PDA

View Full Version : Are there any single-round combat systems?



Geordnet
2013-12-22, 10:03 PM
Most RPGs I've read have their rounds representing a few seconds each, and each battle ends up being several rounds long.

Well, I wanted to know if there were any systems out there in which combat is a single round. As in: total up the stuff on each side, roll some dice, look up some tables and BOOM, the combat's over. I mean, I don't want it to be abstracted out to the point of pass/fail testing on a single number, I still want strategy to matter, I'm just looking for some streamlining.

I ask since combat seems to be the most difficult part of PbP games, and I was wondering if there was a better way.

Slipperychicken
2013-12-22, 10:12 PM
Have you considered trying to get everyone to do something like roll20.net (http://roll20.net/) to resolve combats?

Rhynn
2013-12-22, 10:17 PM
Don't take this as gospel, but I think Tunnels & Trolls has something a little bit like this?

You could probably resolve a fight in one roll-off in HeroQuest, although you'd have to do some fudging with the rules... maybe the best combat ability is augmented by everyone else's combat ability or magic ability (depending on what they're doing in the fight; apply improvisational penalties for skills that don't quite fit), and the augmented abilities make a single roll-off. That'd be very deterministic, though, since depending on the groups' composition and size, one could have an advantage of several automatic success levels over the other.

But IMO cutting out Extended Contests (combat is just an Extended Contest that results in injuries and death) from HeroQuest would gut the system.

Airk
2013-12-22, 10:18 PM
Several games have abstracted combat resolution mechanics designed for use in battle when less detail is desired. Burning Wheel (and Mouse Guard as a result, and, honestly, it can be adapted to a lot of games) allow for resolution of a fight via a single opposed test (with all the usual modifiers) just as you would resolve, say, Stealth vs Perception or something. Though these are generally for one-on-one combat.

I'm not aware of any games that try to make combat both "single round" AND complicated.

jindra34
2013-12-22, 10:33 PM
If its not being fully resolved in one roll its not a single round, so I doubt (exspecially with wanting strategy and tactics which means replanning/reacting to things not going your way) a system does what you want. At least not without some redefinition. And I probably wouldn't play it anyway, because thats to likely swing or too likely to not be able to.

veti
2013-12-22, 10:55 PM
RPGs are all about "what individual characters do", so to reduce combat to that level of abstraction would be pretty tough.

I believe I've seen/played some board games that had combat mechanics that simple, but they were pitched at a tactical level: the idea was to manoeuvre and maintain your formation, rather than worrying about the fate of individual characters. A (computer) example would be 'Battle for Wesnoth'.

NichG
2013-12-22, 11:05 PM
Hm, I was ready to say 'this is a bad idea' but the PbP angle is really interesting - I can see how something like this would be necessary for that, to prevent getting bogged down in minutiae.

What about running combat and conflict in general as a bidding system? Here's an example of what I mean:

Each participant in a conflict has a certain set of goals, and certain power level which is derived from their abilities applicable to the given scenario. Each goal can be assigned a certain number of points, such that all the points add up to the total power level.

Markus and Alisandra are being attacked by the forces of the Great Kobold King, because they have invaded the kobold lair. Markus is Experienced in Tunnel Fighting (+1 power) and Is a Skilled Swordsman (+2 power). He has the following goals for this conflict:

- Retrieve treasure from the lair (2 points)
- Kill the Great Kobold King (1 point)

Alisandra is a Master of Magic (+2 power) and has the following goals:

- Retrieve treasure from the lair (1 point)
- Make sure that Markus and Alisandra both survive (1 point)

The Great Kobold King has Great Cunning (+2 power) and Superior Numbers (+2 power) and Homefield Advantage (+1 power). The forces of the Great Kobold King have the following goals:

- Drive away the invader (3pts)
- Survive the fight (1pts)
- Kill the intruders (1pts)

Now, each side can propose a trade. For example 'I will let you drive me away, but I get some treasure and we both survive'. If there is agreement at this point, the conflict is resolved.

If however there is no agreement, then both sides must offer up a sacrifice to escalate the conflict, or must accept the trade. These sacrifices would ostensibly be something that would be pre-determined as part of each character and would be part of a 'conflict track'. Each sacrifice could gain or lose a certain number of points which can be assigned to goals to shift the balance of power - these would be part of the character building system somehow, so maybe sacrifices start bad and can be upgraded to have upsides as well. For example:

Markus' conflict track for battle looks like:

1. Suffer a temporary wound in battle, reducing power in this conflict by 1.

2. Surge of emotion - you have been backed into a corner and have nothing left to lose, giving you +2 power in this conflict. You must discard goals relating to protecting your own life.

3. Permanent wound - You suffer a permanent wound of some form, but the rage gives you +2 power for this conflict.

4. Death.

The other two tracks might have some sort of similar structure.

This doesn't necessarily resolve the entire fight in one round (since there's a conflict track), but you could institute a rule that a given 'skirmish' can at most advance each side down the conflict track by one step, modelling the overall conflict with the Kobold King and the entire adventure of invading his lair.

It might be nice if instead of having this sort of lockstep advancement of the conflict track, you can basically 'offer up' a conflict advancement in exchange for forcing the enemy's hand in some particular way. I'd have to think about it a bit more. The idea would be something like 'I take a tick to force you to take a tick' or 'I take a tick to force you to discard one of your goals, but you can give in to the trade instead' or other kind of meta-mechanics.

Oracle_Hunter
2013-12-23, 12:00 AM
Primetime Adventures (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primetime_Adventures)

Whenever there's a conflict (violent or no) the Producer asks everyone to define their Stakes (i.e. what they want to accomplish) for that Scene. Then everyone draws from a deck of cards and sees whether or not they've accomplished their Stake. Resolution has a few more moving parts, but the whole Scene is settled at the end of that Conflict.

Geordnet
2013-12-23, 07:27 AM
Hm... Bidding is an interesting solution to this problem, but it doesn't appeal to my personal tastes.


What I'm looking to do really is abstract the PC's decisions in combat, such that the players don't need to supply much (if any) tactical input during the combat itself. That way, all the calculations can be done at once. They don't necessarily need to be simple calculations though - the important thing is that they can all be done at the same time by the GM without player input (which does limit complexity indirectly).

The scale of a battle which I'd be looking to resolve in one round would be roughly the size of a single encounter in D&D. (More than one round in a combat would be acceptable for big boss fights, but only them.)


Oh, and something to bear in mind is that I'd also like combat to result in the losing side retreating rather than being wiped out. And with "casualty" properly referring to "wounded", not exclusively "dead". But that's a secondary concern.

EDIT:
So, I basically want an RPG that works more like a traditional wargame. :smalltongue:

NichG
2013-12-23, 07:40 AM
Hm... Bidding is an interesting solution to this problem, but it doesn't appeal to my personal tastes.


What I'm looking to do really is abstract the PC's decisions in combat, such that the players don't need to supply much (if any) tactical input during the combat itself. That way, all the calculations can be done at once. They don't necessarily need to be simple calculations though - the important thing is that they can all be done at the same time by the GM without player input (which does limit complexity indirectly).

The scale of a battle which I'd be looking to resolve in one round would be roughly the size of a single encounter in D&D. (More than one round in a combat would be acceptable for big boss fights, but only them.)


Oh, and something to bear in mind is that I'd also like combat to result in the losing side retreating rather than being wiped out. And with "casualty" properly referring to "wounded", not exclusively "dead". But that's a secondary concern.

EDIT:
So, I basically want an RPG that works more like a traditional wargame. :smalltongue:

There's a game called 'Dominions' (1, 2, 3, or 4 depending on taste) which has big automated fantasy battles where you have to script the actions of the various units. You could make characters in that system, load them into the game, and have it evaluate the outcome.

Dominions armies tend to rout at around 25% losses, plus or minus based on circumstance (e.g. there are morale checks, different morale for units, etc).

WbtE
2013-12-23, 09:03 AM
Blood and Honor basically has single-round combat due to its incredible lethality.

0D&D and Basic combats are often (although not always) one-round affairs because one side or the other tends to break.

jindra34
2013-12-23, 09:48 AM
EDIT:
So, I basically want an RPG that works more like a traditional wargame. :smalltongue:

Strategic, wargame. Traditional tactical wargames take even longer to resolve fights because of everyone involved.

Airk
2013-12-23, 12:18 PM
Strategic, wargame. Traditional tactical wargames take even longer to resolve fights because of everyone involved.

Yeah, I was going to say "My experience with traditional wargames involves a WHOLE LOT of rolls." Heck, even some strategic wargames combat can go into multiple rounds because both sides choose when to withdraw.

But yeah, I think you're going to have to write your own, Geord, because I'm not aware of any games that have designed with this particular goal in mind, since usually it's either "Combat is important in this game and should have lots of rules and take a long time" or "Combat is not important in this game, and it uses a simple ruleset not far removed from the standard task resolution system, and shouldn't take long at all."

Honestly though, I've always found it a little bit odd that combat occupies such a disproportionate amount of time and such a heavy burden of specific rules in many games.

Geordnet
2013-12-23, 12:21 PM
Strategic, wargame. Traditional tactical wargames take even longer to resolve fights because of everyone involved.
That's why I'm looking to cut out the tactics while retaining the strategy.

(And by "traditional wargame", I don't mean miniatures. I mean like hex-and-counter wargames.)


EDIT:

Yeah, I was going to say "My experience with traditional wargames involves a WHOLE LOT of rolls." Heck, even some strategic wargames combat can go into multiple rounds because both sides choose when to withdraw.
That's very different from my experience. In very few wargames I play is withdrawal optional - retreat is almost always mandatory. Combat may take several rolls, but there is rarely any necessary* decision-making between them. In fact, even when there are multiple combats they're often all declared before any combat is resolved, so an entire battlefield's combat phase could conceivably be resolved at once.

*They deliberately put some in because otherwise it'd be boring. But these decisions could be moved to before or after all the dice are rolled without significant changes to the effect most of the time.

Slipperychicken
2013-12-23, 12:34 PM
Honestly though, I've always found it a little bit odd that combat occupies such a disproportionate amount of time and such a heavy burden of specific rules in many games.

1. I know that I want my RPGs to have good, detailed combat rules, where many maneuvers and strategies are possible.

2. Many players I've seen don't seem to like rules governing social ineraction, so I see little need to spend many resources on those.

3. And the skill systems I've seen, which try to break most non-combat actions down to a single roll or two, strike a satisfactory balance between speed and simulation which keeps the game running smoothly.

Airk
2013-12-23, 01:30 PM
1. I know that I want my RPGs to have good, detailed combat rules, where many maneuvers and strategies are possible.

2. Many players I've seen don't seem to like rules governing social ineraction, so I see little need to spend many resources on those.

