nWOD House Rules: Melee Combat

This is the melee expansion of the nWODcombat hack that I put up a few months ago. The intent is to make combat a little more mechanically engaging, and less like two combatants rolling all out attacks every round. It's still in beta testing, so feedback or thoughts are very welcome.

The goals of the change are twofold:
1) Characters have realistic options other than just going full-tilt and hoping they kill the other guy first. A defensive character can likely avoid taking hits for at least a couple of rounds. At the same time, an unarmored character, especially a mook, can often be dropped in a single good hit. This makes things like surprise and tactical movement more effective.

2) A character's equipment choice affects their fighting style. Weapons like axes are great for dishing out lots of damage, but less effective for playing defense. Pole-arms are good all-round killing tools, but can't be paired with a shield, which leaves the character vulnerable to projectile weapons. Knives are concealable and still pretty useful in a grapple, etc.

Details and a stats handout below the cut:

The basics:

Most weapons have an attack bonus, a defense bonus, and a base damage all ranging from 0-4. Astatted list of melee weapons can be downloaded here. I don't have a list of armor yet, but those will both soak a little damage, and convert some of the rest to bashing.

Attacker rolls (Strength + Weaponry + Attack Bonus) – Defender's (Defense + Defense Bonus)

All out attacks get the usual +2, but the attacker no longer benefits from their defense. At the moment, I'm still giving them the defense bonus from their weapon. It's an awkward solution, but the use of base damage makes having no defensive rating suicidal.

Full defense
Defender rolls (Defense + Weaponry + Defense Bonus) vs. Attacker's roll. Successes by the defender negate successes by the attacker. As noted below, I rolling like this for defense in general - fewer 'chance die' rolls, more player engagement. 

Stephen (strength 2, weaponry 4, defense 3) who has a shortsword (+2 to attack, +2 to defense, 2 base damage) is attacked by two bandits (both strength 3, weaponry 2, defense 2), 1 using a battleaxe (+1 to attack, +1 to defend, 3 base damage) and one using a flail (+2 to attack, +0 to defend, 3 base damage).

Stephen saw them coming and wins initiative. He starts by attacking the bandit with the flail and rolls his attack (2+4+2) minus the bandit's defense (2+0) for 6 dice. He gets 3 successes for a total of 5 damage and kills the first bandit. The second bandit attacks him, rolling his attack (3+2+1) minus Stephen's defense (3+2) for 1 die, which misses.

Stephen attacks the second bandit, who switches to full defense while shouting for reinforcements. Stephen rolls his attack (2+4+2) minus the bandit's defense (2+1) – 3 dice. He gets one success and does 3 lethal damage to the bandit, who turns and runs.

Option: Roll defense

If any of the above rules are adapted for use, I strongly recommend having the defender roll full defense, since the full defense rating will often be higher than the attacker's dice pool, and chance die are a sub-awesome way to handle such situations. Rolling normal defense is also recommended, but less essential. The most common scenario where the attacker's pool is lower than the defenders pool is when NPC mooks are attacking a defensively optimized PC. 1-in-10 chance to hit is not a terrible way to handle such situations, but most players I've known are happier rolling it.

Option: Skill allocation

One option that can add a little more tactical choice, especially for duels, is to allow each character to divide their weaponry skill between offense and defense however they choose, with the caveat that they must put at least one dot into offense in order to attack.

I usually make this a merit ('combat expertise' or whatever you want to call it), but in a melee centric game it could just be something that everyone can do.

Option: Two-weapon fighting:

Additional attacks, or adding together the attack bonuses from multiple weapons, tends to be game-breaking under this ruleset. The solution I use for two-weapon fighting is to allow the character to pick which weapon provides the offensive stats (attack bonus and base damage) and which provides the defense bonus.

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