These “dream design” entries will be “flow of consciousness” posts, edited on occasion, simply to attempt to pull together all the random thoughts and concepts that make up the cloud of ideas that are this system at present.  Work continues in fits and starts on actually implementing some of this in a rudimentary form for some actual playtesting… that’s a bit of a ways off yet, tho.

Be warned: this design is about pushing the boundaries in terms of raw detail, and seeing if that provides additional gameplay opportunites.  In essence, I’ve attempted to strip a layer of abstraction away from the systems of mechanics typically in use today.  There’s a LOT of stuff in here that needs to be pulled together yet… constructive suggestions are always welcome. 

Last updated 11/14/06, 2:43pm Central.  Decided to bust this up into multiple posts… should make it a little easier to edit as needed.

Step 1: Fundamentals

Health/Energy scores:
Stamina: Physical energy/resilience (NOT hit points)
Sanity: Mental energy/resilience
Spirit: Emotional (spiritual) energy/resilience

Depletion of any of these scores is momentary at best, as they continually refresh at a fairly high rate (zero to full in 5-10 seconds, faster if “resting”).  They are used to simultaneously power the character’s own actions and resist stresses imposed by others.  The intent for attackers is not to deplete them, but rather to create momentary stresses sufficient to exceed certain percentages of the current score, and thereby cause “criticals”.

20%-33% Light Critical
33%-50% Moderate Critical
50%-100% Severe Critical
100%+ Lethal Critical

Criticals from Stamina stresses will have a physical impact (broken bones, torn muscles, stun, bleeding).  Criticals from Sanity stresses have an impact on rationality (hallucinations, paranoia, delusion).  Criticals from Spirit stresses have an impact on motivation and self-control (fear, rage, malaise, catatonia, charm/enchantment, possession).

Status scores:
Readiness (each hand): preparedness to use tool/weapon in hand
Balance: physical balance, equilibrium
Awareness: alertness, perceptiveness

Readiness essentially controls how often a particular weapon can be used, either to attack or parry. It also applies to non-combat situations, for example, how often a tool can be used in a crafting process.

Balance essentially controls how often the character can dodge or use highly active attacks (a lunge-style attack, for example, would have a cost in Balance as well as Readiness).

Awareness measures the character’s alertness from moment to moment. If there is any question in game re: whether the character should notice something, Awareness will be a primary determinant in making that decision. There will be two Awareness scores, one measuring whatever the player has decided to focus on, and one for everything else.

In combat in particular, the character will be expected to have at least 3 “persistent” techniques running simultaneously, each related in part to one of the status measures above. Grip techniques, under the various Weapon/Tool Handling skills, determine the max values and recovery rates for Readiness (one for each hand) amongst other things. Stance techniques, under each of the various Combat Style skills, impact the max values and recovery rates of Balance, amongst other things. The character will probably also want to have an active Perception technique as well, focusing the character’s attnetion on some aspect of the combat situation (reading the opponent to find openings and weaknesses, for example).

Status scores can be attacked just like health/energy scores.  A Disarming attack, for example, is an attack against Readiness.  Tripping attacks, shoves, sweeps and throws are all attacks against Balance.  Any type of distraction maneuver, as well as many dirty tricks (i.e. throwing sand in the eyes), are at least peripherally an attack against Awareness.  The same basic mechanics apply: the real intent of such an attack is to obtain a critical, otherwise any effect will likely be at best momentary and a mere annoyance.

Open Question: how best to handle extended attacks, things like weapon binds, grappling, wrestling holds, that kind of thing.

Step 2: Entering Combat

Preparing for combat will be a matter of completing some set of techniques as well as establishing a set of “reactions”.  Some of the likely steps are listed, though not all may apply to every character or situation.

Drawing Weapon(s): These are techniques under the Weapon/Tool Handling skill.  Simply pulling a weapon out requires no skill test, but will set the weapon’s Readiness at 0.  Draw Techniques establish the initial Readiness at some higher value, and probably apply other advantages to subsequent actions as well.  Draw techniques might also be used during combat to more effectively switch weapons, as desired.

Establishing a Grip: Grip techniques, as mentioned earlier, are techniques under Weapon/Tool Handling that help establish maximum Readiness value and rate of recovery.  They may also be prerequisites for various attack and parry techniques, and apply bonuses to certain factors during combat when active.  Grip techniques auto-refresh once established, becoming cumulatively more difficult to maintain the longer they are in uninterrupted operation.  Additional techniques under Weapon/Tool Handling can mitigate or eliminate the cumulative penalties if successfully used (at some cost, of course).

Establishing a Stance: Most attacks under any serious Combat Style require that the character assume a specific type of Stance associated with that style.  Stances also determine maximum Balance score and recovery rate, and apply a variety of adjustments and bonuses to the character.  As with Grips, Stances auto-refresh once established, becoming cumulatively more difficult to maintain the longer they are in uninterrupted operation.  Additional techniques under the Combat Style can mitigate or eliminate the cumulative penalties if successfully used (at some cost, of course).

