Intro: “Missed me by that much!”
There are two ways in GURPS to “miss” a target with your attack: either fail your TH roll, or have your successful TH roll thwarted by the target’s successful defense roll.
The latter case is easy to understand: the attack was “on target”, but the target avoided it. This article will look at only the former case, the failed TH roll. I’ve always played this as an off-target attack, plain and simple: the bullet whizzed past the target, the sword thrust stopped short, and so on.
But other interpretations float about: namely, the idea that a “miss” might actually represent the attacker hesitating – perhaps failing to see an “opening” – and not attacking at all. I’ve avoided that interpretation, as it creates conflicts with known consequences of an attack. If the “attack” didn’t happen, why is the attacker’s axe now unable to parry, or his halberd completely unready? Why did he fall down from “missing” with a kick that was never made? Why is he suddenly short one bullet, arrow, or throwing knife?
Further, it’s artificial to imagine fighters always “circling” and “probing” in a way that allows hesitation. An enraged ogre, a mindless zombie, or just a hero hacking his way through baddies to reach the heroine slipping off the ledge – none of these would “look for an opening” or otherwise hesitate for an instant.
Yet there are other circumstances in which “hesitation” does play realistically. And there are situations, such as when using DECIDE, in which the difference among no-attack hesitation, a true attack that misses by a hair, and a true attack that misses wildly have potential combat significance. Below is a suggestion for gauging these.
On any TH roll, melee or ranged:
- Success by 0+: Normal hit (apply target’s defenses normally)
- Miss by 1 or 2: Hesitation (if Attack or Defensive Attack) or normal miss (if All-Out Attack or Committed Attack)
- Miss by 3 or more: Normal miss (Call a miss by 5+ a wide miss, if it matters for some other rules in use)
Every result except for “hesitation” means that an attack was launched, with all normal consequences (weapon readiness, missile usage, etc.). “Hesitation” means no attack was launched, and no consequences of an attack apply.
“Normal” vs “wide” miss has no special meaning in the basic rule here; it’s included as an option for other rules that may be interested in that distinction (see note below on DECIDE).
In short, the rule can be restated as this: If you “miss” a TH roll by 1 or 2, and weren’t making an All-Out or Committed Attack, then instead of attacking and missing, you simply don’t attack.
Variants and options
Biding your time…
If you’re a generous GM, let a result of “hesitation” count as a free Aim (ranged weapon) or Evaluate (melee weapon) action instead. The hesitant fighter holds back his attack, but still does something useful!
Using this site’s rules for grazes allows even more interesting outcomes in combat actions. Change the line for “Success by 0+” to these two lines:
- Success by 1+: Normal hit (apply target’s defenses normally)
- Success by 0: Grazing hit (i.e., glancing or similarly weak blow). Give the target +2 on any Active Defense (or resistance roll if appropriate) versus the attack; if the attack still hits, halve its basic hits (or other effects) and double the target’s DR.
If using these rules with DECIDE, a rule suggesting that fighters should often make the decision to defend without knowing beforehand whether an attack will hit or miss:
- Hesitation triggers no defense by the defender; clearly, no attack came.
- A normal miss represents an attack that is not instantly obvious to the target as a miss; it triggers an “immediate defense”.
- A wide miss, or a critical TH failure, is instantly obvious as a miss, and triggers no defense. (In the case of gunfire, this would assume the defender can clearly see that the gun barrel is pointing well off-target. It may sound cinematic, but fits in with the general GURPS ability to dodge bullets based on this perceived path of fire.)
When to use it
The rule is of use to gamers wanting more detail in combat turn outcomes – specifically, the occurrence of distinct hesitations in combat. Try it out in a gladiatorial-type fight to see whether you like the effects.
The distinction between normal and wide miss is likely of interest only to GMs using DECIDE (though creative GMs could think up original house-rule effects, such as ruling that any wide miss leaves the attacker unfortunately exposed, suffering an Active Defense penalty for the rest of his turn).
