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General Forge Forums => First Thoughts => Topic started by: btrc on February 09, 2009, 02:09:47 PM

Title: Keeping combat from dragging
Post by: btrc on February 09, 2009, 02:09:47 PM
Keeping ten seconds of combat from taking an hour or more of play time has been the bane of most simulationist rpgs. I had a recent brainstorm I'd like to toss out for comment, critque or refinement:

• Each round of combat (or any time-critical game situation) is twice as long as the last one
• You can move further than normal in these longer rounds
• You do not get more actions in these longer rounds
• You do get a bonus to skill use proportional to the length of the round, as befits the game system in question

Example: If this was in EABA (1 second rounds), then rounds would be 1 sec, 2 sec, 4 sec, 8 sec, etc. In each round after the first you get +2 to movement distance and -2 to your "to hit" difficulty. So, in round 4, it is an 8 second round. You don't get any extra actions, but you do get +6 to move and -6 to hit.

What it does: It lets the first few rounds of a critical situation be as chaotic as normal. But afterwards, people have found cover, are looking for opportunities, and the situation has slowed down from its original frenetic pace. However, the increased time means that you (and your foes) are more likely to have a success of some kind because of the increased chance “to hit”, meaning the situation will resolve in fewer rounds than it would take in a second-by-second system. It also make it less of a deus ex machina for outside influences to come into play. That is, if a single round of combat is taking 2 minutes, then the odds that reinforcements, your escape helicopter or whatever will arrive, and you don't have to play clambering aboard it on a second-by-second basis.


Greg Porter

Title: Re: Keeping combat from dragging
Post by: Paul Czege on February 09, 2009, 03:07:35 PM
Hey Greg,

By round 2 I'm hiding in the bushes by the side of the road. By round 5 my movement has grown enough that I can make it all the way down the road past the NPCs who want to shoot me from the distant bushes near my parked pick-up truck and to a position behind them, and also achieving good cover from my truck for myself. They're going to have quite a good opportunity to shoot me while I'm moving, and bonuses for doing so.

Do they deplete more ammunition than they would in an earlier round? Do they do more damage if they hit me?


Title: Re: Keeping combat from dragging
Post by: Callan S. on February 09, 2009, 05:00:47 PM
Hi Greg,

I might not know sim very well, but what's wrong with it taking a long time? Isn't it getting at the detail you want? Or is it working in too fine a detail? Your helicopter example might indicate that - working out each step of getting into a chopper is too fine a focus?

Is there a limit on how large the rounds can grow to?

Title: Re: Keeping combat from dragging
Post by: btrc on February 10, 2009, 05:05:36 AM
There's nothing wrong with things taking a "long time", but the trick is making it appropriate. If you look at historical or (in)famous combat encounters, they often start intense and then drag out for a while. Take the shootout at the OK Corral. Historically, it took about 30 rounds (at a 1 sec time scale). Or in rpg time, about 6 hours...;( If you did it on an expanded scale, it would be 5 rounds. And I think it would be a lot more cinematic and still generate "realistic" results.

Paul made a good point on things like ammunition usage and “opportunity fire". It wouldn't do to be able to bypass someone in your way just because you moved first. As far as the length of the scale goes, that's something that would have to be worked out in testing. In a doubling system, it means that round 10 is 17 minutes long!

On the other hand, it is almost certain that the "to hit" modifiers are going to make telling hits virtually certain, and these modifiers, while not increasing actual damage, would go a long way towards offsetting "called shots" or other extra damage mechanics. My gut feelings is that at some point the bonuses will rise to the point where one side is either going to have the edge and win, or be perceived to have the edge, and the other side gives up or runs away.

From my own experience, all the neat things PC's want to do in a critical situation tend to be the most time consuming, either in getting where they can do them, or their actual implementation, and the expanding scale lets this happen naturally. One thing that will have to be dealt with is how to handle if if someone exits the fray and re-enters, or two separate encounters are happening within range of each other. The expanding scale isn't perfect, but I think it can work for a lot of situations, and appeals to both the simulationist and narrativist. It's a lot easier to put a creative or dramatic set of actions into an encounter if the encounter is long enough to allow it to happen...


Title: Re: Keeping combat from dragging
Post by: Bert on February 10, 2009, 02:29:22 PM
A dynamic timeframe is definitely interesting. I like the idea of rounds increasing in duration, but why should mods ramp up? Are you trying to sim the compound probability of success from multiple rolls (assuming 1 action per second, despite a single resolution roll for increasing periods of time) or something else?

