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Thalaba

Mixing MRQ2 Combat Manoeuvres and RQ3 Strike Ranks

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Things are kind of slow in my office today, so I thought I'd explore this a bit as a brainstorming exercise.

For our next campaign, I'm toying with the idea of incorporating MRQ2 Combat Manoeuvres into our primarily RQ3 game. I think the two should fit together rather seamlessly, but there are some fundamental differences between MRQ2 combat and RQ3 combat.

For one thing, the RQ3 Strike Ranks and MRQ Initiative are very different ways of looking at time in combat. I don't think this will have much impact on how CMs work, though it might have a minor impact on which CMs are available.

Another difference is 'degrees of success'. In MRQ there are 4: Critical (10%), Success, Failure, and Fumble, and the first CM is gained at 1 degree of success difference. This means one gets a CM at success vs. failure level and 3 CMs at Crit vs. Fumble. In RQ3 there are 5: Critical (5%), Special (20%), Success, Failure, and Fumble. I would prefer to keep the RQ3 five levels of success, but I don't want to increase the maximum levels of success to four (Crit vs. Fumble is four levels different). So my thinking is that you only gain a combat manoeuvre beginning at 2 levels of success.

-Thus Crit vs. Special, Special vs. Success, Success vs. Failure, and Failure vs. Fumble all allow for a normal, undefended attack to take place.

-Crit vs. Success, Special vs. Failure, and Success vs. Fumble all allow one normal attack plus 1 CM.

-Crit vs. Failure and Special vs. Fumble allow one normal attack plus 2 CMs.

-Crit. vs. Fumble allows a normal attack plus 3CMs.

Next we come to fumbles. I like the RQ3 fumble table, so I'd like to keep it. But I don't really like the idea of rolling fumbles on top of getting all those CMs. So I'm thinking of making 'Invoke a Fumble' as a CM that becomes available whenever the opponent rolls a fumble. If the winner chooses this as a CM, the looser must roll on the fumble table.

Now, as far as the actual Combat Manoevres available go, they would have to be tweaked or modified, some removed and probably some added. I don't have me books with me now, so I'll probably address this later. I'd like to add more weapon-specific CMs, too, to give a little more differentiation between the weapons.

As for what's above - anybody foresee and problems? Have I overlooked anything?

Thanks.

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Hmmm, you will get a totally different beast this way. In MRQ2, all unparried successful attacks get a CM. With your rule, all unparried special attacks get a CM. It will be much rarer to get a CM. I do not think that a total of 3 or 4 CM in a single attack will make all this difference. Just keep the Crit-only manoeuvers limited to RQ3 criticals, and you should be fine.

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As Rosen says, what happens is that CMs become vanishingly rare; rarer even than specials in RQ3. In RQ3 you get a special result if you roll 1/5th. In your system you have to roll a special result and your opponent has to fail a parry. Note also that in MRQ if your attack is 120 vs a parry of 100 then the extra 20 is deducted from both sides making it 100 vs 80, increasing the likelihood of failures therefore increasing the chance of a CM. The final result is that combat becomes far less tactical and cinematic because CMs virtually disappear and you now have no way of trying to disarm, damage weapon and so on. Personally I think you need to use the skills over 100 and crits on 1/10 if using CMs.

The only other option that might work is to have 3 bands of CMs. Crits, specials and normal CMs. You could have special CMs be: Choose Location and the weapon-specific CMs.

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How about 1 CM per Level of Success difference, but regard Fumble just as Failure for the calculation?

Yes, I thought about that, but what I don't like about it is that every successful hit gets a CM - so in effect even a normal hit is an impale. There are no normal hits anymore. This makes some sense in MRQ2 because impales etc. no longer cause more damage, but still it seems weird to me that there are no normal hits.

As Rosen says, what happens is that CMs become vanishingly rare; rarer even than specials in RQ3. In RQ3 you get a special result if you roll 1/5th. In your system you have to roll a special result and your opponent has to fail a parry. Note also that in MRQ if your attack is 120 vs a parry of 100 then the extra 20 is deducted from both sides making it 100 vs 80, increasing the likelihood of failures therefore increasing the chance of a CM. The final result is that combat becomes far less tactical and cinematic because CMs virtually disappear and you now have no way of trying to disarm, damage weapon and so on. Personally I think you need to use the skills over 100 and crits on 1/10 if using CMs.

