Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Crunchify Me, Captain!

I've been thinking about incompatible and non-comparable classes. 

I had wanted to invert the paradigm of "complicated wizard, easy fighter." What if magic was freeform but combat had robust, powerful structures? What if the two were utterly incompatible and non-comparable?

No real point here. Just thinking out loud. On paper. Thinking quietly and writing.

Here are some ways to crunch up your combat systems 

For each mechanic idea, I've provided a few example abilities/techniques. Please note that for a few techniques I use Grit/Flesh terminology.


Your ability to use a combat ability is based on something outside of the game fiction. The Escalation Die in 13th Age is an example of this sort of mechanic.


If it is raining outside in the real world, you crackle with storm energy. Each attack does an additional +1d6 lightning damage and you gain +15 feet in movement speed from the storm's winds. 

The Dwarf's Determination

Once per game session, give the GM a fancy beer you brought for him. Your next attack is an automatic crit. 


You can only use a particular combat technique if you first perform some other action. These mechanics can be interesting because 1) it incentivizes players not just to spam the attack action over and over and 2) it broadcasts what's coming to the table, who can make informed decisions based on that information.

As an example, imagine that you had a school of combat techniques with the "Assess" keyword. Assessing an opponent requires you to take a turn watching that opponent fight. You are considered "Assessed" towards that target until they leave your line of sight (run around a corner, go invisible) or are defeated. You can only be Assessed vs one target at a time.

Or, for another example:

Internal Alchemy

Spend a turn drinking an entire bottle of booze. You gain 4 drunkenness points. On the next turn, you can belch a fireball that deals 2d6 damage in a 30' cone.

Adjacent Ally

You can only use a particular ability if you are adjacent to an ally. If there are a lot of these abilities, this prioritizes players moving together as little units across the battlefield. 

You may elect to intercept any attack for an ally that is adjacent to you. Designate the target of this ability at the start of the round. Any attacks against them are resolved against you instead. 

Shield Wall
While carrying a shield and adjacent to an ally, you gain +2 AC.


Sometimes abilities make sense in the fiction to only work during a surprise round/the first round of combat. Because this only occurs rarely within the flow of the game, these powers can be particularly powerful.

Danger Sense
You can always act during a surprise round. By spending 1d4 Grit, you can cry a warning to an ally and extend this benefit to them as well.

Strike of Iron and Ivory
In a surprise round, you can aim to knock out an opponent instead of killing them. Upon a successful attack, your target has to make a save. On a failure, they fall unconscious. 


Perhaps you can only use a particular technique if another type of technique is first used. (This is related but distinct from Sequential, Trap, and Trigger moves because the action economy is different.)

Void Twisting Technique
If you were healed last turn, use this technique to add the amount healed to the damage of a single attack roll. 


Some techniques might require cooperation and coordination from 2+ people to use.

Fusion You and another player with this technique fuse together. Add your current HP totals together. While fused, you can only make action per turn and must agree about which action to take. You can make any action that either character could normally make.

Shard Dancer At the beginning of combat, designate another person with this technique as your dance partner by asking "Shall we dance?"

If you both elect to use your turns activating this technique, the person with the highest attack bonus makes an attack roll. This attack roll is applied to every adjacent enemy. If it would hit that enemy, that enemy takes 1d6 damage. Use the same damage roll against every enemy who is hit in this way.


Some abilities might only be useful when engaged 1x1 against a particular opponent. This is the opposite of "Flanking."

Thornhedge Challenge Only usable if engaged 1x1 with an enemy. Use this technique to summon thorns from the ground that Root your foe. They may spend their action to clear the thorns away or take 2d6 damage if they move without clearing the thorns.


You can only use a particular ability if you're currently under a certain game effect, e.g., while entangled, while dead, while charmed, etc.

Temper Conditioning
While berserk, you gain damage resistance 1. 

Bloody Fury
While bloodied (50% Flesh), you gain +1 damage. 


Imagine a combat system that worked like Pokemon. Fire is strong against Wood. Wood is strong against Earth. Earth is strong against Metal. Et cetera. 

Wood Devouring Prana (Fire Style School)
Spend 1d6 Grit and make an attack roll against someone wielding a wooden hafted weapon (a halberd, a bow, a quarterstaff, etc.). If you hit, they must save or their weapon is Destroyed. 

Engagement Status

You have two possible engagement statuses: not yet engaged and have been engaged. There are interesting choices to make here. If you can only use your big power if you haven't yet fought another foe, there's a game of tactics to have the other PCs "guide" you to the biggest thing you can get to on the map before you pop that power. If you can only use your big power if you've already joined battle, you can't use it as a first strike. 

Shadow Tekel-Step 
Until you first become engaged during combat, every move action is done by teleportation. You instantly blink away in a cloud of shadow between the two points. 

Ro-Tek Acceleration Understanding
Each round after the 3rd that you are engaged with the same enemy, you gain +X to hit that target. X equals additional rounds after the 3rd. For example, on the fourth round you'd gain +1, fifth round you'd gain +2, etc. 


Some powers might only work when you are in a particular environment: indoors, outdoors, in the water, in a desert, etc. 

Salty Sea Dog's Stance You bob and weave like you're stumbling around the deck of a ship. Use your action to activate this technique. Until you next take an attack action, you gain +2 AC. This bonus increases to +4 AC if you're actually on a ship.

Dwarven Redoubt Stomp
Must be underground. Spend 1d6 Grit to raise a 5'x5' stone wall. Dwarves use this maneuver to brick up doorways if they ever retreat.


Similar to "ally adjacent," you can only use maneuvers against a foe that's also actively engaged with another ally. 

Warlord's Retreat
If you and an ally are both actively engaged with a target, use this maneuver and you both are disengaged without provoking an opportunity attack.


