January 6, 2011

Combo Attacks

Dump Stat asked if there was a way to introduce a weapon combo system into 4E, something similar to attack combos a person can see in video games. A bunch of ideas on the topic leapt into my head. Since I enjoy game design I immediately began to think about how his criteria could be met. His criteria? It has to be a chain of attacks that build on each other and have to be done in one turn. A few methods of dealing with this came to mind.

Here is the “easy” solution. Simply start with a simple attack and then allow secondary and tertiary attacks with the caveat that the previous attack hits. As Dump Stat mentioned, spread the damage out between the three attacks. Here are a couple of examples (note that the actual damage numbers would have to be tweeked for better balance:

Fairly basic. It allows for his criteria while still keeping things managable.
Now I get a little complex. Using the same setup as the Grab-Headbutt-Fling power, I cut it up so each attack is a seperate power and then I allow for alternate conclusions to the chain.

Grab starts the chain. It sets up a condition that the rest have as a requirement, the target must be grabbed. Grab also allows another attack to be made as a follow-up. The second part feeds directly from the first. Headbutt has a requirement that was met by Grab and is a natrual part of the chain. After Headbutt, we are again allowed another attack. This would be considered the "finisher". There are 3 finishers here and the character can choose which one to use, but they all still have the same requirement set up by the Grab attack.
With this second method we can run into a problem. By allowing multiple follow-ups it quickly becomes a lot that the players need to keep track of. Granted we can take away the options but at that point you are better off using the first method I mentioned.
How would character again access to these combos? You can easily interject the power into a class. Simply add the power as another choice at the appropriate power rank. For the second method wherein we provide multiple choices, you can allow a feat to select an extra "finisher". So with the example above, Fling, Close Strike and Eye Gouge would all be a level 3 power. However, since a player can only take 1 power at a level they would lose out on the options of the other two. The feat would allow them to choose a second power and add it to their list of powers. Just have the feat make mention that only one finisher can be used per encoutner, similar to the Channel Divinity ability, and everything should remain balanced.
Having given a couple of methods for potentially implementing chain attacks, I have to say I'm not all that sure 4E needs this. In an abstract form, 4E already has something like this. For example, the level 11 Fighter power, Chains of Sorrow, does two things. It pulls the blocking weapon/shield away from the target and then hits the target. There are numerous other powers that do two or three things in one action. I believe for sake of ease and time allowing effects to be "bundled up" is a good thing. Combo attacks will add greater complexity to a game already chock full of stuff and the added time to roll three attacks as opposed to one could cause an encounter to take even longer. 
However, there is some merit for including chain attacks. The anticipation of "will-he-complete-the combo" could be exciting. Some players really enjoy the added comlexity in games and this could give them something new to play with.
In the end, I hope I met with Dump Stat's criteria properly. If nothing else, it was a fun exercise in design.
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