Over on the forums, there’s a thread on making Evaluate better. There frequently seems to be. Someone invoked my name somewhat kiddingly and asked if it was time for me to write Technical Evaluate.

Thinking about it, I wondered if what that would really look like is to use the rules for On Target instead. Roll an Evaluate just like rolling for Aim – a skill roll to look for an opening, followed by an effect roll to see how much of a bonus you can extract. (Note that using a skill roll for Evaluate has been examined before)

You’ll want to deal with a few considerations, though. The following musings aren’t even a teeny tiny bit playtested. I’m just rising to the bait of how to use effect rolls to replace evaluates.

The Attempt Roll

The roll to spot an opening should probably be related to weapon skill or ability to see openings – that feels like weapon-based training to me. It’s a sensory thing, so that feels like Perception. So maybe the attempt roll is a roll vs. Per-based weapon skill.

That means Joe Average with no training will be rolling against Per-5 or so, which probably means “you will never successfully spot an opening.” That might not be wrong – you’re just not going to “sneak one in” unless the foe does a committed attack or something.

What else could it be? Maybe just Perception, but I don’t think so. There’s a training component here. Tactics? Possibly – that would be a giant expansion of the skill, though, taking it into a “must have” where currently it’s more of a leadership skill.

Why not a Contest of Skills? Well . . . that’s a Feint. There’s a perfectly good mechanic in place for that already.

The Effect Roll

So, if you see an opening, what happens?

The first thing I think of is to simply roll 1d6 and allow that as a skill bonus. It can be traded for all the things skill can usually be traded for – bonuses to hit, penalties to defense, etc.

Another possibility would be to look up the base weapon skill on the thrust table, and roll that . . . but if you roll 1d-5 and roll a 3, yes, the net to-hit is -2, meaning that you are less likely to hit.

A final possibility would be to look up DX-based Tactics (which will frequently be DX-5, or pretty darn low) on the ST and Damage Table.

1d6 is probably the best of these, because if Joe Average rolls an evaluate and he’s untrained, he’s rolling against a poor 5 or less, with a 5% chance of success, meaning that basically it’s a fool’s errand. A flat Per roll gets you 50% chance, an average Evaluate bonus of 1.75 per turn, which is better than the usual return for that investment, and when it cashes, will make a big difference.

Hrm, though – with typical PC skills, which are often in the 12 to 22 range, you’re rapidly getting an evaluate bonus every turn. And a big one at that – 1d6 ain’t small, as it’s just a step below All-Out Attack in return value, in exchange for waiting a turn.

Execution

The evaluate would go off on the next attack, whenever it was made. It only lasts for one attack, of course. Maybe even it’s “your next attack, and expires after one turn or if you are forced to defend against another target or suffer any sort of damage. You have to maintain concentration on your foe.

Multiple turns of evaluate can’t really exist in this paradigm; when your turn comes up, you either attack with your bonus or lose it. If the bonus isn’t big enough for what you desire, you might evaluate again.

Countermeasures

This sort of thing is basically “free points” without some level of countermeasures. One way to do it would be some sort of DR equivalent, but based on the tightness of the foe’s defenses.

You could do a skill divisor, where you (say) take the foe’s skill and divide by (again, say) 5 to get a resistance. That basically gives “DR 2” against evaluates for folks with 10 weapon skill, and makes the expected value of the evaluate lower by 2 – so when you succeed, your usual hit bonus will be 1 or 2. That smacks of “wasting my turn,” and against someone with skill 20 or 25, you’re just screwed. Of course, maybe you should be. Maybe you could spend some skill, in the manner of Deceptive Attack, to lower that DR as well.

Not wild about that one, though.

Allowing some sort of instant “defense,” basically a Parry or Dodge that would represent closing off your lines of attack might work. A successful parry would negate the evaluate, the same way a parry negates the attack. Go right ahead and apply modifiers to this – Retreat would give +3 to closing off evaluation lines, and maybe you could even do a Riposte-type move, where you parry, but also give a bonus to your own Evaluate next turn. Shields, with their sight-line-obscuring surface area, would absolutely add their DB to the defense roll, and if your block was higher, use that.

The interesting thing about this one is that it will feel like combat. You “attack” at full skill, looking for an opening; your foe counters in the usual way, and if the counter fails, may need to declare All-Out Defense, or even retreat unless they want to risk their foe having that opening.

That invites counter-evaluating, of course. On your own turn, you can either make an attack roll and have a go at your foe normally, or make a counter-evaluate “attack” (probably using DX – it’s just a regular attack) and if successful, you can roll 1d and reduce your foe’s bonus somewhat. They probably still get an active defense, and if successful, they preserve the original bonus, and then will attack with that bonus intact the next turn.

The defender can also evaluate with intent to kill, basically trusting their actual defenses to save them, while evaluating for their own attack bonus in turn.

Multiple Foes

Unless you have Compartmentalized Mind or Altered Time Rate or some other enhanced tracking ability, you may only evaluate against a single foe at once.

Hrm, unless you make a Rapid Evaluate at -6? How far can we push the analogy?

You might be able to use your counter-evaluate to lower the bonus of multiple foes, though. Each counter evaluate attack would give you an extra d6 to roll to close off lines of attack and openings.

Parting Shot

The hopeful impact of this is that the bonus if successful is large enough to motivate folks to do it. The benefits of “defending” against the evaluate (which will be obvious, including the bonus rolled) are hopefully sufficient that you can get advance-retreat circling back and forth without a blow being struck. The variable impact of the evaluate should hopefully provide some interplay, and the fact that more than one person can Evaluate against a lone defender, but that defender can’t really counter more than one foe, will simulate being outnumbered as well as only being able to protect limited lines of attack.

Boy, if this got folks circling and probing without a frantic exchange of blows, it would accomplish what The Last Gasp sought to do without quite so much bookkeeping. There’s still bonus tracking, and if everyone is tracking everyone else with tons of evaluate going on, that might bog down the game, though theoretically no more so than Feint would be, and anyone evaluating currently still has to keep track of a bonus (though it is fixed per turn of evaluation at +1, +2 in some house rules).

I’d obviously want to playtest this one, but I kind of like how this feels. It has much of the same effects as a Feint, in that unbalanced weapons still preserve their defenses and weapons don’t become unready. Countering an evaluate doesn’t use an attack or unready a weapon either.

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