I would like for the LOZAS system to be a paradigm example of simplicity in motion. Combat in gameplay should move quickly, because combat in the source material moves quickly. Hacking and slashing your way through a room full of enemies is part of a Zelda-style adventure, but it rarely takes center stage. When it does take center stage, it can be an intense experience, but rarely a long one. My goal, then, is to build a simple and easy to run combat system which can still model complex tactics. Combat should be fast, but that doesn’t mean it should be easy.
In approaching this aspect of the game’s design, my thinking is to start simple. First, figure out how the bare bones of combat will be handled, then add in the core mechanics I want to use for the game. Once those two elements are in place, I’ll call it done until playtesting shows me that something more is needed. And if that happens, my first question for myself will be “Was the GM able to handle it?” If so, are additional rules really needed?
A basic attack roll will be handled by rolling 1d20 against a target number. Since I’m trying to create a numerically simple game without too many bonuses or penalties for players to keep track of, the maximum armor class will be pretty low. Likely somewhere between 18 and 24. If the player rolls a 20 on their attack roll, it is an automatic hit. If a 20 would have hit anyway, then it is a critical hit as well. Upon a critical hit, the player doubles the number of dice they roll for damage. GMs are also encouraged to make critical hits–both for and against the players–memorable. Not through painful attempts at florid prose, but by having the hit affect the battle in a more significant way than simply causing extra damage. A broken weapon or bone, a scar, losing a finger; any of these would be appropriate.
Called shots will be a central mechanic in the game. I discussed this in detail not too long ago so I won’t re-tread that ground here. Essentially speaking, the players are encouraged to declare that they are attacking a specific part of the creature, such as an arm, or an eye. The GM makes a ruling on the spot regarding the difficutly of this maneuver, and tells the player that it will be Easy, Moderate, Difficult, or Nearly Impossible. Only after hearing how difficult the attack will be does the player decide whether or not they’d like to attempt the attack. If they do, standard critical hit rules apply. Some creatures may be particularly strong or weak on different parts of their bodies.
Battle Maneuvers cover a large range of different things. If a player would like to trip their foe, or attempt to break their opponent’s weapon, or try to blind their opponent by throwing dust in their eyes, then both the attacker and the target make opposed battle maneuver checks. This is a 1d20 roll, with the individual’s battle maneuver score added to it.
The battle maneuver score is calculated by taking both a character’s body and agility score. For each score, 11 counts as 0, while any number higher than 11 adds +1, and any number lower than 11 adds -1. So a body score of 14 would grant a +3, while a body score of 9 would confer a -2. Once both body and agility have been calculated in this manner, add the two numbers together, and this is the character’s battle maneuver score.
Anything a player wants to do within combat is either an action, or a non-action. Things such as talking, dropping an item or drawing weapons are non-actions. They do not require a significant amount of time or attention, and so they do not use up a player’s turn. Whereas things such as moving, swinging a weapon, throwing an item, using a special ability, attempting a battle maneuver or casting a spell, all count as actions. Each player is allowed to make 2 actions during their turn. So on a single turn, a soldier could move their full speed twice, or they could move their speed once and attack, or they could attack twice.
Regarding movement, I see no reason to handle it differently than the way Pathfinder did. Hylians (the game’s only playable race) move at a default speed of 30ft per action, and each square on a battle grid will represent 5ft. I like the system and it works well enough. However, it’s important that the game can be run without a battle mat as well. Grids are useful for tactical battles, but for games played over the internet (which are increasingly popular) they can be more of an inconvenience than they are worth. Running a game without the mat is usually just as simple as choosing not to use a mat, but I would like to create a subset of rules which allow players to benefit from their character’s speed even when a mat is unavailable.
On that note, I’ve always felt as though Pathfinder was missing an opportunity by keeping movement speed largely static. The ability to move an extra 5 ft represents an interesting tactical advantage in combat, and the reverse is an interesting disadvantage. Different movement speeds will play a more pronounced role in this game than I’ve personally seen in other games.
Initiative will be handled in an OD&D style, because as I’ve mentioned, I quite like it. A ‘designated initiative roller’ will roll 1d6 for the party, while the GM will roll 1d6 for the monsters involved in the combat. Whoever wins the roll will go first as a group, followed by the group who failed the roll, after which initiative will be re-determined. GMs are encouraged to offer minor initiative bonuses or penalties to groups who put themselves in a particularly good bad position at the end of the round.
GM rulings and on-the-fly modifiers are very important to the LOZAS combat system. Game masters are encouraged to allow characters to make extra actions, give penalties or bonuses to any type of roll, or otherwise modify the rules during play. This is not a subversion of the game’s rules, or a type of haphazard house-ruling, it is an essential part of making the system work correctly. The mechanics above provide combat with structure. The die rolls inject the simulated battle with chaos. The rulings of the GM provide the final piece, by rewarding or punishing the player’s tactics.
For example, there are no attacks of opportunity written into these rules. None the less, there may be times when a player or an NPC will leave themselves vulnerable to an attack. If a player is engaged in a duel and chooses to turn tail and run in the opposite direction, their foe should be given an opportunity to attack them as they flee. No rule covers this eventuality, but GMs are encouraged to take advantage if they feel it is appropriate.