They may be rarer than in MRQ2, but not compared to our usual game. We played the last campaign with the BRP rule that a successful parry would drop a special down to a normal success. Using this rule we still had a lot of specials and criticals, it seemed to me, so I'm not that worried about it. However, it's a good point, so I played with the percentages on a spreadsheet just to see what the likelihood of a CM occurring is:

By my proposed method, if both attacker and defender have 50% skill, there is a 17% average chance for a CM to occur. If both skills are 90%, this drops to 14%. This counts both attacker and defender CMs.

By the MRQ method, they are higher: 62% at mid skill and 36% at high skill.

By Frogspawner's method, we get 74% at mid skill and 57% at high skill.

So, the question is - am I comfortable with a 15% average chance of a CM occurring (on top of regular attacks, which also still occur). I think the answer is yes. And actually, numbers above 30% seem too common to me.

I'm also not worried about skills over 100, as nobody will likely get there. We play a pretty gritty game. I expect to see weapon skills in the 50-60 range to start and about 80-100 by the end.

The only other option that might work is to have 3 bands of CMs. Crits, specials and normal CMs. You could have special CMs be: Choose Location and the weapon-specific CMs.

This is certainly an option worth considering.

Thanks for the great input from all so far.

Edited by Thalaba

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I am taking a different approach and using CMs as a tactical decision that can be made before rolling. They make the roll more difficult, and may also affect the next action by the character who uses them, and, depending on the maneuver, might also impact the next action taken by the opponent.

Ian

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Yes, I thought about that, but what I don't like about it is that every successful hit gets a CM...

Ah. Fair do's. I (obviously) don't know that much about MRQII, so I'll leave it in your capables - good luck!

I am taking a different approach and using CMs as a tactical decision that can be made before rolling. They make the roll more difficult, and may also affect the next action by the character who uses them, and, depending on the maneuver, might also impact the next action taken by the opponent.

This sounds a good, traditional RQ/BRP approach.

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On the contrary, I see all suggestions except Frogspawner's one (the End of the World is near!) as ultimately less viable. It is your game so you are the ultimate judge about the rules applied, but there are two important points you should understand:

a) Manoeuvers are designed to happen with every single combat exchange, not just "in some cases" like it happens in BRP. In this sense, you should not apply the BRP impale when you score a special with CM, but the MRQ version. Moreover, the MRQ system fixes a flaw that has existed in BRP, GURPS and WHFRP II for years: actually, you do not hit a random location in melee, but usually choose the weakest one and go for it as soon as an opening appears. Combat Manoeuvers achieve this result: when you hit and you are not parried, you usually choose where you hit, as it happens in real life. But if you need a special vs. failure, this realism does not happen.

B) The best advantage of combat manoeuvers is that they are a "Fortune in the Middle" feature: you roll, and then you decide what happens. This eliminates the painstaking process of determining the best tactics to apply by cross-indexing the difference between the reduced chance and the increased damage, and then rolling 90. Manoeuvers, contrarily to what you may think at first glance, actually speed up combat, as they make munchkin-style pre-rolling planning pointless. If you nerf them back to options that are applied before rolling, you lose this enormous advantage.

It takes some time to get accustomed to these two facts, but once you apply them in play they make damn good sense!

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How about 1 CM per Level of Success difference, but regard Fumble just as Failure for the calculation?

Why treat Fumble as Failure?

I like the idea of the clumsy oaf's flailings making it easier for the dashing swordswoman to bury her blade where she wants, avoiding armour and something else.

Using combat maneuveres in RQIII works rather well. A similar idea

a) appeared in SPQR

B) was mentioned in MRQI playtests

c) was posted on a fansite many moons ago (by Alexandre Lanciani hosted by Tal Meta is where I saw it);

the best implementation IMMOO is to include Alexandre's Tactical Advantages rules alongside.