The distinction between hesitation and actually attacking, meanwhile, can have combat significance in any game and might interest any GM, even when otherwise playing by stock rules.
I find the rule fun, especially with the “Biding your time…” option. It’s great for encouraging the Committed Attack option; just as the name suggests, commitment to the attack is the only way to be sure your fighter doesn’t choke!
Your playtest comments are greatly welcomed!
1. The little bit about Committed or All-Out Attack is important, solving the matter of fighters who shouldn’t hesitate. The above-mentioned ogre, zombie, and frantic hero would all use Committed Attack or All-Out Attack, not cautious, semi-defensive regular Attack or Defensive Attack. So would any PC who insists, “When I say I attack, I attack!”
2. Why place hesitation above normal miss on the failure ladder? The intent is that greater degrees of failure should increasingly represent what a skilled fighter isn’t likely to do. Hesitation is less of a “mistake” than is a true miss: if nothing else, it keeps the attacking weapon ready, reserves the missile, and/or prevents some dangerous counter-attacks. A true miss, meanwhile – especially a wide one – is something that a skilled fighter should rarely display under normal conditions.
3. The rules for Hitting the Wrong Target (B389) discuss a “straight line” threatening unintended targets. A wide miss might indicate a very unexpected direction for that line! It’s something for a GM to wing on the fly, or perhaps it’s fodder for future exploration.
4. Note that a result of “hesitation” can be really bad luck for, say, a soldier holding a primed grenade. Remember: When you need to attack without chance of hesitation, use Committed Attack or All-Out Attack!
It’s all simple enough, but it is useful to anyone beside me? What do you say?
2013.03.03: Tiny update. Added “Useful hesitation” option for turning a hesitation into a free Aim or Evaluate. (Thanks to RyanW for the idea!) Cleaned up text concerning optional use with grazes. Added reminder to avoid hesitation while holding a primed grenade…
To my mind, there is a lot of way to miss an attack.
– Hestitation is one of them, especially if the PC has a low skill. Hitting someone to hurt him, and a fortiori to kill him, can afraid someone who never did it before.
– Not being able to see the opening is an aother good reason. Even when you really want to hurt your foe, it is not so easy to see the opening in someone’s guard.
– Missing the target is a third reason. Hitting something who doesn’t move at all is easy. Hitting someone who moves (and strikes back!) is far much harder, even if he doesn’t defend himself.
– Not being at the right distance is a fourth reason. I practice a martial art (traditional karate) and we train a lot just to be at the right distance. When you are too far, you miss your target. But when you are too close, it’s also impossible to hit your foe efficiently enough.
– Making a good blow but which is so previsible that the foe will notice it and avoid it without making the least effort is another reason.
– And not being able to counter attack, because you are not fast enough, or you are not in a good position to do it, is yet another reason. In reality, fighters don’t strike one after the other. there are times when one of them strikes several times in a row and times when the other do it…
So, which is the good reason?
GURPS doesn’t say it, and I find this very clever. The GM can choose the reason, depending on the attacker, the defender and the precise situation. More interesting: the GM can make the reason varry to describe the fight in a much more entertaining way…
“While your hesitating he strikes you again… You want to hurt him but you don’t see any opening in his guard… You move much too slowly! He attacks you again before you can act… He avoid your too much previsible blow just by making a step on the side…” is much more interesting than just one reason, always the same, repeated indefinitely.
All sounds good, and I’m glad too that GURPS doesn’t try to simulate each of those factors with every blow. (Though I wouldn’t heap any special praise on the game for that; I’m not aware of an RPG that does fuss over the many ways to miss.)
Anyway, I also like the idea of not worrying about all that! Easiest to just not think about the details of a ‘miss’.
