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Ditching the Speed Chart


Aglondir
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I get that the speed chart isn't perfect, but it seems to me the variations introduce more problems than they solve.

Exactly. Its especially good compared to the alternatives out there in gaming today.  I still haven't seen a system I prefer over it.

 

My personal take is this: if you are going to remove something like the speed chart, what value is added?

 

Its not really any more simple if you use any tool at all to keep track.  And variations of when people move is an excellent way to represent skill and swiftness in combat that is simply stripped away by removing the speed chart.  Even in games where all speed values are very similar (most heroic settings) you can still get a feel for combat ability through one point variations.

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This compunded by what I call "brick fight" mentality. They expect to exchange and soak a ton of blows, and design to achieve it. As a result, you end up with padded defenses and extra stun that makes blocking, dodging, and setting up a finishing blow is a sub - optimal strategy because, odds are, you won't finish them. You have to keep pounding away to win. In games with lower defenses and stun (heroic games, mostly) I've seen far more tactical thinking than in superheroic games and games with a bunch of damage obviating heroic talents that render you quasi-superheroic).

 

This, exactly, especially in 400 point superheroic games with caps. The fact is that blocking, dodging, and optional manoeuvres like dive for cover are inferior to just building to take the hit in most situations.  In my own superheroic game the average OCV is 8 to 10 but the average DCV is 3.  They took the 25 to 35 points that they might have sunk into DCV to even it up with OCV and applied it directly to defences not dependant on a fickle dice roll.  

 

For the first few sessions the bricks would periodically jump in the way of attacks meant for the mentalist but numbers were usually against them and it became a better tactic on their part to convince the player to take a few points of experience earned and throw a Barrier with the telekinetic sfx in her mental power multipool so they could focus on offence.

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Its a problem, and related to the way players tend to avoid vulnerabilities as a complication as well.  The genre is now "I can't be hurt, hulk smash" most of the time now.  This is why campaign caps and careful examination of characters is a good idea.

 

The low DCV thing you can teach players not to do with some strategically placed AVAD attacks.

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Its a problem, and related to the way players tend to avoid vulnerabilities as a complication as well.  The genre is now "I can't be hurt, hulk smash" most of the time now.  This is why campaign caps and careful examination of characters is a good idea.

 

The low DCV thing you can teach players not to do with some strategically placed AVAD attacks.

I find this seems to be a superheroic point level thing and that heroic level games tend not to have this sort of issue.  The difference between SPD2 and SPD5 is also monstrous in a heroic game ... and SPD6 characters are just stupendous. 

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I think one thing brought up, that in the heat of a group combat, the speed chart AS IS tends to feel random enough, where people get certain set actions, but predicting whether a haymaker will be completed is sometimes impossible, is a totally fair statement.

 

But the closer one gets to one on one fights, this utterly breaks down. By the end of the first six phases, everyone's speed rating is obvious, and the tactics are often then based around the table, not around the feel. Tactics presume risk, knowing exactly how the speed chart works, in some combats, rewards gaming the system at the cost of creating a dynamic combat where the risks involved make success that much more meaningful.

 

I would not argue that randomizing is simpler. BUT, if done with cards, for instance, everyone is getting what they paid for(you are not paying for specific phases, you are paying for six phases a turn, and, statistically, you WILL average out to this) and no one has the ability to game the system, everything has a higher level of risk, and the play, AS LONG AS the loss of simplicity does not dog things down too much, can have a higher level of dynamism, at least as far as the narrative.

 

I'm not particularly in favor for making the speed the same for everyone, unless there is a story reason for it. But, if one does, then it is a round by round system, and DEX is not replacing speed, since it has no bearing on who has attacks, but merely deciding the order of attack. But, since most round by round RPGs(as opposed to wargames and unit tactics based games like Mordheim) randomize order with the more dexterous characters going first, which allows the lower DEX people to sometimes luck out, while still giving the higher DEX characters the advantage most of the time.

 

I think where I disagree with some of what's being said is in the idea that uncertainty negates tactics. Sometimes, it does. In reality. Sometimes, having their first plan fail, players end up improvising a winning solution. I think there is room for this.

To be clear, I am not saying other people need to do this; if someone wants to use the speed chart as is, they should. I'm just explaining my view.

