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Rules: Initiative

 

whitedot.gif (109 bytes) Every event takes place at a certain time and in a role-playing game it is necessary to determine when each of the character's actions take place. For instance, when character A and character B fight, we have to know when each characters attack comes before we can determine whether or not the attack succeeds.

Eternal Soldier uses a sequential system of initiative. When combat (or any other event for which we want to know "what" happens "when") occurs the game is divided into segments, each segment being equal to one-half second. We can determine how long each action will take. By keeping track of how many segments elapse we can tell when each character will act.

The sequential initiative system can be compared to a stopwatch that is started when combat begins, ticking off half-seconds until the situation is resolved.

The amount of time it takes to perform an action depends on two factors: the agility of the character and the action itself. These two details can be combined to determine how many segments the action takes to complete. We have applied a number from 1 to 10 to many of the actions that might take place in combat. This number (when written in Roman numerals) is the action's speed class. This can be cross-referenced with the character's agility on the initiative chart to determine how many segments it will take the character to perform this action.

For example, a character with an agility of 17 would require 4 segments to complete an action with a speed class of VII. A character with an agility of 7 performing a speed class V action would require 7 segments.

There is a section on the character sheet for writing the number of segments it will take for the character to perform actions of each speed class. We strongly suggest it be used.

 For those of you who may find it useful, the formula which the table is based is (S/A)x10, where S is the speed class of the action, A is the agility of the character and well, 10 is 10. Round decimals to the nearest whole number.

Agility

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

I

10

5

3

3

2

2

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

II

20

10

7

5

4

3

3

3

2

2

2

2

2

1

1

1

1

1

III

30

15

10

8

6

5

4

4

3

3

3

3

2

2

2

2

2

2

IV

40

20

13

10

8

7

6

5

4

4

4

3

3

3

3

3

2

2

V

50

25

17

13

10

8

7

6

6

5

5

4

4

4

3

3

3

3

VI

60

30

20

15

12

10

9

8

7

6

5

5

5

4

4

4

4

3

VII

70

35

23

18

14

12

10

9

8

7

6

6

5

5

5

4

4

4

VIII

80

40

27

20

16

13

11

10

9

8

7

7

6

6

5

5

5

4

IX

90

45

30

23

18

15

13

11

10

9

8

8

7

6

6

6

5

5

X

100

50

33

25

20

17

14

13

11

10

9

8

8

7

7

6

6

6

Speed Class

Actions

I

Drop weapon, Yell one word

II

Turn 90 degrees, Drop prone, Get out of chair, Shut door

III

Turn 180 degrees, Get over 3ft. barrier, Open door, Throw bolt (on door), Light lighter

IV

Get something out of pocket, Uncork bottle, Write one word, Strike match

V

Get over 4ft. Barrier, Get on bicycle, Get off bicycle

VI

Jump onto table, Light lamp with lit match

VII

Roll down a car window, Open lock with key, Empty cash drawer

VIII

Get up from prone, Pick up dropped weapon

IX

Get off horse, Get out of tree, Get over 6ft. Barrier, Tie knot

X

Get on horse, Get in/out of car, Get into tree, Throw grappeling hook

For any action that the GM must make up a speed for, he should give a speed class. The character can then consult his character sheet (where there is a space for speed classes) to find out how long that action would take him. This assumes that the action requires agility. An agile character shouldn't be able to get an elevator any sooner.

Add the number of segments required for the character to perform the given action to the segment in which the character completed his last action to determine when the action will be complete. If a character completed his last action in 15, and the current action will take 10 segments then the current action will be complete in segment 25.

On the weapons chart we have applied a speed class to each weapon. This represents the amount of time it takes to use the weapon effectively. Also included is a chart with the speed class of common actions that might be performed in combat. It would be impossible to quantify all the actions that desperate players might resort to. The authors once saw a character save himself with a jar of mustard. If an action that is not on this chart is attempted then the GM should apply a speed class to it using this chart as a guideline.

In situations where the character is attempting an action that would take longer that any of the speed classes, the action should be broken down into several shorter actions. For example if a character were to decide to rummage through a chest for a particular item during a fight, the GM might decide that it would take 2 class X actions to get to the bottom of the chest. This would probably be in addition to the actions required to get open the chest and the action required to remove the item.

A More Specific Look

The first thing in determining initiative is to know when the battle begins. The battle can begin in one of two ways. The battle may begin by mutual consent (some people get angry and decide to hurt each other real bad), or it might begin by surprise (some people decide to hurt some unsuspecting victims real bad).

In the case of mutual consent, initiative is figured from the time both parties begin to act. As both parties go for their weapons (or begin to swing if they have their weapons out) the referee will deem that point as "segment zero". All players figure out how long it will take for them act and that number will be the first segment on which they can act.

In case of surprise the GM should make segment 0 the point at which the surprising party begins to act. The surprised party can begin to act in the segment that they become aware of the action (if at all).