3. And the skill systems I've seen, which try to break most non-combat actions down to a single roll or two, strike a satisfactory balance between speed and simulation which keeps the game running smoothly.

I think a lot of these are self fulfilling prophecies - games have 'always' done things this way, and people fear change and/or tend to be unable to think outside the box, so they want/expect games that work the way they think games are "supposed" to.

Most people who claim to "not want" social interaction rules have never actually tried even thinking about what that might involve. AND most game systems include them anyway, and people use them without complaint. They're just not given the 172 pages of stuff given to combat.

That's the really weird thing. I understand "some things are more important than others" but combat is SO disproportionately important, if importance is measured by "number of pages allocated", and then people go on and complain that "combat takes too long."

Rhynn
2013-12-23, 01:42 PM
I think a lot of these are self fulfilling prophecies - games have 'always' done things this way, and people fear change and/or tend to be unable to think outside the box, so they want/expect games that work the way they think games are "supposed" to.

Fun fact, though: D&D didn't have detailed combat rules until AD&D (and, for BECM, the Companion rules). OD&D combat rules (either system) are very simplistic, with very limited options; this, IMO, puts weight on strategic and tactical decisions.

One big reason I went with ACKS is that the combat rules are very simple, at least by comparison to the giant majority of games.

HeroQuest is a good example of a game where combat rules get no extra weight or attention: they are the exact same rules used for any Extended Contest, such as a duel of magic, a protracted negotiation, navigating heroically dangerous/difficult terrain, etc. (There's no rule for what merits an Extended Contest; it's up to the GM and players.)

Airk
2013-12-23, 01:45 PM
Fun fact, though: D&D didn't have detailed combat rules until AD&D (and, for BECM, the Companion rules). OD&D combat rules (either system) are very simplistic, with very limited options; this, IMO, puts weight on strategic and tactical decisions.

I think this only holds true if you don't count spell lists. As soon as you notice that the number of spells intended for combat is like 50% of the spell list, the ratio of "combat stuff" to "not combat stuff" shifts pretty significantly.


One big reason I went with ACKS is that the combat rules are very simple, at least by comparison to the giant majority of games.

What is ACKS? I don't know that one (at least, not by acronym.)



HeroQuest is a good example of a game where combat rules get no extra weight or attention: they are the exact same rules used for any Extended Contest, such as a duel of magic, a protracted negotiation, navigating heroically dangerous/difficult terrain, etc. (There's no rule for what merits an Extended Contest; it's up to the GM and players.)

Nice! I don't really have any experience with superhero RPGs because I've never really had any interest in superheroes.

NichG
2013-12-23, 01:53 PM
Combat naturally lends itself towards 'tactical' gameplay structures more easily than most other tasks though. Even when it comes to things like abstract strategy board games, they're usually given as a metaphor for war and battle (e.g. Chess and Go and Shogi and the like).

Its kind of intuitive to say things like 'Okay, in a fight where you are matters. How fast you move matters. How far away you can hit things matters.'

I think its harder (not impossible) to design that kind of mechanic for other scenarios, but not universally. Making a 'strategic' lockpicking mechanic, for example, would probably just feel a bit contrived.

Negotiations/social interactions do have their own strategic elements, but attempts at writing rules for them often have the feeling of resulting in something that is simpler and less nuanced than what you get by just playing it out. This is where the bias of previous iterations of game systems is crippling game design as a whole I think - too much tendency to try to combine all of social interaction into pass/fail mechanics like lockpicking, and into overt 'domination' style effects. In combat, you can kill the enemy, but the set of abilities that actually let you directly control an enemy's actions is pretty limited. The social equivalent would be, you can disgrace an enemy, but you can't just make them do what you want; instead the social 'combat' would be about generating leverage, so that the alternative to not doing what you want is crippling and also lowers their ability to influence the social scenario (e.g. 'kills' them socially).

Slipperychicken
2013-12-23, 01:54 PM
Most people who claim to "not want" social interaction rules have never actually tried even thinking about what that might involve. AND most game systems include them anyway, and people use them without complaint. They're just not given the 172 pages of stuff given to combat.


I say that because the gamers and GMs who I've played with often try not to use social resolution mechanics, prefering to "roleplay it out", and are reluctant to roll for social skills unless reminded that "it's the rules". Even then will often forgo rolling social skills except for when they're unsure as to what would happen.

ACKS is "Adventurer Conqueror King System", and it's trying to do retro hexcrawls and dungeon-crawls with an emphasis on PCs gaining power through followers, mercenaries, and eventually ruling their own lands, and the game's economic/political system which works on every level, and only makes more sense when you poke at it. I believe the website for it is called Autarch. The mechanics for things like skills and hitting people are quite simple.

Airk
2013-12-23, 02:04 PM
I say that because the gamers and GMs who I've played with often try not to use social resolution mechanics, prefering to "roleplay it out", and are reluctant to roll for social skills unless reminded that "it's the rules". Even then will often forgo rolling social skills except for when they're unsure as to what would happen.

Whereas I have always found "just roleplaying it out" to be an awful mechanic, since it means that players who are inherently good at talking can have characters with zero charisma and pass 'social conflicts' easily, while players who aren't a 'people person' can have a charisma of 18 and still not succeed because the player keeps putting their foot in their mouth.

I think it is much more interesting to let some sort of character driven system drive RESULTS, while the roleplaying is the "how did this happen".

WbtE
2013-12-23, 02:04 PM
I think this only holds true if you don't count spell lists. As soon as you notice that the number of spells intended for combat is like 50% of the spell list, the ratio of "combat stuff" to "not combat stuff" shifts pretty significantly.

The great majority of the spell list is for war. But war is largely "not combat stuff".


What is ACKS? I don't know that one (at least, not by acronym.)

I think it's "Adventurer, Conquerer, King System". Whatever the "S" stands for didn't stick in my mind.


Nice! I don't really have any experience with superhero RPGs because I've never really had any interest in superheroes.

:smallsmile: Heroquest isn't a superhero RPG.

Airk
2013-12-23, 02:07 PM
The great majority of the spell list is for war. But war is largely "not combat stuff".

I dunno; Are we still talking about early D&D editions here? Because most of the spells I remember were pretty definitively 'combat'.



:smallsmile: Heroquest isn't a superhero RPG.

Ooops. Conflated with Hero System, I think.

Rhynn
2013-12-23, 02:09 PM
What is ACKS? I don't know that one (at least, not by acronym.)

Adventurer Conqueror King System (ACKS, pronounced the same as "axe"), a Basic D&D (not BECM, but the original Basic or B/X) retroclone from Autarch.

See my sig for links!

As to the spell lists: true, in a sense, but OD&D spell lists are pretty sparse, and given that many, many, many RPGs contain much larger spell lists with more complicated rules, OD&D and B/X come out far ahead on any simplicity comparison.


Nice! I don't really have any experience with superhero RPGs because I've never really had any interest in superheroes.

HeroQuest isn't actually a superhero game, although the world of Glorantha does have SuperHeroes... :smallbiggrin:

HeroQuest (the second and later editions of Hero Wars, renamed after GW's registration of their HeroQuest trademark ran out) was originally Greg Stafford's new game for roleplaying in his venerable setting of Glorantha (published in the 70s and, much like the Forgotten Realms, with roots set further back in pre-D&D fiction). The rules were written by Robin D. Laws, and later editions are presented as generic (a bad choice, IMO).

The rules fit the setting perfectly (and this from someone who still prefers to game Glorantha with RuneQuest).

The name is actually derived from an old, old, old term originally used in the RuneQuest Glorantha material: a HeroQuest is a magical quest/journey into the Otherworlds to achieve some goal or gain power or knowledge.

And the setting does, indeed, have SuperHeroes, originally in the Chainmail sense... the wargame (White Bear, Red Moon) that was the original Gloranthan game had SuperHeroes who (with their elite retinue or boon companions) fought like entire armies and had the power to nullify magic through a connection to the Infinity Rune.

HeroQuest is a system pretty much anyone should check out, and Glorantha is a setting anyone interested in coherent fantasy with incredible mythical/mythological/metaphysical depth and breadth and verisimilitude should check out.

Airk
2013-12-23, 02:17 PM
As to the spell lists: true, in a sense, but OD&D spell lists are pretty sparse, and given that many, many, many RPGs contain much larger spell lists with more complicated rules, OD&D and B/X come out far ahead on any simplicity comparison.

I don't think it's really relevant how spare the spell lists are compared to other games. It only matters how much space the spell lists take up relative to the rest of the content in THIS game.

If the sum total of the game rules is 25 pages, for which 10 are combat and there's another 25 for spells of which 15 are combat, you have a game which is 50% combat rules and 50% EVERYTHING ELSE (including "one time" processes like chargen), even though 25 pages of spells is "sparse" compared to a lot of modern systems.

Of course, it's been a long time since I opened either AD&D 1 or BECM D&D tomes, so all numbers are invented.

Slipperychicken
2013-12-23, 02:41 PM
Whereas I have always found "just roleplaying it out" to be an awful mechanic


I didn't say it's a good thing*. That's just how I've seen people do it.

*I've had a lot of trouble personally with rolling a 30 on Diplomacy, and then I blurt out something stupid which really ought to result in failure, which confuses GMs to no end as they're forced to weight the importance of OOC roleplaying vs. in-character skill. I've resorted to not even talking IC when rolling diplomacy, just saying something like "my character uses his social skills to convince the guard to let him in, appealing to his sense of empathy and offering a bribe if that doesn't work."

NichG
2013-12-23, 03:19 PM
I didn't say it's a good thing*. That's just how I've seen people do it.

*I've had a lot of trouble personally with rolling a 30 on Diplomacy, and then I blurt out something stupid which really ought to result in failure, which confuses GMs to no end as they're forced to weight the importance of OOC roleplaying vs. in-character skill. I've resorted to not even talking IC when rolling diplomacy, just saying something like "my character uses his social skills to convince the guard to let him in, appealing to his sense of empathy abd offering a bribe if that doesn't work."

I think this is sort of a design flaw in the system on two levels. The first level is, it presents you with a skill/attribute which it claims should help you be good at social stuff, but then table culture tends to make that skill/attribute irrelevant for what they're supposed to do. If, for example, you had a system in which there were no 'social stats' or 'social skills', I don't think there'd be this dissonance to quite the same degree.

The second design flaw is the idea that a single social interaction is well-modeled by pass/fail mechanics. Part of the reason people find replacing RP with a Diplomacy check to be so distasteful is that its sort of like the social equivalent of 'lets replace the combat system with an opposed War skill check' (yes, I realize the irony of this given that's sort of what the OP is trying to do in this thread).

