At Spin Two Swords
Action Encounter Design
Step 1: Determine Number of Elements
All scenes will have something that the characters are trying to do and something that’s trying to keep the characters from doing it. Both are elements of the scene and so a scene needs a minimum of 2 elements. It will probably have more. A scene with 6 or 7 elements will give the characters plenty to worry about. More than that means that the characters are dealing with total chaos; less than 6 and the scene is pretty straightforward. At 2, there’s really no reason to handle the action in this way.
Remember, elements can be adversarial (called, hereafter, Challenges), but they’re just as likely to be things that the characters need to do (which we will call Victory Conditions). The more that the characters need to do, the more difficult it will be under fire. To get a good random encounter roll 1d6 for Challenges and 1d3 for Victory Conditions.
Step 2: Set Up Victory Conditions
At its most basic, each action encounter system has conditions which establish victory and defeat. Victory is, generally, established through a skill roll and often a very difficult one (or at least a time-consuming one). Generally, this check is made easier by other skill rolls in a standard task chain. The victory conditions might be anything though as suggested by the nature of the scene. It might even just be the survival of the characters for a number of rounds.
To randomly determine a skill for a victory condition, look here.
Victory Conditions are sometimes better produced on the fly as part of the role playing. If the GM tells the player that the hanger is filling up with poison gas while two sets of drones flood in through ports. The assumed Victory Condition might be trying to force the Bay Door open with Electronics rolls so that the ship can escape. But if the players are keen on getting back into the base and retrieving the captain’s old service revolver before they leave, then that too becomes a Victory Condition.
Victory Conditions are often not as straightforward as they may at first seem. In the previous example, getting back to the service revolver might require a Computers Roll and some movement. In general, this is fine; a Victory Condition ought to take a few rounds of action or else the encounter is likely to be too short to bother setting up. It is best to list these contingent conditions as Victory Conditions in a chain. The top card of the Victory Condition is simply put on top of later actions. Victory Conditions, once they are established, are generally put at the top of the board for everyone to see, but stacked in the order that they must be accomplished.
Step 3: Choose Challenges
Challenges are the things that are impeding the characters. Generally, Challenges either damage the characters or make the characters’ job that much more difficult. Each of these conditions has different ways in which it interacts with the action encounter system, and will be dealt with, in detail, a bit later. Their general categories are presented here, now, for familiarities sake:
1 Environmental Damage:
2 Environmental Effect:
31-33 Fire Power:
34 Fire Power, Mobile:
35 Fire Power, Armored:
36 Fire Power, Armored and Mobile:
4 Skilled Opposition:
5 Unstoppable Firepower:
6 Unstoppable Effect:
Environmental Damage: The world around the characters is such that it will cause damage every round. Environmental Damage cannot be stopped through combat. Example: A fire breaks out in the hallway.
Environmental Effect: The world around the characters is such that it will impede their progress. Environmental Effects cannot be stopped through combat. Example: Sonic disruption makes it hard to think.
Fire Power: People or things shooting at the characters. Fire Power can be stopped through combat. Example: A guard fires at you.
Skilled Opposition: People or things on the other side of the lane who impede the characters’ progress. Skilled Opposition can be stopped through combat. If the skilled opposition is operating beyond harm’s way, it is best reflected by Environmental Effect. Example: a tech is using a machine to jam your sensors.
Unstoppable Firepower: Really major enemies who cannot be stopped by characters without special weaponry or equipment. Unstoppable Firepower can be stopped but often only by characters who are well equipped or by characters who are using equipment provided in the scenario. Example: A fighter keeps strafing the battlefield.
Unstoppable Effect: This is a major force that is thwarting the characters efforts. Unstoppable effect differs from environmental effect in that it can be stopped through a heavy combat possibility. Generally though, that combat possibility is outside the characters’ resources. Example: A mobile combat-line medical droid keeps patching the enemy up as you shoot them.
Determine Defeat Conditions
From the selected Challenges, the referee ought to pick one (or two) that supply the main theme to the encounter. Note, the more the referee picks, the harder time the characters will have to achieve victory. One is generally plenty. The Challenge picked as primary supplies a condition, which, if achieved, spells defeat for the characters in this action encounter. Note, Defeat doesn’t necessarily mean the defeat of the characters. Instead, it tends to mean that Victory is no longer possible and that the characters escape without attaining their goals.