Creator's Diary - Part 12 - Combat System Rundown
After a week of rest after the end of our Kickstarter, we're back in gear to unveil some more features and facets of the SINS RPG. Today, we're looking at the combat system.
So far, we’ve given you a glimpse of how the core rules work, but of course the area where they take on the most importance - and the one a lot of you are interested in - is combat. Now, the first thing to point out is that the HOPE Engine handles combat very differently to what you might be used to.
There are normally two ways in which games handle combat. The first is an attack roll followed by a defence roll, and the second is to roll an attack against a static difficulty. In the HOPE Engine on the other hand, combat is always a series of opposed actions. Now, that sounds like “I roll an attack, and then you oppose with a defence”, but it’s not. In the HOPE Engine, attack and defence are one and the same.
So what happens is, if you go to attack someone, they get to respond to that attack. For example, if you draw a knife and attempt to stab someone, that person gets to decide what they’ll do. They could try and run to defend themselves, they could draw their own knife and attack you in turn, or hell they might just pull a gun and shoot you.
Each character forms a dice pool to represent their action, and modifiers are then applied to one or the other player depending upon the situation. For instance, if you’ve got a knife and someone at a distance pulls a gun and tries to shoot you, they have a significant advantage. The inverse can be true as well, as trying to use a rifle whilst engaged in a desperate melee is going to put you at a disadvantage.
At the end of the day, the person who wins the roll defines what happens. If the person with the knife wins, they manage to reach their opponent and, well, stab them. Of course if the gunman wins, you get shot. Granted, that won’t kill a Nemissary (usually – sometimes guns can be more than they seem. After all there’s no reason you can’t put Voidglass in a bullet, and oh my, does that hurt).
The thing to bear in mind is that if you respond to someone, that uses up your action for the round. That’s probably the hardest thing to get used to when playing in the engine, and it makes initiative incredibly important as it allows the fastest characters to define the flow of a combat. With all that said, acting doesn’t necessarily leave you vulnerable. You can actually respond as many times as you need to – it’s just that it gets harder each time to do so.
Now, it does mean that unless you win Initiative there’s a good chance you’ll be on the back foot, but it’s important to mention that Initiative isn’t totally static, and there are a lot of ways of improving it. In fact it’s one of the main uses of successes in combat. It was designed this way to make the fight over who has pole position in a combat an exciting and desperate endeavour. Particularly when facing a superior opponent, players will have to think tactically, each using their own strengths and weaknesses to try and control the flow of combat and prevent a deadly enemy having free reign to pick off weaker members of the group.
Some of you might wonder why we resolve things this way. After all, it will sound a bit alien to some people, but we can tell you that as writing team with actual experience with fencing, sword-fighting and some practical firearms training, that the mechanisms put in place were designed to - as accurately as possible - capture what fighting is really like, whilst retaining the rules of cool. In real life, you simply don’t make one blow against a defence. A fight isn't an exchange of set blows, but a chaotic flurry of actions as you attempt to overcome an opponent.
In a sword fight for instance, you might strike dozens of times in the time allotted to a round in other systems, or conversely you might spend a whole round not striking at all, and yet that time in terms of beating your opponent might be of far greater importance than twenty or thirty lesser strikes.
Even when considering firearms, you don’t just calmly take a shot at someone in a real combat situation. You respond to what happens. If you get shot at, you either take cover or fire back – there’s no middle ground. Human nature, except in the most truly exceptional or impeccably trained individuals, makes it impossible to calmly wait for “your turn”.
Conclusively, the HOPE engine's approach to combat is one that we believe captures the essence of desperate combat, whilst maintaining a fluid and cinematic style for engaging use in your roleplaying games. The GM screen includes a whole range of uses for degrees of Success in combat, and also on-the-fly action lists for GMs to ensure opponents always provide a satisfying and challenging conflict when push comes to shove.
Again, thanks to everyone for supporting us, and join us again in a few days when we'll be exploring more world-building information from the setting. Our KS update output will inevitably slow around this point however, as our small team begins to finalise print copies of the book and oversee their production and physical development. Exciting stuff!
The SINS Team.