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Author Topic: Gaming designs without initiative order?  (Read 14810 times)
Callan S.
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« Reply #15 on: December 10, 2008, 05:30:24 PM »

I have to back Marshall, as I understand him - if movement is an important factor, then its folded into the rolls difficulty. Why people insist movement can't be within the roll seems to be some roleplay habit where roll to attack and movement have to work with different mechanics. Rubbish, I say, your habits are the only problem!

Hi Patrice,
When I say systems in which movement is fluff, I don't say everyone teleports around, the BASIC system, for instance, doesn't record movements upon a map, nor does Rolemaster or even, to be honest, the first two editions of D&D. They hardly are Narrative systems. Even though I'm unsure whether they would have sustained a system without any initiative. So I suspect skipping initiative will bend the game towards storytelling.
As I understand your words and your goal
Quote
I'm trying to design an initiative-less turn system, to make all the action happen in a simultaneous wink and I've opened a pandora box with this wish.
I'm pretty certain the only way for all things to happen at once is for someone to decide how they will happen. And in doing so, it's storytelling, as you put it. Your goal is impossible if you wish to avoid storytelling and as such, a dead end.
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Philosopher Gamer
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Patrice
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Posts: 133


« Reply #16 on: December 11, 2008, 04:43:52 AM »

Yeah.

Aren't you tired as well with the good old "I take my turn, let's move and attempt a slash" gimmick? I think the RPG systems, being mostly based upon turns of speech at the very least and intricate initiative systems at their utmost, convey quite a passive feeling. Despite all our efforts to design it fun and quick, the flash is gone into this mechanism inherited from tabletop games. What I wish, is to un-wargame my system and still, to get a tactical, funny and easy to play system for gamers. Competitive gamers, RPG athletes. Sport.

We all seem pretty okay about the fact that movement and action can be both encompassed in a same single scope of actions. Right. On the other hand, we can't seriously play without turns of speech or the table will become a mess upon which only the loudest players will feast. Or maybe can we, if we write down our planned actions beforehand. Yet, this is too much a strain and a wargame-like feeling for the light system I wish to design. Whether we take it from the HERO perspective, square after square or from the narrative-oriented system of the Marshall Burns, which I sure does function with cooperative storytelling players, we come at a twist of the classic initiative system shared by most/all gamer-oriented systems, but not at a complete removal of it. This removal is possible if you deny Time, and that is a thing you can't do unless you contend yourself with narration alone or quasi-alone. Because we are talking about dealing with Time flowing, or so it seems to me.

I agree with you, Callan, upon this point.

Yet, other options exist allowing to twist the initiative system. They don't convey the simultaneous feeling I had wished for at its peak, but they let spill a little bit of it. Look at the focus system from Usagi Yojimbo 2nd (thanks again Skeletor) or even at... Magic the Gathering. You have interrupts, counters, instants and the like and you can play those during another one's turn. It still seems to me that except those small infringements to the initiative system, pre-planning and secrecy alone would allow a tactical, a gamer-oriented initiative-less system.

Did we reach a conclusion or can you guys bounce upon this?
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SoftNum
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Posts: 4


« Reply #17 on: December 11, 2008, 07:05:37 AM »

Here's my thoughts on this thread:

In a Gamist system (At least, in a Player vs. Player Gamist system, as opposed to player vs. GM), the order of action, or declared action is always going to be important.   Because naming your action is going to influence other people's actions.  I don't think you're ever going to avoid having to resolve this, where the system is stated to be 'Gamist'.   In fact, any time you interrupt the order of action to flow the story better, that's a Narritivist move.

That said, if we're just trying to avoid the 'Go around the table, one action each.' trap, I think there's a lot of ways to do this.   The HERO system has been mentioned, which I think is excellent because it gives characters a crunchy reason to be fast.  Also, the Clix system uses a sort of Action Points system, where by each action effects when you can act next.  So your big attack might cost you 4 APs, but movement might only be 1.