In a combat situation, there is an element of player skill in the selection of the character's actions - the character has 'abilities' and the player's intelligence deploys those abilities in order to win the fight. Ideally, social mechanics should not interfere with the complexity of real social interactions or replace the player's abilities, but instead should augment the player's abilities and provide an arsenal of tools for the player to use.

An example would be an ability that gives a player access to the detailed emotional response of an NPC as a result of each word they say - basically a perfect cold read. Another example would be an ability that lets a player retract the last thing they said after seeing the NPC's response and then re-say it. They don't replace the player's socialization ability, but they augment it.

Oracle_Hunter
2013-12-23, 04:04 PM
Most RPGs I've read have their rounds representing a few seconds each, and each battle ends up being several rounds long.

Well, I wanted to know if there were any systems out there in which combat is a single round. As in: total up the stuff on each side, roll some dice, look up some tables and BOOM, the combat's over. I mean, I don't want it to be abstracted out to the point of pass/fail testing on a single number, I still want strategy to matter, I'm just looking for some streamlining.

I ask since combat seems to be the most difficult part of PbP games, and I was wondering if there was a better way.
Since this thing doesn't really exist, I'm going to try to make you a bespoke mechanic for it.

So, here are (what I gather) the things that you want:
(1) Combat that requires every participant to contribute information ONCE before resolving the entire combat.

(2) Strategic decisions (e.g. move/countermove that governs the entire conflict) are important.

(3) Battles end with one side Retreating but injuries being passed out on both sides.
So, aside from judging whether or not this covers all you're looking for, I have additional questions:

- How "strategic" do you want those decisions to be? Are we talking about Rock-Paper-Scissors each combat or the sort of decisions that affect the course of a series of combats after being made once? If both, what mixture do you want?

- If battles usually end with one side Retreating (which means many, many more combats before a decisive outcome) then what sort of circumstances govern whether the losing side is wiped out?

Once I have these answers, I shall continue :smallsmile:

Rhynn
2013-12-23, 04:06 PM
If the sum total of the game rules is 25 pages, for which 10 are combat and there's another 25 for spells of which 15 are combat, you have a game which is 50% combat rules and 50% EVERYTHING ELSE (including "one time" processes like chargen), even though 25 pages of spells is "sparse" compared to a lot of modern systems.

I'm pretty sure OD&D comes out to ~90 pages between the three books, and has maybe 4 pages of spells? I'm AFB so I can't check. It's slightly increased in BECM.

ACKS, for instance, is 254 pages (excluding sheets, index, etc. at the back), and this is a partial break-down...

Characters (creating, classes, etc.) 23 pages
Equipment 17 pages (equipment list 7-8 pages, followers & henchmen 6 pages)
Proficiencies 10 pages (list 9 pages)
Magic rules 4 pages
Spell index 21 pages
Adventuring rules 25 pages (combat, including surprise and evasions & pursuit, morale, saving throws, and sea combat, is 16 pages)
Campaign rules 32 pages
GM secrets 27 pages

Obviously, ACKS has a lot more pages than its grandfather (B/X D&D), but it's a great example of the principle in action.

Airk
2013-12-23, 04:43 PM
I didn't say it's a good thing*. That's just how I've seen people do it.

Right. Which is exactly what I'm trying to say here - lots of people are using a bad method for this stuff, probably in part because they've never tried anything else, or even thought too heavily about why they found a particular game session unsatisfying.

I guess really what I'm trying to say is that many RPG gamers are creatures of habit, and don't tend to think too much about their hobby. The way they do things is informed more by what they are "used to" than what the "right" way to handle something is, or, for that matter, what might actually be the MOST FUN way for them to do that thing. Then they come on the internet and argue that the only game they've played in the past decade does everything GREAT. Even though last session it was completely weird when...

Oh well. Rant off. Sorry for the derail. I'm curious to see what comes out of attempts to create this system.

veti
2013-12-23, 04:49 PM
I don't think it's really relevant how spare the spell lists are compared to other games. It only matters how much space the spell lists take up relative to the rest of the content in THIS game.

If the sum total of the game rules is 25 pages, for which 10 are combat and there's another 25 for spells of which 15 are combat, you have a game which is 50% combat rules and 50% EVERYTHING ELSE (including "one time" processes like chargen), even though 25 pages of spells is "sparse" compared to a lot of modern systems.

By that metric, I'm pretty sure AD&D was quite light on combat. The first half of the Player's Handbook was entirely given over to character building, the second half was the spell lists. The first half of the DMG was mostly about world building, the second half was mostly magic item descriptions.

Combat rules and tables - were just a handful of pages in the middle of each book.

But still, the game was overwhelmingly about combat. All those magic items were 'loot'. All that character building was about 'abilities that mostly got used in combat'. All that world building was about 'how the PCs get from one combat to another'. OK, I'm exaggerating slightly - but only slightly.

Geordnet
2013-12-23, 05:28 PM
Since this thing doesn't really exist, I'm going to try to make you a bespoke mechanic for it.

So, here are (what I gather) the things that you want:
(1) Combat that requires every participant to contribute information ONCE before resolving the entire combat.

(2) Strategic decisions (e.g. move/countermove that governs the entire conflict) are important.

(3) Battles end with one side Retreating but injuries being passed out on both sides.
You've got (1) and (3) right, but in (2) you seem to be mixing up strategy with tactics. I don't care about the specific moves and countermoves that occur during a skirmish, only the end result.

By strategy, I mean the planning that happens before a battle. Stuff like positioning, surprise, having some sort of battle plan and the tools (and skills) to carry it out.


- How "strategic" do you want those decisions to be? Are we talking about Rock-Paper-Scissors each combat or the sort of decisions that affect the course of a series of combats after being made once? If both, what mixture do you want?
I'm looking for something more complex (and subtle) than either. Basically, what I want if for there to be some thought to put into picking and choosing battles; knowing why you're fighting (even if it's just "get loot"). So, there has to be some reason why to put thought into it.

(EDIT: Hm... I've realized too much need for planning could bog down a game as well, especially if the players start arguing about it. But that just makes it a balancing act.)


- If battles usually end with one side Retreating (which means many, many more combats before a decisive outcome) then what sort of circumstances govern whether the losing side is wiped out?
Um, unless your task is specifically "kill this one guy" (in which case it makes sense that you have to corner him) then a retreat is a decisive outcome, isn't it?

(EDIT2: Also, that's a good example of the sort of strategy I'm talking about - attempting to assassinate a single individual.)

NichG
2013-12-23, 05:45 PM
Yeah, watch out for planning. I've had quite a few game sessions where more time was spent planning for a strike than the strike itself took to carry out, and that was an in-person game.

Of course, you might be able to encourage the players to plan privately via Skype/PMs and set a hard deadline for coming to a final decision of what to do (e.g. 'every week on Friday night at 8pm PST, if we aren't in the middle of resolving an event then the timeline advances by X').

Oracle_Hunter
2013-12-23, 05:52 PM
By strategy, I mean the planning that happens before a battle. Stuff like positioning, surprise, having some sort of battle plan and the tools (and skills) to carry it out.

I'm looking for something more complex (and subtle) than either. Basically, what I want if for there to be some thought to put into picking and choosing battles; knowing why you're fighting (even if it's just "get loot"). So, there has to be some reason why to put thought into it.

(EDIT: Hm... I've realized too much need for planning could bog down a game as well, especially if the players start arguing about it. But that just makes it a balancing act.)


Um, unless your task is specifically "kill this one guy" (in which case it makes sense that you have to corner him) then a retreat is a decisive outcome, isn't it?
So your definition of "strategy" is helpful but doesn't really jive with party-based combat. Additionally, if there's no move/countermove then the strategy becomes very boring: you just do the best thing every time and hope your opponent doesn't do the same.

For example, a game where you just attack with surprise from the high ground every battle is boring -- it hardly requires the term "strategy." But if you have a mechanic where you can, say, sucker your opponent into attacking from the high ground while you use Turtle Tactics (+big v. High Ground, -big v. Everything else) then the Players do have to do some thinking.

The other "strategic" concerns (e.g. supply lines, reserves, scouting) just don't really make sense when you're a bunch of adventurers against the world.

So, I need to hear more about what sort of "strategy" you really want to see (a specific scenario ideally) or what sort of RPG you'd like to have (where platoon-sized concerns are relevant).

* * *

The reason that a living enemy is not decisively defeated is that they can come back and harry your PCs. Additionally, the PCs can come back after retreating. So you need a way to deal with Annihilation for those reasons, if not also to deal with Cultists, Robots, Undead and other things that need to be totally wiped out.

So yeah, noodle on that one too :smallsmile:

Slipperychicken
2013-12-23, 06:59 PM
The reason that a living enemy is not decisively defeated is that they can come back and harry your PCs. Additionally, the PCs can come back after retreating. So you need a way to deal with Annihilation for those reasons, if not also to deal with Cultists, Robots, Undead and other things that need to be totally wiped out.

Many dnd games tend to ignore basic morale issues like people feeling awful after watching their comrades get slaughtered, or being sufficiently demoralized that they don't come back to fight again. That leads to GMs leading survivors to immediately return and fight again (even in extremely chaotic routs from which no one would recover), and players feeling like they need to kill everyone who opposes them.

This is why I feel like morale rolls need to be a thing.

NichG
2013-12-23, 07:15 PM
Routing can also make for a more interesting plotline overall. The game mechanics supporting recurring villains and the ability to run away when outmatched is really a plus. Also, it means that 'lets just go find them and kill them' isn't always the easy answer to a problem of an enemy force, something which can work in favor of both the PCs and the enemies. It means that conflicts will more likely be taking place in locations where there is a secondary objective and will tend to focus more on those objectives than on the 'kill all the enemy and worry about the details later'.

E.g. lets say you knew you had a 90% chance of surviving a CR+5 fight, even if you only had a 5% chance of winning it. If there were some other thing you wanted to achieve (steal the treasure) you might take a shot at the fight, hoping to achieve your secondary objective before the CR+5 stuff could squash you.

If on the other hand you knew you basically had to win the fight to get anything from it, then there's nothing to be done in that situation.

WbtE
2013-12-23, 09:06 PM
I dunno; Are we still talking about early D&D editions here? Because most of the spells I remember were pretty definitively 'combat'.

That might reflect playstyle. Looking at the AD&D lists, they're maybe 20% combat spells, and that only if edge cases like Sleep are included. Although one could be forgiven for glancing at the titles and assuming that some of the war spells are combat spells due to changes in later editions. Let me assure you, however, that anything that takes 10 minutes to cast is going to be no use in a pick-up fight! :smallwink:

Slipperychicken
2013-12-23, 09:59 PM
E.g. lets say you knew you had a 90% chance of surviving a CR+5 fight, even if you only had a 5% chance of winning it.

Of course, if you know a monster's stats well enough that you can accurately calculate a chance of victory, you have enough information that you shouldn't lose.

