Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Combat in Runebearer

I wrote Runebearer over 13 years ago, and though it was never particularly successful in terms of the number of people reading/playing it (and frankly nowadays, it is almost unknown), from a personal standpoint, I think it turned out pretty well. I like the game. A handful of other folks like the game, and over the course of the past decade or so, the amount of enjoyment the game has brought me and my friends has been considerable.

And hopefully a few people outside of my various gaming circles have found it to be to their liking as well.

Looking at the rules as they stand today, one of the things I am pleased with is Runebearer's combat system. Runebearer started as an attempt to take the simplicity of an AD&D style hit point system, but still capture many of the interesting effects of games like HERO, Rolemaster and Aftermath. Ultimately, through many reviews, play sessions, arguments and revisions, I think I got it about 90% right.

The big thing I enjoy about Runebearer's combat is the fact that it is a positional combat system, meaning that one of the main determinants of a party's success in a fight is how the PCs position themselves on the battlefield in relation to their allies, enemies and terrain features. The fact that defenses degrade against multiple attackers, the engagement rules, and the rules for obstructions all ensure that groups who position their characters to support one another and use the battlefield will fare better than those that charge in carelessly.

Another thing that I think works well in Runebearer is its pace of decision is good. Combats are often decided in about 6-8 rounds. Combats aren't often decided on the first salvo, and they usually don't drag on beyond the point where everyone has lost interest. Because of the positional nature of the game, one side's position will crumble before all of their combatants are defeated, leading them to run, surrender, or fall back. This keeps combats fast-paced and exciting.

Finally, I like the mix of control and randomness that the game has. Combat is deadly -- every wound can drop you. However, most blows won't incapacitate you, and with talents, equipment, maneuvers and tactical skill, you can minimize your chances of injury. Still, that chance for an incredible shot (both for and against the PCs) is there and I think that adds a bit of spice to battles.