Combo Based Combat

by Andreas Walters on December 18, 2023

"What if every action did something?"
"What if the basic attack never existed?"

These are the questions that started as the foundation to this design. The goal was to put together a combat system where every action did something. The result ended up creating a combat system where the player's actions would apply counters to an adversary (setup actions), which could then be utilized by another action to deal greater or special effects to that target (the combo action).
With this sort of system, it would encourage players to work together by leveraging the synergies the game presents.

As of right now this uses a d6 dice pool system. If there is enough interest I can try adapting it to other systems.

All the content for this is listed below, but any changes that will be made will be done on the doc provided here

Combo-Based Combat

This is a combat concept idea created by Andreas Walters (Metal Weave Games), this might be used for a future ttrpg system, but for the moment its just an idea that needs some playtesting and refinement. 

The core idea is inspired by looking at our own designs, 4e, and discussions about the MCDM TTRPG and asking the following questions:

  • What's the difference between missing an attack roll, and dealing minimal damage? Don't they all feel bland in their own way?  and,
  • What if we removed the basic attack? Making every attack action do something interesting, creating depth of choice? 

This led me to some design thinking which takes a look at what if we can apply conditions and stacks to our adversaries, and then consume/proc them with combos to have a greater effect. This in effect, should create a dynamic of setting up combos between players, where it isn't just the action of one player, but the combined efforts of all players. 


As so far, this is a mashup of the Judgment System (Hyper Light Drifter) and D&D, with a little bit of learning about 2d20 and exalted which came up in discussions. 


I could have gone with purely tweaking D&D to make this system work, however, finding a good way to apply condition tokens felt really messy with the d20 system, and by using to a more low-numbers comparison model, it allows us to better manage getting outcomes above and below the result.  

How it works

There will be two (maybe 3) kinds of attacks that players can perform,

  1. Setup Maneuvers: which don't deal much damage, but apply condition tokens (tokens for short) to the adversary. And, 
  2. Proc Maneuvers: These actions can only be used on adversaries with tokens on them, when performing this action, the player declares how many tokens they want to consume with their maneuver prior to rolling.  

Condition Tokens

There are three different types of conditions that can be stacked on an adversary. 

  • Vulnerable (combat positioning)
  • Strain (bodily endurance)
  • Torment (mental strain) (also a fan of calling it Woe)

Every time it's the adversary’s turn, remove a number of tokens equal to their Challenge Rating

Most adversaries will have a CR of 1, but special adversaries, brutes, and bosses may have higher CRs making them more difficult to take down with combos. 

Some adversaries might be immune to some conditions, for instance Constructs would be immune to Torment

These tokens can be consumed by Proc Manuevers, allowing for more explosive types of damage and outcomes when it comes to combat.  

Resolution System: Dice Pool

Rolls will require you to use one or two ability scores (leaning towards two, though more in the style of 2d20 games). You will combine the score to determine your dice pool. Fro this we will be using d6’s and using 5’s and 6’s to count successes. 

Your target number of successes will be determined by the ability in question (though this might be streamlined later). 

With this in mind, we can keep the number scaling fairly low, which means that the interactions between roll outcomes will still have a meaningful difference without getting too out of hand. 

Sample Stats of attacker and defender.

WIS  2
CHA 2 

Setup Maneuvers

  • Overpower: Using sheer power alone, you wear down your opponent, giving an opening. Make a STR+CON vs their DEF/Con. Doing so, puts 1 Vulnerable counter on you. 
    • Judgment: 1[weapon] - 1 Strain  per 2 success difference (min1)
    • Temperance: 1[weapon] + 1 Strain 
    • Fortune: 2[weapon] + 1 Strain  / 2 successes difference (min 1)

For overpower, that would be, (STR+CON), which is 2+2, 4d6.
We get {4, 6 , 6,3) ,5s and 6s are successes. So we get 2 successes. This would be compared against their DEF/END, whichever is higher. So in this case Def is 2, so we meet, with our 2.

  • Expose: Using finesse you cause the adversary to misstep, creating an opening for your ally. Make a DEX+CHA vs their WIS/DEX. 
    • Judgment: ½ [weapon] +1 Vulnerable  (user also takes +1 Vulnerable)
    • Temperance: ½[weapon] + 1 Vulnerable 
    • Fortune: 1[weapon] + 1 Vulnerable / 2 successes difference (min 1)
  • Viscous Mockery: Taunt an opponent, throwing off their mental. Make a WIS+CHA vs their WIS/INT. 
    • Judgment: 1 Torment (user also takes +1 Vulnerable)
    • Temperance: 2 Torment
    • Fortune: 1+ 1 Torment/ 2 successes difference (min 1)

Proc Maneuvers

  • Feint (Vulnerable/Torment): You lead your opponent to make a predictable movement so that you can exploit it. Make an CHA+INT attack against their WIS/DEX. Deal your weapon + the number of vulnerable counters you wish to proc.  
    • Judgment: d4
    • Temperance d6
    • Fortune:  d8

For Feint, that would be, (CHA+INT), which is 2+3, 5d6.
We get {2,1,2,4,6) ,5s and 6s are successes. So we get 1 success. This would be compared against their WIS/DEX, whichever is higher. So in this case DEX is 3, so we fail, with our 1, and because we’re 2 difference,our damage uses d4s.

Lets say for example the target had 2 tokens on them. This would deal an additional 2d4 damage {4, 4} +8 damage. 

  • Relentless Pummel (Strain/Vulnerable): Beat down your adversary with successive strikes, taking advantage of their weakened condition. Player takes on 1 strain and 1 vulnerable. Make an STR+CON attack against their DEF/CON. Deal your weapon damage damage for the number of tokens you wish to consume. 
    • Judgment: player takes on 2 points to distribute between strain or vulnerable
    • Temperance player takes 1 point of strain or vulnerable
    • Fortune:  player deals +1 damage for each token used in this ability. 

Idea: allow players to pick one die from their dice pool to use for their damage, they can choose to pick a success, however then they cant count it towards their successes.


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