Thursday, 31 January 2013

Improvised Maneuvers v2

I previously posted a homebrew system for general maneuvers in 13th Age.  I've since refined my ideas a little bit.  Instead of editing the original article, I figured I'd leave both up to illustrate the creative process, allow for easier comparisons between the two versions, and to allow GMs to choose which version they prefer (or to steal elements from both).

In a broad sense, what's different here?  The initial skill roll is more meaningful, as success or failure directly influence the consequences.  Maneuvers are more dangerous to attempt since an opportunity attack is triggered if you fail the skill check (the old system triggered one on natural odd misses in the attack roll).  However, they're also more likely to trigger since they happen if the attack hits (rather than triggering off of natural roll results).  This also helps to differentiate them from flexible attacks.  Ultimately, a player's choice to use a maneuver is much more likely to have a tangible mechanical effect, which is definitely a good thing.

I thought I'd also explain why I set maneuvers up the way I did.  A big influence was the "mephistophelean style of GMing" that Rob Heinsoo utilizes.  Namely, providing players with a "bargain" of sorts; an opportunity for a choice that carries some additional risk and reward.  The word "additional" is key here in engaging the player's ability to make a choice.  You're increasing the stakes when using them.

I also drew from D&D 3.x, despite the fact that I think maneuvers were very poorly designed in that system.  Using them without appropriate feats was simply too costly: you provoked an opportunity attack AND you gave up your normal attack (which reduces damage output and slows down combat).  It was almost never optimal to use them.  Doing something on top of your normal attack is much more fun, and it also makes the tactical options more accessible.  At the same time, the risk of provoking opportunity attacks prevents players from constantly spamming these, so they're self-limiting in a way.  You'll only use them when it makes tactical or narrative sense to do so.  It's worth keeping in mind, after all, that skill checks do NOT benefit from the Escalation Die, so the risk of opportunity attacks won't decrease as the battle progresses.  It's also worth pointing out that a maneuver system like this makes the Skill Escalation feat that much more useful.

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From the Rogue's Swashbuckle Talent:  "Of course, 13th Age is a game where everyone might attempt stunts like this at some point.  But you're the swashbuckler who is prone to automatically succeeding, often, instead of needing a difficult skill check to pull the stunt off."

As far as I can tell, the above quote is the only reference to a "stunt system" in the 13th Age core rules.  Clearly improvisational "rulings" are intended to be used freely, though no guidance is given for how to make these rulings, particularly in combat.  Here's my stab at it.

GM Note:  If the players can make use of these maneuvers, intelligent monsters should do the same.  You can use the homebrew rules for monster ability checks, or simply use the monster's attack bonuses.

Backgrounds:  I lean toward not applying backgrounds to the skill checks used during maneuver attempts.  However, if you allow them where appropriate, feel free to give monsters a relevant "background bonus" to their PD or MD. 

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TRIP
Quick Action:  Make a Str or Dex check vs PD
Failure:  The target makes an opportunity attack
Success:  If your next attack hits the target is tripped (Stuck until they stand up with a move action).  If you roll a natural 16+ the target falls hard (all attacks made against the target get a +2 bonus until they stand up). 

Standard Action:  If you trip as a standard action, a successful skill check automatically causes the target to trip, and the target falls hard (attackers get a +2 bonus).  A failure will not provoke opportunity attacks. 


SAND IN THE EYES
Special:  This can obviously only be attempted if suitable substrate for throwing is available (sand, mud, campfire ash, etc.).
Action:  Make a Dex check vs PD
Failure:  The target makes an opportunity attack
Success:  If your next attack hits the target is Dazed until the end of your next turn.

Standard Action:  If you attempt this maneuver as a standard action, a successful skill check automatically Dazes the target. A failure will not provoke opportunity attacks.

ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECT
This is a catch-all maneuver for things like throwing chairs at enemies, pulling the rug out from under them, or dropping a tapestry, chandelier, brazier, etc. onto them.  

Standard Action:  Affect one enemy, or 1d3 enemies in a group depending on the action being attempted.  Make an appropriate skill check using the "Skill Check DCs, Trap/Obstacle Attacks and Impromptu Damage by Environment" table to determine the DC and damage based on the environment.  Cut the damage in half if the effect inflicts some sort of status effect.  Usually this will be Dazed or Stuck (if you're knocking the target down), though you could also use the homebrew rules for slowed creatures (if the target uses a Move action, roll a save, usually 11+, to see if they reach their destination). 

DISARM
Action:  Make a Str or Dex check vs PD
Failure:  The target makes an opportunity attack
Success:  If your next attack hits the target is disarmed, and must spend a move action to pick up their weapon.  If your attack crits the weapon is flung to a Nearby location out of reach.  The target must spend a move action to get to it, and then another move action to pick it up.

Standard Action:  If you attempt this maneuver as a standard action, a successful skill check automatically disarms the target.  A natural 16+ causes the weapon to be flung somewhere Nearby.  A failure will not provoke opportunity attacks.

GRAPPLE
Special:  You must have at least one free hand.
Quick Action:  Make a Str or Dex check vs PD
Success:  The target takes a -2 penalty to Disengage checks.

BULL RUSH
Quick Action:  Make a Str check vs PD
Failure:  The target makes an opportunity attack
Success:  If your next attack hits the target is pushed back a few feet (it pops free of any engagements except the bull-rusher).  If you roll a natural 16+ the target can be pushed into dangerous terrain if any is present (off a cliff, into a fire, etc.).

Standard Action:  If you attempt this maneuver as a Standard Action a successful skill check automatically pushes your opponent back, and they can be pushed into dangerous terrain.  A failure will not provoke opportunity attacks.

TAUNT
Quick Action:  Make a Cha check vs MD
Failure: The target is enraged and gains a +2 bonus to attacks against you
Success:  The target takes a -2 penalty to attacks against anyone except you

Special:  If the player spouts some really impressive taunts, or if the target has some narrative reason to react strongly to taunting, feel free to increase the penalties (and bonuses) to -/+ 4. 

FEINT/TRICK
Quick Action:  Make a Cha, Int, or Dex check vs MD+5 (or just MD if the trick is really clever)
Success:  Grant yourself or an ally +2 to their next attack.

Special:  Most enemies don't like being duped.  What will prevent players from abusing this?  Get creative, but for starters monsters should start gunning for the trickster.  Also, most enemies won't let themselves be tricked twice, so this will usually be effectively a 1/battle thing anyways.  If the proposed trick is really stupid, the GM is not obligated to allow this maneuver to trigger.

2 comments:

  1. These seem pretty useful and thought through.
    You forgot to write "Quick Action" in some places though, only writing "Action" instead.

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    Replies
    1. Also, some effects lack a duration.

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