Dynamic Static Combat

There've been a couple blog posts about alternatives to the “attack roll vs AC” combat system. E.g. you could have an opposed roll for each attack, as Norbert suggested:

You attack me? Roll dice, but I roll mine – and if I roll higher than you, I counter-attack successfully.

And Alex had a cool idea:

All combatants in melee roll their attack and deal damage to anybody they beat.

It got me thinking about how I run combats. I play something like 1974 D&D (3LBBs), though usually through the lens of Delving Deeper.

I consider each combat in context in order to determine how to resolve initiative. If one side or the other has a clear advantage (e.g. surprise, universally longer weapons, living people fighting zombies), they might have initiative outright. But I usually (maybe 50% of the time) default to simultaneous resolution. I do sometimes use an initiative roll, if I'm not sure how the combatants are arrayed against each other.

But again, it often comes down to simultaneous resolution. In that case, I tally up the hit dice on each side, roll that many d20s in a fistful for attack rolls, and randomly determine who gets targeted. It's possible for two sides to wipe each other out.

It's certainly not any kind of opposed roll system (attack rolls are still being made against static AC), but I find that, because I often default to simultaneous resolution, you get that sense that anything could happen at any time. Sometimes a combatant who's slain can wound or kill another combatant in the same round that they go down. It gives actually winning initiative some special bite, since it doesn't happen as often.

There are some nuances: if there are Heroic figures on both sides of the combat, they pair off & fight, leaving the Normals to fight amongst themselves. Magic weapons or shields change things, too.

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This page last updated: 2020.01.12