But if we do consider the technicalities of a ‘miss’… hmm, thinking it over, I have to say that in the end, I don’t care to assume that one of a half-dozen inerpretations of ‘miss’ may have taken place. I prefer a really simple stance of “You hit or you flat-out miss; at the level of detail we’re playing, the game doesn’t consider more nuanced ways to ‘miss'”.
The reason is that some of the ways to ‘miss’ will conflict with other rules. Or, some of the ways to ‘miss’ are, IMO, already covered by other rules. Or some of the ways to ‘miss’ are just more detailed variants of the simple flat-out miss (in which case the description is fine!).
Let me take your list (which is good and interesting stuff!) and peer closely:
>Hesitation: Per the article, hesitating vs flat-out missing has real game effects. If hesitation describes some misses, then those misses shouldn’t use ammo, make a weapon unready, allow counter-actions that depend on an attack having been made, etc.
>No opening: No “opening” assumes an actively defending opponent, which isn’t always the case. And if one halts an attack because there was no opening, the same notes on hesitation above apply. (IMO, taking the Evaluate action already does an okay job of simulating waiting for an opening, especially Evaluate followed by Deceptive Attack.)
>Missing the target: No problem there! It’s what I (and default rules, I assume) assume a miss to be unless indicated otherwise.
>Not right distance: Hmm, if you’re too far away and miss because of that, I’d say that fits under a regular, flat-out miss (above); the little extra description is nice. On the other hand, if you’re too far away and thus don’t attack until you’re better within range, I guess the rules equivalent would be actually taking Move (if the distance factor is a matter of whole hexes), or Evaluate (if you’re technically the right distance on the game board, but want to simulate that real-life matter of getting the inches just right).
>Foe avoids blow: Scoring a “hit”, which the foe then dodges, is the clear way to game this; no problem there. I believe you’re talking about a TH ‘miss’, though, which would have been a hit, had not the foe moved in some minor way (not big enough to burn an active defense). Maybe that can simply fall under the category of not getting the TH bonus for a stationary target; either way, it seems a flat-out miss with a little added description, and I don’t see any conflicts with other rules. Looks OK!
>Not counterattacking: Looks similar to hesitation or “no opening”. Again, I’ll note the same rules conflicts as hesitation carries, as well as note that taking Evaluate simulates this fine, IMO.
The point: I like the list, and fully support creative description of actions like that! But I personally like to limit the creative description to things that won’t conflict with other rules.
“You struck from a little too far, and fell inches short of the target.” No conflict with regular ‘miss’ mechanics there; sounds good!
“Okay, you’ve done Evaluate for two turns, and now take Deceptive Attack at -2 TH, -1 AD… You hit! You watched and really picked out an opening in his defenses.” That sounds nice too; no conflicts that I see.
But: “You miss… Let’s rule that you didn’t find an opening, and didn’t attack…” That just raises questions: “Opening? But he just did AOA; his defense should all be open!… And if I didn’t attack, why can’t my axe Parry now?… And if I didn’t attack, why am I now vulnerable to his Riposte?…” And so on.
If there’s conflict like the above, I’d prefer to either:
a) apply the description to other circumstances that don’t conflict. (Example: Use the description of “you wait until you find an opening” for the Evaluate action); or
b) abandon the description, placing it on the infinite list of details that the simulation just doesn’t support. (Example: Admit that the basic rules don’t cover involuntary “you do nothing at all” hesitation; we should leave it out, or add it in if we want, with any required considerations so it matches the mechanics of “no attack”.)
That makes things cleaner in the end, IMO – and there’s still lots and lots of creative description, such as much of your list, that does play nicely with existing rules.
(I’m waxing a bit philosophic, as it’s all one of those “principle of the thing” matters anyway. If you do allow, for example, the “hesitation” description, and selectively apply it only when there aren’t any polearms or bullets or Ripostes or other conflicting rules in play, I think we agree that nothing’s going to explode, and probably no players will even think to complain!)
Thanks for the interesting food for thought!
