Campaign of the Month: February 2009
Main Page >> Combat
Combat in this system is done in an abstract manner instead of the particular manner used in miniatures games. Instead of having a map that displays exactly where each character is standing and which way they are facing and having rules about how far they can move in a given unit of time, combat is adjudicated through a number of changing status conditions. These status conditions each take a given amount of time to change, which brings us to:
The Initiative Count
We don’t use a turn-based system whereby each character gets an action, then each character gets another action in sequence. Instead we have a dynamic count using time “segments”. (There’s no set length of time for a segment.) Every action has an associated delay, a number of segments that are consumed by the effects of the action. For most normal actions, the action takes effect immediately when it is declared, however the Engage action and spells don’t take effect until the delay expires. Once those segments have passed, you may declare another action. Declaring an action always consumes 1 segment, no matter what it is.
The minimum delay on any action is 1, which allows a character to act every other segment as the action consumes 1 segment, then the delay consumes 1 segment.
Surprise: Combat begins when a character (PC or NPC) takes a combat action, such as engaging an enemy in melee, shooting a bow, casting a spell, whatever. Each other character rolls 1d6 to determine their initial delay and when they can declare their first combat action.
Example: Lothaire spots a Walking Corpse and declares his intent to Engage it in melee. This consumes 1 segment. Engaging an enemy has a delay of 5, so on segment 7, Lothaire will be able to declare his first attack. The Walking Corpse, meanwhile, rolls 1d6 and gets an initial delay of 4, so it may declare its first action on segment 5. It decides to Engage Lothaire so that it may attack him in melee, so it will declare its first attack on segment 11.
Engaging The first step in making melee attacks on an enemy, as you can see from the above example on Initiative, is to Engage them. This is to reflect the fact that in a standard miniatures game some or all of the first “combat round” is usually absorbed by such activities as drawing/readying a weapon, moving into position, etc. All of this is handled as a part of the Engage action, which has a 3-segment delay. It doesn’t take any more or less time if your opponent is “far away” or “really close”. Only Talents can change how long it takes to Engage an enemy in melee.
Reciprocal Engage If an opponent has Engaged you but you are not currently Engaging anyone, you may immediately choose to be Engaged with that opponent.
But I Don’t Want To Be Engaged If, for some reason, you don’t want to allow an enemy to Engage your character, you may roll Agility against that opponent to Avoid the Engage. If you are successful, you manage to scramble away. However, you have to declare an Avoid on the same segment that they declare an Engage. Avoiding consumes the action it’s declared on but otherwise does not have a delay. Sometimes it may not be possible to Avoid an opponent seeking to Engage, such as if you are blocked into a narrow hallway. You also may not Avoid if you are already Engaged in melee combat.
Obstacles Sometimes (actually, that’s more likely to be Often because people who prefer ranged combat won’t want you marching up and skewering them) you will find that there are enemies you cannot Engage in melee (and likewise, they cannot Engage your character in melee) because of some interposing obstacle or due to Sniping, which is explained under Ranged Combat. In that case, you will be required to first take steps to surmount the obstacle (climb up the tree, bash down the door, etc.), which may require a successful skill or attribute roll. The amount of time for a given attempt varies according to the GM’s whim, but it should be the SAME for EVERYONE and the GM invites you to correct her if she goofs. (I’m not going to post rules for how long it takes to do things like bash down a door of such-and-such thickness and such-and-such materials, I’ll just tell you how long it’s going to take and you can decide whether you want to try it or do something else instead.)
Undefended A character may only Engage one melee opponent at a time, but up to 4 opponents may Engage a single character. (Large opponents may take up more space, and smaller opponents may be able to engage in greater numbers.) That single character acquires another status condition against the opponents she has not Engaged, namely she is Undefended against them. This means that she no longer adds her Agility attribute or any bonuses from Skills or Talents to her Physical Defense (other bonuses, say from Spells or those granted by other characters, still apply).
