Wednesday, September 27, 2023

The Phased Combat Round

I'm not sure why I keep the phased combat round from BX/BECMI in TS&R. I mean, I put it in the books because that's what the rules are supposed to be. But I rarely ever follow it. For a few sessions in my West Marches campaign, I tried using it strictly. I got lots of pushback from the players. And I felt it was more of a hassle than an aid to combat. So, I went back to my usual method of ignoring it.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, in Classic D&D, the combat round actions for a side are supposed to be resolved in the following order: 


Missile Fire



Now, this presents some interesting tactical/logistical challenges. If you don't move at the start of the side's turn, you don't get to move. Missile fire or a charge are the only ways to disrupt a spellcaster. You can't fire a missile and then duck back behind full cover. 

I suppose it would be easier if I did a Declarations phase with more detailed actions. But after years of playing newer editions, where each player has full reign on their PC's action to do all the moves, maneuvers, attacks, and bonus actions they like, players feel like when they state their intention, that's their action. 

If I have players make Declarations at all, it's just something simple like "I'll cast a spell" or "I'll run up and attack the ogre in melee" rather than their whole detailed plan of action. If I had them give more detailed plans, and took notes each round, then resolved things in the order above, that might make it seem more worthwhile. As it is, though, all that extra note-taking and adjudicating phases seems like a needless hold-over from D&D's wargame roots, where the referee was often given hand-written orders by the players for each turn, and then had time to sort things all out. 

At the D&D table, I'd rather keep things moving. 

I was thinking that the above phases would be useful for rounds where initiative between the monsters and the players is tied. If things are tied, all sides move (including charge attacks, attacks with spears set for charge, fighting withdrawal, and parting shots/attacks of opportunity on those that retreat rather than withdraw). Then all sides fire missiles. Then all sides cast magic (including magic items and specials like breath weapons or gaze attacks). Finally, all engaged characters that haven't taken an action yet can make their melee attacks. 

On rounds where initiative isn't a tie, each side just goes in the order they please. 

This is sort of like the AD&D system, where weapon speed factors (and maybe spellcasting segments?) are only supposed to come into play if initiative is tied. 

Next session, I'll maybe try this out and see how it goes. In the meantime, I'm considering if I should edit my TS&R books to get rid of the outdated Declarations and combat phases, and just write it up the way I actually play the game instead. It wouldn't be a big change, especially since people can download the rules for free.

No comments:

Post a Comment