A comment from another thread I will quote below made me think about this.
What if we take the basis from the PF2 3-Action system and turn it into a 1 action per round system?
Here's the quote and the link to the original post
Anyway, your issue is with the whole system of round. How come that a character can make 3 (or more) attacks while his enemy isn't able to swing even once. It's the same case, the wizard reacts faster, and gets 3 actions because the system doesn't handle one-action rounds.
So, going from there, some things are obvious: We have to adapt to make it work, but I think it would not be too hard:
(I'm going to refer to 1 action rounds as 'ticks', while 3 action system rounds are 'rounds')
Spell durations (if they have any) are 3 ticks per round.
Sustain spell similarly lasts for 2 ticks after sustaining.
You can perform 1 action per tick.
Reactions have a 'cooldown' of 2 ticks.
1 action activities work as they do in the normal system.
2 or more action activities have to be spread over as many ticks as they require actions, but they can be discontinued at the start of your turn. You do not gain the full benefit of the activity if you don't finish it completely.
We would have to go through activities to determine partial effects, like Sudden Charge could grant a move, spells would be lost, and so on. Maybe that partial effect can even occur right then and there, like the character starting a Sudden Charge makes one move, and when completing the Sudden Charge activity on his next tick, he gains the second move and strike.
Before I delve in further, anyone see any major pitfalls I'm missing?
You haven't addressed MAP yet, and how that's handled could easily break this. Spells will also be a challenge, because something that you begin casting may not be relevant or possible by the time you finish, and partial effects for spells strikes me as unfeasible due to the quantity you'd have to pull (although I guess counting a save or attack for an incomplete spell as one degree better or worse might do).
It seems to me like a really interesting idea, but a few factors make me skeptical of how well it would run in practice. I think it'll take more time, due to more "priority transitions" and single action ticks requiring more mental bandwitdth to plan ahead while keeping track of activities and reactions. More importantly, a single action is rarely satisfying on its own. It's not going to feel good taking an action, spending an entire tick, to set up for a future one by drawing a weapon, moving into position, begining to cast a Spell, or raising a shield.
I'm not quite sure if this gets you much fun in exchange for slowing down combats significantly as you have to go around the whole table on each tick. Suddenly you're also tracking 'cooldowns', MAP over multiple minutes worth of other people's turns, spell durations after sustaining, and so on.
What's the advantage of this system?
So basically reduce the rounds to single 2 second rounds (ticks).
Sounds interesting but complicated to actually play. But it does open some interesting interactions. 2+action abilities can have a wind up/down actions.
For example: For example the first action of a spell could set up the spell, but it leaves the mage open to attacks or for the target to move. Meanwhile, the last action of something like power attack might leave the martial open to attacks or give the target the opportunity to escape.
Effectively implementing tells, over swings, actual feint/bluff (preparing an action that looks like X, but is actually Y), preparations (like chanting & stance shifts), etc.
This is an incredible idea for a gritty full on realism campaign.
I feel like MAP wouldnt be a part of this system except for when doing multiple attacks using 1 action. But the cooldowns are definetly a problem.
Right, MAP, didn't think of that. Thanks. Didn't say this would be easy.
As Temperans says, I think MAP would only be used with things like Twin Takedown or Flurry of Blows and such (that too would require a cooldown). With every participant of the fight being able to react to every action being taken, it's easier to (try to) get away from a heavy hitter if you are a squishy.
This very much would change the dynamic of combat, which can be seen as an advantage. Though for me it's a thought experiment right now, the idea for a homebrew.
I just thought of something that's not really going to work with ticks without major changes: quickened and slowed, for starters. (Though stunned seems to work without much change.) But I have an idea, that also encompasses afflictions, it may also sort of resolve the cooldowns:
After everyone had three ticks, we introduce a conditions phase, that replenishes reactions, flourishes and the like, and handles things like poisons, persistent damage and you can do your additional tick for being quickened then. Anyone slowed is losing their tick right after the conditions phase.
I think it could work. I would call the "ticks" "rounds" or better yet, "actions", and every 3 rounds/actions is a turn, signaling the reset of MAP.
For spells you could have them either have the 1sy action/round to start the spell, and then the 2nd to actually cast it, but that would allow enemies to move out of range or behind cover, or attack the caster before the spell is completed (which you may see as a feature instead of a bug), or you could have the spell go off on action/round 1 and then leave the caster stunned by the power of the spell for the second action. That way the target's could not react to the casting of the spell unless they are counterspelling it.
The idea was to use ticks as to differentiate it from the usual rounds.
Right, casting and counterspelling:
My idea would be that the effect of a spell only happens when the spell is completed (after as many ticks as actions of the spell). Attacking the spellcaster before he completes the spell doesn't disrupt the spell, unless it is a disrupting action (as disrupting now).
Targeting could happen at the start of casting or when completing, I'm not sure which one is not too punishing or OP.
Counterspelling should happen at the tick of completing the spell.
I think it would make for some nice dynamics:
GM: "The evil sorcerer is starting to cast a spell"
Player: "What spell? Does my sorcerer recognise it?"
GM "Too early to tell exactly, but it's an arcane evocation."
