Friday, March 31, 2017

Revisiting Aftermath! Part II

Part I

This time I am looking at the combat rules. Just - reading them and making nots of my impressions as I go.

- 6 second combat round, which was popular Back In The Day.
- A countdown of Action Phases with a bookkeeping Phase 0, so actions are based upon character quickness.
- As I thought from the first read through of the rest of the book, 'initiative' (called Base Action Phase) is essentially fixed barring surprise.
- Fast people are fast and slow people are slow. The amount of time an action takes and the number of times you may act in a Combat Phase are tied to your Speed and Deftness stats. Most characters will be average in these, so it looks a lot like D&D (everyone acts once about the same time) but! if you have someone with good stats who also focuses on being fast they're going to have the opportunity to act twice before some others act once. If you have a character that is slowed by fatigue, injury, age, etc. you could potentially see character A act up to 6 times before character B acts once. This requires a lot of extremes and may be tempered later.
- Regardless of your Base Action Phase, Maximum Number of Action, and Phases Consumed in Action if you pre-empt someone (i.e., start fighting before they realize; not full surprise but more like the Luca Brasi death scene in the Godfather) you get to go first regardless of BAP. When true surprise is achieved (the other person/side didn't even know the opponent(s) were there) the ambushers can really ruin your day by picking exactly where in the Phase countdown fighting begins, possible preventing you from responding until a later round.
- Combat is based on an assumed use of a hex map and markers.
- Zone of Influence, Active Zones, Passive Zones, Restriction Zones. Man! I miss the days of wargaming in the 1970's! The writers obviously had a LOT of wargame experience and they use the jargon. The concepts are not just straightforward, they are downright common (it even feels a lot like 3e) but they use a specific terminology.
I wonder if it isn't the concepts or mechanics of combat that throw people off, but the terms specific to the game?
- Distractions is a nice mechanic - friendlies close to you typically give you penalties. But you can ignore those penalties. But if you ignore those penalties and fumble you just automatically hit a friendly.
- Modifications to Strength (i.e., to damage) based on weapons; interesting and not hard to either do or drop.
- Movement is rather simple with some interesting little twists, like; you have to spend a phase walking or dodging before you can run; if you are moving at the end of a round you must move at least a little at your beginning of the next round.
- Interesting... The rules for movement include 'slowing down'. If you are at a dead sprint and then see a pit in front of you, you might not be able to stop before you fall in!
- The Movement rules are - in line with everything else - straightforward. Running over treacherous ground? Trying to run up a ladder and dodge arrows while fighting? Saving throws vs abilities and averaged skills. The same simple mechanics cover almost everything, they just use Precise Names Easily Acronymed to describe what you are doing.
- Hey! Attacks of Opportunity! And how to avoid them.
- In combat looking around and talking are not free action!
- Last Shot allows you to maybe get a shot off as someone closes with you. Nice.
- Nice, short summary of 'how combat works' and then the math of how to adjust for lighting, prone targets, etc.
- Damage may be what freaks people out: the entry for gun damage is written so it sounds much more complicated than it is. Basically, combat is:
  1) Modify your roll 'to hit' based upon defenses and cover
  2) Roll a d20 to see if you hit
  3) If you hit, roll damage
  4) Apply damage to armor; remainder causes injury
  that's it. Sure, there are critical hits, shock, etc., but nothing more complicated than, oh, AD&D 2e, really.
- Missile special effects (and the same for thrusting weapons like foils) give you a chance for more or less damage than normal.
- Getting shot can stagger you or knock you down.
- Critical hits range from 'bonus damage' to 'BOOM! Headshot!'. The hit location chart is important for the critical effects.
There are interesting notes as I read about how 'player characters and personality NPCs' are treated differently in the rules. For example; a PC or PNPC gets a saving throw to drop the severity of a critical hit. Other NPCs don't. This is great fun and looks a lot like 'the NPC adventuring party' effect from D&D, etc. It also means being a mook sucks.
- Combat options include such things as degrading shields, a chance of swords breaking from blocking an attack, etc.
- Overruns (called bashing and knockdowns) and grappling have their own section (the good old days!) and - it is simple stuff. Ability score based rolls or the brawling skill, really.
- Combat in the water section - long section to say 'here are the modifiers, don't get gunpowder wet'.
- The section for fighting from horseback is solid and makes me want to run something based on the Horse Clans novels.
- Damage, healing, infection, disease, and poison - a nice section with simple, straightforward rules. The section on disease is thorough. Since this is a post-apocalyptic game, that makes great sense. After all - who doesn't love The Stand?

My take after this 'Initial' Reading
  The combat system is.... not too bad at all! It strikes me as having what is contemporarily called 'a cinematic feel', or at least the goal of allowing you to replicate scenes from The Road Warrior, After the Fall of New York, The New Barbarians, Steel Dawn, Cherry 2000, Stryker, Warlords of the 21st Century, World Gone Wild, Hell Comes to Frogtown, Slipstream, DefCon 4, Surf Nazis Must Die, Hardware, or any of the others of the scores of post-apocalyptic films that were released in the 1980's.
Yes, I've watched all of those, A lot more, too. What? I was in the army, lived across from a mom & pop video store, and was single. My entire life was working out, running, playing RPGs, and watching $2 VHS rentals.
We will be doing some sample combats this weekend, I'll write how they went!