This is a DRAFT of a system possibility.
The battle system is used to provide immediate resolution to story-scale conflicts — specifically, military conflicts. The flagpole is used to provide guidance for long-term story-scale conflicts. Contests are used to provide immediate resolution to scene-scale conflicts. A battle, on the other hand, takes into account story-scale resources, while providing immediate resolution via a scene or a set of scenes. A battle combines the use of individual stuff (stats, gifts, bonus tokens, etc.), with the use of story-scale tokens.
Or, put simplistically: A battle is what you use when you've got a big pile of tokens representing armies, and the other guy has a big pile of tokens representing armies, and you want to figure out what happens, with the overall troop strength modified by PC heroics.
Note that a battle is not necessarily intended to represent an entire war. It might represent, literally, a battle — perhaps one evening of play in which there is a general battlefield skirmish between troops, punctuated by one or two PC heroic gambits. It can be used to represent an entire war, but we strongly encourage you to fight several battles, each with limited consequences, instead.
Every battle has two principal opponents, known as commanders. The battle is divided into a set of rounds, each of which is a skirmish, or a gambit. A skirmish is a straightforward match-up of story-scale tokens (resource tokens, tokens with the story-token powerbit, and so forth); it is effectively a fight between NPC groups. A gambit is a daring, individual action that results in some significant impact to the battle; it is a direct PC vs. PC activity, but multiple players can combine their efforts on a gambit. The winner of a skirmish or a gambit scores a point for winning the round.
At the beginning of a battle, each commander is required to designate a set of pre-committed skirmish tokens (the "pre-commitment pool"). These tokens are set aside; they are the forces that are committed to the theatre. (Additional forces may be brought into skirmishes, including newly-created tokens, but they are of lesser importance, and can only be used as reserves.) When the battle is over, all pre-committed tokens are expended, as this is considered to be a story-significant use, even if these tokens never fought in a skirmish.
A battle finishes with a showdown. A showdown is a one-on-one, PC vs. PC contest between the commanders. Each PC receives a bonus to this showdown based on the points their side scored in the previous rounds. Its consequences serve to resolve the entire conflict.
Because battles are divided into rounds, multiple simultaneous resolutions can potentially happen, and in many cases, should happen. For instance, one character from a side could be commanding a group of knights and archers fighting a straight-up skirmish, while a half-dozen other people are split between two gambits (trying to blow up the siege engines, trying to capture the enemy headquarters, etc.). There might be subsequent rounds that follow those in sequence, of course; i.e., the fights outside the gates are resolved, the gates have been breached, and now an assault on the city follows.
There are several ways of bringing a battle to an end.
- Round limit. In advance of the start of the battle, the commanders must agree that after a certain number of rounds, that a showdown will occur no matter what. This prevents battles from dragging on indefinitely.
- Exhaustion of one side's pre-commitment pool. If one side loses all of their pre-committed tokens, a showdown must occur; the side with no tokens left incurs a substantial penalty on this showdown.
- Surrender. The side that is currently losing can choose to "surrender", causing a showdown to occur; the surrendering side incurs a penalty on this showdown, though.
A skirmish works as follows:
- Both commanders agree on a scenario — for instance, "Who holds the high pass?", perhaps with some color detail for the scene. Each commander chooses a captain, who will represent his side for the skirmish. The captain is the IC leader of these troops.
- Each captain chooses a stat and gifts to use for the scenario, "blind". A handshake is done, verifying the reasonability of these gifts.
- Each side commits, "blind", a set of story-scale tokens. Each side divides their own tokens into two groups, a main group and a reserve group. Main-group tokens must come from the pre-commitment pool. Main-group tokens are considered slightly stronger than reserve tokens.
- A handshake is done, allowing both sides to verify that all the tokens used are reasonable; the opponents are not told which tokens are main and which are reserve.
- A total damage-done figure is calculated for each side, based on the strength of the tokens and modifications from gifts. Each player must choose to lose tokens from their side, equal to or greater than the number of points of damage that they've taken. These tokens are marked as expended, along with any gift-based tokens that do not have the persistent powerbit.
- The players will be told who is going to win if the reserves are not committed. Each player is then given the choice of whether or not to commit their reserves.
- If either player commits their reserve, "surviving" tokens, along with reserves committed, are considered along with modifications from gifts, and a new damage-done total is calculated. Again, each player must choose to tokens to lose, and non-persistent tokens are expended.
- A winner is declared, with consequences to the loser. As with all consequences, these are subject to negotiation and can be creative; i.e., it could be "Corwin's forces hold the pass", but it could just as easily be, "A critical bridge over the pass is destroyed," or "Eric's forces are demoralized".