Edited by Al.
sausage fingers

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Moreover, the MRQ system fixes a flaw that has existed in BRP, GURPS and WHFRP II for years: actually, you do not hit a random location in melee, but usually choose the weakest one and go for it as soon as an opening appears.

Interesting. If so, this undermines the Armour Points mechanism too. But surely there are times, in actual combat, when partial dodges, deflections, etc result in strikes to locations other than intended?

Why treat Fumble as Failure?

It seemed to fit simply the OPs requirements for not-too-many CMs (but doesn't meet his spec for other reasons).

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Interesting. If so, this undermines the Armour Points mechanism too. But surely there are times, in actual combat, when partial dodges, deflections, etc result in strikes to locations other than intended?

Why undermines?

And yes, there are times when it does happen. Exactly in the cases you specified: I attack with greatsword, you parry with broadsword, half damage goes through, but since I do not get a manoeuver I do not choose the location. Exactly the "Partial Deflection" effect you advocated.

Combat manoeuvers and parry by weapon size are way more elegant a mechanics than one might initially think :)

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Why undermines?

I mean, if hits can typically opt to strike the location with weakest armour, then armour is devalued.

And yes, there are times when it does happen.

And here I meant, does it [deflections etc striking unintended locations] happen in Real World combat (frequently)? Because if so, then the random location roll simulates that, without need for a more complex mechanic.

Edited by frogspawner

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I mean, if hits can typically opt to strike the location with weakest armour, then armour is devalued.

Armor prevents your opponent from using Impale or Bleed manoeuvers, so wearing it is always an advantage. I would rather say that it is given its right value, i.e. keeping you alive but not preventing you from being defeated. Whereas in some BRP incarnations armour can win a fight.

And here I meant, does it [deflections etc striking unintended locations] happen in Real World combat (frequently)? Because if so, then the random location roll simulates that, without need for a more complex mechanic.

It is not more complex. Try it, you need only a single sheet of paper with the manouevers on the table.

And striking unintended locations happens IRL when it happens in MRQII: when your blow is deflected or you strike wildly for max effect. With a wide open, you usually choose where to strike. The only difference is that in MRQ2 you first determine that there IS a wide open, and then you decide whether you are going for the best possible spot to hit or swinging wildly to do more damage.

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And here I meant, does it [deflections etc striking unintended locations] happen in Real World combat (frequently)? Because if so, then the random location roll simulates that, without need for a more complex mechanic.

Those still happen in MRQ2, specifically when you gain a CM and don't use it to Choose Location. Although picking where to hit sounds like something you'd always do, the best combat manoeuvre often changes according to the weapon types, opponent's armour, magic, current tactical situation, the foe's skill, how well you rolled and the ultimate objective of the PC.

Stuns, Trips, Disarms and even Break Weapon can be a much faster path to victory than choosing to hit a foe in the head three times running. :)

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It is not more complex. Try it...

... the best combat manoeuvre often changes according to the weapon types, opponent's armour, magic, current tactical situation, the foe's skill, how well you rolled and the ultimate objective of the PC.

Ok, you got me. I am just going to have to try this MRQ2 for myself. Now, where's my draft letter to Father Christmas... ;)

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OK, this is all my opinion and based upon my tastes and experiences.

Firstly, the reason I do not like the MRQII approach to CMs is this: I prefer my tactical decisions (CMs) to drive the action (attack/defense rolls) which produces the results (hit/miss/degree of success and damage and armor as appropriate). In MRQII, it is more like the action (attack/defense rolls) produce partial results (hit/miss/degree of success) which leads to a tactical decision (CMs) which then produce final results (damage and armor as appropriate). While the latter may play smoothly, it does not feel smooth, it feels disjointed(again, in my experience).

Yes, a combatant will sometimes wait for an opening and then exploit it, but a combatant will also perform certain maneuvers in order to create an opening (the feint being the most obvious example). Also, I disagree that a combatant chooses the best opening - in life or death combat, they more often than not try to take advantage of the first opening they see, since they have no idea when, if at all, the next opening will occur. Yes, sometimes they may pass up certain openings because the risk is not worth any perceived gain, or they may realize that it is a feint or ploy. But, again, the waiting for the best opening is more of a rarity.

