Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Fluidity in Battle

In JAGS each combat round is six seconds--what's going on during all that time? Furthermore, I'd said, in a post, that movement 'with an attack' was quite possible. If I'm playing with a battle-map does that mean I get "free movement" with an attack--even though the rules say you need to make an Init Roll by 5+ in order to get a 'free step' with an attack?

What's going on?

What's Going On?
In short form: we want to acknowledge that the rules are not trying to be ultra-prescriptive and that sometimes the GM and Players will need to make decisions about what happens in the imaginary space of the game in order to fill in the gaps. However, the rules are expected to provide balance and a foundation for the imaginary action.

Consider this thought experiment: A "Dodge" action does not usually imply any movement at all. There is a Retreating Option that can be used for extra REA--but usually the Dodge action is pretty much silent  when it comes to determining if you changed location.

What that "implies" is that all characters Dodging are kind of like Neo in The Matrix, who dodges bullets while his feet are stuck to the floor. Clearly that's not what most people probably imagine and it makes no sense to anyone with any experience dodging, well, anything.

So there's a disconnect.

Basically what this means is "The Rules Track Tactically Important Positioning." That's in quotes because it's still a guideline. We think the concept of a dodge implies some moving around and the rules are necessarily silent as to that because (a) there are a lot of different kind of dodges and the rules could get complex and (b) we think that's what you have a GM for, anyway.

In The Context Of An Attack
The rules in the book on Reach (pg 116) give specific yards-ranges for different reaches--but I had said, in another post, that an attack could have like a yard of movement one way or another. So Thomas asked, logically, how to reconcile the two (if I am understanding it). Here's how: barring any compelling reason not to, use the rules. If you are 3 yards away from an opponent then you're at Long Reach range and require a Step action to close.

But what about the yard?

Conceptually speaking you might "close the yard" and the opponent might "step back a yard" and that would not cost anyone REA or even be tracked at all--it just might be imagined. Or you might, if you were in range already, close a yard (again, in the player's imagination) and strike and then circle slightly, and then be back at roughly your starting distance (since no one paid REA to close--which would have tactical implications).

In other words, given the gray areas (six second rounds and the allowance of movement for things like blocks and dodges and so on) it is acceptable to, for example, slightly change the position of characters on a battle map so long as (a) no one objects to a change and (b) you keep the tactical situation roughly the same.

So All This Free Stuff Is Just Un-Important Imaginary Stuff?
Well ... no. Or rather, "Yes" and "No." As a GM I would, for example, allow a dodging character to move kind of randomly to one side or another or back "for free" as a result of the dodge and if that--later--became tactically important I'd be okay with that. I would not allow someone to always make their "dodging moves" so as to, for example, close distance with an enemy they wanted to hit in a dedicated fashion: dodging doesn't (to my mind) work like that.

In the case of HTH combat where Reach is important I'd enforce the rules for closing--but I very well might allow circling of a yard or so with both parties moving. So long as REA is being spent for the attack and the lateral movement is not tactically significant (in the immediate time frame) that's not a problem.

Why Do This?
Well, in the original JAGS we had 1-second rounds and did track movement to the yard at all times. This was good for battle maps but it was very bad for simulating combat. Watch a UFC? There's a lot of time where not much happens. JAGS combats were over in like 3 seconds ... always. That was a weakness of the system--you could say--but really, the "game time" it took to play it out was about right--it was satisfying to us.

So our choice was to keep the real play-time fixed and increase the imaginary time (a bit--now those UFC fights are all 18-24 second knockouts which is still ridiculous but not unheard of--and we have had plenty of battles that have, in game, lasted several minutes where tactical movement is involved or the PCs simply don't want to charge into combat).

How Do I Do This In My Game?
If the above isn't clear the answer is this: (a) you apply the rules and assume nobody moves unless they pay REA and then (b) you try to imagine what you think the action kinda looks like --without-- requiring everyone's feet be nailed to the floor and then allow for that motion so long as it isn't breaking the game.