I think it might help if you try and define what you mean by 'light' system.   Rolling less dice?  Less stats to track?

Here's a system I think works OK without a whole lot of paperwork:

Each person has a pool of 10 points

You have 3 defensive stances:  None (0), Block (1), Dodge (2).

You go around the table once, and declare defensive stance + 'speed' points  (Or everyone writes it down).     Then you declare action based on how many points you spent on speed, putting your remaining points of 10 into your attack.  Then you resolve in the same order as the second declare.   This is very tactical, and may be a little crunchy for what you are thinking, but I think with some counters of dice or something, it wouldn't take that long.

I think another thing you could do to encourage a fast-paced and frantic combat is to setup a timer for action choice.  30 seconds, if you don't act, your character doesn't act.   A bit draconian, but it might help facilitate the feel you're going for.

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dindenver
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« Reply #18 on: December 11, 2008, 07:11:03 AM »

Patrice,
  I think you have setup a false dichotomy. What I mean is, you have set up this imaginary rule:
"If movement is not tracked on a map, it is a collaborative story telling game"

  And I don't think this is the case. I've tried to suggest mechanics that match that rule, but to be honest, there are some great games out there that have viable tactical options but don't obey this false dichotomy.
  One example of a great game that usually invokes good tactical scenes is Shadow of Yesterday. In this game, the players announce their character's intentions and the dice decide who wins. So, if one character uses their Athletics ability to flee, they just have to roll a higher success to escape. And its not really collaborative story telling in a "we all have to agree what that means" sense. Players declare the stakes of their side of the conflict and then roll to see if it happens. But, because of the way conflicts are resolved, it doesn't matter what order the intentions are announced.

  Maybe Rustbelt is like this too, I don't know.

  The point is, just because a game doesn't have a map, doesn't mean it can't be competitive. Or that all of the tactical concerns become fluff text.

  Another great example if Dogsin the Vineyard. This is a game where the mechanics are so rivetting that it doesn't feel like you are playing right unless the GM is using every tool at their disposal to defeat the players. The die bidding mechanics are spot on competitive and rely on player tactics (as opposed to character positioning, etc). They kind of break down when its a one character versus many situation. And there is a lot of fluff text generated that will probably rub you the wrong way, but if you look at the mechanics objectively, there might be a kernel of something awesome oin there to solve some of your problems.

  There is more to tactics than character positioning, you know?

  Also, it kind of feels like shooting a moving target. You seem to not want the tedium of an init system and possibly want to lose the grid. But you have some desire to have everything about the character mapped and gameable down to an atomic level. Maybe it might be of value for you to decide what kinds of stories/adventures you want these rules to help create and make a design decision based off of that?

  One tool that might help with that is to write a mechanics agnostic description of ideal play that might come from your design when its done. Meaning narrate a session of play based around that idea that at this time you don't know what the mechanics are but the players do and they grok it down to the tiniest subtle nuance. Don't reference mechanics, just try and imagine the decisions the players have to make. Which ones are important to you and which ones sound the most fun to evoke.
  For some people this exercise is not very helpful, but for others it is like turning on the light in the basement, its the only way to navigate in a dark room. I hope it can help you in some small way.

  Good luck with your design man!
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Dave M
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Patrice
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Posts: 133


« Reply #19 on: December 11, 2008, 07:57:53 AM »

Thanks a lot both of you for the mirroring.

Well, SoftNum, if interrupting the order of action is taking a step towards Narrativism, it's a step I'm decided to take. Actually, and this maybe will answer Dindenver too, I'm making this move to build my Gaming system in a Narrative crunch. Not Narrative as a cooperative storytelling game might be (you know, those games in which movements aren't tracked upon a map (joke inside)) but I'd certainly would like to add a visual feeling, a flash, a video-game or movie-like feel to the action as well as to instill a sense of hazard, of massive banging action to bare tactical mechanisms and I state (yes, state) that vibrant action feeling is a form of Narration or maybe rather, a deeper level of immersion. So, I think you're both right in pointing what lays behind my small (now subtly cooperative) research.

