Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Character Fatigue - Round to round fatigue

This is the third and last article of this series covering character fatigue.  In the first article I covered cardio exercise and how heart beat rate can be used as a simple reference to measure character fatigue.  In the second article I presented a functional equipment encumbrance rule that allows for easy measurement of character fatigue.  Reducing it simply to knowing what character load and speed is desired.  Character load is done sporadically, when the character gears up and it is something that doesn't need to be done round by round in combat.  Speed is simply decided by the player.  Does the character walk, jog, run or sprint to its target?  Those two simple pieces of information alone help define how much fatigue the character is building up.

Now we'll see how that comes into play in combat.  Combat is a type of fast paced short encounter in which the characters' lives are placed at risk.  It is important that they outmaneuver their opponents and finish them off quickly to come out triumphant.  The goal of the fatigue based combat mechanism is not so much to create a realistic simulation, but rather to give a countering force to over optimization and support players who look into different weapon and armor layouts for their characters.  Instead of limiting a character to a set of attacks or actions per round the character is limited by the cardiovascular system and can do so much before passing out.  The player is then allowed more flexibility in the actions the character can perform.  Fall back and cover rather than attack, blitz attack with four fast swings, rush a target, etc.  To make this functional and fun the mechanism has to be quick and simple.  By extending the movement fatigue rules to combat a simple table can be built for the character which allows this mechanism to work with little crunch overhead.

The key to a simple usage is the character load table shown below.




Rest
Fitness
Cardio
Hardcore
Vmax
Overload1
Overload2
Overload3
Endurance Points
0
1/2 END
END
2xEND
3xEND
4xEND
5xEND
6xEND
Fatigue
0
1
2
4
8
16
32
64
Recovery
END/2
END/4
1
0
0
0
0
0
Roll Penalty
0
0
0
-1
-2
-3
-4
-5

This table has a top row indicating the load level the character's cardiovascular system is taking.  The following is the explanation for each one:

  • Rest : normal activity and warm up, up to 60% of max heart beat
  • Fitness : fat burning activity, up to 70% max heart beat
  • Cardio : aerobic exercise, up to 80% max heart beat
  • Hardcore : anaerobic exercise, up to 90% max heart beat
  • Vmax : Known as VO2 Max it's the maximum heart beat rate for a human ((220 - age) heart beats per minute)
  • Overload 1, 2 & 3 : burst ranges of highly demanding physical activity

The second row measures the endurance points being paid by the character.  The more endurance points being paid each round the higher the load and thus the heart rate.  This row depends on the character's endurance ability as so does the recovery row below.

As an example the following table has values for a character with 12 (average) endurance


Rest
Fitness
Cardio
Hardcore
Vmax
Overload1
Overload2
Overload3
Endurance Points
0
6
12
24
36
48
60
72
Fatigue
0
1
2
4
8
16
32
64
Recovery
6
3
1
0
0
0
0
0
Roll Penalty
0
0
0
-1
-2
-3
-4
-5

In this example if a character does an activity demanding 8 endurance points the character is in the "Fitness" range (above 6 endurance points) and is creating one fatigue point per round and recovering 3.  The character will not wear out in the short term.  If the character were consuming 18 endurance points he or she would be in the cardio range, consuming 2 points and restoring 1.  Every round the character wears out one fatigue point that can only be recovered with rest.  Fatigue points are deducted from the fatigue store which equals 5 x endurance.  In this case the character has 60 points.  At one point per round the character can keep this up for 60 rounds or 600 seconds (5 minutes) without a problem.

Things become complicated when weapons and armor come into play.  Swinging a sword, raising a shield to parry, moving around, closing in on the opponent and falling back all demand endurance points.  Most combat will occur in the hardcore range and in demanding situation rise into the Vmax and overload ranges.  In intense combat a character in the hardcore range will use 4 fatigue points per round.  In this example that means 12 continuous rounds, 120 seconds (2 minutes).  A player that selects to heavy a weapon might find his or her character quickly rising into the Vmax range.  Combat endurance in that range is a mere 60 seconds for an average endurance character.  Not only does the body endure less, it begins to suffer penalties in attacks.  The physical strain causes a penalty roll in attacks, parries and dodges.  The more the character wants to attack the higher the penalty due to muscle fatigue.  In this way the mechanism greatly simplifies the usual penalties in armor and weapons that are used against dexterity and strength bonus.  Players only need to calculate the encumbrance value of armor and that factors itself into the fatigue and endurance mechanism.

The following example shows how to setup a character with various builds on the character sheet to represent the different tactics the player wants to use.

A player has a choice of armor and weapons for the character.  The armor as well as all other equipment will influence encumbrance load.  This sets the amount of load to consider when moving and sets the base fatigue for combat.  All combat is considered to be done while jogging.  This represents the second to second movements the character does.   This means 1/2 the character's endurance score is added as cost to each combat round (if unloaded, loaded or encumbered characters pay more).  On top of this the character adds attack, parry and dodge fatigue.  These values are calculated from the armor and weapons used in a combat layout.  A character with chain mail and a sword will have a different fatigue than leather and sword.

The player must thus be thoughtful when selecting the character's weapons and armor.  Factor in character strength, endurance and skills.  Too heavy a weapon  and the character will wear out to fast and will only be able to do one or two attacks per round.  Too small a weapon and the damage will be insignificant against heavily armored opponents.  Since attacks, parries and dodges count towards round fatigue the player must be careful to reserve enough fatigue to allow the character protection from incoming blows.