We expect the GM to be able to go even further: there will necessarily be situations in the game we have not provided rules for (We're fighting on a quasi-open horizontal dimensional portal--WHERE ARE THE RULES!?) and we think that's fine. The GM can make judgements (and so can Players--the GM just has veto authority) to maneuver characters however is necessary. These can and will have significant tactical effects and that's, again, okay--just use your best judgement and if people at the table disagree work it out like adults. That's our best advice.


  1. Okay, so the gist I'm getting from this is that my original assumption about the melee range categories was correct; that they're approximations based on the idea that (as you say) "people's feet aren't glued to the floor." And that significant movement really _does_ depend on the Movement actions. I'll have to correct people about that when we play again next weekend.

    The one thing I find a bit bothersome about this is that the rules are a bit mum on what happens if someone, well, ignores the limit as to the number of Steps they can use closing. It just says "you can't do more than one" but doesn't say what that exactly represents. An example:

    Willem, the martial arts focused character in the playtest I'm running for the group, has kicked the heck out of one pseudo-zombie but there's another one out at Long reach. Its got enough movement to get up to Close where it needs to be to try a Grab, but that would cross two Reach steps, so its not permitted. I can only see a couple things this is representing:

    1. The assumption that you're coming in too fast. That seems to be the assumption in the Charge action, but its a lot more movement and doesn't leave enough REA left for anyone short of about 12 REA to attack when you're done. But the movement actually needed is well within the Step of an average human. Of course a long action also means that a target with REA can get a preemptive shot as you're coming in, but that only matters if they've got enough REA to do it. Step doesn't make that assumption, it just forbids it outright.

    2. It permits time for the target you're closing with to back up. This is a little more workable, but it still creates problems. What if the target can't or doesn't want to back up? Simply forcing them to do so has implications in tight or hazardous environments, or even simply in situations where people are trying to control the tactical situation (for example, two people fighting more or less back-to-back to avoid the chance of enemies getting behind them).

    Can you shed any light on what that "no more than one Reach step per Step" rule is supposed to represent here?

    (This has some implications that one player brought up in the game; currently most relatively normal people have no way to, for example, cross some distance and attack someone who has a baseball bat _at all_ within one round, as the Step won't permit it and a Charge won't leave them with enough REA to actually attack).

    (As an aside I think you going to six second rounds was the right call; my experience with GURPS taught me not only were 1 second rounds overly fiddly, but it produced exactly the result you mention where everything resolved at a speed that seemed way too fast).

  2. Some real quick partial answers:

    1. If the opponent has a weapon that you are closing reach against the one yard rule prevents you from getting hit by coming in too fast (i.e. if I go against a Long reach weapon they are presumably using it to deter me from just closing all the way).

    2. You can flying tackle a guy with a bat. Or circle out of range until you make your Init roll by 5+ (then move up for 5 and step-strike for only 5).

    More later when I get a chance.

  3. After running a couple more sessions, I realized I was probably doing something wrong, and wanted to make sure and ask a related question.

    The Full Move action mentions that it uses 3x movement rate as a maximum; from the text it appears this is three times the Run or Sprint move (depending on your desires and how long you've been using it).

    What this brought to mind is, is there any case where you either can get a full round's worth of Walk speed or a single second's Run or Sprint speed? The Full Move and and Step variants seem seen to be the only way one normally moves; the Full Move allows the above triple movement, and the Steps are too REA intensive for anyone short of an effective superhuman to be able to take more than than at most three of them.

    On a mostly unrelated point, I wonder if the Optional Reload Table is quite as intended; it seems to suggest that a Master Fireams skilled character can reload a revolver or a breech loading black powder weapon as a 0 REA medium action. This seems--odd. I can see it with a speedloader or magazine, but its hard to picture with those more mechanically intensive loading processes. Same with the starred do-it-with-a-skill-roll. Is this actually what's intended?

  4. Oh, and a request: when you can find time, could you do a post about the new Resisted Attack rules (the ones that utilize DP) and how that's supposed to work? I'm not entirely sure I'm getting it right, and some discussion with an example or two might help.