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Author Topic: Action Dice - a core mechanic  (Read 9805 times)
John Blaz
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Posts: 77


« on: November 20, 2008, 06:05:44 AM »

Hey everyone, I've recently come up with an idea for a core rule. Action Dice. Now I'm sure everyone is familiar with "Action Points", where each combat round a character has so many points to spend, and certain tasks use up more points (like shooting and reloading a rifle as opposed to throwing a punch). My idea was to use a d10 roll-under-skill/ level of success system, combined with the concept of Action Points. But instead of using points, each d10 that you roll is considered to be an "Action Die".

Combat rounds would last 10 seconds. Each Action Die rolled or spent take up one second. So a character could decide to spend 3 Action Dice on moving close to his opponent, then 7 Action Dice to attempt a powerful melee attack. Or, that same character may spend 3 AD for movement, then divide his remaining Action Dice into multiple attacks. Unused Action Dice add to a character's defense or something.

Certain tasks subtract AD from a character's pool. Loading a new magazine into a gun may take 3 AD. Obviously, these dice aren't actually rolled, but it still means that person spent 3 seconds on this action, not including any dice he wishes to use to actually fire the gun.

Initiative is determined by how many dice a character will spend that round, with the person spending the least dice acting first. So while a marksman spends his entire 10 second round aiming and firing (using 10 AD), a gunslinger with a pistol fires off 2 quick unaimed shots, spending 1 AD on each. The gunslinger would act first this round. If characters are spending the same amount of AD, then initiative goes off the highest Speed stat, or equivalent.




Essentially, the idea here is that taking your time produces better results, but speed is also a consideration. I'm loving this idea, and was wondering what everyone thought? Is it horribly broken in some way I have yet to see? I'm also unsure what I want to do about damage. The more successes on a roll, the more damage makes sense, but I'm not sure what the best way to go about this would be. Thanks!
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dindenver
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« Reply #1 on: November 20, 2008, 07:21:13 AM »

John,
  It has potential.
  The part I am unsure of is how the initiative, movement and die commitment "works"
  There are a couple of pitfalls, to consider
1) Are all the dice pool for initiative? Meaning the guy who declares 3 dice for movement and 7 dice for attack, does he go on '3 and 7', 3, 7 or 10?
2) The extra dice should be more than just hit chance, iut should contribute to damage as well. Meaning that there should be an advantage to spending 7 dice on that massive melee attack other than just increasing your chance to hit. Otherwise people can figure out how many dice they need to hit and roll that and use the rest as discretionary dice, no?
3) Timing, it "sounds" like you are making everyone declare their actions, then base initiative off of that. The problem with that setup is, the actions lose context as you get later and later in the initiative order. So, its a one-on-one duel. One guy spends 3 dice on move and 7 dice on dueling his foe. His foe figures out that 7 dice will skewer him like a roast chicken, so he spends 9 dice on move. Of course, I don't know the answer to #1, but either interpretation means that one of these actions will be out of context. If big bad melee guy goes first, then the 9 move dice were wasted as he will be dead before he gets to use them. If running man gets to go first, then the move and attack guy has nothing to attack, right? Now, o course, this is a "feature" of initiative in every system. BUT, because th initive order has no random factor its more of a measure of who ever declares their action first is more likely to have their declaration made meaningless by players who declare their action afterwords. And as soon as this context sensitivity is "discovered" by the players, then there will either be the need for "secret written orders" before initiative or there will be this whole meta game with psychological drama where each player has to decide when to be a dick and declare something after another player that totally negates their stated actions.

  All that being said, I think this is a brilliant mechanic and as soon as you work out the initiative kink, you are golden.

  Either way, good luck with your game man!
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Dave M
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John Blaz
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Posts: 77


« Reply #2 on: November 20, 2008, 08:25:59 AM »

I suppose I was a little unclear on how I had planned initiative to work. The idea was that the more dice you want to use during your turn, the lower your initiative. So let's say there's a 3 way duel.

A is a melee guy
B is a shooter
C is a shooter

A decides to use 3 AD to close with B, then attack with 4 AD (total AD used - 7)
B fires 2 quick shots at A, spending 3 AD on each (total AD used - 6)
C uses all 10 AD to line up a shot at A (total AD used - 10)

The sequence would be B (6), A (7) then C (10).


