While the Band of Bastards Role-Playing Game is about a lot of things, it’s hard to deny that the portion closest to our hearts is its quick and bloody combat system. We set out to make combat as authentic and brutal as possible while still maintaining that sweet spot between simulationist detail and playability, doing everything in our power to keep the learning curve as generous as possible.
The core of ‘Bastards bloody combat system revolves around the use of specific maneuvers to emulate real-world techniques used in melee combat throughout history, each both providing narrative benefits and their own method of juggling your dice to gain an advantage on your opponent. In Band of Bastards, as in real-life combat, the first person to win the upper-hand often wins the fight.
While maneuver-based-combat has been done before, where ‘Bastards really shines is in the way it has organized and streamlined these maneuvers into something that can be approached in a way that is both fluid and new-player friendly, while losing none of the crunch more veteran players crave. We accomplish this in a few ways:
Basic vs Advanced Maneuvers
At the core of the combat system are a handful of Basic Maneuvers. These maneuvers are all available to anyone regardless of what proficiency or weapon they use (with the sole exception of Block, which requires a shield), and cover sufficient bases that an entire campaign could be played with them alone and you’d still have a quick and dirty cinematic combat experience. The Basic Maneuvers are relatively quick to learn and master, and are a godsend for getting new players used to the way combat flows and handles.
Advanced Maneuvers expand the repertoire of more experienced players by granting them new and additional tricks to play that are more proficiency-specific than the Basic Maneuvers. Once your players have gotten the hang of combat, breaking out the Advanced Maneuvers can add a layer of depth and tactical complexity to your game, and really bring out the nuances between the various combat styles.
Rather than having several dozen free-floating entries, many maneuvers are linked together by a mechanic we’ve been referring to as Augmentations, allowing a player to group things together by more thematic associations. Through this method, more specialized attacks like Wraps or Draw Cuts are both listed as a kind of upgrade to the Swing maneuver, allowing the purpose of the attack to be augmented at the cost of a die from their combat pool. This arrangement keeps “maneuver management” to a bare minimum, while sacrificing nothing in terms of flexibility.
Mechanically distinct from skills, Proficiencies measure not just your character’s ability to fight, it says a lot about how they fight, with each proficiency granting access to different Advanced Maneuvers that reflect their individual style of combat. In keeping with our belief in empowering characters from the very beginning, each Proficiency has access to all of its associated maneuvers from the moment it is taken. While many of these will overlap with other proficiencies, the real defining feature for each proficiency is its Emphasis, which modifies the way it interacts with certain maneuvers or grants new maneuvers unique to that proficiency, incentivizing that style to behave in the ways most natural to it.
In ‘Bastards, it wasn’t good enough for us to create the very best system we could to replicate the kind of combat we wanted to see. We wanted to make sure that it was accessible enough that you’d actually want to run it at your table. That’s where we’ll measure our success.
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