I’m probably just not familiar with the system you’re talking about, and it probably makes a lot of sense in that context, but if all mods ramp up surely the relative effect will cancel out? That is, if mods apply equally to offensive capability and defensive capability.

If this represents the way conflict stabilises with time, with exponentially declining attrition, the action is going to go from crazy automatic fire (or a mad flurry or opening moves) to 3-shot bursts every now and then (or rarer openings) at ever increasing intervals. Surely the doubling timeframe, with no mods, already does all this?

Another thought: if you’re talking about a fight stabilising, surely you would expect increasing defence, but not necessarily offence?

Assuming I’m totally on the wrong tack, and it makes sense for mods to ramp with the timeframe in the system you're talking about, I have a few questions:

Could characters employ tactics intended to create a shift in pace? Would this reset the round to 1s and take you back to square one on the mods?

Similarly, what happens when new factors are introduced into an action sequence that have nothing to do with tactics? For example, what if the noise of conflict brings the militia/police/zombies down on your head? The conflict ceases to be stable, so would you go back to 1s rounds and ramp up again (ramping mods as well)?

Could you have a situation where opponents are operating at different mods/round durations, reflecting differing tactical positions?

Finally, while game-time ramps up, a round is still a round in real-time. It’s still going to take the same amount of real-time to resolve the conflict. Or am I missing something?


Title: Re: Keeping combat from dragging
Post by: jerry on February 10, 2009, 10:45:17 PM
Bert, thinking about some extreme scenarios where this might change the course of combat may be useful for the first part of your question. These fringes are where Greg's idea that fascinates me.

Imagine a conflict between a group of player characters and a super-flying-robot-alien. The alien robot has great targeting and pretty much hits one character every round. The alien robot has great defenses and is pretty much impossible for the player characters to hit.

As time moves forward, the characters' chances increase while the alien robot's chances remain the same (it was always successful anyway, getting better doesn't help it). This simulates the stuff you might see in a movie or in a book, where the main characters will figure something out the longer they fight. Now, whether this should be simulated in the success rules or left to the player characters, I don't know. But it's a fascinating idea.

Now, imagine a conflict between a group of player characters and a horde of slow-moving zombies. The zombies can't hit the player characters, and the player characters can hit the zombies all they want but they can't hurt them (or maybe more just keep coming). The players are going to have to either come up with a new way to attack the zombies or they're going to need to retreat, because as rounds progress the zombies are going to start getting more and more success bonuses.

This is kind of like the down system of American football: something must be happening, and if something isn't happening something needs to change. If this is the purpose of the system, an increased defense would be counterproductive.

The increased movement and the increased time both help ensure that things happen: increased movement increases the area where action occurs, which increases the possibilities of what can be brought into the action; and increased time means longer and longer actions can be attempted; and also increases the possibility of external forces coming into play.

Title: Re: Keeping combat from dragging
Post by: btrc on February 11, 2009, 05:12:47 AM
Are you trying to sim the compound probability of success from multiple rolls (assuming 1 action per second, despite a single resolution roll for increasing periods of time)

Yes. Part of how the expanded time scale makes combats shorter in "real" time is that you get progressively less "misses". Each round has a higher chance than the previous one of removing one or more combatants from the field. You continue to get one "action" but what you can do in that action can get progressively more complex.

Example: So, instead of "run to the truck, climb in, and start it up" being several movement actions, climbing in as an action and starting it as one or two actions, it could be just one expanded scale action, while your friends are shooting up zombies as their action. For that matter, it means it makes more sense to not try complex action sequences like this until you can do it as one “action”. Better to shoot at the zombies until the turn scale gets up to 8 or 16 seconds for a turn. Then run for the truck.

The combination of increased chance of success and combined actions hopefully shortens the "real time" aspect. If there is an endless supply of zombies, then getting the getaway truck is the choke point. Eliminate all the rounds of getting to the truck and getting it started eliminates that many rounds of "players fighting zombies". You've cut the real time of the encounter in half, but lost none of the drama (the zombies are getting a lot closer and have a better chance to grab you).

That is, if mods apply equally to offensive capability and defensive capability.

They don't. Only the offensive side increases, meaning that each side has an increased chance to hit, provided they have sufficient supplies for their offensive force.

Example: If you fire your muzzle-loading rifle in round 1, you don't have another shot in round 2, so you do not get a combat bonus unless you have a bayonet and are going to use it.