Some maneuvers can only be used while your character is in a favorable position. Setting up these scenarios is especially fun if you use grid-based/miniature-based combat. 

Sepulcher Strike While occupying the 3 squares behind a character, your attacks bypass Grit and go straight to Flesh.

Dragoon's Drop
If attacking from above (e.g., dropping onto another, finishing a jump, flight), your opponent must save or fall prone in addition to the damage done by your attack.


You can only use technique 2 if you use technique 1. You can only use technique 3 if you use technique 2. 

Bear Dam's Paw
Only usable if you successfully used Warder last turn. A successful attack deals the Knockback effect to your foe.

Vampire Bat Strike You must be in Vampire Bat Stance. Make an attack. If you deal >6 damage, you heal an equivalent amount of Flesh for each point of damage over 6.


Some abilities might only target a particular type of enemy: a rival school, a particular monster, a foe of a particular size, etc.. 

Gnomish Ankle Biter's Technique
Use this technique to make an attack a giant or giant-type foe. If successful, the giant is Tripped and takes 1d6 Grit damage.


Some abilities might be deliberately used but only activate on certain conditions. Similar to Action or Trigger techniques, but slightly different in the action economy. For example:

Premorzerak Mage Hunter
When you activate this ability, until the start of your next turn you may make a free attack action against anybody attempting to cast a spell within 60' of you by launching a throwing spike at them. 

Fluttering Moth Defense You take a defensive stance when you activate this ability. The first time you are attacked while in this stance, you may redirect the attack against another target within range. Taking another action ends your defensive stance.


These abilities are used without a specific action if a certain event triggers them. Because they operate outside of the normal action economy, these abilities are very powerful.

If you defeat a foe, you immediately make another attack against an adjacent foe.

Gattican Phoenix Tactics
If you ever suffer the Knockback effect, you choose which direction to move.


These abilities can only be used if the player roleplays a particular phrase or incantation.

Speak a haiku for the table. The GM will give you a +2/+4/+6 bonus damage for this attack based on how poetic, appropriate, and surprising the haiku is.

Roleplay an insult to a target on the field. They have 5 seconds to come up with a retort. If they fail, regain 1d6 Grit.

Warlord's Tactics
Spend an action roleplaying giving a command to an ally. If they choose to follow your command, they can act on your turn to take an extra action.

Weapon and Armor Restrictions

You can force fighters to diversify their chosen techniques and their gear by gating certain techniques/schools/abilities by weapon or armor restrictions. For example, a knightly school that can only be used if wearing heavy armor and wielding a shield vs an assassin's school that can only be used if wielding a dagger and no armor. 

Flying Spark Feint As you trade blows with your foe, you know the trick of sparking a spray of embers from blade on blade. If wielding a sword, you can attempt to blind your opponent. Spend 1d4 Grit and force your opponent to save. On a failure, they are blinded. They can re-attempt this saving throw at the end of each of their turns.

Catch Arrows If wearing no armor, you gain damage resistance X to missile weapons, where X equals your Dexterity bonus + level. If this ever reduces the damage of a missile weapon to 0, you catch the missile weapon.

Putting it all together

You wouldn't want to use all of these. Maybe none are appropriate for the sort of OSRish games I enjoy. But you can definitely infuse combat with a lot of decision touchpoints by writing a combat system using some of these, and that might be fun.

You can imagine a system where there are various schools of combat utilize one or two of these mechanics as gimmicks. For example, a berserker school that combines first strike (non-engaged), effect (in a rage), and trigger (taking effects while in a rage) mechanics. A berserker could wade into battle, immediately go berserk, do an immediate fuckton of damage, and have a lot of fun gimmicks that combo off of people trying to subdue/get away from him. 

This class could be balanced by schools that deliberately worked within those constraints. There could be classes who complimented, contrasted, or resisted that particular type of attack.

Final thoughts

A few years ago I made an attempt a few years ago to write a complicated fighter. I don't know that I have another attempt in me.

There's a lot I like in this original monk class...

  • A gimmick that I think is interesting is how the d4 works vs a d6 MD. Like magic dice, they are expended on a 4+. Therefore, monks have lower numerical effects than wizards but burn their dice less often.
  • The qi die system is also interesting because doubles help you (new techniques!) but triples hurt you (enlighten your way to retirement). It's not ALL bad and you're incentivized to use more dice more often.
    • Also, doubles come up more often because the die size is lower.
  • I also think monks are interesting because it makes using combat maneuvers against [certain foes] way easier. It's less attacking and more [maneuvering].
That said, I think that Wayspell's version is both simpler and more successful. If I had the time, I'd marry my feelings in this post with the Wayspell fightman.
Lastly, a recent blogpost blew my mind. Josie's sword-saint GLoG class is - shall we say - a cut above the rest.

With Wayspell and Occultronics out there doing this good work, I will defer from wading into the territory of "non-comparable fighter."
...I think I'm done thinking about this subject for now.


  1. This is a good subject to write about. Nobody has (yet, as far as I can tell) written the One True Fighter for GLOG. The Wizard school structure (if not the underlying class necessarily) is absolutely a staple, but there hasn't been that kind of development in Fighter Land.

    My favourites from this list are definitely Dwarven Redoubt Stomp and Shadow Tekel-Step. They are undoubtably uncomparables, and while they could be turned into spells (and very easily!) they just feel *right* to belong to a Fighter or a Fighty-Rogue. Maybe this is what the Fighter needs, more abilities that are physically impossible, but make sense as a game mechanic.

    1. Hey thanks. If there _were_ gold standards for fighters in GLoG, my picks are the ones listed here (and the new Slayer class from Arnold - like that a lot better than the MD fighter).