Let's take for example the following endurance costs per weapon, armor and shield:

Chain mail armor 5,  sword 7 = 12 attack & dodge cost / 6 parry cost
Leather armor 1,  sword 7 = 8 attack & dodge / 4 parry cost
Chain mail armor 5, sword 7, shield  3 = 15 attack & dodge / 8 parry cost

Attacking in leather armor costs half of what it does attacking with chain mail and shield.  The character can move faster too as he is less encumbered, but at a greater risk to his skin.  So what can the player do to mix this into a combat tactical setup?

We know the character starts with a 6 point endurance cost just for being in combat.  And this is considering him unloaded (dropped backpack and all and shield weighs little).  How close can the setup get to 24 (hardcore) without actually reaching it.  There are 17 points to play with.  Leather and sword setup only add 8 per attack and 4 for parry.  So a good setup would be one attack and two parries.  That's good too keep off the enemy while boarding a ship.  You're light and fast.

Chain mail, sword and shield with only parries is a great way to hold off the enemy while recovering.  Gets two parries for 16 points and doesn't enter the red zone.  The character can slowly recover fatigue points while holding off attacks quite successfully with the shield.

Now lets see what we can do if we enter the red zone of hardcore.  We can go up to 36 points, but not reach it.  So we have 35 points to play with.  We can put in two attacks and a parry for 30 (12 + 12 + 6) points using chain mail and sword.  They're all at -1 due to higher fatigue, but we are getting in more attacks per round.  Or three attacks and a parry with leather and sword.

But I digress, by now I'm about to lose many of you to the math if I haven't done so already.  What's all this number crunching in the middle of a round.  Wasn't this meant to be easier not more complex?  Well it is simpler.  If you take a look all values are multiples of the base endurance costs.  So it is easy to tabulate this.

Take for example the following setups (the numbers indicate endurance point costs) :

Chain mail, shield & lance = 7, 3, 5 = 15 attack & dodge / 8 parry
Chain mail, shield & sword = 7, 3, 7 = 17 attack & dodge / 9 parry
Chain mail & sword = 7, 7 = 14 attack & dodge / 7 parry
Leather, sword = 3, 7 = 10 attack & dodge / 5 parry

I'll simply define the cost to parry as one action point.  So in the first setup it takes 8 endurance points to get one action point.  The lighter leather armor and sword takes only 5 endurance point per action point.  Now as a simple rule I'll state that you need two action points to attack or dodge and one action point to parry.  Putting this all together in a table we get the following:

Max Endurance Cost
12
24
36
48
60
72
84
Fatigue
1
2
4
8
16
32
64
Penalties
0
0
-1
-2
-3
-4
-5
Tact Build
Fitness
Cardio
Hardcore
Vmax
Overload 1
Overload 2
Overload 3
Chain mail, shield & lance
1
2
4
5
7
8
10
Chain mail, shield & sword
1
2
3
5
6
7
9
Leather & sword
1
3
7
9
11
14
16
Chain mail & sword
1
3
5
6
8
10
11
This table show the max endurance cost per cardio activity range for a character with 12 endurance.  Any activity in excess of 12 points leaves the fitness range to enter the cardio range.  In the same way any activity beyond 24 leaves cardio to enter hardcore.  I simply add action point costs until I exceed the max value and move on to the next cardio range.  I repeat this for all the weapon setups I want my character to use and I arrive at the table as shown.

During game play I just read off the action points available per weapon setup.  I know the character can perform one action requiring one action point at the fitness range.   That is perform only one parry.  To attack at least two action points are required.  So one attack per round keeps the character in cardio.  If in turn the character is attacked twice two parries are required.  That adds two more action points to the over all expenditure taking the character into the Vmax range ( 4 action points, 2 for attack and 2  for both  parries).  At this point the character begins to feel the pinch of physical overload.  The two parries are now done at -2.  The player is free to call more actions in the turn if the GM deems them physically possible, but fatigue will keep building up.

On the other hand with leather and sword the character can make  two sword swings and parry three times while remaining in hardcore range.  Just barely breaking a sweat. He could attack once and parry without penalty as given by the three action points in cardio and then attack again and parry twice at -1.

Now movement fits in seamlessly.  Recalling from the past article movement counts pretty much as one endurance score cost.  That cost is exactly what separates the columns here.  So running just means shifting one column to the right.  In the past example with the leather and sword setup would allow one attack and one parry within the cardio range.  If the character runs the same activity is taken as performed one to the right, that means as hardcore.  All attacks are thus at -1 while running (plus any movement and combat specific modifiers).  If the character attacks again those attacks that were hardcore while  standing still are considered as Vmax at -2 now.  If the character sprints all activities are taken as two (2) columns to the left in regards to penalties and fatigue build up.

To sum it up.  Adding fatigue allows the game to include a force that counters over optimization in weapon and armor use.  Players have more flexibility to configure their characters and get real benefits from their well though out layout.  It now makes sense to change from fighting with a spear to a sword.  Dropping the shield or taking on lighter armor.  There is something that finally adds a benefit to smart weapon layout.  Something that counters the "biggest and baddest" weapon philosophy of min-maxing.  It also fits seamlessly with the movement rules so it is easy to explain whats going on as the battle progresses.  It's easier to include attack as you move maneuvers that add excitement and better narrative to the story.

Finally I'd like to point out that endurance can be changed to thermal heat sink units or any other futuristic game and port this idea to mecha and use it in a sci-fi setting as well.

Hope you like the idea and mechanics.  Feedback as always is greatly appreciated.
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