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Action Economy

For Draz's rebuild of 3.5 D&D.

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Action Economy

Postby Draz » Mon Jan 31, 2011 1:08 am

Each turn your character takes in combat should be fun, preferably. However, cutting down on the amount you can do in one turn also tends to speed up play. It's an interesting balance to walk. Here's the current plan:

Each round, your character gets one Standard Action, one Move Action, and one Opportunity Action.
You may sacrifice your Standard Action to get an additional Move Action.
You may sacrifice your Standard Action or your Opportunity Action to get a Swift Action.

Examples of each action type at work:
Standard : 
  • make a normal attack
  • cast a normal (combat) spell
  • charge
  • drink a potion
  • lots more, I'm sure!
Move : 
  • move up to your speed
  • "shift" one hex without provoking opportunity attacks
  • stand up from prone
  • reload a light crossbow

Move actions really are supposed to be fairly restrictive, and hard to trade away for anything other than movement. Hopefully, along with the elimination of the full attack system, this will encourage a game where combat is quite dynamic.
Opportunity : 
  • make an opportunity attack against an opponent who provokes one
  • cast a defensive-reactive type spell
  • use a number of defensive-reactive abilities, similar to Tome of Battle Counters
Swift : 
  • draw or retrieve an item or weapon
  • make an extra attack using a special ability that represents attacking faster than normal
  • cast a spell that is supposed to be extra quick
  • change your active stance (if any)
  • change your active spell seed (if any)
  • change your active aura (if any)
  • lots more
Free : I don't have any examples in mind at the moment of things that should be free actions, but I'm sure it will come up. In the meantime, one important thing I really need to decide is whether anything designated as a "free action" should be usable only on your turn, a la 3.5e, or whether it should be usable at any time a la 4e.

Note: No full-round actions. I won't miss the iterative attack system. I will have to figure out what to do with some other full-round actions, however.

Note that a few select special abilities will probably be able to change this fundamental action economy in some significant if specific ways:
  • The Mobility feat will allow you, when you move normally, to also perform a fairly mundane task that would normally require a Swift action, such as drawing a weapon or switching your active stance or aura.
  • There will probably be some special ability (perhaps not available at low levels) similar to 3e Combat Reflexes, which gives a character a second Opportunity Action each round, which can only be used to make an opportunity attack.

While I'm open to feedback in general, the main question I want to ask the community is this: should Opportunity Actions be considered part of the turn before they are taken, or part of the turn after they are taken? That is, when I start my turn, should I:

(A) definitely have the ability to use a Swift Action (in addition to Standard + Move), but if I do use a Swift Action, I won't be able to use any Opportunity Actions until a full round passes; or

(B) only have access to a Swift Action if I haven't recently taken any Opportunity Actions (or if I give up my Standard)? Then, as soon as my turn ends, I'm automatically able to make any Opportunity Action that comes knocking?

I'm leaning towards (B), but I can see arguments both ways. I hope I explained the dilemma clearly; my brain is definitely in the process of shutting down for the night.
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Re: Action Economy

Postby Siosilvar » Wed Feb 02, 2011 12:43 pm

Hm... I like this.

Making AoOs into "immediate" actions is an interesting idea. My only real objection is this: how often are swift actions going to be used? If they're overused, you'll see a lot less AoOs than I think should be involved in a combat.

As for your question: Option A hurts my head less. They both make sense, but B would be harder to keep track of, I think.
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Re: Action Economy

Postby Draz » Thu Feb 03, 2011 12:30 am

Added charging and potion drinking to the list of Standard Action tasks.

Siosilvar wrote:Hm... I like this.

Making AoOs into "immediate" actions is an interesting idea.

Thanks! When I put my "streamlining" hat on, I just realized, "AoOs represent reflexive actions in between your turns. Immediate actions represent reflexive actions in between your turns. Is there really any reason to have separate rules for each?"

My only real objection is this: how often are swift actions going to be used?

I expect they'll vary a lot from character to character. There will be a lot of cool special abilities you can get that will require Swift actions; but they're not mandatory, and the built-in uses of Swift actions are kind of underwhelming (especially if you pick Auras, Stances, and Seeds that you don't need to switch very often).

If they're overused, you'll see a lot less AoOs than I think should be involved in a combat.

That's actually one of the main reasons I'm leaning towards Option B. I think many players are likely to use their action for the first thing that comes along; if they have the chance to make an AoO, they'll usually do it without thinking about whether they'll need that same Swift Action later on. If I go with Option A, then I think they'll often use a Swift Action up, then watch helplessly as a monster walks past them and they can't make an AoO again.

Side question: how many AoOs "should be" involved in a combat? They do tend to slow the game down a lot, so I'm trying to make them relatively rare (but definitely much more dangerous than they were in 3.5e. Although I guess that's true of attacks in general, since I'm getting rid of iteratives).

As for your question: Option A hurts my head less. They both make sense, but B would be harder to keep track of, I think.

Interesting. Do you realize that B is how immediate actions work in 3.5e? I'd think it would be the easier to keep track of, if only by precedent.