So, given the above, I prefer to use CMs as a tactical decision to make before resolving the combat strike. I prefer a more active approach, one where the combatant tries to create the openings. However, I do concede that the best solution is probably a combination of the two. Hence, I am working up rules as such:

I classifying CMs into two categories - ones that must be selected before rolling for success (taking necessary modifiers into account), and ones that must be selected after rolling for success (to reflect taking advantage of an opening). Some CMs may fall into both categories.

Secondarily, CMs that must be chosen before rolling will have difficulty modifiers to represent the greater difficulty of forcing the action and trying to maneuver the opponent into creating an opening. Both pre-roll and post-roll usage of CMs may also have modifiers extended to the attacker to represent that they may have left them more exposed (especially if the pre-roll CM attack fails). Finally, the post-roll CMs may only take effect if the attack is two degrees of success better or a straight up critical in BRP. This reflects that a single degree of success represents a minor opening, one which does not allow any tactical decision to be made but is just enough of an opening to make contact.

Again, this is all based upon my opinion, experience, and tastes.

Ian

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That's all well and good but I think it takes an overly literal approach to the game. RQ/BRP has a series of random steps which you have to make sense of post-hoc. So if you say "I attack" then you can't figure out what happened until after the dice are rolled at which point you then have to make sense of it. "I attacked and saw an opening to get the head but the swing only glanced lightly off his armour." (random rolls of attack, parry, location and defence).

In addition, to choose a tactic (such as deciding to try and disarm an opponent or to aim for leg for example) you have to make it more difficult for yourself and don't take the opponent's actions into consideration.

It would be like being in a real fight and deciding "right I'm going to swing at his head now, no matter what he does." No one would ever fight like that. RQ isn't granular enough that you can say "ok he's defending himself that way which means I should get a blow to his head if I feint then attack slightly from the side."

A post roll system acknowledges this lack of granularity. Between two masters, there'll be a series of inconsequential attacks and defences until either someone makes a mistake (fail/fumble) or someone outmanoeuvres the other (critical). At that point, just like normal, you decide what happened after the dice rolled. "I attacked and he left himself open, I swung at his head but my aim was poor and my sword merely glanced along his helm." (Attack success, parry fail, choose hit location, random damage).

From a purely game based perspective as well it prevents players from being penalised for trying to do interesting stuff and tends to resolve fights slightly quicker.

As you say, it's a matter of preference but the above is why after my initial misgivings (both mine and my players who initially preferred to stay with my house rules) I find post-roll modifiers more satisfying both thematically and in game terms.

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In addition, to choose a tactic (such as deciding to try and disarm an opponent or to aim for leg for example) you have to make it more difficult for yourself and don't take the opponent's actions into consideration.

It would be like being in a real fight and deciding "right I'm going to swing at his head now, no matter what he does." No one would ever fight like that. RQ isn't granular enough that you can say "ok he's defending himself that way which means I should get a blow to his head if I feint then attack slightly from the side."

No, what I am saying is a combatant chooses to attempt to create an opening to allow them to swing his opponent's head, or disarm, or whatever. Not attempt to hit his head no matter what he does. That is what making tactical decisions is about. And, that is exactly how hand to hand combat works. Yes, there are opportunities one can take advantage of, but there are also opportunities one creates. And, yes, I already stated you make things more difficult for yourself, that is the price one pays for trying to quickly dispatch an opponent (or, of one is significantly better than his opponent, the risk is significantly less, which again models reality very well).

Taking your opponent's actions into consideration is part of the attack modifiers already stated, as well as other modifiers that may be in play due to previous actions.

Ian

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Modifying the skill roll according to the chosen tactics means that for 12 seconds a master swordsman will only commit to hitting the head, not considering other options - disarm, trip, etc. - even if the foe leaves an opening for them. No real weaponmaster would make such a stupid mistake. I have played with "tactics gives modifier to skill roll" mechanics for 20+ years, but now that Loz and Pete introduced this variant, I see it is a better simulation, not just a quicker resolution method.

Moreover, the whole thing about modifiers is not necessary if the attack roll is contested. Why apply modifiers due to what your foe might be doing, if the real groundbreaker is the fact that he is rolling for defense?

