Our latest game is set in 1930s Shanghai, and the flavor has been a cross between Indiana Jones, noir gangster, and chop socky action…while I’ve been working hard to make China fairly realistic to the period, this is — to my mind — a pulp comic being played out. It’s how I frame scenes, in panels and splash pages and sound bubbles (SMACK!) So looking at the combat rules, I’ve started tweaking to make it a bit more pulpy/Hong Kong action movie in style.

One of those tropes is the hero fighting scads of black-clad bad guys. The Ubiquity system rules give you a -2 dice step for each attacker past the first to your Defense, but that doesn’t capture the flavor of fighting hordes of warrior monks bent on turning you into a pin cushion.

To this end, I’ve created a house rule to 1) speed combat, and 2) capture the hero ducking/blocking multiple opponents while fighting. For each attacker wailing on the character at the same time, they gain a +2 dice step, but they roll as one attack; the character gets his regular Defense, or Brawl/Martial Arts test (to block), or Melee (to parry) the attack. Mechanically, it’s a bit easier on the character, but not by much, and each wave of baddies means a -2 to those defense rolls. There is a logical spatial limit to how many people can gang up on you effectively, about 4 time — anymore would blocked by the bodies of the other attackers.

Example: Jack MacMahon has slaughtered a bunch of Silk Mountain Triad guys with his trusty Smith & Wesson Registered Magnum (#RM11!) and has had to resort to the sweet sport of boxing to defend himself. He describes his defense as classic boxing style (hands up, guarding as much as he can and dancing about, his Boxing skill is higher than his Defense, so he is blocking shots, rather than trying to dodge combat: he has a Boxing dice pool of 6. Being in a tight space on a balcony over the rest of the action, the GM decides only two guys can get to him at once. They are typical mook, but with a bit more skill — Kung Fu of 5+2 for the second attacker. Jack rolls 4, the mooks get 2. He’s dancing and blocking shots fairly handily…but they’ve moved onto a wider area of balcony where the next wave of mooks come at him from behind.

The GM decides the max number that can get to him are four mooks. Jack’s Boxing is now a 4 for this set of blocks, but these mooks are fresh — Kung Fu 5+8 for the number of mooks: they roll 13 dice and get five successes, while Jack only rolls a 2. He takes 3 non-lethal hits for that wave of attacks and is getting bounced around pretty badly, reaching his stun rating.

The place where more numbers would be applicable would be grapple attacks, where the weight of attackers behind the immediate attackers could be added on, even this shouldn’t add more than +16 dice (eight attackers.)

Example: Jack has escaped the Silk Mountain, staggering out of the temple and straight into the arms of a crowd of the bad guys. They go for a grapple attack, seeking to dogpile him. There are dozens of bad guys, and they roll a base 4+16 — 20 dice, while Jack rolls his Defense (Boxing really doesn’t apply for grappling attacks…Wrestling, yes) of 5: He gets incredibly lucky: five successes! The mooks don’t even get their average of 10, but do get a seven: Bad guy throw themselves on Jack, driving him to the ground and securing him to be taken before their nefarious leader…

 

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