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Phasing in a new order!

Copyright 1999, Tim Dugger

 

Introduction

Combat in Rolemaster has always been a time consuming task, usually due to referencing charts and tables. There is not a whole lot that can be done about that unless you want to replace all of those tables and charts.

Another point of slowness in RM is also the initiative system, be it the normal three-phase system currently in place, or the utterly confusing action phases of the previous incarnation. Even using a normal, ten second round gives problems as people decide that they want to know exactly how long something takes to accomplish. In this case, the GM has to make elaborate charts giving action times and then figure out who is doing what and when they are doing it.

One of the best systems for tracking action in combat, that I have ever encountered was the method used in the super-hero game Champions, published by Hero Games. This method is fluid, simple and easy to track.

The system that I will present in this article is based off the system from Champions, but it has been reworked in a manner to make it compatible with Rolemaster.

The Basics

This system uses the standard 10 second round that has always been used in Rolemaster. It is now the starting point for us to discuss this system. The round is still divided into individual seconds, but for our purposes we will call each individual second a segment. This then gives us ten segments in each round. A phase is one or more seconds, as determined by the Speed of the character.

A character's speed is determined through the use of an initiative roll, and the following formula:

Speed = 1 + (Initiative/10)

A character's initiative is determined by the following formula:

Initiative = 2d10 + ((In + Re + Qu)/3)

The stat bonuses of the listed stats are added together and then divided by 3 (rounding up), and added to the results of the roll of 2 ten-sided dice. This number is then divided by 10, and added to 1 to give us the character's Speed.

For creatures and monsters in the Rolemaster system, you would add the initiative bonus as indicated in the MS/AQ chart in the front of Creatures & Monsters instead of the average bonuses of Intuition, Reasoning, and Quickness.

It is important to note that certain talents and/or flaws may also affect the initiative and increase or decrease a character's Speed.

The character's Speed is then used to determine how many actions a character has per round, or in other words, a character's Speed determines how many phases he has per round. The following chart shows how many phases are allowed a for a given Speed rating.

Speed/Action Phase Chart

Speed

Action Phases

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

1

X

2

X

X

3

X

X

X

4

X

X

X

X

5

X

X

X

X

X

6

X

X

X

X

X

X

7

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

8

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

9

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

10

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

 

Using the Chart

To use this chart, you first have to determine a character's Speed as described in the section above. You then look on the chart to see when the character may take action. A character's phase begins on the segment with the "X" and ends upon the segment before the next "X" is listed. If more than one character has the same Speed, then the one who has the higher initiative roll will be one who actually goes first.

Example: Joran has a Speed of 4. He may take his first action this round in Segment 3; this begins his first phase for the round. His next phase begins in Segment 5, so whatever action Joran takes in his first phase takes 2 Segments to complete.

The following list gives an idea of what may or may not be accomplished in a given phase. It is important to realize that only one normal attack may be performed in a given phase.

0 Phase Actions

    • Casting an instantaneous spell
    • A very fast perception roll (-50 to skill roll)
    • Using Adrenal Defense (see notes below)

1/2 Phase Actions

    • Melee Attack with a one-handed weapon
    • Martial arts attack
    • Missile attack
    • Making a half move (see notes below)
    • Reloading a bow or sling
    • A quick perception roll (-20 to skill roll)
    • Activating Adrenal Defense (see notes below)
    • Casting a spell (see notes below)
    • Concentrating on a spell
    • Most skills or maneuvers (see notes below)

Full Phase Actions

    • Melee attack with a two-handed weapon
    • Multiple attacks with a single one-handed weapon
    • Multiple attacks with martial arts
    • Martial arts attack with a weapon kata
    • Reloading a crossbow
    • Making a full move (see notes below)
    • Preparing a spell (see notes below)

Multiple Phase Actions

    • Melee attack with two-weapon combo (1-1/2 Phases)
    • Multiple attacks with martial arts weapon kata (1-1/2 Phases)
    • Multiple attacks with a two-handed weapon (1-1/2 Phases)
    • Other skills or maneuvers (variable) (see notes below)

Special Notes

Since this system is so different from the normal Rolemaster phased round system, special notes are needed on certain situations or skills that are designed to be used by the other initiative/combat tracking systems. The following guidelines will help to resolve these issues.

