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murphzero

Drop that Sword or I'll Run You Through...

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A missing mechanic in Warhammer 3rd Edition - what to do when a player's wants to wait and react to some other action.

The player bursts into the bad guy's hideout and holds a sword to their throat and says "I stab him if he goes for a weapon."

Game wise, these situations have two main goals:

  1. Give the combatant with the advantage a true advantage; and 
     
  2. Give the disadvantaged combatant a chance 

Situations like that are going to require some fudging, and I thought up this (perhaps obvious) framework:

Take the example where a Hero has the drop on a Cultist.

The Hero with initiative in this situation forgoes their action and announces their intent. e.g. "I'll stab him if he goes for his weapon." "If he moves for the door, I'll shoot him with my crossbow." The lost action is banked.

The basic mechanic is obvious - the two combatants roll initiative to determine which of them acts first when the triggering event happens.

The following modifiers apply to this check:

  • The banked lost action of the Hero is converted into an automatic (or banked) success for the purposes of this initiative only.
  • If the Cultist has to perform a maneuver before their action (e.g. draw a sword then use the melee attack action) - the Hero gains a total of two banked successes to their initiative.
  • Situational modifiers can add Fortune/Misfortune dice to either combatant. (The Cultist's ally creates a diversion right before the Cultist strikes, etc.) These modifiers are totaled and the players are informed of the advantages/disadvantages that will apply to the init roll.

If the Hero wins, they are placed in the initiative track immediately before the Cultist and proceed with their action. If the Cultist wins, the Hero is placed immediately after the Cultist - and the Cultist can perform their action.

If the duo are the only combatants, the détante can continue indefinitely. Each time the Hero's action comes up, they can elect to act or bank their action again. Each time the Cultist's action comes up they can act or pass their action.

If the duo are NOT the only combatants, the Hero/Cultist become one token (where the Cultist was) on the initiative track until one of them acts or some outside action breaks the standoff.

Outside events can negate the Hero's advantage. Depending on their significance, the GM can remove fortune/misfortune dice (the sound of someone approaching behind him, a nearby explosion), or even remove banked successes (e.g. the Hero is ambushed by another combatant).

 

Example 1: Hero (Agility 3) bursts into a room to find a sleeping Cultist (Agility 4+1 fortune). The Hero wakes the Cultist and holds a dagger to their throat. "Surrender!"

The GM rules the Hero has 1 banked init success and 2 Fortune dice (1 because the Cultist just woke up and 1 because of the dagger to the throat).

The Cultist tries to cast Magic Dart - which triggers an initiative check. The Hero rolls 3 successes. With his banked success he's at 4. The Cultist rolls only 3 successes.

The Hero acts first, and the combat resumes normal initiative with the Cultist following immediately after the Hero's action.

 

Example 2: Hero (Agility 3) is at Close range with a Bandit (Agility 4). Encounter init is rolled and the Hero is able to act first. The Hero uses a maneuver to ready their crossbow and warns the Bandit to drop their weapon or they will fire.

The Bandit chooses to try and duck behind cover.

The GM rules that the hero has 1 banked init success, but no other bonuses. The bandit is free to move, and there are no other factors.

The Hero rolls no successes. The banked init success puts him at 1. The Bandit rolls 2 successes and dives into cover before the Hero can fire.

 

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I handle these kind of it in a simpler way. I let my players use Intimidate to "influence the target" as an action. If threetning the enemy with a melee weapon I give them fortune dice on their intimidate check if they have weapon skill trained and if they use a ranged weapon they get fortune dice for their balistic skill.

A successful result means that the person threatend will comply to the PCs orders (like "get down on the ground for example).
A high number of successes, Boons in the result or Sigmars comet(s) could give the PCs extra fortune dice when interrogating their captured enemy,
Failiure would mean that the enemy isn't frightend and may draw his/her sword but I'll still give the PC a bunch of fortune dice on the next attack and the enemy will get a bunch of misfortune on both the initiative check and on the following attack.
Faliure with banes/chaos stars might mean that the PC is standing too far away and that the enemy can whip out his/her sword and only suffer one or no misfortune dice.

