Maybe "shock" isn't the best term, but I haven't come up with a better one yet.
My idea is this:
When combat begins, we assess a bunch of stuff, crunch whatever numbers deserve crunching, choose the approach the characters are going in with, and otherwise set up the mechanism which will determine what happens.
Then we ditch the leisurely tactical sim tradition of RPG combat and replace it with more experiential fog of war madness. By the time you know what's happened and are making your next calculated decision, it may be all over. (I'm talking monstrous creature combats and the like here, not honor duels with knightly rules and whatnot.)
I don't want to skip over the decisions you would actually get to make if you were actually there, though. Even if your blood is pounding in your ears and your vision is narrowed and you're going mostly on muscle memory, sometimes there's some sort of "shock" in a fight that kicks you out of your previous approach. When this happens, responses may be unconscious (I'd like a system for that, but not sure yet what it'd be), but sometimes they may also be conscious too.
Right now I'm trying to compile a good list. What are some in-combat events which force or allow you to stop doing what you were doing and maybe do something else?
What I've got so far:
- knocking a foe down
- falling out of melee range
- getting knocked down
- getting pinned
- getting disarmed
- having your charge blunted
- getting pushed back
Any other ideas?
Getting your legs chopped off or lungs punctured will also shake things up, but I dunno if you really choose the responses to those.