Having lined out how the basic mechanics work in the previous post, in this post I’m going to attempt to define the framework for melee combat.
Melee combat is inherently different from ranged combat. In Splintered Core, it is the goal to balance out melee and ranged mechanics so that melee specialist builds have a fighting chance against ranged specialists. In the most extreme case, a ranged master build would have around 50% chance of winning an encounter with a melee master build.
Before we begin, let’s examine a few ways unarmed/melee combat can gain the advantage over ranged builds. To do that, we first examine the drawbacks of ranged builds. All firearms have a minimum range, and usually cost more to fire a shot. This is due to the act of target acquisition; aiming and firing being abstracted into one single action, which is far slower than unarmed combat. Which brings us to a balance design decision: while which build (ranged or melee) is faster is certainly a highly debatable issue, I will be making a balance decision here to ensure that melee builds are always faster than a ranged build of the same level.
Ranged vs Melee
This is partly due to the stat requirements of a melee build: for ranged builds, the senses stat tree is important; while for melee builds the atheletics stat tree would have priority. Development along these two branches would ensure that range builds will become great in determining enemy positions (e.g. a ranger-like build in traditional RPG conventions), while a melee build would instead of a powerhouse in direct physical confrontations (e.g. a warrior-like build in traditional RPG conventions).
The modus operandi of two builds would also be vastly different. Melee builds tend to have lots of special skills in negating reaction checks while maneuvering in the battlefield (mostly agility checks), and I would expect melee builds to invest extra stat points into either stealth or maneuvering, which is far more important to their survival on the battlefield.
The path to a target is always the most perilous of a melee build’s journey. Once the melee character enters a ranged build’s deadzone, tactical advantage would greatly favor the former as ranged characters suffer massive penalties when attempting point-blank shots. Sidearm masters would fare better in this case, but they would not have the necessary knowledge or experience to deal with disarming or grappling moves that melee characters would attempt once within melee distance.
My intention in this design is simple. When a ranged build is matched up against a melee build, the tactical options for the former would be to maintain distance while attempting to successfully defeat the latter’s speed advantage. Shots from a firearm would deal lethal damage to melee builds who usually shun heavy armor in order to move faster or without encumbrance. Also, in this situation ranged builds would fair better if they changed to close quarter combat weapons like pistols, carbines, shotguns and submachine guns, sacrificing stopping power (damage and penetration) for volume of fire in close ranges (fire rate and AP cost).
Melee builds on the other hand, will spend most of their time plotting the approach. The key to a successful melee build is to know how to utilize the terrain to approach under cover, and undetected. Their lesser reliance on equipment protection allow them better chances against reaction and detection checks, and once they successfully make their way to the target they will have a wide variety of reaction-resistant movement techniques that would allow them to close the remaining distance without triggering deadly reaction fires.
And once a melee build closes to melee distance, the range build would have practically lost the battle already, unless he has some backup melee skills of his own.
Ranged builds, when fighting against melee opponents, would play a very defensive game while the latter would almost always be on the offensive.
It’s better for us to use a real-life example of how a fight goes, and then translate this into mechanics and combat rolls.
A is a master in striking arts, capable of delivering precise blows to vulnerable spots through his opponent’s guard with the “Serpent Strike” technique, and is a master of the “Three-inch Force” technique that allows him the capability to deliver full-powered blows from awkward and unpredictable angles with ease.
B is a grappler whose modus operandi involves taking down his opponent and then attempting to manipulate his opponent into submission holds.
A and B meets in the field. The bell rings, and the two combatants circle each other, looking for an opening. B is patient – he knows that a defensive starting strategy will give him a vast advantage against A, whose style he is familiar with. In fact, he had beaten several so-called grandmasters of said style before, and he knows the style inside out. He prepares himself for kicks that A’s style is so famous for.
A on the other hand isn’t that fortunate. He does not have much experience with grapplers, with rudimentary training in counter-grappling skills, but he knows he has one advantage: he had been training so hard in his style that he had reached the point where he can deliver a powerful blow from any angle, even from limited spaces.
Knowing that B would not take the first move, and that starting with a kick would be too predictable, A decides to switch it up and charges B. His tactic is to feint a charge and then at the last moment, sidestep and deliver a light, harassing cross to B’s jaw before quick stepping backwards to put distance between the two of them. He knows that close distance combat is B’s home ground, and thus keeping a distance would be his main strategy in this fight.
