[Conan] When Does Combat Begin?

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Mach5RR
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[Conan] When Does Combat Begin?

Postby Mach5RR » Fri Nov 23, 2012 11:33 am

I know I have this labeled for Conan, but it could apply to other games (D20 based especially).

Now according to the way initiative works, you figure out who is aware of who, with the aware people getting a surprise round. Then, everybody rolls for initiative. Higher people go first, whit lower people getting no active defenses until their first action (I assume this is to simulate that "catching up to speed/dear god I'm in a fight" type response). OK, that's good for about 90% of the situations I'm seeing.

What I'm seeing about 10% of the time is players "gaming" the initiative for their benefit, even when it's not realistic.

The Scene: The king stands at a table covered with gold, silver and jewels spilled across its surface. Four guards are standing about 20ft away from him, between you and the noble, eyeing you suspiciously, weapons at the ready.

Player: I approach the guards smiling. As soon as I'm withing 30', I roll for initiative. Oh, I got a nat 20. I Charge past the flat-footed guards and strike down the king who can't defend himself.


Or
The Scene: A city guard has stopped you for suspicious activities, he is covering you with a loaded crossbow from about 25 ft away, demanding you drop to your knees until assistance arrives.

Player: OK, I try to intimidate him into putting down his weapon, by commenting on his masculinity. That failed? OK, I don't care for this, so I start combat (rolls init). OK, I got higher, I use quick-draw to pull my knife, cross the 25ft and stab him. He's flat-footed so I get sneak-attack damage.


In these instances, the player is initiating combat when it's most advantageous to him. The problem is, their opponents should already be in a combat status - even if they haven't attacked. The kings guards are mostly relaxed until someone moves into threat range of the king (think Jet Li's Hero, where the Jet's characters goal was to get into striking range of the king, before the guards struck him down). As soon as the players cross a specific line, the guards go into combat mode, switching to a defensive stance, and holding their action until the threat becomes obvious, or dissipates (players leave the threat range).
In the second scene, combat has started for the guard when he pulled his crossbow and trained it on the player. Even though the player may be trying to negotiate his way out of the mess, the guard is now in a combat rush, holding his action, waiting for suspicious activity. Which includes the player trying to defend himself. In a sense, the guard has the drop on the player, and this should act as an extended surprise round with the guard holding his action. If the player does something, like running for cover, drawing, a weapon, the guard shoots him with no active defense.
This doesn't mean the players can't work around these situations. The players know where the kings guards are, they can use stealth/ranged tactics if need be. In both situations the players can use bluff to attempt a distraction (player to guard: I think that noblewoman behind you is in danger LOOK! <guard falls for bluff> Player dives for cover, while drawing sword)

The Scene: The barbarian player has been thrown into the gladiator pits for the amusement of the crowd. The player and the opposing gladiator stand in their assigned spots, 50ft away from each other, armed with broadswords and shields. The noble drops his thumb, signalling the fight to begin:

Player: I won initiative, so I Charge the gladiator. I roll really low for an attack, but he's flat footed, so I still hit. With the extra damage from the charge, I do enough to do a massive damage check.


In this instance, both players are aware of the fight, and are in a combat status. As soon as the thumb drops, both should be in their defensive stances. This is a fight designed to give the crowd maximum thrills, so they want to stretch it out to do away with the initial flat-footedness.

The Scene: A bar. The PCs are sitting at a table enjoying their triumphs. One of the players gets up to get new drinks, as he approaches he sees an old foe who spots him as well so no surprise round.

Player 1: Inesh? I hate that guy, and he still owes us gold. I always said I would beat it out of him so now is the time. I leap at him throwing a right hook. <rolls init> Nuts, a 1.

Player 2: I rolled a 20. I leap up from the chair, run past Player1, and sock Inesh in the jaw.


As hard as it may be for some players to accept, while some players may be involved in combat, the rest are not. The mistake here is trying to get all of the initiative rolling out of the way, letting other characters feel as if they should have an input. In this instance, only immediately aware characters should get to roll/act on initiative, meaning Inesh and Player1 get their licks in at each other. If you want, as soon as one of them attacks, the others can make notice rolls to see that their companion is engaged in a fight, and assisting on the next round.

So keep in mind, even though the rules don't really state it, combat may have begun around the players, without actually directly affecting them instantly.
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Re: [Conan] When Does Combat Begin?

Postby Supplement Four » Fri Nov 23, 2012 11:40 pm

Yes, this confused me at first, too. You may be used to the old ways, as I was.

Initiative, under the pre-D20, AD&D ways, traditionally happened when the first aggressive act took place. If nobody attacked anybody else, then initiative was not thrown. Combat would not occur.

The D20 system is different. Initiative is throw when one side becomes aware of the other.

I don't like this way of throwing initiative one bit. It assumes combat will always take place, and it slows the speed of the game down to the crawl of combat rounds when playing normally would suffice.

In my Conan game, I've gone back to the old ways. I throw initiative when combat is immenent, not when an enemy becomes aware of another.
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Re: [Conan] When Does Combat Begin?

Postby Supplement Four » Sat Nov 24, 2012 12:46 am

To go over your message....


Mach5RR wrote:Now according to the way initiative works, you figure out who is aware of who, with the aware people getting a surprise round. Then, everybody rolls for initiative.
That's right. By the rules, you roll for initiative as soon as one combatant is aware of the other.
The Scene: The king stands at a table covered with gold, silver and jewels spilled across its surface. Four guards are standing about 20ft away from him, between you and the noble, eyeing you suspiciously, weapons at the ready.

Player: I approach the guards smiling. As soon as I'm withing 30', I roll for initiative.
By the rules, the PC should have already rolled initiative--when the PCs see the guards. The player could approach the guards smiling, but he does that on his initiative count.

See pg. 169 of Conan RPG 2E. Every, at first, is flatfooted and in "scenes". That is, playing the game normally, outside of combat rounds.

