Electric Dragon Drill? How embarrassing!
A brainstormed idea on a PnP RPG combat system that deviates a bit from the norm. For now it assumes everyone is hitting everyone else with things and nobody is playing the warlock.
the actual idea
In combat characters have a stance, a state, that determines what moves they can make. Moves are 4e style powers. Moves have an ideal starting stance and an ending stance. Stances have keywords, and starting or ending stances could key off of keywords rather than particular named stances. Different sets of stances and moves. Some moves may force target to assume a stance with a given keyword, care should be taken to make sure that everyone is being forced into stances they have available. There may be a 'downed' or 'staggered' stance/state that you can be knocked into. Characters may have moves that require enemies to be in certain stances, such as one that requires the enemy to be staggered, or moves that transition from those stances and get an attack along the way.
People would have a number of root stances that they can assume from any state. Styles may require you to chain through certain stances before getting access to their best moves. Cool ideas would be moves that start and end at those awesome stances, keeping you at the ready to use your super move, but super moves would generally dump you back at starting stances. It could also be used to make sure that certain powerful moves aren't simply cheesed over and over again, because you would have to do something that takes you back to the stance where they are useful.
The styles are generally going to be weapon type focused and usable by all weapons within a category. Magic weapons would unlock new moves unique to them within their tree, and require experience with to fully explore. Magic weapons are a character changing move and not something to swap out later, their progression is built in.
If the stance chaining gets to be too much a good visual aid would be flow charts of the progression. Moreover, the charts could be used as a gaming aid as well. Simply place a token representing your character's current stance on the chart, and move it as necessary. Thus nobody would forget where they are or what they can do from there.
Simon suggests that moves can be made from any stance but get a penalty if they're not used from the right stance. Also suggests that stances might have minor passive bonuses and penalties to different situations, based on the particular style.
You could also have styles that used more than one type of weapon, such as a sword and a bow, and then different stances work with different weapons and certain moves switch between them.
So I made some trees
First off some notes: I am currently using DnD 4e idioms and rough framework to think about these things, and may very well end up using a similar combat system. For now consider these to be a completely alternate DnD4 power system and you'll have a good start. In that context, every power presented here is a conditional at will, you may preform it so long as its listed conditions are met.
Second off, this is all preliminary and mostly for illustration purposes. Also I made these while sleep deprived to shit, so please excuse minor inconsistencies and typos and stuff, I'll probably clean it all up later.
Squares denote stances. In combat you are ALWAYS in a stance. Stances have keywords, marked by the * symbols. You may only be in one stance at a time. Powers move you from one stance to another. In damage notation
First is a listing of stances and powers common to all fighters. This includes what might be considered status effects in other games, in this system they are represented as stances you are forced into.
So those are things everyone can do. Actual fighting is in styles, individual power trees. I've roughed out an example of how this would work.
Something to note: Arrowed lines show common/suggested paths of movement, but reading of the conditions will reveal a few ways to jump around in ways that may or may not be useful. Also, while this shows all the conventional techniques a character would have after mastering a school, a truly max level character would have a magic weapon that itself would come with some addition powers or potentially tweaks to existing powers that would open up new possibilities.
So 'bout them mechanics
DAMAGE! Attack damage comes from two sources, weapon damage and personal damage. Weapons come in two broad categories, brute and deft. Most of the personal damage for brute weapons comes from a strength attribute, most of the personal damage for deft comes from a dexterity attribute. Most ranged weapons are deft. Perhaps a balanced category?
Other damage musing: I feel as though 4e's w+stat system and the way power damage was constructed heavily prioritized the weapon's stats over the characters, making the gear treadmill all the more important. I'm not sure I like that. I'm strongly considering having personal damage come in the form of dice, too. Since I want magic weapons to be things that offer additional powers for your tree, it may be wisest to keep the damage/acc bonuses typical to magic weapons to a minimum, which will also encourage choosing one for flavor/powers instead of bigger numbers.
Aim! I'm thinking of an opposed roll system of some sort, aim vs dodge. I like armor being DR. I wouldn't hate stealing ES from PoE either. But that could easily be too much complexity, and I'm warry of DR in a tabletop. I believe Exalted did that and it was terrible.
I'm leaning towards the idea of dice pools, Crazy Dice System style. I need to run the numbers on a version of this that can get huge piles of dice, and throws out 1s. Failure is always an option and such. The level of basic competence would have to start at a comfortable level. Might let people start with less than 0 in a skill, allowing for natural incompatibility/misconceptions about a task. Let basic competence be d12 or d12+d4, and minimum competence be d4 or d2 or something.
health? Levels? Classes?
The combat system feels like it'll be most suited to 1v1 combat, and I'm bothered by how to change that. I'm also not sure how to avoid making combat auto-win for whoever has the earliest state-changer ability. Making sure all those affects are tied to sucessful hits might help with that, as might not being 1v1.
Still leaning towards DnD style of attack twice, move twice, or a combination of the two.