How many skill rolls?

Or how many times can you roll the same skill in the same round?

In a recent forum post there was a reference to mounted combat. The horses were all fast moving, galloping around and their movement rates were huge, in the order of 400′ to 500′ a round.

This is partially a problem with 10 second combat rounds. If two combatants were in melee range at the end of round 1, eg the clash of lances in a joust then 10 seconds later they could be 900′ apart (500′ + 400′). Try using a battle map for that! I for one would need a bigger dining room table.

My suggestion was partially prompted by my recent reference to car wars in the #RPGaDAY posts. If you break the horses movement down into second by second movement over the round and only allow a single melee or ranged attack per round you can more easily manage the scale of the movement.

The problem then becomes that Player 1 sees an NPC wheel their horse off to the left so they change their direction to intercept cutting inside to take a shorter line, the NPC then bears to the right hoping to wrong foot the players horse. This is now much more exciting for everyone as they can move their horses strategically, Fred can try and lead an NPC on until he is right in Ernie’s path as Ernie lowers his lance and spurs his horse up into a final dash.

So when do you make the riding roll? If the players are making 10 strategic decisions about their horses movements which manoeuvre calls for the roll? How about perception rolls? If I am trying to shake you off my tail as you are closing do I need to make perception rolls to see you over my shoulder?

You could make one riding roll at the beginning of the round and have that effect the pace of your horse. On the other hand that does not reflect how your horse is handling. If you are not completely in balance with your horse it may ‘fall in’ or ‘fall out’ of a corner. Falling in is where on a corner the horse suddenly cuts in and across the corner rather than on a smooth arc around the bend. Falling out is rather like drifting a car, the horse is travelling both forward around the arc and stepping sideways at the same time. These are caused by the horse trying to step under the riders centre of gravity so if you lean a little too much one way or the other the horse tries to compensate for that. In a chase situation how the horse handles bends and corners can make a difference when trying to get away or make up ground. Flip that around and a poor riding roll should have a reflection on how the horse handles.

If I am making a single riding roll at the beginning of the round and I know I have made a poor roll I could choose to do only the simplest of manoeuvres in that round.

What if, on the other hand you played the mounted combat out second by second and allowed multiple riding and if necessary perception rolls at a strategic level?

This is where the car wars reference comes in. Each turn had a difficulty factor from D1 for a simple 15° turn to D7 for a bootlegger reverse. Each manoeuvre reduced your handling class by the D number and you then cross referenced your current handling class with your speed for the target number for you driving skill.

So you could let the players describe their planned moves and give each riding manoeuvre a difficulty using the regular RM difficulties, they make a skill roll each second but with an accumulating penalty. A highly skilled horse person could then lead a lesser skilled rider a merry dance or even put them well outside their comfort zone and outside their ability if they wanted to give chase or overhaul the other horse.

So in Car Wars terms:

Routine (+30) Turns up to 15° Drifting 5′ left or right
Easy (+ 20) Turns 16° to 30° Jumping a small log or obstacle
Light (+ 10) Turns 31° to 45° Drifting 10′ to left or to the right
Medium ( +/- 0) Turns 46° to 60° Jumping a medium log or obstacle
Hard (-10) Turns 61° to 75° Jumping a large log or obstacle
Very Hard (-20) Turns 76° to 90°
Extremely Hard (-30)
Sheer Folly (-50)
Absurd (-70)

So each manoeuvre moves you further and further down the table, so two routine moves would result in a light manoeuvre.

As Brian said recently, players love to roll the dice. So giving them more rolls in a round as they try to out race the enemy is not necessarily a bad thing. It does break the 10 second round though.

I also think it will cause havoc with the RMU action point economy. APs tend to imply an amount of time. A fast 2AP attack will normally take place before a full 4AP attack. That makes it seem like each AP is 1.25 seconds long.

So would you be prepared to try this style of mounted combat?

17 thoughts on “How many skill rolls?”

  1. Maybe some good rules for RM that work for a variety of transports and movement rates: horses, boats, vehicles and sky ships?

    We could call it: “Original Rules Generating Actual Simulated Movement System”

    Or shorten it with an acronym….

          1. I was thinking more along the lines of abandoning the flurry of blows mechanic and making a case for much shorter combat rounds.