When opponents become aware of each other, the games moves to combat rounds. If both are not aware at the same time, then a Surprise round is used first before combat begins.

But, Surprise is very, very limited. It's a half round. A character can only take one action (he can't move and attack, he can do one or the other).

Thus, if at a distance, out of range (or maybe a weapon distance weapon isn't readied), usually the best things a character can do is use his Surprise action to vocalize and make his companions aware of the enemies.



Oh, I got a nat 20. I Charge past the flat-footed guards and strike down the king who can't defend himself.
So, this situation, as presented, is incorrectly played, by the rules. The player's action could not take place even if the player had Surprise on the guards because the Charge is a Full-Round action. Surprise allows a character to take only a standard action (he can move, or he can attack, but not both).




The Scene: A city guard has stopped you for suspicious activities, he is covering you with a loaded crossbow from about 25 ft away, demanding you drop to your knees until assistance arrives.
Technically, this is not a combat situation since the guards are not automatically enemies. So, the way you describe is correct per the rules.
Player: OK, I try to intimidate him into putting down his weapon, by commenting on his masculinity. That failed? OK, I don't care for this, so I start combat (rolls init). OK, I got higher, I use quick-draw to pull my knife, cross the 25ft and stab him. He's flat-footed so I get sneak-attack damage.
First off, the player is using Intimidate wrong. He should probably use Diplomacy, and changing an NPC's attitude towards the PC from Unfriendly to Friendly is a DC 25 check (DC 15 to Infifferent) and should take a minimum of a minute or longer (could be much longer).

I would probably keep the result of the player's throw secret and then roleplay out the situation. If I knew that the PC would eventually be successful, I would use that to guide my actions with the roleplay. I'd do the same if I knew the PC's Diplomacy check failed.

Thus, when a player throws an interaction check like this, consider throwing the dice then roleplaying it. Most of these interaction checks are supposed to take place over at least a minute's time--and many times more than a minute.

But....let's go with your example and say that you and the PC did roleplay the encounter. Well, since times moves on, you, as GM, can change the circumstances. For example, knowing that the Diplomacy check will eventually fail, refer to what's happening around the players. Something like this...

Player: "Certainly a strong guard such as yourself would not fear the likes of our poor selves. There's no need for leveled weapons, is there?" Player rolls the Diplomacy check but does not know the outcome nor the DC.

GM: Knowing the outcome of the check fails, but not telling the player, says, "Stand back your swin, or I'll skewer you like a pig, I will." And, you see two more guards round the corner at the sound of this guard's raised voice. Now, there are four guards.

GM: (Not wanting to continue the roleplay, instead, just describes the situation) "As you continue to try to talk yourself out of the situation, you see the four guards spread out and start to circle you. Slowly, they pull their blades from their scabbards. You hear one mutter to the other, "A problem here, I see..." And, another replies, "Just keep your eye on that big one. He may be more trouble than the rest."

My Point: Since so much time takes place (even if you don't roleplay it) during character interaction skill checks, the GM is well within his rights to change the situation from the point just before the interaction check was started to where it ends. It takes time to talk a guard into lowering his weapon, and the player should not instantly know if he succeeded or failed on the check. Keep the results secret and let the player realize the outcome through your description of the events.

It much more fun and dramatic to play the game like this, anyway.





OK, I got higher, I use quick-draw to pull my knife, cross the 25ft and stab him. He's flat-footed so I get sneak-attack damage.
One of the hiccups in the D20 system is that, yes, a character gets a full 6 seconds to act. On round one, this can pose a problem, as you describe. You'll just have to put up with this, and remember that it works both ways.

For example, the PCs are walking through a wood. You describe a screaming Pict that suddenly emerges from the bush. Initiative is thrown. The Pict moves second, with one PC moving before and after the Pict. The PC with initiative pulls his (legal in conjuction with a Move action) and fires an arrow at the Pict. He hits, doing damage that doesn't drop the Pict. The Pict, then on his initiative count, comes screaming at the second PC--the one that is still flatfooted, and charges him. That way, the Pict gets the charge bonus and his attack against the second PC is against AC 10--most likely a hit.

I've had players gripe, "Hey, the guy came screaming out of the woods, moving 25 feet, and swung at me before I could defend myself? I'm still flat footed? I can't set my spear for a charge or do some other Ready Action? Move out of the way of his charge?"

The answer is, No, you can't. That's the way the game is played. It seems to the player that the character should be able to do SOMETHING while the Pict is covering the 25 feet. This could be 5 seconds time (the last second used for the swing at the end of the charge)!

But, no. That's the way the game is broken down. And, unless you want to make combat even slower by breaking up Movement and Attacks into two different phases of a combat round (making House Rules), that's the way it is in this game.

The good news is: It works both ways.




In these instances, the player is initiating combat when it's most advantageous to him.
A player has less control over when combat starts than you are describing. What you're describing is more old school--throwing initiative at the first aggressive action. Maybe this is the very reason the point at which Initiative is thrown was changed in the D20 system.

If you throw D20 initiative by the book, that is--at first sight of an enemy--then your players will not be able to time combat like this.




The problem is, their opponents should already be in a combat status - even if they haven't attacked.
Under the rules, they are.

Remember, though, that initiative is thrown at the sight of an enemy--not a potential enemy, like a guard. If you did it under potential enemies, you'll be using Combat rounds to move through a town to get to the pub.

The sight of obvious enemies is when initiative is thrown, under the Conan and D20 rules.




The Scene: The barbarian player has been thrown into the gladiator pits for the amusement of the crowd. The player and the opposing gladiator stand in their assigned spots, 50ft away from each other, armed with broadswords and shields. The noble drops his thumb, signalling the fight to begin:

Player: I won initiative, so I Charge the gladiator. I roll really low for an attack, but he's flat footed, so I still hit. With the extra damage from the charge, I do enough to do a massive damage check.
This was one of my examples when I was learning the D20/Conan system.

