View Full Version : Original System Action economy for custom system

2017-04-15, 07:11 PM
I've been putting together my own system. It's in the D&D headspace (started out as a 3e fix, incorporating 4e elements), but has some significant differences as it’s evolved.

It uses a kind of gestalt multiclass system, with class levels purchased with XP rather than from an earned total. Your highest path level sets your overall character level, which is how you get automatic perks (feats) and attribute improvements (in the 3e/4e/pf model). (So for example, you can be x-class 4/y-class 2, and count as a 4th level character overall, out of 10 levels max.)

In theory you could buy as many different classes as you want, but practice you wouldn’t want to spread across more than three classes (which I might make into a soft cap), since a good chunk of the level-based features are only earned once. (Most of the 3e-style first-level class features are shifted into an ‘origin’, which sets up your general character theme and flavor. Hit points are fixed from your race choice, with only a couple classes adding extra HP as a tanking function. Classes tend to be more function-based, while origins cover things like magic power source, divine/arcane/etc, and base-level proficiencies. You usually only get that once.)
(Also, the above details are fairly established, so I’m not really here to debate on that part of the system.)

Anyhow, let’s move on to the action economy. Here's how it evolved:

The action economy, prior to this, was somewhat 3e/4e-based. I started off using standard/move/verbal/minor, separating mental/verbal actions as a special action-type for lesser spells and also for commands, warlord/summoner/beastmaster-type orders for allies/minions. One function of the system as I devised it was Immediate actions, which allow you to spend actions from the upcoming turn (basically taking the Swift/Immediate shared concept and expanding it to any action type). 'Minor' shifted to more of an off-hand-action role, used for TWF and shield blocks and that sort of thing. I also renamed everything a few different ways (not bothering to put it here, avoiding excess confusion where I can).

From there, I shifted the 'move' action into a separate thing, more of a turn-based resource, 'mobility' as points that could be spent separate from the 'actions'. (This was partially inspired by the way 5e handles movement, allowing you to split it up as you will.) Most of the time, it just translated to straight movement, but could be used for special activities, like the counterpart to a 5-foot-step/shift was a 'careful step' that spent 3 mobility to move 1 yard without triggering threat. (I use a 1sq=1yard scale, so reach weapons are more common.)

In playtests, this was getting a bit cumbersome. Three major actions (mostly equal in use-weight), plus mobility. I like some of the complexity, I’m a mechanics-loving type, and the system is intentionally geared towards a high-mechanics player. But it still needed to be *elegant* in its complexity, start with simpler basic concepts, and add complexity as you build, so that you can understand it as you proceed rather than overloading a bunch at once. I felt I was losing that.

One of my goals with character design is reducing the assumed complexities of the rules. Stuff like charge, grapple, PF-combat-maneuver stuff. To an incoming player, that kind of stuff can be either lost on them (they don’t know it’s there unless told to look for it) or a set of weak/unexpected options (especially useless for those not built for it, like casters). So those functions are instead codified into purchased abilities (alongside a stunting system that allows you to ‘borrow’ them for special occasions). Basically, you start with the simpler stuff, and build into complexity as you need it.

I wanted to reflect that idea in combat actions, and the excessive actions weren’t helping there. Now, here's where I'm considering a major shift.

I’ve been looking at PF’s unchained action economy, and it gave me a bit of an idea.

I’m considering stripping down the basic character’s actions to just a single action plus mobility. The extra actions then get added on later, as a function/benefit of character level. 3rd and 5th level would add an extra action, while 7th and 9th would add bonus actions, which can be used by spending a character resource (basic energy, won’t get into details, just fairly common by that stage). So at max-level (level 10), you can have up to five actions a turn, but by then you’ve earned it.

Some specific activities would cost multiple actions (like the Unchained system’s acts). At low levels, you could use some kind of ‘delay/ready’ to save up your action from one turn to use in the next, for things that need more than one, or you could just split across, like concentrating. Some of the leader-class-type functionality would allow extra actions to be passed or granted.

One of my big questions, though, is whether it’s worth it to retain the specific action types, and be able to say that you couldn’t use multiple of the same type of action in a given round. (In that case, the specific action-costs for various tasks would become more bodypart-coded, so ‘move’ would return as a specific action for the legs, ‘main-hand’ and ‘off-hand’ would be codified, that sort of thing. Plus maybe some generic ‘any’ type actions that don’t block a specific further action.)

Alternately, ‘action’ is just the only type, and you can just do multiple of whatever you want to do. It’s simpler, but hard to say if it’s more effective. Mobility would still be a separate resource, mostly just used for movement and special tricks in lieu of movement.

Somewhat leaning towards the latter, but the multiple action type is interesting too. Just hard for me, inside the system at large, to see whether it might be worth it.

So what do you guys think? Please ask questions if you want any clarification, I'm happy to fill in details. (I've also asked my playtesters, but while they're happy to *play* anything, they're not as much into *debating* about A-or-B-style mechanics decisions.)