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So there's this game, Crossfire. It's a WWII skirmish game. But it has a really interesting rule I think would be loads of fun to play with. Alas, my minatures wargaming days are sadly few and far between these days.

 

Anyhow, the rule in question really makes this game different from most wargames. It works like this:

 

One side is chosen to act first (either at random or based on the scenario). Player A can move any one of his units up to it's full move. If the enemy doesn't react, he can move that unit or another one (his choice) again. And again, and again, until the enemy reacts*. At which point, IF the enemy's fire is effective, it stops that unit at the point in their movement where the reaction fire occurred, and may cause casualties or morale effects and so forth and the initiative passes to Player B. HE may now move a unit, or units, until and unless Player A reacts effectively. If the reaction fire is ineffective, the reacting unit may not act again this turn, and the initiative stays with Player A.

 

Initiative passes back and forth in this fashion until one side or the other accomplishes their objective. It keeps both players engaged through the whole game; the active player is trying to maneuver and accomplish his mission, the reacting player is watching for opportunities to seize the initiative (with EFFECTIVE fire) and pursue his objectives.

 

I keep wondering it's possible to adapt some variant of this rule for Champions. So Villain A is terrorizing the people of Townsville when Hero A flies in and lobs an energy blast him. If he hits, and stuns the villain or does knockback (or whatever criterion counts as "effective" fire), then he can strike again. And possibly again and again. Until he misses, or his attack is ineffective, at which point Villain A can strike back, or move and hold the initiative as long as possible. If they're evenly matched, they may just trade blows pretty regularly.

 

Throw some allies in on either side, or armed minions, and it becomes really chaotic. Any given character who makes an ineffective attack is out of action until the initiative has passed back and forth at least once. So having teammates helps a lot, especially if you're facing several opponents (who could otherwise pour concentrated fire you unopposed, which isn't necessarily unrealistic even if it's not much fun). It also means an army of minions has some use. It would certainly make combat more fluid. It would also make OCV/DCV disparities more potent. If you almost always hit (or almost always avoid being hit) you can hold (or seize) the initiative pretty easily, which, again, may not be unrealistic, but may not be much fun for the other side.

 

I dunno. What do you all think?

 

 

*If Player B has arrayed his forces poorly, it is sometime possible for Player A to accomplish his objective uncontested because Player B's forces are never able to spot or effectively fire on his troops. Fortunes of war.

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Interestingly, the intent of which you speak actually removes tactical game play -- and again skews toward higher speeds.  Specifically, the kind of thinking you just described regarding the haymaker ... is referred to as 'looking for an opening' -- i.e. that moment when you think you can take your swing without much worry of a counter-punch.

versus

 

As a guy trained by pro fighters, I would like to say that 'looking for an opening' against anyone worth their salt never means being guaranteed that opening, but willing to risk it when odds are in one's favor. The static speed chart reflects this less than one with randomization based on speed and Dex in some way, which, of course, must seek to make the odds of action appropriately reflective of the Speed and Dex, and so the skew of some of the methods brought up must be mitigated.

 

Generally, the opening that one is guaranteed to be able to exploit comes against an inferior opponent(or who has some aspect of their fighting which is outclassed by their opponent, even if other aspects are superior) or one who is fatigued or dazed.

 

Tactics exist alongside chance. Set phases, which are fine if one is okay with this, do not reflect this well, because even great fighters sometimes fail to act at an opening. Not miss, but fail to act.

It depends on the style you want to emulate. If I watch the flow of combat and work out, between that and our campaign norms, that Barney Brick has a 5 SPD, and less DEX than Betty Baster, who has a 6 SPD, then all I need to do is wait for Barney to act on Segment 5 - now Betty can take a recovery on Phase 6 without fear Barney will take advantage of her shutting down her Force Field and reducing her DCV - he can't do anything but Abort until after her DEX on Phase 8.

 

Did her extra 10 point investment legitimately purchase that level of security, or did it only legitimately purchase 20% more attacks, moves, etc. than Barney has?

 

The low DCV thing you can teach players not to do with some strategically placed AVAD attacks.

9 OCV vs 3 DCV - I don't know about AVAD specifically, but Multiple Attacks in general seem like a great idea.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Wonder if Aglondir got what he wanted? Or realised the interest in the topic!?

