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Combat Timescales

PostPosted: Wed Jun 29, 2016 4:21 pm
by ExcitedYoungling
Timescales are often a problem when it comes to RPG combat, especially when dealing with RPGs which strive to simulate physical reality to the degree that most ORC products do. Obviously, the more detail one wants (and keeping in mind that actual fights, with lives on the line, in real life, do tend to end very quickly), the slower the timescale should be - one second per round is considered quite extreme, and ORC goes further with its half-second turns. On the other hand, such a level of detail is also sometimes seen as bogging things down, both mechanically and in terms of "the flow of fiction" (we all, inevitably, imagine a little movie happening in our minds while describing RPG combat, and while some of it has to happen in slow-motion since we're still dealing with "rounds" and "turns", there's such a thing as it happening too slow or fast). Some games make rounds or turns last 3 or 6 seconds. Some go for 10. Some, on the narrativist front of the industry, even go for the ultimate abstraction of "a round lasts as long as it needs to" (well, ultimate insofar as it doesn't approach what may be *the* ultimate example, which is one roll combat resolution).

I understand what ORC tries to do with its half-second turns. I even understand that in light of the fact that it strives for maximum realism as well as that real life combat is often a lot shorter than films like to make it seem (then again, it can also be a lot *longer* than films sometimes show: a fistfight, not to mention something like a judo fight, can last for five minutes in which two guys just pound and pound and pound at each other, and firefights - those very firefights which we like so much to scoff at movies featuring and mutter "geez, in real life this would've ended in a flash" can actually last for far longer since both sides are just lying prone on the ground fifty meters apart taking potshots until someone is possibly hit or they run out of bullets) - but has it ever felt to you like the level of detail it attempts may sometimes be so much that it figuratively "shoots itself in the foot" and begins feeling unrealistic? True, some of the actions on the ORC combat list are a lot faster than, say, D&D's mechanics may imply - you could probably punch a person in half a second, maybe even twice if you're well-trained (or more, if this is In Dark Alleys we're talking about and you've Spirit Speed'ed yourself into Neo mode). But consider the implications of some of the other combat mechanics interacting with it - especially everything that's got to do with people's metabolisms. If I'm not wrong in my interpretation of the rules (I'll admit that we've never kept track of that particular one too closely), don't they mean that even the toughest guys in the world with their 20 END would be literally unable to carry a fight for more than 10 seconds? I understand that fighting is hard, but we all know that this isn't as long as it can last. I've seen fights between people who weren't exactly Captain America lasting four or five times longer and while none of them were to the death, I don't think I'd be overly exaggerating if I said that all parties involved were exerting themselves quite a bit and giving it almost as much energy as they'd have if they'd been doing it for their lives. And this doesn't even take into account any of them being injured at the time!

Or, consider this fact: the vast majority of combat situations described in the books (and that would occur in the game, presumably), in game time, would be over in well under five seconds! This is very counterintuitive in terms of imagining the situation. I wouldn't call it "uncinematic" in this context because the game may not be attempting to be cinematic in the first place (it would rather simulate real life), but this still is an issue to consider.

The "Complex Combat Example" given in page 93 of the version of the IDA rules which came with Abandoned (which I've taken the liberty of naming "Utterly Abandoned", as a file sent to my players) is an excellent example: the entire situation described in it, in in-universe terms, lasts 2.5 seconds! This isn't just hard to describe, bordering on ridiculous in a sense (I try to simulate the scene in my head and all I get is the Little Girl and Zeus blurring at each other like in a video on fast forward while Chupatra flies overhead like a bird caught in a photograph) some of it doesn't even make sense.