- The scene proceeds, using the troop losses, flow of the battle between main and reserve forces, and consequences as guidance for the color of the scene.
A gambit works as follows:
- Both commanders agree on a scenario, for instance, "Julian leads a daring raid behind enemy lines, in order to burn their supplies", perhaps with some color detail for the scene. Each commander chooses a captain to represent his side.
- Each captain chooses the members of his team.
- Each side chooses stats and gifts to use, as appropriate. This is done "blind", and the captains handshake the gifts, in all cases.
- A mass comparison is done. A winner is determined, scoring a point for the round. Consequences are handed out to players on both sides.
- The scene proceeds, using the color from the gifts used and comparison results to guide how it goes.
Conducting a Battle
A battle is broken into the following stages:
- Commanders do the general battle set-up.
- Commanders place tokens in their pre-commitment pool. This is known as "staging".
- Commanders set up at least one skirmish, and optionally, gambits.
- The initial skirmishes and gambits are resolved by their captains.
- If a showdown condition has not been reached, the commanders agree on additional rounds.
- Resolve rounds until a showdown condition is reached.
- Commanders do their showdown.
These mechanics should be handled to as great an extent as possible in advance of any scenes. All code is set up so that commands can be used while the other side is off-line, with appropriate notifications made. The general battle set-up and staging should absolutely be done ahead of time, along with the set-up of the initial skirmish (and initial gambits, if any). A strong argument can also be made that all skirmish and gambit mechanics should be resolved prior to the actual scene, as well.
Setting Up a Battle
Before initiating a battle, the two commanders should talk. What's at stake should be clearly articulated, as should the scope of the conflict and what will be considered fair and unfair. If you intend to agree on restrictions like "no troops brought in after the battle is initiated", "there will be no more than one skirmish and two gambits", "no technologically-based troops can be used in this shadow", or the like, this is the time to discuss them. This is also a good time to discuss what the specific rounds will be, if the parties have strong ideas for them.
One commander initiates the battle with +battle/invite player = title
The other commander will be asked to handshake this.
You will be given a battle ID. Use +battle battle-ID to see the status of a battle.
You'll need to write a description of the battle. This should set out the scope, stakes, and any special rules that you've agreed to. Only one of you can edit the battle description at a time. Use +battle/desc battle-ID to do this; it will invoke the editor.
You will also need to agree on the maximum number of rounds. Set this with +battle/rounds battle-ID = rounds
Finally, you'll need to agree on a policy for whether or not skirmish tokens created after the start of the battle are allowed. This affects only reserve skirmish forces, not any tokens used in comparisons. (Main skirmish forces are drawn from the pre-committed pool, and thus must always pre-exist.) There are three possibilities:
- none. All skirmish reserves must have been created prior to the start of the battle.
- skirmish. All skirmish reserves must have been created prior to the set-up of this particular skirmish.
- any. Skirmish reserves can have been created at any time.
To set a policy, use: +battle/reserves battle-ID = none-skirmish-or-any
When you're satisfied, use +battle/ok battle-ID to sign off. If the desc, rounds, or token policy is changed, sign-offs will automatically be cleared. When both of you sign off, you're ready to move on to the next stage.
Staging: Pre-Committing Tokens
Each commander will now enter the staging phase. In this phase, each commander will choose a set of tokens to commit to the battle. Neither side will be told what the other chose.
You can choose any number of story-scope tokens (tokens that would be valid for flagpole use). The tokens must be in your possession. They can be tokens authored by you, or by other people. You cannot use tokens created by any of your alts. You can only use tokens from one of a given player's characters; someone cannot give you tokens from multiple alts. Finally, a token must have been authored by a currently-active character (defined as someone who has been online within the last two weeks, and who has been actively playing scenes during the past month) or by a totally inactive character (a character who is retired, or who hasn't been logged in for more than 3 months), or the token must be more than six months old. These restrictions are automatically enforced.
Commit a token using +battle/commit battle-ID = token-ID
Use +battle/commit battle-ID to see what you have committed.
When you're done, use +battle/ok battle-ID to continue. When both of you are done, you'll move on to the next stage.
Preparing a Skirmish or Gambit
A commander can propose a skirmish with the command +round/skirmish battle-ID = title
A commander can propose a gambit with the command +round/gambit battle-ID = title
The other commander will be asked to handshake adding this skirmish or gambit.
