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Author Topic: Total Defense: One More Time From The Top  (Read 3931 times)
jburneko
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« on: March 10, 2009, 11:38:06 AM »

So, I'm doing what is now basically man annual cover to cover read through of Sorcerer (one of the pages is loose, damn it).  And I'm STILL seeing stuff I've missed on previous reads.  Anyway, a line jumped out at me that made me want to go through this whole Total Defense thing just one more time.

So this is how I've been doing it:

Alice wants to shoot Bob.  Bob wants to dive for Cover.  Alice and Both roll Stamina simultaneously and Bob gets a two die bonus.

If Alice goes first then Bob does the 1-die or abort choice.  If he aborts he is either shoot not.  If he does the 1 die thing he is also shot or not but then Alice rolls against his standing original roll (possibly with bonuses if Bob was shot).  Fictionally this represents Alice jockying for position over Bob's dive for cover.  One of them will likely roll those victories over into their next action.

If Bob goes first then Alice does the 1-die or abort choice.  If she aborts then basically they go directly the jocky for position situation.  If she goes for the single die and loses then those victories carry over onto Bob's new roll against Alice's incoming shot.

This seems like the more sophisticated way to handle it and is line with the dice diagram material in Sex & Sorcery.  The "jockying for position" interpretation of the strange "defend against defense" situation makes sense especially when you have more concrete actions to work with (i.e. "I dive behind that rock!" as opposed to "I defend myself.").

However, while reading last night I saw the line that said:

"Everyone doing something proactive (not just defending) rolls..."

So it seems that once upon a time Total Defense was treated more like an oppositional conflict rather than orthogonal.  That is if Alice shoots Bob and Bob dives for cover then they both roll Stamina (Bob with a two die bonus) and then it's just a straight up compare.  Either Bob gets shot or he doesn't.

In a more complex situation of Alice shooting Bob and Bob diving for cover and Carl shooting Alice then Bob's defense is treated as oppositional embedded in orthogonal.  That is only Alice and Carl roll simultaneously.  If Carl goes first then Alice has the 1-die or abort choice.  Assuming we make it to Alice's action in any permutation *then* Bob rolls with his two die bonus in defense.

Handling it that way doesn't seem like too bad of an option, especially for beginners.  Otherwise, I'm confused as to how to interpret the "not just defending" clause in the sentence from the text.

Jesse
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John Adams
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« Reply #1 on: March 10, 2009, 12:45:22 PM »

Too complicated, I think it's much simpler than that.

1. You never need to roll unless there's a conflict of interest. If your action is passive, you don't roll until you defend against someone attacking you. You would always use Stamina + modifiers, never the "Suck it up" 1 die.

2. If your action was totally defensive (not merely passive) you get +2 dice when you make defense rolls this round.

EX:

"Shoot him" = roll for your action
"Pull the lever" = active = roll for your action, because the timing clearly matters
"I'll wait and see what happens" = passive = no roll for your action
"Dive for cover!" = Total defense = no roll for your action, +2 on defense rolls this round
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jburneko
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Posts: 1429


« Reply #2 on: March 10, 2009, 12:58:21 PM »

Hey John,

This topic has a bit of history to it going way back.  Here's an example:

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=11127.0

From that thread this is the relevant bit:

"Rolling Full Defense gains you +2 dice, which are mainly Initiative dice, in the sense that if your Defense "goes off" first, you get the full Roll+2, BUT if the attack you are defending against goes off first, you still have to suck it up, or abort and re-roll your NORMAL defense with no bonuses."

Ron confirms that this statement is correct and my first example conforms to this statement.

However, I'm curious about the "not just defending" clause in the text.  Is that a historical artifact?  Is that a more "basic" way to play perhaps suitable to beginners?  I'm curious as the intention behind the clause since the above quote has been repeatedly confirmed as the "correct" way.

Jesse



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Alan
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« Reply #3 on: March 10, 2009, 03:36:00 PM »

"Rolling Full Defense gains you +2 dice, which are mainly Initiative dice, in the sense that if your Defense "goes off" first, you get the full Roll+2, BUT if the attack you are defending against goes off first, you still have to suck it up, or abort and re-roll your NORMAL defense with no bonuses."

I'm confused about why the option to "suck it up" even exists here. "Suck it up" allows you to roll one die and keep your original roll for your original declared action. Since the original declared action is defense and it failed, why would you not abort and roll?