Oracle_Hunter
2013-12-23, 10:02 PM
Many dnd games tend to ignore basic morale issues like people feeling awful after watching their comrades get slaughtered, or being sufficiently demoralized that they don't come back to fight again. That leads to GMs leading survivors to immediately return and fight again (even in extremely chaotic routs from which no one would recover), and players feeling like they need to kill everyone who opposes them.

This is why I feel like morale rolls need to be a thing.
And they can be, but as a rule it's not a mechanic that fit so well when you're invading someone's home and taking their stuff.

Would the Goblins like to run away? Sure, but the adventurers just kicked down their front door and are looting all their useful stuff. In that sort of situation you either get the "Nice Job Breaking It Hero" (e.g. you completely demoralized the goblins. Do you still feel justified in taking their stuff?) or the "War is Hell" (you are so terrifying that the ferocious monsters are now hiding in a corner. Feeling heroic yet?).

Personally, I wouldn't bother to systematize morale for a Dungeon Crawling game, since the DM can just have monsters run when he feels it would be appropriate. That said, if Geordnet wants it, he can have it :smallsmile:

Slipperychicken
2013-12-23, 10:15 PM
Would the Goblins like to run away? Sure, but the adventurers just kicked down their front door and are looting all their useful stuff.

I mean, defenders rout and surrender sometimes. The goblins would likely get a "defending my home" bonus, and maybe some modification for "nowhere to run".



In that sort of situation you either get the "Nice Job Breaking It Hero" (e.g. you completely demoralized the goblins. Do you still feel justified in taking their stuff?) or the "War is Hell" (you are so terrifying that the ferocious monsters are now hiding in a corner. Feeling heroic yet?).

To be fair though, the only reason this makes us feel bad is because fear humanizes the goblins. It's not like murdering them first is somehow morally superior to just mugging them.

veti
2013-12-23, 10:31 PM
Pretty sure there were actual rules for monster morale in basic D&D/AD&D.

Yep, there were (http://mathofoldschooldandd.blogspot.co.nz/2012/09/ad-morale-versus-d-morale.html).

Oracle_Hunter
2013-12-23, 10:36 PM
To be fair though, the only reason this makes us feel bad is because fear humanizes the goblins. It's not like murdering them first is somehow morally superior to just mugging them.
Well, humanization is important :smallsmile:

Additionally, you can say it's morally justified to take down a rabid dog. The reason the "clear out the goblins" Quest is so popular is because the goblins have been preying on a local community and will not leave regardless of threats or reason. If instead you have a party sweep through the Goblin Warrens to encounter a room filled with demoralized goblins from every previous encounter... well, that's a very different picture.

Slipperychicken
2013-12-23, 10:37 PM
Pretty sure there were actual rules for monster morale in basic D&D/AD&D.

Yep, there were (http://mathofoldschooldandd.blogspot.co.nz/2012/09/ad-morale-versus-d-morale.html).

I know there were. I just feel like they should be the default rather than a variant rule.


The reason the "clear out the goblins" Quest is so popular is because the goblins have been preying on a local community and will not leave regardless of threats or reason. If instead you have a party sweep through the Goblin Warrens to encounter a room filled with demoralized goblins from every previous encounter... well, that's a very different picture.

On the plus side, demoralized goblins will hopefully be more willing to consider offers to leave the warren and escape with their lives. Or else the heroes will finish the job, of course.



I guess really what I'm trying to say is that many RPG gamers are creatures of habit, and don't tend to think too much about their hobby. The way they do things is informed more by what they are "used to" than what the "right" way to handle something is, or, for that matter, what might actually be the MOST FUN way for them to do that thing. Then they come on the internet and argue that the only game they've played in the past decade does everything GREAT. Even though last session it was completely weird when...


There are actually a few heuristics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heuristic)* at work here, and they apply to almost everyone, not just gamers. Mostly escalation of commitment and probably anchoring seem to be responsible for this sort of valuation.


*(Heuristics are predictable ways in which human decision making consistently varies from rational decision models)

Another_Poet
2013-12-23, 11:01 PM
I have two ideas for you, and in many ways they're completely different.


What I'm looking to do really is abstract the PC's decisions in combat, such that the players don't need to supply much (if any) tactical input during the combat itself. That way, all the calculations can be done at once. They don't necessarily need to be simple calculations though - the important thing is that they can all be done at the same time by the GM without player input (which does limit complexity indirectly).

Makes sense. Idea #1:

At the beginning of combat, each player decides 5 rounds worth of actions they will take. They should post them in order, with the rounds clearly marked, but all in a single post. That way they don't know the results of earlier die rolls to decide later actions.

Starting in Round 3, they have one conditional they can use.

Additionally, they have one "emergency" contingency, i.e. what their character would do if about to die.

It would look something like this:


Round 1.
Charge the orc with the axe. (Rolls)

Round 2.
Standard: attack the same orc. (Rolls)
Move: Stay by him if needed.

Round 3.
Standard: Attack that same orc! (rolls)
Move: 5' step away from nearest enemy if needed.

Round 4.
CONDITIONAL: If that orc is dead, my next target is the shaman. If not, same target.
Standard: Attack (rolls)
Move: Move if needed

Round 5.
Standard: Attack (rolls)
Move: Move if needed

Emergency: If about to die I Withdraw toward the cleric (if possible) or away from battle entirely.

Here's a more complex set for a caster:

Round 1:
Move: I move behind the stalagmite
Standard: I cast Shield.

Round 2:
Full: I cast Summon Monster II.

Round 3:
My monster appears. I choose 1d3 celestial wolves (rolls d3). Here are their stats (gives link). I place them as far forward on the battlefield as I can see from my position.
Move: I move out from the stalagmite and toward the cleric.
Standard: I cast Magic Missile on whoever is menacing the Fighter. (Rolls)

Wolf 1: attempts to flank with the rogue. Attacks rogue's target. (Rolls)
Wolf 2 if any: attacks anything between me and the cleric. (Rolls)
Wolf 3 if any: joins the rogue and wolf 1 and attacks same target (rolls)

CONDITIONAL: If melee opponents have converged on me all wolves instead move to defend me. This condition remains throughout the fight.

Round 4:
Move: Move to the cleric's side.
Standard: Cast Color spray if can hit multiple targets, otherwise do not cast.

Wolf 1: Continues to help the rogue (Rolls)
Wolf 2: Readies action to charge an enemy who approaches me (Rolls)
Wolf 3: Helps rogue. (Rolls)

Round 5:
Move: Draw crossbow
Standard: Fire crossbow at an enemy, preferring a clear shot if possible

Wolf 1: Helps rogue (rolls)
Wolf 2: Same readied action (rolls)
Wolf 3: Helps rogue (rolls)

EMERGENCY: I will drink my Potion of Invisibility and get outta Dodge

This not only speeds up combat, it also better mimics the chaos and confusion of battle. Sometimes, you run over somewhere hoping to do something, and when you get there there's nothing to do.

It also relies on some cooperation, though. If a caster says they'll cast a Fireball, it's up to you to place it in a way that makes the most sense once that action actually comes up. Likewise, sometimes a planned action no longer makes sense, and it's up to you whether you put in a fitting substitute that keeps the same basic intention (attacking Orc #2 instead of Orc #1, for example).

Sometimes a planned action will be so far off the mark that the character essentially just loses an action; that's just part of the method.

Otherwise...


Oh, and something to bear in mind is that I'd also like combat to result in the losing side retreating rather than being wiped out. And with "casualty" properly referring to "wounded", not exclusively "dead".

Idea #2

Change how hit points work.

HP: 1 HD + Con bonus + 1 per level

(A fighter would be 10 + Con + level)

Reaching 0 hits means you are wounded and out of the fight. Does not result in death unless you are not tended.

That would drastically reduce the duration of fights.

Geordnet
2013-12-23, 11:34 PM
So your definition of "strategy" is helpful but doesn't really jive with party-based combat. Additionally, if there's no move/countermove then the strategy becomes very boring: you just do the best thing every time and hope your opponent doesn't do the same.
Only if there can reliably do the "best thing" every time, if there is even a "best thing"; which is a sign of poor game design.

Strategy is the art of maneuvering to get into an advantageous position as possible before you strike. Baiting your opponent into an inferior position like you describe below is one such maneuver.



The other "strategic" concerns (e.g. supply lines, reserves, scouting) just don't really make sense when you're a bunch of adventurers against the world.
Assuming that's all you want to do.

Having an in-built capacity for mass combat resolution is only a good thing in my eyes. It's friggen' cool to march to battle with an army at your back. :smalltongue:



So, I need to hear more about what sort of "strategy" you really want to see (a specific scenario ideally) or what sort of RPG you'd like to have (where platoon-sized concerns are relevant).
I mentioned one case before: targeting an individual for assassination. Another has been brought up by a different poster: the "snatch and grab" or "hit and run" operation. A third example would be trying to capture the enemy alive. Yet more would be "hold at all costs", "escort/guard", et cetera. There are undoubtedly more I haven't thought of.


The reason that a living enemy is not decisively defeated is that they can come back and harry your PCs.
Someone who just ran away from a fight should be in no condition to return to one.


Additionally, the PCs can come back after retreating.
This is a good thing. They can have a second go at fighting an enemy they just barely lost against.


So you need a way to deal with Annihilation for those reasons, if not also to deal with Cultists, Robots, Undead and other things that need to be totally wiped out.
Cultists are (usually) human too, while the truly brainless should be an exception to the normal rule (I've usually seen things that don't retreat take extra casualties instead). It's acceptable for there to be a rare case of multi-round combat in cases where the losing side can't (or won't) retreat, as long as they are firmly the exception.



And they can be, but as a rule it's not a mechanic that fit so well when you're invading someone's home and taking their stuff.

Would the Goblins like to run away? Sure, but the adventurers just kicked down their front door and are looting all their useful stuff. In that sort of situation you either get the "Nice Job Breaking It Hero" (e.g. you completely demoralized the goblins. Do you still feel justified in taking their stuff?) or the "War is Hell" (you are so terrifying that the ferocious monsters are now hiding in a corner. Feeling heroic yet?).
This is a good thing. :smallyuk:

If you want a foe with no moral repercussions for fighting, use an explicitly magical creature like undead or demons. (Or old-olde-school goblins, which were malevolent spirits.)

Oracle_Hunter
2013-12-24, 12:11 AM
Well, I can't say you weren't responsive :smalltongue:

Only if there can reliably do the "best thing" every time, if there is even a "best thing"; which is a sign of poor game design.