> Hesitation: Per the article, hesitating vs flat-out missing has real game effects. If hesitation describes some misses, then those misses shouldn’t use ammo, make a weapon unready, allow counter-actions that depend on an attack having been made, etc.
I only use the hesitation description for hand to hand combat. So, there is no problem with ammo. But you’re right with the other rule problems: weapon unready, counter-actions…
> No opening: No “opening” assumes an actively defending opponent…
Not necessarily. A good guard can let you no opening to hit at without requiring any active defense.
> IMO, taking the Evaluate action already does an okay job of simulating waiting for an opening, especially Evaluate followed by Deceptive Attack.
No, because the evaluate maneuver is taken by the attacker, when he wants and for as long as he wants. No opening means that he can’t do what he wants.
> Not right distance: Hmm, if you’re too far away and miss because of that, I’d say that fits under a regular, flat-out miss (above); the little extra description is nice. On the other hand, if you’re too far away and thus don’t attack until you’re better within range, I guess the rules equivalent would be actually taking Move (if the distance factor is a matter of whole hexes), or Evaluate (if you’re technically the right distance on the game board, but want to simulate that real-life matter of getting the inches just right).
Sometimes, there is just a distance problem of one foot… It is sufficient to miss your target and it brings no problem with the hexe grid or step rules.
> Foe avoids blow: Scoring a “hit”, which the foe then dodges, is the clear way to game this; no problem there. I believe you’re talking about a TH ‘miss’, though, which would have been a hit, had not the foe moved in some minor way (not big enough to burn an active defense). Maybe that can simply fall under the category of not getting the TH bonus for a stationary target; either way, it seems a flat-out miss with a little added description, and I don’t see any conflicts with other rules. Looks OK!
Yes. Even if the foe doesn’t move first (a guard who didn’t notice your coming, for instance) he can suddenly step forward to watch something, or bend down to pick up something on the floor, etc.
> Not counterattacking: Looks similar to hesitation or “no opening”. Again, I’ll note the same rules conflicts as hesitation carries, as well as note that taking Evaluate simulates this fine, IMO.
Right. As said above, there are some conflicts… But the GM can solve them easily. When the attacker hesitates or looses his counterattack because he is not in a position good enough to do it, he can be unready. So, even if his weapon is not unready, the GM can assess that he still can’t use it before rereading himself.
> “Opening? But he just did AOA; his defense should all be open!…”
As said in your conclusion, having several description possibilities let you use the one that best correspond to the situation. If the attacker defense is all open, I don’t use the no opening description for instance; I prefer something like: “His attack was so savage and brutal that it make you loose your balance for a little while… So, you don’t succeed to counterattack him this turn.”
> “And if I didn’t attack, why can’t my axe Parry now?…”
“Your axe could parry, but your still hesitating / in a bad position to use it…” Believe me, during a fight, there are times where you are so much thinking about what you will do next that you can’t attack nor defend correctly… Learning to attack and defend fluently (i.e. without hesitation) is hard.
Thank you for your so ineresting site and your so prompt answer.
Sorry, my meaning was: If we say there was “no opening”, that assumes a foe who is in a position allowing active defense, though not necessarily performing one. Yet some foes won’t be in a position to defend at all, and it wouldn’t make sense to assume a “no opening”-based TH miss against such a foe. More on this below:
I should add that while Evaluate followed by Deceptive Attack makes for an acceptable simulation of “wait for an opening”, it’s not a great simulation of it. I’ll officially lower my estimation of it a bit.
To elaborate: Using Evaluate followed by Deceptive Attack as “wait for an opening” is akin to saying that, if you wait for two seconds (+2 TH), your foe’s guard will drop an appreciable amount (trade +2 TH for -1 AD) – no question about it, it will happen. Yet waiting for longer than two seconds brings no further guard-dropping (other than by voluntary choice, such as your foe getting angered by your waiting and choosing to AOA your hide : ).
