Thursday, August 25, 2011

Skills, Cards, & Battle

The overhaul of the skills system is nice, because it allows me to bring back something I was thinking about adding to the project--a card-like battle structure.

First, to clarify, the number of actions you can take in a round is low--with an Aspect bonus, maybe 14; without it, at maximum Wit (the relevant attribute) you can take 7 actions per turn. This replaces an admittedly messy MP cost / MP total mechanic that I never really liked.

Every skill has a card, which has on it (in addition to quick-reference information like the dice used) a brief list of the abilities the skill allows, as well as the bonuses available should you get a critical success with the skill (or carry crits over from previous actions), and of course, what benefits or hindrances apply at each skill level.

When your turn comes up (or you need to take a defense action), you can look at all the options available to you, using the cards as quick reference. (If you should need details of anything, refer to the core book, or printouts if the GM has modified anything) Then, lay out your cards as you take actions. I haven't decided if it's a hard rule to only use each card (action) once per round; perhaps not. But since only one card is actually happening at any moment, it shouldn't matter.

As you lay out actions, any action which is both unopposed and un-rolled (taken at average value) happens immediately. If the action has a target, the target can at any time choose to oppose the roll by taking a defense action. The person taking a defense action can do any action available to them, including other opposed rolls; if the attacker chooses to take a defense action, it cancels out their previous action, whatever it was.

Additionally, the defender can cancel incoming attacks by using a Defense ability or Movement ability. Using these skills, your defense action's average roll becomes the DC the opponent must meet to succeed. If the defense action has a synergy (explained below), bonuses from that skill may be used to increase your defense.

If the attacker wins an opposed action, their turn continues, and they can keep taking actions until they either use a skill with the Turn Eater hindrance, run out of actions, or decide to pass. If the attacker fails an opposed action, their turn ends immediately, and any unspent critical successes are lost.

Remember that the skill system allows you to accumulate critical successes, and use them later in the round. You must declare how many stored bonuses you are using on an opposed action before the defender chooses whether or not to defend against it; however, you can choose to roll the skill after seeing the defense action. Once you have rolled the skill, you must take the result, even if it is below average.

There are two additional sources of bonuses to your actions. First are items; they may be used manually, or automatically by related skills. If the item is used as part of the skill, it may also have a unique Critical Hit Pool; you can select critical success bonuses from this pool in addition to those given by the skill. Some items, such as armor, apply bonuses constantly or conditionally.

The other source of bonuses are synergy skills. These skills are used for free, without your character spending an action. Generally, synergy skills are specified on an ability or item as "Add one X ability" where X may be move, observe, attack, defend, some school of magic, etc; you are free to use any skill which has an ability fitting that description. If the skill you choose has synergy skills itself, you cannot gain more actions; synergy skills do not stack. You can, however, gain multiple synergy skills in the use of one ability (such as from an item and one from the skill).

Synergy skills are excellent for helping you leverage your character's specialities. For example, a character who focuses on his keen eyesight, and also uses ranged weapons, would make use of the Aim mental skill; in addition to bonuses from the Aim skill, it has the ability Eagle Eye, which has an Observation Skill Synergy; the character can choose any Observation skill he likes, and add the bonuses to the Aim skill. Likewise, the same eyesight-focused character may, in social combat, be in the middle of a tirade about the follys of a tyrant, and use the Gossip skill's Cutting Observation--which also has an Observation Skill Synergy. In each case, the character's eyes give him additional leverage, for free.

Note that as with all good RPG systems, the card mechanic of combat is entirely optional--you can do the same with a book, pencil, and paper, or less. However, I think it adds clarity to what would otherwise be a somewhat jumbled proposition.