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Old 08-02-2015, 10:17 AM   #1
Captain Joy
 
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Default Combat as a contest of attack skill vs defense

My group started handling combat as a contest between the attacker's attack margin of success vs the defender's defending margin if success. For an attack to hit, the attacker must succeed and their margin of success must be greater than the defender's margin of success.

We started doing this for no other reason than to speed up combat. Attacks are far more likely to hit, which they seem to like.

I think I remember this option from 3rd ed., suggested for Supers games; I think(?). Can anyone remember where/if this idea was officially published?

I'm curious if any other groups do this. Also, I'd appreciate being warned about any unintended consequences when adopting this mechanic for combat.

Last edited by Captain Joy; 08-02-2015 at 10:19 AM. Reason: added question about where/if idea was published
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Old 08-02-2015, 10:34 AM   #2
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Default Re: Combat as a contest of attack skill vs defense

Suppose that I miss my Brawling roll by 2 and you miss your Dodge roll by 4. Is that interpreted as your having dodged into my blow, so I hit despite myself? Or do you play that a miss is still a miss?

In the former interpretation, combat will be over in fewer exchanges of blows, especially with less skilled combatants, as failed defenses will turn misses into hits. On the other hand, you'll have a defense roll for every attack roll, so that you'll be making rather more defense roll.

In the latter interpretation, you won't be making any added defense rolls, but you'll also be having less speedup, as missed blows won't turn into hits.

Either way, you'll have really nerfed defense. Consider: A typical competent (but not heroic) combatant will have Attack-12, but will have Dodge-9 (assuming Combat Reflexes). So an average attack will succeed by 1-2 points. To beat that, the foe has to succeed against Dodge-8 or -7. You've lowered the chance of Dodge working from 3/8 to 1/4 or even 1/6; that is, you've reduced its value by between a third and three-sevenths.
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Old 08-02-2015, 10:44 AM   #3
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Default Re: Combat as a contest of attack skill vs defense

I've seen a group use something similar - except your defense was equal to your skill (they had a Dodge skill, for dodging).

I bowed out immediately on seeing this, given the ways it changes the combat game at a glance.

There's no more choices:
  • If you're facing somebody better than you, you can't afford to go for a low blow or a high-value target and try to get lucky, because you're just crippling your odds further.
  • If you're facing someone worse than you, you can't afford to show off your skill by going for high value targets or crippling attacks, in case you reduce yourself below them.
  • If you're facing someone equal to you, you can't go for high value targets or limb hits or anything but straight shots to the torso, because you're reducing your odds of success too much.

All combat ends up becoming 'I attack, here's my damage if I hit'. Which is essentially D&D, except a bit deadlier and more fiddly.

If you're preserving the normal defense rolls, then you're still damaging choices - attackers will feel a little more confident taking small risks, since defenders' starting odds are so low, but you'll still not see things like Rapid Strikes or skull hits very often.

If that's what you're aiming for, then I suppose mission accomplished, but I find the Deceptive Attack rules do the 'make hits on target more likely' job a bit more elegantly personally.
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Old 08-02-2015, 10:46 AM   #4
DouglasCole
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Default Re: Combat as a contest of attack skill vs defense

Quote:
Originally Posted by Captain Joy View Post
I think I remember this option from 3rd ed., suggested for Supers games; I think(?). Can anyone remember where/if this idea was officially published?
Only the Best Shall Win, from one of the Compendia.
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Old 08-02-2015, 11:39 AM   #5
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Default Re: Combat as a contest of attack skill vs defense

Also, bear in mind that +/-1 to defence generally costs 2 times as many resources as a +/-1 to hit. As such, if they are treated as being on an even footing, investing in defences becomes ineffective. If you really want to make this change, you should double the defender's margin before comparing to the attackers. This will still increase the frequency of hits, because it's basically like saying the attacker gets to know how (s)he will roll before determining level of deceptive and thus, there will be more deceptives and therefore more defences penetrated.
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Old 08-02-2015, 11:47 AM   #6
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Default Re: Combat as a contest of attack skill vs defense

