Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Evaluate(Opening) - Results from playtesting

This post is in part a repost of an earlier blog entry introducing the concept. I repost the key bits here for convenience, and add to this my observations after playtesting. 

You will find more on Evaluate on +Douglas Cole 's Melee Academy 301 - Evaluate.

The Serendipity Engine

Screen Shot of the alpha version on May 21st 2013


Simulate how combats are made of serendipitous opening that perceptive and skilled fighter take advantage of. One can fight according to a plan, or be nimble and go with the flow. This option provides the "flow". It is based on a web-based app, requiring nothing but a browser.


A skill contest between the Per-based melee combat skill of the attacker against the DX-based melee combat skill of the defender. In case of a success by the attacker, the attacker spot a combat opening with a benefit that is a function of the margin of success. If the margin is negative, but the Per-based skill check was successful, the bonus is applied to the next active defense.

To generate interesting openings, the random "table" is implemented as a web application. This has the potential to generate over a few hundreds different combinations of opening and conditions, and this number of permutations blows up into the thousands if we take into account the range of possible attack bonuses and defense penalties.


The phasing player may call an Evaluate(combat opening) as a melee combat move. The skill contest is resolved by the app, determine the success and generate an opening. In case of failure, the phasing player my be compelled to take a Do nothing action. In other cases, the phasing player is free to take advantage of the opening by converting the evaluate into a new action and immediately resolving it to exploit the opening, or take instead a Do Nothing or All-out defense action. The gamble here is that if the opening isn't desirable, the turn will be spent looking  for an opening and deciding not to take it.

  1. Declare an Evaluate (combat Opening)
  2. Per-skill vs DX-skill (handled by app)
  3. Pick Either of:
    1. Immediately convert to attack to exploit opening.
    2. Do Nothing

A critical fail on the Per-based skill check is narrated to the player like a critical success, but is converted instead into a bonus for the opponent as a bonus to any form of counter attacks.


This is not a new idea, if you want a low-tech table instead, try Sean Punch's post of SJG's forum, or +Douglas Cole 's post on Gaming Ballistic. Here follows some questions that I was looking for in playtesting this combat option:

Are players using the the Evaluate (opening)?

In my Face-to-Face game, yes. At first for novelty but then again because I think that my players enjoyed the unpredictability that it brought. As a disclosure, I tend to limit combat to a few very important once which tend to revolve themselves fairly quickly: the first strike often sets the tone for the rest of the combat.

When presented with an opening, are the players deciding to exploit the opening?

Usually yes. If the random opening generator suggested something that didn't make sense, there is a button to generate another opening without re-rolling the skill contest. 
  1. If not,
    1. Sometime, ending in the kneeled position isn't outweigh by the bonus conferred by the opening (especially for contest won by a small margin). 
  2. If so,
    1. I think that my players like how it sends the combat into unforeseen directions. It comes down to a gamble: waste a turn looking or get something more substantial than a plain Evaluate
In summary, I like this option and we find it fun. Rolling against this option gives an edge for perceptive characters and bring laughters all around.  I can't recall a single instance of a player getting a smile out of using the base Evaluate maneuver (let alone the whole table). It works really only against an anthropomorphic foe.

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