Monday, October 07, 2013

Another Look at the Five by Five Combat Rules

I am playing a lot of Five by Five right now, and as I play I have been learning more and more about what I want from the game. These changes are of course all optional. If they interest you, try them out.

Some of this is repeated from the previous post, but this post organizes my thoughts better and introduces a few new ideas. I really like the "Critical Success" task roll idea, but in applying this across the board I found that I needed to change the specifics of combat a bit to facilitate it. I believe that the end result produces a much better definition of the Combat Styles (now called Specialties) and makes everything a bit more balanced over all.

Critical Success

If a player rolls exactly what they need (without using Karma) when attempting an action and their target number is greater than zero, the character has achieved critical success.

The GM should give a player much more than they were expecting with a critical success. An attempt to gather information might provide far more detail than expected, or a repair on a broken piece of machinery might require half the time or resources, or make the machine better than new.

Complications

When a player rolls “doubles” in attempting to complete a task that attempt is an automatic failure and the player earns a Karma point. In addition this is a good opportunity to introduce an additional complication or set back into the mix. Maybe the character stumbles or another enemy appears that the character didn't see before.

The GM is encouraged to introduce new complications any time a player rolls double to keep tensions high and to keep things from becoming too static. By the same token if the GM rolls doubles when opposing the players, then the players should gain some small advantage or discover that an obstacle that they were facing is less of a hindrance than was originally thought.

One Combat Trait

Each player should define a single trait as their COMBAT TRAIT. This trait is used to accomplish the tasks specifically tied to the “combat mini-game.” The three tasks encompassed by your combat trait are:
Roll To-Interrupt, Roll To-Hit, and Roll To-Evade.

Roll To-Interrupt – Normally NPC's act before PC's. This is the standard flow of combat. However, at the beginning of each round of combat the GM calls for a Roll To-Interrupt. A To-Interrupt roll is a standard 5x5 combat test based on your character's combat trait. If your character passes this test then they are able to act before the NPC's in what is referred to as the Interrupt round.

Critical Success with Roll To-Interrupt – If your character rolls exactly what they need to pass their To-Interrupt combat test (without using Karma) and their target number is greater than zero, then the character has achieved a critical success with their To-Interrupt task. Normally, if your character acts in the Interrupt round, this replaces their action in the standard PC round. If your character scores a critical success with their Roll To-Interrupt, then they are able to act in the Interrupt round, and still take action in the PC round, gaining two actions for the round!!

Roll To-Hit – When it comes time to target an opponent with an attack, your character will be called upon to “Roll To-Hit.” This is a standard 5x5 combat test based on your character's combat trait.

Critical Success with Roll To-Hit – If your character rolls exactly what they need to pass their To-Hit combat test (without using Karma) and their target number is greater than zero, then the character has achieved a critical success with their To-Hit task. If your character scores a critical success with their Roll To-Hit, then they inflict +1 wound level of damage upon the target of the attack. This is in addition to any wounds inflicted by the “To-Damage” combat test.

Roll To-Evade – If you are the target of a successful attack and you have not already acted in the Interrupt round, your character can make a Roll To-Evade standard combat test. You must give up your action in the PC round to do this, but if you make your Roll To-Evade standard combat test successfully, then you have turned the attack against you from a success into a failure preventing the damage done to your character entirely.

Critical Success with Roll To-Evade – If your character rolls exactly what they need to pass their Roll To-Evade combat test (without using Karma) and their target number is greater than zero, then the character has achieved Critical Success with their To-Evade task. If your character scores a critical success with their Roll To-Evade, then they do not give up their action in the PC round. This means that they can act in the PC round normally, or even sacrifice this action yet again to attempt another To-Evade test should an additional attack successfully target them this round.

Combat Specialties

With all combat actions tied to a single trait, it might seem that players are limited in their combat options. What if a player wants to play a savage barbarian who concentrates all her strength on doing the most damage possible? Or maybe a player wants to play a defensive tank who tows-the-line and endures the onslaught of the oncoming hoard?

This is where “Combat Specialties” come into play. Combat specialties are optional and allow players to focus their character on a specific style of combat. A player can invoke no more than one combat specialty at a time.

Interrupt Specialty – Your character specializes on acting before the enemy. Note that players who arm themselves with reach weapons like pole-arms or those who choose to “Dual Wield for Offense” invoke this Combat Specialty automatically.

What you gain – If your Roll To-Interrupt is successful, it is treated as an automatic Critical Success.

What you lose – Your focus on attacking first and fastest means that your defenses suffer. You cannot Roll To-Evade when using the Interrupt Specialty.

Attack Specialty – Your character specializes in doing the most damage they can. Note that players who arm themselves with two-handed melee weapons such as Claymores or Battle Axes invoke this Combat Specialty automatically.

What you gain – If your Roll To-Hit is successful, it is treated as an automatic Critical Success.

What you lose – Your focus on doing the most damage possible means that your defenses suffer. You cannot Roll To-Evade when using the Attack Specialty.

Defense Specialty – Your character specializes in evading attacks and avoiding damage. Note that players who carry a shield or a staff or who choose to “Dual Wield for Defense” invoke this Combat Specialty automatically.