In the most basic scenario characters simply act whenever their segment comes up. For instance, we suggested earlier a character with an agility of 17 -- character A (Aknar). This character, using a weapon with a speed class of VII, would require 4 segments to swing. You might also recall the analogy of the initiative system to a stopwatch. Aknar would act when the stopwatch reaches 4 segments, again when it reaches 8 segments, then at 12, 16, and so on. Similarly, his slow opponent (character B, Beauregard, agility 7) with a speed class V weapon would act on segment 7, 14, 21, etc. It can be seen that Aknar will attack more often than Beauregard. Let's watch as the stopwatch ticks away....

Segment. . . Who Acts. . .

 

.......Aknar

.......Beauregard

.......Aknar

......Aknar

......Beauregard

......Aknar

It can be seen that Aknar attacks almost twice as often as Beauregard. Note that if the fight were to continue until segment 28 Aknar & Beauregard would attack simultaneously.

Are fights always this predictable? Not at all. The above example assumes that Aknar and Beauregard are standing there just swinging at each other in a mindless game of Tit for Tat (or rather, because of Aknar's speed, Tit-Tit for Tat). There is room in the combat rules for performing actions other than swinging as well as a means for attacking sooner than is optimum (see Quick Attack).

The above example shows how to keep track of time in order to to determine when the character's next action will take place. The same method of timekeeping applies to any action that might take place in combat. Once the speed class of the action is known, then it is easy to determine when the action will take place.

Let us assume that at the beginning of the fight described above Aknar has not drawn his weapon while Beauregard has. Aknar decides (not surprisingly) to draw his weapon. As the weapon table shows, his weapon has a draw speed (a fancy term for the speed class of the action necessary to draw that weapon) of VII. This means he will require 4 segments to draw his weapon. His weapon would be out on segment 4 and his first attack would come on segment 8.

As a further example, Aknar might be getting off his horse at the beginning of the fight (a speed class VIII action) which the initiative chart shows will require 5 segments. He would be off his horse in segment 5, and would begin to draw his weapon. Beauregard would attack in segment 7, and Aknar would have his sword out in segment 9. He would be able to attack in segment 13, just before Beauregard's second attack in 14.

Note that the player beginning an action must state so as he begins to perform it. All characters present will be aware of his preparation (assuming its something visible) and may change their actions in response. However if you change your action you must figure the time spent preparing from the segment in which you start it (i.e. the segment of combat that you announce your change of action). Also, reacting to the action of another is always a class I action. If someone unexpectedly starts going for his sword (with most agilities) you will have to wait until segment one to go for yours. The only exceptions to these rules are parrying and dodging which are explained later.

Some actions do not necessarily start on one round and end on another. Running is a prime example of this. A character may begin to run on any segment he is not performing an action. On the first segment he will move one-half. On the second segment he will have attained full speed. He may continue to run until he decides to stop (or until fatigue sets in).

Stopping is the opposite of starting -- one-half on the first segment, and fully stopped on the second. If the character wants (or needs) to stop before this he may make an agility roll vs. falling on the second segment or an agility roll -10 on the first.

Generally, no two actions may be performed at once but the GM may allow some actions (simple ones, including preparing to attack with most melee' weapons) to be performed while moving at half-speed (or less).

The Longer Weapon in Initiative

Since both characters may prepare their weapons while closing (at half speed) on each other, the first attacks will often be simultaneous. In many situations however the character with the longer weapon may be able to attack first. When there is a significant difference (GM's discretion) between the lengths of the weapons the combatants are using, the combatant with the longer weapon may attack in the segment prior to the segment in which the combatants would otherwise be closed. Note that this assumes that the character with the longer weapon would be fully prepared to attack in that segment, or wishes to accept the penalty for quick attacking.

Missile Weapons In Initiative

In reference to Missile Weapons, the weapon speed refers to the time necessary to take reasonable aim and pull the trigger, release the string on a bow or loose a crossbow quarrel.

Note the presence of a speed class under the heading of Reload Time on the weapons table. This reload time assumes loading the ammo into the weapon in whatever way the weapon takes it-- clip, belt, or one round at a time. Weapons which carry only one round (single shot rifles, bows, etc.) must be reloaded after every shot. This is in addition to the normal aim and fire time. This should be kept in mind when considering the speed of a weapon.

For automatic weapons, the number shown in parenthesis is the number of rounds fired each segment. Once the trigger is pulled, the will fire continuously until the trigger is released or it is empty. This means that even someone with an agility of 3 may still fire every segment as long as he can manage to get the trigger pulled before he gets shot.

Hints for the GM

When a large fight occurs you will have to keep track of all the non-player characters. You will have to develop your own method for doing this but here is what has worked for us...

Grab a scrap piece of paper (rip it off the bag you got the potato chips in if you have to). On this, quickly make a column for each NPC. Know how long it takes each NPC to act and write down the segment he last acted in his column. As you count off segments keep in mind the segment in which the next NPC will act. When that one is done look for the next one and continue counting. These columns will also be useful for keeping track of hit points too so leave some room.

The key here is organization but in a manic sort of way. Remember, the players want to get to their segment more than anything else. It will take a couple of times to work out your own system but it will become easy after the first couple of times.

 Next: Combat
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Initiative

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