If you can’t be arsed with the video, it’s the battle of Balin’s Tomb from The Lord of the Rings. The great thing about that battle, that makes it the model of how – I think – we want group combats to go in games.
Everyone there, is involved in some way, from the smallest hobbit distracting and running away, to the great Gandalf. None of them truly dominates the combat, everyone gets to do something cool and it’s even true that one of the pivotal moments is Frodo getting struck.
Something I introduced into my 4e games, and something I’ve been pondering on for my own projects, is the idea of a ‘combat pool’. This abstracts strategic manoeuvres, debilitating effects an so on to create a free-flowing way of measuring – and using – tactical advantage.
What this means in practice is that any creative player who can’t otherwise contribute to a battle, can still shout ‘Oi, wanker!’ at the orcs, draw their attention and give someone else an advantage.
Even with a one-on-one battle it means you can exploit a foe’s weakness for several turns, built up a tactical advantage and then STRIKE to overcome defences that you might not otherwise be able to. In this way it can mimic the great movie and CG battles we know and love, especially boss battles.
So, the way it would work would be a tactical manoeuvre (an appropriate skill roll) made against the enemy and the difference going into the pool. Of course, bad guys can get tactical pool as well and you can also pre-set certain encounter conditions that might change the sway of battle.
The most obvious example is probably the ambush, where sneaking competes again perception to determine which side has advantage and how much of an advantage.
Tactical pool can be spent to increase damage, to hit, dodge etc, using up the advantage to give your side the edge.
Would you like me to write up a play example using the rules as I have outlined them? Otherwise this is the end of this article series: