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For a long time I've been having a problem with most Tabletop RPGs: They feel way too static during combat, and it gets reduced into an exchange of who hits harder until everything is dead.

Recently, I started with Mutants and Masterminds, a game that features no need for a map, playing everything in the Theatre of the Mind.

Wanting to emulate comic/manga action, I think it's important to give everything movement once the battle begins; after all, in battles between powerful individuals, their blows send them flying through the city, they fly while punching each other, crashing through buildings, or chasing each other running on treetops while exchanging powerful projectile attacks.

However, I've always had trouble doing all this in a game, since characters usually get one movement action and one standard action per round. It's hard for me to be dramatic, describing how a blow could send a villain flying down the street, making the heroes and their adversaries move arround, but without giving any character a "free" movement just to do so.

How do I handle combat situations, then, where I want the PCs and adversaries to move around in a scenario without giving them any real tactical advantage?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Reminder: comments are for clarifying content, not posting small or incomplete answers. Please use answer posts to submit answers instead. Prior comments containing answers have been removed. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 22 '16 at 21:52
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You may want to re-think your position on "no tactical advantage from moving" in combat. In "real-life" combat, movement often gives some sort of tactical advantage. Removing tactical advantage to movement removes most of the incentive for your players to move.

If your desire is to have them move more during combat, you probably need to provide some sort of tactical bonus, even if it is a slight one. For example, you might give a charging player a slight bonus to damage done, along with a slight reduction in defense.

Games attempt to simulate complex situations while using a limited set of rules to avoid making the game too complex (and thus unplayable). The job of the DM is to make the game feel more real by interpreting the game rules, or even sometimes adjusting or changing them to make the game more fun for the players. After all, the end desire for most players is to have fun; not to play the game exactly according to the rules.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ As I read the question, I don't think the OP is asking about incentivizing movement, nor that they believe in negating the tactical effects of movement. I understand them to be saying that, even though players choose to move, the movement economy is restricting the characters too much. So they want to spice up combat with extra movement effects appropriate to the genre, and now they're wondering how to do that without the extra movement messing up the game balance. \$\endgroup\$ – Edward Apr 23 '16 at 14:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Edward: I may indeed have misread the question. If the OP wants to add movement to players (or NPCs) for dramatic purposes without giving the players the ability to abuse this extra movement, I suppose he might roll as DM for chance of extra movement due to actions performed by other players and/or NPCs. Thus a critical strike by a NPC might throw a player across the street. Since the extra movement wouldn't always occur this would allow for movement as part of the dramatic narrative without the players being able to count on it. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Ripley Apr 23 '16 at 14:37
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I think there's two aspects going on here. First, you have the idea of a running battle that you want happening. Sometimes, that's just a matter of inserting it yourself. Have the villains taking Move actions. Have people knocked back a few dozen feet. Have the enemies running behind buildings and cover. Have serving trucks trying to get out of there break sightlines. If you aren't using maps, it will be a bit abstract, but it can work.

The second issue you can run into is the action economy. Since players only get a Move and a Standard, having them expending a Move each turn to get into place limits what they can do. You can either make the movement narrative-only, or you can just accept that a running battle will limit options, and players that need both actions will have to do things to make that possible.

Does that address your concerns?

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