To figure out Initiative, as in the order the player's declare actions, the GM could just present the scene, give them a few seconds to decide, then go down the list: "Anybody spending 10 AD? Ok... 9 AD?" and so on, until all characters have declared their actions. Players who are spending the most AD would announce their actions first, and once you decide how many AD you wish to spend, that amount can't be changed until your next turn.

Also, I'm trying to figure out a way for #of success to be proportional to damage, but am a little lost.
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dindenver
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« Reply #3 on: November 20, 2008, 09:40:55 AM »

John,
  OK, that's a decent framework.
  I still feel like there is a social component to the framework of how initiative goes down.

  Let me give you an example and you can either tell me I got it wrong, or maybe it will be food for thought:
Char A is a melee monster, very strong, if he gets within sword range, you are doomed
Char B is a ranged guy, he has a little pea shooter, but he is fast, so maybe that makes up for it.

  So, the GM calls, "Who is spending 10 AD this turn?"
Both players chime in and Player A declares he will spend 3 dice to move and 7 to whack Char B. Now Player B has a three choices:
1) Whine like a baby until Player A changes their declaration
2) He knows his speed stat is higher so he can declare, I use 4 dice to move (or 5 if that is what it takes to stay out of melee range) and 6 dice (or 5 is more move is required) to shoot Char A.
3) Play along die like a hero and make a new character.
  Not only that, but if Player B always hesitates and waits to hear Player A's declared actions first every time, he always has these same three choices.

  Of course, Player A will figure this out eventually, so he might start waiting for Player B to declare first. But even then, because the turn order is predictable, he will be left with the same three choices.

  Now, suddenly, the game becomes about who is dumb enough to declare their action first and not about character stats or any other strategy, tactics or story concerns.

  Don't get me wrong, I think you are super close to a great combat system, but I did see this hole and thought I would make an effort to point it out and help you brainstorm a solution.
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Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo
jag
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Posts: 75


« Reply #4 on: November 20, 2008, 11:15:38 AM »

I really like this mechanism, not least because it's similar to how my system handles conflicts.  Mutual appreciation aside, here's a suggestion about how to handle initiative:  Each player puts in their hand a certain number of dice (from 1 to 10), and everyone simultaneously reveals how many dice they're going to use.  This determines initiative.  Now people decide on their actions, either lowest-initiative first or highest-initiative first (both could work but give different tactics).  If you are low-initiative and your action is obviated by someone higher-initiative, well that's the price you pay for sacrificing speed for quality.

The revealing mechanism will probably need some modification if there is a GM and he plays multiple baddies, but it's worth trying.

James
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Creatures of Destiny
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Posts: 66


« Reply #5 on: November 20, 2008, 01:53:15 PM »

That's similar to how I was originally planning to do initiative. except that the base number of action dice would be variable. The person currently with the most dice in hand has the initiative.

So Elfo the ranger (10 dice)
vs Bluggo the Barbarian (8 dice):
Let's say 5 foot of movement costs one die and nocking or firing an arrow costs 2 dice.

Elfo goes first and spends 2 dice shooting an arrow at Bluggo. He misses and now has 8 dice)
Bluggo runs towards Elfo - the  he's 20ft (or four dice) away from making contact. By the time he's run 10ft he's spent 2 dice (6 left). He'll have 4 dice when he makes contact.

Elfo has 6 dice, so with Bluggo 10 ft away he's equal. In the 2 dice it takes Bluggo to reach him he could nock (but not fire) another arrow. Instead he spends a die drawing his sword and holds back his other 5 dice.

Elfo has 5 dice for hand to hand, so he can attack first - he could throw all his dice into one attack (leaving him with nothing to defend with if he misses) or he could be more cautious. Likewise Bluggo must choose whether to spend dice dodging or whether to risk it and save his dice for the attack

In this situation Elfo has an advantage because he's both faster and at a distance with a missile weapon. If Bluggo was faster, or i Bluggo had the bow and Elfo had to charge than things would be different (of course Bluggo might have other advantages like toughness, strength and sheer craziness).

How many dice you have may come from a Speed stat or die roll (say 2D6) or both. You could also save unused dice for the next "hand" (which refreshes as soon as a player has spent all their dice).
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John Blaz
Member

Posts: 77


« Reply #6 on: November 23, 2008, 06:28:01 PM »


  Now, suddenly, the game becomes about who is dumb enough to declare their action first and not about character stats or any other strategy, tactics or story concerns.