Also, if there are 4 PCs and only one enemy and the PCs block all the exits the enemy is likely to surrender. Many of these instances can be roleplayed in story mode like your example 1 with the sleeping cultist for example. I'd probably not go into encouter mode at all in the case of example 1. In many instances I as a GM just use common sense, "What would this NPC do in a situation like this?" If the answer is surrender, and it often is in the situations you describe, then I'll do that. :)

But I agree with you, sadly there is no way to hold actions for later. There is one ranged action from Omens of War that allows you to hold your ranged action and interrupt the enemies turn, but that's all.

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 I agree that's a simpler resolution, but what if the players are the ones who got jumped?

The idea that an NPC's roll will decide what a player does and does not do rankles - I suspect players would feel the same.

There are always situations that can be roleplayed out, and I'd take those in preference, but a mechanic for the "should I go for it?" moment is needed.

I'm not saying that my rule is it, but there needs to be something other than "The GM decides."

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Ah, that's one of the great wonders of WFRP3e in my mind. A lot of the rolling can be passed over to the players. I would simply let them make discipline checks to resist the intimidation, with appropriate modifiers like for example for outnumbering (if the players outnumber the agressors throw in some fortune dice and vice versa). The difficulty could be derived from the enemies Strength (as STR is the attribute used for intimidation) and rolled like an opposed check, or the difficulty could be set on the fly depending on the circumstances (dwarves are less likely to lay down arms when threatend by goblins than a farmer jumped by bandits on the road I'd imagine).

By letting the players roll discipline instead of letting the enemies roll to intimidate the success/failiure outcome of the situation is transfered from the GM to the players, and the players can use their abilities (like favoured by fate or similar), talents, specializations, etc. to resist the intimidation. The players keep the "control" over their characters and it is more the players own "faults" if they fail. Even on a failed discipline check I'd let the players draw their weapons if they so choose, but I'd give them a bunch of misfortune on initiative checks and attack rolls, while giving the enemies fortune dice to reflect that they have the jump on the PCs.

On a failiure with chaos stars I might "force" the player to follow the enemies orders (at least if he/she is alone with them), just to reflect that the PC is shaken to the core by the intimidation. Or make them loose a turn if the other player characters draw their weapons. Many situations in WFRP3e can be "reversed", letting the players make the rolls instead of the monsters, and I've found that it works beautifully. The players feel that they are the ones in control of their characters, to a much greater extent than if the GM rolls and just tells the players that "your characters are frightend and have to surrender".

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I'm all in favor of putting the dice in players hand to determine the outcome - but the missing mechanic is tactical, not social.

In the scenario you mention, if the players fail their discipline check and STILL choose to draw their weapons - the GM is no closer to resolving two issues:

1) Deciding who goes first
    and
2) Deciding what advantages and disadvantages apply to the situation.

What I'm trying to come up with is a framework so the players can know the risks before they choose to act or not.

Sure a GM can wing fortune and misfortune, but winging it after the player makes their call denies the player an idea of the risks they are running. If the GM assigns more consequences than the player expected - then you have conflict about what is fair, or whether or not the player has to go through with their action.

Better to lay out the risk and put the choice out there

In the instant the player considers going for their weapon, there will be things they *will* know.
-Their own agility and stance
-Their sword is still in its scabbard (they need to perform a maneuver to attack, or even parry)
-Their opponent is at engagement range with a weapon pointed at them.

This information could be supplemented with an observation check
-maybe they get an idea of their opponent's agility.

Canny combatants might continue the standoff by performing an action like Assess the situation, or Guarded Position.

What I'm looking for is a way to quantify these items for a player so they can make an informed choice on whether or not to act when someone's got the drop on them, or vice versa.

Unless there is a true compulsion (magic, a wave of energy, being held back by your fellow party members) the choice to act is not something I take away from players.
If they are alone, surrounded by crossbowmen, and unarmored but are SURE they can dive into cover because their agility is 5 - I say okay and we roll to figure out what happens.