Oh! I finally got it. In the rare case where you are being attacked by more than one person your existing roll may have failed against one but succeed against the other. In this case, would you have the option of sucking up the one to guarantee success on the other?
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- Alan

A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com
jburneko
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Posts: 1429


« Reply #4 on: March 10, 2009, 03:51:29 PM »

Alan,

Even in the case of one attacker I've used it in that "jockeying for position" sense.  It can be clearer with a melee example.

Alice: "I stab Bob"
Bob: "I step to the side."

Roll dice.

Alice goes first.  Bob goes with the one die (does or does not get stabbed).  Assuming Bob isn't stunned by the blow Bob now "side steps" Alice rolls to "defend" against Bob's tactical positioning.  She fails and Bob scores two victories.

Bob: "Now that I'm beside her I bring my hand down on her neck and force her to the ground."
Alice: "I punch him."

Alice rolls Stamina.  Bob rolls Stamina plus his two victories because he's in the superior position of "to her side" to pull off his maneuver.

I've done this many times.  It works well and adds a lot of physical detailing about side steps, and rolling around, ducking for cover and all kinds of "maneuvering".  Which is why my question is really about the clause in the text.

Jesse
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Alan
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« Reply #5 on: March 10, 2009, 08:50:52 PM »

Interesting. I guess I've assumed (based on the "proactive action text" you mentioned above) that a defensive response can't generate carryover dice, only a defense. Hm.
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- Alan

A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com
angelfromanotherpin
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« Reply #6 on: March 10, 2009, 09:58:27 PM »

Oh! I finally got it. In the rare case where you are being attacked by more than one person your existing roll may have failed against one but succeed against the other. In this case, would you have the option of sucking up the one to guarantee success on the other?

Not quite.  As I understand it, any penalties you incurred as the result of the first attack would become bonus dice added on the second attack (rolled and added to the dice on the table), so the defense would not be guaranteed.
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-My real name is Jules

"Now that we know how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, how do we determine how many angels are dancing, at a given time, on the head of a given pin?"
"What if angels from another pin engaged them in melee combat?"
Alan
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« Reply #7 on: March 11, 2009, 06:40:59 AM »

This may be splitting hairs, but I thought penalties and bonuses only apply to the next roll. Since the defense dice are already rolled, penalty dice can't be applied to them.
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- Alan

A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #8 on: March 11, 2009, 09:50:36 AM »

Hey folks,

It's going to take me at least one uninterrupted hour to sort out all the points and issues in this thread as it stands so far. Can you hold off from adding more to it until I find that hour?

Many thanks, Ron
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: March 28, 2009, 10:49:32 AM »

Hi everyone,

All right, this part applies strictly to Jesse's first post.

1. Staying only with your descriptions of the rolls for the first couple of paragraphs, and not even getting near your question about that line in the text, you've already created a big hassle. There is no attack on Alice. She does not get the 1-die-or-abort choice because that applies to defense. Since no attack is coming in at her, none of that is relevant. The only rolling is that described by Bob.

Fictionally, if Bob's roll (with his +2 dice) is higher than hers, then she shot and missed. Case closed, move onto the next round. You're making that side of things about ninety times harder than it is.

You are correct that if Bob's original roll was less than Alice's, then he has the 1-die-or-abort choice to fall back on. This is the especially nice thing about the full defense option.

2. Now for the phrase in the text. At least for some of the time during the PDF-to-book transition, I didn't understand all the implications of the basic system and didn't trust certain things, or didn't know that such things could be trusted via system use. I was still getting accustomed to the idea that "hold action" was obsolete, for instance. Anyway, I could go into exactly what I thought when I included it, but enough is enough, and the best thing to do with that phrase is to ignore it.

3. I'm pretty sure that nullifies your Alice-Carl-Bob idea, and thank God for that. Never mind beginners' versions either.

OK, now for Alan - Alan, Jesse's posts to you are correct, but I think I should reinforce it by looking at the fiction. A stated full defense means that the character is really going for full evasion or blocking or whatever as his or her primary action, and it must be an action, something they do. An abort-to-defense, on the other hand, is desperate and by definition means that the character is dropping whatever was initially launched; the defense in question is best understood as utterly simple (whether a freeze, a sprawl, a wild flurry, whatever).

This means that when Alice stabs Bob, and Bob steps to the side ... OK, Alice's roll wins and her knife-strike is fast as a cobra. Bob's sneeringly-casual step has failed and must be narrated as such. But he still has the option to defend in a far less scientific or cool way. So he aborts the step - i.e., never completes it - and then he can go down in a heap, leap back going "Whoaaa!", or freeze in place, or any other damn thing which gets translated in game terms to his none-bonus, Stamina-only defense roll.

