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Author Topic: Combat - The Shocking Truth and How To Deal With It  (Read 4002 times)


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Combat - The Shocking Truth and How To Deal With It
« on: September 21, 2021, 12:27:10 PM »
Games often encode virtual violence into their play. It's harmless and we enjoy the competition and thrill of winning. But referees should not lose sight of the reality of what we're playing at. Here's a few concepts for referees to consider...

Be Prepared - I'm sure referees have all come across the player who is prepared for anything. His equipment, usually quite lavish, is carefully tailored for every conceivable situation and deployed in handy places to ensure that he can find whatever he needs. Sound familiar? The truth is, warriors in the real world don't do this. They prefer simple convenient solutions, because in the heat of the moment, complexity causes confusion no matter what the player tells you. Carrying a whole inventory of equipment should be discouraged, because the more clutter about your person, the less freedom of action you have. Worse, you might get entangled in all that gear you carry. It's a truth about soldiering in history that new recruitments dump all the stuff they thought they were going to need as they march to the front.

Be Ready - When someone is suprised, our reactions are guided by training and experience provided we don't fall victim to panic or shock. Some of this depends on personality of course, some are naturally calm whilst others freak out or freeze. Were they alert, paying attention, or trying to tie up their bootlaces when something happens? Were they fit. healthy, or feeling unwell after three days of torturous exercise and little sleep in a disease ridden swamp? In suprise encounters, players should be surpised.

Be Sensible - So the players fancy a pint at the local tavern and stroll in expecting a bit of fun, only to encounter a bitter rival who they must defeat. How many times have the players gone socialising dressed for battle? You'd think someone would notice. Or those clothes that yesterday were burned, ripped, dragged through mud and slime in some deep dungeon are now considered suitable when trying to impress elite warriors? It's human nature (unfortunately) that we observe fashion and dress up for the occaision. First impressions count. Have players dress appropriately if the want to fit in. And the right to bear arms does not mean it's the right thing to do, regardless of possible encounters.

Be Afraid - The game element of RPG's tends to isolate players from the actual experience of violent situations (that's why we enjoy it) but at the same time, players seem to assume that anything opposing them is going to be defeated by the same sword and spell rituals they always employ. Give the players a clue about what's going on besides asking for dice rolls. That goblin is small, weak, and surely couldn't handle the sword armed and heavily armoured fighter? But what if that goblin was actually a master of the art of Kzz-Nagr, the goblin equivalent of Bushido? The first thing you do after that first melee round is tell the player that this goblin is no walkover. And say it like you mean it. In fact, it might be an idea to give players an idea of what sort of opposition they're going to get. The dice rolls still count of course and luck doesn't always go the players way. And when they meet that Balrog in the depths of a hell wrought cavern? You're seriously going to attack it? Do you know what that thing can do?

Be Creative - Formal one on one melee are the stuff of RPG contests. Sometimes though initiative and creativity should be rewarded. Two similar examples from history. The first is from a battle where a single beserk warrior was holding off an entire army trying to cross a wooden bridge. So one guy waded through the water, carefully positioned himself underneath, and thrust upward with a spear. That won the battle. The second was an assassin who was trying to kill an enemy nobleman. He hid at the bottom of a toilet shaft - yes, in all that refuse - and waited for his target to avail himself of the facility whereupon he too thrust upward with a spear. Job done. If a player genuinely suprises you with a great idea, be favourable. If he acts like a total idiot, don't worry, a dice roll will fail him sooner or later.

I hope the above makes you consider your approach to situations. The style of gameplay is up to you of course.