 

I think the SPD chart is a feature of HERO but it is unchanged since first edition. I would love a real game designer to see if it might be improved and properly embedded in the system to give a real action feel.

What do you mean?

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I mean that the SPD chart tried to do something new in Roleplay systems and provide a very structured tactical mechanism into the combat. It works if the players think about the structure rather than just waiting to be called for actions. Golden Heroes also tried, basing it around frames (like a comic book).

 

That is 1.0 thinking on it. It has never been tweaked or evolved beyond that. I want someone with real game design skills to look st it and see how the core principles might be evolved to deliver more of that tactical stuff onto the gaming table in a more elegant fashion. Something that does not require you to be a numbers geek but gives a feel of using SPD to influence the combat beyond having more shots....encourage mixing up play and actions and enlivening combat which can get tedious sometimes as players just whale on their opponents relentlessly.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I like the premise of the speed chart, as it does allow for the difference in character concepts.  Speedsters should act more than bricks, it is their thing...  What I don't like is the predictability with it...

 

I considered using the optional version in one of the advanced books.  The premise is that you roll a die for every speed value you have, so a speed 3 character would roll 3d6.  Then to figure out the segments, you subtract 4 from their total.  On average you get the same number of actions, but you could end up with less or more...  So if a speed 3 rolled an 11, he would go on 11/7/3.  

 

This does make changes to how speed work, especially to whom goes firs, but with the drawback of giving high speed characters a lot of actions up front.  Then when the slower characters get to act, everyone is the same.  This to me breaks some of the cinematic feel of the speed chart.  You no longer have a faster character trading 2 blows for 1, you end with a flurry of attacks up front, and then blow for blow.  Not really what I was looking for to break the predictability of combat....

 

I guess, I could have the players roll for initiative, add up the dice, then divide by 4 to figure out their effective speed.  But, that is adding in more math and complexity, that I am not sure I would really want to introduce...

 

So, speed chart as RAW is where I will probably stay...

 

EDIT

I just thought of a way to simplify the last idea, rather than counting the dice as normal and then dividing by 4, it would be simpler to just count the speed dice as body dice....  

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  • 4 weeks later...

What I do is...

 

As a GM, I have a deck of 12 cards with numbers 1-12 on the faces.  At the beginning of each Turn, I quickly shuffle the cards and then cut them. I place the deck face down and flip the top card.  This is the current Phase.  Any character who can act goes in order of DEX.  When that phase is over, I flip the next card revealing the next phase, and so on until all the cards are used.  Then it is Post-Segment Recovery.  While the players are updating their END and STUN, I reshuffle and get ready for the next Turn.  Real simple and solves several issues,

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I am always amazed by threads like this as I rarely see a clear 'problem' defined with the RAW Speed Chart rules that needs the various solutions presented.

 

Most common problem:

PC's always acting on specific Phases and DEX.

The Delaying Rules, Block, and PRE Attacks can ALL affect the order of combat in unpredictable ways.

 

I don't understand the need to introduce more randomness into a system based on "you get what you pay for".

 

HM

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What I do is...

 

As a GM, I have a deck of 12 cards with numbers 1-12 on the faces.  At the beginning of each Turn, I quickly shuffle the cards and then cut them. I place the deck face down and flip the top card.  This is the current Phase.  Any character who can act goes in order of DEX.  When that phase is over, I flip the next card revealing the next phase, and so on until all the cards are used.  Then it is Post-Segment Recovery.  While the players are updating their END and STUN, I reshuffle and get ready for the next Turn.  Real simple and solves several issues,

How do you handle held phases?

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If a character elects to hold their Phase, they are able to act at any point until their next Phase+DEX comes up, at which point, their held phase expires.

 

What this does for my games is it makes combats less predictable without adding complexity or completely changing the process.  It also keeps players who have characters with low SPD more engaged since they don't know when their next phase will come up.

 

I'm not saying its for everyone, but it works in our games.

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If a character elects to hold their Phase, they are able to act at any point until their next Phase+DEX comes up, at which point their held phase expires.

 

What this does for my games is it makes combats less predictable without adding complexity or completely changing the process.

It also keeps players who have characters with low SPD more engaged since they don't know when their next phase will come up.

 

I's not saying its for everyone, but it works in out games.