But, the rules work here. As soon as the two gladiators enter the ring, initiative is thrown. If it's a very small ring, then it is possible for one to gain initiative, run across the ring, and attack the other while he is flat footed.

If your gladiator ring is bigger--say, 100' across--then catching the other flatfooted won't be an issue.

Also note that you've just uncovered a hidden bonus for a character to use the Fleet-Footed Feat. A lightly armored character with the Fleet Footed Feat has a base Speed 40. His charge range is 80 feet! He can move 40 feet and still attack at someone flatfooted!





The Scene: A bar. The PCs are sitting at a table enjoying their triumphs. One of the players gets up to get new drinks, as he approaches he sees an old foe who spots him as well so no surprise round.[/quote]

Tricky. Is the old foe an enemy? They can't just sit there and eye each other with mean grimmaces? This is the sort of enemy that will attack on sight?

You throw initiative when combatants see each other. If they are not enemies...if combat is not about to happen, then initiative is not thrown.
Player 1: Inesh? I hate that guy, and he still owes us gold. I always said I would beat it out of him so now is the time. I leap at him throwing a right hook. <rolls init> Nuts, a 1.

Player 2: I rolled a 20. I leap up from the chair, run past Player1, and sock Inesh in the jaw.
[/quote]

This is legal. This is why having a high initiative bonus is a good thing to have.

Again, don't forget that it works both ways. In your example, Inesh could have won. Even though the player initiated when combat would happen, had Inesh won the toss, he could leap from his bar stool, Move the 15 feet to the player's table, and sock one of the players in the head, catching them flatfooted. The player started the throw, but lost, and it backfired on them. That's part of the game.
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Re: [Conan] When Does Combat Begin?

Postby Jeraa » Sat Nov 24, 2012 1:38 am

So, this situation, as presented, is incorrectly played, by the rules. The player's action could not take place even if the player had Surprise on the guards because the Charge is a Full-Round action. Surprise allows a character to take only a standard action (he can move, or he can attack, but not both).
That is incorrect. You can charge during the surprise round, but with limited movement. Page 205, 2nd edition core rulebook.
If a player does not have line of sight to the opponent at the start of his turn, he cannot charge that opponent. He cannot take a five-foot step in the same round as a charge. If he is able to take only a standard action or a move action on his turn, he can still charge but is only allowed to move up to his speed instead of up to double speed. A player cannot use this option unless he is restricted to taking only a standard action or move action on his turn.
As you are limited to a standard or move action only on a surprise round, you can perform a partial charge.
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Re: [Conan] When Does Combat Begin?

Postby Supplement Four » Sat Nov 24, 2012 9:50 pm

Ah, that's right, Jeraa. I forgot about the partial charge.

So many if-thens in this game.

Thanks for setting me straight.
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Re: [Conan] When Does Combat Begin?

Postby Mach5RR » Thu Nov 29, 2012 9:32 am

Supplement Four wrote:To go over your message....
Mach5RR wrote:Now according to the way initiative works, you figure out who is aware of who, with the aware people getting a surprise round. Then, everybody rolls for initiative.
That's right. By the rules, you roll for initiative as soon as one combatant is aware of the other.
The Scene: The king stands at a table covered with gold, silver and jewels spilled across its surface. Four guards are standing about 20ft away from him, between you and the noble, eyeing you suspiciously, weapons at the ready.

Player: I approach the guards smiling. As soon as I'm withing 30', I roll for initiative.
By the rules, the PC should have already rolled initiative--when the PCs see the guards. The player could approach the guards smiling, but he does that on his initiative count.

See pg. 169 of Conan RPG 2E. Every, at first, is flatfooted and in "scenes". That is, playing the game normally, outside of combat rounds.

When opponents become aware of each other, the games moves to combat rounds. If both are not aware at the same time, then a Surprise round is used first before combat begins.
I'm sorry, I wasn't clear with my examples. In this first example, I wasn't trying to reflect that situation where two combatant teams suddenly come face to face, and now have to shift to a combat status. That's covered under the whole 90% of combat thing I was talking about.

I'm talking about that shift from a dramatic scene to a combat scene, where all of the players are talking and RPing one moment, and then a sudden shift changes things. Maybe the players are their negotiating a treaty, or maybe they're there to receive payment. They could be fellow guards to a visiting dignitary, or invited to a palace dance, trying to position themselves for an assassination attempt.

What I'm saying is, is not everyone throws initiative at the same time. In the case of the guards, once the players (or unknown NPCs) cross a specific threat range to the king, the guards would throw their initiative (you can even explain this to the players - that the guards shift to a defensive stance as they approach, hands tightening on weapons), and hold their actions looking for threatening actions (or a signal from the king). If the players press the issue, the guards get attacks from holding their actions while preventing attacks to the king. Players roll their init, and then join the fray. If the players don't press the action, but withdraw out of threat range, the guards stand down, and the players continue their dramatic scene with no interruptions.

It's the same principal as adding combatants to a later round of a fight. Imagine a barbarian getting into a fight with three thieves, and they roll for initiative normally. However, the barbarian has a pirate friend, who it will take two rounds to get there. Do you make the pirate roll his init at the very beginning which stops him from using his ferocious attack (he's not close enough), or do you let him roll init on his first round entering combat, so that he can use it? Anyhow, that was round three, on round four you decide that the players are making too quick a work of your thieves and you bring in a patrol of guards to bust -everybody's- heads on the next round, which means you now roll init for these guys (and yes, since they've just wandered into the fray they would be flat-footed, unless you've decided that they spent a round observing, figuring out what was going on, and wandering in prepared on their second round - aka the players fifth). All I'm saying is that in a few, rare, dramatic scenes; that players' may find themselves starting combat with people who have prepped themselves for combat a few rounds ago - and vice versa.


