Tackle and death spirals
Tackle is a no risk, massive reward ability. Landing Tackle or similar knockdown move creates a death spiral in which you can easily stagger-lock (Dirtkick into Shield Bash, chain 10+ second Staggering Blow, etc.) enemies, and should they stand up, Tackle them again with ease due to their -25 Balance. Tackle has no margin of success: should Tackle beat a defense roll by a single digit, it wins with full effect. Despite the massive power it has a positive offensive reroll and no penalty for spamming/use at inopportune moments. This encourages spamming Tackle even when opponents are not in RT as whoever hits Tackle first wins the battle.
This theme applies across combat as a whole. Offensive options are plentiful without risks or engrossing strategy involved, granting both rerolls and fight ending potential without preparation due to Combat Readiness. Combined with the lack of defensive options this makes combat a game of rocket tag. It also causes problems when attempting to introduce abilities which aren't power creeped versions of other offensive abilities, limiting potential creativity and depth.
I hope the swing of Balance becomes far slower and Balance becomes far easier to recover from negatives, with fight winning -50 Balance massive stagger abilities becoming rare big deals instead of commonplace.
Vitals and active/passive defensive abilities
I think the limb damage system is great, especially compared to nebulous total HP counts. Unfortunately it serves little purpose in current combat. The way of winning fights is blitzing a vital to death before the same is done to you. This is achieved by aiming at the least protected vital at high combat skill or the chest at lower combat skill. Defensive abilities which encourage attacking locations other than vitals are much needed, especially active defensive abilities. I also think defensive and offensive abilities should always have a counter or way of lessening effects. Passive defensive abilities should be easy to bypass if you know what you're doing and opponents aren't using resources to sustain them.
The current suite of passive defensive abilities are too strong with no counterplay against them. Blade Catch are Cloak Parry are the worst offenders; I've used the phrase "Blade Catch-22" before, so I'll explain what I mean. Here's a rundown of Blade Catch, with most points also applying to Cloak Parry.
- Activation: Always active with 10 second cooldown. Triggers when an attack is about to hit you. Ignores staggered, prone, blind in darkness, ambushed, unconscious and bleeding out, an off-hand with max possible damage and fracture, and even all those at the same time. Most passive effects share this trope. Blade Catch appears to have a far greater chance of activating than not when off cooldown.
- Effect: Redirects hit to off-hand and sets damage to a flat amount regardless of DF. Blade Catch has a flat non-influenceable chance to reduce attacker Balance by 5 and possibly disarm.
- Result: Blade Catch rewards bad play and punishes smart opponents. Considering Tactics: Dreadnought often then launches two counterattacks which stagger when hitting a vital (other than the back), attempting to capitalize on an opportunity can see attackers down a weapon, down 15 Balance, and eating 3 seconds of stagger for daring to think it was their turn to play.
I advocate moving Blade Catch and Cloak Parry to active stance abilities which require resources to use. As an example for counterplay, aiming for the off-hand when Blade Catch is activated won't trigger a disarm or balance loss but still cuts damage by half. (Sidenote: Why does Blade Catch reduce damage at all? Hand armor has next to nothing on the insides, because if it did, you wouldn't be able to move your hand to grip a weapon or shield. Suspension of disbelief and all but it's half-funny half-sad when someone catches a polehammer spike for 3 puncture damage then disarms the weapon.)
If not damage, then what?
Right now everything is about damage. With abilities or mechanical changes which reduce the heavy emphasis on offense and damage, increasing time to kill by playing smart, room is created for debilitating opponents/buffing yourself to break defenses and create opportunities for attack. There are a lot of systems which are left by the wayside in current combat which can be hooked in for neat results.
- Equipment durability
- Attribute percents, overridden by attribute channels to keep them special
- Fractures temporary or permanent
- Armor encumbrance
- Armor damage reduction