I just need a mechanic to make sure those situations are handled consistently and fairly.

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Well, in that we are different, I'd say that you never really know how deep in **** you are when deciding to fight someone. I guess you could deal out misfortune equal to the enemies AG, or AG/2 or something like that. That way your players know that if you describe agile opponents they are in more trouble than if they are facing a slow moving, clumsy enemy.

I on the other hand would rather keep the misfortune "award" secret untill the players have rolled and let it depend on a number of factors, like how well the player(s) succeed on their dicsipline checks, how "good" their opponent(s) is/are, etc. I find that it keeps my players on their toes and think that they should not be able to calculate (tactically) every situation. On the other hand, if the players describe a good/interesting/exciting way of getting their weapons out and engaging the enemies, I'd award fortune or negate misfortune on their rolls. So I like to keep it fluid.

But drawing weapons when your enemy has you at swordpoint should allways be risky, dangerous and potentially lethal. Even untrained farmers with pitchforks are dangerous if they have got the drop on you. I like to keep that sense of danger and one way of doing that is not telling the players "everything" about the risks of the situation.
Also, remember that since the players roll the discipline checks instead of letting the enemies roll their intimidate the players generally have a greater better chance to withstand the intimidation, so in a way letting the players do the rolling allready tips the scales in the PCs favour right of the bat (which by the way I'm fine with and like).

So the issues you describe:

1) Deciding who goes first.
I'd use initiative checks, generally you get the drop on people like this in the transition between story mode and encounter mode anyways. I'd apply some misfortune dice on this check for those that are at swordpoint, and fortune dice to those holding the weapons, making it more likely that those holding the swords can react more quickly. Still, I know that this doesn't resolve the problem with "interrupting" turns.

2) Deciding what advantages and disadvantages apply to the situation.
All I can say here is that every situation is different, so there's really no point in trying to hard to figure out "fixed" modifiers. Gut feeling is generally a good indicator in most situations, and Misfortune/Fortune dice are generally not having a great impact on the dice results, thus they can be handed out quite liberally without ruining everything.
Also, remember that you can allways modify the dice pool next turn. When the heroes have their weapons out and have started the fighting you can lower the number of misfortune in their pools if you realized that they suffer too much negative dice.
Otherwise, if your players and you are more comfortable with it, just set a rule like: a failed Discipline check generates a number of misfortune dice equal to the best opponents AG on initiative and attack rolls made the first 2 or 3 rounds of combat.

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 If you boil it down to those two issues (who goes first, and what advantages/disadvantages apply), then it's just a question of how many modifiers to apply and how much to disclose to the players.

Last things first, disclosure:
 
Sure, the players aren't going to know everything that factors into whether they can beat their adversary to the punch, but I would argue you need to give them a framework to make their decision. The game does this for other actions (e.g. melee attack base difficulty of 1 challenge die). Sure, you can pile on all kinds of extras, but right out of the gate, a player knows they're looking at least 1 purple die.
 
A warrior (heck, even a non-warrior who's seen a fight) will have an idea of how difficult it would be to stand, draw and fight before their opponent runs them through. Even if the frame of reference is just "unlikely" or "almost impossible." 
 
Which is not to say that the GM can't have some surprises up their sleeve. The opponent may have an awesome agility. They may have an action card that lets them draw and use a weapon without taking a maneuver. They may have a hidden knife already in their hand.
All the usual modifiers can be thrown in (terrain, physical/mental conditions, what have you) and the players don't have to know about all of them. 
 
In a prolonged standoff - or one where the combatants talk awhile - you might use observation skills to discover more factors that could affect any upcoming initiative roll.
 
But I'd absolutely give players a ground floor idea of what kind of odds they are looking at. 
 
So what's a fair ground floor?
 
If you're in encounter mode and beat your opponent's initiative - you naturally get to bash them first. If you choose to talk instead, you are handing the first bash to your opponent. That's a big concession. You were first, now you're not.
 
