At the same time, I don't know much about Western Martial Arts, and I've never tried to stab somebody to death, so nor am I particularly keen on making something ultra-realistic. Just something that has the patina of realism and which satisfies the person in me who plays Steel Panthers: World at War and Advanced Squad Leader.
Or, as I put it in my original post:
The basic aim is to try to emulate the grittiness and danger of the Cyberpunk 2020 "Saturday Night Fire Fight" system, as well as the importance of armour and shields. The rationale is: if you are prepared for a fight, fully kitted out, you will be very tough to kill. If you are unprepared/unarmoured, you will die extremely quickly.
So I decided tonight that I would run a playtest of my rules and see what happens. This is a battle between John Red and Bill Blue, two warrior types. I'm not going to pretend to be balanced on a first run through: the idea here is to just see how it all works in practice (if at all). Only combat-relevant skills and stats are noted. (Also, I realised at the end I forgot to factor in damage bonuses for BTM. I'm fucked if I'm running the combat all over again, so just chalk the mistake up to experience.)
John Red is a warrior who relies on brawn. He has a BODY of 9 (BTM-3) and REF of 8, and has Combat Sense +5, Slashing Weapons +6, Brawling +4, Dodging +2. He wears steel leg greaves (SP 14), a breast plate (SP 16), steel arm greaves (SP 14), and a full steel helmet (SP 16). He carries a wooden shield (SP 14) and a bastard sword (2d6 one handed, 2d6+2 two handed). His reflexes are restricted by -1 from his armour, taking it to an effective 7. Because he carries a shield, he suffers an additional -3 to his attack rolls.
Bill Blue is speedy. He has a BODY of 7 (BTM-1) and a REF of 10. He has Combat Sense +5, Bludgeoning Weapons +5, Brawling +3, Dodging +4. He wears heavy leather leg greaves (SP 6), a hard leather breast plate (SP 8), and soft leather arm greaves (SP 5), and a steel cap (SP 12). He carries a pole-axe (1d6+3).
First round. Initiative: JR 13, BB 20.
BB knows he doesn't have much chance of getting through JR's formidable defences, so he decides to focus on the left leg. This means he'll be at -4 to hit. He rolls d10+Bludgeoning Weapons[+5]+REF and scores 17, which makes 13 total. JR's defence roll is d10+Dodging[+2]+REF (with -1 from encumbrance), and he scores 17. BB almost, but doesn't land a blow.
JR just pushes forward, flailing with his bastard sword. He rolls d10+SW[+6]+REF-1 = 17. BB's defence roll is d10+BW[+5]+REF = 25. BB easily avoids harm.
Second Round. Initiative: JR 13, BB 22.
BB goes for the legs again, swinging that pole axe. He rolls 15. JR's defence roll is 12. BB connects with a glancing blow that does 3 damage; even with the armour penetration of the pole axe against hard armour, BB's left leg greave saves him from harm, although it is damaged by the blow (SP 13).
JR rolls 13; BB, with 24, easily dodges again, lightly skipping away.
Third Round. Initiative: JR 12, BB 21.
BB keeps up the attack on JR's left leg. He scores 14. JR gets 12. BB connects with another blow, doing 7 damage. JR's leg greave absorbs most of the blow, but its SP is halved versus the pole axe, to 6. He takes a point of damage to his left leg. Argh! His leg greave takes another point of damage to its SP, reducing it to 12.
JR scores 14 for his attack; BB again escapes the clumsy blade, rolling 20.
Fourth Round. Initiative: JR 10, BB 23.
BB gets a 12 for his attack on JR's leg, doing another hit (JR scored 11). The pole axe does 8 damage, beating the leg greave's effective SP of 6; JR would take 2 points of damage, but it reduces to 1 due to his BTM. The greave is further damaged to SP 11.
JR realises he has to change tack. His blows aren't connecting and he's being slowly ground down by the thudding blows to his leg. He takes the radical step of tossing his shield to one side. Now he no longer has the -3 penalty to his attack rolls with his bastard sword and he can wield it two-handed; this means he always loses initiative but does 2d6+2 damage.
BB gets 15 for his attack, and JR, for once, avoids the sweeping weapon, getting 19. He immediately retaliates, getting a 16 for his attack; BB gets an 18 and avoids harm again, but JR is already sensing a change in the wind.
BB scores 12 for his attack, and JR defends with a 20 and then attacks with a 19. This time he connects - BB only scores 17. Because JR is not calling shots, he hits a random location and rolls an 8 - foining his sword deep into BB's right leg for 6 damage. Bill Blue's leather leg greave is at half SP (3) and thus he takes 3 damage, reduced to 2 from his BTM. A nasty gash, but not enough to take him down, but he has to see if he faints from shock nonetheless - he makes the save.
BB keeps on at JR's leg, getting 16, beating JR's 12 and hitting him again, this time for 7 damage. JR takes another point of damage and his armour is reduced to SP 10. But as BB ducks away after making his strike, JR thrusts his sword again into BB's right leg, scoring a 22 against BB's 16 defence roll. He does 9 points of damage this time, for 7 net. This is a serious wound. BB's thigh is slashed open by a blow that could easily have severed it, and he's bleeding profusely. His total damage is now 9; he's critically wounded and his REF is halved.
BB also has to make a save against fainting, modified by -2 for the severity of the wound. He manages to stay conscious, just.
BB knows the jig is up and should probably surrender. But he decides to go out in a blaze of glory. He lunges against for JR's leg, and against all odds gets another hit. But he can't penetrate JR's damaged leg greave with a weak, glancing blow, although it does reduce the SP to 9.
JR gets a 16 for his attack roll and BB gets 15; JR presses in for the kill and rams his sword point into BB's ribs for 10 damage, which reduces to 2 thanks to BB's hard leather breast plate. This takes BB's total wounds to 11. A few more and he'll be mortally wounded; he rolls his save against fainting and fails, dropping to the floor, out of action. JR can now capture him, or kill him at leisure.
Not sure what that went to prove, but I enjoyed running through it. As you may have noticed, decent armour is a real bitch to break through, but I like that; the idea is that armour is really, really useful in a fight, and something to be worked around. Against a heavily armoured opponent you would want to flank or outnumber him, and never do what BB did and go toe-to-toe. To that end, I'd like to come up with rules for trips and overbearing, to add to the mix.
Hopefully, this would incentivise players to box clever, too. If you could, you would try to catch opponents unawares while they were unarmoured, and encourage sneaky strategising - why allow things to get tactical against somebody with access to plate mail, when you could just stab him in his sleep?