This may allow to understand too why I want it to be light. Imho, SoftNum, the systems that you refer to do all include an order of action. This order may not be rolled or determined beforehand, it might be broken down at a minute level, but it's still an order, a fractionning of time amongst the players. Some of these systems are brilliant like Clix or HERO but still, they convey the same "ok my turn, roll, shoot, dodge, fail, hit, damage, next" feeling. By light, I mean something that allows to master the basis principles in a few minutes and helps to resolve the actions in a 10 to 15 minutes span. It should be going quick and easy and yet might allow a lot of tactical thinking.

I didn't develop the whole extend of it for that would take quite a lot of messages and passionate threads (hopefully, for passion's always a good sign to welcome) but the system I'm preparing sure doesn't limit tactics to positionning upon a map. That's exactly why I'm considering dropping the grid and maybe... The map altogether. Now, this system's going mystic beyond time and space (another lousy joke, sorry guys).

I might have set this dichotomy, Dindever, right, because movement is the first troublesome issue I've met so far as I had the system's backbone playtested. One option you sparked with your examples (Dogs and SoY) is to include the move in the actions. I could say that action A is "Move Close and Bash" and action B is "Trying to Flee as Fast as You Can". If A's success overcomes B's success, B's player is bashed and stands in melee. This is maybe the REAL underlying dichotomy, separating movement and action as one earlier poster said. With that mechanism I still stand upon Gamist tactical ground, but I have a better immersive fluff feeling. This is another option and yes, right, I don't need initiative here but a simple Order of Speech (if I don't use secrecy). How nice?

The other standard option is, as I have put it in my earlier message, going towards a mixed solution, keeping initiative or order of action but twisting it several different ways up to the point of rendering it meaningless but still existant.

I'll let you know what this all had become, thanks again for your insights.
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JoyWriter
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also known as Josh W


« Reply #20 on: December 11, 2008, 10:26:02 AM »

What is the difference between simultaneous actions and turns? Not simultaneous declarations from players, I'm talking within the fiction itself here.

It seems you know magic the gathering, so I'll chuck out an MTG concept; interactivity.

When two players are racing, they each act on their turn, because they are each doing actions that are seperate. It's like they are doing a constant dps to each other, but it's divided into the two turns to make it easier.

But the moment the game goes interactive, and their strategies start intersecting, it goes to the stack, a special part of the rules to handle such things. This is the rule structure where timing appears. Now to be fair there can be passive interactivity that doesn't use the stack, but for every situation where the order of actions actually matters, the stack comes in.

So if you want to create a rules light system, your main issue is solving the timing question for interactive actions.

That is where I started with my system, which is currently floating while I build the rest of the game;
initiative only covers responsive/time based actions.

This means one fundimental change from what you seem to be assuming, you don't run to point x, but get disappointed because the enemy is no longer there, that's zeno's paradox! You charge at that guy and he tries to get away. Timing is not important, only the effect per round system, as in racing above.

You could measure total path lengths in squares and turn it into a difficulty for the check, but with partial success getting you half way there etc. Now this actually doesn't help so well when one path is dependent on the other, as the curve length depends on their relative motion. Now you can skip all this stuff out, and just measure the distance in streight lines. Bear in mind that this would mean that a cheetah will always catch a gazelle (or whatever they hunt), because in this rule set the prey is not able to take advantage of ducking and diving to throw them off. One abstraction you could do if you want to factor this in is for the chased to take a penalty to their role in order to add an equivalent or greater penalty to their opponents roll, or use intelligence/tactics rolls etc.
So how to do the above without a map? Simply turn the starting separation into "headstart". Technically this doesn't cover pythag stuff when one person is running off to the side, but many grid systems fudge the pythag anyway so it's no great loss.