Fortune dice will provide an advantage, but if you take two combatants with Agility 3 and give one 2 fortune dice, you're not moving the needle much. And the combatant who had the advantage gave up a sure thing for a toss up. 
Adding challenge dice might be better, but again - the combatant has a ready weapon pointed at their opponent's heart and it means nothing if the purple die comes up blank.
 
And I don't think you want that. Players who don't think they'll get enough benefit out of talking will just skip the parley and stab the bad guy. No nemesis confrontations, no dramatic dialog, and (much worse for players) less mercy. In WFRP the first hit is a big deal - and if there's a good chance you'll lose it by talking, you'll skip the chit chat and stick them with the pointy end.
 
You set a baseline consequence for being caught unawares, you make mercy and/or surrender viable options. 
 
Which is why I'd throw the player who gave up an action a banked success on initiative. That makes for a sizeable advantage and it's a simple, easy to remember mechanic.
 
I'm not sure I'd stick with a two banked successes for a maneuver and then an action - because for lower agility scores, that's a massive swing of the odds. Perhaps a misfortune die for any prepatory maneuver. But I like the symmetry of trading the certainty of being first, for the certainty of a banked success on any init vs. a single opponent.

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I guess it boils down to how different gaming groups like to do it.
My group is perfectly fine with the solution I posted above and they have no problem talking to enemies and risking giving up "the first strike". Your group seems to want something more elaborate, and I think your solution will work great then. :)

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Question: Has anyone thought of allowing players to declare a delay on their action on their turn, and have that action turn into a 'reaction' trait card?

i.e. PC's turn he aims his crossbow at the enemy and declares he wants to use his Ranged Shot card if the enemy tries to run. The card gets put down but the roll isn't made.

NPC's go, the Cultist tries he luck and dives for cover. Agility check, possibly opposed to the PC. Depending on how well he does adds misfortune/fortune to the PC's Ranged Shot, which gets played as a 'reaction' card when the cultist moves.

I know the way initiative in this game works tries to account for things like this but my players get a little annoyed when enemies do stuff that they wanted them not to.

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That's not a bad call - because declaring a single action as a reaction card would limit the player to that action. You'd keep people from saying, "well actually I'm going to grab the priceless artifact out of his hand before he runs" when they originally said "drop that or I'll run you through."

Treating it as a reaction could eliminate the possibility that the disadvantaged combatant could act faster than the advantaged combatant. If you were first, then you'd stay first no matter what.

Personally I like the idea that either side could win, even if one side has an advantage.

I realize I'm stuck on my original concept here, but if you add your idea to the mix you get a more controlled scenario.

Party with Advantage = Warrior A
Party with Disadvantage = Warrior D

Warrior A bursts in on Warrior D and levels their sword at Warrior D who is holding a priceless artifact. Warrior A says "Give me the artifact or I'll run you through."

Warrior A declares he will use the Melee Attack action if Warrior D does not comply. This turns Melee Attack into a reaction card until Warrior A's next turn and gives Warrior A a banked success on any resulting initiative vs Warrior D.

Warrior D throws the artifact at Warrior A's head (surprise!) and tries to attack.

If Warrior A reacts with their Melee Attack card, they roll init and add their banked success to the results. Winner goes first and the artifact hits the floor.
If Warrior A tries to do any other action - like catching the artifact and then attacking - they just roll init straight up.

--------------------------

Setting aside my house rule entirely, though - I really like the idea of just making the action a reaction card.
The dead certainty of being able to act before the other party will cut both ways - so I'm wondering if there's a shorthand way to figure out who is first so it isn't automatic. I'd like to think that a cornered hero could turn the table on their attacker....

Hmm...

D&D had the triggering events, but those always got to be seriously annoying. People started speaking like lawyers

PC "If Warrior D moves either hand towards his sword hilt - I attack"

GM "Aha! Warrior D turns to run, your action isn't triggered - do you wish to pursue?"

Hmm...

Maybe you just accept the fact that the original init won - and give Warrior A their due.

Sure is simpler...