I used to think something like this would be neat, and ran into the same problem with MAP. If you remove it entirely, some combats will become just plain impossible, but it’s hard to work out a valuable alternative. Perhaps a new condition.
You gain the Attacking condition each time you take an Attack action. You suffer a multiple attack penalty equal to -5 if you’re Attacking 1 or -10 if you’re attacking 2 or higher. If you take an action without the Attack trait, your Attacking condition is reduced by 2.
It’s not pretty but it’s a draft, I guess.
Well for Quickened it could once per turn reduce the number of actions needed for an ability or strike. So you could attack twice in one action, block and attack, or cast a 2 action spell. Slow would do the opposite and make a 1 cost action cost 2.
Having the targeting of spell and ability be on the first action, would add some interesting dynamics, but spells would need more power to make up for the vulnerability. Not much but enough that it's worth to actually cast spells and just stand there getting hit.
A lot of wargames have at least two action rotations per "round" -- usually that's "everybody moves, in worst-initiative first order, then everybody shoots, in best-initiative first order" - that way the best initiative has the benefit of reacting after they see where the others are headed. (Been a while since I read Starfinder's ship combat rules, but I think they include this?)
Could replicate that in a 3-action system, though a little more awkward when the action rotations don't pre-determine what actions are allowed in each.
Off the cuff, maybe everyone gets two actions in initiative order, so the high-init characters can still get off their spells or charge, then last action happens in reverse initiative order, so that the high-init chars also have the chance to adjust their last action in response to whatever has happened.
Easier to track resetting conditions or counters on this down/up method than remembering to put a separate phase in every 3 times round the table. Probably plenty of complications I'm not dealing with here though. :)
Well, I found another issue I'm not sure how to solve: Raise shield.
While Shield block and Reactive shield and the like would work with the ticks, Raise shield just feels off somehow, if we make it last until the conditions phase. Instead of Raise shield being the action you take if you don't have anything better to do on your third action, it would (for most effect) be something you activate on your first tick.
@ediwir: Attacking condition: neat idea.
What did you have in mind for flourishes, afflictions and other 'once per round' things?
I think the conditions-tick is the solution I'd go to though. Probably with MAP resetting then as well. While cumbersome, it makes the homebrew behave very much like the normal system (and with very few additional rules, I think), yet giving it a more reactive feel.
@temperans: I actually don't want to mess with actions costs depending on slowed/quickened, I really think the additional 'conditions tick' and losing first tick is more in line with the current rules and can be more easily implemented (also I / the GM doesn't have to go over every activity and design a quickened/slowed version).
@Murph.: I see what you are after, and it is worth considering, especially regarding spells and targeting. But it's not what I had in mind when thinking about this homebrew.
But my mind had an idea when thinking about this, and casting spells and targeting spells:
A way to play a bit of risk/reward and still make the caster have to lose a bit if they don't complete the spell:
Idea is that in the tick the caster is starting his spell, he has to commit to a tradition and school, but not the exact spell. (That's also the info anyone can gain, would they Recall knowledge on that spellcasting.)
In the completion-tick of the spell the caster finishes the selection of the spell and the targeting, also counterspelling can occur, with the reaction of the counterspeller, as usual.
Should the casting of the spell not be completed, the spellcasting character can select any prepared spell-slot of 1st level or higher of a spell with the same tradition and school, or in the case of a spontaneous caster a slot of a level where the spellcaster knows a spell with the right tradition and school.
Thoughts on this? (I know, it's still not fully worked out, but right now I don't have a gaming group, so I couldn't test it, even if it was more than a thought excersise)
Yes the Shield Raise action is kind of troublesome. But if there is an Attacking condition there can be a Guarding condition, which means a potential source of variation. I wonder if there can be a way to make shield use more flexible?
For quickened/slowed do you mean something like: While quickened on your first tick you may use 2 actions; While slowed on your first tick you may only use free actions? Because that doesnt sound bad at all.
Having spellcasting be split between deciding the tradition and school for 1st tick and the actual spell for the last tick seems like a great idea and would make counter spells and recall knowledge a lot smoother.
For flourishes and other 1/round I feel that one solution is to implement the Fighter Open, Press, Close as tick names. So for example: you can use a Flourish once until your next Open. This also means you can have things like the Attacking condition reset on your Open, or negative conditions can be active until the opponents next Close. What do you think?
The whole system would crumble to dust. There are too many activities that spread on 2 actions. Being able, thanks to a move, to cancel a spell or a Power Attack is way to easy. You can also play the unreachable character, by just stepping out of the enemy reach at every turn. If the enemy doesn't have a reach weapon, he will never be able to attack you, even if he has more movement than you.
So, you would have to make 1-action move + attack. And we will be back to PF1...
But that's exactly what happens with things like Power Attack? If you under/overswing, even if you would do more damage on a hit, the enemy will use that moment of weakness to their advantage.
* P.S. 1-action move/attack already exists in PF2 it's called Sudden Charge, and there are variation where you can move much farther.
* P.S.S. The way it would return to PF1 is if everyone got AoO back, with AoO giving feats granting +1 reaction to AoO.