I am running BESM 3e for a group that is doing a lot of PVP.

Normally I can handle the amount of whiffing the ACV vs. DCV causes when it is NPCs for roleplay purposes, but not when it is player vs. player.

Is there any way to balance the combat a bit more? Is there a way to reduce whiffing?

I have been searching but the only suggestions I have found has been for defense penalties upon every successful attack, and that does not seem fair to the defender or characters built with defense in mind.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure I understand what you mean by wiffing? Do you mean that attacks miss too often? Or that combat takes too long because of attacks missing. \$\endgroup\$
    – 3C273
    May 1 '18 at 2:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, how RAW do you want your answers? Besm is pretty loose as a game. I am using a modified version of the base rules to make combat feel' better. I don't know if you accept houserules to speed things up. \$\endgroup\$
    – 3C273
    May 1 '18 at 2:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ And one last question (for now), what kind of PvP are we talking about? Official 1v1 duel? Team-vs-Team arena? Or "non-lethal" PvP like preventing a PC from going against the party? Is the group playing PvP like they would a strategy game or is the action more personal and narrativist (if you get my meaning)? \$\endgroup\$
    – 3C273
    May 1 '18 at 2:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Official 1v1 duel. I don't mind house rules that make Combat smoother. It's just taking forever for them to get through a duel because the one with higher attack always hits, but the one with moderate/high defense nearly always whiffs their attacks and cannot be hit. Combat definitely takes too long due to attacks whiffing!! Sorry "Whiffing" is what I've heard other people refer to this issue as in other BESM forums, so I figured that was the regular term! I am running a very Narravist heavy game. It's mostly for a group of teens I am running for. \$\endgroup\$
    – user32584
    May 1 '18 at 6:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ Don't worry. It's just the first time I hear this word outside of fighting games. But I got it. I'll try to answer when I get back from work. \$\endgroup\$
    – 3C273
    May 1 '18 at 11:45

You ask for a way to reduce missing attack, I propose a ruleset to make each turn interesting and keep the game moving even if neither character is more precise than they are now.

It's not quite what you're asking for, but I think it can help.

Here is what I have found for my game using a slightly modified version of BESM3e. I have tested this ruleset and a few variations in a one-shot, but not yet in a real game. My players are systematically pacifist. The rules are based on this GitPG thread, giving a system-agnostic ruleset to recreate fights in the style of a movie. I've adapted them to fit better with the way combat happened in my game.

The basic loop is that both character roll an attack. The highest number moves the fight to somewhere else in the scene, giving the attacking character an advantage. I changed the basic rules so that non-damaging attacks (like tripping) are actually easier to land. In duels, my players figured out that they could use this to trade non-damaging attacks until they stacked enough advantage to land a single killing blow.

In game, it looks awesome! You have two characters trying to shove, knock down, blind, hamstring, hinder, feint, shoving each other through aquarium window... each other until they place the opponent where they want. And they end the fight in a single move where they can still instantly loose.

I'll give a summary of the rules as they are written in the generic form. Then explain what I changed for my game. Then a quick rundown of how I see it being run in a live game.

A quick version of the rules as they are adapted into BESM:

A duel is not won by reducing the opponent's hp to zero. It is won by maneuvering into having the upper hand and finishing it in a single blow. Depending on how you want to run your game, the duel can end, a player can die, be hurt or the situation changes and a new duel begins (round 2). The goal of the duel (as it is defined in the thread) is to score two hits in a row. The first one usually granting a state called Advantage and scoring a hit with Advantage (the second hit) ending the duel. This is a part I've changed in the ruleset I've been using. See below.

The play is divided into 3 types of zones, which the thread describes pretty well. The zones are there to allow you to picture the action in your mind and give a mechanical framework to affect the fight.

Dueling uses special movement rules. Divide the duel area into any number of zones. A zone is an abstract area of space of the same type-- a flight of stairs, a patch of pavement, the floorspace around a table, and so on. In general, zones fall into three categories: Blank Zones are simply empty space, with no special properties.

Occupied Zones contain furniture, uncertain footing, or other obstacles on which a duelist might get fouled up. They can be dangerous to a fighter who enters them unwillingly.

Danger Zones contain pitfalls, jets of steam, and other active hazards. They can be dangerous to both fighters. These environmental hazards are handled as per the system's normal rules.

Both fighters must occupy the same zone.

Each turn, both characters make an attack roll. The winner of this roll moves the fight to an adjacent zone. The winning character move willingly while the losing character moves unwillingly. This is relevant because unwillingly entering an occupied zone gives the opponent (who enters willingly) advantage. Other ways to get advantage is if the opponent is disarmed, knocked prone or damaged by the environment (danger zones).

Danger zones are similar to occupied zone, but the danger in there has additionnal effect based on the native system and the GM's imagination. It seems both players should be affected by the debuff and damage(giving advantage to the opponent), but I ruled that the winning character should at least avoid part of the effect. Otherwise I see no point to move the fight there unless one is immune to the danger.

Finally, to avoid the fight bouncing around a single occupied zone and keep things interesting, a single occupied zone cannot be used twice in a row. If the fight returns there, both fighters are used to it.

Here are the changes and the main rules for the GM

The zone concept is kept the same. So is the basic loop of rolling a simultaneous attack, moving and playing with dangerous zone.

  • Each turn, whoever wins the attack roll choose the zone where the fight moves. This is pretty much the same as the original.