4. Alan, penalizing an already-rolled set of dice is easy - just give the relevant number of bonuses to the defense roll, which by definition is not yet rolled.

Best, Ron
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greyorm
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« Reply #10 on: March 28, 2009, 03:58:55 PM »

A stated full defense means that the character is really going for full evasion or blocking or whatever as his or her primary action, and it must be an action, something they do. An abort-to-defense, on the other hand, is desperate and by definition means that the character is dropping whatever was initially launched; the defense in question is best understood as utterly simple (whether a freeze, a sprawl, a wild flurry, whatever)...none-bonus, Stamina-only defense roll.

Ah! I knew I screwed that up during Tuesday's game. I kept handing out the Total Defense bonus on abortive defense, and then when I caught myself on that, I was still allowing Stamina + relevant Cover for abortive defense; I had completely forgotten the Stamina-only rule. That would have made that fight much more vicious.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #11 on: March 29, 2009, 07:49:11 AM »

Two things.

1. Note that Alice, in the shooting-Bob example, has no "abort my shot" option. This should be clear from the pre-roll phase, in which once it's established that Bob is only defending, her shot is happening and that's that.

I bring this up because sometimes "abort to defend" is used as a subtle means actually to cancel one's stated attack for any number of non-tactical reasons. However, bear in mind that this is only available to those who face incoming attacks with their action still on the table. So that doesn't apply to Alice in this case, because in this particular case (with one other person, who's only defending), her shot is set in stone.

2. Raven, I think we've run into this before - this "add Cover and Stamina" business. I may be misremembering a line of text from somewhere, and if so remind me, but my memory is telling me that, by the rules, the scores are not added. One may roll Cover as a modifying device (against a fixed number of dice, usually 1, 3, or 5 in my games) to generate possible bonuses for the primary Stamina roll.

Best, Ron
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greyorm
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« Reply #12 on: March 29, 2009, 12:07:23 PM »

1. Note that Alice, in the shooting-Bob example, has no "abort my shot" option. This should be clear from the pre-roll phase, in which once it's established that Bob is only defending, her shot is happening and that's that.

Yep.

Quote
Raven, I think we've run into this before - this "add Cover and Stamina" business. I may be misremembering a line of text from somewhere, and if so remind me, but my memory is telling me that, by the rules, the scores are not added. One may roll Cover as a modifying device (against a fixed number of dice, usually 1, 3, or 5 in my games) to generate possible bonuses for the primary Stamina roll.

We may have, I don't recall. But I do recall the exact page on and example with which that rule is mentioned (ie: the Swashbuckler example) and I still did +Cover all night--hrm, I see page 32 also clarifies the "roll one, then add victories over into the other". So, yeah, you're recalling correctly, I'm not. I think, maybe, I was recalling the Sorcery chart with its Power+Will and the example with Yzor resisting a Binding at 26 dice and applying the same principle.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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jburneko
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« Reply #13 on: March 30, 2009, 11:59:35 AM »

Ron,

I see where you're coming from.  There's something that still doesn't sit well with me about the whole thing.  Christopher Kubasik and I had a face-to-face meeting about this.  He said he was going to to email you about that meeting.

Here's what bugs me about your response.  Let's stick to the simple Alice is shooting Bob and Bob is diving for cover.

By your answer if Bob goes first then the roll becomes a straight up comparison and Alice misses.  However, if Bob goes second then Bob gets the abort choice.  What bugs me about this is that it's non-uniform.  That is, why isn't it a straight up comparison period?  Either Bob gets hit or he doesn't depending on if Alice's roll is better.

Doing it as a straight comparison also avoids a lot of weirdness that is ALWAYS a headache in my games.  For example, let's say Bob goes second and he rolls one die to keep his action and he beats Alice so he doesn't get hit.  Now he still has his original roll sitting in front of him representing his in-fiction dive for cover.  But what do those dice MEAN?

I get that he kept his action and so in the shared imagined space he goes flying for cover which might inform latter decisions but what I like about Sorcerer is that there's almost always a way to give your actions mechanical weight.  But to get that mechanical weight you need victories which means those dice representing Bob's dive for cover have to be measured AGAINST something.

Going with what you've said in that past that would likely be just one die (or some other GM chosen number of dice).  But that seems odd since we have, in the fiction, a very convenient opponent to roll against: Alice.  After all that's who Bob is maneuvering against.  But if that's how we're playing things then there's no reason not to give Alice the abort choice if Bob goes first since we've just ruled that Bob's action is opposed by Alice.

