Tuesday, October 2, 2007


One of the things Andy asked me was if there was room in the system for getting into an extended combat with someone (or something) without necessarily killing them.

Please note that this post is only concerned with what happens when the PCs win a combat. Not when a monster or NPC wins.

So today I went back and checked out my notes. I had to remind myself why I wrote the rule that way in the first place. Honestly, I just couldn't remember. Here's why:

I don't want the PCs to ever fight the same monster or NPC twice in the same adventure.

I mean, it's cool if there's dozens of non-combat conflicts between the same characters, but despite being pretty tight, the combat system does take up a non-trivial amount of time. Therefore, choosing to use that system should be pretty important. Which coincides nicely with the idea that drawing your weapons on someone is pretty serious.

Have you ever played a D&D game where your characters got their collective asses kicked, but you escaped, got healed, and returned later to try it again? I bet you have. And I'm betting that the second combat was a bit of a let down. That's what I really want to avoid. I want each combat to be super-serious and properly climatic.

But yet, I wonder; Is there still room for something besides the eventual slaughter? Maybe.

To maintain the climatic seriousness I want from these combats, any non-lethal option must still result in the complete and utter defeat of the monster or NPC. I have a bit of an idea in my head about how a player may decide to opt out in favor of mercy.

"You know what? I'm gonna let this guy go if he promises to change his ways."

That might work. But I'll need a really strong guideline. I'm not willing to give up that climatic feel.


Andy said...

What happens when the PCs all lose their HP? TPK?

Eric Provost said...

The PCs limp away from the fight, having proven that they are incapable of defeating this particular enemy. At least during this adventure.

John Harper said...

I think "he changes his ways" is a fine outcome in lieu of death. I mean, the guy would have been DEAD. Instead, he turns over a new leaf, for reals.


glitchpop said...

Hey Eric, et al,

After seeing Andy's post about Red Box Hack on story-games I am all in a flutter (in a good way). I'd love to give it a bash (f I can convince my group).

a. Is that cool?

b. If it is are there specific things you like us to try/ look out for in the play test?

c. Do you have a character sheet in mind? If not I could give one a bash if ya like.

thanks for the coolness


Chris Gardiner said...

I like the sound of the "He changes his ways" thing a lot, and it reminds me of how dragons in the old D&D sets had these special rules for taming them through combat, because seriously - who doesn't want to ride a frikkin' dragon everywhere?

Eric Provost said...

John & Chris,

Are you saying that you like the idea in general? Or that you think that the existing system would be stronger for it? This particular system?

Eric Provost said...


I have a character sheet already. I'll go ahead and post it up for you.

But I want to warn you: I did not write these rules with the idea of distributing them in mind. I wrote them assuming that everyone who read them would have access to my brain while the rules were in use. I can't guarantee their completeness. In fact, I can guarantee that the rules are woefully incomplete. There's at least three important changes to the rules that haven't made it into any documents yet.

So, with that in mind, I'd be totally flattered if you played. I'd even enjoy reading any AP posts or thoughts you have on the game.

Just don't put it in your mouth. It's not safe for human consumption.

glitchpop said...

I'm not sure if my group will go for it and if they do when we'll get a chance to play. I'll push for it 'cause it just looks like a lot of fun. Maybe I should wait until you incorporate the changes of which you speak.

Chris Gardiner said...

Hi Eric,

In answer to your question - I like the idea for this specific system. It was something that often came up when we were playing old D&D games: people wanted to capture foes rather than kill them. Sometimes it's because they wanted a new pet, or because this particular wonton slaughter felt a bit icky, or because they wanted to get their foes to solve a problem for them.

I like the idea of being able to turn defeated foes into resources. Defeat the hobgoblin jailers, and offer them mercy in exchange for them escorting their now-free prisoners out safely. Or deliver a message to their boss, or identify a traitor in the PCs camp, something.

Death is often the least interesting potential outcome of a combat, but D&D explicitly makes any other outcome (a) hard to achieve, and (b) a hassle to adjudicate. If an easy alternative was allowed for, I think you could see some really interesting play.

Eric Provost said...


I appreciate what you're saying. But I'm not convinced that it directly applies to this game.

You did see that there's a non-combat system here, right?

Foes becoming resources as a result of combat isn't really an option here. It would contradict the climatic vibe that I'm looking for.

If you want the hobgoblin jailers as captives, allies, pets, or some other form of resource, then you should be looking to the non-combat system. That's what it's there for. I don't want you to pull out the miniatures and the mat until you decide that it's time to remove the hobgoblins from the story.

That's important to me.

Chris Gardiner said...


That's a strong statement, I think - "Don't reach for the miniatures unless you absolutely want someone dead."

I like it.

Eric Provost said...

This is me, wiping my sleve across my forehead and emitting and animated puff of steam as I sigh in relief.

See, right after I left that last comment I had to run right back to work. And I started regretting that I had taken such a defensive position on the whole thing. I was like "Man, Chris was just weighing in with his opinion on his ol' D&D experiences, and I was totally a dick to him."

So, you know, sorry about that.

But I do think it's cool that you like what I'm going for.

Chris Gardiner said...

No, no - no dickery detected. All is groovy.

Now get back to work! Or Bargle will hear of your tardiness!