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How to Make High Level Fights more interesting?


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Pretty much what it says. How do you make combats between highly skilled opponents (or well buffed characters) more interesting? So far, what I've seen (and this is limited experience, I'll admit) if two high skilled opponents face off (80%+), then it devolves into a long exchange of dice rolls until someone fumbles or gets a critical.

Now, I realize there is some reality to this, as well skilled opponents fight a back and forth until someone makes a mistake and then its over.

But that's not a lot of fun in play, as eventually descriptions of attacks and parries fade after 10+ rounds of no results, and it turns into a dice game.

I realize that multiple opponents can wear down a skill combatant, and obviously spells change the dynamic, but what about two combatants, having a dual?

What tactics can a fighter employ to give themselves an advantage? How can they even the odds, or gain an advantage? what about throwing sand in someone's face or other tricks? How to use the terrain to put an opponent at a disadvantage?

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Very good question. I've met this problem too, and have a few tricks to help:

1) Dynamic Dodging. Anyone trying to Dodge has to shift back - just 5ft or so (or, if they've no room, go prone!).

2) Knockback/down. The spot rule lets blows be specified to knock the opponent back (or down, if aimed from above). This is only if they do more than SIZ damage (before armour etc), but should apply quite often with buffed-up weaponry (and threshold can be reduced, at GM discretion).

3) Interesting Scenery. Fights should rarely if ever be in a featureless flat plain. I especially like multi-height areas, with open stairways, balconies etc. Outside, there'd be bushes, steep banks, rabbit-holes... (This is very important, and gives 1 & 2 most of their usefulness. But I don't have a neat & non-arbitrary way of setting this up. Any ideas?)

4) Aiming for Gaps. I don't use hit locations, but let characters aim (at half chance) for where armour is less (about half value) if they wish.

I for one would be happy to hear more suggestions...

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Allow the use of the feinting rule.

An attacker can drop up to half their attack skill and a corresponding amount comes off their opponents dodge/parry skill. It will make the fights shorter if nothing else.

This is good in highly skilled combats but its even better with extremely good swordsmen vs average guys. Is also gives people with over 100% attack something to do with all those extra percentages.

EG: Attacker with 112% vs defender with 65% dodge. Attacker decides to feint by 30% therefore hes now rolling 82% attack and the defender is now defending with 35% dodge

Edited by AikiGhost
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...What tactics can a fighter employ to give themselves an advantage? How can they even the odds, or gain an advantage? what about throwing sand in someone's face or other tricks? How to use the terrain to put an opponent at a disadvantage?

Read the spot rules chapter, and make sure the player's have too. Make sure that the circumsatnces of such fights are well described and clearly thought through - very few fights will actually be formal duels taking place in utterly featureless open spaces with universally even lighting and smooth floors - but all too often that's how RPG fights are treated...

If the environment has depth and features, combatants controlled by players will tend to think of things they can do with that environment and a GM well versed in the BRP core rules should be able to adjudicate accordingly, with the core rules and the spot rules chapter to guide them.

E.g.if on a sandy beech, a player could ask if they can grab a handful of sand (Agility roll perhaps to grab the sand and doing so takes up an action)) and then next round rather than attack with their sword, make a hard throw attack to fling sand in their opponents face; the opponent can only defend with a Dodge - if the PC hits, the target has their vision obscured for at least 1 round (all combat rolls are one step harder) - if they make a Luck roll, they shut their eyes and the effect goes afeter one round, other wise they suffer the penalty until they make the luck roll...

BRP is an old school RPG - it's not a fixed taxonomy of things a character can do, it's a logical framework that tries to provide sufficient guidelines and examples that a GM can take a players description of a reasonable action for their character and furnish reasonable game mechanic parameters for the success or failure of that action.

AikiGhost and Frogspawners suggestions are also good.



Edited by NickMiddleton
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Something I try to do when running combats is change the nature of the fight every few rounds.

If the characters are trying to fight their way off a Pan Tangian pirate ship, I have the pirates spill a cauldron full of flaming demonic ichor onto the deck, giving the characters an obstacle to work around, or an additional weapon to use against their foes.