None of which sounds too realistic as a way to handle the random changes in an opponent’s defense readiness. So I stand by my statement that the mechanic can do a stand-in for “wait for an opening”, but I hereby add the admission that it does so in a pretty inflexible and limited way.
My point is that the Evaluate + Deceptive Attack mechanic, imperfect though it be as a simulation of “wait for an opening”, is better than taking a TH miss and tagging that with the description “you waited for an opening and didn’t attack”. As mentioned, the latter has results (ammo gone, axe unready, etc.) inconsistent with not attacking.
There’s more to be said about inconsistency, covering that and all of the points below:
The big-picture “problem” with all of the happenings handled by description above – hesitation for any reason, no attack due to “no opening”, no attack due to momentary poor positioning – is that the game rules truly don’t cover any of those situations. Which is precisely what makes them ideal targets for insertion via creative description, I’ll happily grant you. But employing a TH miss as the trigger for those creative descriptions creates (admittedly minor) discrepancies with certain logical repercussions of a RAW TH miss.
I’ve mentioned the “consequences of a TH miss” example already – lost ammo, unready weapon, etc., even though the ‘miss’ is being described as no attack having taken place at all.
Here’s another example: The description of a TH miss as “no attack due to no opening” isn’t consistent with the difference between an opponent who’s actively defending versus one who isn’t. If some TH misses are due to “no opening” non-attacks, then you should score fewer TH misses against active but non-defending opponents who always allow openings, like those zombies pelting you with AOAs. Whatever percentage of ‘misses’ stem from “no opening” should all become hits when you face the non-defending zombies. Yet the rules grant you no lessening of TH misses when you face the brain-hungry hordes.
Likewise the axe example: If the axe’s parry unreadiness is, once in a while, actually just user unreadiness or hesitation, then why does this happen specifically to axe users and not sword or knife users? It seems very unfair to the axe users, who suffer the axe’s unique post-attack limitations even when they are described as not attacking!
In short, in all the cases, under RAW, the mechanical results of a TH miss are 100% consistent with “you attacked and missed”, and are not very consistent with “you didn’t attack”. That’s my only real observation here. Discrepancies and inconstencies, though certainly minor ones.
No argument there! I’ll just note again that the rules don’t cover this, or hesitating because of no opening, or momentary poor positioning. So what to do about that? I think we understand each other fully from there, and we see that we don’t have a disagreement, just different preferences. Given an interest in drawing out some interesting combat result not covered by rules, yet for which we don’t want to new rules, I think we both agree on considering creative description as the means of “simulation”. Where our preferences differ: I look to see whether the chosen description has logical consequences that butt up against other generated results, and if so, throw away that particular description. Whereas you (I believe) say, “well, sure, throw it away if there’s a major conflict – but if it’s minor, so what, it’s good enough and it’s fun.”
Assuming I have that correct, I have no complaint against your preference. I doubt many players would!
I would look at this differently. In fighting/sparring, you circle for a bit, and you see the patterns in the movement and defenses that your opponent is making right then. Beyond that time, there’s not much more to be gained unless the other guy changes something up. That’s probably best modeled with something like Counterattack, but still…basically, once you’ve got the “pattern” to his movements set (and there usually IS one), you’ve learned what you can learn for that time. It might take more than two seconds, though.
Honestly, since I like open-ended scaling, I tend to use either doubling or the range/speed table for such things. So if you evaluate for 1 sec you get +1, 2 secs is +2, look for 2 more (4s) and you get +3, circle for 8 secs and it’s +4, etc. Combine with some IQ-based Ruses from Martial arts and you have two guys probing and circling and having marginal advantage/disadvantage until someone blows a roll and does something, or someone tries to force the issue and does something.
I’m not sure whether we’re seeing anything differently or not. If I read correctly, what you’re describing suggests that Evaluate best simulates, well, evaluating: you watch a bit, note the positions/patterns, and then exploit that (such as via Deceptive Attack).