He executes his plan, charging in and then sidestepping. B couldn’t react fast enough and eats a light punch to his jaw, which dazes him for a split second. He tries to reorient himself and tackle A, but it is too late: A had moved out of his grappling distance. Knowing that A is much faster than he is, B changes his strategy. He takes the initiative instead and pressed forward, pulling up his guard to weather A’s flurry of blows to get close enough.
Bad idea. A does a spin kick and drives his foot between B’s guarding arms, landing a solid hit on his chest and knocking the breath out of him. B stumbles backward, his guard slackens, and A follows up with a vicious combo known as the “Hidden Tiger Pounce” where he closes the distance and lands a right hook; followed by a right uppercut, and then a one-two punch before ending it with a reverse leg sweep.
B successfully defends against the right hook but that leaves his guard open, and A slams the uppercut through his guard and flips his head backwards with the force of the blow. The one-two catches the rebounding head solidly, and B drops like a fly. The leg sweep was not needed at all.
Before B hits the ground, B realizes his fatal mistake. He had underestimated the striking precision of A’s techniques and the amount of force he could generate from virtually any angle. His guards were designed to block general blows, but to A they were laughable. Had it been any other striker, B would have gained the advantage by aggressively pressing on the attack with a strong defensive posture, but A had the ability to penetrate any guard with his style’s “Serpent Strike” and “Three-inch Force” techniques.
Fortunately, A deliberately avoided dealing B fatal blows, and B is merely knocked out.
I apologize for my horrible writing. I hope it does the job though, which is to give you a mental image of how the fight went. Now, to translate this into mechanics:
Unarmed, Striking = 8, Mastery Level = 3 (Master, Three-inch Force)
Unarmed, Counter = 5, Mastery Level = 0
Dexterity, Agility = 8, Mastery Level = 3 (Master, Flash Step)
- Hands = Light Gloves (-1 Penetration, -2 Damage)
- Body = MMA pants (0 Penetration, 0 Damage)
+2 penetration and damage. Bonus applies even when clinching or grappling.
3 free movements immune to reactionary counters.
Hidden Tiger Pounce (Learned Technique)
Delivers a hook, followed by an uppercut, followed by a jab and a cross, and then ending with a reverse leg sweep. All actions are performed at 50% AP cost. If first hit connects, next hit is delivered with a +2 bonus mod; every hit that connects after the first gets a +2 accumulative bonus. However, if any move is dodged, the opponent gains the same amount of bonus to his counter-strike.
Striking Familiarity Level 3
Gives a +3 bonus to combat rolls involving striking maneuvers
Unarmed, Grappling = 8, Mastery Level = 2 (Expert, Advanced Takedown)
Unarmed, Counter = 6, Mastery Level = 1 (Advanced, Flow Manipulation)
Dexterity, Agility = 5, Mastery Level = 0
Dexterity, Reaction = 6, Mastery Level = 0
- Hands = Light Gloves (-1 Penetration, -2 Damage)
- Body = MMA pants (0 Penetration, 0 Damage)
Re-roll a takedown if unsuccessful on the first try with a -1 mod
Flow Manipulation (Passive)
+1 chance to divert damage from one body part to another
Grappling Familiarity Level 2
Gives a +2 bonus to combat rolls involving grappling maneuvers
Anti-Striker Familiarity Level 2
Gives a +2 bonus vs strikers.
The combat begins with both combatants aware of each other’s presence, so no surprise environmental factors are in play here. Also, since both of them are fighting in a ring, no external factor comes in either.
Thus it’s pure skill vs skill. One thing though… B has vast experience in fighting A’s style, and thus gains +1 familiarity level vs A.
Both roll initiative, but B wins the initiative. Both combatants are 2 tiles away from each other: within distance to kicks and extended punches, but beyond distance for grapples.
B prepares a counter vs kicks, giving him a +2 advantage towards kicking strikes.
A uses the flash step ability, which gives him 3 free moves. He takes 1 step towards B to close towards grappling/punching distance and throws a fast cross, targetted at B’s head.
A’s agility = 8, flash step = +2
Martial Technique Schools
Archonite Hand-to-Hand Offense Neutralization System (ARCHON system)