And, if you're using the Fate Point rules from the new BRP book, getting players to add elements to a scene that can help in a fight is also useful, as they will invariably add something they can use to their advantage, like a skylight for use when fighting vampires.

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Nick's point is crucial IMHO - the Spot Rules are where it's at. High-level combat *will* bog down if you just run through an endless stream of attack-parry rolls.

  1. Gang up if you can. Multiple attackers against a single opponent produces dividends pretty quickly.
  2. Use the movement rules. You've got limited actions per round, so it's worth using them fully. You've got a 5m move if you also want to attack at your normal DEX rank; you can move more and attack later, or not at all. Use those moves to get better tactical positioning.
  3. Use the circumstantial modifiers. You've got weather, terrain, lighting. Try and throw your cloak over your opponent's head so he can't see!
  4. Use complimentary skill modifiers. Get creative here - if you're extremely athletic and want to go bouncing all over the place, maybe you can even get a bonus from your Jump skill; alternately, use your Climb skill to scrabble up the cave wall and get the drop on the opponent.
  5. Use Encumbrance and Fatigue if combat is going on forever. Dodge becomes pretty damn difficult if you're encumbered, and fatigue means your skills degrade the longer a combat goes.
  6. From Spot Rules, use: Cover, Close Combat / Closing, Desperate Actions, Aimed Shots, Darkness, Ambushes, Enclosed Environments, deliberate Knockback, Prone, Unstable Surfaces, Superior Position, and Weapon Length. Deliberate Knockback can be great to push a slow guy over a cliff...
  7. Don't forget to fight dirty. Grapple, gouge, bite, kick. Use whatever advantages you have over the opponent. Throw a lantern at his head! :D

On a separate point, once you get past 100% skill, you *could* bring in a houserule or two, depending on the nature of your combats. If you're Elric, then you'll be fine splitting your attacks and ploughing through heaps of minions; if you're Aragorn, then you've got plenty of chums around to help gang up on the bad guys. If, however, you seem to find yourself constantly up solo against The Greatest Knight in the World, then you may want to use the old RQ2 version of the "Feinting" rule, as AikiGhost said, ie you can degrade your opponent's parry chance by a percentage equal to the penalty you take to your attack, as long as you don't go below 100%.

As an alternative, you could use the Riposte rule from Stormbringer: if you make a Critical Parry and you're using either two weapons or weapon-and-shield, you get to make an immediate, free attack against the same opponent. It can be Parried or Dodged as normal - but obviously at another -30% from the last Parry / Dodge attempt.

I might rule though that you can only Feint or Riposte if you're in single combat - not sure. I might also make them very fatiguing actions (1D6 FP?) which eat up your 5m move too, if I was feeling mean...

Hope that helps!



Edited by Shaira

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Sorry, no, I meant could you point me to where they are written up? No offense, I just like to be able to look it up in a book. I thought the rule was in BRP, but Shaira makes me think I read it in RQ2.

Actually, the more I thought about the feinting rules, the more I thought that they would work as a plethora of "I do 'crazy' to get an advantage"... a very simple mechanic for players to get creative with scenery and such without bogging down play or using up actions (players seem so rarely willing to sacrifice their only attack for a tactic that only /might/ pay off).

In fact, I'm not sure that it should only be the province of 100+% characters, but anyone could sacrifice some of their accuracy (because combats are abstract and supposed to represent a number of actions not a single swing) for an advantage against an opponent.

Am I wrong here, is there a downside I'm not seeing?

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Sorry, no, I meant could you point me to where they are written up? No offense, I just like to be able to look it up in a book. I thought the rule was in BRP, but Shaira makes me think I read it in RQ2.

There is at least a feinting rule in RQ4, together with several other combat options. Could be worth a look! :)


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Plenty of BRP games allow high-skilled characters to make more than one attack; effectively increasing the offensive power without a corresponding increase in defensive power.

This makes fights go faster (as well as make winning Initiative more important).

Of course, any game with the Hit Points Per Location option accomplishes much the same. Frequently, in these games even a single unparried/undodged hit means game over.

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