Saturday, May 19, 2012

Infinite Earths Overview: The Action Economy

So, last time, the eagle-eyed among you noticed that the Dual Weapon Fighting Style allowed a character to make two attacks--one with each weapon--as part of a minor action.  And if we were sticking with the classic d20 action economy, that would be a radical move.  But. . .we're not.

Instead, our action economy is based on a simplified structure that allows characters to strategize on-the-fly, choosing which abilities they use in combat based on how long they take and what they want to do.  I'll explain the simplified structure and provide some examples.

Characters in Infinite Earths every round get a Major Action, a Swift Action, Reactions, and any appropriate Free Actions.
  • Major Actions describe activities or powers that take a character's entire turn to accomplish.  Casting a spell very carefully, so that you do not give opponents an opening to strike you; Grappling with an opponent to try and throw him to the ground, or otherwise hold him in place; Performing a Flurry of Strikes to try and demolish your opponent's defenses are all examples of a Major Action.  Major Actions can also be divided into two Minor Actions.
  • Minor Actions describe activities or powers that take approximately half a character's turn to accomplish.  Casting a spell quickly, perhaps a bit incautiously, trusting to luck to prevent your opponents from striking you; Swinging your mighty axe (or your two slashing blades) at an enemy; Moving your land speed across a battlefield are all examples of a Minor Action.  Minor Actions can also be divided into two Swift Actions.
  • Swift Actions describe activities or powers that take a negligible amount of time for a character, but still have a cost in effort or time.  Maintaining concentration and pouring mana into an ongoing spell is one such example; unsheathing your weapon and readying it to strike is another.  Five-foot steps, or Shifts, are another common use of the Swift Action.  Swift Actions are the quickest of effectively time-consuming actions, and cannot be subdivided further.
  • Reactions are classic "attacks of opportunity," with a twist.  Now they can be used for multiple abilities, such as countering an opponent's spell or mocking an opponent who fails to connect with his attacks.  Characters can perform a varying number of Reactions per round depending on what (if anything) provokes a Reaction, as well as how quick-witted or dexterous they are.
  • Free Actions are actions that can be performed while performing other actions--for instance, talking or warning an ally of danger, or unsheathing a weapon if you know how to Quick Draw.  They take no time on their own, and they do not cause direct harm to opponents or direct benefit to allies.
Using this round structure, let's take a look at what you can do with it:

Let's say Bob the Brute, a Fighter, is standing 20 feet from his opponent, Will the Weakling, who already has his weapon out.  

It's Bob's turn--he's 20 feet away, so he can't just start swinging and hope to connect.  Bob uses his Swift action to unsheathe his weapon, then splits his Major Action into 2 Minor Actions--one to close the distance (with 10 feet to spare, Bob's pretty quick), and the other to hit Will over the head with his axe.

Will's terrified of Bob, but he's already got his weapon out--and he's carrying a spear, so he's got the advantage of reach.  As Bob comes at Will, he passes through a space that Will threatens with his longer-reach weapon, so Will gets to React to Bob.  The Reaction triggers before Bob is close enough to attack, so it is resolved before Bob's turn continues. Will connects, damaging Bob.  If he had killed Bob, Bob's attack would not have connected.

But Bob isn't dead, so he strikes at Will and connects once with his axe, coming close to killing Will with his single brutal blow.

Will's now well and truly desperate, so he uses his Swift action to shift 5 feet backwards.  Will then uses his ability Flurry of Blows to attack Bob twice.  This is a risk, because Flurry of Blows lets Will double his number of attacks, but he loses his ability to make Reactions until his next turn.  Fortunately, both strikes connect, and Bob goes down.  Songs are written about Will the Weakling, now known as Will the Wonderful, because nobody really liked Bob anyway.

Now, you might be saying to yourself--that doesn't seem like all that radical a change.  And it's not!  But it's designed to help speed up play, because of the simplified structure:

(Major = 2 Minor = 4 Swift) + Swift + Reactions + Free

No standard action, minor, move, move-equivalent, five-foot step, free, etc.  And the Major action can be divided into any appropriate combination:
  • 2 Minor Actions
  • 1 Minor Action + 2 Swift Actions
  • 4 Swift Actions
The idea is versatility and simplicity, while still maintaining a tactical bent!  You may be wondering, now, if you can transform a single Major action into two Minor actions, and use both of those Minor actions to attack without having to use a Flurry of Blows.  Well. . .we're working on that, and are still playtesting it to see if that feels right.

That's all we've got for now, but if you have any questions or thoughts please feel free to post some comments! 

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