I run an old school Labyrinth Lord game with no battle map and Shields Shall Be Splintered and Death and Dismemberment house rules. Last Wednesday the elf Teeha lost an arm and a leg. The player wants to keep playing him anyway.
Back to fighting. Combatants can move anywhere they want on the battle field, they can retreat at will, they can attack anybody on the battle field... So how do you protect the magic user?
Determine who the bad guys are going to attack. I like the monsters to attack front line fighters that dealt damage first, or magic users, or badly armored people, or I just roll a die. Assume I decide to attack Delinorm the elf. Before rolling the d20 to hit, I ask is anybody going to protect the elf? If somebody is going to protect the elf, then the attack hits them instead.
This simple question before rolling the die worked really on Wednesday. You can have a Boromir taking all the hits and you can have fools being deserted by their fellow party members using this rule. I think I’ll keep it.
I like how this reduces the entire battle map minutia to a single strategic question: will you protect your friend right now, right here?
The image shows how I run D&D 3.5 battles since I ended up not using my No Battlemap house rules. There were always enough players that preferred those super detailed fights.