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Diceless BESM
I just returned from Ambercon this past weekend after having a blast. Man, do I miss role-playing -- something I didn't get much chance to do (outside playtesting) over the past 8 years.

So I've decided to start a new campaign. Not Amber, though -- I want to play BESM 3. A diceless version of it.

Now some of you may have noticed that BESM was designed to make it easy to eliminate random elements ... and this trend was continued and advanced in BESM 3. I thought I'd throw out some comments here, partly to get feedback from those who'd care and partly to help me solidify my ideas. None of these ideas have been playtested; they are just ideas I'm toying with.

Taking 6 on All Actions


Rather than rolling dice, all actions (attacks, skill checks, etc.) will use the "Taking 6" rule from page 135. That is, all dice rolls have a result of 6 and no roll is done. For opposed rolls, this functions the same as "Taking 0." This is an easy decision when making a diceless version of BESM.

One Attack Value


Although having separate Attack and Defence Combat Values allow for specific differentiation in character concepts, I find that most characters have similar values. For example, it is rare for someone to have ACV at 12 and DCV at 6. To make diceless combats easier -- much easier -- there is only CV now.

This means that modifing CV now costs the combined totals of modifying ACV and DCV. For example, Attack Combat Mastery is 10 Points/Level and Defence Combat Master is 10 Points/Level -- and thus "Combat Mastery" is now 20 Points/Level and adds +1 to CV. Similarly, Ranged Attack (3/L) + Ranged Defence (3/L) creates a new Attribute "Ranged Combat" costing 6 Points/Level.

Diceless Combat


Here is the ideology for diceless combat:

  • There are no rounds. A single specially modified Combat Value comparison determines the outcome of the entire battle.
  • Better attackers have the combat advantage.
  • Inflicting more damage gives you an advantage.
  • Having greater health gives you an advantage.
  • Having a form of damage resistance gives you an advantage.
  • Having extra attacks and defences gives you an advantage.
  • Being able to re-roll dice gives you an advantage.
  • Using personal reserves to focus your combat abilities gives you an advantage.


So how is this executed, exactly? See if you can follow the logic herein ... which may seem a little complex at first, but I think will be quick once game play begins. A character's combat roll is determined as follows (rounding down to calculate each value):

Combat Value (modified by Attributes/Skills as appropriate)
+ 1 for every 10 damage the attack inflicts (before CV is added) AFTER the target's Armour Rating is applied
+ 1 for every 20 current Health Points of the character
+ 2 for every Extra Attack the character has IN EXCESS of the target's Extra Defences
+ 2 for every re-roll applied from the Divine Relationship Attribute
+ 1 for every 10 Energy Points burned to fuel and focus the attack

For example, take a look at Tabitha Yamamoto from page 106. Let's assume her Combat Value = 7, and she is fighting with a blaster pistol (Level 4 Weapon). Her base combat roll when fighting an unarmed opponent is:

7 (Combat Value
+2 (damage = Level 4 Weapon x Damage Multiplier 5 = 20; 20÷10 = 2)
+3 (Health Points = 60; 60÷20 = 3)
+0 (No Extra Attacks)
=12

This base combat roll can be modified by +2 (to 14) if she uses one re-roll from Divine Relationship. It can also be modified by +1 for every 10 Energy Points she burns. Since her correct number of Energy Points = 65 (is incorrectly reads 60 in the book), she can add a maximum of +6 to her base combat roll for a single combat if she wants to burn all of her energy. Consequently, the maximum combat roll she could have by pouring everything into it is 20 (12+2+6).

Now Tabitha's combat roll is compared to her opponent's combat roll, and the highest roll total wins. The margin of difference between the roll totals determines the length of the combat. For example, a difference of only 1 could go on for many minutes (or even hours for dramatic campaigns), while a difference of 10 or more will probably be over in mere seconds.

Let's look at two opponents Tabitha could be fighting going all out (burning all EP), based on the occupational templates: a normal detective and a samurai. Here are the vital stats:

Detective
CV=6; Damage Multiplier=5; Weapon=light pistol (Level 3); HP=45; EP=40

Samurai
CV=11; Damage Multiplier=8; Weapon=Magical Katana (Level 5); HP=80; 1 Extra Attack; EP=90

The Detective's combat roll = 6 + 1 (damage 15) + 2 (HP) + 4 (EP) = 13
The Samurai's combat roll = 11 + 4 (damage 40) + 4 (HP) + 2 (extra attack) + 9 (EP) = 30

So in combat, Tabitha beats the Detective by 7 and handily defeats him very quickly. The samurai beats Tabitha by 10 though, and can cut her down in just a few seconds (provided he can get close enough to her to use his katana...).

A Few Extra Combat Thoughs


Just a few extra things before I wrap up this post:

  • To be fair to all players, the GM must decide how many Energy Points NPCs are using in combat when battling PCs BEFORE the PC announces how many he is using.
  • Since low margins of difference between opponents indicate long combats, the participants may use the opportunity to flee or use powers before they are defeated.
  • Similarly, in long combats, any participant may choose to spend addition EP to change the course of battle or cut it shorter. Descriptive flavour is important to give all players the real understanding of what their characters are experiencing in combat.
  • When several attackers are facing off against one defender, the defender suffers a -1 for each extra attack beyond the number of Extra Defences he has (rather than the normal -2 from the rulebook). For example, if 4 opponents attack a defender with 1 Extra Defence, the defender suffers a -2 to his combat roll (4 - 1 normal free defence - 1 Extra Defence = 2). In these situations, the defender compares his combat roll to each attacker individually to determine the outcomes. Also, the defender may select the opponent he is facing.


