I've gone to some extra effort in this post to describe the combat chapter to people who may not be playing the Pathfinder RPG. The traffic pattern for my blog suggests there are still a lot of people searching for a new game system that suits them best. I've tried to help by offering a high level description of the combat chapter, as an essential, key system in any tabletop roleplaying game. It also seems like the top criticism regarding the selection of a roleplaying game is whether the system is heavy or light. I kept this in mind while writing the post too.
The first thing I noticed about the combat chapter is its amazing clarity. The combat chapter in a roleplaying game needs to be clear because combat is the essential conflict resolution system in what is essentially a game that tells a story. And what's a story without conflict? The Pathfinder RPG delivers nothing less than a state-of-the-art combat system. No system in the history of roleplaying games has had as much ongoing development and play testing as this one and, quite frankly, it shows. The chapter delivers on a promise of providing a rules light combat system in spades. The combat system is just 25 pages, with diagrams and some art. Here is a brief breakdown of it's sections:
How Combat Works: It doesn't get any simpler than this. In under a page this section covers the essential parts of a combat turn, how long a round lasts, how to roll initiative and how a surprise round works. I admit to having mixed feelings about the surprise section, were I not already familiar with the prior combat system. It may seem a little vague to newcomers, as it assumes a certain familiarity with the Stealth and Perception skills for determining whether opposing forces are aware of each other at the start of a round. Having said that, prior surprise rules were a horrible jumble. The surprise rules here and in the aforementioned skill descriptions still more than make up for any past deficiencies in the rules for surprise.
Combat Statistics: You attack, your armor might stop the attack and if it doesn't you take damage, which is measured by hit points. Here again are the essentials of combat in just a couple of pages plus a helpful diagram explaining attacks of opportunity. If an opponent lets down his guard by taking a non-combat action, you get a free attack against him. There's nothing particularly rules heavy or difficult about the concept. Combat statistics also covers the essentials of movement and saving throws, a last chance survival system that has grown simpler and simpler with each revision and is even more so in the Pathfinder RPG. The numerical combat-related data points are all covered in just 2 pages of text plus the 1/2 page diagram I mentioned.