What you gain – If your first Roll To-Evade is successful, it is treated as an automatic Critical Success. Subsequent attempts to Roll To-Evade are resolved normally.

What you lose – Fighting defensively means holding back and preparing to react to the actions of your opponent. If you are using the Defensive Specialty your character cannot Roll To-Interrupt.

Roll To-Damage

Roll To-Damage – After successfully landing an attack with a To-Hit combat test, your character then makes a “Roll To-Damage” combat test. This test is special in that it is not dependent upon your character's combat trait value, but is instead based upon the weapon your character is using and the armor protection worn by your target.

Critical Success with Roll To-Damage – As the Roll To-Damage test is based on the weapon that you are using and not based on any personal trait or skill, there is no way to roll Critical Success with a Roll To-Damage test. (You can score extra damage with a Critical Success on your Roll To-Hit combat test … see above.)

To resolve your Roll To-Damage test, compare your Weapon Rank to the Armor Rank of your target.

WEAPON RANK IS EQUAL TO ARMOR RANK
If your Weapon Rank is equal to the Armor Rank of your opponent you inflict 1 Wound Level of damage. Make a Roll To-Damage test. If you roll 0, you inflict an additional Wound Level of damage.

WEAPON RANK IS LESSER THAN ARMOR RANK
If your Weapon Rank is lesser than the Armor Rank of your opponent, you inflict 0 Wound Levels of damage. For each step your opponent's Armor Rank is greater than your Weapon Rank, find 0 on the Target Number Table and move one step to the left. (The first step to the left of 0 is 20.) This shows the Target number that you will need to roll with a standard Roll To-Damage test to inflict 1 Wound Level of damage.

WEAPON RANK IS GREATER THAN ARMOR RANK
If your Weapon Rank is greater than the Armor Rank of your opponent, you inflict 1 Wound Level of damage. For each step that your Weapon Rank is greater than your opponent's Armor Rank, find 0 on the Target Number Table and move one step to the right. (The first step to the right of 0 is 2.) This shows the Target number that you will need to roll with a standard Roll To-Damage test to inflict +1 additional Wound Level of damage.

Roll To-Resist

Roll To-Resist – Upon suffering damage from a successful attack, your character can attempt to shrug off the effects of that damage to stay on their feet and keep fighting. A To-Resist roll is a standard 5x5 test. You must use your action for the round in order to Roll To-Resist.

The To-Resist test is not included in the “one combat trait” general rule. A roll To-Resist trait can include any general character trait encompassing exceptional strength, endurance, determination or willpower.

Critical Success with Roll To-Resist – If your character rolls exactly what they need to pass their Roll To-Resist standard test (without using Karma) and their target number is greater than zero, then the character has achieved Critical Success with their To-Resist task. If your character scores a critical success with their Roll To-Resist, then they are able to recover up to two wound levels of damage instead of just one. Or if the character is “locked in” at a wound level greater than “Unharmed” a critical success will allow the character to break through that lock and begin recovering fully again.

Weapon and Armor Ranks

For the sake of simplicity Armor and Weapons use the same Rank Descriptors as any other Character Trait. Although it might sound silly to say, "I hit the Orc with my Apprentice Billy Club." So we just use the Rank Abbreviation.

In addition, the text follows the abbreviation with an "A" for Armor or a "W" for Weapon. So, if you see the text: Billy Club (ApW) ... you know that the Billy Club has a Weapon Rank of Apprentice.

Weapon Ranks

UnW – “Unskilled” Rank Weapons – no specific unarmed combat skill or experience, no weapons.

NoW – “Novice” Rank Weapons – table leg, broken bottle.

ApW – “Apprentice” Rank Weapons – daggers and knives, club, dart, shiriken, bola.

JoW – “Journeyman” Rank Weapons – short sword, whip, derringer, tomahawk, throwing axe, hatchet, martial arts.*

AdW – “Adept” Rank Weapons – rapier, saber, javelin, flintlock pistol, all light pistols, crossbow, quarterstaff, short bow, light submachine gun.

ExW – “Expert” Rank Weapons – longsword, longbow, musket, flintlock rifle, all medium pistols, all light rifles, light blaster (light energy pistol), all spears, medium submachine gun.

MaW – “Master” Rank Weapons – halberd, all medium rifles, medium blaster (medium energy pistol), light energy rifle, energy s word, all heavy pistols, battle axe, broadsword, heavy submachine gun.

GrW – “Grand Master” Rank Weapons – shotgun, all heavy rifles, heavy blaster (heavy energy pistol), medium energy rifle, ballista, Gatling gun, flamethrower, claymore or great sword, autocannon or any light cannon, machine gun.

ElW – “Elite” Rank Weapons – medium cannons, heavy energy rifles, grenades, mines.

WoW – “World Class” Rank Weapons – heavy cannons, energy cannon, bomb, TNT.

LeW – “Legendary” Rank Weapons – cosmic energy cannon, photon torpedo, nuclear weapon.

* Martial Artists have a Weapon Rank of JoW or two ranks lower than their Martial Arts skill, whichever is better.

