OSR Order of Battle Inquiry

I am still working on my DOOM-inspired OSR-ish game based on the framework of Swords & Wizardry (tentatively titled “SPACE DEMONS…IN SPACE”). One of my design philosophies is to keep things simple-ish, so there is speedy play at the table. Also, I am stealing…err borrowing…err using every good idea I can find in other roleplaying games. This includes the advantage / disadvantage mechanic from 5th Edition.

My question is this:

What is a good, simple OSR-ish system of combat resolution?

I know every game and gaming group has their preferred method and I am trying to find one that will work for a fast-paced game. With so many different ways of resolving combat in OSR games, what is the best solution for quick play that is easy to remember?

Something I have not mentioned in my previous posts is that my gaming group is not as…shall we say…rules-obsessed interested as I am. Easy rules are better than hard rules. For example, Advantage / Disadvantage has been better than most situational +2 / -2 modifiers. While I doubt my group is interested in play-testing this game, I want to make this game with that experience in mind.

Without further ado, here is my proposed “official” system for combat resolution in SPACE DEMONS…IN SPACE:


                There are multiple ways to run combat in this kind of game. If your group already has a preferred way of doing it, go for it! Below is one way to run combat and I guess you could call it the “official way”. However, the way your GM decides to run combat is the official way to do it.


When the party of adventurers comes into contact with enemies, the order of events is as follows:

  1. Surprise. The GM determines if one side is surprised. As with all of the GM’s decisions, this can be based on common sense instead of a die roll. The surprised group automatically loses initiative on the first round of combat. Also, they have disadvantage to all initiative rolls to the rest of the combat session.

  2. Determine Initiative. Each side rolls 1d20, and the highest result wins. Ties go to the players. Note that this is rolled for each side, not for each combatant.

  3. Winning Initiative Goes. The side that won Initiative acts first (casting spells, using medical experiments, attacking, moving, etc.), and results take effect.

  4. Losing Initiative Goes. The side that lost initiative acts; results take effect.

  5. The Round Ends. The round is complete; if the battle has not been resolved, begin the cycle again, starting with step 2.

What do you think? Is there a better system I should be using?


Once I have a suitable rough draft with all the features, I will let you all know and I will be happy to distribute it freely to anyone who wants a copy.

Here is where I am at with various features:

Character Creation: 100%
Combat System: 75%
Magic: 0%
Monsters: 25%
Appendix of Influential Works: 25%


7 thoughts on “OSR Order of Battle Inquiry

  1. Seems simple enough. But since the point of Doom are those split-second reflexes that allow you to shoot a zombie in the face before he can even grunt, perhaps some level-based modifier to initiative? That would only work with individual or aggregated (per monster type) initiative, though, so it may be a bit of a chore to some people.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I personally prefer combat order that doesn’t have a random component and instead relies on a mix of Stats and modifiers.

    For example: [Action Status]x[Stat]+Modifier battle order.

    Suppose you have a 1-20 range for the combat speed stat (dex, reflexes, speed, whatever).

    Then let’s say there are three statuses–Unready, Alert, and In Combat.

    Unready (resting, fully concentrating, stunned, or such) is x0

    Alert (not in combat, but situationally aware and ready to respond) is x1.

    In Combat is x2.

    Highest numbers go first.

    Example: You have three characters–Grunt, Special, and Techie. They are stopped in a hallway and Techie is trying to get a palm reader lock open to get inside a control room. Techie is considered Unready (concentrating on the lock) the others are Alert.

    Techie has a Speed of 12, Grunt has a Speed of 14 and a Combat Reflex Ability that gives him +5 in combat, Special has a Speed of 18.

    First round six zombies come around a corner and attack without warning. Zombies have a speeds of 10, 7,7,5, 5, and 3. (That last guy is all messed up.)

    At 20, The first zombie attacks.

    Then at 19 the Grunt responds.

    At 18 the Special responds.

    Then the remaining zombies attack at 14, 14, 10, 10, and 6.

    Then at 0 the poor Techie gets his action, since he was distracted.

    Second (and subsequent) round the Special goes first at 36.

    Then the Grunt at 29.

    Then the Techie at 24.

    Then the zombies, if any of them are left.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It seemed complicated, but Star Frontiers used the best initiative system I’ve seen.
    It was something like the side that lost initiative moved first, while the side that won initiative got to make their ranged attacks. Then the winning side gets to move, taking fire, and make close attacks. Finally, the losing side gets to make their close attacks against anyone in left in melee range.

    This seems complicated, but it eliminated the annoying questions that always come up of arguing over what to do and holding actions while waiting to see what the enemies are doing first.

    What this simulates is the ability of the side that won initiative being able to anticipate and respond to the enemies’ movements and actions.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. searchingfordragonsblog

    Misha is on to something there. In my practice of combat course shooting ranges we do have tactical stances. Also, a system of how ‘alert’ you are. The most famous is the Cooper color system.
    White being inattentive, not aware of your surroundings, believe you are safe and nothing capable of threat is within a given area.
    Yellow is general attention (you know you’re in a possible hostile position but are not expecting trouble)
    Example: You are walking through a bad part of town. Not dangerous, just rough.
    Orange, you are in a possible hostile position and you have seen or heard something that has raised your awareness. At this point you’ve got your eye on something and are beginning to formulate your ultimatum point. However your head should still be on a swivel. As the hostile agent could be non-hostile or a distraction)
    You’re at your ultimatum point, you set a predetermined idea and follow through on it. Example: If you do not step back I will fire!
    In red you are either flight or fight. This is the condition where you are either firing or getting away. It’s past a decision point, action has to be made.
    As I’ve done training courses I can fully attest to this fact; You CANNOT maintain higher than yellow for long. The mind is not equipped for it. It’s exhausting, both mentally and physically.
    I would work the initiative with that system and introduce fatigue.
    White is base d20 is always on
    Yellow is +2 can be maintained for six hours
    Orange is +4 2 hours tops
    Red is +6 measured in minutes
    Staying above those time limits will start affecting your abilities with penalties to initiative but also accuracy. Again it’s exhausting.
    Then there are three tactical shooting stances, they have different purposes and it may over complicate your game. Prone is accurate, but difficult to hustle with. Means your set and ready but vulnerable.
    On knee, your set but mobile. Not as accurate, but you can scoot if needed.
    Upright, typical pre engagement stance. Your not accurate and if unsteady may hip fire, but you can move quick.
    Here’s the cooper color code.

    I hope it helps, I’m not in the military so someone out there who is will know a hell of a lot more than me. Also, Yes when you get this beast up share it. Doom and Daggerfall were my first two computer games.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Your system is pretty much how I understood and ran Basic D&D for pretty much forever. I think initiative by side is underrated. This is sufficient for getting a game of the ground quickly. Individual initiative creates a great deal of friction. Simply going around the table in order after the monsters go is MUCH faster– it allows combat to become invisible, making planning and exploration the focus of the game.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My only suggestion here might be that the disadvantage for one side last until that side wins a round of initiative. So if that happens, they’r eno longer “back on their heels” and the fight continues normally. The goal, of course, is to win before they can recover.


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