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And the Rockets’ red glare, the Bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our Flag was still there;                                    — Francis Scott Key (1814 broadside printing) Pretty much any time that foes gather together in convenient […]

Swinging a sword at an orc is all well and good, but if your friend needs help, you have to be able to reach him. Moving to (or fleeing from) a foe, or seeking a position that gives tactical advantage, is part and parcel of fighting. In fact, an emphasis on footwork, distancing, and movement […]

In a previous article, Violent Resolution looked at the skills used for ranged weaponry. In this column, I look at the weapons themselves. Similar to differentiation found in hand-to-hand weapons, differentiation in ranged weapons, including the titular guns, provide a way of showing strengths and weaknesses, and providing different dramatic opportunities, within games. Most games (but […]

“In war, three-quarters turns on personal character and relations; the balance of manpower and materials counts only for the remaining quarter.”                                                                     […]

Grappling is probably one of the oldest forms of combat on the planet. It’s also the form of combat most often used when animals are hunting (some of them, like constrictor snakes, exclusively so). It’s also one that both children, animals, and child animals do instinctively for play. And yet the rules are so often […]

“And te tide and te time þat tu iboren were, schal beon iblescet.”                                                                                     […]

While getting up close and personal in combat is a staple of the genre, so too is rendering your foe ineffective from a distance. Archers and catapults were part of the wargaming scene from which RPGs emerged from the beginning, and this trend only increased as the games turned their focus to conflicts based on […]

First of all he forged a shield that was huge and heavy, elaborating it about, and threw around it a shining triple rim that glittered, and the shield strap was cast of silver. There were five folds composing the shield itself, and upon it he elaborated many things in his skill and craftsmanship. He made […]

Perhaps even more important to how a roleplaying game resolves whether or not a fighter strikes home at his foe is how his opponent reacts when struck. I’ve been reading Jon Peterson’s “Playing at the World” recently, a densely packed and quite informative history of games, gaming, and (most specifically) Dungeons and Dragons. In it, […]

If one is to discuss combat in RPGs, one might as well start with the medieval fantasy genre that still dominates the industry. For many games, hand-to-hand (or hand-to-tentacle, hand-to-claw, hand-to-mouth . . . ) combat is a central point of the game, hearkening back to the origin of fantasy RPGs in wargaming. This column […]

In the previous segment, Never Tell Me the Odds 1 and Never Tell Me the Odds 2, the basic combat mechanics for five RPG systems were examined with the idea that if you don’t know the rough probabilities of doing what you want, you can’t really evaluate what you can do. Using the power of tautology […]

In the previous post, I noted that roleplaying combat can vary from storytelling to a pure tactical exercise, but that in all cases it is important that both the player and the GM have a reasonable idea of how skillful their character actually is. In short, and to invert the title of the post: you […]