That would be different from suggesting that if you wait a couple seconds, your foe will “drop his guard” a bit and let you exploit that. The latter is how I initially suggested one could use Evaluate + Deceptive Attack as a mechanism for “wait for an opening”, as we lack any other mechanism, but I agree that it’s an imperfect simulation. Evaluate + Deceptive Attack better simulates what you describe; I think we’re of the same mind there.
So how to simulate “wait for and exploit an opening”, as a design exercise? I would suggest that the simplest, cleanest method would be to first actually have exploitable openings in the combat simulation. Currently, we can always take a “TH succeeds, AD fails” combination and say, “You found an opening!”, but that’s not exploitable in the sense that the attacker waits, finds the opening, and then attacks; it’s description applied to a generic attack + defense, taken at any time, with waiting playing no role.
If we want fighters to “drop their guard” involuntarily (who would do it on purpose? : ) at specific moments, I’d think we’d need to randomize defenses a bit before any TH or AD rolls, in a manner that attackers can attempt to observe and then act upon. Or let Evaluation allow some roll to see (roughly) what the AD roll will be before the attacker decides whether to go for it. Something like that. (But whatever a solid simulation may turn out to be, any extra mods or rolls will likely limit its use to one-on-one combat.)
Incidentally, I love open-ended scaling too, applied appropriately. I prefer your version of Evaluate, and have considered the same – though we have to consider how far to take it. Evaluate indefinitely, and the bonus will go up forever… Should it be capped somehow? Or can the opposing Evaluations of two circling guys do something to “break” the other guy’s accumulated bonus? Interesting potential there…
But while an open-ended bonus on something like TH or Feint is potentially problematic, an open-ended bonus on noticing something is much less so, IMO. So if there were, for example, some roll to merely notice when a foe’s guard is weak (whether that’s simulated through random mods on AD, or “pre-knowning” his AD roll, or some other mechanism), with an attack based on that successful observation gaining some nice (but not open-endedly infinite) bonus, then an open-ended bonus applied to the observation roll may work nicely.
Again, tossing it out to see what sticks –
I fully do agree with your conclusions. Yes, I have to admit that my different descriptions of a miss with the attack roll can raise some little problems with the rules. So, the GM has to be very careful when he wants to use them.
But, having said that, they are much more fun that a perpetual “You attack and you miss!”… That is why I still use them… extensively… But also wisely: I always take the precise situation into account.
Sounds good. And I’ll mention again that, even if one is overly cautious (like me) about description that may conflict with some detail or another, there’s still essentially infinite description available. For example, to a swordsman PC who just misses his TH, “You waited just an instant too long… and in that moment, the Orc shifted slightly to the side. Your thrust passes to his left by inches. Yet you see a flash of panic in his eyes as he realizes how close you came.” As far as I can see, a detail like slicing air to the left or the right of the target, or the addition of appropriate NPC reaction, fits in safely just about anywhere, with no implied impact on mechanics to worry about.
Anyway, your main original point is well-taken: Description is good!
As a possible suggestion? Why not make a miss by a given amount, not be a set statistic based on an entrenched value, but make it based upon the actual SKILL value. For instance? All misses by 1 might be deemed a hesitation. If you have a skilled fighter with a skill of DX+4, then all misses by 4 indicate they hesitated rather than commit to a chancy proposition. This way, fighters who are built with a HIGH DX value and only a +1 to DX for skill, will do more poorly than a similiar fighter whose Skill is +3 but with a lower DX. Technical expertise versus raw talent?
I’m trying to mentally poke holes in this, but I can’t. (Maybe. Read on). So, to recap: failing TH by your “+X” or less means you get to hold back instead of whiffing a swing, or making a risky failed kick, etc. Yeah, it sounds pretty good.