Supplement Four wrote:
The Scene: A city guard has stopped you for suspicious activities, he is covering you with a loaded crossbow from about 25 ft away, demanding you drop to your knees until assistance arrives.
Technically, this is not a combat situation since the guards are not automatically enemies. So, the way you describe is correct per the rules.
Player: OK, I try to intimidate him into putting down his weapon, by commenting on his masculinity. That failed? OK, I don't care for this, so I start combat (rolls init). OK, I got higher, I use quick-draw to pull my knife, cross the 25ft and stab him. He's flat-footed so I get sneak-attack damage.
First off, the player is using Intimidate wrong. He should probably use Diplomacy, and changing an NPC's attitude towards the PC from Unfriendly to Friendly is a DC 25 check (DC 15 to Infifferent) and should take a minimum of a minute or longer (could be much longer).
Hey, I thought he should have used diplomacy, the other player thought he should have used diplomacy, and the GM thought he should have used diplomacy. We hinted this to him very strongly (As in, "Dude, use diplomacy"). He wanted to use intimidate. This is the downside to any RP game. Sometimes a player will make a really bad decision, and follow it through to its ugly conclusion.
Supplement Four wrote:
OK, I got higher, I use quick-draw to pull my knife, cross the 25ft and stab him. He's flat-footed so I get sneak-attack damage.
One of the hiccups in the D20 system is that, yes, a character gets a full 6 seconds to act. On round one, this can pose a problem, as you describe. You'll just have to put up with this, and remember that it works both ways.

For example, the PCs are walking through a wood. You describe a screaming Pict that suddenly emerges from the bush. Initiative is thrown. The Pict moves second, with one PC moving before and after the Pict. The PC with initiative pulls his (legal in conjuction with a Move action) and fires an arrow at the Pict. He hits, doing damage that doesn't drop the Pict. The Pict, then on his initiative count, comes screaming at the second PC--the one that is still flatfooted, and charges him. That way, the Pict gets the charge bonus and his attack against the second PC is against AC 10--most likely a hit.
And it's that hiccup in the D20 rules I'm trying to iron out. Again, I'm not talking about the initial meeting of foes. In this instance, I'm still talking about foes (of sorts) who are totally aware of each other, but one has the other dead to rights. In this instance, I should have rolled for initiative when the guard pulled the crossbow out, but I'm still trying to keep this dramatic and avoid combat. If I switch to combat rounds, that throws players on a combat footing and attempts at RP normally go out the window. So yes, I'm trying to keep this simple ... but the player has other things in mind. So yes, again, the guard has rolled for initiative earlier than the player, and has been holding his action this whole time.

As far as your player's griping about the pict rushing them from the bushes, 25' away. That's not that far. Imagine yourself 8 yards (24') away from the bushes, and a line backer emerging full tilt out of the bushes. Figuring those guys normally do a 40 yard dash in 4.6 seconds, I think he's on you before you know what the heck is going on. Same thing with your pict. While his move action consists of 1/2 of what he does, it doesn't necessarily translate as taking exactly 3 seconds to move the 25 yards. It just means he was on your player in a flash, got in one good lick, and then did a quick recover to keep his defenses up, maybe defending himself from other attacks (which technically get rolled up into the same six seconds)
Supplement Four wrote: If you throw D20 initiative by the book, that is--at first sight of an enemy--then your players will not be able to time combat like this.
I agree, but the situations I'm covering are those rare instances where a dramatic scene might shift into combat - at the player's discretion.
Supplement Four wrote:
The Scene: The barbarian player has been thrown into the gladiator pits for the amusement of the crowd. The player and the opposing gladiator stand in their assigned spots, 50ft away from each other, armed with broadswords and shields. The noble drops his thumb, signalling the fight to begin:

Player: I won initiative, so I Charge the gladiator. I roll really low for an attack, but he's flat footed, so I still hit. With the extra damage from the charge, I do enough to do a massive damage check.
This was one of my examples when I was learning the D20/Conan system.

But, the rules work here. As soon as the two gladiators enter the ring, initiative is thrown. If it's a very small ring, then it is possible for one to gain initiative, run across the ring, and attack the other while he is flat footed.

If your gladiator ring is bigger--say, 100' across--then catching the other flatfooted won't be an issue.
And this isn't a problem? Boxing rings are 16' x 16'. By d20 rules, all boxing matches should start with one guy flying out of his corner, into his opponents corner, and catching him with the first blow (although, if we apply d20 rules to boxing, not only will this happen, but the fighters will stay in exactly one spot, trading blows, with no footwork involved).
I first realized this was a problem, when I was playing through one of Thulsa's adventures from "The Spider God's Bride", where two combatants are positioned on either side of a pit 50' apart, and are meant to fight it out over a log resting across the pit. Instead, the player got initiative, charged completely across the log, and got in a couple of blows against a flat-footed opponent that would normally not have hit. Even when the opposing gladiator got in a few licks, none of them were in danger of going into the pit as the PC had completely charged across it.

And this just doesn't match up to any gladiator movie, MMA fight, or boxing match I have ever seen. These guys know the fight is coming. They are not flat-footed. Their first response is to drop into a defensive position, and then start edging towards their opponent. And that's what I want to replicate in gladiator situations. So in this case, I would start the players out in a combat status when init is thrown. However, I would allow a devious player to spend a fate point to have his opponent get lost in the screams of the crowd, or briefly distracted by something unexpected ...
Supplement Four wrote:
The Scene: A bar. The PCs are sitting at a table enjoying their triumphs. One of the players gets up to get new drinks, as he approaches he sees an old foe who spots him as well so no surprise round.
Tricky. Is the old foe an enemy? They can't just sit there and eye each other with mean grimmaces? This is the sort of enemy that will attack on sight?

You throw initiative when combatants see each other. If they are not enemies...if combat is not about to happen, then initiative is not thrown.
Player 1: Inesh? I hate that guy, and he still owes us gold. I always said I would beat it out of him so now is the time. I leap at him throwing a right hook. <rolls init> Nuts, a 1.

Player 2: I rolled a 20. I leap up from the chair, run past Player1, and sock Inesh in the jaw.
This is legal. This is why having a high initiative bonus is a good thing to have.