Now I hope how you can see that this principle allows you to turn movement into a simple continuous opposed action, without the temporal discontinuity that effects timing problems (if your a maths head, you'll probably see I'm talking about the distinction between the differentiable and non-differentiable).

If you can reformulate those actions that don't care about timing so that they come out of your initiative system, you shrink the problem to the point that you can actually encompass them with light rules.

Now the next step is to find those thresholds; "you can't shoot me now because I'm behind a wall", "you can't hit me because you're unconscious" and ensure that actions that fulfil them; that have the capacity to interrupt, are compatible with your initiative system.

I have ideas about declaring actions and information incentives (I designed my own system last year, but I'm only revealing it in bits cause the thinking's the big bit), but I thought I'd do one thing at a time.
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Marshall Burns
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Posts: 485


« Reply #21 on: December 11, 2008, 11:05:29 AM »

Patrice,

I want to point out that the "Free and Clear" concept, in which players all declare their actions at the same phase, in any order, and may change their actions in response to each other's as many times as they wish (this Free & Clear being the way declarations are handled in Sorcerer and the Rustbelt, among many others, although Rustbelt is the only one I know of in which the sequence of actions is irrelevant) -- this works just fine in competitive play.  It might take some considerable time to get everyone satisfied with their declared actions, but that will quickly go down once everyone becomes acclimated to it, and resigned to the fact that the very nature of the F&C structure makes it impossible to play the "GOTCHA!" game that many competitive players are used to.  (Which is exactly what it's for).

So don't be afraid to try it.

Also, I just remembered another thing I wrote that uses F&C action declarations, and no initiative, and is competitive (and also intended for Gamist play).  Ride! With Great Justice.  It's untested, but I have every confidence it will work.  The relevant bit is the Motorbattle system.  Here's the rundown of it:

A Motorbattle is split into rounds, each of which contains 4 phases.  You can take 3 actions in a round; spread 'em out, blow 'em all in one phase, whatever you want.  The kinds of actions you can take are Attack (inflict "damage" or negative effect), Block (reduce the effectiveness of someone else's action), Recover (remove damage), Deflect (redirect damage from one target to another), Enhance (increase the effectiveness of your own or someone else's action), or Special (combine any of the previous).  Everyone states their intents in the Free & Clear style.  Once everyone is satisfied, dice are rolled, and all actions take place at whatever time they need to to have the degree of effect indicated by the rolls.

Movement in this particular game is not an issue, because the combatants are all on high-speed vehicles, in constant motion, and it's assumed that you can get into range as easy as breathing.

Could be crunchier than what you're looking for, but it's a thing.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #22 on: December 11, 2008, 02:54:56 PM »

Hi Patrice,

I think the focus idea is just buying initiative after actions have been declared. It makes initiative more dynamic and involve actual choice, but really it's still just initiative. Maybe you don't want to escape initiative, you just want to escape initiative that involves no choice?

Also, just in regards to this
Quote
I could say that action A is "Move Close and Bash" and action B is "Trying to Flee as Fast as You Can". If A's success overcomes B's success, B's player is bashed and stands in melee.
As far as I see from the wording, move close and bash doesn't stop movement or maintain any degree of distance after having bashed. If A suceeds, he bashes B before he can run away. But B then runs away.

You might be adding special abilities that aren't actually there in the written words, then getting caught up by them and seeing a problem.
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Philosopher Gamer
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Patrice
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Posts: 133


« Reply #23 on: December 11, 2008, 03:55:44 PM »

I've been thinking a lot these last hours about the later posts and I must admit you're damn right Callan. My solution isn't one because, whatever you call it, whether movement is included in a an action or not, there is still movement. It sounded like you escaped Zeno, Joywriter, but after much reflexion, it seems to me that the system you plan, however intersting (and it is), doesn't escape the two fatal flaws I'm beating the bush about. You may treat movement as an opposed check, and consider it in straight line, break it down into a vague distance or range or headstart notion, it is still simultaneous movement. Let's take the cheetah example: I'm the cheetah, I declare a charge and a few chews upon my prey. Alas, the opposed movement check states that my prey escapes. Where has the attack I declared gone? In the wind. Here comes Zeno again, under a different guise. That might be tactically adequate, considering pytha ceteris paribus but that would also involve a very frustrating gameplay. The other failure is that, the Order of Speech has now become so important that it is an initiative in disguise in itself. So the solution isn't really one whereas...

