Simple to Complex Combat in Multiverser


M. J. Young:
Over in design and resolutionQuote from: Marco

I suspect I'd like Multiverser.

The simple-to-complex issue (did I read you right? Up to 12 steps?) is a great assist in play. I also think it's interesting that character with the best chance to hit goes first. That speaks to timing in the case of a fight--but does a character with a short weapon get to hit before a character with a handgun (and really, I guess, does it I found that interesting).

Going from simple to complex is great--but if I want all the mechanical differentiation then I've gotta play at the most complex level--and I guess all I was saying was "I suspect that all that differentation will, in the end, be moderately "complicated".
It seems the best way to answer that is to provide an overview of the steps, and to do so in a new thread so as not to derail the topic of that one. We spent many hours trying to figure out how to fit into one combat system anything we could imagine any character or creature ever doing in combat under any system, and I think in some ways it looks more complex than it actually is.
[list=1][*]Each side announce intended actions and special defenses.

This can be as simple as "we'll continue what we're doing"; it can be considerably more complicated if players want to do a lot of different things in combat.
[*]Roll for skills which affect attacks.

These can be targeting skills, magic bonuses, special defenses such as evasive tumbling or parrying skills, et cetera. Depending on the nature of the skill, it might be rolled the first time it's brought into use in a given combat and then remain in effect thereafter, or it might be rolled periodically to determine its ongoing efficacy. For example, if I'm using a defensive anti-inertial force field that reduces incoming kinetic attacks by -20, once it's been activated by a roll it works unless something knocks it out. On the other hand, if I'm using evasive tumbling in which my die roll becomes a penalty to his attack, then each minute I roll again to determine what the penalty is now.

I should mention that most equipment is covered under skills; armor is considered cover, but other defensive equipment works if it's properly used.

Obviously this step is only included if someone is using something which 1) will impact the chance of attack success of one side or the other and 2) isn't already considered in effect.
[*]Calculate hit success for all characters using repeat factor attacks.

Believe it or not, I skip this step most of the time. I'm a firm believer in what you might call the 80% rule--if you're familiar with the system and have a rough idea of the character's ability, you know whether four out of five rolls are a success or failure without checking anything. It's only one roll in five that you actually have to crunch numbers/check charts or whatever the system requires. Multiverser is a percentile based system, and I pretty much know before I do any math that you're within ten points of some number. Thus most times I'll roll the dice and only do the math if it's close.

Also, unless things are changing quite a bit in your combat (characters using lots of different skills, or tactics which would alter the chance to hit of one side or another from minute to minute) you only have to do this once.

Repeat factors are one of three methods of tracking time in skills; it's the one used for anything in which you will do it so many times in a minute, and thus for nearly all weapon-based attacks but also for many magic and psionic skills. The other two are time factor skills (ritual spells, starting sequences on equipment) in which the task should be completed so many seconds (or minutes) after it is started; initiative for these depends on how long they take to accomplish. Time rate skills apply to continuing actions (running, for example) in which the task is being accomplished as time progresses.
[*]Each roll for initiative.

As mentioned, the character with the better chance to hit has the better chance to hit first. Initiative is determined by a skill check against your chance to hit. Success in Multiverser is always the low end of the die roll, but the higher the roll the better the success. Thus if one character has a 60% chance to hit and the other has a 40% chance, the character with the 60% chance to hit will always succeed if his roll is 41 to 60. Because of this, I will often have the side with the better chance to hit roll for initiative first, because the other side might not have to roll.

Initiative is not rolled if there are no repeat factor actions involved, but that's rather unusual.
[*]Roll steal initiative attempts.

Iajutsu, fast draw, steal initiative, fast hands--whatever ability it is, if a character has a skill that enables him to move before anyone else, he can decide to roll it after initiative has been rolled. If more than one such character is involved, the one with the highest successful roll goes first. You can opt to steal initiative even if your side has it. Again, this is only rolled if someone wants to do this. Also, it only impacts the character with that skill.
[*]Ratio attacks evenly.

If the fastest attackers on each side have the same attack rate, this is just one to one through the minute; however, if there is an imbalance in the number of attacks each side gets, the trading gets ratioed so that each side has a reasonable chance. If for example the number of attacks was six to two the attacks would run AABAABAA if the side with six had the initiative, BAAABAAA if the other side does. This step is essentially a quick determination of the flow of combat during the minute (combat is fought minute by minute).
[*]Initiative stealers act in turn.

This only applies if someone has successfully stolen initiative. The reason this step is included is because someone who is fast enough to do this can beat the actions in the next step, and no one else can.
[*]"Instant defenses" activated.

These are any skills (already rolled above) which protect the user which can be done in six seconds or less--turning on a force field, shouting a command word, raising a mental shield, moving into a stance. Step 8 merely means that this is the moment at which any such things not already active (e.g., from a previous round of combat) become active. If there are no new defenses to add, this step doesn't exist.
[*]First attacking side launch first attack only and initiate time-based actions.

The side with the initiative is assumed to go at "zero" in the combat minute; everything to this point is either theoretical (outside the real time of the game) or instantaneous (taking place in that nebulous between the minutes space).
[*]Calculate time frame.

The time frame only matters if someone is using time factor or time rate skills; otherwise it's ignored. That is, if we know that one side is attacking eight times this minute and the other is attacking six, and that the spell being cast by someone on the first side will take thirty seconds and the guy running to open the door to let in reinforcements for the other side can dash seventy-five yards in fifteen seconds, this step lets us determine the point in the combat relative to the attacks that these events will occur.

Multiverser supports more concrete and more abstract play scenarios; for example, if the distance to the door is not actually known, there are at least two other ways in which the time needed to reach it can be determined that don't involve this step.
[*]Second attacking side initiates time-based actions.

The side with the initiative gets to attack first and to activate any time factor or time rate skills with that first attack; but the second side acts immediately after that, frequently before it gets a chance to physically attack. Again, this step assumes that such actions are being used.
[*]First attacking side finishes its first volley, and all attack sequences are completed.

In other words, we now know when everything happens in the round, so we just have to play out the rest of it.[/list:o]

I should mention that damage is based on the attack roll--in much the same way as the higher roll gets the initiative, so too the higher roll does more damage. Weapons are divided into seven damage categories (from annoying to obliterative) easily derived from the percentile roll. Damage categories can be increased by skill, weapon quality, and other factors (and decreased by defenses), and there can be other modifiers attached, but there's no second roll for damage except in rare cases in which a skill specifically has a damage rider--such as a magic sword that does ordinary damage and may also do magical damage, rolled independently.

So you need steps 1, 9, and 12 in most combats, and frequently 3 and 4--all relatively simple steps--with the other steps coming in only in those combat rounds in which they're needed.

I should note also that it is quite common for a step to be included in one round and not in the next; the complexity will adjust during combat in response to player choices.

In regard to the matter of handguns versus short weapons, that's a tough one. A missile weapon which is considered to be at point blank range has a considerable advantage, so all things being equal the pistol will probably shoot first and more accurately than the short weapon. (A thrown weapon with a melee function, such as knives, spears, and hand axes, have no point blank range, to avoid the non sequitur that you have a markedly better chance to hit if you let go of the handle than if you hold on to it.) However, a character with significantly superior skill can overcome this, and it's still based on a roll, so it's possible for either side to grab the initiative most of the time. That all seems realistic to me, but I'm hardly an expert on such things.

I hope this helps.

--M. J. Young


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