Wednesday 12 July 2023

Dynamic Combat

Combat in Mythic Bastionland is already a bit more involved than ITO or EB, but I also wanted to offer some guidance on making combat interesting. Here's the Oddpocrypha on the matter. 


Tal and Moss are launching an attack against 3 Scholar-Knights of the Order, vengeance for their attacks on the Realm.

Ref: So you’re charging in full-pelt?

Moss: Yeah, should we focus on one of them?

Tal: Okay, I’ll send my Raven out to attack another.

They roll their attacks, wounding the Scholar-Knight that they charge, and the Raven scores an Onslaught, dismounting another. The Order fight back, doing some damage but no wounds yet.

Ref: Okay, the Scholar-Knights bark orders at each other. It’s not clear who’s in charge. Still, the two on horseback dismount and form a close formation with the other, pulling their shields up into a shieldwall. 

Tal: Right. I mean they were already hard to damage, I feel like we shouldn’t just dive straight in.

Moss: Yeah you’re right. Is there a way we can break up their formation?

Tal: That one we spoke to before was particularly proud of their horse, right? How about if we try to spook the horses away, they might break away to stop us. 

Moss: Sure, let’s try it. 

Ref: So what are you doing exactly?

Tal: I don’t want to hurt the horses, but I’ll give them a whack with the flat side of my hammer, scream at them I guess. Shoo!

Ref: Okay I guess the horses will definitely break away if you do that, but let’s see if the Scholar-Knights break their formation.

Ref rolls a GRA Save for the Scholar Knights, so describes one of them running for the horses, breaking the Shield Wall.

Moss: Great, I’ll attack the Knight we damaged last turn now that the shieldwall’s broken. Actually, I’ll use Smite to make sure we put them down.


Dynamic combat is the idea that a combat should change with each passing round, rather than being a war of attrition. This doesn’t have to apply to every combat, some are simple and end too quickly to have much of an arc, but it’s especially useful to consider for longer, more significant fights.

Here we see just two rounds of combat, but there’s already a narrative forming. Round 1 is the charge, Round 2 is the shieldwall followed by breaking it up, and on Round 3 Ref could introduce a new factor such as environmental change or new enemy tactic. 

Even just having the enemy show a changing attitude to the fight can work here, showing how they’re feeling about their chances of survival. 

A missed opportunity here is that we don’t see Ref describe the location of the attack. For all we know it’s happening in a generic featureless field. While the players were creative enough to use the dismounted enemies’ steeds against them, this creativity could have been encouraged through including other tactical hooks on the battlefield. These can be mundane, such as describing especially thick woodland, boggy ground, or a nearby waterfall. For more unusual features rolling a prompt can be helpful. This could see the combat happening amidst a roaring fire, in a dim rat-infested cave, or among choking vines hanging from the rafters of an abandoned barn. 

It’s great if these environments carry mechanical weight, or offer tactical opportunities, but sometimes even just the change of flavour is enough to make things interesting. 

Another good element to introduce is a time limit. Perhaps they had word that the Scholar-knights were meeting with more of their Order, so reinforcements were expected in an uncertain number of rounds.


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1 comment:

  1. Great advice as usual! I would have probably ruled that a military trained horse wouldn't be automatically spooked. However the owner would definitely go after it.