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"Action Point" Combat System

Started by Moonshadow, January 13, 2005, 04:32:05 PM

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i've been toying with the idea of an action point-based tactical combat system for a martial arts/action rpg for a while now, but i've never really come up with something i liked.  the current idea i'm thinking about is called the burst action recovery system.  the skeleton works like this:

characters all have a "burst" rating, which represents their energy for a flurry of attacks and defenses in any given exchange.  it also represents who has control over the fight, and thus who gets to act. there are no rounds or turns as such--characters exchange blows until their bursts reach zero, at which point they take a second to refocus their energy and burst is reset.

each combat move starts the burst countdown, and the cost is divided into action (in a fighting game, this would be the frames of animation of an attack, or how long it takes to actually execute) and recovery (these would be the recovery frames during which a character is vulnerable).

so, a punch might have a cost of (3/2) meaning it has an action of 3, and a recovery of 2.  so, if red has 24 burst and blue has 20 burst, red starts off the burst countdown at 24.  he chooses to punch.  so, from 23-21, he is actually punching.  let's say he hits. from 20-19 he is drawing back and recovering from the punch.  since blue's burst count comes up on 20, during red's recovery, red would normally be vulnerable to the hit.  however, since blue himself was hit with the punch, his burst drops, say 3, to 17.  by thinking ahead and pushing back an opponent's burst enough, you could do a series of combo attacks like in fighting games (assuming they don't defend and interrupt the combo, etc).

so now we're at burst 19 (red) with blue at 17.  this time red uses a powerful move that takes a while to get going.  he tries his super fire punch (5/4).  he's punching from 18-14.  during this time, blue's burst comes up, so he choses to block (0/X+1).  the block takes effect immediately, but the recovery is one count more than the time it is up for.

red knows blue will be able to act before his punch hits, but he's counting on it being strong enough to break through the defense.  he's wrong though, blue successfully blocks. so blue holds his guard until 14, when the fire punch is done, and is recovering until 13.  red is recovering from the taxing move until 10.  so, on 13 blue gains control over the fight and is on the offensive.

it seems complex, but what i'm trying to capture here is the back and forth feel.  when both fighters reach 0 burst resets, and if one fighter reaches 0 (ie, reaches the end of his stamina) before the other, he's a sitting duck for a short while.

quick characters would be represented with modifiers that reduced action or recovery costs of moves, etc.  i see this system as taking a lot of getting used to and being a bit slow in combat, but i'm going for the tactical feeling of playing a fighting game in combat, not necessarily the speed of it.  what are people's thoughts?


Cool idea.
Write up a full move list and we'll be easier to comment.


Well I've already used a similar system successfully. Each opponent has a base rating in points modified for weapon and armour - this is then expended during a round including the use of specialist manouevres. The game system is called FateStorm(TM) and is currently in BETA testing.
The real benefit to this style is that the player is forced to fight tactically but the use of pre-determined special moves means that they don't have to be a natural fighter in order to be able to fight. But it is still very tactical, freeflowing and dynamic. I've found it to be both engaging and dramatic way beyond that of dice systems.">
Digital artist/Game Designer
It's time to take Fate into your own hands


My RPG is pretty similar, but there are some fundamental differences in turn order etc. The reason why I wanted the "Full move list" is because I find the biggest flaws in these games are useless moves, because other moves are basically more effective in every situation.

The system I use to make my moves balanced I like to call the Square System.

I make a basic, simple move. Then I copy that move, give it 1 disadvantage and 1 advantage, so now I have two moves. Then, I give it a different advantage and different disadvantage, and now I have 3 moves. Then apply both disadvantages and both advantages to a fourth move.

Usually you make the disadvantages slightly more severe than the advantages, like 33% increase one area with a 50% decrease in another. Why? Because Players will stack bonuses in clever ways, and take advantage of things. Plus, the disadvantage still may not outweigh the advantage in certain situations.


So, would recovery time between "bursts" increase, decrease, or stay constant as a charachter's burst rating increased?

It seems like an increase in recovery time might even things out between unevenly matched charachters provided the weaker charachter could survive the initial encounter.... There seems to be a potential to establish a realistic dynamic here where "meelee weak" charachters are encouraged to focus on defensive/avoidance strategies.
- Marcus

Hereward The Wake

These sound good. I too would liek to see a more detailed version of both systems. My system uses cards that illustrate the techniques and dice to represent the commitment to move, a for of points if you like, which have to be refreshed when used up and there fore the player has to use the advantages of the techniques as well as make decisions upon how many of the points to commit.

Above all, Honour
Jonathan Waller
Secretary EHCG


Hi folks,

Been a while, and the names all seem new.... so nice to meet you all.

You have no idea how great it was to see these posts!  I was generating similar ideas around a year or so ago, and both here and else where I was sat upon by several members who boo-hoo-ed the whole principal and complained about it!

I think you have a good grasp on the ideas involved... yet I'll see what I can do to help point out the obstacles!

So, here goes with the negative aspects......

* Supers win - Characters with higher stats general have the upper hand... by continously utilising low energy / fast attacks, that character can anihalte the opposition with little risk to themselves - technically and realistically perfect - yet not fun for lesser characters.  
  Depends on the gaming style you play, but you might want to tweak it so that there is always a way to interupt and have a go!

* Alternates Modes blow it - for personal and melee combat, the Action pPoint systems are fantastic - yet when you start introducing firearms, ordinance, psionics, mutant powers, arcane magics etc - things can get skwiffy - and real fast !  Think of the timing involved between throwing a punch, then pulling a trigger!  now what happens when you include burst fire, semi-auto and fully-auto?  Same sort of thing applies to the use of powers and spells - the balance between time and affect is often a little out - to say the least - the damage/affect of a pell is usually awesome compared to a punch.
  Again, depends upon the aim of the game - if physical/personal combat is all - then it will work fine!

