Combat movement and compromises

Hello,

as an old d&d DM who recently decided to jump to Torchbearer 2E some questions are gathering at my mind as the style of play is completely new to me. I will try to be as concise as possible:

A) Imagine a group of 3 PCs (magician, warrior, elf) vs a group of 4 goblins. They are in a cave, 50 feet apart from each other (the parties). Should a Maneuver action be a must before any close combat attack? If so, and one of the characters do this maneuver… is this character the only PC that could do a close combat action in consequent actions? maybe is this PC and any other helping PCs (who helped int he maneuver I mean) who move towards the enemy? the entire party? Maybe the maneuver is not needed and the attack action already implies the movement forward… if so, where is the advantage of missile weapons?

B) How do you DMs manage the compromises a winning party has to give to the loosing party? As it is written in the manual, a party of winning PCs who lost 25% of their Hit Points (more than 50% remaining) must compromise with the loosing party with a minor compromise. One of the listed minor compromises is the death of a PC. WOW!! How do you manage this? Do you really kill characters that easy? Am I missing something? If you kill characters that way… how do you choose them? Do you let the team decide? you do it by chance among 0 hit points PCs?

As a heavily miniature based player I have some problems visualizing how combat works, develops and ends. Any tip is really welcomed.

Thanks!

Hello and welcome,

To begin with, think of a conflict as a series of tests rolled up into one big event. However, we’re not rolling for every swing of the blade. Instead, think of beats of a battle scene in a movie. The camera moves around while the battle unfolds.

Maybe a play through based on the Balin’s Tomb scene for LotR might help:

Caveats: this is an extreme example to illustrate a point about bosses, it was written long ago for 1e, some of the rules have changed slightly, normally you don’t have so many characters involved, I did not write out all of the help for each character but players need to describe what they are doing for each action.

But, to your question, you can see how the entire scene unfolds very cinematically. It is not a simulationist, blow-for-blow, literal attack.

1) Should a Maneuver action be a must before any close combat attack?

No, that is not the procedure for a normal conflict. However, Warfare conflicts in the LMM book have a similar mechanic to engage a unit. For a normal conflict, narrative positioning does become important for helper actions and ultimately compromises, but it is all abstracted. The players description needs to make sense though, so as the GM you can help them by providing vivid details and detailing the scene.

2) Maybe the maneuver is not needed and the attack action already implies the movement forward

Think of an Attack action as “something that advances the adventurers toward their goal” rather than a literal attack. So, yes, attacks advance and move you toward whatever it is you are doing. The book provides some good insight into how to translate an Attack for the other conflict types. So an Attack in a Flee conflict means you are running away (moving toward your goal).

3) where is the advantage of missile weapons

There are lots of benefits. The bow basically turns one Attack/Attack into a versus test once per conflict. You get to use the bow once for this purpose so long as the fiction allows it. For example, you would not be able to use a bow at all given a situation where room would not allow or narratively the party was already in melee. Besides that, those weapons ignore leather armor and have a few other modifiers.

4) How do you DMs manage the compromises a winning party

Compromises are a negotiation with the players. The losing party begins. If what they offer is too little, the GM can point to the book and counter with a more appropriate offer. It is important to set the bar, but the rule book offers suggestions (with a few exceptions for warfare conflicts and Killing is My Business). But overall, a compromise is a matter of coming to terms together.

5) Do you really kill characters that easy?

Death does not come easily in this game. Death is a choice: a life for a life. Death should not happen accidentally, but nor should it be entirely in the hands of the players–that is to say that sometimes, through a twist, the party might find themselves with limited options with no way out except to fight.

When death is on the line, the GM is obligated to alert the players. This is the important part of the player agency. The players make a choice to raise the stakes to the highest level.

6) you do it by chance among 0 hit points PCs?

When determining a compromise, that is one way to do it. The compromise (and everything in the game) should flow from the narrative. It is always description + mechanics together. So, if the dwarf got knocked out and there was a major compromise owed, then certainly injury would be on the table for that character. However, the players can counter and offer something equivalent instead. In my experience, they often will come up with ideas that are even more harmful than anything the GM could have come up with.

So, overall, Torchbearer greatly benefits from abstraction which allows the players’ imagination to run wild.

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Thanks for the quick answer.

Looks like I’ve a very classical mindset towards rpg combat that this games turn around completely. I kind of like this new approach and it surely will de daunting to bring it to my table. Eager to do it, nontheless.

First part, combat and maneuvers, is understood and a more narrative approach will definetly sort it out. The text of the fight with troll is higly appreciated as I understood things much better.

Compromises is where I still have some doubts… Lets make an example and you tell me if this suits how it is intented to be played:

GM: So the last Kobold goes to the floor with the lost of the last monster’s hit points.