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Originally Posted by dfinlay View Post
... the attacker gets to know how (s)he will roll before determining level of deceptive and thus, there will be more deceptives and therefore more defences penetrated.
I suspect anyone who uses the contest mechanic is wanting to avoid the complexity of things like deceptive attacks.
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Old 08-02-2015, 12:34 PM   #7
Captain Joy
 
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Default Re: Combat as a contest of attack skill vs defense

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Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
Suppose that I miss my Brawling roll by 2 and you miss your Dodge roll by 4. Is that interpreted as your having dodged into my blow, so I hit despite myself? Or do you play that a miss is still a miss?
A miss is still a miss.

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Originally Posted by Tai View Post
All combat ends up becoming 'I attack, here's my damage if I hit'. Which is essentially D&D, except a bit deadlier and more fiddly.
Agreed. They like the attack and damage rolls, but seem to find the defense rolls to be nothing more than an inconvenience.

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Originally Posted by DouglasCole View Post
Only the Best Shall Win, from one of the Compendia.
Ah! It's actually one page before that: GURPS 3e Compendium II: Combat and Campaigns, p. 73., in the Faster Combats sidebar, where it says "For fighters with Dodges of 13+, it is recommended that combat be resolved with a Quick Contest of Skills…". (The Only the Best Shall Win sidebar recommends giving the defender a -1 to their dodge for every 2 full points an attack is made by.)

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I suspect anyone who uses the contest mechanic is wanting to avoid the complexity of things like deceptive attacks.
That is definitely correct in our case.
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Old 08-02-2015, 12:51 PM   #8
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Default Re: Combat as a contest of attack skill vs defense

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A miss is still a miss.
Okay. Then just for clarity, I recommend not calling it a Quick Contest. Nor a regular contest, because those work more like standard GURPS combat. I'm not sure what would be a good name, but either of those will mislead people. Perhaps it's best to just say "a variant combat rule, as follows:".
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Old 08-02-2015, 12:56 PM   #9
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Default Re: Combat as a contest of attack skill vs defense

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Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
Okay. Then just for clarity, I recommend not calling it a Quick Contest. Nor a regular contest, because those work more like standard GURPS combat.
The Quick Contest where you have to also succeed in your roll to effect your intent is used in Technical Grappling a lot. I wanted to call it a Resistance Roll in an early draft, because the text on p. B348 describes it perfectly. You must both succeed in your roll AND win the contest.

However, the guidance given was that was for resisting supernatural abilities and powers . . . but by the text itself, Resistance Roll is the correct mechanic.
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Old 08-02-2015, 12:56 PM   #10
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Default Re: Combat as a contest of attack skill vs defense

Tai makes great points. The minute you make it a Quick Contest, a lot of the attractive to me parts of GURPS combat gets flushed down the drain. Specifically, targeted attacks.

If your players don't like that there is defense, they don't like deceptive attacks (which really aren't that complex--they are just "I take a -2 to my attack to mess up his defense!"), they are fine with cutting out targeted attacks, rapid strikes, etc...do they actually want to play GURPS or would they rather just play D&D? If they prefer D&D, maybe that is what they should be playing?

Losing targeted attacks and all that comes with it is a big negative for me to the quick contest method. Treating as equivalent numerically something that is not (Attack and Defense--an attack roll with a sword is likely to be twice as much as a Parry roll) is a negative for me. But the worst would come for me as a player when the shoe is on the other foot. Combat might well come faster because my PCs are getting killed because their defenses have been hampered. And I spend a lot of time on my GURPS characters...a lot more than I do on a first level D&D character...which is quick to make and somewhat disposable.

I wouldn't play in a game like that. There are other ways to speed up combat.

But if your players are happy, I suppose that is all that matters.

Last edited by trooper6; 08-02-2015 at 12:59 PM.
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