Tarnoc brought up an interesting idea last night. He was saying how useful it would be for someone to be able to save another character from harm. At first this just sounded painful to me, jumping into the way of an attack (or multiple attacks) doesn’t sound like a really useful tactic to me. That’s not what Tarnoc meant entirely though.
One cool idea was that a character could simply draw more attention to themselves than the character they’re defending. This might be as simple as calling out “Hey! Over here!” at the right moment. A bodyguard might purposely paint their armor (or themselves) a brighter color, making an enemy pick them as a target first. Feathers, streamers, banners, shouting, singing, it doesn’t matter if you’re supposed to be protecting someone and you stand out you’re probably going to draw attacks toward yourself.
So how do you do that in game? A GM could just make a judgement call each time. But I don’t really like leaving player’s actions up to the GM because when I was a young player, I liked having the rules there to let me know what to expect. So this is a social conflict, the player is putting mental pressure on the attackers. A determined attacker, for whom the target matters will ignore the noise and go after the person they want. In a normal situation though, even a small amount of mental pressure would be enough to redirect attention. This ends up a Charisma roll then, which makes the dedicated bodyguard a pretty rare character who has good fighting skills and good charisma.
On the slightly more concrete side is pulling a character from harms way. In effect, dodging for someone else. Moving someone else is not usually an easy thing. Unless you’re huge and the guy you want to move is small, you’d usually have to tackle them or at least push them. This would only work though if you see the attack coming, then see that your buddy isn’t moving, and then cross the distance between you to knock them out of the way. That would make this hard to model that way because there are so many conditions. In reality, you’d probably see your buddy getting pounded for a while before you could go and try to save him. That is unless you just assume you’re supposed to be saving him when danger comes up. So a dedicated bodyguard would be able to act immediately because they don’t have to gauge if their help will be needed, they know it will be. It’s what they’re paid to do.
So how do you model this? It would depend on that character’s reaction time. They would also have to be on the lookout for friends that will need help. You could roll for reflex and then roll for their intuition (or perception) and then roll for strength to see if they can push their friend but that’s a lot of rolling and it just makes it more likely that help will not be coming. So lets take a different tactic. The reaction time is already handled by initiative and the player will declare that they’re on the look out for someone needing help. By a character who got an earlier place in the initiative order using up an attack or an action, the character is putting themselves in the position to help those that came after them. Now when someone is about to get pounded, the character that banked the action can use it to defend their friends. The players have to figure out when they should be banking an action. A dedicated bodyguard just assumes they’re going to be doing this because it’s their job.
So there’s two mechanics to help out a buddy, I just can’t think of what they should be called. Any ideas?