Utterly Abandoned wrote:Next the Little Girl goes. She declares she will make a Knockaway against Zeus (with a kick). Zeus says he will Parry with his candlestick. The Little Girl rolls STH (35)+ SPD (40) +1d20 vs. 25 and beats the diffi culty by 39. Zeus rolls STH (17) + AGY (10) +8 (skill) -10 (becausehis last action was extended) vs. 25 and beats the difficulty by 18, not enough. He takes 1 point of blunt damage(bringing him to 5 BDY) and is knocked back one range level per point of opposed success. Since the Little Girl succeeded by 59 and Zeus by 18, the opposed success is 41, meaning Zeus is thrown across the room. Zeus must also make an opposed save vs. loss of balance to land on his feet. Yet since it is opposed, he has to not only beat the difficulty (20) but do so by 41 (the opposed success) which he can only do it he rolls a 20 (automatic success). He does roll a 20 and lands on his feet. Next Zeus gets his action. He is too far away to get to the Little Girl this round. Instead he decides to split his action: to run towards her as fast as he can and to throw one of his candlesticks at her. Treating the candlestick as an improvised thrown weapon, the GM decides it will have a functional range of 3 ft. and do 1 blunt damage. The GM says Zeus is 15 feet away, so he will take a -5 penalty. The Little Girl has no reactions left so can do nothing. Zeus rolls INL (10) + AGY (10) -5 (range) -10 (split) +1d20 vs. 25. He does not meet the difficulty and the candlestick flies past the Little Girl.

All of this, even focusing just on the two of them, is supposed to have occurred within the span of roughly half a second, including Zeus being kicked across the room, sprinting back and throwing the candlestick. I don't know how big the room is, but it sounds insane to me that he should even be able to "land"/hit the wall within that timespan! He'd spend the vast majority of it in the air!

Now, this is a bit of an issue to figure out within the constraints of the system because, as I said, assuming some actions/reactions it isn't all that unreasonable to imagine two happening in 0.5 second, with both sides acting simultaneously. However, with some, it becomes a little bit harder. Half a second is a really short time for things to happen in, even in the world of combat.

Then again, I wouldn't mess with parts like these of a system, especially such a realistic one. You could wonk half the mechanics out of place like this. Poison effects, END loss, character speeds, bonuses and minuses...

It's just something I thought about. Have you? What do you think about the length of rounds in ORC? How do you run your games? How would you?

Re: Combat Timescales

PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2016 7:43 pm
by kingbv
One strategy obviously uses up much more END than the other. If one is in a fight and is punching as hard and as fast as one possibly can, and is also dodging or blocking a similar number of attacks, I think 5 seconds before average-health fighters get so tired that they have to pause is not unrealistic.

My first thought, when creating ORC, was to leave out any mention of how long a combat round takes, as anything I would put in would seem unrealistic in some situation. However, I then thought about all the non-combat stuff that might need to happen during combat: what if you're fighting and a bomb is about to go off, or you're fighting and your friends are racing to get there to help you, or you've been poisoned and you need to defeat the enemy before the poison takes effect.

I would posit that there's a difference between the timescale of people in close quarters combat trying as hard as possible to kill or knock-out each other and the timescale of a martial arts competition. In the first case, the default strategy most people use is to try to do as much damage as possible as quickly as possible, and there is a flurry of quick attacks. In the latter case, there's a fair amount of waiting: you wait for your opponent to show a weakness or to make an attack that you can counter in a way that gives you the advantage. In ORC terms, I would say that in the back alley fistfight (or knife fight or gun fight) each opponent is attacking every chance they get, while in the martial arts competition the fighters are giving up attacks to maneuver or wait for the opponent to attack. What about highly experienced fighters who are fighting to the death. Do they act more like the back alley fighters, or more like the competition martial artists? The answer to that question is not really within my realm of knowledge.

That's short range combat. Long-range combat is definitely going to take longer. For one thing, most opponents at range are going to take time to aim. At the extreme end of the scale is snipers, where combat between snipers can last days, with each sniper trying to wait until the other sniper makes some mistake that betrays their location.

All that being said, you're absolutely right, ExcitedYoungling: insisting that a combat round equals half-a-second leads to an unrealistic timetable for battles more often than not.

I don't know if this helps, but in my experience playing in ORC, the amount of time combat takes is rarely ever thought about. Players are concentrating on what their actions and reactions are going to be and rarely think about how long these are supposed to take place in game time. The theoretical reasons I thought I needed to establish how long a combat round lasts (the fight that's happening while a bomb is ticking down, for instance) have never actually happened when I've been GMing or playing ORC.

