I am writing a custom PbtA hack to reboot an old play-by-post-RPG that I used to run on a lightweight, but overly random original system.
The party contains 8-9 players (which worked out before the reboot because it's asynchronous anyway), and my goal for the combat mechanics is to offer interesting choices and avoid first-turn takedowns. I've designed the combat rules around having to use suppressive fire and distractions in order to land a proper hit; and I want to make sure there's enough tactical variety in how things play out.
The combat moves relevant for this question are modified adventure fantasy reskins of Apocalypse World's battle moves (Seizy by Force, Lay down Fire, Stand Overwatch, Keep an Eye Out) plus Dungeon World's Volley. Combatants can evade predictable attacks, while suffering consequences similar to AW's harm move. Critical strikes happen whenever you meet 3 conditions out of this list, and cannot be evaded:
- Surprise attack
- Range advantage in melee
- Target is under suppressive fire
- Target is defenseless or immobilized
- All-out attack (a melee option where the user lets down their guard in exchange)
- (Possibly) a move that adds a critical condition to ranged overwatch attacks (for sharpshooter types)
Surprise attacks and certain splash damage cannot be evaded even on a non-critical strike.
However I'm starting to get worried that my old system's "attack, attack, attack" situation might get replaced by equally formulaic combinations of suppressive fire, all-out sneak attacks, and standing overwatch for the sneak attacker.
How do I ensure that battles will play out diversely and players will have interesting decisions to make? So far I considered protection effects like spells or cover, which can raise the critical threshold, a unique way to demoralize each enemy/group to add a critical condition, and introducing spontaneity through turn order (when the timing is inopportune for their preferred action).