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Attack Sequences - Further considerations for cinematic fantasy combat [potential spoilers]

Dagor

Registered User
Validated User
Yeah, but it's noteworthy that it's the very act of attacking that creates the advantage in the clip. And you're right: Robin is forced to parry. If he did anything else but focus on parrying, the next attack would hit him.
In Fate terms, it's not necessarily clear that it is "the very act of attacking that creates the advantage" because not everything that cosmetically looks like an attack will necessarily be one in mechanical terms. I mean, to take a simple example, pulling the trigger on a gun could be an Overcome, Create Advantage, or Attack action depending on where it was pointed in the fiction and what the player was actually trying to achieve right at that moment, despite the fact that it'd go "bang" in exactly the same way each time...

Never mind that once one dips a bit deeper into the actual conflict rules, it turns out that temporary boosts that pop up on certain attack and defense results are in fact a thing there on top of everything else. :)
 

Raleel

Registered User
Validated User
Should the attacker (the Initiative holder) automatically have the sole right to attack until he squanders it or not? Or should the default be alternating attacks and "Gaining advantage" a special event? I can see arguments in favor of either side.
I don’t know that I can answer that. I think most of those scenes do support one opponent holding a right for some time until an advantage is gained. I suspect there is more tension if there is a set of alternating attacks tying to gain advantage. I may not be fully grasping your question.

I think the one thing that sets Mythras apart for this sort of thing from many systems (though not all) is that you can gain advantage on defense as well, not just attack. Your foe has initiative, he scores a regular success, but you critical your defense, you can block all of the damage and overextend the opponent. Now you have the advantage and right to attack, and they do not on their next turn. It even works on a miss by your foe - you can still defend, get success and gain the advantage.

Cortex plus/prime has a thing where you can bank plot points. You essentially bank your 1s until you want to unleash. It very much has that sort of feel as well, though not anywhere near as detailed as many of the blow by blow systems.
 

Raleel

Registered User
Validated User
Like in Mythras - while it has realistic combat with lots of option, it has nothing (afaik) emulating the trope that the hero/protagonist has to suffer through a few rounds of being on the back foot, before taking over and being awesome
The GM using press advantage will do this quite nicely. It prevents the pc from attacking on their next turn, forcing them to get a good defense roll or taking advantage of a misstep by the opponent.
 

RosenMcStern

Rokari Wizard
Validated User
I love BRP (and all things d100, really). I guess the question I have here is:

Should the attacker (the Initiative holder) automatically have the sole right to attack until he squanders it or not? Or should the default be alternating attacks and "Gaining advantage" a special event? I can see arguments in favor of either side.
For me the answer is most likely "Yes".

Our in-house game system has combat mechanics which are derived from Legend, the OGL ancestor of Mythras, and modifies the basic assumptions of the system to obtain exactly that result: as long as the attacker rolls higher than the defender, he can choose a Take Initiative manoeuvre that lets him or her keep pressing on and prevents the defender from retaliating. The initial moves of a round aim at "eroding" the opponent's initiative until the tactical advantage accumulated results in defensive disadvantage (a high chance of missing a parry) at which point whoever has the initiative can go for the killing.

However, the sequence resets at the start of each 6-second round, after an average of 3 attacks approximately. In a real situation, a flurry of blows can seldom last more than a few seconds. 45 seconds are for Hollywood only. The cinematic feeling is all there, though, as the most skilled combatant can usually lock an opponent into defensive stance and continue to strike while the other side can only defend, hoping to regain momentum with a lucky roll.

What greatly amplifies this effect is that fighting characters attack and parry quite often in a round (Average Joe with a sword can land three blows per round if he has initiative), and the fact that combat effects are generated for every exchange, allowing the combatants to alter the flow of initiative at will.
 

Bankuei

Master of Folding Chair
Validated User
This is one of the things I like about Riddle of Steel - it's core combat mechanic typically involves one person has the initiative, and gets to keep making attacks. The defender only steals back the Initiative if they roll more successes than the Attacker - a tie might block the attack, but the attacker still holds initiative.