I still fail to see why going for an aimed blow should increase my chance of fumbling, for instance....

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Modifying the skill roll according to the chosen tactics means that for 12 seconds a master swordsman will only commit to hitting the head, not considering other options - disarm, trip, etc. - even if the foe leaves an opening for them. No real weaponmaster would make such a stupid mistake.

This is exactly my experience with playing RQ for the last quarter century. No PC ever goes for a tactical shot because you cannot do it without significantly reducing your chance to hit, which in a game as deadly as RQ, is a foolhardy gamble. This however leads to stagnant, often tedious combats.

For MRQ2 I looked at the way I personally fight in real life and came up with a rules set which more accurately modelled the way weapon fighting really works from my POV - at least amongst those of competent skill and above. In fights between skilled foes, combat is rarely just standing off and exchanging blows - that situation is a classic example of novice/part-time combatants or sport fighting. A true martial art emphasises a very brief exchange where almost every attack is combined with a manoeuvre to place you in a situation where you trip, grip, pin, disarm, bypass or perform an unarmed attack... and every defence is countering these manoeuvres whilst enforcing others.

I.e. its inherent in every attack (and defence) that the attacker is trying to do something tactical. Just look at any of the Combat Manuals from the late Medieval / early Renaissance. Those illustrated exchanges are teaching precisely these type of techniques, and even the same technique several times with different results depending on what the opponent does. That is why MRQ2 has no penalties for attempting such things. ;)

Moreover, the whole thing about modifiers is not necessary if the attack roll is contested. Why apply modifiers due to what your foe might be doing, if the real groundbreaker is the fact that he is rolling for defence?

Rosen is close to expounding what an MRQ2 combat skill really means. Its not just the % chance of swinging my weapon accurately. Its also how I position myself to command the better range, when I time my blow to draw or bypass his block, when I step off line to open up an angle, how well I can read my opponent's intention, my ability to obfuscate my own intention, body language psychology, how convincing my feints are, and so on.

More simply summed up, my combat skill is my ability to gain an advantage during combat. If I get the upper hand then I can do something more technical than simply striking or warding my opponent.

For example, when I fight a shieldman I often start by throwing a deliberate shot at my opponents face whilst simultaneously taking a closing step to reach my preferred range. Yet whether I allow the blow to connect or not depends on how he reacts.

If he fails to read my blow and moves the shield too late then I cleanly strike him in the face - game over. But if he puts himself on the back foot whilst covering his face I may hold back the blow and take a second passing step off-line and have a clean shot at another target, or advance my shield to pin his, or allow my blow to land on his shield whilst I take a second step to place my foot behind his leading instep in preparation for tripping him prone. Maybe he instead fires off a blind panic counterblow as soon as I begin my original blow - I might redirect my step and face-shot to hammer his weapon forearm instead, or use my own shield to counterstrike his weapon attempting to disarm, or step deeper than intended to pre-emptively pin his weapon arm. It is very fluid.

So my initial intent was a face shot, but a lot of options open up as soon as I begin to move. Thus my original plan is often modified mid-exchange to utilise any advantage I gain from having the superior positioning, timing, control, insight, subtlety et al. Off course if my opponent remains oblivious, then I'll go through with my original intent - but that becomes increasingly infrequent as I face opponents more closely matching my own skill and very rare if facing someone of superior skill to my own.

So post-roll selection of CMs is not just to ease game flow, it does actually reflect what I do in combat also. :)

Edited by Pete Nash

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Hello Steve,

Glad to see you appear here once in a while. It was great to meet you in person in Lucca! Unfortunately, Massimo did not allow me to run a demo in that mess, so we could not show you how it actually works, but MRQ2 is a great deal different from old BRP mechanics. It incorporated some bits of HeroQuest (not much) and the new Combat Rules are now firmly based on the concept of Degree of Success. As I remember how your suggestion got rejected by Mongoose during the RQ playtest in 2005, I was surprised how Loz and Pete could finally manage to incorporate DoS in RuneQuest II. A good move.

If you need some translation, I will be glad to provide help. But Google Translate is fine too :)

Paolo

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