Conflict resolution, take 3

After taking some time off and considering the previous entries in the system, this are my latest thoughts around conflict resolution for an RPG system.

To summarize my previous goals:

  1. The system should allow to strategy and semi-predictable outcomes. It should be neither totally random (dice rolls) or totally predictable).
  2. If the order of play can’t be determined by the storytelling and fiction of the world, a system will allow the players to determine the order.
  3. All action takes place via the players. The DM never acts, except as a reaction to the outcome of a player’s action.
  4. The result of an action will be either a full success, mixed result, or failure.

Not a goal, but an additional restriction: The system should work with a single, standard 52 card deck. No special supplies are required.

Conflict Begins

  1. All engaged characters are dealt a hand of 3 (secret) cards.

Order of Play

  1. The general preference is for storytelling and fiction to determine the order. If the group is walking down a hallway single file, the character in front encounters danger first, and thus is first to act/react unless they choose to delay their action. If one character is about to act on another character who is asleep, then the sleeping character goes second. If two characters are genuinely attempting to act simultaneously (i.e. approaching each other around a blind corner), or attempting to act simultaneously to another stimuli (i.e. reacting first to a signal) – then continue with this set of steps.
  2. Any characters who attempt to act at the same time place a card from their hand face down. 
  3. When all cards are placed, they are revealed. The player with the highest card goes first. For the purposes of determining order, Aces are high followed by Kings, Queens, Jacks, then 10s and all other numbered cards in descending order.
  4. If there is a tie, another card is dealt to the tied players, and the process repeats.
  5. If more than two players are attempting to move simultaneously, non-tied players go in order of their cards. Then the tied players re-draw. For example, 4 players play, in order, a King, a nine, a nine, and a five. Player one (King) goes first, then Player 4. Players 2 & 3 (who both played a 9) redraw, and play 10 and 2, respectively.. The final order is Player 1 (King), Player 4 (5), Player 2 (10), then Player 3 (2). All cards played until this point are discarded.
  6. Players who go through these steps DO NOT draw back up to 3 cards.

Resolve action

  1. The desired action is described in story terms, and aligned to a player character’s skill or action. The DM gets final say on validity.
  2. The player plays 2 cards from their hand face up in front of themselves. If they have a card remaining in their hand, it is set aside for now (but not discarded).
  3. The player plays additional cards as desired by drawing from the top of the deck. The goal is to meet or exceed a target without going over 21.
  4. Target for mixed result is 15. Target for a full success is 17. Going over 21 is an automatic failure.
  5. If you get 21 from the 2 cards from your hand (aka, blackjack) you have an automatic full success, which cannot be interfered with.

Modifiers & Assistance

  1. Modifiers come from a character’s innate skills, the surrounding environment, or other players.
  2. Modifiers increment or decrement the target by 1. So 2x (-1) modifiers, make the target for a mixed success 13, or full success 15.
  3. One player involved in the scene or action may choose to assist or hinder at any time before the action is resolved by replacing the last card played with one card from their hand. Each action may only be assisted/hindered once, and each player may only do this once per round.
  4. Some skills may allow you to “hold” a card going forward. This essentially allows you to assist yourself. Once per action you may spend one hold to replace the last card played with the one remaining card in your hand (if you have one) or draw a card from the deck, and replace the last card played if it is beneficial (the card that was removed from play will be discarded.

After all players have gone (1 full round) the DM deals enough cards to return all players to 3 cards in hand. When the deck runs empty, reshuffle all discarded cards.

I feel pretty good about this system, though the numbers may need to be adjusted. What say, you, internet? Reasonable next steps to check the validity of this system would be some simple dogfooding, and then take an Apocalypse World (or derivative system like Dungeon World or The Sprawl) adventure and rework it using this system.