The tactical fun for the players however, is in this: they each have combat pools to split between two phases. If you're the defender, and you overcommit to defending the first phase, you won't have enough dice for a useful counterattack, and your opponent will just take back the initiative on the second phase anyway. If you undercommit, and roll poorly, you take an injury and the situation gets much harder for you.

Other choices that also make for more varied play (which, cinematic fights also use a lot) include things like choosing to move/stay on certain terrain (which also requires a commitment of dice or risk slipping/falling), switching to a different weapon that maybe is better for defense or a different reach, or trying to break free of the combat in order to try to re-enter and gain initiative.

- Chris
 

Alexander Kalinowski

RPG designer from hell
Validated User
I think this is a common mistake to think about what you see visually to only be interpreted one way, e.g. you can swing your sword to intimidate.
Things certainly allow for different interpretations. However, if you take a step back and look across many fights in fantasy movies and TV shows, you'll find one side being driven under a hail of attacks by the other a common theme, a common combat dynamic. If a rulesets sets out to recreate cinematic combat, this is an essential ingredient it seems. Rulesets that are based around alternating attack struggle to capture this - unless they have a mechanic like Mythras.


In Fate terms, it's not necessarily clear that it is "the very act of attacking that creates the advantage" because not everything that cosmetically looks like an attack will necessarily be one in mechanical terms.
I consider this suboptimal for recreating cinematic combat, to be honest. My reading of these scenes is that oftentimes the attacker keeps following up on his additional attack, keeping the defender busy by trying to wound him. It's the attacks themself that keep the defender from striking back.


I don’t know that I can answer that. I think most of those scenes do support one opponent holding a right for some time until an advantage is gained. I suspect there is more tension if there is a set of alternating attacks tying to gain advantage. I may not be fully grasping your question.
Two models to recreate the action:
1. You have alternating attacks, as normal in RPGs. However a good attack by the attacker can create an advantage that keeps the defender from striking back. This can happen successively over multiple rounds.
2. Or, you could have as the default assumption that whoever has the initiative in melee combat is the only side which can attack that round. Under this model, the defender needs to do better than the attacker to capture initiative for himself next round. And, if he does much better he might do an immediate and very dangerous counterattack.


For me the answer is most likely "Yes".

Our in-house game system has combat mechanics which are derived from Legend, the OGL ancestor of Mythras, and modifies the basic assumptions of the system to obtain exactly that result:
I am glad that other people are likewise viewing this as a viable, if not preferrable, interpretation of cinematic combat. Personally, I prefer a bit of a different approach (abstracting the actual attacks into a single attack action over the course of a round; not requiring a specific hit effect or attack option to retain initiative - it's the default unless you roll badly) but that's just personal taste and other takes might be just as good or better.


This is one of the things I like about Riddle of Steel - it's core combat mechanic typically involves one person has the initiative, and gets to keep making attacks. The defender only steals back the Initiative if they roll more successes than the Attacker - a tie might block the attack, but the attacker still holds initiative.
Yeah, I like that a lot about TRoS. However, it was, overall, specifically written to capture "gritty realism" and not for cinematic combat.
 

Thanaeon

Mostly simulationist
Validated User
Yeah, I like that a lot about TRoS. However, it was, overall, specifically written to capture "gritty realism" and not for cinematic combat.
That's true enough, but you could still use that specific idea without also taking everything else in the system. I think the stealable initiative model works equally well for cinematic and gritty combat.
 

