Making an Impact

By | May 3, 2014

Sand in the eyes. Kicks to hobble a man’s legs. And the playtester whose character shoved a sword through the floor of a hayloft above him to make an enemy soldier fall over the railing.

These are just a few of the combat maneuvers people have tried during playtests of Forthright Open Roleplay. It’s been a joy of mine to tell each of them not to search their character sheet for what is allowed. Instead, I told them to describe what they wanted to do and then tell me their character’s Impact score.

Impact is a statistic that measures a character’s general combat prowess for combat maneuvers. A player never rolls his Impact score. Instead, the Player declares a non-damaging attack he would like to perform. Then, the target of that action rolls a Body Resist to see if the effect happens or not.

Using Impact means players never create characters a specific way to perform trips, disarms, sunders, grapples or other combat maneuvers. There are no “build” options to make a character better at performing such Impact-based attacks.

This also allows players to try whatever comes to mind in combat and determine success or failure with one simple, standardized mechanic.

Both a character’s Impact score and Body Resist are set at first level when the Player decides on Fighting Style proficiency. So a better-trained fighter is both more likely to succeed and resist Impact-based attacks.

Magical attacks also use Impact and Body Resists. This means a skilled Warrior is more likely to shrug off the fiery blasts of a Wizard. It also means a Wizard who focuses on battle is less likely to be tripped or disarmed since she has a better Body Resist.

Impact also provides an added benefit for hybrid Fighting Styles. Armsmancers combine magical and physical attacks together by imbuing their weapons and armor with arcane power. The united Impact mechanic makes an Armsmancer just as dangerous with maneuvers as he is with magic, though his numbers are not as high as they would be if he had focused on one or the other.

The effects of common combat maneuvers are defined in the rules, so here’s a short list:

  • Disarm knocks a weapon 10 feet away.
  • Snatch takes an object out of someone’s hands if you have a free grasping limb (including a draconid’s tail).
  • Sunder removes the Defense bonus of armor until it is refitted.
  • Bull rush lets you move up to twice your speed and either push someone 10 feet or knock them prone as you push them 5 feet.
  • Trip an opponent to make them prone.
  • Grapple allows you to grab an enemy, preventing their movement and limiting their ability to attack and defend.
  • Hold allows you to give up your actions to prevent a Grappled target from taking any actions.

Attack rolls against someone who is Prone or in a Grapple or Hold are Bolstered (meaning the attacker rolls twice and takes the higher result), so these can be devastating assaults even if no damage is done right away.

In the case of the enemy solider from the beginning, the attack basically was a trip intended to carry the victim over a railing to take falling damage. One failed Body Resist later, and I was rolling falling damage for the prone soldier on the floor. A Bolstered attack roll later finished off the soldier.

These combat maneuvers all use the same Impact and Body Save mechanics. The rules outline standard outcomes for situations that often come up in play. For other effects that aren’t so common, the Guide makes a judgment call based on the situation and announces that decision to the player before dice are rolled.

Let’s say a character wants to throw sand in the eyes of an archer to prevent attacks against the party wizard in the back. The Guide might declare that the recent rains make the sand too clumpy to be a good irritant. Or he might rule that such an attack would Hinder the archer’s attacks (meaning the archer would roll twice and take the worst result) only until the archer takes an action to clear his vision.

These determinations are announced before the dice are rolled because Forthright Open Roleplay assumes that the characters are aware of how the world works even if the player is unclear on the current situation. A player might choose a different action if the potential outcomes aren’t appealing, so those outcomes need to be made clear ahead of time.

For this example the player decides he wants to prevent, not Hinder, attack rolls because the party wizard is already wounded. The player might decide to try a Grapple, preventing the archer from making ranged attacks but sacrificing his own actions to maintain the grapple. Or the player might gouge the archer’s eyes in a brutal attempt to prevent any attacks the next round while also leaving the player free to do something else. If the Guide agrees the eye gouge could work, then a roll of the dice will decide if the attack succeeds or fails.

These Impact rules come straight out of our “Do Anything” design goal from the very beginning. We want players and Guide to talk about what the characters are doing and trying to accomplish instead of worrying over specific rules in the middle of a combat.

Ultimately, we want Forthright Open Roleplay‘s rules to help adjudicate outcomes without forcing people to try only a few rout solutions to every problem. Impact is one of the ways we’re doing that. Let us know how you think in the comments below.