Parrying - Parrying an attack is handled normally, OB is diverted to DB to protect against incoming attacks. The only real difference is that the parry will work against all incoming attacks for the entire phase in which it is declared.

Movement - When creating a character, one of the things determined is how far a character may move in a given round. Using this system, each character has what is known as a Full Move and a Half Move. To determine how far a character may move with a Full move, just divide his normal movement per round by the number of phases (the character's Speed) the character has, rounding up. Thus if a character has a base movement rate of 100' and a Speed of 5, then he may move up to 20' in a phase by using a Full Move. As you may have guessed, a Half Move is half the distance in a Full Move.

Adrenal Defense - With the introduction of the Martial Arts Companion, there are now three different versions, and each one is supposed to take a specified portion of activity in a round. In using this system, this translates into a minus to all actions while the Adrenal Defense is active. Greater Adrenal Defense would give all actions a -10, Lesser Adrenal Defense would give a -30, and normal Adrenal Defense would give a -40 to all actions while it is active. Also, it is important to note that in using this system, activating Adrenal Defense is a 1/2 phase action, even though it is a 0 phase action once it is up and running.

Multiple Phase Actions - As seen in the lists above, there are certain actions that may take more than a single phase to accomplish. This includes two-weapon combo, multiple attacks using a two-handed weapon, etc. It is also possible that a character may want to perform some other action instead of combat. In this type of situation, it is up to the GM to determine how long the action will take. In resolving multiple phase actions, the action itself is not resolved until the phase in which it is completed.

Spells - In normal Rolemaster, spells take a certain number of rounds to prepare and then one round to cast. Using this system, it is translated into phases. This brings spell casting into line with the number of melee attacks available through this system. For those spells with duration based on rounds, the spell will last a number of phases equal to the number of rounds times the Speed of the character.

Damage Received - By using this system, there is a small change in how damage is received. The use of segments and phases increases the amount of activity allowed each round. In light of this, this system also increases certain aspects of damage as well. Stuns will start on the segment after they are received, and please note that this can occur during the middle of your phase as well. Each round of stun, or bleeding per round, or other damage that is given in a per round manner will now be per phase. Thus if your character receives 3 rounds of stun, he is stunned for three full phases (plus any extra segments from whatever phase he was in).

Skills and Maneuvers - Rolemaster has a multitude of skills and maneuvers available to be performed during a combat round. The majority of these actions will take just moment to complete, but there are some that will take longer than a 1/2 phase action will allow. It is up to the GM to determine if a given action will take more or less time to accomplish. For example, picking a lock may take up to one full phase per the difficulty of the lock, thus a lock that is Very Hard to pick will take longer than one that is Routine to pick.

Speed and Haste - Spells or abilities that allow a character to increase his overall speed are common in Rolemaster. Using this system, the character that is effected by this will have his normal Speed rating doubled for the duration of the effect. In most cases this translated into 10 seconds or segments. For those using the Adrenal Speed skill, and must take a round of half actions, this effectively reduces their speed by half (round up) for the following ten seconds. It is very important to be very careful with this as it can be easily abused.

One option, which I prefer, but takes little more paperwork, is to have the Speed and Haste spells and skills affect only the three stat bonuses used in calculating the characters speed. This will give a less dramatic increase, and also help to reduce the overall potential abuse of this effect within this system.

Final Notes

While the above guidelines may not cover every possibility, they are complete enough that you, as a GM should be able to work out a solution without too much trouble.

I have also provided a Character/NPC Combat Tracking chart in the space below so that you can use it to easily keep track of who goes when.

 

Character/NPC Combat Tracking Chart

Character Name

Initiative

Speed

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Editor's Note:

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