Again, don't forget that it works both ways. In your example, Inesh could have won. Even though the player initiated when combat would happen, had Inesh won the toss, he could leap from his bar stool, Move the 15 feet to the player's table, and sock one of the players in the head, catching them flatfooted. The player started the throw, but lost, and it backfired on them. That's part of the game.
In this instance, I was talking about those odd moments, created by initiative rolls, where players get to react to something that hasn't even happened yet. A better example may be:
Player 1 " Hey, this gambler is cheating! I punch him", rolls init, gets 1. Gambler gets a 10. Player 2 who was at the bar 25' away, ordering a drink, rolls a 20. He rushes in and punches the gambler.

If player 2 had been at the table, involved in the game, I wouldn't have a problem. Maybe, he sees whats going on, how everybody's face is tightening up, and gets in the first lick. But not being directly involved? No, Player 2 is off doing his own thing, and should not be aware of the cheating/fight until someone actually does something. THEN he gets to react. In this case, initiative is only rolled by those aware of what's going on, as players are made aware, they then get to roll their initiative.
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Re: [Conan] When Does Combat Begin?

Postby Supplement Four » Fri Nov 30, 2012 12:21 am

I'm talking about that shift from a dramatic scene to a combat scene, where all of the players are talking and RPing one moment, and then a sudden shift changes things. Maybe the players are their negotiating a treaty, or maybe they're there to receive payment. They could be fellow guards to a visiting dignitary, or invited to a palace dance, trying to position themselves for an assassination attempt.
You may be interested in the Shock rule, which is a version of the Surprise rule that can be used while all parties are aware of each other. Instead of being Surprised, an opponent can be Shocked. It's an optional rule, of course, as it's not in the core rule book. You can find it on page 60 of Fallen.




What I'm saying is, is not everyone throws initiative at the same time. In the case of the guards, once the players (or unknown NPCs) cross a specific threat range to the king, the guards would throw their initiative (you can even explain this to the players - that the guards shift to a defensive stance as they approach, hands tightening on weapons), and hold their actions looking for threatening actions (or a signal from the king). If the players press the issue, the guards get attacks from holding their actions while preventing attacks to the king. Players roll their init, and then join the fray. If the players don't press the action, but withdraw out of threat range, the guards stand down, and the players continue their dramatic scene with no interruptions.
I'm a bit confused at the "not everyone throws initiative at the same time". Once foes are determined, and the foes are within visual sight of each other, then EVERYBODY throws initiative.

I think the correct way (and by "correct", I mean, "by the rules", because the real "correct" way to play is whatever way is most fun for you and your group) to play out the situation you just describe is like this:

GM: (To himself, in his mind, not telling the players...) When the PC's approach the King, then the guards will go into automatic combat stance, pikes ready.

GM: (Says to players...) As you approach the King, the guards suddenly break to a defensive stance, eyes locked on you, weapon hands clearly locked on you.

You would roll initiative, right here, for everybody. Techically, the guards will be using a Ready Action. That action is to attack anyone who cross the threat threshold close to the king.

Given the situation, you might want to use the Advantaged rule and give the guards a +2 modifier on this initiative throw because the guards are ready and waiting to pull on anybody that approaches. Use the same rule, the Disadvantaged version, to apply a -2 modifier to the PC's initiative (or even a -5 if very distracted), because the PCs are startled at the guard's quick reaction.

And/or: this is a perfect opportunity to use the Shock rule I mention above, because, even though the PCs are aware of the guards, there's a chance that they could be shocked (surprised while also being aware of the character).

And, like you infer, you can run this particular encounter without throwing initiative specifically when the rules say because you may not need to go directly into combat rounds if the PCs back off.

Of course, throwing initiative as indicated may lead to some interesting game--let's say one player throws really well and beats the guards. This means that he has an opportunity to slip past the guards and act while they are still flatfooted. A player, knowing he has that advantage, might turn this every-day scenario into a load of fun where, otherwise, he might have just backed off without rolling for initiative first.




All I'm saying is that in a few, rare, dramatic scenes; that players' may find themselves starting combat with people who have prepped themselves for combat a few rounds ago - and vice versa.
Yes, I know what you mean. But, look at how I structured the scenario above. The game is in scenes. The GM knows that the game will go to combat rounds as soon as the threshold in front of the king is breached by the PC's. That happens, and the GM says (as one of the guards)"'Hold your step! Or see it parted from your limb! No one approaches King Turattides without bidding!' You see the guards swing their hands to their weapon hilts. Everybody, roll initiative!"

Boom, you're in combat, and can get right back out of it, if needed, by the PC's actions.

One of the problems I'm hearing is that "players' may find themselves starting combat with people who have prepped themselves for combat a few rounds ago". But, I'm also hearing that the ones prepped for combat are not getting an initiative bonus. Why not make the scenario more likely to make sense and use the Advantaged/Disadvantaged rule? Give a +2 initiative modifier to those prepped, and give a -2 modifier to those not prepped (for a 4 point spread between the two), to make it more likely that the result will be what you would expect--the prepped having initiative on the non prepped.

The advantage or disadvantage modifier can be bigger or smaller than -2/+2, as well. Let the modifier be decided by the amount of preparedness (the amount of advantage) one character has over the other.




Hey, I thought he should have used diplomacy, the other player thought he should have used diplomacy, and the GM thought he should have used diplomacy. We hinted this to him very strongly (As in, "Dude, use diplomacy"). He wanted to use intimidate. This is the downside to any RP game. Sometimes a player will make a really bad decision, and follow it through to its ugly conclusion.
Yep. And, it's up to the GM to tell him to use Diplomacy. You're right. It happens. Oh well. Move on.




And it's that hiccup in the D20 rules I'm trying to iron out.
Hopefully, my comments above will help.