Strategy is the art of maneuvering to get into an advantageous position as possible before you strike. Baiting your opponent into an inferior position like you describe below is one such maneuver.
Well, so long as you say having a strictly best thing to do every time is bad game design I can freely impose good game design then :smallbiggrin:


I mentioned one case before: targeting an individual for assassination. Another has been brought up by a different poster: the "snatch and grab" or "hit and run" operation. A third example would be trying to capture the enemy alive. Yet more would be "hold at all costs", "escort/guard", et cetera. There are undoubtedly more I haven't thought of.
So yeah, this isn't so much "combat in one round" as "scenario in one round." Designing a mechanic to resolve a stand-up fight in one round is very different from one that resolves something as complicated as an Assassination Op or even a Convoy.

Good to know.


Someone who just ran away from a fight should be in no condition to return to one.
So the "retreating" enemy is effectively dead then? You don't want to worry about retreating forces bringing in reserves, spoiling a surprise, or even just getting magical healing and popping in at the next choke point?

If so, I'm not sure why you care whether the enemy has "retreated" or died, save that it lets the PCs cheat (i.e. they can keep fighting after "retreating").

* * *

While I'd like clarification on the points I raised above, I've basically got enough to get started.

First, I'm going to explicitly divide the resolution mechanic into "squad size" and "army size." While I'll only be detailing the "Squad Size" mechanics, the reason here is to permit the mechanic to scale up, like Geordnet desires.

Each Conflict is presented with the following information:
- What the PCs want to accomplish ("The Goal")
- What resources they are bringing to bear
- Miscellaneous modifiers unique to the scenario (e.g. day/night, weather)

Each PC counts as an Action Unit -- they can do one thing to accomplish the Goal. Any additional hirelings can act as their own Action Units (at usually lesser effectiveness) or be lead by a PC to bolster their action.

If time permits, the PCs may attempt a Planning Phase before the action: another single-round event that permits them to gather intel, alter the environment (e.g. start a rumor, build fortifications). Again, Action Units limit the total number of things that can be attempted during the Planning Phase.

The Mission Phase permits the Players to set up their attack to best take advantage of the circumstances. Here we'll need a whole set of new abilities to describe how good different characters are at doing things -- and even what they can do. Wally the Wizard won't know how to organize a Pike Square, but Fredrich the Fighter certainly does.

After The Plan is constructed, the DM has a whole lot of rolling to do. He checks to see if each part of the Plan succeeds or fails (which modifies the chance to succeed at the Goal) while seeing how the Bad Guys' preparations affect the likelihood of success for any given portion. For example, if Terry the Thief wanted to sneak in and free the prisoners under cover of battle, he might have a problem if the Goblins set up Watch Worgs to prevent just that sort of maneuver. Of course, if Terry knew about the Worgs and sent Rachel the Ranger to quietly put them down then he'd have a much better time of it.

Once the DM does the rolling, he has to tell The Tale of the Tape: how each Action Unit did, how many casualties were dealt out, and whether The Goal was achieved or not.

Note, of course, you can flip this mechanic around to deal with Bad Guys assaulting PC positions.

* * *

As I hope you can see, you can't just bolt this on to D&D and hope that it'll work. You'll need support for this scale of action from the character building stage up.

Thoughts? :smallsmile:

Thrudd
2013-12-24, 12:19 AM
It sounds like we should be looking at strategy board games rather than RPG's for ideas on how to accomplish this.
A very rough idea of how something like this would work: Each party in the combat would need to have values for attack power, defense, and HP. This could be derived from the combined values of each individual in the party based on their individual levels, class and equipment. Modifiers will be applied pre-die roll for terrain, and surprise/initiative. Some spells might need to be declared pre-combat roll to add a modifier, others might be able to be declared post-roll to alter the outcome. You can have as detailed a table as you want for determining the outcome, because ultimately it is only one roll.
One roll determines the victor of the combat. The degree of victory and exact outcome could be determined either by the numerical result of the roll, the difference between the attack roll and the defense value, or rolled for on a separate table with detailed outcome possibilities like fought to the death, route, fighting retreat, surrender. Depending on the type of enemy being faced and the situation, there will be modifiers to the outcome. Perhaps there will be a combined damage roll for each side, again modified by the degree of victory. Sometimes a battle will be a near thing, with both sides taking heavy damage before one side is killed or retreats. Other times, it is a massacre with one side taking very little damage. Each side distributes damage among individual units as they want.
This type of combat system could be much more dangerous for the players, as once they make the decision to engage in combat there is no going back. Of course, perhaps there is a modifier in there where if one side is significantly more powerful than the other, there will be a high chance that the weaker party will flee the combat. So a party who engages with an unfamiliar monster that turns out to be above their ability has a greater chance of fleeing the combat before too much damage is done.
I feel to get the greatest amount of detail in this you would need to use percentage dice, and several tables for different conditions and situations. This is completely doable for PbP, since the time spent consulting the charts will not be wasting play time. The outcome of the combat can be determined and consulted and described in one post, following the players declaring their approach to the battle.

Rhynn
2013-12-24, 12:22 AM
I guess really what I'm trying to say is that many RPG gamers are creatures of habit, and don't tend to think too much about their hobby.

I think this is absolutely true. As far as I can tell, most roleplayers never even think about things like "how are narrative duties shared at the table?" etc., which many "less-mainstream" RPGs take as core questions. This was painfully obvious at The Forge's "RPG workshop" forum, where 90% of new threads, up to the very end, were "I've only ever played D&D and want to make my own RPG"... :smalleek:

Geordnet
2013-12-24, 04:23 PM
So the "retreating" enemy is effectively dead then? You don't want to worry about retreating forces bringing in reserves, spoiling a surprise, or even just getting magical healing and popping in at the next choke point?

If so, I'm not sure why you care whether the enemy has "retreated" or died, save that it lets the PCs cheat (i.e. they can keep fighting after "retreating").
Mostly for realism's sake, but I don't understand why you seemed to assume that routed units just disappear.

Also, there's a difference between "Retreat" and "Rout". If you're Routing, you're Broken. You're panicked and can't think straight; the number one thing in your mind is "GET THE **** OUT OF HERE!!!", and its overwhelming your other thoughts. Broken foes are effectively out of the picture for the immediate future, long enough to accomplish most basic objectives (including "Run them down!").

It's possible to Rally if broken, but only if one is either very disciplined or encounters allies to rally behind. One can also Retreat without breaking, either according to skirmish tactics or (again) through extreme discipline. None of these should be guaranteed, though; and such high discipline should be a rare exception to the rule (as in, exclusively for named characters and elite professional soldiers).

Oh, and cornered foes should always fight to the death or surrender; and one can naturally recover from being broken after enough hours and/or miles away from the fighting. In the meantime, they can certainly make a lot of noise and alert others that something's up.


Side note:
Assume there's no such thing as instant magical healing below "literal demigod" levels of power. I never liked that mechanic.



First, I'm going to explicitly divide the resolution mechanic into "squad size" and "army size." While I'll only be detailing the "Squad Size" mechanics, the reason here is to permit the mechanic to scale up, like Geordnet desires.
Sounds like a good idea, since not everybody needs the army rules.


As I hope you can see, you can't just bolt this on to D&D and hope that it'll work. You'll need support for this scale of action from the character building stage up.
No, one certainly can't just bolt this onto D&D. :smalltongue:


While I'd like clarification on the points I raised above, I've basically got enough to get started.

Each Conflict is presented with the following information:
- What the PCs want to accomplish ("The Goal")
- What resources they are bringing to bear
- Miscellaneous modifiers unique to the scenario (e.g. day/night, weather)

Each PC counts as an Action Unit -- they can do one thing to accomplish the Goal. Any additional hirelings can act as their own Action Units (at usually lesser effectiveness) or be lead by a PC to bolster their action.

If time permits, the PCs may attempt a Planning Phase before the action: another single-round event that permits them to gather intel, alter the environment (e.g. start a rumor, build fortifications). Again, Action Units limit the total number of things that can be attempted during the Planning Phase.

The Mission Phase permits the Players to set up their attack to best take advantage of the circumstances. Here we'll need a whole set of new abilities to describe how good different characters are at doing things -- and even what they can do. Wally the Wizard won't know how to organize a Pike Square, but Fredrich the Fighter certainly does.

After The Plan is constructed, the DM has a whole lot of rolling to do. He checks to see if each part of the Plan succeeds or fails (which modifies the chance to succeed at the Goal) while seeing how the Bad Guys' preparations affect the likelihood of success for any given portion. For example, if Terry the Thief wanted to sneak in and free the prisoners under cover of battle, he might have a problem if the Goblins set up Watch Worgs to prevent just that sort of maneuver. Of course, if Terry knew about the Worgs and sent Rachel the Ranger to quietly put them down then he'd have a much better time of it.

Once the DM does the rolling, he has to tell The Tale of the Tape: how each Action Unit did, how many casualties were dealt out, and whether The Goal was achieved or not.

Note, of course, you can flip this mechanic around to deal with Bad Guys assaulting PC positions.

Thoughts? :smallsmile:
That sounds like an excellent way to frame the combat mechanics into the greater game. I especially like the way it manages to blend roleplay into strategic and even tactical decisions within the combat itself.

With all the calculations done in a single chunk, I think the system would do well by having computer-assistance integrated from the very beginning. That way, the computations could be as complex as we want, so long as the I/O is reasonably simple. In fact, if the UI is polished enough it could be fun to play this even in person. :smallbiggrin:

I also liked the idea of scaling through use of entirely separate tiers of simulation. We could use different scales for the adventurers acting by themselves vs. as part of a larger force, and even break it back down to a more conventional move/countermove exclusively for climatic duels.


In fact, I like this so much that I wonder if a similar framework could be applied to non-combat situations. For instance, say the PCs split up for a day off in town. They each lay out what their basic plans are for the day: some may browse the market, others head off to the pub, one may keep training, and a few just relax. All this goes together and a bunch of rolls are made, and then the DM reads off the day's results. Perhaps some of them hear rumors, others stumbled onto an opportunity; all in semi-random groups or individually. Perhaps someone tries to steal from the party, or approaches them with a job offer.

Now, there could be retroactive decision-making involved with this, or... Perhaps the game makes these (relatively minor) decisions for the PCs? It's a trickier line to tread than in combat, I know; but it could allow for trimming some more of the minutiae that slows a game down. (Specifically, I'm thinking of situations where only one or two people are doing something, and the rest of the party has to wait for them to finish. This problem exists elsewhere, but it's significantly magnified in PbP.)

Also... Sometimes having a character's actions arbitrated might be good for roleplay. In these cases, the player just needs to figure out why the PC did what they did (hopefully leading to more complex characters). Of course, this is an extremely fine line to tread, and we should err on the side of caution.



It sounds like we should be looking at strategy board games rather than RPG's for ideas on how to accomplish this.
I think we'll need to draw inspiration from both in order to make this work - and also from more exotic sources, like RTS games. As there's no known precedent for what we're trying to do, we'll need all the ideas we can get.


