A fan site for the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game by Margaret Weis Productions
Because of the nature of PBEMs, and the difficulty of getting players to post Reaction Pools in a timely manner, I devised and implemented Simultaneous Combat rules in our Fearsome Avengers campaign that combine Action Pools with Reaction Pools.
These rules were designed specifically for PBEM/PBP campaigns. However, there is no reason you could not adapt them for live play.
In a contest between two or more people, all characters involved roll their Action dice pools simultaneously (in a PBEM / PBP, everyone submits their dice pools and the Watcher simply waits for every player participant to post before resolving the rolls). Whichever character rolls highest in their Action dice pool is considered to have landed his blow first (regardless of when they posted their dice roll). Anyone else in the descending chain of rolls who is not on the same side as the winning roll must spend a PP (or in the Watcher’s case, a die from the doom pool) to get to use their Effect Die, as though in reaction. Players on the winning side that rolled lower than the opposition must also spend a PP to use their Effect Die.
In any case, because this is all instantaneous, no stress nor complications inflicted should be included in any dice pools until the next Round.
Crusader, Morbius, and Nova are in a fight with Mr. Fear and Mr. Hyde. We’re in a straight up brawl, with all opponents trying to do Physical Stress. All players and the Watcher roll their dice pools, with the following results:
Nova rolled highest, so he gets to use his Effect Die for free (he struck first). Anyone on his side that rolled higher than or equal to the bad guys can do the same. That means Crusader gets to act as well, with a reduced Effect Die (see Tie Rolls, below). Morbius, though he’s on the same team as Nova and Crusader, rolled lower than the bad guys, so he, like the bad guys, would have to pay a cost (Plot Point/Doom Die) to use his Effect Die.
In the RAW, the defending character only gets to use his PP to use his Effect Die if the attacker’s action failed. It makes no sense, given the way the RAW is written, for the loser of the contest in the Simultaneous Combat Rules to get to use his Effect Die unmodified. Therefore, when the loser spends his 1 PP to use his Effect Die, that Effect Die must step back by -1.
To save time, everyone should let the Watcher know in advance if they plan to spend a PP to react if the villain they are fighting lands the blow ahead of them. If the players don’t, or if they have no PP to spare, the Watcher can assume the hero failed to react that Round.
If two opposed characters are tied on their dice pool totals, then both characters get to use their Effect Die but at -1 Step. They can spend a Plot Point / Doom Die to use it without stepping down the die, but that is a really weak use of Plot Points / Doom Die. Note that this stacks with the -1 Step to the Effect Die for responding second.
In the above example, Crusader tied with Mr. Fear, both having rolled a total of 19. Crusader’s D6 Effect Die thus reduced to D4. Mr. Fear’s D10 Effect Die, assuming the Watcher pays a Doom die to use it, reduced to D8 for the tie, and reduced again to D6 for having rolled lower than Nova.
If you are making an Area Attack and some of your targets roll higher than you and others lower, you only have to spend 1 PP to use all of your Area Attack Effect Die, not 1 PP per target. Likewise, the Watcher only has to spend one die from the Doom Pool for that same purpose.
This rules variant speeds up combat, but it has a cost. As the Watcher, you are taking a larger burden on yourself in that you have to roll all of the Watcher character rolls and any Doom Pool rolls all in one big clump, not on a per turn basis. If you have more than two Watcher characters in play that can snowball quickly into a lot of writing and dice rolling.
Also, this system takes some getting used to, and can lead to some confusion early on (and later on when players forget). In addition, you are trading flexibility for speed, and that might lead to some chaffing at the rules in some situations, especially when they want their character to attack but really want that Superhuman Durability D10 to come into play against their foes’s attacks and don’t want to waste a PP on using two Powers in a Power Set. Players will have to get used to thinking about whether their turn that Round is being played offensively or defensively, rather than having both offensive and defensive rolls in the same Round.
Despite these drawbacks, I’ve found good success in using Simultaneous Combat in my PBEM game. Try it in yours if you like, and see if it helps streamline and speed up your Events.