Again, I'm not talking about the initial meeting of foes. In this instance, I'm still talking about foes (of sorts) who are totally aware of each other, but one has the other dead to rights.
And, you have tools to skew the encounter into what you expect:

Everbody throws initiative when combat starts.

Ready Action

Optional Shock rule.

Advantaged/Disadvantaged modifiers to Initiative.




In this instance, I should have rolled for initiative when the guard pulled the crossbow out, but I'm still trying to keep this dramatic and avoid combat.
This is what I said in my first reply. And, it's also here that my personal taste in running the game deviates from what the rules says. Yes, by the rules, you should have rolled nish once the crossbow came out, but I totally understand you keep the game more dramatic (and probably more fun!).

I do the same thing.

Making the game cool, interesting, and fun is much more important than sticking by the letter of the rules.

I think my advice here is to keep the game fun and interesting, but remember the Advantaged/Disadvantaged rule. If the encounter with the guard and crossbow vs. the PCs has nish rolled later, then give the guard a modifier to his nish throw. Heck, the players don't even need to know that you did this. I always throw my NPC initiative dice behind the screen. I don't like my players knowing their foe's nish or hit points. The most I keep secret, I find, the more fun the game is for the players. It's that little bit of mystery that gives the game an edge.

So....in this encounter, when your PCs decides to go into combat, thereby requiring the game to go to combat rounds, give the guard a secret modifier to his nish throw.

Also....it's technically illegal, per the rules, but....

I've often thought of allowing the Ready Action to be started outside of combat, for this very reason that you mention....

You're in scenes. The guard has his crossbow out and pointed at the PCs. You decide the game is better played by NOT throwing initiative here--keeping the game in scenes.

Then, the player maneuvers his character to where he thinks he has best advantage to throw initiative...and you allow the guard to fire before the PC's action using the House Ruled Ready Action. "He had you dead to rights, 25 feet from you. He's getting his shot off."

If you House rule the Ready Action that way, it might solve the problem. Let everybody know before the game about the House Rule change, and all of a sudden, you're completely legal using it in the game.

Plus, the players can use it, too.





I'm not a big fan of using too many House Rules. But, some rules do need to be improved. Look at the Pathfinder version of the Demoralize Other option of the Intimidate skill vs. the version that is in the Core Rulebook. The Pathfinder version is better.

Maybe the Ready Action should be altered a bit to allow it to begin "in scenes" rather than strictly in combat.

Of course, House Rules all invoke the Rule of Unintended Consequences. Let's say you go with the Ready Action tweak as I mention. Does this also mean that the character cannot be flatfooted due to initiative? If it does, then you've opened a grand pathway for your PCs never to be caught flatfooted.

This is why I haven't adopted the tweak to the Ready Action in my game.

Maybe the Advatnaged/Disavantaged modifier to initiative is still the best way to handle these situations.




And this isn't a problem? Boxing rings are 16' x 16'. By d20 rules, all boxing matches should start with one guy flying out of his corner, into his opponents corner, and catching him with the first blow (although, if we apply d20 rules to boxing, not only will this happen, but the fighters will stay in exactly one spot, trading blows, with no footwork involved).
Except that initiative would be thrown when the two boxers first saw each other....not when they first stepped into the ring. So, in a modern fight, many rounds would take place as the announcer introduces each boxer and has them go to their respective corners before the first bell. Therefore, by the game rules, the boxing fight occurs without either fighter being flatfooted. Since it takes minutes to start a fight, the first blow might take place on combat round 42, just over four minutes after the two boxers first saw each other.

It's tricky remembering that initiative is thrown when the two foes first become aware of each other--not when the first aggressive act starts (as we've been used to in earlier editions of D&D).

This is what I was saying in the first post.

To back up what I'm saying (besides the rule itself), there's an example in the 3.5 DMG that describes a partying seeing a group of orcs through a viewport in an ironbound door. Initiaitve is thrown right then, before the PCs and Orcs can get into combat (the door has to be opened, and the orcs have upended tables, waiting for the party to bash down the door and attack them) with each other.

Initiative happens on sight.

Which is often times awkward to GM because, if combat isn't happening, then why are we slowing time for the combat rounds?

In the 3.5 DMG example, the GM is encouraged to keep track of how many combat rounds pass as spells are thrown and the PCs get past the door.

In the old days, I would never throw initiative as suggested there. I'd keep the game in scenes.

But, remember that 3.0 and 3.5 D&D has a wargame/miniatures focus. Many rules, like the crazy flanking rule, is geared towards a wargame--not necessarily realism. It's like an uber set of RISK game rules, meant to have a graph and a minature to move.

Sometimes, these rules do not transfer well to pure roleplaying.

And, I think the way initiative is thrown on sight is probably one of the areas were the two game styles clash.






A better example may be:
Player 1 " Hey, this gambler is cheating! I punch him", rolls init, gets 1. Gambler gets a 10. Player 2 who was at the bar 25' away, ordering a drink, rolls a 20. He rushes in and punches the gambler.

If player 2 had been at the table, involved in the game, I wouldn't have a problem.
Try this:

Player 1: "Hey, this gambler is cheating! I punch him", roll nish, gets 1 + 4 = 5.

NPC Gambler gets: 10 + 3 = 13.

Player 2 (where the character is 25 feet away, ordering a dring, and rolls a 20 + 6 = 26).

GM: Player 2, you're at a grave disadvantage because you're on the other side of the bar, 25 feet away, with tables and chairs and drunks between you. Yet, your nish roll was fantastic. You're on your toes. You're keeping your eye on your buddy, and you see that something is about to go down.

GM: But, you can't get there that fast, Player 2. It's impossible. You're Disadvantaged. And, I'm going to place a penalty modifier on your nish throw equal to -1 per 10 feet (as you will see in the Core rulebook for Spot and Move Silently checks). That's a -25 to your throw.

So...the round plays out like this...

NPC Gambler goes first. Nish 13.

Player 1 goes second. Nish 5.

Player 2 goes third. Nish 1.





