Myself and a few old grognard gamers who’ve played together for 25 plus years (off and on) have started up a game of Ironsworn over the past three weeks. Quite fun, even while we make mistakes with certain Moves and rules.
I was wondering if anyone here has played, as I have a question about a specific aspect of combat that has come up for us in Ironsworn, but also is relevant to any PbtA based game.
The tl;dr version… how do you resolve combats of a single PC vs. multiple opponents that all have separate tracks? How do you represent the issue of “While focusing one attacker, a second or third gets their shot at you,” if the GM doesn’t roll?
More details below…
First, if you haven’t played, understand that basically everything in Ironsworn is resolved by a “Progress Track”… ten boxes that show progress toward defeating an opponent, making a journey, fulfilling a vow, etc. Each success you roll moves you along the track until you feel enough has been made to try and roll a defined Move to resolve that track, (End the Fight, Reach Your Destination, Fulfill Your Vow, etc.) The more progess you’ve made, the more likely you succeed at that progress move to resolve it. (Really should be called a resolution move, IMO).
Ironsworn allows combat to play out from a very abstract single roll resolving the entire fight, called “Battle”, down to assigning a different level of difficulty track for each individual opponent. I find the individual track method to be much more evocative and dramatic for combat, yet it honestly plays very quickly.
Only one issue. How to handle multiple opponents attacking a single PC. Since the GM never rolls against the PCs, fights are based purely on player rolls. This works fine in one on one fights… if I roll a Strong Hit, Weak Hit or Miss, this generates the back and forth of combat well. A couple strong hits in a row and I may dispatch a foe without sustaining damage… some weak hits or a miss, and my PC is injured or otherwise suffering in the fight. A few misses in a row and my PC could go down hard.
But in last nights game, my PC found himself up against two “revenants of the first ones” at the same time. Since both had their own track, it felt odd that I could simply fight one until it fell, then turn and fight the other. That feels completely wrong, since the other should be attacking me at the same time, not just waiting its turn.
Should there be an “ignore the danger” rule, that allows an extra attacker to simply deal damage while you fight the other guy? That is incredibly punitive in this system.
If above, there should be some kind of Move/rule for engaging multiple opponents at once, but this begs the question what kind of penalty would that be, and which track are you dealing harm to, first guy or second guy… both? All have issues.
It is possible to combine multiple similar foes into a “Pack” that has a single track (complete the track you’ve defeated all of them)… and that can work in some situations, but it tends to abstract the combat more and remove the cinematic, blow-by-blow drama that individual tracks allow.
Also, sometimes the fight isn’t against all similar foes, but multiple very individual and dramatically different foes. Making them a generic pack feels narratively off, as well.
Just looking for anyone out there who might play Ironsworn or a face similar combat questions in their PbtA game of choice. How do you resolve the multiple opponent question?