Rules Test (1)

by David Meadows 8. September 2017 22:37

After generating a handful of characters, the next step is to test the combat rules by, well, making the characters fight.

For the fight, I use Lionheart, the first character I created with these rules (see here). He's going to be fighting some smugglers in a riverside warehouse in the East End of London in 1939. I quickly create five "thugs" and their leader. This only takes a minute, as cannon fodder like these don't need complete skills, I just need to note down the stats directly relevant to combat. They're all weaker than Lionheart of course (he's a super hero!) but they're armed with a variety of weapons to equalise things. I still expect him to beat them comfortably, however, as statistically they have almost no chance of hurting him. I sketched a quick "warehouse" plan and marked the characters with numbers (no need to be elaborate for just a test):

The combat starts when Lionheart, stalwart defender of British values, throws open the warehouse door and challenges the smugglers to surrender. Obviously they don't, or the fighting rules wouldn’t get tested.

While I'm running the combat, I have the rules open next to me and check every step of the way. If I identify a chart or table I'm obviously going to refer to a lot, I mark it with a sticky tag -- and I'll probably copy it so I have it for handy reference without wearing out the rule book.

Round 1 of the combat. Randomly deciding who goes first, it's Lionheart, so he runs up to a thug and punches him, missing completely (have I made his fighting skills too poor?). The thugs go next, and the three with guns draw them from under their coats. The two with crowbars in their hands (they were opening a crate of contraband, see?) move up to Lionheart and bash him. One misses, but the other gets a lucky hit -- literally, a lucky hit. Mathematically, these thugs have almost no chance to hit anyone as fast and skilled as Lionheart. And if they do hit by some miracle, they have almost no chance of hurting him. He'll shrug off anything less than a heavy machine-gun bullet.

In this case, though, the thug benefits from a game rule called "acing", which means that if you roll the maximum score on a dice you roll another dice and add the result -- and if it's another maximum score, you keep going. I get a ridiculous run of luck and roll loads of dice, which means Lionheart is not only hit, he's hit really hard! He's "shaken" (a game effect that means he can't act again until he gathers his wits) and he's badly injured! Lionheart has "Super Nerves of Steel", which means he can grit his teeth and ignore the wound, but being shaken is still a problem.

Round 2, and the thugs win the random initiative check so they go first. I've just remembered the "ganging up" rule, which means that because there are two thugs attacking Lionheart, they each get a bonus on their attack chances. Despite this, luck deserts them and they both miss him. Lionheart now needs a successful "Spirit" dice roll to recover from being shaken (Spirit being a game statistic that represents his willpower). Unfortunately, it's not his strong suit. I concentrated on making him fast and strong, and skimped on willpower. He fails the roll, so he's still shaken, unable to act, and will get repeatedly battered until he either recovers or another thug gets lucky and injures him again.

I'm suddenly dubious about the game's balance -- yes, the thug got unbelievably lucky, but even so, Lionheart should not be in this much trouble.

Will our hero survive?

Will the GM ever figure out how to balance fights properly?

Will these rules be thrown out in disgust?

Tune in next time for the next thrilling part of this play test!


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The Heroes Universe is an ongoing work of fiction, conceived and chiefly plotted by David Meadows, with help from a group of friends, over a 30-year period.

I am slowly documenting the Universe on this web site.

This blog is a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of that history.

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