Monday, June 22, 2009

The contest: Damage is not just for combat.

A mainstay in Role Playing Games is combat.  For the most part this is due to the nature of Role Playing Games, but to some extent it is due to the way these games were developed.  There are no tools in most games for settleing things without combat.

In this game combat is similar to any other contest of skills, the difference is that combat is when characters use skills to inflict bodily harm on each other and that is different from a game of poker or a tennis match.  But, like in combat, each player tries to control the environment to gain the upper hand in the contest.  The players use strategy to outwit and outmaneuver their opponent to achieve victory.  Many skill contests are like combat and therefore, in this game, combat is just a contest of skills.

Such contests have four phases that repeat; Initiative, Action, Reaction, Effect.  Initiative is the process of deciding who will act first, this is usually a dice roll with the highest roll acting first.  Action is when the winner of the Initiative phase (can be called the attacker) uses a skill to gain an advantage in the contest .  Reaction is when the looser of the initiative phase (can be called the defender) tries to avoid the actions of the attacker to lessen the effects of the attacker's actions.  Effect is when the overall actions and reactions are considered and any advantages or penalties are given out (can be called damage).

For example Albert and Betty are to appear on a reality television show called "Combat Cooking" - a "no holds barred" cooking contest where contestants lie, cheat and cook their way to the top.  Each is to cook a dish but can sabotage each other and only the judges decide who is the winner.  As the contest starts, Albert sneaks over to Betty's stove and alters the thermostat so that the stove is actually 75 degrees hotter than it should be.  While Albert is at Betty's station, Betty switches the sugar and salt on Albert's station and adds vinegar to Albert's Strawberry mixture.  Each uses their cooking skills to effect the other's stations and therefore limit how their dishes will turn out.

In this situation, initiative is not important since most of the action is happening at the same time.  Also the action is balanced and the important part is how well the contestants do after the sabotage.  Albert has a cooking skill of +5 and Betty has a cooking skill of +3.  For Albert's sabotage he rolls a 10 and gets a score of 15.  For Betty's reaction to Albert's sabotage, she rolls a 7 and gets a total of 10, Albert wins with difference of 5 points.  For Betty's sabotage she rolls a 4, plus her 3 for a total of 7.  Albert counters with a roll of 17, plus his skill of 5 and gets a total of 22.  Albert is the net winner by 20 points!

What happened is that Albert returns to his station and begins to cook.  Like a good chef, Albert tastes everything and catches the salt mix-up just in time.  He also smells the strawberry mixture and carefully just rinses it and uses the strawberries as garnish.  Betty on the other hand spent too much time watching Albert catch her tricks and does not pay attention while her cake is in the oven.  As her oven timer goes off she notices the smoke from the burnt cake.

There was no damage necessary in this scenario.  Normally damage is associated with skills and equipment specifically paid for at creation time to inflict damage.  In situations where a person wants to inflict damage but has not paid for the ability to do so, then extra effort would be involved and the attacker would receive damage as well - just under the name of "fatigue".  But even without damage a winner can be chosen by looking at the rolls.  In closer matches the players might opt to spend damage points as extra effort to ensure victory.  In real life it would be rare to see such extreme effort in a cooking contest but anything is possible.

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