Keep the feedback coming! (And maybe request a character concept?)
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Re: Action Economy

Postby Siosilvar » Thu Feb 03, 2011 2:55 pm

Draz wrote:
My only real objection is this: how often are swift actions going to be used?

I expect they'll vary a lot from character to character. There will be a lot of cool special abilities you can get that will require Swift actions; but they're not mandatory, and the built-in uses of Swift actions are kind of underwhelming (especially if you pick Auras, Stances, and Seeds that you don't need to switch very often).

If they're overused, you'll see a lot less AoOs than I think should be involved in a combat.

That's actually one of the main reasons I'm leaning towards Option B. I think many players are likely to use their action for the first thing that comes along; if they have the chance to make an AoO, they'll usually do it without thinking about whether they'll need that same Swift Action later on. If I go with Option A, then I think they'll often use a Swift Action up, then watch helplessly as a monster walks past them and they can't make an AoO again.

As for your question: Option A hurts my head less. They both make sense, but B would be harder to keep track of, I think.

Interesting. Do you realize that B is how immediate actions work in 3.5e? I'd think it would be the easier to keep track of, if only by precedent.

Keep the feedback coming! (And maybe request a character concept?)
B is how immediate actions work, and I don't particularly care for it. The choice there is: do I need this on my next turn? Yes, don't use. No, then use.

Option A brings up "Do I think I'm going to need this before my next turn?". At that point, there's a "maybe" answer to the question (or at least "maybe" is more common).

Draz wrote:Side question: how many AoOs "should be" involved in a combat? They do tend to slow the game down a lot, so I'm trying to make them relatively rare (but definitely much more dangerous than they were in 3.5e. Although I guess that's true of attacks in general, since I'm getting rid of iteratives).
It depends on how long a combat takes. Probably an average of 1 AoO per 2-3 rounds per combatant.
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Re: Action Economy

Postby Draz » Sat Mar 05, 2011 11:48 pm

OK, so that's two votes for "you get an Opportunity Action only if you 'save' one of your actions from your previous turn."

I also saw an idea somewhere (GitP?) that, if this concept is expanded on, it could replace the need for the system to have "readied actions." Any more thoughts on that? It seems to me that you'd still need rules for readying an action, since opportunity actions are generally a little more specific in their scope. But I like the concept of combining rules in the name of streamlining.
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Re: Action Economy

Postby Siosilvar » Sun Mar 06, 2011 10:41 am

Draz wrote:OK, so that's two votes for "you get an Opportunity Action only if you 'save' one of your actions from your previous turn."

I also saw an idea somewhere (GitP?) that, if this concept is expanded on, it could replace the need for the system to have "readied actions." Any more thoughts on that? It seems to me that you'd still need rules for readying an action, since opportunity actions are generally a little more specific in their scope. But I like the concept of combining rules in the name of streamlining.


If you don't use an action, you can use it as an Opportunity Action later, at any time? Combines Immediate actions, Ready, and Delay in one fell swoop.
Then AoOs and others will just be swift actions with requirements like "opponent must provoke, then you can use this".
Combat Reflexes will read something along the lines of "you gain an extra swift action, which you can only use for AoOs".

Alternately, use the above with the limit of one Opportunity Action per turn and make "sacrificing" the action clearer.
Combat Reflexes will need to be changed to "you can ready an additional opportunity action per turn", with the note of using a standard action to take what's effectively an extra AoO.

EDIT: Hmm... I'm going to steal something like this for SOS.
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Re: Action Economy

Postby Draz » Mon Mar 07, 2011 1:17 am

Siosilvar wrote:If you don't use an action, you can use it as an Opportunity Action later, at any time? Combines Immediate actions, Ready, and Delay in one fell swoop.
Then AoOs and others will just be swift actions with requirements like "opponent must provoke, then you can use this".
Combat Reflexes will read something along the lines of "you gain an extra swift action, which you can only use for AoOs". ;)

Alternately, use the above with the limit of one Opportunity Action per turn and make "sacrificing" the action clearer.
Combat Reflexes will need to be changed to "you can ready an additional opportunity action per turn", with the note of using a standard action to take what's effectively an extra AoO.

EDIT: Hmm... I'm going to steal something like this for SOS.

Heh, other people stealing is generally a good sign ... ;)

The problem I see with this is that it's too rewarding to these new tactics. Normally, in 3.5e, readied actions are penalized by the fact that you have to more or less specify their triggers -- and they might not happen at all. Delaying is penalized by the fact that it can't interrupt whatever action it reacts to, and also that it has to delay your whole turn (including in subsequent rounds). If we're getting rid of these restrictions ...

Not limiting characters to one Opportunity Action per turn seems especially insane. Why do anything on your own turn, ever, when you could just wait and do all of those actions spur-of-the-moment as you react to your opponents' tactics?

Even with a limit of one OA per turn, it seems like anytime you have something else meaningful to do with your swift action (like change a stance or cast a quick buff), you'll be motivated to "save" your Standard or Move action so it can react to your opponents' actions. That might be workable -- and I've never liked the Ready/Delay rules as they are -- but I have to wonder if this solution will clog combat with far too many Opportunity Actions flying around the table.

The unlimited version certainly strikes me as a bad idea though.
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