Streamlining B&C combat?

Illustration of combat from Bayeux Tapestry

Combat can be messy.

Something I’ve thought about occasionally, and which I didn’t spell out all that much in the book, is how to streamline B&C combat. If you want it all to go smoother, faster or more abstractly, what sub-systems should you take out first?

  1. Primary Opponents. These are probably the easiest to do without. Primary Opponents allow for things like keeping track of outnumbering and distracting people. And like all these sub-systems, they add that little extra bit of tactical decision-making that can make RPG combat so engaging. But the game doesn’t absolutely require this system to function, and can in fact work very smoothly without it. This is probably the first sub-system to do without if you want faster B&C combat.
  2. Map-based movement. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, it is entirely possible to rely on the imaginations of everyone present to track movement. Or, if you like, you can keep it fairly abstract; put out a D10 or two to show distances between opponents, and you almost don’t need a map. If the combatants are all clear in everyone’s heads, a map isn’t strictly necessary.
  3. Stances. This is the sub-system where I start to say “oh, but that would be losing all the flavor!” From a tactical standpoint, stances are one of the most interesting aspects of B&C combat. Having to decide which stance to take, based on what you think your opponent is going to do, is very immersive and makes for important decisions (and decisions are at the core of what makes RPGs great). But it’s possible to do without them, and just allow evocative and original descriptions to take their place. If your group wants B&C combat that’s as streamlined as it can be, stances may need to be sacrificed.

All else is probably a necessity, though of course you won’t bring (for example) grappling rules into every combat unless they’re relevant. And really, keeping the three elements above can make for a wonderfully detailed, tension-filled melee environment — but that isn’t always what you want in a given session.

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