            The first is easy and I don’t think makes any difference in play.

            The other has loads of implications if a simple bleeding 1 hit per round goes from 6 per minute to thirty or sixty per minute.

            1. I’ve never been a fan of the flurry of blows stuff, especially since missile combat is discrete. And if you’re adding in firearms, the combat round HAS to be shorter if you want any sort of reasonable realism.

              That said, many games have different scales for their rounds, something RM never really got into but could easily. My draft modern stuff has two different time scales, and that’s an easy mechanic to reproduce.

          2. Of course there are. The old James Bond RPG had a very elegant chase system that would work well with RM honestly. Both games were skill roll driven, although the JBRPG went about it in a slightly different way. I’m blending some of its ideas into the system I’m doing for modern stuff when it comes to car chases. You’re always going to have slightly different mechanics based on tech levels (mainly vehicle speed), but I think that can be managed with different time scales (which is not at all uncommon in many RPGs).

  2. I’m not sure why the riding rules outlined above would wreck the RMU action economy; I think they could work together.

    That said, I don’t see any reason why the flurry of blows could be jettisoned and the round length reduced. It might even be cleaner to have a 4-second round in you have 4 AP/round; then each AP would be about 1 second. A quick attack (2 AP) would be about 2 seconds.

    1. Flurry of blows is, in my view, broken and has been for some time. I remain unconvinced APs work well in many situations, but that’s another thing. Suffice it to say I don’t plan on using them in my modern stuff, and the conversion rules I’ve got come with a very strong ‘your game will suffer’ disclaimer on them.

    2. The issue as I see it with APs are similar to the problems have seen with fast moving combatants on foot. When the actual location or even the tactical situation is not known with any certainty then allocating your AP budget becomes more difficult.

      As an aside, I thought that the Devs wanted to keep a separation between AP and specific lengths of time. You can perform a 4AP attack in the first second of the round if you are ready and waiting.

      If you explicitly say that 1ap=1second then you may as well scrap APs completely as everyone knows what a second is but they will need paragraphs or rules and examples to explain what an AP is and how to spend them when they are essentially the same thing.

      1. I think combatants will know the tactical situation quite well if you count down 1 AP at a time. Also, we don’t use declarations at all, so no one has to allocate his whole AP budget at the beginning of a round; so that isn’t really a problem for us.

        The devs have acknowledged that an AP is a ‘rough’ measure of time. As for performing a held, 4 AP attack in a single action phase, I think the thinking there is that the attack is already ‘readied’ (arm cocked, aim made) and so in a way the work to do the action has already been performed. I personally think that might cause problems, and would prefer to see that as only a maximum of a 2 AP attack (because cocking your arm isn’t quite the same as spending 5 seconds attacking someone) with bonuses for surprise if the opponent wasn’t en garde.

        I agree though that it would be better to have an equal number of AP and seconds in a round (say 4), so that we wouldn’t have to talk about AP at all and could just talk about seconds worth of action. Having an AP be 1.25 seconds rather than a round 1 is not ideal.

        1. What about lowering a lance as a held action from the previous round? There is no concept of a flurry of blows in that situation. Presumably the second round would be a single riding roll and then crash the two combatants meet. under RMU you get the 4AP attack held over from the previous round.

          1. That is exactly why I think it is better to see a charge as a 1 AP attack that benefits from momentum, rather than what it currently is in RMU (namely, a 4 AP attack that is kind of held and can be delivered all at once).

            So I agree completely that the idea of holding a 4 AP attack to deliver it all at once is problematic. It would be far better to allow 1 AP attacks and give them the benefits of momentum (for charges); or a flatfooted or flanked opponent (for when characters try to move past each other without being careful); or a surprised opponent (for when you are holding an attack for anyone coming through the door, and an orc comes in without knowing you are there).

  3. So how fast does a sky ship move? Are there fast and nimble sky skiffs?

    If they are slow and cumbersome things like sea going sailing ships then the movement becomes more of a backdrop to the players actions. Even a simple change in the set of the sails could take longer than half the melee combats I have played through.

    In that case I don’t think specific rules are needed. There are probably rules for ship to ship combat in Sea Law.

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