It’s generous in keeping highly experienced fighters from whiffing. Very generous. That is, making up two DX 10 fighters on the spot: Skill DX+1 guy hits on 11 or less, hesitates on a 12, and “whiffs” on a 13 or more. Skill DX+3 guy hits on a 13 or less, hesitates on a 14, 15, or 16, and whiffs on a 17 or more. In other words, each +1 skill adds double its amount to the point at which a fighter whiffs.
Which is a good thing, for the many players who like the idea of actual +1 skill counting for something more than +1 attribute does. It makes some sense here. It’s fine that a guy with DX 13 is as innately accurate, target-wise, as a DX 10, Skill DX+3 guy, but target accuracy is pretty much where the equivalency should end; DX 13 guy shouldn’t be as good at correctly reading opportunities and distance and combat timing and all that. Your suggestion creates one such point of difference.
Now, here’s an area where maybe it would create a bit of oddness. If the task at hand is a ranged weapon target contest – archery contest, darts in the pub, etc. – the highly-skilled guy’s wide hesitation range could mean lots of hesitation. Take archery hero guy with DX 14, Bow-20, vs a bullseye (net -10 TH after Size, Range, full Aim, Acc, etc.) that leaves him rolling vs TH 10. His skill is DX+6, so any “miss” roll of 11 to 16 means he doesn’t even shoot. He just keeps hesitating, until he either rolls a 10 or less to hit the bullseye, or rolls a 17+ (which the rules would make a crit miss anyway).
In other words, there’s no room in between bullseye and crit miss for the guy to score a plain old “close, but not quite” miss. In fact, even though the guy should have a 50/50 chance of hitting the bullseye, the rule nearly guarantees he’ll hit it, as long as he has the time to keep hesitating for as long as it takes, and as long as he avoids that unlikely 17+. (It’s an equally valid concern for my version of hesitation, too; mine just creates this “can’t miss” oddity over a smaller range.)
So what does this mean? Is it a bug in the idea overall, or only where ranged attacks are concerned, or what? I don’t know offhand. But anyway, it’s an interesting idea, and worth some thought and testing.
Matthias von Schwarzwald
I have to say, I’m a bit hesitant about using this.
I feel like Attack represents standard hacking and slashing, and Defensive Attack represents more half-hearted strikes, so it doesn’t make sense to me for them to have the same chance to hesitate. I toyed with the idea of having only Defensive Attacks be able to hesitate, but I remember hesitating in a real-life fight with what I’m pretty sure was a full Attack, so I kept thinking and came up with this “brilliant” idea:
* On an Attack that misses by 1, or a Defensive Attack that misses by 1 or 2, you hesitate.
This also gives a smoother progression: 2 to 1 to 0 instead of 2 to 0.
Now, how does this interact with multiple attacks per turn? Maybe something like this:
* Player: I’ll take a Defensive Attack and Dual-Weapon Attack with my shortswords, swinging my left at his neck and stabbing him in the gut with my right.
* First attack hits and is parried. Second attack . . . hesitates? That’s not grammatically correct, but is there a form of hesitate that works there? “Is hesitant,” mabe?
* GM: The swordsman bashes your left-hand blade away from his neck with such force that it interferes with your follow-up thrust, so you disengage, taking a half-step back into your ready stance.
Good point about Defensive Attacks. For simplicity, I just divided the path into two: a possibility of hesitation on a normal or Defensive Attack, and no hesitation on a Committed or All-Out Attack. But you certainly could tweak that, just as you suggest. Your greater chance of hesitation on a Defensive Attack looks sensible to me, and adds another small, welcome benefit to Defensive Attacks relative to regular Attacks (i.e., the greater number of attacks that are held back, saving on ammo and Unready swings and all that).
I like it!
As for interaction with multiple attacks: I’m not aware of any special considerations needed, as all this hesitation business does is mechanically categorize some number of misses as hesitations. Multiple attacks can mean one or more misses, and some or all of those misses could end up becoming hesitations. . .
All of which can be then described with “color text” in the way you did. As far as I can tell, whether you’ve attempted one attack or several, it’ll all work!