What if the rules were changed to read "A combat round is half-a-second, or whatever the GM deems realistic based on the type of combat"?

Re: Combat Timescales

PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2016 9:01 pm
by ExcitedYoungling
As I've said before, I have to admit to some hypocrisy on these fronts because while I do make sure to read the rules I hardly if ever use them, much less rules like this one. I usually just let the game flow and roll with it while making the occasional d20 roll for appearances. That said, I think some sort of compromise along the lines of "the GM gets to decide how important it is for a combat round to represent what period of time, and the default is about 1/2 a second" may be a good point to start with. It offers a nice balance between being able to time really intense action moments while at the same time allowing for combat to flow without players having to wonder about whether their characters would have time to blink between blows. You're quite right that this is one of those Strange Games You Can Only Win By Not Playing from a game design point of view: no matter what you make the combat timescale, it's going to make SOMETHING feel unrealistic.

You also pointed out something else I've completely forgotten to take into account, and that's how fast you can regain pooled END just by not acting for a round and taking a breath. That would explain fistfights that take longer than 10 seconds quite handily.

Re: Combat Timescales

PostPosted: Sun Jun 11, 2017 4:06 pm
by AsenRG
A bit late to the party, but I must want to note my thoughts.

First, while ORC combat is not perfect, and not the best I've seen, it ranks very high on my list of "games that recreate realistic combat".
Second, everything you say is absolutely true. Reality is more random than that and fights seldom last long, especially weapon fights...sometimes they do.
Third, I've come up with a couple major houserules that fix most of that, at least in close combat. Well, that's "one houserule and re-writing the entire combat system", so maybe it's not exactly a quick and dirty solution... :mrgreen: .

How does that work? First, I either use combat skills of my own doing, or remove between 4 and 8 from the starting points from the values of Strike, Vital Strike, Knockout Strike, Crippling Strike, Blinding Strike, Strangle, Stomp, and everything else that either deals Body/Blood damage, or ends the fight (keep in mind, I have Throws dealing Body damage, depending on the pavement - nothing on sand beaches, but roll an (AGI;END) save vs 20 to not be winded and get -5 for next round, or 0,5 with Agility save on soft ground, like grass, and so on up to 2 Body and 0,5 Blood on broken pavement or pavement with broken glass - also, this makes rolls for infections Hard or Very Hard). BTW, I remove less from the values of Slash and Wing...but generally, they point is to have -4 to -8 as a starting point for damage-dealing attacks, and 0 to -4 for Slash and Wings.
However, all these become one grade easier (usually Easy, but some weapons or circumstances might be changing that), when the enemy is stunned (defined as suffering a penalty to actions or being denied actions from things like Slash, Pain Attack and some psychic powers).
But what do you do against an equal enemy? Why, at least three options are left...
First, Pain attacks are unchanged, and they both make it easier to deliver a strike (if they're good), might deny a defence (if they're very good), and have the best chance against an enemy.
Seconds, Grab and Wrestling Grab are also unchanged, and you can work from there to make your attacks easier (and Wrestling grab makes grappling attacks easier - also, a throw might end a fight, or gives you a chance to deliver your attacks while the enemy is trying to get up).
Third, some styles (all styles, after I re-work them) give you the option to make attacks Easy or Very Easy.

And of course, maybe you're so good the enemy stands no chance anyway, and you can open with the heavy artillery. A special forces guy against a normal addict mugger might well be in this situation.

But what about those fights that still last for minutes? Well, it's easy.
First, a lot of that time is circling around.
Second, if someone attacks and doesn't make the TN, but his enemy doesn't make the TN either, he just lands an inefficient strike that only makes the other guy angrier. Happens all the time.
Third, you want to commit only when the enemy is already under the effects of Pain/Stun, or grappled, because otherwise he just might decide to make a Split Pain Attack/Defence or Wing/Defence - and has a decent chance of landing while suffering no damage.

Oh, and all the rounds last as long as it takes to do the actions in them. Usually it works out.