Here’s my very rough attempt at Fight without scripting. Playtest reports are below - hopefully more to follow.
In this version of Fight, participants no longer script their actions ahead of time. The overall sequence of play remains the same - Fights are broken down into Exchanges, each containing three Volleys.
From Volley to Volley, participants take turns attacking and defending. At least one character in the engagement must attack each Volley; the target may choose to take a defensive action. Any players not attacking or defending that Volley may take a non-offensive action of 1-2 Reflexes such as Assess, Draw Weapon, etc.
Characters still use their Reflexes to take actions but do not have to spread them evenly over an Exchange. It’s possible to use up all your Reflexes in one Volley, leaving none for the remainder of the Exchange.
All characters act independently. There is no requirement to group together for scripting. They may still swap Helping dice if needed.
After three Volleys, the Exchange is not quite over; any remaining Reflexes may be spent on one final, non-offensive action.
At the start of the second and subsequent Exchanges, characters Vie for Position, Disengage etc. as normal. The attacker for the first Volley is whoever was defending in the third Volley of the previous Exchange. Play continues until a winner is determined as in normal Fight.
The beginning of the Fight
After the players have decided to use these Fight rules, they work out which characters are engaging one another. Those characters then roll Positioning tests to see who has advantage, as in regular Fight.
Separate from positioning advantage is the question of who ‘takes’ the first Volley. In D&D, we’d say they have Initiative, but to avoid introducing new terms I say ‘your/our Volley’ or ‘their/the enemy’s Volley’.
Whoever takes the first Volley can often be worked out without rolling. Whoever has Surprise will also take the first Volley. One side of an engagement may allow the other to take the Volley, for tactical purposes - they may find an advantage in defending first.
If both sides want to take first Volley, it goes to whoever won the positioning test.
If neither side will take the Volley, they’re dancing around each other. Ask yourselves if you really want to Fight just yet - can this conflict be sorted out through roleplay, Duel of Wits or Bloody Versus? Just how badly do you want to win this fight, what Beliefs are at stake?
One side of an engagement takes the Volley even if only one of their characters is willing to Strike first.
Joe the Barbarian ignores his companions’ pleas and charges at the orcs, sword swinging. The adventurers now have the Volley whether they want it or not! The rest of the party now must decide if they will back him up or decline to attack this Volley. Words will be said over the campfire this evening, if they survive…
At the beginning of each Volley, any characters who are hesitating may reduce their hesitation by one point. If the Volley is theirs, they reduce it by two. Anyone who hesitates may not take an action this Volley - even in defense. If all characters on one side of an engagement are hesitating, they automatically cede that Volley to the other side and only reduce hesitation by one. When all of your party is hesitating, it’s really bad news!
(As in the second playtest report below, a character may use Social Action: Command at the beginning of a Volley to reduce allies’ hesitation - they may then attack as normal.)
Whoever has the Volley can now attack. One or more characters may attack, provided they didn’t hesitate. Attackers may choose one of the following: Strike, Great Strike, Beat, Disarm, Charge/Tackle, Lock, Push, Throw Character, Snapshot, Fire Gun/Crossbow, Release Bow, Throw Weapon.
Feint is no longer an option in this version of Fight.
Offensive spells may be used to attack but must cost a maxiumum of two Reflexes. If a spell takes longer, the magic-user must have started preparing it in previous Volleys, or have it readied.
All of these attacks may take one or two Reflexes. Regardless of the Reflexes spent, on their Volley characters may attack only once.
Once attacks are declared, the targets may choose whether to defend. Defense actions they may take are: Avoid, Block, Counterstrike, Change Stance: Defensive (counts as a Block), Block & Strike (requires Shield Training), Lock & Strike (special ability).
Certain attacks may be defended against by performing the same or similar attack in response: Lock can be defended with Lock, etc. Which attacks these are should be clear but if unsure, look for versus tests - a Strike can’t be answered with a Strike.
(Note in the second playtest below this restriction was not in use; I have tried a few times with and without.)
If the attacking character uses two actions, the defense is assumed to take place on the second action. A Great Strike cannot be interrupted by the defender Counterstriking first (better Avoid instead).
Unlike attacks and non-offensive actions, there is no limit to the number of defense actions a character can take during a Volley. As long as they have Reflexes to answer every attack, a skilled fighter can ward off many foes.
Even if a character does not have great Reflexes, they may still survive by scripting an Avoid. Remember, Avoids can be used against multiple attacks - Let It Ride is in effect.
Optional rule (ie. requires more playtesting): Avoid successes carry between Volleys, not just within one, until the character takes a different action. This will help nimble characters evade groups of opponents. Some situations may be better resolved by switching to the Chase rules.
For defensive actions that include a counterattack - Block & Strike, Counterstrike - resolve the Block portion of the defense first, then treat the Strike as a separate roll that may be defended. The attacker may spend a Reflex to Block or Avoid this counterattack. Attackers may not choose any other form of defense (otherwise they could Counterstrike and the Volley would get very messy).
