Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Action vs. Reaction - System experimentation MkII

I have been working on a new way to do initiative for combat. I was inspired to do so by a discussion I had with +Kay Sakaue about Action vs. Reaction in actual martial arts. I came up with my first draft of the idea and its application in Savage Worlds, but it had some issues.

Benjamin Rose brought up a good point about the portion of the system where both sides are looking for advantage. He said, "Are they just staring at each other? If they make more than one roll, I can see it potentially getting a bit boring." and I agreed. I started chewing on the problem I came to a startling realization. The initiative system in Savage Worlds uses a card deck. Holy GLOB I am an idiot!

When I discussed the whole idea of Combat Advantage with Kay I thought that a lot of the way it worked seemed like a poker game. Trying to read your opponent, knowing when to hold, fold and bet. So I altered the system to reflect this point. Using the cards makes things flow a little faster and has a better conflict based feel.

+Djaii Pepper-Martens commented that it seems to break down with a great deal of combatants. I also agree. I am not sure that it's something I want to fix though. This is mostly intended for dueling and smaller scale conflicts. It's too detailed for a large scale brawl. I think I might just leave this for times where I want a specific kind of drama. I am pretty secure in saying that this is not a system that would apply well to all kinds of combat situations, but it could be very fun for certain dramatic situations where you want to ratchet up the level of detail and dramatic effect.

I had to alter the math a little, but I think it might work.  I am going to try to get some people together this weekend and play test it out a bit.

Combat System Discussion

I’m not sure if you are at all familiar with the Savage Worlds system, but it works on a dice step method. All Skills and Attributes are rated 1-5, see below. All player characters also get a Wildcard die (d6) along with every roll, taking the highest. This represents the Hero factor.

Step Range 1 – 5 (All stats are rated 1 to 5 die steps.  1=d4, 2=d6, 3=d8. 4=d10 and 5 = d12). Both the die values and the step values are used for different reasons.

New Derivative Statistic – Combat Fitness

Vigor (Vi) – Physical Body
Smarts (Sm) – Mental Readiness
Spirit (Sp) – Spiritual Development

Add all three stats and divide by two rounding down  = Combat Fitness (CF)

I went with Vigor instead of Agility for the calculation of this derived stat.  Agility will be an important factor later on, but this statistic is more designed to create a basis for gathering a Combat Awareness statistic for the new initiative system. As you will see further on, it more describes the ability to determine the appropriate time for a Decisive Strike and to determine opponent weaknesses and strengths.  Vigor to me represents physical conditioning instead of coordination and speed. I figured coordination and speed would become important when a maneuver is executed.

New Initiative System

The new initiative system is not designed to determine who “goes first”.  In my new vision for close combat all combat is resolved as opposed and simultaneous rolls.  The difference comes in who has determined the correct Decisive Maneuver first, executes that maneuver and whether the defender at that point provides an opportunity for the attacker to continue on to another maneuver in the chain until the defender is defeated or creates an Initiative Break.

The winner of the initiative simply gets a combat bonus depending on his situational awareness and how well he has sized up his opponent.  Combatants draw a number of cards from the Initiative deck equal to their CF. This will be the players CF hand and will be used to assess his situational awareness and ability to react to their enemies situational awareness.


Instead of drawing for “Initiative” combatants draw for “Advantage.” Advantage determines a combatant’s ability to decide upon a Decisive Maneuver and act upon it. Each player draws a number of cards equal to their CF. The cards are used to determine Combat Threshold (see below) and gain the situational Advantage. Advantage is part race, part gamble, part strategic determination and possibly part bluff.

The cards values are a little different for the purposes of this initiative system. Aces count as 1 and all the “Court” cards (Jack, Queen and King) have a value of 10. Jokers have a value of your opponent’s highest card +1.

Before determining Advantage it is necessary to determine the Combat Threshold. The CT represents you defensive stature, effectiveness of footwork or the general difficulty of an opponent to gain an advantage upon you. Secretly place one card aside and add their value to your Martial Art Skill to determine CT.

The Race: Each combatant is trying to reach his opponents Combat Threshold (CT) first.

The Gamble: Opponents do not know each other’s CT, they have to guess at it. Players place cards face down in front of them simultaneously one card at a time. At any point after both players have laid down an equal number of cards, either player may call a Strike and the combat begins.

The Strategy: After a Srike is called each side then reveals their Advantage Total (AT), which is the sum of all the card values put on the table before the Strike is called. Both players also reveal their CT value.  Each side then subtracts their opponents CT from their AT.  The result is their Combat Pool (CP).  Combat Pool is used to act and react in combat. The player with the highest total is said to have the Initiative. Players must be judicious in the use of their Combat Pool in order to survive the combat.  If both sides end up with an equal number of Combat Pool the combatant with the highest CF is considered the winner. If both sides have equal CF then use the suite of their highest value card to break the tie (Spades, Hearts, Diamonds then Clubs) If both high cards are “Court” cards of the same suit then prioritize King, Queen then Jack. The winner of the tiebreaker is considered to have a CP of 2 and the loser is considered to have a CP of 1. If both sides have negative CP this produces an Initiative Break and combat is reset. If one side has positive CP and the other has negative CP, the combatant with the negative CP is automatically hit and the difference between both CP’s is added to damage.

The Bluff: When CT is determined a character can choose to draw a number of cards equal to their Bluff skill. They must then place one of these new cards on top of their CT card when CT is revealed. Their opponent will have a chance to spend CP to detect the bluff by rolling Perception. The combatant with the highest total (Perception die result vs. Bluff card value) of that contest chooses which card applies to the Bluffing players CT.

Spending Combat Pool

Combat Pool is a representation of comparative situational awareness.  These points can be used to give a combatant more options. Once you are out of options, you are probably out of luck. The character with the higher Combat Pool has more options and therefore has the Initiative. Combat Pool can be spent in the following ways.

1. Check for Bluff: If a player is bluffing their opponent can spend a CP to attempt to see through the bluff. (see above)

2. Mitigation: Players may spend one CP to remove an environmental combat modifier found in the regular combat rules in Savage Worlds. By using their superior situational awareness characters can overcome situational obstacles.

The Combat

Now that we know who has the Advantage in combat it’s time to strike. Each player must spend one Combat Pool to engage each enemy in the combat. Therefore, if a character is fighting three opponents he/she must spend three CP to engage all three. If a character does not have enough CP to engage all of their opponents, he/she cannot defend against all of them. All friendlies in the combat can split the CP cost between them as long as each enemy is engaged with at least one friendly character. All combatants that are in combat with an enemy they cannot engage can suffer from a free strike.  Free strikes are resolved before all other combat. Combatants can make a free strike by making a normal Martial Arts test against the victims Parry. The Margin of Success of this roll is then applied to damage directly.

Once engaged each combatant can spend 1 CP to add a die of the appropriate type to their Martial Art Skill to a pool. Once all combatants have decided on how many CP they are going to spend they roll their dice plus one Wildcard die. The character with the highest total (including the rule of doubles) can then choose to subtract one from their opponents Combat Pool or add one to their own Combat Pool. If both sides have 0 CP an Initiative Break occurs and the combat resets.  Once a combatant is reduced to 0 CP  and one or more of their opponents still have CP remaining then that character is hit and damage is applied.  If multiple characters are reduced to 0 CP characters engaged with them may choose to hit an opponent of their choice. If one combatant facing several is reduced to 0 CP and his/her opponents still have CP remaining, the victim is hit multiple times.


Weapons no longer have a dice value for damage.  They have a single damage value.  This damage value is added to the remaining CP of the attacker and compared to the victims Toughness and damage is applied normally.