I've been playing Age of Decadence recently -- the combat demo -- and realizing how fluid the combat system is while still being highly tactical. Combats don't take long at all, and the winner is determined in the same way as in traditional pen n' paper RPGs: a die roll modified by stats and skills.
Age of Decadence itself promises to be a fantastic game, somewhere on the order of Fallout meets Baldur's Gate, and the combat system alone is well done.
There's something to be said about the tactical environment. While I don't care for 3E's or 4E's version of that, I can think of ways that combat can be made more interesting than just a bonus here or a wearing down of your foe's hit points.
I began thinking about how to easily port the same system into D&D, and realized that I'd have to radically change the initiative model. Action points in this game can allow multiple attacks.
1) Use DEX to figure out "Action Points," which would be determined by the Ability Score bonus.
Everyone has at least 1 Action Point.
14-15 2 APs
16-17 3 APs
18 4 APs
For basic, you simply add 1 to the Ability Score bonus.
13-15 2 APs
16-17 3 APs
18 4 APs
Action points are modified by the following:
Using a light weapon -1
Using a medium weapon -2
Using a heavy weapon -3
Generally lighter weapons do less damage. Medium weapons do a moderate amount of damage. A heavy weapon usually requires two hands, and does the most damage.
Wearing armor can slow you down as well:
Wearing no armor 0
Wearing light armor -1 (leather)
Wearing medium armor -2 (chain)
Wearing heavy armor -3 (plate)
You will never go below 1 AP.
It costs 1 AP to attack someone. Therefore, someone who has an 18 DEX, uses a light weapon and wears no armor can attack 3 times in a single round.
2) You may want to double or triple hit point values, to avoid insta-kills in this system.
3) You have four things to take into account, hitting, critical hits, dodging, and blocking with a shield.
A critical hit is that telling blow that allows something special, like knocking you down or interrupting your attack.
Dodging is getting out of the way of a blow.
Blocking is putting up your shield in hopes of deflecting a blow.
A D&D character in this system would rank these four things in order of priority, higher numbers mean you want to focus on that action more. Dodging and Blocking are special in that they're mutually exclusive. A shield will do nothing unless you are blocking, but if your dodge is a higher priority you will dodge instead. You can dodge and hit in the same round, as a defense costs 0 action points. So, a typical character might look like this:
This means he wants to hit most of all, but he also wants to dodge a lot. Criticals are less important to him, and he won't be using a shield.
So, to translate these numbers:
To hit: +4 to hit
Dodge: +3 to AC
Critical: 18-20 (20 - Critical Priority)
Note that "Hit" is only to hit, not damage.
As a defense is separated from the Action Point system, you might wish to allow Dodge and Block to be performed on a successful Ability Check, rather than having them add to AC.
4) Next we focus on weapons. Each weapon has something that it does on a critical hit:
Daggers - x1.5 damage (bypassing armor).
Swords - +1 to Critical Strike, x2 damage on critical.
Axes - split shields, if no shield x2 damage.
Hammers - knock your opponent to the ground.
Spears - interrupt attempts to close in.
Bows - +2 to Critical Strike, x1.5 damage on critical.
Crossbows - knock your opponent down.
Thrown Weapons - x1.5 damage (bypassing armor).
5) One square of movement is going to cost 1 AP. So if you have 4 APs and you move 4 Squares, that's it for that round. You must wait til next round to attack. You may still defend, however, as that takes 0 APs.
Will this flow as well as traditional D&D combat? I dunno. I can't imagine that it would take that much longer to complete. I wonder if it's workable...