Describing combat?

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Averjoe
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Describing combat?

#1 Postby Averjoe » Wed Oct 15, 2008 3:43 pm

A comment in another thread got me thinking...how do you guys describe combat? (hits, misses, shaken, wounded, etc)
I always seem to have a hard time doing it with any flair and wind up falling back on gaming terms which I really hate to do. So, I thought I'd see how you guys handle it. Any tips or tricks?

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#2 Postby jamused » Wed Oct 15, 2008 4:40 pm

I had some suggestions for that on my blog.

Basically, I think it's a good idea to punch up the descriptions in combat, as long as you still match them to the mechanics. Events to watch out for so you can provide some extra narration:
    Swing, before it lands
    Critical Miss
    Clean miss
    Miss caused by a shield bonus
    Hit blocked by toughness
    Hit blocked by the armor bonus
    Shaken
    Wounded
    Successful Soak
    Blown Soak
    Incapacitation


Not that you necessarily have to narrate each of these every time, but they're all opportunities to spice it up a bit. In particular, I recommend that you actually attribute a Successful Soak to something lucky (or unlucky depending on how you look at it) interfering with what would otherwise have been a Wound, so that it's a little less anticlimactic. Also, if you can't tell at a glance whether the blow was deflected by the shield or caught on the armor, I certainly don't recommend stopping to calculate it. F!F!F! applies to the description as well as the mechanics.

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#3 Postby Count Zero » Wed Oct 15, 2008 7:40 pm

I'll use narrative if I think of something cool but I don't force it. One thing I've taken to doing is letting the players describe what they do to their enemy if they make a particularly nasty damage roll or if the enemy is a Wild Card. People seem to dig that.
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#4 Postby grendel2175 » Fri Oct 17, 2008 6:53 pm

How you describe the combat can also play a big part of the atmosphere of the game. If I am going for gritty reality, I describe the wounds with eye towards an autopsy. I like describing the insidious details of how exactly you lost a finger fending off a hungry plague ridden rat. Those of you who have played in my con games know that theme pretty well I figure :)

"The heavy .45 slug blows through Vinny's outstretched hand before keyholing through his lower left side. He spins off balance clutching futilely at your feet before slumping to the floor in a growing pool of his blood."

When I ran Slipstream I made a point to clean the blood up a bit. Some of the horrible things happen in shadow or behind the screen. Remember terrible things happened in these serials. The stories often revolved around rape, kidnapping, and murder. The key being it didn't happen in your face while you were eating your ovaltine.

"The raygun burns your hands as the charge unloads at close range into Vincent's chest. He falls clutching his chest. A moment later his eyes flutter shut."

Anyhow that is just a quick example of what I mean by changing the trapping for the genre. And Tom (Count) has a great point about not trying to force it and let the players do their share. Some will jump at the chance to describe their antics.

Some scenes lend themselves to more description than others. You don't get a full death scene for every nazi that Indiana Jones took down... But that kraut he went round and round with under a spinning plan... He gets a postscript. Hehe, you get the idea.
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Re: Describing combat?

#5 Postby Wiggy » Fri Oct 17, 2008 8:28 pm

Averjoe wrote:A comment in another thread got me thinking...how do you guys describe combat? (hits, misses, shaken, wounded, etc)
I always seem to have a hard time doing it with any flair and wind up falling back on gaming terms which I really hate to do. So, I thought I'd see how you guys handle it. Any tips or tricks?


Personally, I describe nothing until any Soaking is done. Then I wrap the hit, damage, and Soak roll into one description. Saves a little time and allows me to decide how a hit with a raise and minimal damage comes across cinematically.
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#6 Postby Tuesday » Fri Oct 17, 2008 8:41 pm

I'll second Wiggy: It's critical to know what the hit *did*, first, before you describe it. And then, describe the hell out of it in your best style. Robert Howard for gritty fantasy! Bob Salvatore for high fantasy! Raymond Chandler for pulp detective! Rob Zombie for modern horror!

But yeah.

Get the results first.

Then describe 'em.

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#7 Postby Averjoe » Fri Oct 17, 2008 11:05 pm

Wow, thanks guys. That's a lot of good info. Going to have to try it next time I GM. This weekend though one of my players is taking over the reins and I get to see the system from the other side of the GM screen for a change. I thinking that may help a bit too.

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#8 Postby jamused » Sat Oct 18, 2008 6:28 am

I like to describe the swing or shot before it's resolved, and everything else after. "He roars and swings at your head!" (Called shot for the head...roll, miss by a tiny bit) "But you duck and it passes over your head, clipping off a bit of the feather in your hat!"

Also, when possible, I like to attribute the results to the character's skill rather than the foe's ineptitude, to make them the center of the action.

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#9 Postby shadd4d » Sat Oct 18, 2008 7:39 am

jamused wrote:I like to describe the swing or shot before it's resolved, and everything else after.

Also, when possible, I like to attribute the results to the character's skill rather than the foe's ineptitude, to make them the center of the action.


Yes and no; when I've rolled snake eyes, I'm willing to make my NPCs into the most incompentent guys to ever walk the setting.

But describing a swing or shot which includes the description...that's just how I do it for my players and NPCs.

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Fear is when you worry about what might be.
Horror is when you are certain." Dannyboy01

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#10 Postby Storn » Sat Oct 18, 2008 11:21 am

i LOVE shaken results... you see your target twinge as he pulls his knee on teh stair.

You blow hanmmers into his shield, knocking the wind outta him.

His eyes show fear and is startled.

He is outta breath after his flurry and your parries.

Pushed off balance, he cannot reply.

The gunfire pins him down.

Not sure whether he should keep fighting or run.
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#11 Postby AFDia » Sun Oct 19, 2008 4:02 am

Storn wrote:i LOVE shaken results... you see your target twinge as he pulls his knee on teh stair.

You blow hanmmers into his shield, knocking the wind outta him.

His eyes show fear and is startled.

He is outta breath after his flurry and your parries.

Pushed off balance, he cannot reply.

The gunfire pins him down.

Not sure whether he should keep fighting or run.


Very nice examples for shaken condition! :)

Usually I only describe the first attacks against a bunch of extras and afterwards we speed things up by just saying "You missed" or something like that

Of course if the big bad guy (WC) shows up it's again time for detailed action-descriptions! :)

You can also give out bennies as a reward for very good description or perhaps you could give the guy who has described his actions all the combat long in a very nice way 1 bennie after the combat as a reward for his imagination. Keeps things funny and motivates all the players to describe their attacks in an interesting way (and that is what can make combat absorbing. Just battering down the hit points (fortunately in SW there are no HP) could be funny for the first few combats, but afterwards it gets boring and in worst case you avoid battles just because they are boring.


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