Frame combat takes place on a hexagonal playing field, with all characters piloting their respective Frames in a strategic engagement against an enemy force. Depending on the desired mode of play, these encounters can be attuned for pre-planned scripted engagements, or they can be entirely random. Using interlocking hex tiles from Heroscape is a very effective way to execute both, particularly the latter, allowing a handful of hexes to be thrown into a random configuration within 5 minutes or less.
As a note, I personally recommend using Virtualscape to create your maps.
For the main campaign model of Relic Frame, frame combat serves as a bold punctuation to the roleplaying element. Each encounter is preceeded by a preparation phase, usually in the guise of a formal briefing, during which the PCs are given an opportunity to analyze enemy units, choose equipment, and come up with a plan.
The GM dictates how much information the players may have access to during this phase. If the PCs are staging a planned assault on a fortified base, the GM may choose to reveal a detailed map of enemy unit locations. However, if a mission involves, say, infiltrating a secret facility, it may be more appropriate for the GM to display a basic map with no explicit details.
The preparation stage is also meant to allow players time to configure their frames before a battle. This is again left to the discretion of the GM, who may allow the players to take their time, or might instead decide to ambush the players, leaving them stuck in whatever configuration they used last.
Once preparation has been completed, unit placement must be determined. Positions can be decided by the GM prior to the battle, or the players may be given the opportunity to place their own units depending on what’s appropriate.
Combat Rolls – Each weapon now has an accuracy rating, usually a number between 1 and 20. This number reflects the weapon’s ability to hit targets at range. When attacking with a weapon, add the weapon’s accuracy rating to the number of spaces away from the target, unless adjacent to the target (see Point Blank Rating). The total number is the number that must be rolled on a d20 in order to score a hit. This means that the lower a weapon’s accuracy rating, the higher the weapon’s chance to hit a target.
For example, if the weapon you are using has an accuracy rating of 10 and your target is 5 spaces away, then the base DC to hit that target would be 15. The same attack made using a weapon with an accuracy rating of 8 would have a base DC of 13. This reflects the total before adding modifiers. If the DC value after modifiers is greater than 20, it is impossible to hit the target at that range.
Weapons also now have level requirements. This is explained further in the next section.
Weapon Skill Rating/Level – Players now have Weapon Skill Rating and Weapon Skill Level statistics built into their frame’s data sheet.
Skill Rating refers to a character’s ability to effectively use that type of weapon in battle. This number is added to the roll when making a DC to hit a target with that specific weapon type.
Skill Level refers to a frame’s ability to interface with targeting software. To use more sophisticated weaponry with higher levels, the frame’s Weapon Skill Level with that weapon type must usually meet a certain requirement. The Skill Level of a specific weapon type is raised when that weapon’s Skill Rating has reached 3.
Characters may raise their Weapon Skill Rating with a particular weapon type by using that type of weapon in battle. When a specific type of weapon is used by a character at least once during an engagement, their Rating with that type of weapon is permanently increased by 1 after combat has ended.
Point Blank Rating – Ranged weapons now have a Point Blank Rating. This value must be used when making an attack versus any adjacent target. This value is not modified by Weapon Skill Rating.
Line of Sight – Friendly and enemy units alike now obscure line of sight. With the exception of attacks, any ability requiring a clear line of sight will be rendered unusable or become negated when line of sight is blocked by enemy or friendly frames, or any similarly sized unit. This does not include tanks, most of which are too low to actually present themselves as an obstacle. Units that occupy higher terrain do not have their line of sight blocked by other units, as they are able to fire over them easily. This exception may not apply to certain larger units.
Attacks blocked by other units may still be made against the intended target. However, the following rules apply:
- The attack suffers a -2 Weapon Skill Rating penalty.
- If the attack misses the intended target, the unit blocking line of sight takes 50% weapon damage. This applies even if the blocking unit is friendly, so check your fire!
- If the attack is successful, calculate damage against the intended target normally.
Engagement – When a unit attacks another unit within melee combat range, both units become engaged regardless of whether or not the attack is made with a melee weapon, and regardless of whether or not the attack is successful. Engagement affects rules having to do with flanking, overwhelming, and suppressing units. This is explained more thoroughly in the following sections.
Flanking – Units may now be flanked. Attacks made against engaged units by any unit that isn’t currently engaged with that target are called flank attacks, and recieve a +2 bonus to Weapon Skill Rating. Once a unit is considered to be engaged with a second attacker, all attacks made by the attacker involved in the initial engagement are also considered to be flank attacks.
Overwhelming – A unit that is attacked by a third enemy while it is already engaged by two enemies simultaneously becomes overwhelmed. All attacks made against that unit recieve a +3 bonus to Weapon Skill Rating, and each attacker deals 10% bonus damage (decimals are rounded up from .5). Note: The third attacker does not have to enter melee range, or trigger an engagement. Any standard attack that causes damage will trigger the Overwhelemed effect. The attack must be successful, and cause damage > 0.
Disengagement – A unit may attempt to break an engagement by simply moving away from its attacker. This does not have immediate consequences. However, any attack made against the disengaging unit by the unit it is fleeing from is considered to be an Attack of Opportunity.
Attack of Opportunity – Attacks of Opportunity recieve a +1 bonus to Weapon Skill Rating. If the attack is successful, it is an automatic critical. Roll damage appropriately.
Suppression – Any successful ranged attack against a unit that is not behind cover becomes suppressed. While suppressed, the unit is considered to be engaged with its ranged attacker until it either moves to cover, or the same attacker does not successfully attack the unit on its following turn. Note: A successful ranged attack must cause damage > 0 to trigger this effect.
Lock-On – This weapon ability has now been modified with consideration to new line of sight rules.
- Lock-on is now broken if an allied or enemy unit is blocking line of sight with the target at the start of your next turn.
- Successful lock-ons are now an automatic hit, unless the roll is a critical failure.
Cover – Rules for the use of cover have been modified. A unit is considered to be in cover if it is behind terrain at least 1 level higher than itself. Cover benefits apply against any attacker whose line of sight passes through the terrain.
The benefits of cover are now as follows:
- A unit behind cover may not be suppressed by ranged attacks.
- A unit behind cover may not be flanked by ranged attackers.
- A unit behind cover recieves 10% damage mitigation against ranged attacks.
- Attacks made against a unit behind cover recieve a -1 penalty to their Weapon Skill Rating.
- Ranged critical strikes against a unit behind cover have their bonus damage reduced by 50%.
- Cover provides no bonus whatsoever against melee effects and damage.