Sunday, June 9, 2013

dSection: And Then I Take My Turn...


So, hi. That went nowhere fast. One weekend, I was at a con, then I came down with a case of "con crud", and the next week, I was off at a hospital helping to install and run tech support for my company's software. Now I'm back! Let's hope that I don't stay away quite so long next time. This time around, I'm covering Hollowpoint's unique initiative system, looking at how it encourages quick, violent action. As before: this is NOT playtested, and is possibly horrendously out-of-balance because it whacks up some core ideas in the game. I tinker; it's what I do with this post. Tinkering with things generally makes them blow up.

Quick Overviews First
Hollowpoint is a fantastic game. If you don't believe me, I wrote stuff about it. Go check it out. It has a lot of highly interesting innovations, but here I'll be addressing its, er, initiative system. If you can call it that. Combat in Hollowpoint is played out in rounds, yes, like in D&D. You don't roll dice during the round, however. Each player rolls all their dice at the start of the round, and then sets aside matching dice. Each group of dice that match is a "set". You spend sets to knock dice out of an opponent's pool; the sets with more dice must go first. The math actually gets pretty fun--a lot of short sets are easier to disable, but one or two long sets effectively waste your dice and make you vulnerable, because sets are shielding. Once you spend your sets, you take hits.

The cool part about this is that once you've got all of your pools rolled out, the whole round is already laid out in front of you. The player with the longest set spends it to take an action, and it kicks off from there. The cool thing is, you automatically know that your action will have a payoff, since you've already rolled the dice. That's the basic idea that I want to carry into this hack. Unfortunately, it gets a bit mathy, which means it's harder to adapt to various d20 games. However, you can easily take my core idea here and apply it in your own game.

The point of this system is fast-paced action. That happens because of two things. First, the dice are pre-rolled. Second, characters are racing each other in a mad dash to spend dice to knock dice out of pools so that their enemies are vulnerable. It encourages ganging-up, because one character can blow their dice pool to "lower the shields" of an opponent, while their teammates deliver the crucial attack.

A Big Pool of Dice
Here's the basic idea: you roll a big pool of d6s. You'll be pulling 3d6 at a time, to use as your attack roll (because it gives a similar range to 1d20). You can also spend extra dice to up your damage. When you're out of dice, that ends your participation in the round. This obviously needs some re-tweaking for your specific version of the game, but I think there's a good skeleton here. Just keep the basic ideas of this paragraph in mind, and then adjust the math to work right. Warning: I can be a little hapless with the math side of the gaming, when it comes to balancing with an existing system.

So to start off, you roll a bunch of d6s. I'm not sure what governs how many you roll; maybe based off your initiative bonus? You spend dice out of the pool as an attack "roll". If you have a 4, 3, and 6 in the pool, and an attack bonus of +4, you can spend the dice for an attack roll of 17. You can only spend up to four dice towards your attack total.

But Wait, There's More!
When you spend dice to make an attack, whomever you're attacking either takes the brunt of your hit or defends against it. If they choose to defend, they must spend dice that meet or exceed your attack total. You also get to add an armor bonus; to get this, take your normal AC (with your current level and armor) and subtract 10. (The +10 that you normally get to AC is a counter to the rough average of 10 that you get with 1d20. Yes, the average is technically 10.5, but they slant it a little towards the attacker.) So if you had an AC 15, you would add 5 to the dice that you spend. You may only spend up to three dice towards your defense total. (Yep; it's easier to hit someone by spending four dice, but it also burns you out of dice faster.)

Now we move on to the final part that I haven't addressed: initiative. The fact that some characters already get more dice than others helps this, but that doesn't tell us how to handle the question of "who goes next". In one final twist of the rules, here's an alternate means of determining initiative. You first find a way to determine which character will initiate the fight. That character gets an attack, as normal, and what happens next is determined by the result of the attack. If the defender doesn't resist the attack, initiative passes to one of the defender's allies (their choice). Otherwise, if the defender meets the attack successfully, they take initiative. If they have no dice to take an action with, any of the attackers may jump in with an action.

I have no idea if that made coherent sense to anyone else. But there it stands! Hopefully my ramblings were an enjoyable look at a highly-familiar game system.