Fortunately a couple of other bloggers, Zak S and The Rambling Bumblers, had some excellent articles on Lucky Number Kung Fu and Super-Simple Combat Maneuvers that look like they'll work very well. Combined with the Fatigue Points rules from the Under the Burning Sun post I think this makes a good system for making melee combat a lot more interesting, without turning every bar room brawl into a blood bath.
A character can choose to make non-lethal attacks with a club, staff, or unarmed attacks. A non-lethal attack causes Fatigue Points instead of reducing an opponents hit points. If a character’s Fatigue Points become greater than their current hit points, they fall unconscious.
All player characters except The Monk do 1-2 (d2) Fatigue points with a successful unarmed attack.
During any combat round an attacker may choose to attempt a Combat Maneuver instead of making a regular attack. A Combat Maneuver could be disarming an opponent, forcing them back, knocking them down, preventing an attack on an ally, or even knocking them out! While any character can attempt a Combat Maneuver in melee, only a Fighting Man can do so with a Ranged Weapon.
To attempt the maneuver the attacker announces their intention and makes a regular attack roll. A miss is a failure, and a hit gives the defender the choice of whether to allow the Combat Maneuver to succeed or if they will take damage as per a normal attack instead. On a natural roll of 20 the maneuver is always a success, but the defender does not take any damage from the attack.
Martial Arts Maneuvers
In addition to Combat Maneuvers The Monk and a Fighting Man who specializes in Hand-to-Hand combat can also perform Martial Arts Maneuvers. These are only available in Melee combat.
A Fighting Man starts with 1 Martial Arts Maneuver, and gets another maneuver at levels 3, 5, 7 and 9.
A Monk starts with 2 Martial Arts Maneuvers and gets another maneuver at levels 2,3 and 4.
For each maneuver choose a number between 1-20. Whenever that number is rolled (naturally and unmodified) on a normal melee attack roll, whether or not this indicates a successful attack, the character may choose to perform their Martial Arts Maneuver. This is in addition to any damage caused by the attack, or combat maneuver the character was attempting.
The Martial Arts Maneuvers starting characters may choose from are:
Snake Style - You automatically hit your opponent if they move away from you in combat until after your next action
Tiger Style - You grapple with your opponent causing an extra 2 Fatigue Points and preventing either of you from moving until after your next action
Flying Eagle Style - Your opponent is pushed back from you out of melee combat range
Two Headed Snake - You disarm your opponent causing them to drop their weapon. If you are unarmed you may take their weapon.
Shaolin Bear Strike - You knock your opponent to the ground
Those Martial Arts Maneuvers might need a little fine-tuning, but that's the general idea. :)