Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Streamling Hackmaster 5e Combat for Online Play

A while ago I posted about cinematic combat.  It is very eay to make the new Hackmaster game have an action adventure feel rather than a tactical wargame feel - at least in real life. 

I'm considering running test levels of the Perilous Halls of Sorrow Megadungeon as an online game (probably via some sort of google hangout type business) and have been thinking about how to make the HM combat move faster rather than count each second.

Combat for an online tabletop game needs to be pretty focused or it can take far too long - and long combat is boring and bored players leave or get weird.  And not fun weird, weird like derailing the game just to make something interesting happen.

Changing Mindsets
The first few times I thought about how to streamline the tactical combat, I was removing tactical options.  What this ended up doing was still having a tactical game, just a simpler one.  What I wanted (and what I've talked about previously) was having a more cinematic combat style.  This all comes down to descriptions, judgement calls, and NOT having a battle map.

As soon as a combat map shows up, there are tactical discussions.  Sometimes this is important but other times it is going to bog folks down with too many choices.  If I keep the combat descriptions to descriptions and let the combat develop it will free the players from worrying about "which square" they are on and allow them to declare things "I charge at those orc scum!"  For that matter, stripping out a lot of the tactical rules (like for charging) would simplify things as well.

But wait ... if all (or at least some) of the tactical rules stay in play BEHIND THE GM SCREEN it frees up players to play an action adventure and let the GM determine when a rule is useful or not.I know some folks will grumble about the GM only using rules to his advantage and other such nonsense, but seriously - if you are playing with a good GM they know when to make a judgement call and when not to and that killing your players with obscure rules makes your players grouchy and eventually gone.

What I'm Going to Do
1) I'm only going to give the option for tactical maps when they are absolutely necessary and, more importantly, sketch them out.  They aren't going to be constantly updated with position, but rather quick sketches to show generally what is going on.

2) I'm going to announce the count quickly, players should be tracking their own stuff.  Actions are going to take "a few seconds" or "a long time" rather than a specific number of counts - the character can abandon that activity and do something else or wait it out until the actual count of completion is declared by me.

3) Moving is going to be descriptive and not done on a count by count.  It will take "a few seconds" to get over there.  Attacks will be delayed, and so on.

4) Tactical considerations will be made as a judgement call based on activity and player description, consistent, and generally kept behind the scenes.

5) The dice I think I'm just going to ask people to roll and trust them.  At least until i find or make on online dice roller or somesuch that has the HM dice (penetrating) built in.

6) Remember to have good Megadungeon fun.