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Binding (or Chicken) Initiative: An Experiment

PeteNutButter

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I like this concept and love when people toy with initiative. I have a question and follow-up suggestions:
Can you attack in response to an attack? I could be wrong, but it looks like all the examples of reactions are defensive actions. What if Monster A attacks me, but he is nearly down, so I react by attacking potentially killing him before he could land his attack?

If so, then you really really need an advantage for being the first to declare. I think a simple AP cost reduction would both make sense and solve this problem. IRL going on the offense is quite effective except against the most trained defenders.

On the flip side, you could apply an AP increase to reaction attacks, or a general AP cost increase to all actions for every action below on the "stack"/"binding." Ergo, 3 characters have actions declared, and I want to go before them all by putting mine one top, I should have to pay an AP premium (+3). This number could be decreased by some derived attribute. Like, say Dodging normally costs 0 AP but it costs an additional AP for every action on the current stack => dodging anything will always cost more 1 or more AP. You might want to exclude sides here (only enemy actions increase cost), as players could screw each other over depending on who declares first. OR you could force your players to work together, and plan who does what in what order ("I need to dodge first because I only have 2 AP left"). That'd make the game more team strategy focused, but less realistic at simulating the chaos of combat.

You might also want to include actions that cannot be responded to or end the stacking. This is generally a bad thing in MTG (split second :mad: ), but it might help keep the game moving.

Edit: I see you have them going in table order now. While simple, it feels less in line with the tactical approach you seem to be aiming at. Might be too complex, but you could have the player/enemies choose to add actions to the "stack" in order of most to least available AP.
 
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SladeWeston

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It's a step dice system, or to be more correct an inverted step dice system. This means that the step dice provide six steps of granularity; d20 all the way "up" to d4. So a novice would be rolling 2d10 and 1d12 and an expert might be rolling 1d4 and 2d6, but they're all counting the number of dice which roll 4 or less.
Interesting. That seems like a reasonable solution, but I'm still a bit concerned about the flexibility of your system. Anytime someone creates a cool combat mechanic, I immediately get in a tactical combat mindset and want lots of crunch options and I'm struggling to see the design space in some areas. Like, how does your system handle passive defence? Is it just soak, or can you actually make it more difficult for something to hit you?
Thanks for humoring my questions. I'm only asking because I find the system very interesting. Do you happen to have a more elaborate combat mocked up? That could help out a lot.
 

fheredin

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I like this concept and love when people toy with initiative. I have a question and follow-up suggestions:
Can you attack in response to an attack? I could be wrong, but it looks like all the examples of reactions are defensive actions. What if Monster A attacks me, but he is nearly down, so I react by attacking potentially killing him before he could land his attack?

If so, then you really really need an advantage for being the first to declare. I think a simple AP cost reduction would both make sense and solve this problem. IRL going on the offense is quite effective except against the most trained defenders.
I haven't finalized these rules, but yes; you can respond to an attack by attacking because any action can be declared at any time. I am on the fence about if you should be able to kill a monster in the middle of an attack; it's cinematic, but arguably makes more sense for game balance reasons to either say that actions don't disappear because the actor is KOed or that these effects don't apply until the bind empties.

However, there have been playtests where "surprised" characters wheeled around and attacked in the middle of the surprise round. And I don't really see a reason to prevent that, either; the system punishes being surprised with one side getting a better AP recharge than the other, so attacking in a surprise round risks running out of AP.

On the flip side, you could apply an AP increase to reaction attacks, or a general AP cost increase to all actions for every action below on the "stack"/"binding." Ergo, 3 characters have actions declared, and I want to go before them all by putting mine one top, I should have to pay an AP premium (+3). This number could be decreased by some derived attribute. Like say Dodging normally costs 0 AP but it costs an additional AP for every action on the current stack => dodging anything will always cost more 1 or more AP. You might want to exclude sides here (only enemy actions increase cost), as players could screw each other over depending on who declares first. OR you could force your players to work together, and plan who does what in what order ("I need to dodge first because I only have 2 AP left"). That'd make the game more team strategy focused, but less realistic at simulating the chaos of combat.

You might also want to include actions that cannot be responded to or end the stacking. This is generally a bad thing in MTG (split second :mad: ), but it might help keep the game moving.