2

One idea which I had for baseline mechanics involves rolling lots of dice and counting ones which hit a certain target as "successes". If each individual "unit" (a character at small-scale, or a formation at large-scale) has number of dice for three basic stats (offense, defense, morale) and these dice could be modified (in number or success rate) according to circumstance, then all dice belonging to all units in a conflict could be rolled at once.

The number of successes on each side would then be counted up and compared. The victor would be determined by who had more successes overall and/or per category. Casualties suffered would be determined from the number of Offense successes done by enemies, Defensive successes of allies, Defensive successes of individual units, and other factors.

Going into the battle each unit would have a set tactical stance, which basically says what that unit intends to do and how it will react to unforeseen circumstances. This could be quite complex and consist of multiple parts, since it's pretty much the only way for the players to direct their characters' actions during the battle itself. (I'm imagining them in terms of cards which can be layered on top of each other, each having a specific effect on the flow of battle and the way the rolls are interpreted.)

As a side note, wounds would (by default) severely limit one's ability to fight on, reducing available dice and such. There's also the possibility to make things worse by straining yourself if you roll too many of the best possible number.

NichG
2013-12-24, 06:54 PM
Geordnet, one thing I should ask - how big are the forces on each side? Are we actually talking army vs army here, or is it more like the usual tabletop skirmish battles?

Oracle_Hunter
2013-12-24, 09:08 PM
In fact, I like this so much that I wonder if a similar framework could be applied to non-combat situations. For instance, say the PCs split up for a day off in town. They each lay out what their basic plans are for the day: some may browse the market, others head off to the pub, one may keep training, and a few just relax. All this goes together and a bunch of rolls are made, and then the DM reads off the day's results. Perhaps some of them hear rumors, others stumbled onto an opportunity; all in semi-random groups or individually. Perhaps someone tries to steal from the party, or approaches them with a job offer.

Now, there could be retroactive decision-making involved with this, or... Perhaps the game makes these (relatively minor) decisions for the PCs? It's a trickier line to tread than in combat, I know; but it could allow for trimming some more of the minutiae that slows a game down. (Specifically, I'm thinking of situations where only one or two people are doing something, and the rest of the party has to wait for them to finish. This problem exists elsewhere, but it's significantly magnified in PbP.)

Also... Sometimes having a character's actions arbitrated might be good for roleplay. In these cases, the player just needs to figure out why the PC did what they did (hopefully leading to more complex characters). Of course, this is an extremely fine line to tread, and we should err on the side of caution.
Well yes, you asked me to make you an elephant-gun of a mechanic so you might as well shoot elephants :smallamused:

But yes, giving the DM more narrative control of the game is more-or-less essential to achieve the aims of the mechanic in any case. To keep the DM on-track it is important for each Action Unit to describe their Intention as well as their Action.

Now, as a rule, I wouldn't use the mechanic to produce new situations in the "middle" of the Scenario (e.g. someone robbing from a PC) because those are the sorts of situations that the PCs (rightfully) feel like they should have some say. As a rule, Players don't care how they assassinate some Worgs so long as they do assassinate the Worgs; deciding how to deal with a theft has a broader decision tree (e.g. pursue, report to guards, ignore, get information on thief).

That said, you could easily include an Unexpected Development mechanic (what the Forge refers to as a Bang (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sorcerer_%28role-playing_game%29#Bang)) in which a specific Player may have to undergo a "mini-Scenario" on the fly that can affect the outcome of the larger one.

* * *

As far as your suggestion goes, it treads too far into the Wargaming sphere. For one, more troops would always be better -- which is antithetical to the "special forces" school of adventurers. Additionally, no Player is going to want to boil the sum total of their character into a single die which has a variety of pluses and minuses. Remember, in a RPG you want the Players to be close-in on the action; move them too far away and they stop playing roles, and start rolling plays.

That said, I can flesh this out a bit more if you're interested. It so happens I'm working on a similar "planning/mission" mechanic for my Real Robots Game, Days of Blood & Chrome (http://oraclehunter.wordpress.com/about/) so I'd be happy to spend more time thinking about it :smallsmile:

erikun
2013-12-24, 11:06 PM
You could probably resolve a fight in one roll-off in HeroQuest, although you'd have to do some fudging with the rules... maybe the best combat ability is augmented by everyone else's combat ability or magic ability (depending on what they're doing in the fight; apply improvisational penalties for skills that don't quite fit), and the augmented abilities make a single roll-off. That'd be very deterministic, though, since depending on the groups' composition and size, one could have an advantage of several automatic success levels over the other.
Actually, HeroQuest 2nd ed. does have the ability to resolve conflicts (including potentially combat) in a single roll. Mismatched and Graduated Goals on page 84/85 gives rules and an example. One big problem is that resolutions could be potentially anything, and so (as the example shows) "Kill them" could be a valid resolution, although only on a major or better victory. You'd want to decide on just what is allowed to be a valid goal.

Single rolls for an entire team would be just as easy as a single roll for an individual. Just have the other characters augment one person, and roll that number for the contest. (You can even bypass the rolls needed for augments - page 55 in the Quick Augments box.)

I do love how useful the HeroQuest system is. :smallsmile:

Geordnet
2013-12-25, 03:53 PM
Geordnet, one thing I should ask - how big are the forces on each side? Are we actually talking army vs army here, or is it more like the usual tabletop skirmish battles?
Both, hypothetically. Scalability is one of the design goals.

Primary scale must be able to handle a single group of adventurers; although there isn't any proscribed size for the opposing force.


2

Well yes, you asked me to make you an elephant-gun of a mechanic so you might as well shoot elephants :smallamused:

But yes, giving the DM more narrative control of the game is more-or-less essential to achieve the aims of the mechanic in any case. To keep the DM on-track it is important for each Action Unit to describe their Intention as well as their Action.
That seems fair, then.

The players get to decide who the PCs are, what they're trying to do, and why they're trying to do it. Then the GM tells them where they end up as a result of their antics.

I suppose then, the roleplay aspect of this system would be the cooperative effort to determine how they get/got there?



Now, as a rule, I wouldn't use the mechanic to produce new situations in the "middle" of the Scenario (e.g. someone robbing from a PC) because those are the sorts of situations that the PCs (rightfully) feel like they should have some say. As a rule, Players don't care how they assassinate some Worgs so long as they do assassinate the Worgs; deciding how to deal with a theft has a broader decision tree (e.g. pursue, report to guards, ignore, get information on thief).
Well, what I was thinking about in that specific case was only arbitrate the immediate resolutions of such an event. For instance, in the "theft" example, there only a few basic ways it could pan out: the thief got away with the goods, the thief is in custody, the thief failed but escaped, et cetera.

Now, suppose the thief escaped. Whether the PC let him go on purpose or not and if he told the guards about it are things the system shouldn't arbitrate. And subsequently, the party still has the opportunity to pursue the thief as a more long-term affair.

Does this make any sense? I know it's a bit unorthodox to have retroactive decision-making and continuity like that, but do you think players would be able to run with it? (If not, it'd probably be best to scrap it and go with something else.)



That said, you could easily include an Unexpected Development mechanic (what the Forge refers to as a Bang (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sorcerer_%28role-playing_game%29#Bang)) in which a specific Player may have to undergo a "mini-Scenario" on the fly that can affect the outcome of the larger one.
Something like that could work, as long as it doesn't get out of hand. It'd be a nice tool for "increasing the level of detail" during climatic resolutions as well.

On the other hand, deferring all unarbitrated decisions to the next planning phase would help blend subsequent rounds into a seamless whole. It would also preserve a nice tempo:

Decision - Simulation - Resolution - Decision - Simulation - Resolution - Decision - Simulation - Resolution



As far as your suggestion goes, it treads too far into the Wargaming sphere. For one, more troops would always be better -- which is antithetical to the "special forces" school of adventurers.
That's not necessarily true. I only described the absolute lowest level of the system; analogous to D&D without spells, feats, classes, races, magic items, levels, et cetera. Of course it's going to devolve into "more is better".

But I understand if it's not very well suited for our needs. It's better to find a more promising core mechanic than to waste the effort on trying (in vain) to force this into the wrong-sized hole.



Additionally, no Player is going to want to boil the sum total of their character into a single die which has a variety of pluses and minuses. Remember, in a RPG you want the Players to be close-in on the action; move them too far away and they stop playing roles, and start rolling plays.
Well, that's the fine line we're treading, we just need to figure out the right balance.

(Honestly though, all of it does effectively come down to one humungous die in the end; just with thousands of sides. But I suppose we shouldn't point that out to the players.)



That said, I can flesh this out a bit more if you're interested. It so happens I'm working on a similar "planning/mission" mechanic for my Real Robots Game, Days of Blood & Chrome (http://oraclehunter.wordpress.com/about/) so I'd be happy to spend more time thinking about it :smallsmile:
Well, since the rules are so simple there should be plenty of synergy here. (I'd like something that can be adapted to a wide range of settings anyways.)

1

Another note... I was thinking that since we've gone so far in making one part of the system streamlined, we might as well go all the way and see where else we can trim the fat.

And I found just such a spot: Inventory.

There's a lot of paperwork involved with keeping track of items, equipment, gold, encumbrance, weapons, armor, and so forth. Keeping track of all that is a large burden on the GM - and we're already asking him to do a ton of calculations.

So, how about we abstract them? Use broad categories and qualifiers, as opposed to quantitative stats. So, you have the sword of your ancestors, and its stats are thus:

Type: Weapon - Class: Melee - Quality: Superior
And the best part of this is that we can set only the most general top-level rules for dealing with different types of object, and leave the specifics of sub-categorization open for customization. That not only makes it easier to change settings, but also to vary the level of detail you're willing to track.

For a lot of small things we'll probably want to use something where abstract tokens of preparedness are tracked, representing how often one happens to have the right tool for the job (or close enough). Hm... It'd be fun to make a "Bid System", where more tokens can be spent to increase odds of success, but that might be too immersion-breaking... Bah; you're right about the elephant. Let's run with it. :smalltongue:


This line of thought seems really promising: if we set up the system such that the challenges are categorized into broad, abstract categories as well, then its just a matter of applying counters to each other.

To take your example, the primary objective is to free some prisoners. There are two obstacles to this: the cage and the guards. The is one counter applied to the cage: Terry the Thief's cage-opening ability. The guards are countered by the Terry's sneaking skills, the diversion provided by battle, and Rachel the Ranger's stealthy assassinations.

Now, this could go on to extraordinary detail, even recursing on itself, so we'll have to figure out where to draw the line. But the point is that the odds of success for each stage are modified by the level of success of previous stages. As soon as we can say "okay, this is the stage that doesn't depend (significantly) on the results of any other", then we can calculate that then move down the line one step at a time.

