Sunday, September 01, 2013

Surfing Bird

A-well-a, everybody's heard about the bird Bird, bird, bird, b-bird's the word 
A-well-a, bird, bird, bird, the bird is the word...

Who hasn't watched Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket and just loved the Surfing Bird scene? God I just love it. For those who haven't seen it and for those who love it as much as I do, here it is again.



Damn I love that grin as he sees they've gone down, but I digress, this is not what I want to talk about. I want to look at why the first group of VCs pass unscratched and the second is hit. Well it's clear enough that he was reloading while the first group passed, but was he the only one in the whole platoon looking that way? If not so, why didn't anybody else fire? Did they not see them in time?

This scene has been spinning in my head for a few weeks now as I try to resolve a way to portray split second reactions in the game. Who aims first? Who fires first? Conventional theory says that's initiative, but initiative is sometimes too random, it involves the whole party and it generally dictates order and not necessarily advantage when it comes to many split second actions. Particularly an advantage that strongly leverages character training.

What do I mean with the last point? Well conventional initiative says the VC move first then the Marine fires or vice versa. If initiative rolls matched they'd be caught as they run, but otherwise the Marine would have nothing to shoot at or they'd pass unscratched as the first group did. But what if he wasn't aiming just there and then? What about spotting them with the corner of his eye and then turning, aiming and shooting?

To solve those split second reaction times, setting a sense of order and at the same time an advantage in time I'm introducing a time frame called a beat. A beat doesn't specifically last a second or for that matter a fixed amount of time, it's more of an abstract response advantage. Beats are a measure of how well a character made a reflex check, which is basically an attribute check modified by skills. For every four points a character wins he earns a beat which equates to a short action. For example if a character earns a whole beat he may fire his gun twice during the span of the action. If two enemies are involved and they roll 2 and 4 while the character rolls 8, the character may discharge his weapon twice ( has a whole beat lead on the fastest enemy). The character fires once, then a beat goes by and the counter drops to 4, the enemy who rolled 4 fires, but also the character as he earned a beat ( 8 - 4, a beat = 4 again). They fire simultaneously and finally the enemy with the 2 roll fires.

By leveraging the character's skill in the roll as well as the character's attributes the roll means more than just simply who goes first. It is strongly weighted for the well trained party members and it gives a clear and distinctive value to training. Making well trained characters ever so lethal and more prone to survive in high risk situations.
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