You will receive a round number. You can view a round with +round battle-ID
Next, you'll need to agree on the scenario, as well as any special rules for the round. These things go into the round's description, which you can edit with +round/desc battle-ID/round
When there's a description you can agree on, use +round/ok battle-ID/round to sign off on it. If the description is changed, signoffs will automatically be cleared.
Once a description has been agreed upon, both commanders must choose a captain. Captains can be chosen and changed at any time prior to the commencement of the round resolution. They do not require a handshake.
To set the captain, use +round/captain battle-ID/round = player
When both commanders have designated captains, the round is ready, and can be commenced by the captains whenever they wish. The commanders can prepare the entire battle's worth of rounds in advance, if they want. Commanders can choose to captain rounds directly, if they wish, rather than delegating the captaincy to others.
Resolving a Skirmish
When the captains are ready to begin, one of them initiates the skirmish. Each captain serves as the IC leader for his side, and he chooses a stat and gifts that he'll use for it, as well as an optional bonus token, just like he would in a +compare contest.
The command is: +skirmish battle-ID/round using stat with optional-gifts optional-token
The opposing captain will be asked to handshake the gift and token use; the stat used is not revealed.
Now, both sides choose tokens to use from their main force, and their reserve force. Tokens for the main force must be from the pool of pre-committed tokens already staged by their commander. Tokens for the reserve force can be from that pool, or can be any token that the captain is holding (subject to the same limitations of alts, activity, etc. that pre-committed tokens are subject to).
To choose a token for the main force, use +skirmish/main battle-ID/round = token-ID
To choose a token for the reserve force, use +skirmish/reserve battle-ID/round = token-ID
Use +skirmish/main battle-ID and +skirmish/reserve battle-ID to see your current token choices.
When you're done choosing the tokens, use +skirmish/ok battle-ID/round to continue.
The system will now reveal what stats were used, and tell you whose command of their troops is superior, as well as the degree of luck involved, in a fashion similar to a +compare. The bonus tokens, as well as any main-force tokens created with gifts that aren't persistent, are expended.
Next, the system will determine the damage inflicted by both sides, during the main portion of the skirmish, and indicate who is currently winning. You will be shown a numeric value for the strength of each of the tokens that you committed, and you will be required to "kill" tokens equal to or greater than the value of the damage. (Note that these kills come out of the tokens that haven't been expended yet.)
Use +skirmish/kill battle-ID/round = token-ID to select a token for "death".
When you're done choosing the tokens, use +skirmish/ok battle-ID/round to continue.
You may, at this point, choose to begin playing out the skirmish, based on the resolution that you've gotten so far. If you do so, then you should play through to some crucial turning point, where the captains must make a decision as to whether to commit the rest of their forces.
You will now be asked whether or not you want to commit your reserve. The resolution will use your surviving main force, as well as all of the tokens in your reserve. Use +skirmish/commit battle-ID/round = yes-or-no to indicate whether or not you're committing your reserve.
If at least one of you chose to commit your reserve, you will again be given a numeric value for damage, and required to "kill" tokens, as you did before.
You will be told who won the round, and a point will be credited to the winner. You should play out the scene appropriately, based on the color of the resolution.
Resolving a Gambit
A captain begins by choosing the members of his side, with +gambit/invite battle/round = player-list
All invited players must be connected, and in the same room as the captain.
Each invited player must handshake the invitation.
When both captains have chosen their sides, they each use +gambit/ok
This moves everyone into the next stage.
Each player can choose a stat, gifts, and an optional bonus token, just like they would in a +compare.
The command is: +gambit battle-ID/round using stat with optional-gifts optional-token
When everyone is done, the captains are shown each set of gifts-plus-token in turn, and asked to handshake them. A captain can reject an individual player's choices without forcing everyone to start over.
When all the handshakes are done, a resolution is calculated. A point is scored for the winner, and consequences are handed out where appropriate.
The commander of one side can surrender at any time, triggering a showdown condition.
The command is: +battle/surrender battle-ID
Resolving a Showdown
When a showdown condition is triggered, a showdown occurs after any currently-incomplete rounds are resolved. A showdown occurs IC, between the two commanders, and it is essentially equivalent to a special +compare.
Before this is done, the commanders should discuss, OOC, the circumstances of the showdown. The ultimate stakes should have already been agreed to as part of the initial battle negotiation. They can begin a scene and do the mechanical resolution mid-way, or do the resolution in advance, just as would be true with a +compare.
The command is: +battle/showdown battle-ID using stat with optional-gifts optional-token
A comparison will done, modified by the points scored in the rounds, and a winner determined.
This will end the battle, and expend any remaining tokens in the pre-commitment pool.