I know that isn't much to go on, but I think that if we can just capture this basic concept in a system that works, most of our problems will be solved.

Oracle_Hunter
2013-12-25, 08:13 PM
I suppose then, the roleplay aspect of this system would be the cooperative effort to determine how they get/got there?
More of less. One of the major downsides of this mechanic is that it removes most of the "small decisions" from Players that help them define their characters. Most of the roleplaying would therefore have to take place outside of Scenarios -- shopping, chatting with NPCs, planning how to plan, planning itself.

That said, there is plenty of scope for the Players to tweak how their individual Actions succeed or fail. Anytime you give an imaginative Player the opportunity to make something up you have a chance for roleplaying.


Now, suppose the thief escaped. Whether the PC let him go on purpose or not and if he told the guards about it are things the system shouldn't arbitrate. And subsequently, the party still has the opportunity to pursue the thief as a more long-term affair.

Does this make any sense? I know it's a bit unorthodox to have retroactive decision-making and continuity like that, but do you think players would be able to run with it? (If not, it'd probably be best to scrap it and go with something else.)
Rule #1 of RPG Design -- Don't deprive the Players of Autonomy without a very good reason.

DMs already have a huge say in this mechanic about how things play out ("X things Succeeded, Y thing Failed, but the Goal was Achieved. How do we make that into a story?") so we should avoid any attempt to deprive Players of further ability to detail the gameworld.

So the Sample Scenario would play out like this:
DM: While you're exploring the marketplace, a swarm of urchins comes running down the street, playing some raucous game. Heedless of their path, they bump and swarm amongst you, laughing the whole time. As they pass, Bard notices that his coin pouch is missing. What do you do?
Bard: We got to get my coin pouch back! It has the Cursed Coin of Cadavera in it!
Paladin: Why did you keep it there?! We have to catch those kids before the Curse takes over. I'm going to pursue them.
Thief: Meh, it'll be easy enough to find them after they turn into Ghasts. Hey, why not wait for a Ghast Plague to hit the city and hit up the Mayor for a reward?
Wizard: You're a terrible person. I'm going to help Paladin chase those kids.
DM: How? He's got the better Athletics ability and you aren't exactly going to be able to shove people around.
Wizard: Pshaw. I create an Illusory Sound to follow the Paladin that sounds like the Watch Captain and a squad of Watchmen shouting "Make way, make way!"
DM: That's good. You aid the Paladin in his Catch the Kids Action. Ranger?
Ranger: Kids don't organize like that on their own. I'm going to take to the roofs and try to spot their minders.
DM: OK, fine. Thief and Cleric, you're left.
Cleric: I'm going to try and find out where those urchins live or hang out.
DM: How?
Cleric: Well, I can't track very well, so I guess I'll just ask around.
DM: Good. Thief?
Thief: I'm going to start a rumor that Ghasts have taken up residence in the slums.
DM: OK. What's your Intention?
Thief: I want to spook the populace so that, when the Ghasts show up, they'll clamor to the Mayor to raise a big bounty.
DM: Fine. So we have four Actions. Wizard is helping Paladin to Catch the Kids. Ranger is trying to Spot Their Minders. Cleric is trying to Locate Their Home and Thief is Stirring Up Rumors. Roll!
*rolls rolls rolls*
DM: Let's see. Fighter & Wizard would have caught the kids were it not for the Toughs that blocked their path. Thief easily stirs up rumors, while Cleric finds out where the kids live. Ranger succeeded, but there was nothing to find. So here's how it played out:

"To the booming cries of "Make way for the Watch" and the clatter of a squad in heavy armor, Paladin makes his sprint across the market. While crowded, the townsfolk know better than to impede the Watch and open a path, with some watching surprised to see a lone man in armor sprinting down the gap in the crowd. While Paladin makes good time, his progress is suddenly checked by a group of rough-clothed workmen sauntering in their direction. When Paladin tries to push through him, they jostle him back shouting "watch where you're going!" and "who do you think you are?!"

Meanwhile, Thief and Cleric filter amongst the townsfolk and pursue their own agendas. Thief filters amongst the beggars and spends a few coins to bring stories of ghast packs to the street corners and common rooms. Cleric uses his natural charm to befriend the meat-pie sellers and vendors and learns that the urchins hang out in an abandoned church in the slums.

Ranger speeds to the rooftops but catches no sign of anyone watching or minding the pack of urchins as they lose themselves in the crowd.

Paladin: Wait a second! I want to press on past these thugs.
Wizard: And I'll help!
DM: Well Wizard, you've already helped by casting your spell, so unless you want to go toe-to-toe with the Thugs, you can't help further. Do you?
Wizard: Uh... no. Sorry Paladin, you're on your own.
Paladin: Fine, this is just a Complication on my Catch The Kids action right? That means I can try to Beat The Complication and, well, they're a bunch of toughs while I'm a mighty knight.
DM: True enough. How do you plan on Beating them?
Paladin: I'm going to fight them.
DM: With weapons or without?
Wizard: Don't use your sword! The Watch Captain told us bloodshed was a serious offense and I don't want to get kicked out of town before we take the Coin to the Sage.
Paladin: Fine. No weapons, even though that leaves me at a disadvantage. Let's roll.
*rolls rolls rolls*
DM: Alright, you manage to Break the Thugs but take 3 Wounds in the process. Without the Thugs, your original roll is enough to catch the kids. Let's move onto the next scene in the Slums...
That's my thinking so far.

* * *

The Inventory thing isn't really so interesting to me. As a rule I'd say don't abstract more than you have to -- the more you abstract, the less a Player feels they are playing a role.

That said, if you like this little mechanic and want to turn it into a game, by all means go ahead. Me, I'll probably pick at it a bit more and use it for something else. In fact, I think the Plan & Roll style would work very well in a Shadowrun or Espionage-style game... :smallamused:

Jacob.Tyr
2013-12-26, 01:47 AM
So here's my idea regarding this, assuming an almost completely new system setup:
Instead of a prolonged series of dice rolls, we boil everything down to one giant dice dump all at once. Since this is going to be handled by the DM, once the players make decisions you just need to throw what they're using into anydice, so you don't even really need a giant pile of dice.

Types of Dice:
Offensive
Defensive
Damage
Healing

Offensive dice determine how well your accuracy is. Defensive allows you to block attacks. Damage is, well, how much you've inflicted and healing is the opposite.

Both sides roll some damage and healing, whichever side takes the greater beating either:
a) surrenders
b) flees
c) is routed
d) is killed

a and b will be a decision for the DM or players, C occurs when some HP abstraction is depleted, say, 50% or more, and d is when damage is greater than said HP number for the party.

A defensive die, though, will allow you to negate the damage from one source that rolled an offensive die less than the value of the defensive die. So lets say 2v2:
Characters 1,2 and a,b Rolling Offense, damage, defense respectively
1- 20, 5
2- 12, 8
a- 15, 4, 13
b- 13, 9

"a" got in a defense roll of 13, which will negate the damage one enemy who rolled lower than that on his offense (in this case, "2" will deal no damage).
Numbers deal a total of 5 damage, while Letters deal 13. Numbers will now decide to either flee or surrender.

At higher levels each character will be throwing more and more dice, making it harder to defend against them entirely, and allowing them to defend against more attacks all together. If you get multiple "offensive" dice, lets say you deal damage equal to the percent of them that don't get blocked by defensive actions.

Classes:
These give you a basic dice progression for each stat, and access to feats and spells.

Spells:
Can be untied from offensive dice, i.e. unblockable. Can modify your damage based on the number of enemies, i.e. they deal AoE damage. Can be defensive actions and allow you to roll defensive dice. Can be buffs that up the dice of others. Or they're healing.

Feats:
Bonuses to dice, extra dice, ability to swap dice, other potential bonuses.

Items:
Bonuses to dice and or extra dice.


Rough idea, but I'd be willing to work on something like this with someone via pms if desired.

Geordnet
2013-12-26, 03:54 PM
Rough idea, but I'd be willing to work on something like this with someone via pms if desired.
Interesting. It could work, although I'm looking for something... I'm not entirely sure... Abstract? Generic? Qualitative? I know not the name of that which I seek. :smallfrown:



Rule #1 of RPG Design -- Don't deprive the Players of Autonomy without a very good reason.
We have a very good reason to do so: keeping the game afloat in an extremely unforgiving environment.



DMs already have a huge say in this mechanic about how things play out ("X things Succeeded, Y thing Failed, but the Goal was Achieved. How do we make that into a story?") so we should avoid any attempt to deprive Players of further ability to detail the gameworld.
True, but it might be impossible to infringe on that in the process of achieving our goals. So, it's something we'll have to work at in order to find the right balance.



So the Sample Scenario would play out like this:
DM: While you're exploring the marketplace, a swarm of urchins comes running down the street, playing some raucous game. Heedless of their path, they bump and swarm amongst you, laughing the whole time. As they pass, Bard notices that his coin pouch is missing. What do you do?
Bard: We got to get my coin pouch back! It has the Cursed Coin of Cadavera in it!
Paladin: Why did you keep it there?! We have to catch those kids before the Curse takes over. I'm going to pursue them.
Thief: Meh, it'll be easy enough to find them after they turn into Ghasts. Hey, why not wait for a Ghast Plague to hit the city and hit up the Mayor for a reward?
Wizard: You're a terrible person. I'm going to help Paladin chase those kids.
DM: How? He's got the better Athletics ability and you aren't exactly going to be able to shove people around.
Wizard: Pshaw. I create an Illusory Sound to follow the Paladin that sounds like the Watch Captain and a squad of Watchmen shouting "Make way, make way!"
DM: That's good. You aid the Paladin in his Catch the Kids Action. Ranger?
Ranger: Kids don't organize like that on their own. I'm going to take to the roofs and try to spot their minders.
DM: OK, fine. Thief and Cleric, you're left.
Cleric: I'm going to try and find out where those urchins live or hang out.
DM: How?
Cleric: Well, I can't track very well, so I guess I'll just ask around.
DM: Good. Thief?
Thief: I'm going to start a rumor that Ghasts have taken up residence in the slums.
DM: OK. What's your Intention?
Thief: I want to spook the populace so that, when the Ghasts show up, they'll clamor to the Mayor to raise a big bounty.
DM: Fine. So we have four Actions. Wizard is helping Paladin to Catch the Kids. Ranger is trying to Spot Their Minders. Cleric is trying to Locate Their Home and Thief is Stirring Up Rumors. Roll!
*rolls rolls rolls*
DM: Let's see. Fighter & Wizard would have caught the kids were it not for the Toughs that blocked their path. Thief easily stirs up rumors, while Cleric finds out where the kids live. Ranger succeeded, but there was nothing to find. So here's how it played out:

"To the booming cries of "Make way for the Watch" and the clatter of a squad in heavy armor, Paladin makes his sprint across the market. While crowded, the townsfolk know better than to impede the Watch and open a path, with some watching surprised to see a lone man in armor sprinting down the gap in the crowd. While Paladin makes good time, his progress is suddenly checked by a group of rough-clothed workmen sauntering in their direction. When Paladin tries to push through him, they jostle him back shouting "watch where you're going!" and "who do you think you are?!"

