Handling Complex Combat

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spiderwrangler
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Handling Complex Combat

Post by spiderwrangler » Thu Jan 22, 2015 8:14 pm

Handling combat between 6 party members and 1 Big Bad is pretty straightforward, but can get complex quickly when dealing with mobs of enemies trying to swarm your players under. Perhaps it is my Entomology background, but it seems that I often have my characters getting attacked by large numbers of biting or stinging insects (Bees in SCH, mosquitoes in GAL:8), which quickly gets unwieldy when you have to roll attack targets for a dozen enemies and resolve ATT/DEF comparisons between them and the players. My games tend to be rather roll intensive (for me, not the players), so having an easy way of mapping all this out comes in handy.

What I've been using works quite well, and allows for easy modification and manipulation of the BattlemapÔäó anywhere that I have internet access. I create a Google Drawing file, saved to a folder on my Google drive for that particular game. Each player's character gets at text box in their color with name, HP, ATT, DEF, and any modifying statues. Similarly, text boxes are made for each enemy they are facing, and stats are filled in appropriately.

I roll targets for all the combatants I control (ie, if there are 8 mosquitoes attacking 6 players, I roll 8d6 and assign targets for mosquitoes 1-8), and draw arrows between attacker and attackee, then roll for attack order for all combatants, which I can keep in a separate text box for reference.

As attack rounds progress, the text boxes allow me to easily keep track of HP lost, DEF "used up", etc each round. I can use color fill on the enemies to signify different statuses at a glance, or grey them out once they are killed, also changing the text color in the attack order box.

An example is below (though as of the time I am posting this, it may be a bit spoilery for GAL:8 players, as it is their current BattlemapÔäó), with the party of 6 goblins facing off against a dozen starving mosquitoes. The boxes to the right of the attack order box are there just in case I need those as enemy templates in the future.

[thumbnail]https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-OhZa ... tlemap.png[/thumbnail]

Any suggestions or tricks I may have missed? Surviving Castle Heterodyne and GAL 8: Caravan Route Under Threat are my only two attempts at GMing so far.

How have you organized more complex combats in the past?
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Aegis J Hyena
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Re: Handling Complex Combat

Post by Aegis J Hyena » Thu Jan 22, 2015 8:35 pm

Spreadsheets and Notepad files.
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Re: Handling Complex Combat

Post by Synch » Fri Jan 23, 2015 3:15 am

That bloody squirrel! 1HP left!
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spiderwrangler
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Re: Handling Complex Combat

Post by spiderwrangler » Fri Jan 23, 2015 5:15 am

Synch wrote:That bloody squirrel! 1HP left!
;)
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thinkslogically
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Re: Handling Complex Combat

Post by thinkslogically » Fri Jan 23, 2015 12:47 pm

So I don't have an initiative system at all, which reduces the complexity of the combat a bit.

I start by deciding what action each enemy is going to make in a given turn (e.g. what type of attack, attempt to escape etc.).

Then I decide who each enemy is attacking (if they are smart enough to be able to use tactics or have some particular reason to attack one person in particular, e.g. if someone is actively taunting or attempting to defend the group) or roll dice to assign targets (if the enemies are unintelligent and have no particular reason to focus attacks).

Finally, I add up the total ATT / DAM scores for the bad guys and adjust the PCs HP accordingly.

Then I add in whatever the PCs have said they're going to do and figure out everyone's stats again. Because there's no initiative tracking required, everyone basically acts simultaneously. I don't think it particularly benefits or hinders the players, and it's one less thing to worry about.

If there's potential for the numbers to add up in different ways or for conditional actions to have different effects, I will usually choose the option that is closest to what I interpret the player's intentions to be and usually act in some way that will favour the players. Not always though. After all that, the Rule of Cool totally applies, and so does Rule Zero and I TOTALLY reserve the right to disregard the dice in favour of something badass that someone wants to do.

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ChuckDaRighteous
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Re: Handling Complex Combat

Post by ChuckDaRighteous » Fri Jan 23, 2015 9:56 pm

I don't think its so much about having a perfect system. There are two things I think are important:

Consistency. It doesn't have to be perfect, but it should continuously work the same way. Don't change the way things work on your players. You can add a new dimension here or there, so long as it doesn't change how it works. Players don't want to plan their attack only to find out it doesn't work because the rules have been "improved."

