War of Ashes RPG: Manoeuvres

k unit with ylarf

As I work on the system portions of the War of Ashes RPG I’m writing for Evil Hat Productions, I’ve reached the sections that are not ready just out of the box in the Fate Accelerated system.  In Fate parlance, these are the Extras, used to model some special features of the setting like magic, superpowers, advanced technology, etc. This is a follow-up to Part 2: Miniatures Rules. Is this Part 2B, or not 2B? That’s the question.

EDIT: Slightly updated versions of the proposed manoeuvres are illustrated in a new post.

I’ve been thinking about the grid question (see Part 2). Unlike the physical features represented on a map—hills, buildings, furniture, etc.—grids do not represent anything “real”; they provide an indication of scale where each increment is roughly a character’s length. How can we use this to provide tactical options in Fate without invalidating any of the cool stuff characters can already do? Here are some thoughts.

Note: This is extremely preliminary. I know I’m going to tinker with these ideas. If you have feedback to offer, I love it! But I’d prefer if you didn’t tell me “This is useless because you can already do X without resorting to manoeuvres,” but instead suggested “You could do this manoeuvre better by doing Y, making it consistent with existing rules.”

Manifesto: I don’t want to create rules that take the form “You must be in this particular square or hex to do ___.” These are prescriptive or proscriptive, while Fate is all about giving you tools and letting you build what you want with them. Any miniatures and grid rules I provide in the War of Ashes RPG must be optional and allow you to do more with the game fiction—never add limits to the game fiction. They are a “Yes, and…” or sometimes a “Yes, but…”—never a “No.”

Dungeon map exampleIn addition, the Fate system already provides you with the wherewithal to do just about anything we’ll discuss here; I’m sure if you’ve used Fate to play out combat, you created fiction that included flanking, pulling, pushing and shoving, backstabbing, etc. What the rules I’m working on would provide are little pre-built uses or extensions of the existing rules that come up regularly in play and can be reused over and over consistently.

This also means that if you are not in the “right” square or hex to use a particular manoeuvre but you have a good idea that is supported by the fiction, you can still attempt your idea using a Create an Advantage action as normal. The manoeuvre rules take away nothing of your existing capabilities.

So here’s the draft version.  But first, just as a reminder, here are some of the things you can already do in Fate to make your actions cool and cooler:

  • Obviously, you can succeed at an action normally.
  • You can succeed at a price (negotiated with the GM).
  • You can succeed with style and get extra benefits from the action, such as creating a boost.
  • You can pay one fate point to activate an aspect and get a re-roll of the dice or add +2 to your result (often in order to achieve success with style).
  • You can, if you are in the right narrow circumstances, use a stunt to get a +2 or other special benefit. You already “paid” for the stunt, which is worth one Refresh point.
  • You can, if the GM agrees, pay one fate point and “borrow” a stunt once.
  • You can use an action to Create an Advantage and use the free invocation or boost you (hopefully) generate next turn.
  • You can get a +1 bonus from another character who forgoes their action to help you.

Grid-Based Manoeuvres

The manoeuvres can be activated by any character who succeeded (or succeeded at a cost) at the action described and pays one fate point. If you succeeded with style, you can opt to use the manoeuvre without paying a fate point instead of gaining the normal benefit of succeeding with style.

Example: Uthara succeeded with style with her attack, so she could choose to reduce damage by one point in order to generate a boost as part of the normal attack rules; or she could decide to do normal damage and use a manoeuvre to pull her opponent with her.

Most manoeuvres allow your character to move to a more favourable location (e.g., higher ground, better footing, adjacent zone with different aspect) or move an opponent to a less favourable location (difficult terrain, adjacent zone with dangerous aspect.)  Spaces can be squares in a rectangular grid or hexes in a hexagonal grid.

Push: Because I ran into melee by running 2 spaces and succeeded in an attack, I can push my opponent back up one space at the end of my action, to any of the three spaces in my front arc. At my discretion, we can end in the same space or only the opponent can be pushed.

Pull: Because I succeeded in my melee attack, I can move and pull my opponent with me one space to any adjacent location at the end of my action.

Charge: Because I ran into melee by running more than 3 spaces and succeeded in an attack, I can push my opponent back up two spaces in a straight line at the end of my action and we both end in the same space.

Knockback: Because I succeeded at a melee attack with a heavy weapon (e.g., two-handed mace), I can knock my opponent back one space to any of the three spaces in my front arc at the end of my action. We end the action in two different spaces.

Footwork: Because I succeeded in my melee attack, I can move one space to any adjacent location at the end of my action, even if it means temporarily breaking from melee.

Move-Through: Does not require expenditure of one fate point. With a success when I Carefully overcome, I can move through a space occupied by someone engaged in melee without needing a defense roll. [It’s just a regular action but included here for completeness.]

Full Defense: Does not require expenditure of one fate point.  Because I spend this exchange only defending, I get +2 to all defense actions in the exchange. [From Fate Core but included here for completeness.]

Full Attack: Does not require expenditure of one fate point. Because I disregard my own safety, I get a +2 to attack but -1 on all defence rolls this exchange.

Grid-Based Stunts

Sometimes there is something you could do in combat that would make good use of the grid, but it’s not something just anyone should be able to do any time; they’re more reflections of your character’s special abilities or training; or it’s something that would not take place after an action, but as an action. For these, we can have grid-based stunt descriptions. The down side that if you’re not using a grid for a particular scene, the stunt loses effectiveness.

Examples of such stunts might include:

Backstab: Because I am stealthy, I get a +2 to Sneakily attack when I’m in a space adjacent to an opponent but not in his front arc.

Berserker Charge: Because I am a berserker, I get +2 to Forcefully attack when I run at least 3 spaces straight at the opponent in order to engage in melee.

Back-to-Back Defense: Because I trust [name] implicitly, we both get +1 to defence actions this exchange when I am fighting back-to-back with him or her, either in the same space or in adjacent spaces.

Shield: Because I am trained to defend the weak, I give somebody else in the same space or an adjacent one +2 to all defence actions in the exchange when I spend this exchange protecting them.

Back Against a Wall: Because I fight like a cornered badger, I get +1 to all defense actions this exchange when I have cover on at least one side in an adjacent space.

Note that if player and GM agree, you can borrow such a stunt for 1 fate point anyway. Conversely, if you tend to use a certain manoeuvre a lot and the GM agrees, you could decide to “buy” a manoeuvre as a stunt with one refresh point or when reaching a suitable milestone. In that case, the description may require a little rewording to turn the manoeuvre into a stunt.

Credits: Photo © ZombieSmith 2012-2013, used with permission. Map by Sophie Lagacé 2012, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0.