Whether they’re an attacker or defender, there’s no limit to the number of times a character can defend. As long as they’re attacked and they have Reflexes remaining, they can defend.
What’s the point of allowing counterattacks if the attacker can always defend? It forces the attacker to use up their Reflexes. A knight with Shield Training and high Reflexes can use the Block & Strike defense repeatedly to tie up a large number of poorly trained attackers. Rather than flail at him with swords, the attackers will need to switch tactics to overwhelm him using Charges, Pushes and Locks. This is a situation where a character might want to cede the first Volley to the other side, even if they have the advantage.
Volleys: non-offensive actions
Once attacks and defenses have been sorted out, any other characters who have not yet acted this Volley may take a non-offensive (ie. not attack or defense actions). They might use the Volley to ready a weapon, aim, take a physical action, prepare a spell, etc. Actions may take at most two actions (ie. two off of Reflexes), otherwise the character will have to use multiple Volleys to complete it.
These actions can almost always be conducted simultaneously. Sometimes you’ll get competing actions that aren’t attacks, and you can use a versus test.
While Robard and Ssisz scuffle, Fidhean and Brechtanz both use a Physical Action to grab at The Sword. They must roll a versus Agility test to see who wins.
Unless they’re defending, characters may not take more than one action per Volley, the action costing 1-2 Reflexes. Attacking characters may not Strike and then Assess in one Volley (two Reflexes) but they may Great Strike (two Reflexes). Characters who decline to attack (or it isn’t their Volley) may Aim (one Reflex) or Draw Weapon (two Reflexes) but they can’t Assess and Aim (two Reflexes).
Meanwhile, in the same Volley a defending character could theoretically Block, Avoid, Block, Counterstrike (four Reflexes). It would be poor tactics but it is allowed in this version of Fight.
Characters may decline to take an action during a Volley, saving Reflexes for later in the Exchange. Actions in subsequent Volleys may still only use a maximum of two Reflexes regardless of how many they have remaining - excepting the end of the Exchange (see below).
Once every character in an engagement has attacked, defended, hesitated, performed a non-offensive action or declined to act, the Volley is over and the next Volley begins. If this was the third Volley, we move on to the end of the Exchange.
When a new Volley begins, the attacking side switches. Defenders now attack and vice versa. This will feel similar to D&D where combatants alternate Initiative.
Regardless of whose Volley it is, advantage does not change. Attackers may still have a disadvantage obstacle to overcome (remember that defensive actions never have an obstacle due to disadvantage). Participants still Vie for Position at the top of each Exchange but the result does not affect which side has the Volley (Initiative).
At its simplest, Fights between two equally matched opponents will alternate between Volleys. (Exchange One: I take advantage, then attack, defend, attack; in Exchange Two we vie for position, I again have advantage but now will defend, attack, defend.) In practise, one side may have the Volley two or more Volleys in a row. The other side may be hesitating, or have ceded the Volley by declining to attack.
Before ceding the Volley, players should consider how this will play out in future Volleys or Exchanges; what happens if they lose the Vie for Position test next Exchange and the other side takes first Volley? Again, if both sides are declining to take the Volley, consider halting the Fight for some roleplaying, Duel of Wits, licking of wounds, etc.
Apart from the attackers and defenders switching, the second and third Volleys in an Exchange proceed the same as the first. By the third Volley, some characters may have used up all their Reflexes on defensive actions; they will now Stand & Drool. Try to avoid this!
End of Exchange
When the third Volley has finished, the Exchange is not quite over. All characters now have the chance to take one last, non-offensive action. Unlike non-offensive actions taken during the Volleys, this action may use up any number of Reflexes the character has remaining.
This rule will be particularly useful to archers, crossbowmen and spellcasters: if they hang back in a fight, decline to spend their Reflexes during the Volleys and wait for the end of the Exchange, they’ll be able to reload their crossbow or bow, prepare a spell etc. Provided they aren’t attacked, they can easily spend all their Reflexes at once.
If this doesn’t seem right to you? Don’t let them! Attack the sorcerer first, use the positioning rules to chase them down and force them to use up their actions in defense. This is just sensible play, whether in D&D or Burning Wheel.
Regardless of the number of Reflexes spent, each character may only perform one action at the end of the Exchange. If you have three Reflexes left but really need to perform a particular physical action, the remaining Reflex is lost. Plan your actions better next time!
One spell counts as one action. A sorcerer can’t cast multiple spells at the end of the exchange. Similarly, Draw Weapon is one action per weapon. A fighter can’t spend four Reflexes to draw their dual scimitars.
I have tested these rules solo for several Fights and written up a couple of reports to illustrate how they work. I haven’t yet playtested with actual players - if I can swing it I will update the thread.