Make sure no play style or tactic is screwed, and fix it when it does. A good example is back in GAL Q4, we ended up with 2 handed shields. However, when some of us started doing defensive actions to defend the group, initiative changing each turn ended up screwing us. After a few times, it really started to irk us. While I liked the idea of sometimes we're faster, sometimes they're faster, its all random, defensive play style got screwed. If our defense lasted a into the next round or till our next action, or just plain gone back to fixed initiative we'd have been better off. Unfortunately, by the time we'd identified the problem the game was over. And while none of us were underpowered or completely screwed, defense was just an impossible tactic, which hurt those of us who wanted to use our shields. You want to leave the option open to players to play the way they want to play.
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spiderwrangler
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Re: Handling Complex Combat

Post by spiderwrangler » Fri Jan 23, 2015 10:03 pm

My main impetus for creating something like this was running into issues of neglecting to modify HP as needed, losing track of who had attacked who, etc.
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Re: Handling Complex Combat

Post by thinkslogically » Sat Jan 24, 2015 2:28 am

aye, the behind-the-scenes stuff can get massively complex. I should probably also have mentioned that I use excel to keep stats blocks for all my monsters just with different columns for different things and a list of any special attacks or items etc. It's one thing to keep track of what's going on in a relatively fast-moving game (e.g. a live D&D session), and completely another to keep track of it when one combat might last 2-3 weeks.

But Chuck does have a good point. I do think it is really important for GMs to adopt a consistent system (whatever that may be) and it's good to know which systems do and don't work. When I say that I use my own interpretation with some actions for example, that is only done within the scope of the wider ruleset. So nothing impossible will happen and I'll usually only ignore a dice roll if a player has come up with something really cool / stupid to try, and there's a particular outcome that I think would be perfect for it.

I think from the point of view of the GAL though, players also need to be ok with the fact that they WILL get screwed over by the rules every once in a while and could well end up in a TPK from poor rules or whatever. The GAL is designed to be a playground for DMs just as much as for the players, where new rules can be trialled and players are willing to play guinea pigs :) I know we haven't had any in-quest deaths yet, but the GAL should not be a place to get particularly attached to a character.

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Re: Handling Complex Combat

Post by spiderwrangler » Sat Jan 24, 2015 7:38 am

thinkslogically wrote: I know we haven't had any in-quest deaths yet, but the GAL should not be a place to get particularly attached to a character.
What I'm hearing is that I'm not trying to kill them hard enough. :lol: If not for Wears healing, they'd be dead many times over though....
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Theis2
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Re: Handling Complex Combat

Post by Theis2 » Sat Jan 24, 2015 3:11 pm

If it wasn't for Wears healing, the way we would go forward would be way different :P

The way I've handled complex combat like the stirge encounter and the initial undead battle was by assigning the monsters in groups for initiative to make it bit easier to handle. Had a text document to handle hp and other conditions, and I used gimp to make a battlegrid and had a layer for each monster (can't figure how to move them one at a time otherwise xD) Each layer was named after the monster and their number for easy identification on who recieved how much damage.

I feel like you stole my game sometimes with bloodsucking creatures and plants/giant mushrooms attempting to kill you with tentacles after luring you in! .. Still fearing the rust monster :P (I'm kidding, but after the devious mushrooms, I knew long tendril like stuff on trees were a no go. Lucky for Nerre/Remedy you have everyone stop when they arrive to an area they haven't been to :P)
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Re: Handling Complex Combat

Post by ChuckDaRighteous » Sat Jan 24, 2015 5:01 pm

thinkslogically wrote:I think from the point of view of the GAL though, players also need to be ok with the fact that they WILL get screwed over by the rules every once in a while and could well end up in a TPK from poor rules or whatever. The GAL is designed to be a playground for DMs just as much as for the players, where new rules can be trialled and players are willing to play guinea pigs :) I know we haven't had any in-quest deaths yet, but the GAL should not be a place to get particularly attached to a character.
I really hope that isn't a foreboding hint referencing my current situation....
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Re: Handling Complex Combat

Post by spiderwrangler » Sat Jan 24, 2015 5:55 pm

Theis2 wrote:I feel like you stole my game sometimes with bloodsucking creatures and plants/giant mushrooms attempting to kill you with tentacles after luring you in! .. Still fearing the rust monster :P
Your game being one of the 1st DnD games I've ever played (and this being the second game I've GMed), I'm sure it had some influence, though not intentionally pulling game elements from yours. The tree is a bit more Xanth inspired though... and while a few players did collect mushrooms, they likely won't be the 'splodey cold kind. No intention of introducing rust monsters... :D
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Re: Handling Complex Combat

Post by thinkslogically » Sun Jan 25, 2015 3:00 am

I think all games based on "standard" fantasy lore will have elements of overlap :) It's fun to mix things up a bit or invent new stuff, but it is also handy to have some standard stuff to fall back on (tentacles in a pool, evil wizards in towers, dragon lairs etc etc.).