Defensive Reactions: each Combat Style will have a number of different defensive reactions (blocks and parries) that can be associated with one of the Readiness scores to auto-fire in case of attack.  Similarly, a variety of skills (Gymnastics, Evasion, some combat styles, particularly unarmed/martial arts) will have defensive reactions tied to the Balance status.  The player will need to assign the desired defensive reactions at some point, and will probably often change them based on different strategies used by the opponent.  See the section on Active Defense below for more detail.

Armor Utilization: various techniques under the Finesse skills may also be advisable to activate for characters wearing such protection. 

Step 3: Combat Resolution Process

The resolution process essentially falls into 4 general stages: Skill Tests, Attack Result, Stress Application, and Critical Resolution

Phase 1: Skill Tests

The attacker chooses an attack technique, and makes the associated skill check, generating a set of values related to the attack based on the Result Factor (RF) achieved. The primary values related to an attack technique are Attack Efficiency (AE), Force Factor (FF), Defensive Vulnerability (DV) adjustment, Attack Awareness Threshold, and Hit Awareness Threshold.

If the defender’s Awareness exceeds (at a minimum) the Attack Awareness Threshold, and a reactive defense has been selected that is currently ready for use, it will fire, causing a skill check yielding an RF that is also translated into a variety of factors such as an AE adjustment, an FF adjustment, DV adjustments, and so on.

A Hit Location is determined for the attack at this stage as well.  This can have an impact at multiple points in the remainder of the process.

Unless the skill check related to the original attack is so poor that it is determined that no attempt to attack took place at all, the resolution process continues to Phase 2.  All the costs of the attack and any reactive defense are applied before the process continues, however.

Phase 2: Attack Result

In this phase, the AE and FF of the original attack are modified for any situational modifiers of the defender, including any armor or protection worn on the determined Hit Location, reactive defenses fired, etc.  The core DV of the defender is modified similarly by both the original attack and any defender-related adjustments.

Then these three factors are multiplied together to yield a Final Attack Result.  If this score is >0, the attack has hit, and the resolution process proceeds to Phase 3.  If not, the attack essentially missed: an Event Notification may be generated (with corresponding Awareness thresholds) giving some detail on the result (“Attacker lunges at Defender, but Defender completely deflects the blow!”)

Phase 3: Stress Application

The Final Attack Result is divided by the corresponding Resistance factor of the defender (for example, the base Resistance factor for most attacks against Stamina is the combination of the Size and Constitution attributes).  This yields the Status Reduction caused by the attack.

The Hit Location determined during the original Skill Test phase comes into play here.  The Stress Reduction value may be modified for certain hit locations in terms of determining whether a Critical Result has been achieved.  For example, a Head hit on most creatures uses double the Stress Reduction value to determine whether a Critical Effect is to be applied.  Temporary conditions can also make a specific Hit Location more vulnerable: an injured Arm, for example, might add a temporary +50% to the Stress Reduction value for determining whether a Critical results.

If the Status Reduction (modified for Hit Location) exceeds any of the critical percentages for the impacted status, a Critical of some level (Light, Moderate, Severe, or Lethal) has been obtained, and the resolution process continues to Phase 4. 

Otherwise, the impacted status score is reduced by the amount of Status Reduction (usually ignoring any Hit Location related effect), and an Event Notification is generated (with corresponding Awareness thresholds) detailing the result (“Attacker slices at Defender, weaving around Defender’s block to score a glancing blow!”)

Phase 4: Critical Resolution

A skill check against a corresponding skill is made, based on the status being impacted.  (Stamina: Physical Tolerance; Sanity: Mental Tolerance; Spirit: Spiritual Tolerance; Readiness: Weapon/Tool Handling; Balance: Evasion; Awareness: General Perception.)  This yields an adjustment to the base Critical result achieved as determined by the level of Critical obtained.  Specialized Techniques other than the core resistance technique under each of these skills might yield better results if pre-selected for use (at other costs).

A final Critical effect is determined from the adjusted Critical result, the type of Critical (as determined by the original attack: slash, crush, piercing, flame, fear, confusion, and so on) , and even potentially the individual adjusted AE, FF, and DV factors determined near the end of Phase 2.  For example, the severity of any Stun Condition applied by a Crushing critical might be determined as some multiple or dividend of the final (AE+DV) of the strike. 

Certain attack techniques might also have adjustments that apply only at this stage of resolution as well: a specific nerve strike technique, for example, might apply double the normal Daze, Stun, or Pain results, but half the normal additional Stamina loss, Injury Severity, and/or Bleeding.

The Hit Location also can modify the final results of any Critical effect.  Attacks to the Head yield double normal result on all effects, for example.  On Abdomen criticals,  any External Bleeding has a 50% chance of being Internal instead (far harder to effectively treat), and so on.

At the end of Phase 4, any and all Critical effects and conditions are applied, and an Event Notification is generated (with corresponding Awareness thresholds) detailing the result (“Attacker slashes at Defender, landing a lethal blow to Defender’s head!  Defender is badly injured, deeply stunned, and bleeding heavily!”)

To be continued in a new post… these are apparently going to be larger than I thought…