Seconds ticking away

Following on from my last post about movement and mounted combat I have been thinking about combat rounds.

There are three combat round lengths in the ICE world. RM2, Spacemaster and I guess RMSS use the 10 second round. RMU uses 5 second rounds and HARP uses a 2 second round.

If was obvious that the 10 second round didn’t work for modern day and Sci Fi. There is no way you can only squeeze  the trigger of a gun once every ten seconds. The fix was to introduce fire phase 1 and 2 into the standard RM2 phased combat round.

If everyone was using firearms, which was not unusual in modern settings then it left anyone who had to move wading through molasses. If you could not get from cover to cover in a single move then you would get ripped to pieces.

Splitting the round into two five second rounds does improve things slightly but there is always going to be a disparity between how long different tasks take. Picking a lock could be seen as a 10 second activity for a skilled thief but it becomes more of a stretch at 5 seconds and surely for the typical PC two seconds is not likely?

Is it better to have some actions take multiple rounds compared to some actions happening multiple times in a single round?

I think I am inclined to go for the very short round and things just take as long as they take. We are used to bows taking rounds to reload. I think those times are a little exaggerated in RM2/RMC but that is because they have been rounded to an easy number of whole rounds. I know that I can shoot five arrows in twenty seconds from a galloping horse and be on target. That does not marry up with one arrow every 2 rounds for a short bow in RM2. One arrow every two rounds in HARP is closer to my observed reality.

But lets ignore combat for a moment. A real dramatic plot device is the hero in action movies defusing the bomb with 3,2,1… seconds to go. If you are in combat time, the rest of the party are keeping the enemy at bay while you are defusing the bomb then ten second time chunks do not fit well with this staple of the action genre. If you treat bomb disposal as a static action you really want to avoid partial or near success as either of those leave you with having another go 10 seconds AFTER the bomb went off.

The more I think about this the more I think the 5 second round is not the right choice for RMU. 2 seconds is tried and tested in HARP and works without compaint. Sure it means rejigging spell casting, durations, movement and critical results (bleeding) but they are rebuilding all of RM anyway so now is the time to do it and not in a future companion as an optional rule.

What do you all think? 10, 5 or 2?

Three Wheels On My Wagon

I am intrigued by ITDs critical tables. I have never seen them but it came up recently in a discussion on on armour by the piece that there are different critical tables by location and only three locations; limbs, head and body.

For me the only piece of RM that has to be retained is the critical; everything else has to earn its place at the table. If it is more effort that it adds to the game I am inclined to cut or replace it.

Despite my slash and burn approach to rules I am mostly still following the roll your dice, find the right table, look up the roll and roll your critical procedure.

In all the companions and discussions I have never seen a superior system. I don’t care about the #hits, the rounds of stun, the bleeding or whatever. It is the wit and dark humour I like and the graphic descriptions of wounds. You will never get that with 1d8 damage. Decades ago rolling a 20 and getting double damage used to excite me but “Your bolt goes right through his temple and stands there quivering. Astonishingly enough, he’s still standing. But any attempt to remove it will kill him instantly. +25 hits, stunned no parry 2 rnds and bleeding 12 hits/rnd.” is a level above.

I have a half formed diceless RM combat system and I have an outline for HARP/FATE bastardised system. That uses the HARP critical tables and FATE dice and has a working title of FART.

FART is really good fun and fast to play. It just needs some time spent on it writing it up and putting it out there to the FATE community. The mission objective would be to hook FATE players into trying RMU once it is released. It is my understanding that FATE is one of the most successful games of recent years but despite that you will never get to put your crossbow bolt into someone’s head.

So we have ripped just about everything apart recently on here. What, in your perfect combat system, are the absolutely non-negotiable elements?

Player Combat Charts

Do you give your players a copy of their combat chart for rolling their own attack?

I know lots of people do this but I am not one of them. I believe the objective is to speed up combat. Everyone has one copy of every chart they use so there is no page flipping back and forth through Arms Law. The GM only then has to manage the NPCs attacks.

I do something similar with Spell Law so everyone has a copy of their spell lists so the spell casters are not queuing up to get their hands on spell law to see what spell to cast.

I think combat tables are different. Here is my thinking.

Now imagine this. The players had discussed their plan. They were going to take out any patrols on the castle wall, dumping the bodies over the wall into the marshy ground beside the moat.

The players attack a knight with surprise, from behind. They make their roll, add their OB and I then have to tell them the knights AT and DB.

The knight has a DB of 90! Yes, that is right a DB not dependent on shields or being aware of the attack. Telling that to the player is certain to raise an eyebrow at least. Do you honestly think that the characters are still going to throw the knight, armour and all over the wall and into the moat?

Or how about the poor knight is wearing cursed armour? It looks like AT17 but protects as AT2. What will the players think then?

I think giving the combat table to the players, for me, is giving away too many spoilers. Those situations do not come up every day or every session but they do come up.

I have ‘cured’ my players from excessive meta gaming. We had a situation where all the players fell into a detailed and somewhat heated discussion about their plans while they were in easy earshot of an informer. There was no possible way for the characters to share the information that the players were sharing without vocalising it so I rolled a perception roll for the informer and he heard it all. Several crimes were part of their plans and one of the bad guys was the local sheriff. Things got hot for the characters pretty quickly and one of the players said that his character would never have said all that out loud in the middle of the market. The obvious answer was to ask well how did you think the characters were having this discussion? Other players were still interacting with people in the market while the discussion was going on. I was still describing the evolving scene as more stalls opened and more towns folk filtered into the market and so on.

