Action Encounter Rules

Action Encounter Design


This system is born from the idea that normal role-playing combat fails to capture cinematic combat: the kind of action sequences one sees in the movies upon which these games are often based. It is instead, a bit too precise and a bit too controlled. When things get busy, the combat doesn’t get more interesting; it just gets more complicated and bogged down.

I’m hoping to reduce the drag on the system from multiple (or limitless combatants) and from systems that are not designed to easily fit into the flow of combat. This hope is tempered by the desire to keep the current system for combat action lively. The goal is to trim the unnecessary fat and supplement the rest. This has resulted in a number of modifications that are summarized here:

Adversaries no longer have the same characteristics as characters. What do storm troopers really need besides a gun and a target?

Adversaries are no longer individualized. This is a central point behind using the Action Encounter System rather than the regular combat system. The point of minions is that there are lots of them and they respond to calls for back-up. Instead of a bunch of agents for the character to fight, characters in an action encounter are fighting “the agents.”

Because the enemy becomes a generalized conglomerate, range must become generalized as well.

Because the characters are not fighting individuals and because the adversaries’ characteristics are new, some maneuvers against the enemies need to be updated. All maneuvers are derived from maneuvers already established but are described in such a way as to respond to their adversaries generalized characteristics. Most maneuvers, however, stay the same.


A challenge is anything that keeps the character from succeeding whether it is armed guards or a chemical fire. Challenges are described using the following terms.

Intensity: Rather than the normal capacity to absorb damage, Challenges have Intensity. Intensity often describes how much damage the Challenge can do.

Chance of Affect: Rather than a bunch of skills. Challenges are reduced to one roll described by Chance of Affect. Whatever the challenge can do to the characters, this is its unmodified chance of doing it.

Damage: This is what happens if the Challenge successfully rolls to affect. Often it is contingent upon intensity.

Defense: Because the point is to generalize enemies, there is no need to differentiate between attacks that miss and attacks that fail to get through armor. The question is, rather, whether the weapon has some kind of effect. Defense is subtracted from the character’s chance of hitting. Alternatively, for challenges that are affected by things other than combat, the Defense is applied as a negative DC to the skill rolls.

Regenerate: At the end of each round, a challenge rolls to see if it gains in intensity (even if it is currently at Intensity 0).

Superior Position: Because combat is generalized and extrapolated, things like changing stance and maneuvering around the battlefield are generalized as well. Basically, superior position covers all the ways the challenge can get the drop on the characters. It does not apply generally to environmental Challenges.

Chase: Chase isn’t used in all encounters. Basically, it’s best used in encounters when people are trying to get away from each other. At 1 chase difference, the enemies are considered at medium range, at 2 chase difference, the enemies are considered at long range, etc. . The Challenge’s Chase characteristic indicates the chance to gain Chase and how much Chase is gained on a successful roll.

In almost all other respects, challenges are just like traditional adversaries. They go on their initiative and do their thing. The main differences are that their options are extremely limited regarding the kinds of actions they can take and they respond to attacks differently than a normal target.

Character Actions

Essentially characters can do whatever they might do in a regular game. The main difference is that these maneuvers need to be translated into having an effect on the challenges in this scenario system, specifically the attack action and the defense action (since the character is no longer in combat with individuals but a mobbed up and generalized they). The main result is that the character action of attack becomes a bit more complicated since it becomes possible to attack an enemy mass to thin it out, to hold the enemy back, to keep the enemy from moving into an advantageous position, or to send the enemy running. Essentially, other than a few exceptions, characters may take normal actions except for actions that are specific to the encounter itself.

The exceptional actions included in nearly every action encounter are:

Attack To Diminish: Roll to hit as normal on a challenge. For every hit scored, lower intensity by 1.

Attack To Drive Back: Roll to hit against a challenge. If a hit is successfully scored, the target is moved back a range category and cannot gain chase points on their next turn. For each two hits after the first, the challenge is also reduced by 1 intensity.

Attack To Hold: Roll to hit against the challenge. If successful, the target cannot regenerate on their next turn. For every two hits after the first, the challenge is also reduced by 1 intensity.

Guard The High Ground: Roll to hit. If successful, the challenge loses Superior Position and cannot gain it again on their next turn. For each successful hit after the first, another challenge may be thus affected.

Move Into Position (minor action): Because range is generalized, some things that the characters try to do may require them to first Move Into Position. For a minor action, a character may perform this maneuver. Moving into position causes the character to become a primary target.

Close or Retreat (minor action): A character may go from personal to close, close to short, short to medium, and vice versa for one minor action. Most Action Encounters start at Close range.

Synchronize Action: A character may make a Leadership check at -1 per character performing the same action in order to negate the penalties for “Multiple Characters, Same Action.”

Rescue: A character may rescue another character out of turn as a reaction with a successful Atheletics+Dexterity roll. The rescuer becomes the primary target. The previous primary target is immediately out of position and must move back into position to perform any maneuver that requires a Move Into Position.

Other Actions: Other actions are often included in a scenario depending on its specific challenges and on its Victory Conditions (see below).

Other Consideration

Range: Challenges have a range to the characters ranked at personal, close, short, or medium. The range between characters and the Challenges are all the same. Because the challenges are not individualized, gaining range on a challenge affects all characters generally. The only exception to this deals with Chase. If a character or Challenge gains a point of Chase above other Challenges or characters, they are immediately considered at Medium range or longer for multiple points of Chase discrepancy.

Battlefield Conditions: Most battlefields are strewn with cover of one type or another. Defensive reactions, therefore, are doubly effective automatically. Challenges cannot take defensive reactions

Multiple Characters, Same Action: Every character who attempts the same action in the same action turn does so at a -1 commulative DM.

Defeat Conditions: Action Encounters do not go on forever. The characters are trying to achieve Victory conditions before their enemies achieve the Defeat Conditions. Defeat Conditions vary from encounter to encounter but are generally decided by a particular Challenge gaining in Intensity.

Victory Conditions: Typically, Victory Conditions are contingent upon what the characters are hoping to do. The referee may suggest victory conditions, but players may prefer their own. The only rule is that there must be something that the players are working towards.

Primary Target: Challenges don’t fire at random. They tend only to direct their fire at people who are attempting to achieve Victory Conditions. Some maneuvers automatically make the character the primary target.

Secondary Target: The old primary target becomes a secondary target when a new primary target is chosen. Adversaries shoot at Secondary Targets if, and only if, the Primary Target is at further than medium range.

More advanced rules to come…

Action Encounter Rules

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