About Facing and the Grid
on Nov. 14, 2012, 10:31 a.m.
One element of the Saga Machine system that I've been debating the utility of is that of facing in combat. Currently, when using tactical positioning in combat, the system tracks which space the character is facing. The idea behind this is that tracking facing is both a nod to realism and allows for the GM to easily determine when to apply modifiers based on where a character might be facing. Facing also, in theory, makes it easier to have an easy mechanical hook to apply the Sneak Attack trait, as well as to handle situations where staring at an object has a significant consequence (such as seeing Medusa or the gaze of a basilisk). It also can tie into systems such as for vehicles, where a moving object has a clear direction and limited ability to turn.
On the downside, facing is one more thing to track in combat, and one more thing that requires separate rules between using a hex grid and a square grid. Furthermore, it is something to track that rarely ever makes a difference in combat outside of the placement of a character's zone of control, and a set of rules that I find I often forget during play.
So, as you can see, there are both good arguments for and against facing.
Removing facing from the game would have several effects. On the plus side, zone of control might go from being an arc in front of the character to being within X number of spaces around the character. This would mean that determining if someone is within zone of control would go from a function of knowing the correct zone of control template and counting distance, to simply counting distance.
On the downside, removing facing would mean some facing-like system would have to be tacked on for handling moving vehicles, and creatures with a gaze effect (like the basilisk) would have it's effect largely reduced to a -4 penalty from looking away--which is pretty mechanically identical to being invisible, except perhaps with a more nasty effect if you're caught by surprise and don't have time to look away.
While we're all mulling over the question of facing, this may be a good opportunity to mull over one more change we're considering: Doing away with the grid-specific rules. The argument for doing this goes like so: If you flip through the Saga Machine core rulebook and look at the Combat Module, you'll see a lot of rules with two different official versions--one when operating on a hex grid and one when operating on a square grid. This leads to different things like zones of control of burst templates covering different numbers of spaces, depending on the grid the group is playing with. By doing away with the grids, we could make thing simpler.
What do we mean by that? It's simple. Rather than saying "the cone extends five spaces from the space you're facing in a template pattern as shown in this diagram for hex grids and this diagram for square grids" we can simply say "the cone extends out fron you in a 120 degree arc for 5 meters/yards." This is not to say you can't play with a hex grid or a square grid, rather it leaves figuring out which spaces are effected by that cone up to the GM and players, rather than trying to give two different and very specific sets of rules for doing so. Most of the time who's effected will be obvious anyway. This is something of a tradeoff, naturally: We're trading explicit precision for reduced complexity.
Gridless rules could be simplified further by reducing burst effect to standard sizes rather than variable lengths. So, for example, there could be a standard set of small, medium and large bursts. And there are a number of systems that do exactly this. What's lost, however, is the scalability of powers beyond this. In Saga Machine currently you could, in theory, have a Burst 15 effect for a truly awesome blast of power. And that's cool; but in my experience, it's rare in practice. (Especially as a Blast 15 would be a -45 penalty to the power use roll.)
Now, neither of these changes are set in stone, but they are things I'm considering at this point.