From that point on the players all accepted that all their communications are their characters communications unless they have explicitly said they are passing a note or using some kind of magical method.

Bandying around the foes AT and DB to me seems to be too much information to be giving the players. I think it has the potential to change the characters tactical thinking based upon things the character simply cannot know. If there are two enemy in from of you and you don’t have a very good OB, you are going to pick the one with a poor DB, it is simple self preservation surely?

How do you like them odds?

The party in my table top game, you probably know, are a cleric, sorceress, warrior mage, elemental warrior and a mystic. In game terms the best fighters are actually semi spell users plus we have two hybrids and a pure spell user. The cleric and mystic are at present fulfilling the role of healer because they have no dedicated healer as such. The cleric can do magical healing and the mystic is the best herbalist.

In the last weekend the party had the option of taking the safe way around the woods or the dangerous way though the woods. No the party would not be real adventurers if they took the safe route would they?

Only a day in to the forest they came across the burnt remains of a wagon caravan and a little way off their slaughtered horses. They also managed to alert a couple of scouts looking for fresh victims. The party killed one but another escaped.

The banditry this time was being done by kobolds. I rather wanted to see how the party would fair against superior numbers. As characters they have not had much time to gell together and work out decent tactics and they had not really done much fighting yet either.

So half a dozen kobolds started to match pace with the party to the left of the road and another six to the right of the road. Seconds later two kobolds mounted on wolves broke cover ahead of the party and faced them down the road. The kobolds at this point had every intention to negotiate. Pitched battles were not their thing and being paid off to not fight suited them down to the ground.

Negotiation was not on the parties agenda. The lead kobold did not even get a chance to give his ultimatum. The warrior mage fired a sleep spell up the road. The cleric summoned a large crocodile and dropped it in amongst the kobold file on the left and the sorceress case vacuum amongst the kobolds to the right.

So at the start of the battle the five characters are facing 14 kobolds plus two wolves. Three to one odds in Rolemaster are not good odds to have against you.

I had told the players the wolf riders were about 100′ up the road and Surion the warrior mage announced he was going to cast sleep. (range 100′). I decided the range would be 90+2d10 feet and luckily for him they fell just inside the range. Not so luckily they made their resistance rolls.

The vacuum spell was more effective. It stunned three of the kobolds on one flank. It didn’t take any of them out but the kobolds were armed with light crossbows and it comletely disrupted their volley of bolts turning it into some sporadic fire.

On the other side of the track the crocodile landed amongst the kobolds and that drew most of their fire and certainly upset them.

Now we had the gods turn against the party. The warrior mage and the elemental warrior are actually doing OK. Another sleep spell goes off and takes out a the wolf riders. The elemental warroir is crashing through the undergrowth to engage the kobolds axe in one hand and sword in the other. The sorceress fumbles her spell casting roll but fortuneately only fails to cast the spell but keeps her power points. The cleric doesn’t bother trying to control the crocodile, just lets it do its thing now the kobolds are fighting it and decided to try and summon a second one to fight along side them. Bolts fly into the camp and one buries itself deeply into the clerics chest ad he is gushing blood.

The warriors try and chase down kobolds who are not really up for a fight against heavily armed and armoured warriors. Some of the previously stunned kobolds start to recover and loose off their crossbow bolts. The mystic decides to do her Florence Nightingale act and needs to get that bold out of the cleric so they can stop the bleeding. The cleric had just summoned a second large crocodile directly in front of himself which is now uncontrolled maybe it was the scent of blood or maybe it was a random dice roll but whatever the reason the croc turns on its summoner and starts snapping at the poor old cleric. the sorceress fails to cast another vacuum spell. Fast casting while low level is proving to be a challenge. The next crossbow bolt flying into camp and takes out the mystic transfixing her arm and pinning it to her chest.

The cleric is now losing blood in gushes, he is desperately trying to get control of his crocodile. The sorceress fails to case a third vacuum spell! The croc in the woods is doing terribly as well but it is at least keeping the enemy on that side pinned down. Another sleep spell does off and more kobolds fall and the warriors are fully in melee now. This is where the kobolds lack of armour and physical hardiness tell against them. Finally the sorceress gets a vacuum spell to fire and she stuns and wounds a couple of kobolds.

So the fight went on. The mystic shook off the stun from the hit on her and she managed to get some healing sove on to the clerics wound just before he colapsed. The sorceress gave up trying to kill kobolds, I think due to a lack of power points, and joined the cleric and the mystic. The mystic was bleeding heavily and so everyone was trying to first aid everyone else and the few herbs that were easily appliable were used up. It took four rounds I think for the cleric to finally get full control of the crocodile and at that point the kobolds were pretty much broken. Their tactic of striking from three sides with wave after wave of bolts obviously was not working and fighting what appeared to be heavily armed wizards (from the kobolds point of view) was not in the plan.

At the end of the fight I think only four kobolds got away alive. It cost the party dear in herbs and they were largely drained of magic to boot. It doesn’t hurt to hit the party hard, even in a casual encounter eespecially this early in their careers. It will I hope make them gell better as a team and it helps them figure out their limits. For me as GM the kobolds were on a par OB and DB-wise with the weakest members of the party and well below the ability of the warriors. The kobolds were two levels lower than the party members which should have given the party the edge in terms of resistance rolls. It also set the precident of fighting many foes from many directions which is something I like to do.

All in all I think it was a good fight and a good test of their abilities. The encounter was also converted over from a Forgotten Realms encounter and for once I did not tone down the numbers of creatures.

That was just a causual encounter next time we meet they should be gettng stuck in to their first real adventure!