...Free and Clear is. I will definitly give it a try. It's maybe just a matter of player's habit. I thank you, Marshall, for clarifying with an example as well, because I realize I didn't quite get what you were proposing in the first place. I'll give it a try.

Well, I've come to three ideas so far (or maybe you've as well, should I say): Secrecy, Free and Clear and the Usagi 2nd-like system, which I would tweak with a MTG logics. I actually want more than just buying initiative after declaration, Callan, but I don't really care about the system being philosophically and purely initiative-less, I want it to feel like it, and not from the choice perspective but from the flashing action perspective. I want it to be Tigers & Dragonish and really feel that the "ok, hit me, I'm dumb and static" feel we (or maybe just I?) all have during other player's turns is something to avoid. So... What I need now is trying to imagine these gameplays and maybe to test a few options.
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Marshall Burns
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Posts: 485


« Reply #24 on: December 11, 2008, 04:14:04 PM »

Patrice,

Oh, I just thought of another thing.  It didn't come to mind before because I think of it as "having initiative," but your last post made me wonder if it would "have initiative" in the way you're describing.  Because it certainly doesn't have the "world of statues" effect, and it's very SNAP BANG actiony.

It's another game I'm working on, working title "GRiM," and it's based on Castlevania.  Fights work like this:  everyone has a finite set of maneuvers written on index cards, with stuff like "SNAP STANCE: ENERGY 5 / Strike / Power -2 / Speed +7 / Ends in BRUTE STANCE" and movement & target-area vectors relative to your position.  Everyone picks a maneuver, puts it face down, and everyone reveals at the same time.  If you're in the target area of an attack, you get hit, period (whether or not you get wounded is another thing, but you get hit, which has effects of its own).  But you can interrupt an attack with a faster attack, or you can move out of the target area with a fast movement; if either of these is possible, we roll for what I call "initiative."  So, say you played a maneuver with a movement vector that ends outside of my target area, we roll Speed vs. Speed, and the winner's action happens first (so, if you won in this case, my attack would miss, because you made it out of range in time; if I won, you would be hit, and, due to the effect of being hit, you would not reach your destination unless I knocked you into it).  Like I said, I think of it as "having initiative," but it's good in that you don't roll for initiative unless it turns out to be relevant at this very moment, and in that one guy isn't moving around in a world of statues while everyone else waits.

This system I have tested, and it is fun, fast, and crazy-exciting.  (Partially because I enforce a time limit on selecting maneuvers -- if you're too slow, your guy does nothing)

So, take it or leave it, but it's another thing to think about.

-Marshall
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Patrice
Member

Posts: 133


« Reply #25 on: December 11, 2008, 05:20:51 PM »

Sorry to keep you in the blur about the other core aspects of the system, game and universe I'm working upon. It sure has a great incidence on my options and what I seek for initiative and as the matter broadens, it begins to touch other aspects of the system. I didn't mean to keep you in the shade but this question alone sounded complex enough to be deserving a post of its own. And well, other aspects of the game are complex as well. Not complex to play nor to design, but complex to think and pre-plan before the actual design so I didn't want the post to extend to the system at large. Maybe my mistake because it sure does make difficult the finding of the appropriate initiative. Yet, what you all have said sparked enough ideas and meaning to help my thinking about it.

