One of the things I find most frustrating about most any RPG is that the action economy is most efficiently used in a series of attack and defense rolls. Most game systems don’t incentivize any other kind of exchange. Movement especially is given little attention and it’s difficult to force a character to move. When you do force a movement to disadvantageous terrain or gain advantageous terrain yourself, a simple move action by the opponent undoes the work.
When I think of how important footwork is in both cinematic and actual combat it seems like something very important is being overlooked. I have three scenes in mind:
Scenario 1) The Princess Bride: Inigo Montoya vs the Dread Pirate Westley. The fight roams up and down the ruins and the two fighters use their attacks to force each other to move and sacrifice position.
Scenario 2) Batman Begins: Bruce Wayne and Henri Ducard are training on the ice, and Bruce seemingly wins the fight. Ducard then tells him he has sacrificed his footing and knocks the ice out from under him.
Scenario 3) Star Trek TNG, S3 Ep11 – Worf and Danar trade a few punches and then toss each other into stacked crates and bins. Danar wins the fight by knocking a stack of crates on top of Worf.
The biggest determinant here is whether the game is being played on a tabletop map or in the virtual theater. In a map game, the position of the pieces makes it easy to determine if they are at risk or have an advantage based on the map features. In a theater game, this must be determined by the GM, either descriptively or with dice rolls.
In both cases, the three scenarios are attempting to achieve specific goals. In S1, the opponents are attempting to either gain a circumstantial modifier or force their opponent to take a multi-action penalty in order to navigate difficult terrain. In S2, Ducard forces Bruce to defend with his movement skill rather than his combat skill, allowing him to act against a lower defensive score. In S3, Danar leverages a weapon against Worf so that he can roll a larger damage pool.
In S1, one opponent is attempting to restrict the other’s movement options. In S2 and S3, one opponent is attempting to force the opponent to move into a specific position. In both cases, the combat skill can be used, but instead of attempting a strike for damage, it is used to attempt a Combat Option.
Combat Option: force/restrict movement.
This action takes the place of the attack and may use a combat skill, a movement skill, or some other skill. The defender’s defense skill is one that would normally be used against the attacking skill. For example: Melee Combat defends against Melee Combat, Dodge defends against Shooting, Acrobatics defends against Acrobatics, Willpower defends against Intimidation.
If the action is successful, the defending character has their movement either forced or restricted. In both cases, the defending character must move during their turn, though it must be as a free action (less than 50% of their Move). If the movement is forced, the direction or specific location of the defender’s movement is chosen by the attacker. If the movement is restricted, the attacker determines the direction or directions in which the defender may not move.
If the defender then chooses to take any other move action on their turn, it counts as a full action, subject to multi-action dice penalties.
It is generally easier to restrict movement than to force movement.
Using movement as a combat option in this way allows an attacker to control their opponent’s dice pool, inflict penalties, and gain bonuses. It also encourages dynamic movement around the skirmish area and creative use of the environment.