Even though Player 2 has the best nish modifier (I gave him +6, better than the others), and he rolled a perfect 20 on his throw, let's not forget how disadvantaged the character is being on the far opposite side of the bar, with many obstacles between him and where the combat is taking place. The -1 per 10 foot nish modifier is quite fair and speaks to the character's disadvantage.
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Re: [Conan] When Does Combat Begin?

Postby Supplement Four » Fri Nov 30, 2012 12:28 am

In thinking about all of this, and the points that Mach5RR brings up, it seems to me that the Advantage/Disadvantage rule is the answer--especially when movement is concerned.

As with the last bar example in the post above. The character, 25 feet away, is a great disadvantage to landing a punch early in the Player 1 vs. NPC Gambler fight. Player 2 can get there in the same round, but I see it as very unlikely that Player 2 would throw the first punch.

The -1 per 10ft Disadvantage modifier to initiative seems tailor made for this scenario, and it's well within the rules, without resort to House Rules.

I'm going to start using this in my own game.
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Re: [Conan] When Does Combat Begin?

Postby Supplement Four » Fri Nov 30, 2012 3:36 am

OK, I went to dinner and came back, and what seemed like a good idea is, after further thought, not so good. It's the Law of Unintended Consequences.

So, if we do as I recommend above, what happens when a character charges? Does it change his initiative? Does it allow the target of the charge to escape the charge?

We're back to square one.





What's the situation?

In Mach5RR's words, it's this:
Player 1 " Hey, this gambler is cheating! I punch him", rolls init, gets 1. Gambler gets a 10. Player 2 who was at the bar 25' away, ordering a drink, rolls a 20. He rushes in and punches the gambler.
Using the Advantaged/Disadvantaged rule is still a good option, but we can't tie the modifier to movement. Otherwise, we break the Charge rule. Modifiers to initiative should be considered before any character actions. If we start penalizing initiative for distance, then we're opening up an whole can of worms, especially when it comes to charges and ranged attacks.

Considering Mach5RR's example above, how do we gamemaster the scenario using the official rules?

Here's one idea. It may not be the only idea. Chime in if you've got a better one.



Player 1: "Hey, this gambler is cheating! I punch him", roll nish, gets 1 + 4 = 5.

NPC Gambler gets: 10 + 3 = 13.

Player 2 (where the character is 25 feet away, ordering a dring, and rolls a 20 + 6 = 26).

So...the round plays out like this...

Player 2 with Nish 26

NPC Gambler with Nish 13.

Player 1 with Nish 5.



1. But....for the tables and drunks and other obstacles in the way, terrain for Player 2 is considered Hard Terrain. This halves movement, which means that he can move to the table but not act this round (moving the equavilalent of 50 feet). Player 2 arrives at table.

2. The approach of Player 2 makes the NPC Gambler devensive. It's his turn, so he stands up, ready to defend himself (Standard Action to stand).

3. Player 1 swings across the table for a bare handed blow at the NPC Gambler, but the GM applies a -2 modifier on the attack due to the PC's seated, disadvantaged position and gives the NPC Gambler a +2 to AC for the same reason.





This is a way to play this particular situation, but it still does not answer Mach5RR's question. What if all three were out on an open plain, nothing between them but flat, easy traveled ground?

In that case, Player 2 can move and attack the NPC Gambler before either the NPC or Player 1 can act.

Is that correct? Is that as it should be?

Thoughts?
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Re: [Conan] When Does Combat Begin?

Postby Supplement Four » Sat Dec 01, 2012 3:04 am

I think I have an answer for how to correctly play this using the Core rules.

I'm a rules-whore. I love thinking about "The Law" and how it applies to gaming situations. With some thought, there's usually a way found to cover most situations.

Here's what I'm thinking....



I think using a Surprise Round is the way to go. But, how can we? Aren't all characters aware of each other at the beginning of the combat round? Yes, they are.

(Here's my Rules-Lawyering coming out...) But, look again at the wording of the Surprise rules. Notice the sentences say...

Determine which characters are aware of their opponents at the start of battle...pg. 169 2E Core Rulebook.

When a combat starts, if a character is not of his opponents, and they are aware of him, the character is surprised...pg. 176 2E Core Rulebook.

If some but not all of the combatants are aware of their opponents, a surprise round takes place before regular combat rounds begin...pg. 176 2E Core Rulebook.



The Surprise rules refer to "opponents" and "combatants".

So, in the situation with the guard and crossbow that Mach5RR gave us, and the example with the two PCs and the NPC Gambler in the tavern, there is a point at which a character becomes an opponent to the PC.

Even though PC 2, at the bar, ordering his drink, is aware of the NPC Gambler that is playing PC 1 at the table 25 feet away, he doesn't necessarily recognize the NPC Gambler as a threat.

When we go into combat rounds (when PC 1 decides to throw a punch at the NPC Gambler after he's caught the Gambler cheating), we need to see if both the NPC Gambler and PC 2 are aware of the potential threat.

How do we do this? We just follow the rules. On pg. 176 of the 2E Core Rules, there is a section that addresses Determining Awareness. We're directed to use Listen or Spot checks, or whatever the GM deems appropriate, to determine if a character is aware of his opponents.





Armed with this look at the rules, let's look at Mach5RR's example:

PC 1 and NPC Gambler are sitting at a table at a tavern. PC 2 is 25 feet away, at the bar, ordering a drink.

We're in scenes, roleplaying the encounter. PC 1 discovers that the NPC Gambler is cheating and decides to take a swing at him. At this point Combat begins.

All three characters are aware of each other, but all three do not necessarily view each other as threats. We have to determine if the characters recognize opponents...combatants, and if they don't, then PC 1 may have Surprise on one or both of the other characters.

First, we check to see if the NPC Gambler is aware that PC 1 is a threat. I'd give the NPC a Spot check to read PC 1's body language (I'd use a Listen check if, in the role play, the player playing PC 1 had been very aggressive verbally).

