One of the things that makes combat more interesting is when characters do something besides stand there toe to toe until somebody runs out of Hit Points. I’ve bee playing Pathfinder a lot in the past years. Heck, our group has playing is since the open beta test. I still remember how everyone loved the new Combat Maneuver mechanics but they were still tied to Feats and still way too crunchy.
James over at Dreams of Mythic Fantasy came up with a really cool idea to use Saving Throws as the mechanic for Combat Maneuvers. This would work great in a Swords & Wizardry game. And I may just have to play around with his idea a bit more.
By mere coincidence, I’ve been thinking about the same thing for retro-games. I wanted something quick, easy, flexible and embraced the “rulings not rules” philosophy. Once again, I looked to Lamentations of the Flame Princess for some inspiration and it’s simple X in d6 skill system. Here’s the neat part, the DM can just count on his fingers.
Declaration: The player describes what the character is attempting to do.
The Base Chance: 2 in 6 (for fighters), 1 in 6 (for other classes)
Who is better at fighting? If the character attempting the maneuver is then +1. If the defender is then -1. If they are equally skilled then 0.
Who has the better score? Select which Abilities (for both the active and defending characters) best suit the combat maneuver described. This will usually be Strength or Dexterity but creative players will find a way to use other Abilities. If the character attempting the maneuver has a higher score then +1. If the defender then -1. If they are equal then 0.
Situational Modifiers: Each would be a +/-1 depending. This could be anything else that affects the chances of the character successfully performing the Combat Maneuver. Difficulty, lighting, terrain, size difference, weapons and so forth. Just let common sense be your guide.
Now, you’ve got an X in d6 chance for the character to perform the maneuver. Handle it just like you would a skill check in Lamentations.
The Outcome: Since this system is meant it inspire the players to be imaginative in combat, there’s pretty much no way to effectively spell out if a character does X then Y happens. Just let common sense and the Rule of Cool be your guide.