It was funny thing, the other night...I woke up at 4:27am, right after I had this crazy dream about combat mechanics. Well, I got up immediately and spent the next three hours scrambling to get them all down before I forgot them, and I had to get the kids to school.
I think I did an adequate job capturing them, and I've been spending the past week, working with them and playing around. I have an in-depth post pretty much written, but I'm still tweaking them, and wanted to get something out there, as it seems that I'm actually getting a fair number of hits as of late...crazy I know.
This played a lot like Zombicide or Descent, quick and simple, which is what I was going for. However, it seemed to promote, the spending of the AP for attack purposes, and it left minor things sort of up in the air...either they had to be free or cost a full AP, made things like switching weapons extremely expensive in terms of combat, if they took a whole AP. This is especially true, since combat can be extremely deadly, so using your AP to attack would seem vital to your survival.
Then I decided that d20/Pathfinder/4E model works better for freedom and not forcing people to optimize AP use on attacking, simply giving them one of each, Move and Standard actions gives people more freedom, at least in terms of not attempting to maximize damage, if you give them a "movement only" action they may as well take it, since they CAN'T use it to attack.
I do deal with the move action slightly different than the other systems, in HitDice the Move action really breaks down into minor actions called "Steps". A hero gets as many Steps equal to their Speed attribute (typically 3 to 6). Faster heroes get more Step actions than slower ones, and Step actions can be used to measure very minor actions, like stowing a bow, drawing a sword, moving to the next space (five foot step), grabbing a item, drinking a potion, etc.
Where the dream came in was to add a flexible mechanic to this, now in the dream the tracking mechanism were cards, but I'm not sure that cards are required, but I'll explain it in that context.
When a battle starts every hero loads up their cards, they have cards In-Hand, cards On-Deck, and cards In-Reserve. The Reserve cards are reset at the time of say, an over-night rest, and typically are simply Attack and Refresh cards. Then the Hand is typically Attack, Move and Bonus Dice, and finally On-Deck cards are typically Attack and Move.
The Reserve cards carry from battle to battle, but may be played as if they are In-Hand, and sometimes cards can move from a players Hand to Reserve (this is related to the skills they possess, and there is a maximum number or any given type of card that can be in a hero's Reserve).
The Hand is what is playable during the current turn, and the On-Deck is what their next turn will use. Reserve is just that, cards that give them the ability to stock up and do things like gain an extra movement in a given round, and then possibly triple attack the next round. Every round the remaining cards in your hand are discarded, your On-Deck becomes your Hand and your new On-Deck gets reloaded.
I'm sure you'll see the similarities to the other systems. What I've described is very similar to a 4E combat turn, you have a Move and Attack action, and you can "Action Token" to gain an extra attack, but then it is gone. Next round you get another Move and Attack, ok...not a big deal.
However it is a big deal, as you can spend Energy from your hero's pool to pull cards from your On-Deck to use them in the current round...maybe to attempt one more attack to drop a deadly creature? Though, if you miss, you've just spent your next round's attack, and you'll have to skip attacking for a round to "catch-up", or continually spending Energy to pull your On-Deck attack up to your Hand.
Also, what this does is allow hero abilities or feats to grant bonus cards that may appear in a hero's Hand, On-Deck, or Reserve cards. So a ability/feat like "Maneuverable" could be created to add an extra Move card to the hero's On-Deck cards, or "Combat Reflexes" could allow a hero to instantly draw up their On-Deck to their Hand, and reload their On-Deck at a given Energy cost.
This would allow every hero archetype to possibly get different "actions" or cards to play during their hero's turn, which might be hard to remember if everyone has a different set of actions, but you'd have it right in front of you in the form of cards (or some other tracking mechanism).
I've current created over 10 different types of cards that hero could play on their turn, and most have both offensive and defensive uses, so say if I hero was not going to move, they could hold their "Move" card and attempt to dodge if they are targeted with an attack, using their Move card as a defensive action. Typically by "Offensive", I mean the card is played on the hero's turn, and by "Defensive", i mean that it is used as an interrupt or reaction to another event.
Like I said, I've created some formal rules about all this, and described every cards use (both offensive and defensive), but additionally I created a sort of combat currency. I call these cards "Favors".
With HitDice using exploding dice mechanics, a hero gains a "Favor" whenever they roll a dice that explodes for their attack. Favors don't get discarded like other types of cards during the "Reload" phase, so as the battle goes on, a hero can spend Favors to replenish their Reserve, or to gain and immediate Move or additional Attack, or any of the other numerous cards.
At the end of the encounter, there is a Wrap-Up phase where heroes might be able to store certain cards in their reserves (gained by having certain skills/feats), or they may spend any Favors that they earned during the battle, before discarding them...All cards, including unspent Favors are discarded after a battle, with the exception of a hero's Reserve.
This dynamic allows easy tracking and very simple and flexible combat dynamic that will begin with something most are familiar with granting a Move and Attack option each round, but as the heroes advance, they will all gain different abilities by granting them extra cards to play.
I have only done limited testing so far, but until things get pretty advanced, there really doesn't seem to be a need to track most cards, except maybe Favors, I'm sure further testing will reveal this. As you typically most heroes have similar cards in each pile (Hand, On-Deck, and Reserve), and you get pretty used to any specially action your specific hero may have, so you easily remember to use it or simply discard it, when their doesn't seem to be a option to play it.
Even without adding the additional card mechanics, it does seem to increase the options in a given round. I know as a player I struggle with strict GM's that refuse to give my character an extra single square of movement (give me penalties, but at least give me a chance), when it makes the entire would of difference to executing the round of the century or simply stating..."Well I guess I move to here." With the described system, players are in control of their hero, and can choose to be very heroic, either on a gamble that the battle will be over or at a severe energy point cost, but at least the system allows it, which means no more begging the GM...
This is also why it works well in Skirmish games, as the rules spell out all these "extra" things heroes can do in a round, and you often simply pay the cost and roll, or discard the card and "Do-It", so the GM isn't required to "rule" as often.
That said, it's not as crippling to the GM (as other RPG games) as say the 4E powers are. Most of the heroic abilities and maneuvers come at a significant price, where if the task attempted does fail, where the hero that tried to be "too heroic" may not be alive for much longer, but somethings that's just what a hero's got to do.