If successful, the NPC Gambler is not Surprised by PC 1's attack, and therefore the Gambler will roll initiative with PC 1.

If not successful, then PC 1 will have a Surprise round on the Gambler before initiative is rolled. (And, if so, PC 1 could get in two blows--one on the Surprise round, and one if PC 1 wins initiative over the Gamber during the first regular round of combat--on the Gambler while the Gamber is flatfooted.)



We have to do the same for PC 2. He's 25 feet away, ordering a drink. We've got to determine if he is also surprised by his comrade's actions--and if he recognizes the NPC Gambler as an opponent. We do that by giving PC 2 either a Spot or Listen check. I think a Spot check is more appropriate, because the crowded tavern is probably loud, but I'd give the player of PC 2 a choice: Roll a Spot check, or roll a Listen check at a higher DC (because it would be harder to hear what's going on at the table vs. looking at the two and watching body language). I'd let the player decide which check he wanted to use (but I probably won't tell him the actual DC of either check--only that the Listen check has a higher DC).

Also, don't forget that the GM needs to determine if PC 2 has been keeping an eye on his friend, PC 1, at the table with the Gambler, or if he's distracted...or if he's even looking in that direction.

The GM can determine this by PC 2's actions and the roleplay that went on before the combat started.

If PC 2 isn't even looking in the direction of PC 1, then it might be impossible for PC 2 to not be Surprised. If he's looking to his right, at the barkeep, ordering his drink, when, over his left shoulder and 25 feet away, his comrade takes a swing at the Gambler, the GM is well within his rights to declare that PC 2 has not chance to not be Surprised. Or, using the same logic, the GM could call for a Listen check only at the appropriate DC.

If PC 2 is not focused on the table with PC 1 and the NPC Gambler but occassionaly looking in that direction, then the Spot/Listen check still applies, but using the -5 distraction modifier (see the Spot skill).

If it is determined that PC 2 is, in fact, purposefully keeping an eye on his friend, then the standard Spot/Listen check choice is presented to the PC 2 player with success meaning that PC 2 on the ball and not surprised at all.



If neither the NPC Gambler or PC 2 are Surprised, we simply roll initiative and go into combat rounds. Yes, PC 2 can cross the 25 feet and go first in this combat if he's succeeded in not being Surprised at this instant. This is why the GM needs to make the DC difficulty of PC 2's Spot or Listen check appropriate for the situation. I think the Spot check should at least be DC 15 (a Tough task) and the Listen check should at least be DC 20 (a Challenging task), with the -5 modifier applied to the check if PC 2 is distracted.

If PC 2 conquers all that, then it has been determined that he's on the ball, got his buddy's back, and is ready to cross the 25 feet before the other two can act. Beating those difficult checks makes his actions more believeable. Those checks also make it so that is it unlikely that PC 2 won't be Surprised (unless he's got some uber modifiers in Listen or Check, in which case, again, it's believeable that PC 2 could rely on this personal ability to beat the odds that an average person would fail).



If either the NPC Gamber or PC 2 are Surprised at PC 1's attack, then we play out the Surprise round and then go into normal combat rounds as described by the game's rules.

I'm pretty sure that this is how the rules are meant to be applied to this situation.

Thoughts?
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Re: [Conan] When Does Combat Begin?

Postby Spectator » Mon Dec 03, 2012 10:55 am

I like your response (S4's) on Nov. 30.
I would tweak your response with this: ditch the SPOT roll of the "cheating gambler" and use Sense Motive, instead.
As for Character ordering the drink, I think he has a tougher time than you suggest, IF I READ THE ORIGINAL POST CORRECTLY.
Namely, the dude has to traverse a distance of twenty-five feet in a crowded bar. (I can tell you that IRL that can take up to a minute in Miami, LOL.) But back to game life, the problem is not only the terrain (chairs, tables, and stools) but also the humans in-between. If he's at the bar (and assuming he can roll Sense Motive (he would have to be looking at the aggressor, not the cheater) and make the roll (remember sense motive is one of those skills that gets better the closer you are to read body language, facial tics, sweating, etc); then assuming he sees something is "going down" he would have to move through PEOPLE, not just terrain. So he can barge through the first customers but maybe 3-4 people later he could be known to all people and then have to push (GRAPPLE) his way past others.
Long story, short: No way is homey getting to the table in 6 seconds unless he rolls a lot of 20s in a row.
Which is a good thing because that is real life and it is reflected in the game correctly.

Scenario changes if it is a cluttered (just stools and tables) but UNOCCUPIED bar, the rolls will still be required (acrobatics or Jump, to dodge tables). but it may be feasible.

PS S4, you definitely are a rules whore, lol.
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Re: [Conan] When Does Combat Begin?

Postby Supplement Four » Mon Dec 03, 2012 10:22 pm

Spectator wrote:I like your response (S4's) on Nov. 30.
I think the reponst immediately after that one is the best implementation of the rules. The post directly above yours. This one.
I would tweak your response with this: ditch the SPOT roll of the "cheating gambler" and use Sense Motive, instead.
Yes, I agree. Good call.


As for Character ordering the drink, I think he has a tougher time than you suggest, IF I READ THE ORIGINAL POST CORRECTLY.
Namely, the dude has to traverse a distance of twenty-five feet in a crowded bar.
I tried to think of the problem outside of those conditions--to focus on the rules, not the situation specifically. Put the three characters, standing, in an open field, EASY terrain. Nothing between them. PC 1 and NPC Gambler are face-to-face in discussion. PC 2 is 25 feet away. Then, PC 1's player indicates that his character will throw a punch at the NPC Gambler.

1. Throw Sense Motive to determine if the NPC Gambler is Surprised.

2. Throw Spot to see if PC 2 is Surprised.

3. Then, we're off to the races, maybe playing out a Surprise round before going into normal combat rounds.




PS S4, you definitely are a rules whore, lol.
Oh, yeah. I admit it. I am. The right rule for the situation lights my fire. :wink:

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