Almost all character attributes and other quantities and phenomena in the Action Dice system are described in terms of number of six-sided dice. Normally, the level of effect is determined by the total of the dice rolled; in some cases, however, the level of effect is based on the number of dice, and the roll is used only to determine the outcome of contests.
Because every action a character undertakes requires at least one action die, character attributes are usually listed as "+Nd6", meaning they are added to whatever action dice are spent.
There are two sorts of character attributes, abilities and skills. Abilities define the character's physical capabilities: strength, running speed, resistance to damage, ability to shoot death rays from eyes, etc. Abilities are relatively firmly quantified, and don't vary a great deal, so it is normally the total number of dice that is used to determine their physical effect, with the result of a roll being used only to determine the result of a competition.
Abilities have a maximum number of dice (typically N+1) that they can apply to their total when rolled; if they somehow get extra dice, only the listed maximum number of dice can be added for the total. Generally, the player will pick the best dice, so the extra ones do help.
Some abilities require no action on the part of a character; Toughness is one such. These abilities are listed as a flat number of dice, since they normally have no action dice added to them. Otherwise, they are treated the same as active abilities.
Example: A character with +2d6 running would have "+2d6 (3d6)" written on her character sheet. In a footrace, she might allocate two action dice to her movement action, rolling a total of 4d6, but would be able to use only three of those dice to determine her victory. Of course, she is perfectly free to take the three best dice, which will most likely give her an advantage over competitors who only roll three dice.
Skills are measured in an abstract way, since they are hard to quantify. +0d6 is obviously someone who has had no training nor significant experience, but at least knows what she's trying to accomplish. +6d6 is someone who is quite skilled: the worst result they can possibly get is still better than the best result someone with +0d6 can get. Intermediate values are, of course, intermediate.
It is possible for skills to get extra dice, by taking extra time, having superior tools, or any number of other beneficial circumstances. These dice add to the skill dice and any action dice normally.
The basic unit of time in the AD system is the round, which is four seconds of clock time. During this time, a character can perform as many actions as she has action dice.
The basic unit of distance in the AD system has no specific name, but is four meters. This is the distance one die of movement will take a character, the maximum distance at which hand-to-hand attacks may not be used, and the range beyond which ranged attacks take penalties. Almost all ranges are calculated in multiples of this distance, although they will usually be referred to as the actual distance in meters, for the convenience of the players.
Every character has some number of action dice, which indicate how much she can effectively accomplish in a round of action.
1 action die: normal person, pathetic mook (mugger, townsfolk with pitchforks and torches)
2 action dice: skilled mook (policeman, soldier), low-end hero
3 action dice: hero
4 action dice: high-end hero
Every action a character undertakes during a round requires at least one action die, which is added to any skill or attribute dice appropriate to the action. Some actions require two action dice; all benefit from additional action dice.
It is also possible for a character to have action dice that can only be used for certain actions. Limited action dice are usable for a broad class of activities but for much less than everything.
Example: A magician may have only one or two action dice, but several additional dice limited to doing magic. Since these dice can be used for any magical action the character can perform, but not for any physical actions, they are limited action dice.
Specialized action dice are usable only for one skill, or at most a very narrow, strongly related group of skills.
Example: A knight might have an extra action die specialized in Riding skill, so that she can guide her mount and still use her full action dice just as effectively as if she were on foot.
Example: If the magician in the earlier example had bought her additional dice as specialized instead of limited, she would be able to use them to cast only a single spell, or at most work a very specific field of magic.
It is possible to use multiple sorts of action dice on a single action, provided all the dice involved may be legitimately used for that action.
Some actions require two action dice; these generally then take half the total dice in the action to determine success. General Defense and Group Attack are two such actions.
In addition, extra action dice (up to the total the character has available) can be spent on an action. These dice add normally to a skill-based action, but only add to the pool from which the best dice are picked for ability-based actions (as described under skills and abilities, above). Extra action dice are always rolled as-is, not halved for two-die actions or reduced in any other fashion.
Extra action dice can also be used to ensure an action happens before competing actions that might interfere with it.
A character who declares, at the beginning of a round (defined as before she performs any actions or any actions directly affect her) that she is "noncombat" gets one extra action die. (This is, for example, how a normal person can perform two movement actions in one round.) However, a character who is noncombat has a base defense of 0 and may not perform a General Defense action. Noncombat status lasts for the remainder of the round.
In general, the timing of actions will be fairly obvious and actions will be declared and resolved in whatever order is natural. However, in those cases where there is a conflict, resolve it according to numbers of action dice:
If the order in which players declare their actions matters, the character with the fewest remaining action dice declares first, then the one with the next most, and so up to the one with the most action dice left for that round. Break ties by the number of remaining limited action dice; if there are still ties, break them by remaining specialized action dice. Further ties can be resolved by total rather than remaining action dice, or randomly, or however the GM chooses.
The exception to this is defensive actions, which may be declared at any time, even at the instant a regular action is declared. However, if the formal declaration order is being followed, the GM may rule that a declaration of a defensive action is the character's action for that particular sequence of events, and that the character may not declare another action until the sequence is over.
If the order in which actions occur matters, whichever character used the most action dice goes first, then the next most, and so on. Resolve ties by the actual totals of the action dice; if there is still a tie, the actions are simultaneous. Two-die actions count as having only been allocated one die if they have only been allocated the minimum two (the action dice are halved just as the attribute dice are). Extra action dice always count full, not half.
Note that some actions use the dice total to determine who finishes first (movement falls into this category), in which case those rules take precedence. Timing by action dice usually applies to the beginning of an action.
It may sometimes happen that, at the end of a round, multiple players are holding on to their last action dice, each waiting for someone else to make a move. In this case, the GM should first point out that the end of the round is nigh. If this doesn't restart the action, then, in the usual order in which actions are declared, each player must either declare an action, or declare that they will only use their dice defensively. Defensive actions may of course be declared the instant an action is declared. Once every player has declared, actions are resolved, and any remaining action dice are lost. The round ends and the next begins.
Some actions are classified as defensive actions. They may be declared at any time, regardless of declaration order, and take effect immediately. However, if the action being defending against fails to happen for some reason, the defensive action is wasted; it may not be "undeclared".
Defensive actions almost always add to a base defensive value, although sometimes that value will be 0. For physical attacks, there are two such values, one for ranged combat and one for hand-to-hand combat. Each is equal to 5 plus 1 for each die of the best combat skill in the category. Dodge can be used for both defensive values. Generally, applying two defensive actions to the same attack (as in dodging or parrying an attack while General Defense is in effect) will not add the rolls; the character gets the best roll of any defensive actions plus her base defensive value.
The common defensive actions are:
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