During my Werewolf: The Forsaken-game, I wanted for the players to feel like brutal criminal enforcers, since that’s pretty much what they were at that point. I had them break in the home of two thugs who they needed to beat up. During the scene, which I wanted to feel vivid and violent, I had the thugs put up some token resistance. That little few seconds of facial reconstruction took about fifteen minutes of game time. And at that point I decided that I want a system to handle an entire combat scene with a single roll.
Why do we even have a distinct combat system? How does trying to kill (or subjugate) an opponent fundamentally differ from trying to persuade him? One of the theories is that players want more control in situations where their characters might die. Well, I was recently in a situation where my character had to climb an elevator shaft down. I rolled badly and she died. Poof. Had the situation been in combat, I would have rolled for initiative, made a tactical choice, rolled to hit, rolled to dodge, raised my heroism to avoid dying (it was an exotic system), or done any other of the myriad of choices. But the end result would have been the same: My character would be dead.
Another theory that I just made up is that roleplaying games still retain the cultural heritage of Chainmail and the first Dungeons and Dragons. That the meat of the game is fighting for your life, and that is why it should be simulated very carefully. Or perhaps it’s just the local playerbase. Regardless, that shouldn’t be the case.
So, in my opinion combat shouldn’t have any privileges in relation to other situations where a roll for success is required. And so, I set out to design a new system to handle any situation with a single roll. In addition, I wanted a system that would include time and the degree of success as a significant aspect. I would also like the system to be scalable to accommodate any situation. Here is the end result:
Every check has a Success Roll. Checks might also have modifier rolls: Time Roll, Environmental Impact roll and Attrition roll.
Success Roll is a single d10. In a contested roll, the players succeed on a 6-10. Depending on what the situation calls for, the players add an appropriate Affinity, which are Physical, Mental and Spiritual. Then they reduce the opponent’s Affinity. Then the players and the opponent start listing their Competences, which nudge the success range up or down.
Time Roll is a singe d10. First the GM and the players define how long the action should take. That is used as a base, which the Time Roll modifies: 1 means that the action is absurdly fast, 2 means the action is significantly faster, 3-4 means the action is slightly faster, 5-6 means no deviation from the base time, 7-8 means it took slightly more time, 9 means significantly more time and 10 means it took and absurd amount of time.
Environmental Impact roll is a single d10, which measures how much the action affects the environment. At 1-4 the action has negligible environmental effect, 5-7 means slight environmental impact, 8-9 significant, and 10 absurd impact. This roll is modified by the tools and the skills the characters are willing to use.
Attrition Roll is a single d4, d6, d8 or d10 for each side. The die result is directly the amount of attrition that is dealt to each side. The winning side can nudge either Attrition dice on one-on-one basis for the amount they went over the success line with the Success Roll. In a contested roll, either side may up the ante by increasing the die size for both participants.
So, when a check is required, the GM either selects a difficulty by deciding the success range for the Success Roll, or by having an NPC contest the roll. Then the players and the GM define which tools they are willing to use and modify the Success Roll. After that is done, the GM evaluates the time and adds Time die, adds the Environmental Impact die, and adds both Attrition Dice. Then the whole batch is rolled (obviously using different coloured dice), and the results are interpreted. Then either the GM explains how the events went down, or the GM and the players can play towards that situation.
That is the core structure for my one roll system. It still needs some framework and a setting that supports the narrative structure. But at least finally combat won’t take 15 minutes of die rolling and hit point erasing. Thank the Void for that.