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We just basically use the initative system.

Party runs into bad guys. They stare each other down.  Character says drop your weapon or I'll run you through

I then decide if the monster is going to drop his sword or not.  If he does, well then PC's decide what they want to do, perhaps a bluff/intimidate check may be involved to see if the bad guys believe/trust the pc's.  If he goes for his sword we roll init and then the PC's hope they get to go first.

No need for complicated rules.

The only other situation, and now they have a card for it.  Is for the archer that is say covering a doorway and then get's to take a shot as an opponent runs through it.

 

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same sort of issue occurs when melee warriors encounter flying creatures like harpies, swimming beasts when onboard a boat, or mounted foes.

PCs are not at range at their init. If they "prepare" their action, waiting for the harpy to come close, it's still an issue to know whether they can actually attack. In my opinion, attacking a flying beast dashing from the sky with just your small sword, is not an easy feat.

 

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Kryyst said:

We just basically use the initative system.

Party runs into bad guys. They stare each other down.  Character says drop your weapon or I'll run you through

I then decide if the monster is going to drop his sword or not.  If he does, well then PC's decide what they want to do, perhaps a bluff/intimidate check may be involved to see if the bad guys believe/trust the pc's.  If he goes for his sword we roll init and then the PC's hope they get to go first.

No need for complicated rules.

The only other situation, and now they have a card for it.  Is for the archer that is say covering a doorway and then get's to take a shot as an opponent runs through it.

Initiative with a known advantage was all I was originally suggesting.  I like that it will be possible for either side to win, but I also like the idea that a person who has the initiative and chooses to react to their opponent should be given an advantage.

I really like silenarcher00's suggestion about making an action card a reaction vs. that opponent - it's elegant and intuitive. The person won initiative, they keep it so long as it's vs a given opponent with a given action. The drawback is that if this rule is applied against a PC by a bad guy with an action card, the PC has no chance to strike first.

You could say that keeping the action card as a reaction is an exclusive act. If the person attempting it is distracted by something other than the person they are prepared to react to - then you just go to initiative.

 

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 if there are existing rules that cover these situations i personally prefer to use them. this includes action cards. for example if a player wants to grapple an opponent but doesn't have the grapple action card i let them use it but i add extra purple dice to the attempt and do not allow them to use the higher success results. i should go through the action cards and look for one that represents this interrupt scenario. failing that i would lean toward k7e9's approach of putting the control of the dice pool in the players hands.

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 hmm ok this is a pretty old thread ... still I find it interesting so will give my view ;)

 

What I would do as a GM>

For the stand-off round, ...dont do anything until once character chooses to break the standoff, at that point I might make each side roll a contested coordination vs. observation ... balancing out successes and grant bonuses dependent on boons vs. anyone slower than you ... so kinda winging it but utalizing the system to do so .... 

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 I allow my players to spend a maneuver  for this then they can delay their action react with it later, but the action has to be predetirmined and the target as well, and since it not their turn anymore they don't get to do additional maneuvers etc.

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 I have a very pragmatic view when players want to do something "out of the box".

First, I don't use initiative so I don't have any problem with situations like this. "If anyone move, I'll cut his throat" is pretty obvious for me. First, if the hostage is a mook, the player who put his dagger on his throat will act first. If it's a somehow more important character and I want him to have a chance to escape (or if the hostage is a PC!), the hostage who tries to get away will have the opportunity to make a check to escape and if he fails, the agressor will then act right after. For the other participants, since I don't use initiative, I opt in making all character of the same faction act at once then the opposite faction react. So if it's the agressor who act first, then his allies will go in any order they want right after the aggresor's turn. If it's the hostage who acts first and succeed his evasion, then it's his allies who's gonna act after him.

Finally, for the effect, it's simple. If the hostage is a mook, he got his throat cut so... he dies. Simply. If it's a more important NPC or a PC, he'll immediatly take his wound threashold value in wounds (no soak) and recieve a crit. He'll still have a chance to be saved if his companions help him but getting his throat cut isn't a minor thing!

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