Following the rules as written including that little clause I quoted seems to make the whole thing much, much simpler.  Consider now that Alice is shooting Bob, Bob is diving for cover and Carl is whacking Alice with a pipe.  Going with the text only Alice and Carl roll because Bob's action is wholly defensive.  And then if and only if Alice's shot happens does Bob roll and he either gets hit or doesn't based on a straight up comparison.

Things get even crazier when we enter into the realm of non-physical actions.  This example really happened in my play.  A PC military officer with some of his men had an enemy NPC military officer corner.  The PC ordered his inconspicuous demon to appear.  Upon doing so I said that the PC's men freak out and start to run away.  The PC said he was ordering them to stay.  I said the NPC enemy officer was taking advantage of the situation to take a swing at the PC.  Awesome, we roll.

To keep things simple I treated the fleeing subordinate men as a unit (never mind that aspect since what I'm about to say would be the same if it was just one guy).  So they rolled Stamina because they were fleeing.

The PC rolled Will because he was ordering the men to come back.

The NPC officer rolled Stamina because he was taking a swing at the PC.

The order that came up was: PC, Fleeing Men, NPC.

So here we go.  Fleeing Men have a choice abort or roll one die.  I decided they were really scared out of their minds and were really committed to running away.  So I rolled just one die, and LOST.

What the hell does that mean?  They just LOST the Will conflict with their superior officer but they KEPT their flee action and so they run away anyway.  The way I played it was that later in the fiction I role-played those subordinates totally afraid of their commanding officer because they just disobeyed a direct order.  But that just felt wonky.

I suppose I could have taken the victories from the failed Will contest and rolled them against the dice representing the fleeing action.  That also feels wonky.  It feels like double-dipping the Will contest.

When I ran this example by Christopher Kubasik he pointed out that the Fleeing Men shouldn't have rolled their Stamina in the first place because nothing is opposing their physical act of fleeing.  In other words there is no Stamina-based CONFLICT in the fiction regarding those men.  Instead their action is totally defensive against the PC's act of Will.

Which would then, going by the text, make the whole thing so much simpler.  Only the PC giving the order and the NPC swinging the punch roll dice.  If the PC's order action happens THEN the Fleeing Men simply roll Will to resist and they either run away or they don't.

Do you see where I'm coming from?  I realize that the system can handle some pretty robust situations as you say but there are enough weird edge conditions that going by the LITERAL text in the core book just seems to clear them all up (if at the cost of some cool little sub-scenarios).

Jesse


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greyorm
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« Reply #14 on: March 30, 2009, 06:47:52 PM »

By my understanding, Jesse, you can't "abort to defend" when you're already defending (ie: diving for cover). I had a situation exactly like the "being shot at" versus "diving for cover" in my last Sorc session, and I ruled there was no abort-to-defend option. But maybe I've got it wrong, so I'm really interested in the answer here, too.

Only way I can think of parsing this out otherwise is (and this is free-wheeling speculation. Feel free to tell me "No, bad Raven", Ron):

-Bob is diving for cover. Alice is shooting him. This roll firstly determines whose action occurs first.
-If Bob wins, Bob dives away just before Alice can shoot. Bob's dice give him roll-over bonuses for his next-if-related action.

-If Alice wins, Alice shoots just before Bob can dive away.
-Bob can abort his dive and roll full Stamina to avoid being shot, not ending up behind cover (per his action) in any case. Or he can roll 1-die for defense to avoid being shot and still continue his dive for cover.

-If he rolls 1-die defense and loses, he gets shot and doesn't dive behind cover. Take penalties equal to Alice's successes against the 1-die roll. His original "dive" roll also still fails, describe as necessary in the fiction.

-If he rolls 1-die defense and wins, he isn't shot and dives behind cover. (And, um, what? I admit, I don't know what the dice now mean or what to compare them to for successes or anything [1].) Though he would be "behind cover" and likely have a two-dice bonus against being shot at per the usual narrative-terrain rules.

[1] maybe: even though Bob is behind cover and Alice's shot missed, Alice still won the roll and so gets her rollover bonuses for her next action (it ended up being a kind of flailing, last minute dive and so Bob's leg is sticking out), even though she didn't successfully shoot him. But that's kind of head-spin wonky.

I admit, all of that is really funky. And doesn't seem very elegant, though it kind of is in a weird way. And likely isn't it at all, as I mentioned, I seem to recall the statement being that you only get the choice to abort or defend on a non-defensive action.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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