Armor Ranks

UnA – “Unskilled” Rank Armor – scant clothing, lingerie.

NoA – “Novice” Rank Armor – normal clothing, street ware, fur, light cloth, any UnA + shield.*

ApA – “Apprentice” Rank Armor – soft leather or hide armor, heavy cloth, robes, any NoA + shield.*

JoA – “Journeyman” Rank Armor – padded or quilted armor, hard leather armor, heavy hide, any ApA + shield.*

AdA – “Adept” Rank Armor – studded leather armor, ring mail, any JoA + shield.*

ExA – “Expert” Rank Armor – scale mail, breast plate, chain mail, any AdA + shield.*

MaA – “Master” Rank Armor – splint mail, light body armor, Kevlar, space suit, any ExA + shield.*

GrA – “Grand Master” Rank Armor – plate mail, medium body armor, light vehicle armor, any MaA + shield.

ElA – “Elite” Rank Armor – heavy body armor, personal forcefield, medium vehicle armor, any GrA + shield.*

WoA – “World Class” Rank Armor – heavy vehicle armor, vehicle forcefield, powered space combat armor.

LeA – “Legendary” Rank Armor – cosmic vehicle armor, heavy vehicle forcefield, starship “shields.”

* Use of a shield can increase Armor Rank by one step up to a maximum of ElA.



As always, thoughts and feedback welcome.


Regards,


Jeff

9 comments:

  1. I like these combat rules better than what we use currently. I like the single-trait aspect especially.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am a fan of the one trait for combat method. In my efforts to use 5x5 as a D&D emulator without the power creep, each character selects a D&D `class' as one of their traits. For the fighty types, this becomes their combat trait (and gives them access to switching between the combat stances). One of the characters is an illusionist and therefore requires a separate combat trait as his `class trait' is for magic. One of the other characters is a Paladin, called a Guardian in the game. By having a combat trait as his class trait, he was able to choose another utility type trait therefore becoming more useful outside of combat. Works for me.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This sounds awesome. Let me know how it goes. And if you decide to use these updated rules, please let me know how they work for you!

    Thanks!!

    Jeff

    ReplyDelete
  4. Am I reading something wrong, or are the weapon vs armor damage rolls reversed? Under "WEAPON RANK IS LESSER THAN ARMOR RANK" the text says "...find 0 on the Target Number Table and move one step to the left. (The first step to the left of 0 is 20.) "

    The chart in the previous post shows the first step to the left is 2*. The first step to the RIGHT is 20.

    The reverse is true of the next paragraph, "WEAPON RANK IS GREATER THAN ARMOR RANK". I think these paragraphs are just reversed.

    Unless of course I'm an idiot and can't see what's in front of me!

    ReplyDelete
  5. One more question: Will these new combat rules end up in the 5x5 core rules as the default combat mechanics or will they appear in the fantasy supplement only?

    ReplyDelete
  6. The chart in the previous post isn't what I am referring to here. I am actually referencing the task number table on the bottom of the character sheet. The table in the previous post works for cross-referencing weapons and armor and was a tool for me in developing this new damage system.

    Five by Five continues to be a work in progress. I am proud of the "official" release and plan to leave it untouched while I experiment with improving the system. As I test these new ideas I foresee them being introduced to players in the fantasy supplement, but I will leave the core rules unchanged and allow people to choose which version they prefer.

    Down the road as the rules are perfected I will eventually offer and updated core document with the polished version of the rules that I like the best. I worry that the task of comparing weapons to armor is a little cumbersome in this current iteration but I am very pleased with the outcomes that they produce, so I am using them and hoping that an idea will come to me that will allow me to make the whole process easier and more natural.

    Jeff

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hey, Jeff. I've been following 5x5 since I discovered the first version on 1km1kt back in 2008. I just re-read it today, and it got me thinking about the combat system. I see what you're trying to accomplish, but I agree the new rules are just way too clunky. I feel every time somebody has to stop, look at a chart, and make a comparison (i.e., the weapon vs. armor rules) the mood is broken. To be honest, I prefer the combat system from the first version of 5x5. I know it's a world apart from the third version, but I think it's simple and efficient and provides a great framework for adding extras like interrupts.

    One thing I think is missing from 5x5 combat, and 5x5 in general, is Multiple Actions. I was thinking of adding a system where each action after the first suffers a cumulative rank shift penalty. So, the first action is at your normal rank, the second action is at -1 rank shift, the third is at -2, etc. Alternatively, it might be better to use 2 rank shift cumulative penalties per extra action. This would ensure that characters would need to be of sufficiently high skill to pull off multiple actions. Perhaps rolling your exact target number would give you a free extra action or mitigate the extra action penalty somehow.

    Maybe I'll take a stab at writing up some house rules for these ideas. The nice thing about 5x5 is how easy it is to insert your own mechanics and subsystems into the game.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Characters who opt for the Interrupt Combat Specialization will get two actions per round quite often. And there is the rule that allows you to target multiple enemies with a single attack action by taking rank penalties.

    The original weapons/armor/damage mechanic in the first version of Five by Five is taken directly from Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. But, yeah ... it's super clean and easy. I do like it.

    ReplyDelete