Evaluating Evaluate

by mshrm

It looks like everybody else is talking about Evaluate (I think this is probably as good an entrance to the conversation as any), so I might as well follow the herd.  My two cents’ worth:

I remember, back when we were first going through the rules, a couple of my long-term players expressed delight over the existence of the Evaluate maneuver. In actual play, though, I don’t think anybody has ever used it. I’ve never asked, but I assume that’s because of the same reasons everybody else has mentioned: the bonus is small, and the opportunity cost is high.

If I wanted to encourage my players to use the Evaluate maneuver, I think the easiest thing I could do would be to change it from “Step” to “Half move”. The PCs in the Dungeon Fantasy game are heavily biased towards melee, so they’re constantly trying to find ways to cover ground and still project damage. They first went through a phase where they favored Move and Attack, but the skill cap was too harsh for them. Then, there were experiments with All-Out Attack, since it allows a half-move. For the most part, though, nobody likes giving up their defenses. TKotBO was depending on DR for a bit, so he didn’t mind losing his defenses, but then his player figured out the effects of a shield on active defenses and now he won’t give up his Block for anything. Alric does a lot of AOA’s, seemingly betting that any enemy he gets near will have more on its mind than taking advantage of any openings in his defenses. Like, collecting all its suddenly-severed body parts. For their part, Gabby and Needles live by their Dodge scores, so they didn’t want anything to do with the AOA. I think they might go for a maneuver that lets them move without doing damage, if it sets them up to do more damage later on.

Of course, I’m just speculating, there. Might be, even that wouldn’t be enough.

Myself, though, I don’t think there’s anything that needs changing, particular. In my opinion, Evaluate isn’t really for most PCs. PCs might use it if they want to “one punch” a slower opponent, or if they’ve got a bear in a trap or some such, but that’s it. Evaluate exists to give mooks something to do while they’re waiting to queue up and get knocked down. It’s the maneuver taken by the second and third ranks of flunkies while they wait for the first rank to die and get out of their way.

(Actually, I’m pretty sure Evaluate was originally intended to explain what boxers are doing when they circle each other and don’t exchange any blows. Lulls in combat. As many others have said, if you want your PCs taking an Evaluate and producing lulls in combat naturally, you want to take a look at “The Last Gasp“.  That’s really the missing piece of the puzzle.)