  Don't get me wrong, I think you are super close to a great combat system, but I did see this hole and thought I would make an effort to point it out and help you brainstorm a solution.


You make a valid point, but the game should (hopefully) not involve much player infighting, so I didn't see this as a major issue.



How many dice you have may come from a Speed stat or die roll (say 2D6) or both. You could also save unused dice for the next "hand" (which refreshes as soon as a player has spent all their dice).


I see what you're saying here, but I think we have a different idea about initiative here. From the example you posted, both Elfo and Bluggo are moving and acting fluidly throughout the combat round, at least that's the impression I got. It looks like a "tick" system, where after each second, character positions and actions are played out. So everyone who acts on second 4, for example, gets to act at the same time. Mine was more static turn based. Once a character acts their 10 seconds out, the next character in turn may act.

In retrospect my idea seems a little sluggish (Bluggo is just standing around while Elfo runs and fires arrows?!), but I have toyed with the idea of decreasing combat rounds to 5 seconds or so. I would like to do short 3 second combat rounds, but that would only allow for up to 3 dice per turn to be spent. Unless I can come up with a fluid system where players have to ration their dice pool across several combat rounds (say 5 second combat rounds, and 30 second or 1 minute long combat "scenes" or something). This would limit the amount of actions possible in a turn, but at the same time could account for things like fatigue (spent all your dice running? time to take a breather!).

Here we go: 6 second combat rounds. 1 minute combat scene, so every 10 combat rounds your Action Dice are replenished. Characters can use 6 AD per round (1 per second still), but are limited to around 30 AD per 1 minute combat scene. This would require careful rationing. Traits and such could raise a character's maximum AD. I'm gonna ponder this idea a little longer.

Thanks for the feedback!
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Vulpinoid
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« Reply #7 on: November 23, 2008, 08:34:23 PM »

I've toyed with something similar in the past...

But from my perspective, I'd say that the person who revealed the lowest number of dice should have the initiative.

My reason for this is simple.

It's already been stated that the person who is spending more dice on an action is taking more time on the action for a better chance of success.

Therefore, they act faster, but have less potential to make a significant effect on their opponent.

This actually bring a level of tactics back into the game as well.

"Do I make a quick strike and hope I can damage my opponent before he gets in his calculated blow? Or do I risk the chance of him hitting me first, so that I can deal a critical strike later?"

That was just my take on the situation.

V   
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A.K.A. Michael Wenman
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John Blaz
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Posts: 77


« Reply #8 on: November 24, 2008, 07:09:06 AM »

I've toyed with something similar in the past...

But from my perspective, I'd say that the person who revealed the lowest number of dice should have the initiative.

V   

I'm not sure if I was misunderstood, but the that was the idea all along. The people spending lots of dice are the ones taking their time in the hopes of achieving a better level of success.
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John Blaz
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Posts: 77


« Reply #9 on: November 24, 2008, 07:13:58 AM »

Also, another thing that may have been misunderstood: characters who are spending more dice declare their actions first, allowing the speedier players whom are spending few dice to actually act first.
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Vulpinoid
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« Reply #10 on: November 24, 2008, 02:29:06 PM »

John,

Re-reading through the thread, you're right.

I was responding mostly to the following...

That's similar to how I was originally planning to do initiative. except that the base number of action dice would be variable. The person currently with the most dice in hand has the initiative.

Though another way to read this could be...

Players have three groups of dice. Dice on their character sheet are an unspent pool. Dice in hand are currently being used. The third group are spent dice from previous actions.

Perhaps players with the highest number of dice remaining on their character sheet act first.

In the first round against equally matched combatants, the player who spends the most dice on an action will have the least number of dice on their character sheet, therefore they will act last. As the rounds progress, the combatant who has paced themselves the best will be more likely to act first.

Note that I'd also make sure that characters expend dice from this action pool for active defense.



Regarding declaration of actions, I've typically seen that declaring intentions first is a disadvantage. Why would the more methodical combatants declare their actions first and therefore allow the instinctive combatants a chance to react to thing that haven't happened yet??




As for turn based, or timing based resolution of actions. I guess it depends what type of experience your trying to mimic with the mechanics...old school D&D...Final Fantasy styled "swipe-vs-swipe"...martial arts movies...the list is endless.

If you're going for a more fluid system of action, consider the following.

The actions dice of an individual gradually replenish as actions are performed by the group.