Edit: I see you have them going in table order now. While simple, it feels less in line with the tactical approach you seem to be aiming at. Hmm...
Declaring action at the same time is actually not that common a problem, as RPGs are cooperative rather than competitive. The GM controls all the antagonists, and on the rare instances where two players conflict, an instant of strategizing usually reveals the best course of action. However, even though I've never needed to use it, you can use a "snap" rule to mark when you want to act in the bind, where you snap your fingers to mark that you are declaring action.

Modifying AP costs doesn't work too well in playtests, though. It's not undoable, but generally not worth it. I like keep my players at the ragged edge of AP starvation, which means that any additional costs would just turn this back into a fancy turn-based system. No one could afford the AP penalties. I know I could lighten that up, but that would make keeping track of all the AP you now have more difficult and means players are more likely to put multiple actions on a single bind, which is far worse than keeping players starved and letting the bind resolve normally. However, this could change with more playtest info.

Also, did you read my hasten and cancel additions? Basically, you can hasten an action to the top of the bind by spending 1 AP and you can cancel an action at the top of the bind and recover all but 1 AP. So if you have a 5 AP action on the bottom of the stack, you can spend 1 AP to hasten it to the top, then cancel it to recover 4 AP. The hasten AP is just lost.

Table order is contentious in the playtesters, as well, but when initiative placement has as little value as this it isn't really worth doing more complex things.

Interesting. That seems like a reasonable solution, but I'm still a bit concerned about the flexibility of your system. Anytime someone creates a cool combat mechanic, I immediately get in a tactical combat mindset and want lots of crunch options and I'm struggling to see the design space in some areas. Like, how does your system handle passive defence? Is it just soak, or can you actually make it more difficult for something to hit you?
Thanks for humoring my questions. I'm only asking because I find the system very interesting. Do you happen to have a more elaborate combat mocked up? That could help out a lot.
It takes 1 success to "power" an action to hit someone, and from there you deal your weapon's (static) damage. Although you can spend extra successes to deal critical damage. Then the attacked player can spend AP to cancel incoming damage. The example on this thread had a 1:1 damage cancel, but players using dodgey or tanky characters usually have 2:1 or 3:1 damage cancels. Then your armor applies damage reduction and the rest hits your health.

Unfortunately I don't have a fully functional playtest, yet. I am working on this, but there are a number of issues I still need to resolve.
 

PeteNutButter

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...
Declaring action at the same time is actually not that common a problem, as RPGs are cooperative rather than competitive. The GM controls all the antagonists, and on the rare instances where two players conflict, an instant of strategizing usually reveals the best course of action. However, even though I've never needed to use it, you can use a "snap" rule to mark when you want to act in the bind, where you snap your fingers to mark that you are declaring action.

Modifying AP costs doesn't work too well in playtests, though. It's not undoable, but generally not worth it. I like keep my players at the ragged edge of AP starvation, which means that any additional costs would just turn this back into a fancy turn-based system. No one could afford the AP penalties. I know I could lighten that up, but that would make keeping track of all the AP you now have more difficult and means players are more likely to put multiple actions on a single bind, which is far worse than keeping players starved and letting the bind resolve normally. However, this could change with more playtest info.

Also, did you read my hasten and cancel additions? Basically, you can hasten an action to the top of the bind by spending 1 AP and you can cancel an action at the top of the bind and recover all but 1 AP. So if you have a 5 AP action on the bottom of the stack, you can spend 1 AP to hasten it to the top, then cancel it to recover 4 AP. The hasten AP is just lost.

Table order is contentious in the playtesters, as well, but when initiative placement has as little value as this it isn't really worth doing more complex things.
...
It seems to me that you could consider functionally limiting players to one action per stack, and adding any further actions cancels their initial action (with partial refund?). Narratively it makes a lot more sense. What does the bind really represent? What players/monsters are trying to accomplish? If you start doing a different thing you aren't trying to accomplish what you initially set out to do. To ensure that players still get to do multiple things, in the bind, you can allow them to put more actions on after partial bind resolution. Is that a thing in your game? I'm thinking like MTG, where I can let part of the stack resolve and add more to it.

Example: I'm trying to attack you. You attack me first, so I turn my attack into a parry. We are back to square one.

Please take all my suggestions with a heavy grain of salt. I know what its like when people give suggestions when they haven't played or even seen the rules. "That's a fine idea but it doesn't work for SO MANY REASONS."
 

SecretsAndSaucers

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Why not auction Inspiration points for who gets to go first?

If no one bids, highest Dex goes first, then go clockwise from there.
 

fheredin

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It seems to me that you could consider functionally limiting players to one action per stack, and adding any further actions cancels their initial action (with partial refund?). Narratively it makes a lot more sense. What does the bind really represent? What players/monsters are trying to accomplish? If you start doing a different thing you aren't trying to accomplish what you initially set out to do. To ensure that players still get to do multiple things, in the bind, you can allow them to put more actions on after partial bind resolution. Is that a thing in your game? I'm thinking like MTG, where I can let part of the stack resolve and add more to it.

Example: I'm trying to attack you. You attack me first, so I turn my attack into a parry. We are back to square one.

Please take all my suggestions with a heavy grain of salt. I know what its like when people give suggestions when they haven't played or even seen the rules. "That's a fine idea but it doesn't work for SO MANY REASONS."
I kinda like the idea of one action per bind per player. I may consider that.

I think you may be seeing this going in a different direction than I want to take it is the problem. I know from playtests that this initiative mechanic is potentially bottled lightning. It's amazing if it works right, it can blow the wheels off the system when it doesn't, and as soon as you understand it, you want to play with it.

As such, I want to be as hacker friendly as possible. Hackers don't need a mechanic with all the bells and whistles--they're usually the ones adding those. It's not that I intend to be a nit-pick, but that I want the first iteration to be tight and minimalistic so it makes good hacking fodder.

Why not auction Inspiration points for who gets to go first?

If no one bids, highest Dex goes first, then go clockwise from there.
"Going first" has never actually been a problem. Bear in mind that we aren't talking about when a character acts, but when they get their AP recharge. Character actions almost always tell you who should go first in the narrative. I mean, yes, it's annoying to be the player to the left of the first player, but you aren't actually blocked from acting thanks to the binding system.
 

Xander

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Taking a page from worker allocation boardgames...

What if you have an "action track"... like the #1 declared action has X bonus, the #2 action has Y bonus, etc. Only one action can occupy each space on the track.

If players have multiple possible actions - they may need a card as a reference, which could also be a placeholder in the action track.
 

PeteNutButter

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I kinda like the idea of one action per bind per player. I may consider that.

I think you may be seeing this going in a different direction than I want to take it is the problem. I know from playtests that this initiative mechanic is potentially bottled lightning. It's amazing if it works right, it can blow the wheels off the system when it doesn't, and as soon as you understand it, you want to play with it.

As such, I want to be as hacker friendly as possible. Hackers don't need a mechanic with all the bells and whistles--they're usually the ones adding those. It's not that I intend to be a nit-pick, but that I want the first iteration to be tight and minimalistic so it makes good hacking fodder.
Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. It's hard for people to give really great advice with the limited knowledge we get from a couple forum posts. We have the tiny idea, filling the gaps in with our own ideas which often take the game in a different direction, even without meaning to.

As an aside, is there a subforum here for playtester designers? I'd be happy to help test (Read: DESTROY) other peoples works in progress.

In my experience other designers give very useful feedback that the average player can't usually give. Most players can tell you whether a game is too complex or fun/unfun, but when it comes to actual suggestions... if they aren't in the business of crunching math and playing the incentive games their advice can be total butt. For instance, I've learned that a few of my best playtesters will always make suggestions to make the game more and more monty hall, because they are just terrible at losing. Taking their advice would be detrimental to the overall gameplay.
 

fheredin

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Taking a page from worker allocation boardgames...

What if you have an "action track"... like the #1 declared action has X bonus, the #2 action has Y bonus, etc. Only one action can occupy each space on the track.

If players have multiple possible actions - they may need a card as a reference, which could also be a placeholder in the action track.
Alas, I think that puts it into a lose-lose position where you can't change your position and bonus without changing everyone's position and bonus. So it's either give the players no bonus or disallow changing position.

Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. It's hard for people to give really great advice with the limited knowledge we get from a couple forum posts. We have the tiny idea, filling the gaps in with our own ideas which often take the game in a different direction, even without meaning to.

As an aside, is there a subforum here for playtester designers? I'd be happy to help test (Read: DESTROY) other peoples works in progress.

In my experience other designers give very useful feedback that the average player can't usually give. Most players can tell you whether a game is too complex or fun/unfun, but when it comes to actual suggestions... if they aren't in the business of crunching math and playing the incentive games their advice can be total butt. For instance, I've learned that a few of my best playtesters will always make suggestions to make the game more and more monty hall, because they are just terrible at losing. Taking their advice would be detrimental to the overall gameplay.
The feedback of a storm of ideas is more productive than a solo playtest. I'm thankful for the help and I'll post a playtest doc when I get a pseudo-functional version.
 
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