That's it for now. Comments?
Comments
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 29th, 2007 02:26 am (UTC) (Link)
i'm not sure i like the combat, BUT it seems well thought out and functional, and does seem like it could work just fine. i don't hate it, either, it'll just have to grow on me.
From: strongblade Date: March 29th, 2007 02:56 am (UTC) (Link)
I'll admit that diceless is not my thing (I do have a penchant for the chaotic randomness of them 'bones') and I like the tactile feel and sense of rolling dice to determine how well things went (or how badly) but I have to say that the ideas presented in the core book as well as here are pretty amazing ideas. Well thought out and certainly sound playable.

I suspect that partly, I'll have to look at actually GMing BESM 3rd a bit before I could feel comfortable as a GM to try diceless. However I would also like to eventually add a section to the Resource Site for it that could help others. Certainly having a fan-based system for diceless would be awesome.

And as I understand it, you do have more than a passing familiarity with the rules... :D
From: lanir Date: March 29th, 2007 11:57 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm still a BESM newbie, but... I think this sounds like it's taking, if not literally every significant facet of the character into account to determine the outcome, it's certainly including the vast majority of it. The only potential snag I could think of would be the proverbial "Ace in the hole" style power/ability. Not every character is going to have one but a limited use ability might be a little difficult to insert into the dramatic pacing. Perhaps work out how much more effective that particular attack/defense style would be over the character's normal abilities and hand it to them as a modifier they can use if the fight appears to be going badly for them? Although... Energy use would likely be done similarly. Hmm.

I guess it depends on how interactive you like your game. From my time running Amber DRPG I'd have to say gamers in general prefer dice but if they don't have them they'll want the ability to change things up in some fashion in mid fight like this. This would cover the usual types of reactive combat I've seen in Amber games. Or if you don't want to encourage this sort of bidding on a combat as people figure out what's going on you could resolve part of it with the numbers the players provide then allow a second or third clash and comparison of combat rolls to sort of simulate multiple rounds and people reacting to what's happened already. Of course a play by email game would want to minimize the amount of back and forth traffic necessary for a resolution so you'd either need to spell out how far you're willing to go to win or your gamemaster may keep things simple and just tell you to spell out your total bonuses on anything you're actually using blindly before the battle starts and resolve the outcome with one reply.

I don't think I'll be using diceless anytime soon but I may well revisit this at some point and take it for a test spin. Sometimes my friends have interesting ideas at times when we don't have dice handy. :)
arcady0 From: arcady0 Date: March 29th, 2007 10:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
I prefer a diceless option that keeps tactical, round by round play, intact, even out of combat.

While I like diceless, it is not because I want simplification nor 'story drive only' as games like Everway, Amber, and Theatrix gave. I want something like Chess delivers - player skill only, not randomness. Likewise, I want tactical skill, which means you need detail and play by play. One action resolution removes tactics - it makes it a simple one guess.

You need a resource that is managed over time and can be gamed such that even a person with less resources can out think a person with greater resources by virtue of not being one-shot. Ie: you need a number of rounds and tactical choices, so you can work your Poker-face, sacrifice a pawn, get your queen out, and go for the kill.

Marvel stones did that, and the already existing BESM rules are almost there for being able to do - you just need a way to gain back energy from taking a penalty on a die roll rather than just burning it from boosting a roll.

From: (Anonymous) Date: March 29th, 2007 11:03 pm (UTC) (Link)

A little off-topic...

Hi Mark,

Sorry for using this thread to ask an unrelated question, but I was directed to your page from the GoO Fan Forums, and don't see any options for posting a message to you directly.

I've spent months searching the web for the Heaven & Earth supplement "Welcome to Potter's Lake" that you only released via the GoO website electronically. Unfortunately, I've been unable to find it anywhere. By any chance do you still have the file, or know where it can be found? I'd even pay you for it if it meant I could finally stop searching. :)

--Kurgan from the GoO Fan Forums

From: (Anonymous) Date: April 16th, 2007 02:30 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: A little off-topic...

Update: Someone on the GoO forums found it!! Whoohoo!!!

Kurgan

From: zombiewulf Date: June 5th, 2007 05:47 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re-rolling in a diceless game

How do you re-roll in diceless game?
From: zombiewulf Date: July 12th, 2007 06:59 am (UTC) (Link)

you there?

you still around?
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 20th, 2007 04:33 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: you there?

It seems the the intention was to make the use of a re-roll incur a +2 Bonus to a check. I'm assuming with this rule in place, only one 're-roll' is allowed per action, otherwise Divine Relationship would become much more powerful than its point cost would indicate.
From: zombiewulf Date: September 11th, 2007 01:25 pm (UTC) (Link)

BESM 3rd Out Of Print?

Does anyone know why BESM 3rd is Out Of Print? BESM 3rd edition has become the only book I ever use now for gaming (because it is by far the best!!). Why o' why would White Wolf let it go out of Print. White Wolf already let Old World of Darkness (Vampire the Masquerade) go, and now BESM 3rd. Does White Wolf not enjoy money??? I can't believe it. Also, Mark I really enjoyed your livejournal enties, please return. You have done a great job.

-T
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