Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Weapon Based Combo Systems

One of the cool PS3 Games that I picked up this Christmas for Cheap was Ninja Gaiden: Sigma. I have always been a pretty big fan of these type of hack and slash action platformers and I really like the Ninja Gaiden series. I had quite a bit of fun playing Bayonetta last year as well. One of the things I really like about these games is that they really put a lot of emphasis on Melee Combat and they make that combat fun and exciting. Although they keep magic and ranged combat in the mix, these games really focus on getting up close and personal in combat, and taking it to the enemy in a big way.

What I think really gets me into these games is the combo attack dynamic which is derived from the various weapons you wield. The God of War series, especially God of War 3, did a great job of adding a variety of different weapons into the game, all of which you could wield with the same degree of skill, but each weapon had its own style of combat and each weapon had its own type of combos.

To put it quite bluntly, I really like combos and I am really disappointed by the fact that I have never really seen an easy way to put that same type of exciting dynamic into my pen and paper RPG.

@ObsidianCrane suggested on Twitter that you could so something like that with D&D 4e, by using chains of Powers in conjunction with Feats which add to subsequent actions. For example, during one attack, you grab your opponent, then on the next turn, you attack the grabbed opponent with a bonus to your attack because they are grabbed; this attack may then result in a status effect, liked dazed, which leaves them open for your finishing move on your next turn.

The problem that I have by using these kind of steps in a certain combo attack is that really, the action and excitement gets lost over several rounds. Sure, you have your combo attack, but if you have 4 players at the table, and a DM with all of his monster (4 for example) there are 7 actions between when you start the combo and when you get to do the next step in that combo. Doing something like this mechanically speaking gives a Combo-esq benefit, but doesn't really give that COMBO ATTACK! feel. I really think I want something more.

I have been pondering the idea of creating some type of game mechanic set up around this type of combo system. The rough idea I have for the mechanic would be to give each weapon a different speed - daggers would have a higher speed than say an axe. Based on the speed of the weapon, you get to make more attacks during a round. A Big two-handed axe might not be great for pulling off combos, so maybe you only get to make 3 attacks, but a dagger, might be fast enough that you could make 10, but the base damage of the axe is much greater than the dagger. Each consecutive hit that you make with the weapon increases the total damage that you deal; hitting a huge number of times results in bigger final damage and essentially a big finishing move. This is really all really just random thoughts and ideas coming out of me right now, but I really think that a COMBO system like this could work in a Table Top game just as well as it works in a Video game. I would appreciate it if anyone has any comments on this, or if they know any systems that do something like this. I would love to check that system out and give it a try.


  1. Here's my initial thought. Make it a feat that gives you an encounter power that can only be used by spending an action point. The power allows you to continue making basic melee attacks until you either miss or string a certain number together. If you max out your hits, the last hit is a big finishing move that automatically does critical damage.

    I may have to houserule this for my own game!

  2. Actually that is a pretty good idea. I like it. I will have to try and figure that out. Let me right up a couple and I will post a few.

  3. I posted some ideas on this up on my blog...

  4. Great post. I like your example a lot. We should e-mail on this and work together for a more expanded rules set-up. Feel free to contact me via e-mail if you are interested.