Dagor

Registered User
Validated User
I consider this suboptimal for recreating cinematic combat, to be honest. My reading of these scenes is that oftentimes the attacker keeps following up on his additional attack, keeping the defender busy by trying to wound him. It's the attacks themself that keep the defender from striking back.
Suboptimal for recreating your particular interpretation of cinematic combat, sure, I can absolutely see that. Other than that, I obviously disagree. :)

In practice, if I absolutely had to invent yet another label, I suppose I could call what Fate supports best (IMO and all) "literary combat" as opposed to the "cinematic" model. That is, it models fights (and other conflicts) whose pacing is really driven far more by story beats than "hard" in-universe time constraints because the descriptions of individual actions can be easily lengthened and shortened as needed, and where it's often a lot easier for the audience to quite literally read each combatant's actual intent at any given moment than it is in a live action movie or TV show (where they after all have to kind of rely on just trying their best to interpret the movements and body language of characters whose actors are at the same time trying their best to not actually hurt each other instead).
 

RosenMcStern

Rokari Wizard
Validated User
I am glad that other people are likewise viewing this as a viable, if not preferrable, interpretation of cinematic combat. Personally, I prefer a bit of a different approach (abstracting the actual attacks into a single attack action over the course of a round; not requiring a specific hit effect or attack option to retain initiative - it's the default unless you roll badly) but that's just personal taste and other takes might be just as good or better.
I see your point, but I have doubts about the viability of this implementation. Abstracting all attacks in a round with a single roll is a perfectly valid combat model, but I do not see it as a good fit for a "steal initiative" system. It would mean that your fighter has only one chance to take initiative, and if he botches it he is virtually out of the game till next round, while his buddies who are not engaged in hand to hand fighting have time to cast a powerful spell, fire one or more arrows, throw a grenade, run past the melee and set the Beautiful Princess(TM) free, and so on. Being confined to defense for several rounds while the others do the fun stuff risks being perceived as "frustration" rather than "cinematic action". Multi-action rounds, on the other hand, imply that you have to lose two, three or even four exchanges in a row to be reduced to total inaction. It is not a matter of plausibility, as abstraction does not reduce plausibility, but of "fun factor".
 

Alexander Kalinowski

RPG designer from hell
Validated User
Suboptimal for recreating your particular interpretation of cinematic combat, sure, I can absolutely see that. Other than that, I obviously disagree. :)
And that's alright, of course. However, allow me to express that I have been studying these fight scenes for a a couple of years now (across genres) and I feel pretty confident in my intepretation. Btw, another thing to look at is recaps of great duels in sports - these are texts that are largely driven by retelling how the momentum switched back-and-forth and which events in detail impacted that momentum of "battle." It's the attacks of one side that send the defender reeling, sometimes until they are eventually overwhelmed by the weight of said attacks.


Being confined to defense for several rounds while the others do the fun stuff risks being perceived as "frustration" rather than "cinematic action".
This is a GREAT observation. And you're absolutely right, of course. Here's a bit of role-playing trivia. Here in Germany, D&D never rose anywhere near to the prominence it has in the States because the market was conquered by Das Schwarze Auge (DSA) - or The Dark Eye (TDE) in English. Back in the 80s they published an AD&D-equivalent for their rules that contained exactly such a set-up: attack sequences with the defender being forced to parry over countless rounds (because the attacker's high level stats were so good). It failed - for exactly the same reason you described. And was never tried again.

But suppose every defensive action of the defender had a fair chance to result in a counter-attack, in extreme cases in a counter-attack that cannot be parried by the attacker at all. That would be quite cinematic (I'll refer to Conan versus Rexor for that). It also eliminates the boredom you're referring to. In fact, the thought of turning the tables on the attacker in such a dramatic reversal is quite a thrilling thought, imho.

The "exclusive right to attack" then merely means that the attacker has an edge over the defender - it's more likely that he will get through this round than vice versa. But it does not mean that the defender can't kill the attacker this turn. Having combats with such dynamics then becomes, ironically so, more akin to D&D - which has no roll for parry. It would be very much like a D&D variant in which one side always had advantage (that advantage flipping according to what's being rolled) and in which normally only one side could get wounded (either the attacker gets through or the defender) in a round.

Personally, I do think that is the future and that systems featuring alternating attacks will decline in popularity in the 20s. Because capturing the swings of momentum is what makes great stories.
 
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