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In my book Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition the combat system is described as a series of Combat Turns (Page 271-273). Each turn is comprised of three stages :

  • Initiative
  • Attack
  • Resolution

In stage one, every combatant rolls for initiative, then everyone in increasing order of initiative declares their actions. It is stated that the character with the highest initiative performs her action(s) first.

In stage two (this is where it's becoming blurry) character will make their attack rolls (if any declared)

In stage three attacks and damage are resolved by rolling damage and soaking.

My question is: Do the stages two and three behave as the first one in terms of everyone doing their actions before the next stage begins, or do we do stage two and three successively for each character?

For example if we have 4 combatants, Alice, Bob, Charlie and Danielle, the first combat turn should be:

Stage One : Initiative

Alice: 8
Bob: 7
Charlie: 6
Danielle: 5

Actions declaration

Danielle: "I attack Alice."
Charlie: "I attack Dan."
Bob: "I attack Claire."
Alice: "I attack Dan."

Stage Two : Attack

Danielle does not abort her action.
Alice: Gets 5 successes on her attack against Danielle.
...

Now either we go on with Alice's Stage Three: Resolution to come back to Bob's Stage Two afterwards (Option 1), or we continue on Bob's Stage Two and deal with Alice's Resolution after Danielle's Attack (Option 2).

This is really important because if Alice's attack deals damage to Danielle, Danielle's attack will suffer a dice penalty if we do Alice's resolution before Danielle's attack. One of my players supporting option 1 told me this makes sense because if you, for example, happen to kill your opponent with your attack, being faster than him (= having higher initiative) means you kill him before he can touch you. This does make sense indeed and this is how I went on with the rules. (He also said that he feels being faster gives you nothing if you can't hit (and cause damage/penalty) before your opponent. I tried reasoning with him that you can react to what your opponent does and that's already a great thing but he was not satisfied.)

Reading the rules at first I thought Option 2 was what's supposed to happen though, as it should not be separated into three stages but only two if Option 1 was correct.

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You perform an attack (attack roll, dodge/parry roll) & resolution (damage roll, soak roll, apply damage) successively for each character. Once there are more than two or three total characters in a combat, this is the only flow of play that lets you keep track of the narrative.

Detailed example:

The way the stages of a round are presented in the book is little unclear, because distinctions aren't made between global steps (everyone rolls initiative) and individual actions within the round. I'm going to set aside the book's step divisions to lay out the example.

Step 1: Initiative rolls

Everyone rolls per p271. Determine initiative order. Example rolls:

  • Alice: 8
  • Bob: 7
  • Charlie: 6
  • Danielle: 5

Step 2: Declartions

  • Danielle: "I attack Alice."
  • Charlie: "I attack Dan."
  • Bob: "I activate Celerity for one extra action. With my normal action, I attack Charlie."
  • Alice: "I attack Dan."

Step 3: Actions

  • Alice attacks Dan. Dan may abort to defense (p274 - 275), but chooses not to. The attack roll is resolved, and Alice gets one success. She rolls her damage, then Dan rolls to soak.
  • Bob attacks Charlie, damage is fully resolved
  • Charlie attacks Dan, damage is fully resolved
  • Dan attacks Alice, damage is fully resolved
  • Bob uses his Celerity action to attack Alice
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ok, so it was how we played it and the book is indeed unclear. Thanks ! \$\endgroup\$ – Eregrith Apr 21 '15 at 7:56
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Damage rolls are made for each character right after he or she rolls to hit

An example of combat can be found in "Example of play" chapter of V20 Corebook on pages 305-306. You may notice the following:

Michelle [rolls to hit for] three successes. Because the ghoul was not attempting to dodge, Michelle rolls DMZ’s damage pool — [rolling 6 successes] — enough to drop the ghoul from Healthy to Crippled in one strike. Though technically the ghoul is still in the fight, Joseph decides that such damage more than suffices to dispatch the lowly minion. The ghoul sinks to his feet, dead or soon to be.

So yes, you can prevent someone from acting at all or at least cripple his dicepools (due to wound penalties) if you are faster and happen to inflict enough damage. Remember that if someone's dicepool drops to zero, he doesn't act at all.

Plus, it helps you not to forget the results of to-hit rolls by the point it comes to resolving damage if there are, say, 20 participants in your battle.

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