[x]Blackmoor Vituperative

Tuesday, 2015-07-28

Musings on cinematic duels in roleplaying games

Filed under: Gaming — bblackmoor @ 09:31

Ran across this (“Cinematic Lightsaber Dueling“) today, which reminded me of an ongoing game-design problem that I have never solved to my own satisfaction. In the source media from which I draw inspiration for my own games, it is often the case that a combat ends when one opponent successfully hits the other: a single hit ends the fight. This isn’t the case for every fight, even within a single genre — fistfights, in particular, tend to lend themselves more to the traditional “whittling down the hit points” game mechanic. But in duels with lethal weapons — whether using lightsabers, phasers, or rapiers — a single successful hit tends to end the combat.

The biggest problem is not in coming up with a game mechanic to replicate this. The “Extended Tasks” rules in Bulletproof Blues, for example, could easily be used to model this sort of combat. The hurdle for me is combining this type of conflict with the more traditional “whittling down the hit points” combat in the same fight. They don’t really work together.

At the moment, I am thinking that a possible solution might be to use the same “Extended Tasks” style of resolution for conflicts that seem, on the surface, to be more traditional fights, and treating the “whittling down the hitpoints” as a “special effect” rather than a fixed number representing a concrete (rather than abstract) effect.

It occurs to me that way back in the day (the early to mid 1980s), this is how some people interpreted combat in AD&D (first edition, although of course we did not call it that back then). It was not a widely held interpretation, and was observed more in theory than in practice even among its proponents.