Meanwhile, Thief and Cleric filter amongst the townsfolk and pursue their own agendas. Thief filters amongst the beggars and spends a few coins to bring stories of ghast packs to the street corners and common rooms. Cleric uses his natural charm to befriend the meat-pie sellers and vendors and learns that the urchins hang out in an abandoned church in the slums.

Ranger speeds to the rooftops but catches no sign of anyone watching or minding the pack of urchins as they lose themselves in the crowd.
This much looks good. It's fairly close to what I'm looking for. I'll get to the minor problems I have with it later. Before that, I'll talk about the rest of your example:

Paladin: Wait a second! I want to press on past these thugs.
Wizard: And I'll help!
DM: Well Wizard, you've already helped by casting your spell, so unless you want to go toe-to-toe with the Thugs, you can't help further. Do you?
Wizard: Uh... no. Sorry Paladin, you're on your own.
Paladin: Fine, this is just a Complication on my Catch The Kids action right? That means I can try to Beat The Complication and, well, they're a bunch of toughs while I'm a mighty knight.
DM: True enough. How do you plan on Beating them?
Paladin: I'm going to fight them.
DM: With weapons or without?
Wizard: Don't use your sword! The Watch Captain told us bloodshed was a serious offense and I don't want to get kicked out of town before we take the Coin to the Sage.
Paladin: Fine. No weapons, even though that leaves me at a disadvantage. Let's roll.
*rolls rolls rolls*
DM: Alright, you manage to Break the Thugs but take 3 Wounds in the process. Without the Thugs, your original roll is enough to catch the kids. Let's move onto the next scene in the Slums...
Right from the start I can see several red flags being raised. Putting the group effort on hold to focus in on a single player may be acceptable while in-person, but it's exactly the sort of thing that causes a struggling PbP group to crash and burn. And going back and trying to change the result after it has already been calculated is a bad idea in either case.

I understand that it's important for players to have control over their characters' actions, but keeping the game alive is more important.



The Inventory thing isn't really so interesting to me. As a rule I'd say don't abstract more than you have to -- the more you abstract, the less a Player feels they are playing a role.
Understandable.





Although... Actually, is that necessarily even a bad thing?

Just hear me out on this.

Is it that bad that if the the players are explicitly the directors instead of the actors? Sure, a lot of players have fun with immersion, but if the sacrifices which must be made for it are causing the game as a whole to suffer...
In the end, is it not merely another mechanic?

I mean, you can still have fun acting out your character's actions: it's just no longer the end-all and be-all reason you're at the table. The (primary) source of fun isn't (in-character) social interaction in such a game - it's through imagination. Although both elements are present in both types of games, in the latter focus isn't upon the characters. The center of attention, the heart and soul of the game is fact the adventure itself.

In fact, now that I think of it... The genre which describes what I'm taking about is that of the Adventure Game; a much neglected and forgotten precursor to the Role-Playing genre. Which makes perfect sense, as many of my absolute favorite games ever are in that genre. What I'm suggesting is merely a new subgenre of "Adventure Games", one that's played cooperatively with a human managing the environment.



I think I've figured out what I have really been looking for all this time... :smallbiggrin:
What I have ALWAYS been looking for in the role-playing genre, but in vain...

Oracle_Hunter
2013-12-26, 04:33 PM
Right from the start I can see several red flags being raised. Putting the group effort on hold to focus in on a single player may be acceptable while in-person, but it's exactly the sort of thing that causes a struggling PbP group to crash and burn. And going back and trying to change the result after it has already been calculated is a bad idea in either case.

I understand that it's important for players to have control over their characters' actions, but keeping the game alive is more important.
Well, you don't have to play with the Complication mechanic but I think too "remote" a game will cause people to lose interest. That said, remember that we've just resolved 99% of a complicated Scenario in one round. Will a PbP game really collapse because it takes one more? :smallconfused:


In fact, now that I think of it... The genre which describes what I'm taking about is that of the Adventure Game; a much neglected and forgotten precursor to the Role-Playing genre. Which makes perfect sense, as many of my absolute favorite games ever are in that genre. What I'm suggesting is merely a new subgenre of "Adventure Games", one that's played cooperatively with a human managing the environment.
Hey, best of luck with making that game. Personally I'm having a hard time finding the "roleplaying" available in such a game but I'm not perfect. Good luck :smallsmile:

Geordnet
2013-12-26, 06:04 PM
Well, you don't have to play with the Complication mechanic but I think too "remote" a game will cause people to lose interest. That said, remember that we've just resolved 99% of a complicated Scenario in one round. Will a PbP game really collapse because it takes one more? :smallconfused:
It's not the fact that it's got a second round, it's the fact that everyone else has to stop and wait for one guy to make a decision.

On PbP, that can easily take multiple days.



Hey, best of luck with making that game. Personally I'm having a hard time finding the "roleplaying" available in such a game but I'm not perfect. Good luck :smallsmile:
That's the point, you're not supposed to be looking for roleplay in it. :smalltongue:

Which isn't to say that you won't have complex characters, social interaction, and other elements generally associated with roleplay; just that they're all approached from a different perspective. Third-Person, instead of First-Person.

NichG
2013-12-26, 06:10 PM
What about turning the question around, and actually using the PbP element as a game mechanic?

So basically, your problem is 'it takes too long to resolve a combat in PbP, so people get detached from the game and individual delays compound to create an overall delay'. Lets look at this as if we were designing a computer algorithm:

- PbP is a parallel, asynchronous environment. People come and post when they have time in their own schedules and at their own rates based on (different) amounts of time they want to dedicate to the activity.
- Traditional combat models are sequential in nature, so you end up with something that looks a lot like a race condition in parallel programming - players (threads) that have time to respond to the post are stuck waiting for those players (threads) that are next in the queue but have not yet responded.
- In PbP, the GM probably should not be excepted from this model - they have a limiting schedule too.

Generally the way this kind of thing is resolved is by breaking the situation down into independent pieces, and then doing a final 'collection' stage where the results are all assembled together.

So basically, if you want to design an efficient PbP game, it should encourage players breaking off into subgroups that have very fast back and forth, and then the consequences of those fragments get merged back into the main line of play in some manner.

Some sort of pairwise duel system where players each control one PC and one enemy might work for this, but that may be hard to design to model various scaling situations. Still, its something to keep in mind - if you can break down a conflict (or any scenario really) into players pairing off on fast-moving side-threads, then re-merge the 'results' of those threads, that will allow you to squeeze a lot more RP into a fixed timeframe of play.

There is also a 'realtime' requirement - things have to keep flowing at a reasonable ratio of real time to game time in order for the game to not feel stalled out.

The plus side is, you can take advantage of the asynchronous nature of PbP for this. If you set a real-life cutoff for 'doing stuff', then you can control the rate of flow of the game. I've seen an online asynchronous tactical game where basically one round of combat occurs every hour, and if you don't enter a 'move' for that round it switches you over to AI control.

So you could, for example, tell people to script their combat actions for each round, but anyone who posts before the end-of-round time can enter in a specific action to replace the script.

Geordnet
2013-12-27, 12:11 PM
What about turning the question around, and actually using the PbP element as a game mechanic?
I'd be all for it! :smallbiggrin:


Generally the way this kind of thing is resolved is by breaking the situation down into independent pieces, and then doing a final 'collection' stage where the results are all assembled together.

So basically, if you want to design an efficient PbP game, it should encourage players breaking off into subgroups that have very fast back and forth, and then the consequences of those fragments get merged back into the main line of play in some manner.
Hm... That works, but only if all the players are actually doing something at the same time. If, for example, one player goes off scouting while the others are waiting at the campfire, those waiting have nothing to do. Maybe some "mandatory roleplay"? That could work in that specific scenario, but what about characters whom are unconscious or otherwise physically able to do anything? (Although, that's not specifically a PbP problem...)

Or what if these threads move at different gametime:realtime ratios? Outside some crazy multiple-timeline time-travel or parallel universe story, there's no way to easily reconcile one group doing something which should have impacted another group's actions from three real-days ago.

I think you're right: all we need is some sort of "AI Control". Any time that PCs have to make a decision while a player has nothing to keep them occupied and are waiting on that decision, then the decision is automatically resolved. Either the GM would resolve it, or a flowchart + dice + preset personality variables do. I'm thinking the latter option would reduce the possibility of hurt feelings and resentment towards the GM.
(It would also be easier on a "too nice" GM!)



Therefore, our challenge is to produce a system in which tasks are modeled in such a way that facilitates artificial decision-making.

NichG
2013-12-27, 05:28 PM
I'd be all for it! :smallbiggrin:

Hm... That works, but only if all the players are actually doing something at the same time. If, for example, one player goes off scouting while the others are waiting at the campfire, those waiting have nothing to do. Maybe some "mandatory roleplay"? That could work in that specific scenario, but what about characters whom are unconscious or otherwise physically able to do anything? (Although, that's not specifically a PbP problem...)


Well it requires you build around it a bit. Also, it requires that players can actually resolve their own scenarios without too much GM intervention (or the GM is going to end up being the limiting factor).

Something like side-RP works particularly well for this, but unfortunately it doesn't really help advance a combat - if anything, it'd slow things down a bit to make it mandatory.

This kind of thing works well for nation games/god games though - a side-thread for each nation where there might be conflicts inside of the nation or whatever, but at the end of the 'turn' the nation has to present a status and action in order to determine what it does in the world as a whole over the next year or whatever.



Or what if these threads move at different gametime:realtime ratios? Outside some crazy multiple-timeline time-travel or parallel universe story, there's no way to easily reconcile one group doing something which should have impacted another group's actions from three real-days ago.


Well for that, what you do is you use the 'merge' operation as a sync. For example, you say 'the next hour/day/whatever of in-game time will be finished by Wednesday night, at which point we move on whether you're ready or not'.

That way things can be locally out of sync, but they should join up every time there's a merge.



Therefore, our challenge is to produce a system in which tasks are modeled in such a way that facilitates artificial decision-making.

Yeah, I think this is an accurate statement.

TuggyNE
2013-12-27, 07:22 PM
Now you've got me wondering if Mercurial or Bazaar can be hacked to serve as a game system base. Type in all your actions, commit, and push, and the GM handles merging branches!

yeah, probably not. :smallsigh: