Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sophia's Children: The Initiating & Order of Combat

The Dweller
"The Old Asylum? That place has been unfunded by the Lord Mayor for years -- just run by a Priest and some Deacons who tend to the patients who couldn't make the transfer to the Hospital Main. . . (The old Dweller loudly clears his throat and spits) I hate how speaking Mannish makes my throat hurt. . . But, yes, it is built upon older, deeper dwellings that likely contain the tunnel you seek." -Deviltail the Dweller

So, I'm going to detail the order of combat resolution in this post from my draft notes. This will be a good way of organizing it in one place both for reference by myself and also for inspection by prospective players who want to learn a bit more about the mechanics of Sophia's Children.

At the beginning of combat, all non-surprised combatants roll for initiative. Surprise is decided upon either 1. the adjudicated circumstances before combat began or 2. a roll of 1d6 for the entire party with a result of 1-2 indicating surprise for that side.

Example #1: Francis and his three men-at-arms are exploring the forests south of Nein, searching for a rumored Man-eater that is said to be stalking the area. Francis and his men-at-arms are being very loud and generally doing nothing to conceal or silence their search. The Man-eater leaps upon them from a nearby tree, surprising the lot of Francis and his party -- no roll.

Example #2: Francis and his one man-at-arms, severely injured from a recent hunt, are retreating back to Nein and are being careful by sticking to the main roads. 100 yards ahead of them they see a group of rough-looking thugs speaking amongst themselves. Francis and his sole retainer move ahead through the forest and ambush the thugs from the forest -- surprising the thugs. No roll for surprise.

Example #3: A band of three merry thieves is returning to Nein after a successful night of mugging travelers. They enter an alleyway in the slums to avoid the watchful eyes of Guardsmen as they've developed quite a reputation for themselves lately. When entering the alleyway they run into a rival band of four thieves. Not so merry, both sides roll a 1d6 for surprise as they weren't expecting one another under the circumstances. Neither side roll a 1 or a 2 for their surprise roll. Roll initiative!

Initiative is rolled with 1d6 plus Agility. Combatants either roll for initiative as a Squad or Individuals. This is decided by the type of combatant. Monsters of the Minion or Soldier variety roll initiative as a Squad -- these Monsters are typically encountered in large groups of the same kind, roll 1d6 and add the Squad's common Agility. Monsters of the Leader or Humongous Monster variety, roll 1d6 and add their Agility as individual combatants. Players Characters of level 1 or higher roll for individual initiative. Beginning Player Characters at level 0 choose one party member to roll initiative for their group.

Example: Our band of merry-thieves-three are experienced adventurers (two level 2 Fighters, and one level 2 Thief), but the rival gang they've run into are four common thugs (level 2 Soldiers). Each of our merry band roll 1d6 and add their Agility, scoring a 5, 3 and 7 for the first Fighter, second Fighter and Thief, respectively. The four common thugs roll 1d6 once and add Agility, scoring a 6.

The Initiative Pool & First Action

Once resolving initiative either one of two eventualities will result: one stand-out high-roller or tied-results. In the case of a stand-out high-roller, the First Action goes to that combatant or squad. Ties are resolved by spending points out of each of the tied combatants' or squads' contribution to their side's Initiative Pool.

Example #1: Returning to our merry-thieves-three in the alleyway faced with a rival band of muggers. As the Thief rolled the highest -- a 7 -- the Thief has First Action.

The Initiative Pool is computed by adding together all the Agility scores for each combatant on one side of a combat. The total number is the Initiative Pool by each of the combatants on that particular side of a conflict.

Example #2: Within our band of thieves the first Fighter has an Agility of 2, the second Fighter has an Agility of 1 and the Thief has an Agility of 3. Their Initiative Pool at the beginning of this combat is 6. Each of the four thugs (level 2 Soldiers) have an Agility of 2, so the Initiative Pool on their side is (4 times 2) 8.

In the case of ties, First Action is decided by "bidding" with each of the tied combatant's or squad's initial contribution to the Initiative Pool. Whoever puts up the highest number wins First Action, but all points so-bid are subtracted from each side's respective starting Initiative Pool. If the sides bidding on First Action put up equal points (or no points at all), the First Action is decided through a 1d6 rolled for each side (reroll ties). The highest rolling side decides which of their tied allies has First Action.

Example #3: Francis, now alone, makes his way into the south of Nein, swearing vengeance on the thieves who assaulted him and killed his man-at-arms. He makes his way into the Southerly Slums and takes a wrong turn down a narrow street into a pair of assassins who have just finished dispatching a street merchant. Knowing that the Assassin Guild has a policy of never leaving witnesses, Francis takes his Arming Sword from its sheath, readying for the coming battle.

Both sides roll for surprise as they weren't expecting one another. The assassins roll a 3 and Francis rolls a 4 -- neither side is surprised. The assassins are each level 1 Leaders and therefore roll individual initiative, scoring a 5 and 8, respectively. Francis is a level 3 Fighter and rolls individual initiative, scoring an 8, tying for initiative with the second assassin.

Since both sides of this combat are tied, there is no First Action yet. Initiative Pools are first calculated. Francis, being alone, has an Initiative Pool of 3 as he has an Agility score of 3. The two assassins each have an Agility score of 3, for a combined Initiative Pool of 6.

To resolve the First Action, only the one assassin's contribution can be used to bid, 3 points. Francis has only his 3 points. The assassin first puts up 1 point, Francis puts up all 3 of his points. The assassin does not bid any further points, but has reduced the starting Initiative Pool for his side by 1 point, for a total of 5. Though Francis has won First Action, he has put up the whole of his Initiative Pool for this, for a starting Initiative Pool of 0.

The First Action, Next Actions & Interrupts

The combatant with First Action performs the action of their choice (Combat Actions et alia will be elaborated elsewhere). And, following the resolution of their choice, decides who has the Next Action amongst the individual combatants or squads who have yet to act. Combatants and Squads who have yet to act are Up, Combatants and Squads who have already acted are Tapped.

If a Squad is currently acting, all of their squad members act in whatever order they choose. At the last squad member's action, the squad decides who is to act next out of the combatants or other squads that are Up.

After Next Action is declared by the currently acting Squad or Combatant, any of the combatants who are Up may Interrupt this declaration by paying out of their side's Initiative Pool. Unless the Interrupted combatant or squad matches this bid out of their own side's Initiative Pool, the Next Action will go to the Interrupting combatant instead. It is NOT possible to Interrupt the First Action in this way.

Note #1: It IS possible to Interrupt allied Combatants -- this is useful when the opposing side chooses a combatant on your side for Next Action, but someone else wants to go next. This follows the same procedure as in the previous paragraph -- pay at least 1 point out of the Initiative Pool. Of course, some allies may be more or less cooperative with being interrupted and could buy their action back out of the same Initiative Pool through the same previously explicated procedure. It pays to communicate with your fellows clearly!

Note #2: If a Combatant (or the entirety of a Squad) is Stunned or similar (Asleep, Dying) they are incapable of Interrupting the order of actions, nor can they counter-bid Interruptions of their own actions.

Example: Returning to our merry thieves who have entered into combat with a rival gang of thugs. The Thief has won First Action since he rolled highest initiative (7), beating his fellows and the rival gang (who are a Squad of four level 2 Soldiers that rolled a 6 for their whole group). The merry thieves have an Initiative Pool of 6, whereas the rival gang has an Initiative Pool of 8. The Thief takes his first action, dropping one of the thugs with a well-placed stiletto stab. The Thief then designates the Second Fighter for the Next Action. 

The remaining thugs decide to Interrupt this action by paying 2 points out of their Initiative Pool, hoping to surround the Thief who has closed into melee with them. The Second Fighter matches their bid with 2 points out of their side's Initiative Pool. The thugs raise the bid to 4. The Second Fighter then matches again to 4 points. The thugs acquiesce and the Second Fighter keeps his action. After this Interrupt-Counter-Interrupt-Counter exchange the merry thieves have their Initiative Pool reduced to 2 as the Second Fighter spent 4 points to retain his action. The rival gang has their Initiative Pool reduced to 4, reduced from 8 due to their failed bidding of 4 points.

The Second Fighter leaps into the action, hitting -- but not dropping -- one of the thugs. The Second Fighter then designates the First Fighter for the Next Action. The rival gang attempts to Interrupt this action by paying 3 of their remaining 4 points. The First Fighter, realizing that he cannot match or exceed this bid with his side's remaining 2 points of Initiative Pool, is successfully interrupted by the rival gang.

The remaining three thugs close in with the Thief and Second Fighter, ganging up on the Second Fighter with their attacks. The Second Fighter takes a hit, is missed by the second attack and blocks the third attack with his Light Shield without being stunned. After all the thugs complete their actions as a Squad, they designate the First Fighter for the Next Action, as he is the only remaining combatant who is Up and available to act this Round.

The First Fighter charges into the melee with his Claymore drawn and drops one of the thugs with a well placed chop to the neck.

Ending a Round

A Round ends when ALL Combatants have been Tapped. Two things occur at the end of a Round: 1) All Combatants and Squads reset from Tapped to Up and 2) If ALL sides' Initiative Pools have been spent to 0, all Initiative Pools are recalculated (Agility of remaining -- non-dead -- combatants are added together).

In addition, the LAST acting Combatant or Squad has the privilege of designating the Next Action out of any of the available combatants -- but cannot designate themselves.

Example: Last we were with Francis, he had won First Action by spending all of his contribution to his side's starting Initiative Pool, 0. The two assassins (each level 1 Leaders) have a starting Initiative Pool of 5.

Francis spends his First Action charging the First Assassin with his Arming Sword, which the assassin successfully dodges, but is now Stunned. Francis then designates the Stunned assassin for the Next Action. The Second, non-Stunned, Assassin interrupts this order by spending 1 point of their Initiative Pool (which is now 4) and uses his action to move into the shadows of the street -- becoming Hidden. The Second Assassin then designates the First Assassin for the Next Action as he is the only combatant Up at this point in the Round. The First Assassin, who was stunned from rolling out of the way of Francis' attack, gets his balance back -- losing the Stunned status, but this also ends his action. The First Assassin, since he was the last combatant in this conflict can now designate either Francis or his colleague, the Second Assassin, for the Next Action.

Also, since this is the End of the Round -- all Combatants are Tapped -- all combatants reset to Up and are available to act again. Francis, though he has an Initiative Pool of 0, does NOT reset his Initiative Pool since the opposing side has an Initiative Pool of 4 points remaining.
The First Assassin chooses the Second Assassin for the Next Action. Francis, reflecting on the dangerousness of the situation, realizes that he cannot Interrupt this action because he has an Initiative Pool of 0! The Second Assassin leaps from the shadows into a flanking position with Francis, striking him down with a deep backstab.

This concludes my explanation of the Order of Combat. I have included terms in my examples of other parts of the system that have not been explained yet. I will be explicating much of this later on, but -- again -- it is helpful to write in this way to see what parts of the system sit together or separately.

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