You slowly come close altogether to the conclusion I'm getting at myself, if I discard the systems I have to test like Free and Clear. It's no big wonder since you're helping me in here to find my own solution and I'm grateful for that. Let me explain: You're getting at a finite set of actions, which I have in my game system (cheers) and at a limited initiative, which is what I was thinking about in the first place. Yet, the GRIM system (all bow to Castelvania nevertheless) boils down to the Action plus Move idea I had presented before. It works because you play with Secrecy (...everyone reveals at the same time...), which is another option stated before.

So, yeah, we have a few solutions and a wide range of mixes between these solutions, including the system you're just presenting here.
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Vulpinoid
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« Reply #26 on: December 11, 2008, 07:12:30 PM »

Fights work like this:  everyone has a finite set of maneuvers written on index cards...[EDIT]...but it's good in that you don't roll for initiative unless it turns out to be relevant at this very moment, and in that one guy isn't moving around in a world of statues while everyone else waits.

This system I have tested, and it is fun, fast, and crazy-exciting.  (Partially because I enforce a time limit on selecting maneuvers -- if you're too slow, your guy does nothing)

I've based a set of miniatures rules on a very similar concept....and yes, it's very fast paced, and avoids many of the pitfalls of initiative and waiting for other people to act.

V
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Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.
Patrice
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Posts: 133


« Reply #27 on: December 12, 2008, 02:30:55 AM »

Could both of you explain how you do define the target area and vector? Do you use a grid and state fixed numbered positions or does it function with a more flowing logic in  your systems? Does it work with the targetc area just stated as "Close, Left", for instance?
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Vulpinoid
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« Reply #28 on: December 12, 2008, 04:46:05 AM »

Simplest option, a melee is defined at the centre of the conflict. Participants choose to step into the melee zone at this focal point, or they choose to interact with it from a distance.

Basically, there are three ranges. Melee, Ranged, Gone.

A character may choose actions that exclusively move them into or out of the conflict, make some kind of action against an opponent (or some combination thereof). Characters out of the conflict may interact with it through ranged actions, character in the thick of it may use pretty much any kind of action at their disposal (or may used ranged actions to affect those near the combat, but not in the thick of it).

Note that this is a fairly abstract version of the system.

At the start of the round, everyone's position is defined with respect to the melee focal point. Cards are selected by participants from their available hands. Cards are simultaneously revealed. Priority actions occur, based on the actions revealed. Movement then occurs. Regular actions then occur.

Priority actions include pinning an opponent and preventing them from moving, or performing quick punches and snap shots. Regular actions include heavy hits and effects that take a bit of preparation (there is a chance that these will fail simply because the opponent has moved out of the way by the time they are ready to go off...but this is counter balanced by the fact that they have a whole heap more impact on the game if they are successful).

So long as the subject of the action is still in a relevant location, dice are rolled to determine the success degree of the action.

In a system like this, pretty much every action has an offensive factor, a defensive factor and a movement factor.

Offensive factor is an innate bonus to perform this type of action.
Defensive factor reduces an opponents chance of performing an action.
If you wanted to have a chance that people simply can't escape combat, or wanted to simulate difficult terrain, then the movement factor could modify a characters chance of actually getting from one range to another.

You could introduce additional levels of range to the maneuvers as well...actions that require touch distance, actions that function at short range, long range actions, extreme range actions, then beyond combat range.

Characters moving out of the range of one conflict, could move into the range of another conflict. Basically though, if things are getting complicated with a number of fights occurring, then a character must choose which conflict to become involved in during a given round.

I'm probably not explaining this as well as I could, but I hope you get the idea.

V
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A.K.A. Michael Wenman
Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.
Patrice
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Posts: 133


« Reply #29 on: December 12, 2008, 05:11:07 AM »

Yeah, pretty much what I was thinking. It's an abstract of the idea of encompassing movement into the actions plus the JoyWriter straight lines movement system, space localisation being subsumed into Range Tiers or Distance. Sounds as a good system for miniatures gaming. Thanks for clarifying!
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