We’ve been playing Dragon Warriors, a lot, over on my Grimstreams Youtube channel. It has a delightful ‘old skool’ charm to it. Much of this is down to the medievalist setting, which invokes the best of Arthurian legend, and Robin of Sherwood. It happily inhabits the schizophrenic mythology Britain developed as a legacy from Celts, Picts, Romans, Normans, Norse and other influences.
There’s something, however, that I have never liked about the old school, and that is how deadly dull combat can be. I do my best to inject description and to interpret the rolls excitingly. Still, combat choices mostly come down to which weapon to use, or some ability automatically triggering. When it comes to actual combat, then at best it’s about manoeuvring and is otherwise two ents, taking turns to hit each other with a hatchet.
Dragon Warriors helps a bit, in that combat tends to be reasonably swift, even with high ranking foes. However, still, there’s something just unsatisfying about it.
One way I’ve dealt with this in other games, like my own Machinations of the Space Princess, is to open up the possibility for any player to engage in ‘stunts’. Special manoeuvres that aren’t exhaustively listed, but are up to the player and the Games Master to interpret. The difficulty of these can be offset by sinking some skill points into your ‘special moves’.
Dragon Warriors would have to be a little different. It doesn’t have a rigorous Skill system, but given it works on a 1-20 scale in the same way D&D and its derivatives do, it shouldn’t be too hard to port things over. In those D&D derivatives, I allow a stunt with a -5 penalty to hit. This will enable fighters to excel at special combat manoeuvres, making them a more competent and capable class with their own standout capabilities. In Dragon Warriors, the warrior classes can get a little sidelined at higher levels as well. Still, their Attack score also rises far more quickly, as does that of the assassin class.
In Dragon Warriors then, we can open this up by applying the same -5 penalty. This gives the combat-oriented classes a level of versatility, as they can afford to ‘waste’ those points doing something outlandish.
Again, this would be open, but a few possibilities present themselves from the pre-existing options. However, many are superseded by special abilities.
- Disarm: When you hit, the target takes no damage, but you roll 3d6, and if it’s over their rank, you knock the weapon free from their hand.
- Strike Past Armour: Take a penalty equal to the enemy’s Armour Factor to strike at a weak point or gap.
- All-Out Attack: Trade multiples of 5 Defence for +1 Attack.
- All Out Defence: Trade multiples of 5 Attack for +1 Defence.
- Two-Weapon Combat: Roll both weapons at -5 attack, you cannot defend this turn.
- Trip Attack: Roll an Attack at -5 and then roll 3d6+Rank. Roll 3d6+Rank for the enemy and, if they fail to beat your score, they are knocked to the ground.
- Stunning Blow: Roll an Attack at -5, if you hit roll 3d6 and if it is over the target’s current Health they are stunned and unable to act for one turn. If you roll over double their current Health, they are knocked out or made helpless.
Grappling is conspicuously absent in the main rules. Here’s a couple of ideas.
To make a grapple, you make a special unarmed attack, in place of your normal unarmed strike. If you land a blow, this doesn’t do any damage, but you then have a hold on the enemy. They cannot move while they are held, though they can try to break free as their own Attack, which does no damage but gets them out of your grip. They can, instead, opt to use a short weapon like a dagger to stab at you, which is also a valid attack once they get it free.
With someone in a hold, you have various options. You can try and keep them held, you can try and choke them, throw them or apply force to a restrained limb or their neck.
- Choke Hold: Holding them in this grip forces a roll of a d6, and if this is below their current Health, they stay conscious. Otherwise, the person being choked passes out. On the second turn, this roll is 2d6. The dice rolled increases by one each turn until they pass out. Once they have passed out, you do your maximum unarmed damage each turn.
- Break: You lose your hold, but do maximum unarmed damage, ignoring armour.
- Throw: You hurl the held person 1d4 metres +1 if your Strength is 16-17, +2 if your Strength is 18. Check this distance against falling damage, and step it up by one level. If you hurled someone six metres, for example, you would do 1d10 damage, minus armour. The target would also be six metres away and knocked prone.