Saturday, November 30, 2013

Scenes, rounds, beats and tics, narrating modern warfare in Weapons Free

So far I had mostly winged turns in Weapons Free, narrating as things unfolded and doing my best when things got down to split second reactions. Now I've playtested what seems to be the final time frame for action sequencing. Instead of a fixed round based system with initiative rolls setting the order of events I'll be having four time frames: scenes, rounds beats and tics. Each cover decreasing frames of time. The only one with a fixed length is a round which lasts 10 seconds.

The Scene

A scene is an episode in the game session in which related events occur. These events can be free form narrative or a round by round succession of events. This depends on the story's need for precision.

The scene time frame example

A group of eight Marines are taking on a building. They are split into two groups of four, each entering from opposing sides. Four of the Marines on the near side have just taken out a Spetsnaz lieutenant and captured his captain. Two take the prisoner out through a window as the other two cover their escape. So far a minute or two have elapsed since they cuffed the captain. A flashbang grenade is dropped into the room shortly after the first two Marines leave the room through the window with the prisoner An encounter is about to begin and combat will require a smaller time frame to resolve. Game drops to rounds for the four characters involved while other four Marines located at the far side of the building remain at scene detail.

The round

A round is a ten second time frame in which actions are taken. Characters have a certain limit to the amount of actions which is set by fatigue rules and just plain GM and player common sense. Fatigue limits how many actions may be taken in a 10 second time frame. Common sense helps in not having to use the rules every single round and keep them as a reference for truly extreme situations. Events are not limited by the end of the round, only resources are replenished and ammo kept track of. A round may go by without a single initiative roll (called reflex roll) or fast paced rounds may call for many reflex rolls. That depends on the story.

The round time frame example

The Marines outside the building hear the flashbang go off. One turns around and aims his rifle inside as two Spetsnaz enter bent on killing his two buddies. The few meters to the window are easily covered in the same time the Russians enter the room. He takes aim and fires, but the following events are so split second demanding I need a more precise time frame. Time once again slows down and game moves to beats.

Beats and Tics

A beat is a small unit of time equal to about a second, give or take a few fractions, in which an individual action may be taken. It is intentionally left ambiguous to prevent disputes. You know with the guy who actually does the rate of fire calculation from 5400 rounds per minute to the second, or the one who, when hacking a device, actually does the bandwidth kilobytes per second and disputes it should or shouldn't have been possible. Remember fun always supersedes mathematical precision.

A beat is in turn made up of four tics. Tics is in turn a point difference in reflex rolls (something like an initiative roll). A reflex roll is done against the character's reflex value. Tics can have negative values if the player rolls below the reflex value or positive if the player rolls above. Actions are then ordered from most negative tic values (greatest lead) to most positive values (slowest response). After that every four tics grants another action (beat) to the character as the following example shows.

Beats and tics example

The Spetsnaz and Marine roll reflex. The Marine rolls a very good -8 point difference below his reflex score, the Spetsnaz roll -4 and -2. Ordering :

-8 : Marine
-4 : Spetsnaz 1
-2 : Spetsnaz 2

The Marine takes his action at tic -8. He unknowingly shoots the faster Spetsnaz 1 and kills him. Four tics go by and the counter goes from -8 to -4, it's the Spetsnaz turn, but he's dead, bad luck. It is also the Marine's turn as he gets a beat every four tics, one a -8, one at -4, one at +0 and so forth. He attacks the last standing Spetsnaz 2 and kills him too. The Marine would get another attack four ticks later, but there's no one left to kill.

Had he failed to kill Spetsnaz 2, the Spetsnaz would have taken his action at -2, the Marine would have been able to act at +0. If the Spetsnaz was not neutralized by then another attack would be granted at +2 and so forth as show in the following table.

This table shows how actions would take place if none of the members involved were killed or disengaged. A tick is about one quarter of a second.

Tic Count Marine Spetsnaz 1 Spetsnaz 2
-8 Action




-4 Action Action




0 Action Action




4 Action Action




8 Action Action