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14 October 2014 @ 01:00 pm
Thoughts about fixing Exalted grappling  
Grappling rules are one of those legendarily awful parts of nearly any RPG, usually because the rules are incredibly complex in a way that no other part of combat is, as was the case in earlier editions of Dungeons & Dragons, like the "Punching & Wrestling Chart" from AD&D 2e.

Huh. I just realized that "no other part of combat" link is probably what Dwarf Fortress grappling would like it if it were played out at the table.  photo emot-black101.gif

In Exalted, grappling's major problem is that it's binary. It's a simple roll-off, and then winner can either throw the target away, or they can do all of the following:
  • Render the target Inactive, reducing their DV to zero.

  • Prevent the target from taking any other actions other than trying to break or take control of the grapple.

  • Do damage to the target.

This means that if the players are mechanically savvy at all, any kind of single-target boss fight ends up with one PC grabbing the target and everyone else punching them in the face until they die. And while this is not automatically a terrible outcome, it's terrible 1) that it's so good that it's probably the best option in most circumstances and 2) when the bad guys do it to a PC and murder them while they can't do anything about it.

Well, I was reading my RSS feeds a couple weeks ago and came across this post from Dungeon Fantastic about using GURPS Technical Grappling in their game. And while I haven't read through all of Technical Grappling because it's 54 pages long--and I'm not sure if that's a bigger strike against GURPS or against grappling rules--the basic concept of Control Points are laid out in the blog post.

It seems like it's even easier to implement this with Exalted dice pool system. Each success is a Control Point, you need a certain number to do things. Rather than DV instantly dropping to zero if someone puts their hand on a PC's upper arm, it could go down in a more gradual fashion--maybe 1 point per two CP, and reduce movement rate by the same amount? Similarly, cap raw damage done by the amount of CP the opponent has, so grabbing someone and ripping them in half is still possible but isn't likely without the clincher solidifying their hold, unless the clincher is a tyrant lizard. Finally, make it so the target isn't Inactive until the CP on them is greater than their total (Strength/Dexterity) + Martial Arts + Specialty pool, and even then they can still try to escape.

This does a lot of things. It means PCs can keep acting until they're totally overwhelmed, it means that weak PCs can progressively overcome even powerful clinchers as long as they have friends keeping it from focusing on the grapple, and it means that being grabbed no longer introduces a, "whelp, time to make a new character" reaction.

This probably interacts weirdly with Charms and to be really developed I'd want to go check out those interactions, but since I'm going to be using this for mortals I don't care! I still need to work out how this interacts with multiple actions (not flurries. No flurries), but that can come with testing.

This does mean I need to finish those Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom enemies, though. I should get on that.
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q99q99 on October 14th, 2014 06:27 pm (UTC)
Hm, just a thought on how I'd do grappling in RPGs in general-

I'd make initiating a grapple a normal damage-dealing attack.

Once grappled, both sides can do attacks and such rolled the exact same way as normal, only with some options no longer allowed (reach weapons, moving away), some new ones opened (specific grapple-attacks with their special things), and some unaffected (simple dealing damage, stab with a knife). Some of which in turn will break grapple, making it relatively easy to move in and out of grapple while both sides are still dealing damage.

Not a separate mechanic, no 'force everything to be about grapple rolls,' just 'a circumstance which affects options, and which is both entered and escaped from via attack rolls.'
dorchadas: Exalted: One True RPGdorchadas on October 14th, 2014 07:16 pm (UTC)
That's part of the other reason I want a scalable system. Exalted is pretty good in one respect, because it's just (Strength/Dexterity) + Martial Arts vs (Strength/Dexterity) + Martial Arts and the actual rules take up only a couple paragraphs, but it's also really bad because the person who's grappled has all of their combat options narrow into A) get unclinched or B) die.

Like you say, the ideal is for it to be just one more thing that affects combat, like unstable footing, pools of flammable liquid, and so on, and people who are good enough at grappling can ignore other people's puny attempts to restrain them if they want, the same way agile-enough people can fight on unstable footing or whatever.

More specifically on the subject of your comment, is there an RPG you'd consider to have good grappling rules that match your thoughts? The most I can usually say for RPG grappling rules is "They're acceptable" or "They're not bad, except-" Shrug photo shrug001.gif
q99q99 on October 14th, 2014 09:05 pm (UTC)
Unfortunately no, I don't know any pre-existing ones that do that.
(Anonymous) on April 2nd, 2015 09:13 pm (UTC)
Normal attack rolls for grappling
Sorry that I only found this post - I know it's been a while

But Technical Grappling does exactly this, invoking the normal attack, defense, roll damage (control) mechanic used in normal striking combat.

Peter (Dungeon Fantastic) and I even worked up a version of this for D&D that we like that hews to the same principle: why bother with new mechanics when you have perfectly good ones right in front of you?

I'm not familiar with Exalted's mechanics, so I won't speculate, but it seems like you're on the right track with each success level giving a certain amount of control. Then you could attack back to remove that control, or grapple your foe to provide a bit of immobilization where two are locked in combat.
dorchadas: Exalted: One True RPGdorchadas on April 3rd, 2015 05:12 am (UTC)
Re: Normal attack rolls for grappling
Then you could attack back to remove that control, or grapple your foe to provide a bit of immobilization where two are locked in combat.

This is exactly the kind of thing I'm been working on, where grappling progressively reduces the target's defense, and if enough successes are accumulated the grappler can either totally immobilize the target (barring attempts to escape), throw them to the ground/away, or "spend" them to do damage.

It does require extra tracking, but I think it's worth it because the by-the-book rules have grappling renders the target unable to defend, so the best action becomes 1) have friends grapple target 2) murder them while they're helpless, which is admittedly realistic, but unfun enough that I want to change it.

I hadn't thought of letting attacks on the grappler reduce the grapple total, though. That's definitely something I should add--thanks!