The game always assumes you’re facing the ‘right’ direction. That’s a very good policy, but not always possible. My suggestion? A simple system that penalizes situations where the a player/NPC/monster wouldn’t be able to face all of their attackers at once.


The above diagram shows a player as surrounded as possible, they would literally be mobbed by zombies. In this example the yellow enemy attacked first, forcing facing. In order to respond to the attack the player is assumed to have faced the yellow zombie. It can then be assumed that having done so the player (Barring bionics/mutations) can react to all attackers adjacent to the primary attack with equal finese. (See the Green Zombies.) The same can’t be said for the red Z’s now ‘flanking’ him–they would have a greater chance to hit and inflict more severe wounds should the do so.

Another aspect to consider would be when the player attacks a foe, either at range or in a melee.


In this example the player attacks the yellow zombie on his own turn, facing him to do so. This leaves him flanked by the red zombie. Positioned poorly he would be flanked by one or the other once the zombies attack BUT should the one that NOW flanks him act FIRST he’ll take TWO blows at a penalty as the player:

  1. Turns to engage the foe attacking him
  2. Is immediately flanked by the remaining enemy.

To prevent a constant cycle of everything flanking you always it is assumed that the time it takes the player’s turn to come about again leaves them the chance to turn and face only one attacker each round.

With this new system it is thus that:

  1. Facing the greatest number of foes when attacked en mass is desirable.
  2. Prioritizing targets becomes more than just ‘who’s most dangerous’ but instead ‘what am I leaving myself open to’
  3. Exploiting terrain is even more important. Choke points, a wall at your back and terrain that thins out the fast from the slow aid in dealing with the newly bolstered threat crowds now present.

Sounds similar to a lot of traditional PnP games.

Basically, in traditional paper games, tracking facing is annoying, but everyone agrees that being surrounded is a Bad Thing. So flanking boils down to having an enemy on one side and another on the exact opposite side of you. In this case, the flankers usually get a combat advantage such as a to-hit bonus and/or you lose a dodge bonus. Even if the enemies are not adept at working in tandem, you don’t have eyes in the back of your head to dodge both at the same time (idea for mutation/CBM as well to negate flanking penalty: Literal Eyes in Back of Head)

The way we’ve done it in our RPGs is regardless of player action, on the red Z’s turn they have +2 to hit or the player has -2 to dodge since they both are in melee range and are exactly opposite the player. The X’s do not benefit from anything.

  • Z -
  • ZX

I really really like the idea of a flanking mechanic and it would work either in my mechanical implementation or Logrin’s but I’m not sure how easy it would be to code. I feel it would make combat just a touch more tactical.

Especially if you could ‘train’ dogs to bait enemies, letting you flank them.

Sounds relatively easy to implement, I think.

I’d do it like this: whenever the player moves (or attacks), we remember their direction. Any attacks from directions opposite to this one on either x axis or y axis get some bonus (what kind would be a matter of balancing). This would include dogs biting your ass.
Player standing still and not attacking doesn’t get this penalty - this would be to make defensive fighting style possible. If your martial art allowed counter attacks, those would not ruin this bonus.

We’ve wanted some implementation of this for a while.

On the style issue, I’d be a little gentler and impose penalties (and/or deny buffs) for styles that are designed more for 1v1 sporting combat: Boxing, MT, and Fencing immediately come to mind, rather than impose penalties for not having a dodge & block-countering style. Someone trained to track one attacker would take significant dodge penalties from having more than one show up, for example.

Worst case scenario feat- the worse off your scenario is the more damage you do as say your surrounded by hulks with 10000+ pain on a bush in lave whilst also in acid… thats gonna be one painful attack if you ever get it off.

The problem i have with logrin’s original suggestion is that it assumes every attacker is considerable enough a threat that you will actively turn to face it when it attacks you, even away from a zombie hulk, for instance. Such nonthreats on a decently armored character include child zombies, wildlife (animal discord), kreks, etc.

I think of turns as a collection of instants, so should a zombie child attack you before the others it takes priority. A rotting gradeschooler lurched at you and either A) landed its attack or B) you dodged/blocked it. In either scenario I assume you simply can’t avoid diverting your focus–thus the whole suggestion.

If you wanted more control over what you end up focusing on it’s a matter of positioning the enemies and yourself in such a way as to afford that to your character. A facing system like Coolthulhu suggested sounds like a fine compromise; the game could just remember in which direction you moved/attacked last and generate a blindside based upon that.

I’d also have the system apply to monsters/NPCs and once stealth makes it in have attacks from unseen foes/players benefit from flanking–would be neat to see ninjitsu distinguish itself for ambushes.

the way this is handled in cataclysm is by you having a limited number of dodge actions per turn, so many enemies attacking you runs you out of dodges and makes you more vulnerable.

The way I’d like to implement this kind of thing is to have a mild debuff applied when you’re attacked by a creature. Against one or a few, the debuffs wouldn’t be noticeable, but against many it would assumulate.

Anything that makes getting swarmed by foes more problematic is a plus in my book…

Couple points:

  1. Power armor, etc can let you soak a hit for no damage, no need to waste a block or dodge on it. By rights one ought to be able to ignore that sort of thing for combat purposes, much like individual raindrops, etc. That’s a problem with the on-attacked mandatory facing changes and potentially with the on-attacked debuffs.

  2. We already have a fairly good debuff for getting hit for damage. Pain.

  3. Autofocus being controlled solely by terrain and critter placement (“it’s a matter of positioning the enemies and yourself in such a way as to afford that to your character”) places even more importance on windows and other such kiting measures. Granted, that’s not unrealistic, but folks tend to complain about the overemphasis on those strategies already.

Hell, I’ve soaked hits from zombie children using layered clothes, no blocking or anything.
Albeit, i’ve gotten to the point where i can take on brutes in a game of fists, but a zombie child eating updodge opportunities seems a bit, actually, interesting though.
Perhaps include a “focus on target” effect for combat, improves rolls involving a particular target for ranged and melee (should be initiable at range, but obviously diminishing at a distance), and take a few seconds before reaching it’s full potential, but in effect would:
Slightly boost your re-dodge roll against the target
When using Wait command, the first Wait in a sequence will wait until immediately (10ish action points) before the target’s next turn starts. Melee skill and time spent focusing against the target affect variance.
Normal dodge rolls against other units, increased dodge against focused target. Same for accuracy.
While wielding a polearms, have a chance (imrpoves with piercing skill) to impale the target if it closes in while you are using the Wait command. Damage magnified by target’s moving speed. Smaller chance knock them back with this mNeuver. Finally a use for spears and pikes!
I got a bit carried away there, eh?

That’s a bit much micromanagement, in the worst case you’d be changing your focus on a turn by turn basis, doubling the number of inputs.

I think the stacking debuff + the limited dodge actions per turn pretty much take care of modelling this is a satisfactory way without being too much work.

have zombies attack rolls just roll twice and take highest result when flanking