Yeah, as a player I would hate that. Not the unpredictability, I like that part. But the "Oh, your phase came up randomly, so you lose your held phase from last card flip". You are actually penalizing players with higher speeds since it is more likely that their held phase will expire without use. If I did end up playing a game with that I would go for the low end of speed and higher DCV and defenses in it's place.

 

- E

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In reality how most players use it is...

 

If they have a held phase and their Phase card flips, then just before their DEX they use the held phase for a recovery, snap-shot, suppression fire or something and then hold their next Phase.  It looks like it penalizes higher SPD characters on the surface, but it actually gives them a lot of flexibility in a combat.

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In reality how most players use it is...

 

If they have a held phase and their Phase card flips, then just before their DEX they use the held phase for a recovery, snap-shot, suppression fire or something and then hold their next Phase.  It looks like it penalizes higher SPD characters on the surface, but it actually gives them a lot of flexibility in a combat.

You cannot use a held phase for recovery, unless you house rule that in. And given what you just said, I would swap my stance and buy as much SPD as I could, because you are letting them act twice in one phase? Once before their DEX and again at their DEX?

 

Edit: Page refs - 6e1 129, 5e 424

Edited by eepjr24
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OK, not read the whole thread, but ditching the speed chart is simply a matter of building every character with the same speed.  What speed you build them with is up to you and your conscience, but bear in mind that PS12 still exists, so low speed games mean that everyone recovers really quickly.  3 or 4 is about right in my opinion.

 

In common with other posters I love the speed chart as a (largely) unique Hero feature.  I shouldn't, mathematically, (every +1 SPD is 10 points), but I do.

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You cannot use a held phase for recovery, unless you house rule that in. And given what you just said, I would swap my stance and buy as much SPD as I could, because you are letting them act twice in one phase? Once before their DEX and again at their DEX?

 

Edit: Page refs - 6e1 129, 5e 424

 

Your comment made me research things and you're right about taking a recovery with a held action.  Somewhere down the line after years of play, I forgot that and my wonderful players never reminded me (I wonder why, hummm).  But, it will be corrected next game session.  Luckily, it didn't happened that often.  With that corrected, here is how I intend to use Segment Cards incorporating Held Actions. 

  1. At the beginning of a Turn, the GM shuffles the 12 Segment Cards and places them face down. We also have Held Action Cards to the side.
  2. Each Segment, the top Segment Card is flipped over revealing the current Segment.
  3. If characters can act on the Current Segment, they act in order of DEX rolls (ties are handled as simultaneous actions - this can be fun when it happens).
    1. A character may elect to Hold their Action (all or none - no held partial actions), if so they get a Held Action Card (they can only have one Held Action Card at a time).

      Held Actions may not be used to take a recovery (Thanks eepjr24 for straightening me out)

    2. On any future Segment, a character may trade in their Held Action Card to act immediately as long as they have not already acted in that Segment.
    3. If a character's Segment comes up and they are holding a Held Action Card, they take their action as normal retaining the Held Action Card for a future Segment.

      I understand this is a minor adjustment to the canonized rules regarding Holding an Action, but it makes sense and doesn't impact game play adversely.

  4. When, all 12 Segment Cards are used up, it's Post-Segment 12 as normal and we get ready for the next Turn.
  5. At the end of a conflict, all Held Action Cards are collected.

This adds randomness to to a Turn without additional complexity and handles Held Actions without penalizing characters who purchased higher SPD.

This is probably most useful for Heroic Campaigns and not so much for Supers, but we almost exclusively play Heroic.

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I Dunno if this has been mentioned already (five pages is a lot and my eyes glazed over a little), nor do I recall where I read it, but for situations where a phenomenon is represented by a power that is not linked to something with a SPD score (A Constant Power being used by a Base for example) the game engine defaults to a SPD score of 3 for that phenomenon. If I remember correctly this was also the value suggested for use when making SPD dormant.

 

In a campaign where you are ditching the Speed Chart or making SPD dormant I believe you should assume all game elements have an effective SPD of 3. I suggest SPD 3 because it is the minimum Speed value required to create a mechanical difference between Extra Time (Extra Phase; -3/4), and Extra Time (1 Turn; -1 -1/4), and it will have a minimum unintended effect on movement, recovery and sense affecting powers.

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