Multiply the number of combatants by 2 (one-on-one = 2 combatants, refresh value = 4...one-on-two = 3 combatants, refresh value = 6...etc.). You might want to play with the multiplier depending on how much you want endurance to play a role in combat (the higher the number, the more quickly characters will become fatigued), or you could provide certain characters with bonuses/penalties that allow them to refresh dice at different rates.

Once all of the combatants involved in the conflict have spent a cumulative number of dice equal to the refresh value, everyone regains a single die (or more if you want the effects of fatigue to be minimized).

A character who holds off on their action is considered to have "spent" a number of dice for the purposes of refreshing the pool, but they get to keep the dice in their hand.

Other effects could regenerate in similar ways once these refresh values are met (magic points could be regained, limited duration effects could expire...etc).

It keeps things more fluid rather than simply stepped in a typical round based set-up.

Just some thoughts and ideas...

V
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A.K.A. Michael Wenman
Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.
John Blaz
Member

Posts: 77


« Reply #11 on: November 24, 2008, 06:57:53 PM »




Regarding declaration of actions, I've typically seen that declaring intentions first is a disadvantage. Why would the more methodical combatants declare their actions first and therefore allow the instinctive combatants a chance to react to thing that haven't happened yet??




V

Now that I think of it, you have a point there. Not to mention it's just plain easier to declare and act all at once, as opposed to breaking it up like I previously suggested.
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Altaem
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Posts: 49


« Reply #12 on: November 24, 2008, 07:34:27 PM »

I've been watching this discussion with interest.  I'll now add a tangential idea of my own.
What if the need for turns was eliminated altogether, and intention was only declared when the action is resolved?

Start scene / roll for initiative
1. Every PC and NPC rolls 4d3 as their initial dice pool.  (you'll need to tinker with the exact number, fast characters may get a bonus, it may need more or less randomness)
2. The character with the largest pool takes a single action (one attack, spell etc) spending dice as required.
3. Repeat step two until scene is resolved.

Characters on the receiving end of an attack may spend any number of dice from their pool on their defense.
If at any time any character falls below a dice pool of 4; every character gains 2d3 dice, which may change the expected play order.

Possible New actions:
Wait: instead of acting the character focuses on defense, the dice are moved from their main pool to a specialized defensive pool which may only be used for defense/counter attacks.
Feint: cost 2 dice, if successful the target character looses their entire defensive pool.
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dindenver
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« Reply #13 on: November 24, 2008, 11:07:40 PM »

John,
  It sounds like you are close to a really good system.
  It would be a shame for you to keep yourself from making the system you want because each die has to equal one second.
  Maybe dice don't equal time, they equal skill or effort. The guy with less dice gets to go first and make a faster less skillful shot and the guy with more dice makes a more deliberate/skillfull shot? and it all happens in the blink of an eye...
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Dave M
Author of Legends of Lanasia RPG (Still in beta)
My blog
Free Demo
John Blaz
Member

Posts: 77


« Reply #14 on: November 25, 2008, 07:10:59 AM »

I've been watching this discussion with interest.  I'll now add a tangential idea of my own.
What if the need for turns was eliminated altogether, and intention was only declared when the action is resolved?

Start scene / roll for initiative
1. Every PC and NPC rolls 4d3 as their initial dice pool.  (you'll need to tinker with the exact number, fast characters may get a bonus, it may need more or less randomness)
2. The character with the largest pool takes a single action (one attack, spell etc) spending dice as required.
3. Repeat step two until scene is resolved.

Characters on the receiving end of an attack may spend any number of dice from their pool on their defense.
If at any time any character falls below a dice pool of 4; every character gains 2d3 dice, which may change the expected play order.


This a pretty neat idea, and I think I will try and test it out. Maybe a character's dice pool is equal to their Speed stat +1d6 or something.

John,
  It sounds like you are close to a really good system.
  It would be a shame for you to keep yourself from making the system you want because each die has to equal one second.
  Maybe dice don't equal time, they equal skill or effort. The guy with less dice gets to go first and make a faster less skillful shot and the guy with more dice makes a more deliberate/skillfull shot? and it all happens in the blink of an eye...

Yeah, I'm not married to the idea of dice=time, but it (and my fellow Forgers) was the springboard I used to come up with these ideas. I'll definitely be dwelling on all of these thoughts for the next few weeks.
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