Posted by higgins
Combat is a whirlwind of chaos. Marksmen pop in and out of cover, warriors clash blades faster than the eye can follow, civilians run frantically in every direction and others lie patiently to ambush and murder them. While this sense of chaos makes for excellent cinema, it is nearly impossible to actually run a game this way. On the other hand, a lot of games go far in the other direction, making combat a nice and orderly, predictable affair with each character going in their predetermined order and having a set number of movement actions and attacks. Unfortunately, this isn’t nearly as interesting to watch or play and ranged combat often gets a distant back seat to the up-close and personal confrontation in melee.
In Song of Steel, we thought we’d try something a little different. While there’s no way to directly simulate the chaos of combat, we thought we could get a little closer. The fact is, everyone acts when they think it will suit them the best and that makes the combat sequence chaotic and unpredictable.
To model this, we’ve divided the ranged combat timeline into individual sections called Rounds. During a Round, each player and NPC gets a single Action and they act in Sequence. These Actions are fairly significant ones, such as shooting at someone, dashing across the battlefield or initiating melee combat. Minor activities such as calling out a few words or taking a couple of steps aren’t considered Actions.
Sequence is determined randomly each Round, so, that nobody will know beforehand whether their action will be first, last, or somewhere in between.
This is done by deciding whether you’d like your character to perform a fast action, a move action, or a slow action. These actions are denoted by a red d6, a white d6 and a d10 die respectively.
In a nutshell, the character’s speed isn’t determined by some intrinsic trait, but by the type of action they want to take.
So, you choose the respective die and hide it in your palm. At the cue from the Narrator, everyone drops their die to the table.
Red d6 allows you to engage someone in melee, take a shot, lean out from cover to take a shot, or drive forward — to move while being exposed, but ready to take out anyone that stands in your path.
White d6 allows you to haul ass. Weapon cannot be levelled, but the character counts as a moving target and covers distances quickly.
d10 allows you to take a carefully aimed shot, lay an ambush, assess the situation, rummage or drag weight. d10 also allows access to various reload actions.
But why not always roll a d10 and take carefully aimed shots? The short answer is “Sequence”.
What this means is that the actual numbers on the dice are important. The lower your result, the faster your character will act.
So, after the dice have been rolled, the Narrator calls out „One”, and if anyone has a „1” showing on his die, they should raise their hand, as it is their character’s turn to go. Then the Narrator calls out „Two” and so on.
Due this randomness, slow (d10) actions can at times beat fast (d6) and move (d6) actions and this is okay. Sometimes people get lucky. And sometimes they get killed.
Rolling equal numbers with two or more characters means that their actions occur simultaneously. That said, double kills are extremely rare in ranged combat. So, in case of tied offensive actions against one another, the character with highest Cunning acts first, then the next highest, etc. In case of Cunning draw, double kill becomes an option, but if you really-really have to know which one is faster, throw a coin to see which character happens to act first.
To keep running things simpler, assume that everyone exposes themselves at the beginning of the Round (unless their chosen action says otherwise) and then resolve actions by the Sequence order.
Playtesting this, we’ve found that the actions play out really fast, while keeping the players guessing.
“The enemy will probably try to dash over the bridge. Will I make a more difficult, hurried shot with a d6, or will I attempt an easier d10 one, with a possibility that the target reaches behind the cart before I’m ready to loose?”
The answer to this isn’t mechanical, it’s one part tactics and one part luck. As always, the actions in Song of Steel are about the player’s decisions, rather than the mechanics. Your choices will directly shape the stories that will unfold.