a bonus to the other side, but it's a way to do it, for sure.Delete