Like I mentioned earlier, it does not directly affect damage. So, no matter how long the timescale, you do not necessarily get to beat your way out of a prison cell with your fist. But, come to think of it, it does sort of work for prison escapes. It's an insanely difficult task, so you have to accumulate a lot of bonuses over an ever-increasing timeframe in order to have a chance of pulling it off (okay, I'll use the "1 year turn" bonus to finish the escape tunnel...").

Could you have a situation where opponents are operating at different mods/round durations, reflecting differing tactical positions?

Probably not. Having two groups running at different scales doesn't work if they are going to interact. I think what you would have to do is say that one group reinforcing another forces the time scale back to the shortest time scale of the two groups.

And remember, while I use combat as the main example, any “tension” situation could use it. You're trying to pick a lock before a guard walks by, trying to gain info at a social function, etc.


Title: Re: Keeping combat from dragging
Post by: Hereward The Wake on February 11, 2009, 09:02:32 AM
It seems that this idea would work in a situation like WWII combat where units woul doften get bogged down after an initial push by the attackers, but that is more a warganing situation, I can't imagine a situation where inndividuals would want to get stuck like this, and has been mentioned you would need some way of resetting the time scale to "1" again. It loks as though its something that would be situation/context specific in other situations it would not work at all.

Title: Re: Keeping combat from dragging
Post by: Bert on February 11, 2009, 02:55:12 PM
For some reason the penny didn't drop that you were out to sim the action movie genre rather than a particular interpretation of 'reality'. Doh!

Okay, with round durations ramping up and mods following suit, you get an increase in game pace. You can do more in a round, and you're more likely to achieve a successful attack. However, the only thing you can do more of is move – is that right? If you don’t get an increasing number of actions, which would slow things down again and defeat the whole object of ramping, would you want to sim the effect?

What about compound actions or turning multiple actions into multiple action types? Say you have a  player describing what their character is going to try and do in a round.

“I’m going to pop up and spray fire up at the shooters on the bridge while running through the wreckage to that pickup truck. Then I’m going to try and jump on the back, take a bead on the guy fiddling with the rocket launcher at the bottom of the access ladder for a second, and see if I can pop a three round burst into his centre of mass.”

The player makes one roll for their combat actions and divides the result up the result (damage or whatever) between the two combat actions, spraying fire at the guys on the bridge and trying to gun down the guy with the rocket launcher. Maybe they would need to use a second action (action type) if they've got one on running through wreckage and jumping on the pickup truck and divide results there too.

Could that work out?


Title: Re: Keeping combat from dragging
Post by: btrc on February 12, 2009, 07:25:35 AM
What about compound actions or turning multiple actions into multiple action types? Say you have a  player describing what their character is going to try and do in a round.

If you can end up doing too many things that require die rolls in a "round", then you won't be speeding things up any. I think that people will be limited to one combat action, one movement action, though these can be increasingly complex in scope, they should thematically be a single "task" that can resolve with a single die roll. So, you could do the "run to truck, open the door, climb in and start it" as one action, or "shoot a bunch of zombies" as one action. The latter however, would take a penalty. Instead of using the expanded time scale modifier to guarantee a "kill", you are spreading out your effort. If you succeed at your single "shoot a bunch of zombies" roll, you take down a bunch of zombies, but if you fail, you merely wing a bunch of them without removing any from the fight.

This is one of those things where I'll have to quantify the rules and test it out. Right now it is all theoretical. I don't know of any system that actually does this. Right now I'm just getting feedback to see if it had any obvious "dead in water" flaws. It doesn't seem to, so I'll probably codify it and see how well it works in my pet rpg system (EABA).


Title: Re: Keeping combat from dragging
Post by: Chronologist on February 12, 2009, 08:35:38 AM
I really like the idea of each round being twice as long as the previous, up to a point. 1 sec, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512... round ten or so is going to take 8 and a half minutes. How about the time frames are 5 sec, 10 sec, 15 sec, 30 sec, 1 min, 2 min, 4 min, and thereafter in increments of 5 minutes (5, 10, 15, 20, 25 etc.). That way time really speeds up, but not to the point where the 15th round is going to be four and a half HOURS long. Short term, your current system works, but if for any reason combat drags out, then it slows down considerably.

Granting bonuses to move and attack seem alright, though it does force players to be agressive, since you can't "weather the storm", so to speak. I'm not a big fan of forcing players' actions. I think that if the bonus/minus was 1, not each round, that it would give players more time to figure out their action plan, or at least let them stay defensive for a little longer.