The goal with Into the Odd is for combat to be Decisive. I wanted the potential for deadliness, without the wild swings of d20vsAC systems, and I wanted it all to run ultra-fast.
The idea is that combat should have three main stages.
1. Instigation (Strategic Choice)
Should we fight this thing?
Deciding to fight is a real choice you make, not an assumption of the game. No monster exists purely to fight you, so if things have come to blows, let it be on your head.
The nature of the instigation is also of critical importance. The two most reliable ways to defeat an opponent in combat are to outnumber them, and get the drop on them, ideally both.
This is an exit point, as you can usually make the decision not to fight at all.
2. Execution (Tactical Choice)
How's the fight going?
You've probably dealt some damage, taken some, and might now be more aware of what you're up against. Make a decision about whether you want to take this fight to the bitter end, or change up your approach.
This is an exit point, as fleeing/surrender are usually an option.
3. Conclusion (Consequences)
Well, that was a good/bad idea.
Fighting has stopped, and hopefully the other side is defeated. Either way, something major has changed.
Most games follow this to various degrees, but the key with Into the Odd is that I want as little time as possible between each point.
Turn 1: You've decided to fight (Instigation), you cause some damage, and take some back.
Turn 2: Based on how well it's going to decide to carry on, or change your plan. (Execution) If you carry on, somebody is probably getting taken out.
Turn 3: By now one side has probably won, or both sides are so close to death that it's going to end one way or another. (Conclusion)
So while your combat moves are limited, the choices you're making on each turn are extremely important. It's a combat of two or three major decisions, rather than a dozen minor ones. It's key that each stage also presents an exit point from the combat, so nothing is inevitable.
Into the Odd supports this by:
- Auto Damage (attacks always cause at least a little damage, with Armour being the exception, but HP is restored easily enough that you can consider it an Encounter Resource. It's astronomically rare for a turn to go by without anybody taking some damage).
- Low HP (d6hp for starting characters, cap at 18hp and that's mostly for monsters)
- Low Armour (if you're human-sized the best you can really hope for is Armour 1, Armour 3 for the biggest monsters).
- Relatively High Damage (it's quite easy to get a d8 weapon, which is likely to take out a 7hp opponent in two attacks. Even a STR 16, 12hp Armour 2 monster is probably go down after two rounds of attacks from four characters with d8 muskets)
- Critical Damage means you're much more likely to be taken out of action before you die. A dying comrade presents a more interesting tactical choice than a dead one.