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Saturday, 16 February 2013

Engaged in Combat: An Exchange of Blows

There's a lot of posts in the G+ FATE community about weapon and armour ratings and bits if equipment more generally.

This has set me thinking about the narrative modelling of combat in general. Ever since I can remember RPG's have generally stuck to the following formula:
There are usually some additional complexities around weapon and armour values but in the majority of situations these are essentially zero sum. If your weapon beats their armour you do damage otherwise it's reduced.

While it is certainly simple, narratively this turn and turn about mechanism seems almost never to happen. It seems more to follow a pattern like:

Which looks complex but feels more cinematic.

There are three key components to this version; assessment, engagement and exchange.

The assessment step is first, this is the part where you and your opponent(s) try to figure out if it's worth fighting or whether someone should just concede without blood being spilled. It's also the part of the fight where you try and manoeuvre to get your self in and advantageous position, again to try and win without actually coming to blows.

If you still go for it then the engagement commences. This automatically sticks the "Engaged in Combat" aspect on all the participants with a free invoke that can only be used by players and NPC's outside the engagement. This represents the concentration required to not get chopped into small pieces. This aspect fades as soon as you are no longer engaged.

Finally there is the exchange of blows. Each combatant makes their skill check but the results are applied simultaneously. The exchange simulates an arbitrary, but short, length of time where multiple blows are exchanged by each combatant as they dodge, feint, jab, thrust, parry and slash. The test result is the result of the entire sequence. Note that stress can be used as a positive currency here as in any other test. 

Here's an Example
Mercy is facing off against a leering slaver with an ugly scar down one cheek. They trade a few insults about each others' parentage which riles up the slaver who picks up the aspect "Anger makes him careless".

Mercy compels this aspect to make the slaver rush at her.

Mercy and the slaver are now "Engaged in Combat" and the two of them roll Fighting. 

It's a tie. The two of them break apart again and start circling each other looking for an opening.

The slaver tries to back Mercy into a corner, but she is too quick for him and instead the slaver is "Off Balance" (Opposed Athletics tests). 

They exchange blows again and this time Mercy is successful. The slaver concedes, dropping his sword and diving off into the crowd.

Surprise and Initiative
If one combatant has the drop on the other then they go first and in this case the character being attacked can only offer passive resistance.
Another slaver creeps up behind Mercy. As she's not seen or heard him he is just rolling Fighting to bypass her armour and do more damage, although she can invoke any aspect that she can justify.
Otherwise it goes with narrative. Teamwork operates as normal.

First Strike
If you have a suitable aspect to invoke or a relevant stunt then you can gain first strike, breaking up the exchange and resolving the outcome of your action before your opponent can act.

If you are not engaged with an opponent you can utilise your first strike to act before and exchange takes place between combatants. If you act in the middle of an exchange then your action is rolled as normal and resolved at the same time as the other combatants in the engagement.

Here's Another Example
Roddy and Keith have just exchanged blows and both suffered minor consequences. They are just about to get into it again, but as Roddy moves to attack George, who "Drew a Bead" on Keith during the last exchange between him and Roddy invokes it to interrupt and shoots at Keith, who sensibly concedes defeat.

Special thanks to +Adam Schwaninger and +Ryan M. Danks for their inspirational posts.

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