Party: Hurray!!!

GM: As you have lost 4 out of 11 points of Disposition in this combat you owe the Kobolds some Compromise. Mmmm… what about you Flint (Dwarf PC), you took 3 bombs to the head from the Kobolds and you dropped to 0 hit points. Also, you all knew that this was a massiv horde of Kobolds and insisted on fighting… Flint, you are dead.

Party: No way, DM. We only lost 4 points out of 11 so that’s out of the question. What about… Flint is Injured and Exahusted.

GM: Only that?? Mates, there were nearly 20 Kobolds… What about Flint is Injured, Exhausted, you all are Hungry and Thirsty and 2 Kobolds fled the scene through the hole.

Party: Mmmmm… OK, lets take the Flint’s states and the Kobolds fleeing but no Hungry and Thirsty. OK?

GM. OK. Let’s go on.

Is this what’s supposed to happen? This kind of exchange?

So death of a PC will come not in “casual conflicts” but in appropiate narrative conflicts (facing the troll boss so it doesn’t raid the city and with the GM stating before declaring anything: “pals, this is a decisive and mortal conflict if you choose to make it a Kill Conflict… choose wisely”).

You have the gist of the conversation. The whole group look to the fictional dangers and agrees what compromise is appropriate.

In a Kill conflict, lives are always at risk. If the players lose, someone’s probably going to die. If they win, then they have more leverage but the GM can always ask for death. It’s on the line. Same as if an action is dangerous and a PC is already injured or sick. In both cases, the GM must warn the players that death is on the line.

But if it’s not a Kill conflict, then death shouldn’t be offered as part of the compromise. Or if no PC is injured or sick, then none should die on a failed roll.

So players can avoid PC death by not going in for the kill, not fighting when hurt, not getting ambushed by killers. Instead, trick, scare, run away, sneak past.

Basically don’t murder everything. Otherwise, you will die.

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My advice for the negotiation is to presage what compromises might mean before the conflict, and to give the compromising party the first word. The players will either go straight for the high price, “So, who’s carrying our bodies back to town?” or they’ll sheepishly try for low price, “I lose my favorite trinket?” Either way, the GM’s role is more of coaxing the group to settle on what feels right than haggling up the price. Arch your eyebrow, pocket the phrases, “Is that all?” and “You think so?” and remember that the players are generally more vicious to their own characters than you expect.

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An example compromise discussion, names changed to protect the guilty.

Pre-conflict:
Party Leader: There’s 9 kobolds and 4 of us, but you said that the Kobolds are all Hungry and Thirsty because we blocked their water supply? We want to race in and set about them, let’s Kill them all!
GM: OK, but quickly, just to remind you, if it’s a Kill Conflict, Death is on the Line. As it’s only our second session, I’ll let you weasel out and make this a different Conflict type?
PL: ((pauses to check with other party members, they nod)) We have spells and momentum on our side onwards!
GM: ((narration, Rules))

End of Conflict:
GM: OK, so… You started off with 11 Disposition, but you’re down to 7. That’s still only a minor compromise, but it’s close to a half compromise and this is a Kill Conflict. Death is on the line, like I said at the beginning, and it has got to hurt.

Murderhobo: We killed them all!

GM: you absolutely did, but now we have to work out what that cost you. What’s the compromise? The book has some suggestions…

Party Leader: well, I’m not sure any of us should die. I know you said Death is on the line, but only Dvalin the Dwarf was knocked out of combat, and he’s Fresh as a daisy. You said it would hurt though…

Dvalin’s player: I’m okay with dying if I have to, but I’d rather go on. Maybe I’m really injured though?

GM: you’d have to be a bit more than injured.

Wizard: I did throw a lot of magic about. Maybe we all got caught in the crossfire? We’re all injured from Mt magic, and exhausted from fighting, and that fire might even summon the spiders the Kobolds were hiding from?

PL: uhhh… That’s two conditions and a twist coming up.

Dvalin: if I died would I start fresh with my new character?

GM: you would, but I’ll also take the injured and exhausted and chased by spiders. Actually, I’ll be generous: the spiders will catch the last kobold, so you’ll have a headstart of enough time for them to cocoon it, and everyone except Dvalin is exhausted but not injured. Dvalin is both though.

Dvalin: I’m okay with either outcome.

Murderhobo: a headstart? I need to spend some more Fate to level up. Let’s Flee! ((Wizard nods))

PL: alright. We turn out the blackened corpses until Dvalin’s coughing form alerts us to his presence, then we see the last kobold stop fleeing away and start fleeing towards us as a spider catches it then?

GM: Let’s go!

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