One of the limitations of pen and pencil RPGs as opposed to PC games is that actions in a round can be a bit ‘jerky’ – i.e. a character can take a full action and for that moment, they exist in a vacuum and it can be a bit strange when no-one else can react to them while they take their turn.
In a simple combat when opponents are just trading blows, it is not necessary. But in more complicated situations, it is necessary to enter ‘slow motion mode’ and the round is divided into two phases.
In the first phase, characters acting at normal (non magically enhanced) speeds must first ready an action on phase one and take the action on phase two.
To simplify the concept – let us take the example of a mage casting a spell against a warrior standing 15′ away.
The mage starts his incantation on round one phase one, triggering the combat round. The warrior in turn decides to ready a throwing dagger on his phase, but this was a critical mistake because on phase 2 the spell is cast and the warrior is paralyzed and falls to his knees.
If the warrior already had the dagger in his hand and was facing off against the mage, the situation would be different. On phase 1 the mage starts to chant, and in his turn the warrior throws the dagger and interrupts the spell..
On phase 2, the mage staggers back, wounded, and turns to flee – positioning himself. And on phase 2, the warrior draws his sword and begins to run towards him and we hit round 2.
With both characters now positioned to run, the mage uses a full action to run away while the warrior uses his action to chase him down the corridor, and the combat is ended in a couple of rounds when the mage comes to a closed door – and realizing he cannot open it before the warrior is upon him, collapses in a bleeding heap and begs the warrior for mercy..
When a character is preternaturally fast, combat automatically enters slow motion mode but the hastened character can take two partial actions instead of one. So in the first example, the hastened character could ready and throw his dagger in one action as the mage is chanting away..
Another example of the concept before we explore the actual mechanics of how it works – two warriors in a tavern get into a heated argument and one of them draws his sword, triggering the round to begin and entering slow motion mode.
One his action, warrior # 1 uses a partial action to draw his sword. Warrior #2, instead of drawing his sword, uses a partial action to attack with a head butt, rolls and hits, and warrior #1 takes damage and staggers backwards slightly.
Enraged, and with blood dripping into his eyes, he takes a wild swing, but warrior #2 ducks it and on his action draws his sword on phase 2. In the same phase, warrior #1 readies his weapon for another attack.
Round 2: Warrior one, with his sword readied, attacks again and this time he hits, opening up a nasty wound. In response, warrior # 1 on phase 1 draws and readies his own sword while in the same phase the barkeep shouts at them to stop and people nearby start to move and clear out of the way. In phase 2, warrior #1 readies his sword and warrior #2 attacks, slicing his opponent in the face and ending the fight.
If the fight was to go longer, the combat can switch to simple mode for the remainder of the fight, with warrior #1 attacking first and warrior #2 taking turns after him until the situation changes.
- Ready Weapon (draw a sword, notch an arrow and draw the bow)
- Take out and unstop a potion
- Begin Casting a Spell (incantation and somatic gesturing)
- Begin to run or move away (1 meter)
- Recover from an attack and ready for next attack
- Attack with a readied weapon
- Shoot an arrow or throw a spear/dagger/javelin, etc
- Complete casting a spell (after beginning casting a spell)
- Drink a readied potion
- Sheathe a sword
Free actions can be taken at any time on a characters phase
- Shout a command or speak up to 3 words (example, “Drop It!”, “Get Down!” etc)
- Spit, wipe blood from face, scream, yell, etc.
- Drop prone, drop to the ground, drop something held in the hand.
- Look behind, up, down or left or right.
- Gesture, point or