Alloy: Combat part 1

Alloy LogoCombat and other actions requiring more precise timing proceed as an ever increasing phase count starting with 1 until the need for discrete action times ends. Once it is determined when characters will take their initial actions, play proceeds with the first phase and each character’s action adds a varying amount to the count, deciding when next they can go. New rounds begin every 10 phases, but rounds are not as important in this game as they are in other role-playing games.


Each side in a confrontation chooses one leader. That leader makes opposed Intellect + Tactics rolls versus all the other side leaders. The winning side gets to add 3 to their initiative scores when determining initial action phase. If the winning side scored 3 or more successes more than any other side in the tactical showdown, the sides which fall into that category suffer a loss of 2 on their initiative scores when determining initial action phase.

Next, each group, or hero/enemy, chooses their combat entrance stance.

Combat Entrance Stance

Aggressive: The character has a base initiative score of 4, but their first action or combo is Diminished.

Cautious: The character has a base initiative score of 0, but their first action or combo is Augmented.

Neutral: The character has a base initiative score of 2 and no other adjustments.

Each character, or group, adds their base initiative, their Initiative score, and any bonus or penalty from their side’s tactics roll to determine their initiative total.The character(s) with the highest initiative total (their initiative base, individual initiative score, and their side’s tactical bonus, if any) starts on Phase 1. Each group further down the initial continuum starts 2 phases later until every group is assigned a first Phase. Note, in a big enough skirmish this means that some combatants may not get a turn within the first round.


If one side manages to ambush the other, the ambushed side is forced to take a neutral stance and suffers a -3 penalty to their initiative total.

Order Ties

Ties in order are solved by the initial tactics roll result. In other words, if your general was better, you go before anybody below with the same score. However, this doesn’t push characters out of phases, it simply decides who goes first when two characters may be in opposition and have the same action phase.

Entering the Action Later

When characters enter the skirmish after this initial round things work a little differently. Latecomers do not get the benefit of initial tactics, but they do get the benefit of a combat entrance stance. Add this base initiative plus their individual initiative score together. Subtract this Initiative total from 10, and add that number to 10 times the number of the next round.

As an example, if a character had an initiative score of 3, and they entered a combat area in round 5 with an aggressive stance they would add 3 and 4, and get a total of 7. Subtracting 7 from 10 gets a 3, a fairly low number. Adding this to 60 makes the character’s initial phase #63.

Actions and Action Cost

Every action imaginable has an action cost, even if that cost is 0. This cost is added to your current Phase to determine when you may act again this round. Each round represents roughly 30 seconds worth of time. When it is important to stagger events over longer periods of time, rounds can represent a minute or even 10 minutes worth of time. In such instances, character actions should be spaced out respectively. Because it is unrealistic to express this as characters slowing down, it’s probably better to explain it as long pauses between actions.

Cost Description
0 Free Action
1 Swift Action
3 Quick Action
6 Standard Action
10 Slow Action

Free Actions (0)
While you can take a Free Action and perform some other task during your Phase, you cannot take more than one Free Action during your phase. Free actions usually include examining a room for immediate dangers, saying a word, dropping an item you are holding in one hand, etc. Some Traits, or equipment, give characters reduced action costs, and if an action’s cost drops to 0 it becomes a Free Action, and is subject to the rule about using just one per phase.

Swift Actions (1)
Swift Actions are quick and take little time, not more than 4 seconds. This includes speaking a short phrase, or giving a short verbal command, pressing a button or throwing a switch. It can include slightly more complex actions such as yanking open an unlocked door, or grasping an adjacent object such as a rope. The most tactical swift action is preparing an item, such as drawing a weapon, or knocking an arrow. Granted, if it takes actual effort to prepare an item, such as loading a crossbow, that has a higher action cost. Ducking or diving behind nearby cover is an example of a Swift movement.

Quick Actions (3)
Quick Actions take between 7 and 8 seconds to attempt, and often require complex motions or more than reflexive thought. This includes leaping out of the way of an incoming attack or a charging animal, tackling an opponent, firing a ranged weapon without aiming well first, or making a quick but less potent melee attack. Moving to engage an opponent in close combat is an example of a Quick move. Regaining your feet is another example.

Standard Actions (6)
Standard Actions require between 12 and 15 seconds of time to attempt. This includes the bulk of actions characters can attempt in a round such as moving to leave close distance, making a powerful melee strike, aiming and then firing a ranged attack, performing rapid first aid, analyzing the current combat situation for tactical options, and so forth.

Slow Actions (10)
Slow Actions are just that, slow. They take extended time to begin or conclude, and can take up to half a minute to complete. Great examples of slow actions include lifting and moving a heavy object, running flat out and ignoring other options in favor of speed (and crossing a short distance without using cover), unlocking a locked door, attempting to break down a barred door, or attempting to puzzle out a riddle or secret door latch. Any action that would be better suited to be performed outside of combat strictly due to distractions and not wishing to be rushed, usually falls into the slow action category.

Extended Actions (Blocks of 10)
Extended Actions take long periods of time to finish, but these time periods are broken down into blocks of 10 action cost because the action may be something that can be finished if the character does something else for a while, in which case the action is paused, not interrupted. Examples of Extended Actions are attempts to make a careful study of a character’s current health, or tying disparate structures together to make a bulwark. These are actions usually measured in minutes which cannot or have not been rushed in order to carry them out in the middle of combat.

Adjusted Action Costs
Maneuvers can adjust the action cost of those who use then, or those they are used upon. Also, certain weapons are bulkier and harder to wield, or perfectly balanced or light and thus adjust Action Cost as well. In some of these cases, using the weapon two-handed when you do not need to, mitigates this adjustment. Some others, such as greatswords, just have higher action costs in general than smaller weapons. This is represented in the game by an Action Cost Modifier, often displayed as AC +X or AC -X. Keep in mind that negative numbers lower action cost, and positive numbers raise it. When an Action Cost Modifier is applied, that becomes the new action cost for the action. It does not mean that a second smaller action is added into the mix, as would be the case with combos.

Adjudicating Action Costs
The intent of this initiative system is to add an element of unpredictability, tactical control, and risk and reward to the game system. It is not meant to nickel and dime the heroes out of performing cool stunts etc. As the Game Master you do not have to cost out every single simple action leading up to something more significant. There is no reason to charge a hero 1 AC for drawing their bastard sword, another 1 AC for taking a two-hand grip, and another 1 AC to size up which enemy looks worst hurt before launching a Strong Strike against the less injured one.

The actions regarding the sword could all fall under AC 1 Preparing a Weapon, because it’s not a change made in the heat of battle. Likewise, to assess the combat readiness of a foe should not be made into a high cost action unless the hero is making a roll to truly examine their combat capabilities and not just find out which is limping or bleeding the most.


About Byron D. Molix

I am an information technology professional in Missouri. I've been an avid fan of fantasy and science fiction novels, comic books, pen and paper role-playing games, computer games and console video games for the last two decades. My dream would be to one day make a comfortable living while having the time to pursue writing (novels, rpgs, etc.) as a full-time hobby.

Posted on May 9, 2015, in Alloy, Gaming and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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