  • Advantage is removed, the goal has been replaced with winning an attack at +6.

    • To encourage players to move, things that gives advantage to a player instead give +-3 to the next attack roll (whichever makes sense in context). Being forced to move to an occupied zone gives -3. Attacking a prone or disarmed character gives +3 to the attacker. Being attacked by angry dogs would give -6 if you failed to defend against them. Having your clothes set on fire gives -3 while the clothes burn for 1d3 turns (this was a homebrewed effect).
    • The reason I did it is that the system as we used it already has a focus on non-damaging attack giving bonus to another character attacking afterward. So it just felt right to apply the same logic.
  • Whatever the character is trying to do. It succeeds on a +6.

    • If the character tries to harm his opponent, he does on +6 (This is also the end of the duel, see the next point).

    • If the character tries to make his opponent fall down, it works on +6. Otherwise the fight just moves on. (My players all have bonus to non-damaging attacks like this. See below.

A note on Danger zones My design rule is that a danger zone should be a -6 penalty with way to avoid (like the dogs above) or it should be a special effect (like the clothes on fire). There is also the possibility that the character who initiated the move there is also affected (I would say at -3 instead of -6. Since he should have the advantage).

  • The players have 4 possible actions :

    • Attack normally: Ends the duel on a +6.

    • Reckless attack : Taken from the official rules. The character makes an attack at +3. Instead of getting -3 on defense, the character is hurt if he looses the attack by any margin. This can instantly end the duel if the end condition is taking a single hit.

    • Non-damaging attack : On a +6, the opponent suffers the consequence of the attack. The players have bonus that makes this form of attacking easier to hit than normal attack.

    • Total defense : Gives +3 to the attack roll. But the character cannot hurt the opponent on +6 and does not trigger penalty from occupied zone.

In some versions, I forced characters to use their defense combat value during total defense. But I've found that this would break if the character had (for example) attack(+4) and defense(+1). In those case, the character has no reason to go for defense.

A note about my houserules

I mentionned that my characters all have bonus to non-damaging attacks. This is because, to encourage the players to do more than attacking in combat, I allowed them to buy a special attack bonus at half price that only works on non-damaging attack. Helping other party members to score easier critical hits. If you were to use this framework, I suggest giving a natural bonus or to drop the success threshold from +6 to +3.

How it could play out in game

In this very one-sided scene, Alice and Bob get in a tavern brawl. Alice, being stronger, pushes bob on a table. Keeping the aggression up, she throws a beer-soaked towel on his eyes and pushes him over the counter. She then pull out all the stops and try to finish Bob.


  • Alice and Bob accept the duel .

  • The map is drawn and the zones defined.

    • If you have a map of the zone, explain it to your players.

    • If this is an improvised duel, I suggest you and the player take turn placing zones on the map. We ended up doing this in the test run and it made for fun time before and after. And they can't blame you for giving one of them advantage.

Turn 1

  • Both players attack, Alice rolls higher and pushes bob into a nearby table (occupied zone).

    • Assign the attack's effect on a +6 : this might be damage, tripping.

    • Alice rolled +3, so nothing happens

Turn 2

  • Both players choose their action (non-damaging, normal, defensive or reckless attack).

    • Bob has a -3 penalty from last turn.

    • Alice uses a non-damaging attack to throw a blind Bob.

  • The winner moves the fight. Resolving danger zone effects.

    • Alice rolled +7, she blinds Bob and shoves him over the counter (occupied zone).

Turn 3

  • Both players choose their action.

    • Alice uses a Reckless attack, getting +3 because she wants to be sure to hit.

    • Bob has -3 from the occupied zone and -3 from alice's attack. So he fights defensively, getting +3 to defend, but not being able to hit alice if he wins.

  • Alice rolls so low that Bob wins. He moves the fight back to neutral zone. Because he fought defensively, Alice doesn't get any penalty. Bob has no more penalty.

Turn 4

  • And so on and so forth...

I suggest you do a one-shot to test this. Create a few maps, improvise more. Expect the first few map to feel meh until you get a feeling of how to create interesting situations and how to describe them.

Zones can be big, if the fight is in open terrain, it just means that the fighter are running around a lot between interesting bits. Zones are there to help you and the player what happens while the players are beating on each other. And to give a sense of mechanical strategy to the players.

Don't be afraid to add environment details (danger zones). Like in a movie, two characters swinging swords at each other can only last so long before it gets repetitive. And an RPG doesn't have the flashiness of choreography to keep the players engaged.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I've tried to be as clear as I could. But with how long I've been looking at it, I may have failed. Feel free to tell me if some parts are unclear. \$\endgroup\$
    – 3C273
    May 5 '18 at 4:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ -1 because this answer is purely speculation when the site guidelines require actual play experience. \$\endgroup\$
    – Icyfire
    May 5 '18 at 5:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ I actually have playtested this ruleset. As you've probably noticed. While I couldn't use it in a live game. Me and 2 players spend an afternoon running duels under different sets of rules to figure out what worked best for us. \$\endgroup\$
    – 3C273
    May 5 '18 at 5:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ My bad, I read "I could test this ... but not in a real game" as indicating that you had only theorycrafted this combat system. I've made a small edit so I can reverse my vote. \$\endgroup\$
    – Icyfire
    May 5 '18 at 5:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ No worry. This ended up way longer than I thought. \$\endgroup\$
    – 3C273
    May 5 '18 at 11:51

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