@Chuck: Not at all! I stopped trying to predict what was going on in my games a long time ago :)

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Re: Handling Complex Combat

Post by spiderwrangler » Sun Jan 25, 2015 8:25 am

thinkslogically wrote:I think all games based on "standard" fantasy lore will have elements of overlap :) It's fun to mix things up a bit or invent new stuff, but it is also handy to have some standard stuff to fall back on (tentacles in a pool, evil wizards in towers, dragon lairs etc etc.).
The creatures you the party just fought were my own creation. I thought they'd be more of a challenge than they were. :shrug: the well armored characters took the brunt of the attack, so at least you're working together.
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Re: Handling Complex Combat

Post by Theis2 » Sun Jan 25, 2015 12:04 pm

No rust monsters?! My equipment is safe!

That said I can understand why it can be hard statting a monster in the GAL quests when the players have been on different quest with various rewards. I've been pretty lucky and got some good defensive items landing me on 4 DEF. A monster would have to have ATT 5 to hurt me unless it can ignore defense, and that high of an ATT could outright kill Nerres character. But I guess that's the chance you take when you go on a intermediate quest with no defensive items.

I actually thought you had played D&D before my game, but I can only be honored if you pick up bits and pieces from it you think are interesting. I suck at acting out people though.. I can apparently only make people that annoys Thinks/Ala.. :P
The small paranoid bit in me however is extremely worried about everything in the games I'm playing that includes my players as a gm.. Doesn't help that I've been fighting mushroom pokemon from day 1 in M0rts game.. xD
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Re: Handling Complex Combat

Post by spiderwrangler » Sun Jan 25, 2015 12:11 pm

Theis2 wrote:No rust monsters?! My equipment is safe!

I only said no rust monsters. ;)

That said I can understand why it can be hard statting a monster in the GAL quests when the players have been on different quest with various rewards. I've been pretty lucky and got some good defensive items landing me on 4 DEF. A monster would have to have ATT 5 to hurt me unless it can ignore defense, and that high of an ATT could outright kill Nerres character. But I guess that's the chance you take when you go on a intermediate quest with no defensive items.

Exactly. The male was statted with 4 ATT/3 DEF, so he had no chance of hurting you, but we have a few people with 1 DEF or lower, so dropping a 5+ATT monster on you seemed a bit excessive.

I actually thought you had played D&D before my game, but I can only be honored if you pick up bits and pieces from it you think are interesting.

Nope, willpell's was my first (which has since halted), and yours was my second.

I suck at acting out people though.. I can apparently only make people that annoys Thinks/Ala.. :P

Maybe it's her. :D

The small paranoid bit in me however is extremely worried about everything in the games I'm playing that includes my players as a gm.. Doesn't help that I've been fighting mushroom pokemon from day 1 in M0rts game.. xD

o:) :paranoia:
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Re: Handling Complex Combat

Post by thinkslogically » Sun Jan 25, 2015 12:19 pm

I really like your d&d game theis :-) it was also my first foray into d&d and it's pretty awesome. Next time around I'll probably make a character who's more friendly and easy going than ala is though! Her grumpiness is fairly annoying even to me, but its definitely just an IC thing. I'm having a lot of fun!

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Re: Handling Complex Combat

Post by Theis2 » Sun Jan 25, 2015 12:35 pm

It's kinda funny, I started it and thought it was going to get very serious and slightly gritty and one of the first things I get is a crazy old wizard doing offensive magic tricks and it just slowly crumbled into a comedy from there xD

If I had been less observant, mine would have been the first though :roll:
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Re: Handling Complex Combat

Post by thinkslogically » Sun Jan 25, 2015 12:55 pm

I think the randomness of d&d kind of makes the comedic stuff inevitable unless your really strict on tone because it's impossible to be even a bit competent when your every move relies on a dice roll.

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Re: Handling Complex Combat

Post by SeeAMoose » Thu Mar 12, 2015 8:42 pm

Theis2 wrote: The way I've handled complex combat like the stirge encounter and the initial undead battle was by assigning the monsters in groups for initiative to make it bit easier to handle. Had a text document to handle hp and other conditions, and I used gimp to make a battlegrid and had a layer for each monster (can't figure how to move them one at a time otherwise xD) Each layer was named after the monster and their number for easy identification on who recieved how much damage.
You might want to try to play with Inkscape. Make the background and grid in Gimp. Import the background and grid to inkscape and paste any tokens for the monsters. Each of them will be counted as a separate object that you can move freely and individually. You may even find you like using vector graphics.
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