There is enough drama involved in the combat system that it is fun to play, but at the same time it is simple enough to get through a single combat quickly so that players can focus on whatever aspect of the game they are interested in, whether that be exploring, interacting with NPCs or hacking through as many monsters over the course of evening as possible.
I did, however, play war-games before I played RPGs. Therefore, part of my gamer-make-up likes the kinds of tactical choices one must make while playing a war-game. Thus, I have a deep-seeded desire to bring this kind of choice into the combat system of the RPG I play most often. Inevitably, though, the moment I polish off my latest and greatest Weapon vs. AC Table, reality sets in and I am faced with the fact that once implemented, I don’t want to play anymore.
Enter 5e and the Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic. This affords me the opportunity to make a Weapon vs. AC Table as abstract as feasible, thus keeping combat in the abstract rather than the concrete. This holds the possibility of tacking on a tactical choice for players simple enough that combat remains abstract and therefore something I might still want to play.
Since the Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic is a three tier system, both weapons and armor need to be characterized by three general categories. Weapons are quite straight forward:
Armor is a bit more complicated; however, modern versions of the game do give us three general categories:
Thus we can assign the Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic as follows:
- Slashing: Advantage to hit Light Armor; Disadvantage to hit Medium Armor
- Piercing: Advantage to hit Medium Armor; Disadvantage to hit Heavy Armor
- Bashing: Advantage to hit Heavy Armor; Disadvantage to hit Light Armor
One could also rule that unarmed combat automatically is at a Disadvantage against all armor types (unless one were a specialized class like the monk).
The biggest problem with this system is assigning an armor type to monsters. Rather than base it on AC, I would suggest using Movement as a general guideline:
- 60’ = Heavy
- 90’ = Medium
- 120’+ = Light
This works reasonably well for most monsters. While there are anomalies, these are few and quite easy to adjudicate on the fly. For example, Giant Beetles have a Movement of 120’+. One can simply rule that all giant insects or creatures with exoskeletons have heavy armor. Goblins and halflings have a Movement of 60’ due to their size. It is easy enough to rule that they have Medium or Light armor.
Finally, as a general rule, PCs should be at a disadvantage against gigantic creatures like dragons, giants and purple worms regardless of what weapon type they use. This makes combat with such monsters epic in scale, something that I imagine such combats ought to be.