* Multiples = complicated - As soon as you start looking seriously into free-style combo's, multiple attacks or utilising multiple weapons, things can go amiss!  You need to decide on what style you want these things - if at all!  What is fast, two seperate jabs, or to successive jabs?  How do you start calculating escaliting costs for combo's - do you add it all up and detract 1 point, or deduct 1 point per move, or take the longest move, and then add a point per extra combiniation?  How does the damage work out with combination?  Are things simultaneous or successive?
  Whether you have these or not, people are likely to want them, so best to atleast have a fall back plan for roughing it when it happens!

Still, with the biggies out of the way, may I make the following suggestions;

*   Create a Matrix - create a big list of moves - break it down into groups such as normal, advanced, super - then figure what type of attacks go where.. jab, roll, hook are normal, haymaker, hammer fist may be advanced, flaming strike may be super etc.  Figure out attack values, AP costs, damage, special affects/results etc and jot them all down.  them compare all the moves, remove similar ones or alter the stats!
  This makes it so much simplier.... do the same for armed combat!
  Now you can break things down into styles and allocate costs for purchasing these techniqes, (or however your character gen works!)

*   Work on defences and tactics - Make sure that characters that play tactfully, or that utilise realist techniques are penalised for not using supers!  Make sure it is possible to block, parry, evade or deflect most, (or all) assaults.  you may want cancelation  methods, a particular move automatically kills of a certain attack.... if two opponents attack at the same time, what move wins? ( or is it a draw or what?)

Well, I hope that helps and it all works!

Just try to be as picky as possible..... it's best to generate tons and remove most of it than to generate a little and miss bits out!

let us know how it goes!
Well, I'll try in here and see what I can find.....


I don't see the problem wit Magic. Create a second burst with magic, the speed one determines accuracy.

My game has 5 Spendable attributes I'd liken to Burst, though only 3 of them are really played out constantly. It adds a HUGE amount of strategy.

Speed, Balance, and Spirit are my three major spendable attributes.
Kick can cost either full speed, or partial speed partial balance. Adds a nice twist.


Well i think Autocrat is right in many regards and I've already come across, and I feel adequately overcome, most of the issues brought up.

Yes SuperWins are an issue - but no more so than say a 17th level fighter in D&D, or a 10th Juicer in Rifts, or a Highly placed Camarilla Vampire, but with a points system it seems more justifiable. They've paid the price to become good.
However, I do think it's important that the system addresses this and makes sure that the game doesnt' just turn into a recurring spiral of bigger and bigger enemies coming forward out of necessity to give the players a challenge.
I think a good precursor, and example of the style of play and responsible design in this case would be Ars Magica. While not a point pool system due to the fact that the players could never really increase their ability to shug off damage (i.e.: their mortality was always in question) there would always be times, occurrances and situations in which, despite the increase of their skills, they would face obstacles that maintained the drama of the game. In addition as ArsMagica stats can't increase this too is important for maintaining a balance.

Alternative modes of combat, Automatic firearms and Magic, sure were an obstacle and a tough nut to crack with any real sense of flair and believability. I think the key here once more was to realise and bring into the mechanics a sense of time - only then can you adequately describe the differences.

As for combos? Well I don't think a combo attack takes any longer (time wise) than a normal attack, that's a matter of skill and training, knowledge and familiarity with the fighting style. So I would argue against a combo attack using up more points than a regular punch, rather I would propose a combo attack to be a benefit of a higher skill rating, or some such.

Having read through your comments I'm happy to say FateStorm appears to have passed your test with flying colours :)
And multiple opponents??? Bring 'em on - the FateStorm VRS treats it like a charm. Sorry for the shameless plug.">
Digital artist/Game Designer
It's time to take Fate into your own hands

J. Campbell

Simple and relatively elegant, in theory. I like it.

A few problems I see:

-How does the system incorporate a "true" melee, in the everyone is attacking everyone sense? Are characters required to "pair off" during a fight, ala Final Stand, or will you develop rules for multiple characters versus one?

-Book-keeping. A carefully designed character sheet can help take care of this, by having a "burst meter" style thing running along one side, with players using a few counters to keep track of their burst expenditure and recoveries, but it'd require some definate forethought.

-Will the damage system have any effect on the Burst, or will it be taken care of more simply?

Other than that, the only problem I can see is giving players too many options, as far as moves are concerned. This'd slow combat down. Perhaps include a rule which says players only have X amount of time to decide on a next move (something reasonable, but still enough to keep it moving quickly), or their Burst drops by one as they hesitate. Maybe have four or five normal moves, with a couple specials and supers.

Perhaps as a way of keeping players from developing "infinite chain hits", develop a short list of "combo-able" moves. For example, a Jab could lead to another Jab once, then could lead to a Fierce Punch which ends the combo, or a Throw of some sort. Include a "knockback" which makes it harder for people to combo, but also make it beneficial for players to finish combos, adding a bit of extra damage or delay to the opponent.

Remember that it's better to err on the side of caution, here. A few defensive moves would be good, so that players can keep from getting smacked about too easily, and if combos have to either combo too easily or be difficult, make it difficult.

Just my own opinion, but your own mileage may vary.
"In Heaven all the interesting people are missing." -Nietzche

Hereward The Wake

Also to solve the problem of more powerful combatants, just throw more opponents at them, not necessarily more powerful individuals, just lots of them. However good someone is they can only deal with so many people at once so weight of number will count against them, unless they use good stratergy, where as send more powerful individuals just turns it into a slug fest.

Above all, Honour
Jonathan Waller
Secretary EHCG