Switching Targets So you’ve managed to get yourself cornered by three attackers. You reciprocally Engaged the first one to Engage you, but he’s a Warrior and that Rogue over there is getting in some nasty attacks because you’re Undefended toward him. So you want to switch from Engaging the Warrior to Engaging the Rogue. All you have to do is roll Agility against the opponent you’re currently Engaging. If you succeed, you switch to Engaging the new opponent (Provided that opponent is Engaging you).
Bugging Out And then there are the times when you just want to cut your losses and run. Disengaging entirely is a 1-segment delay Agility roll just like switching targets, however you must disengage from every opponent individually, with the same penalties if you fail the roll.
Attacking, Doing Damage, and Taking Damage This is the most straightforward part of melee combat. To attack, you simply roll the appropriate Attack Attribute: Physical Attack for physical attacks, Magic Attack for Magical attacks. The target rolls their appropriate Defense attribute in opposition. If you succeed, you roll for damage. If your opponent is wearing an appropriate type of armor, they then subtract either their Physical Resistance or Magical Resistance attribute from that damage and whatever is leftover comes off their Health. If they do not have an appropriate type of armor, they take the full amount of damage off their health. If you reach 0 health, you are dead.
I’m going to note here that there are a couple of abilities (namely the “enchant weapon” spells), that have you using a Physical Attack and Physical Defense to do some Physical damage AND some Magical damage. When this happens the magical damage is ALWAYS applied against Magic Resistance while the physical damage is applied against Physical Resistance. Yes, this means they get twice as much resistance against these “magic weapon” type spells. They also do about twice as much damage.
What’s this “Pain” Statistic For? Pain is a measure of how long your character can engage in stressful activity before getting out of breath and eventually just keeling over. It’s often called things like Fatigue or Stamina in other systems, but I decided to call it Pain way back when I wrote this system, so this is what you get. Anyway, when you are hit and take damage (physical OR magical), you lose a point of pain. In addition, most talents require you to spend pain in order to activate them. Once you’re out, you’re Winded and cannot do anything that requires Pain. If go into NEGATIVE Pain from taking damage, you lose 1d6 health per point of negative Pain. Once your negative Pain equals your normal positive pain, you are Blown and cannot take any combat actions whatsoever. You are Undefended against all melee attackers. Should you get hit again, you are automatically Wounded.
Wounded I don’t mean for combat to be a tedious slugfest where the purpose is just to run people out of hit points. I prefer combat to be more stylistically brutal and narrative, so there are a number of ways you can become Wounded apart from the above mentioned one, generally by being hit with one of a myriad of talents. A Wounded character cannot take any combat actions, they are essentially Stunned. If they are also out of Pain or into negative Pain, they fall Unconscious and can’t even crawl, nor are they aware of their surroundings. Every segment a Wounded character Bleeds and takes 1d6 damage and loses a point of Pain (possibly taking another 1d6 damage if they’re into negative Pain.) They may choose to roll their Endurance against a flat roll (no bonus to the GM) to stop the bleeding, but if they fail they take an additional 1d6 damage. If they succeed and they are unconscious, they may roll Endurance again immediately to regain consciousness. Thereafter they may roll Endurance once per day to regain consciousness.
Wielding Two Weapons If you like, you may wield a weapon in your off hand, but you take a -5 penalty to all attacks. You don’t get an extra attack with this weapon, instead you add the base damages of both your weapons together. If they are different weapon types, use your better skill to determine attack bonus and extra dice of damage.
In some respects, ranged combat is a little easier than melee combat. You don’t have to worry about Engaging a foe, for instance, you just attack whoever you like. Only three issues can really ruin the day for a character attacking at range: enemies rushing up to Engage the ranged attacker, enemies taking cover and the ever-present risk of friendly fire.
Sniping You cannot Engage an enemy when you are wielding a ranged weapon, so characters who prefer ranged attacks will usually make some effort to prevent melee warriors from charging up and Engaging them in combat. This is called Sniping. Like Engaging, establishing a Sniping status in combat is a 3-delay action, however you may begin combat already Sniping if you wish. Thereafter you take a -5 penalty to your Attack (or Magical Attack) because part of your concentration is consumed by staying at extreme range. However, an enemy wishing to Engage you must first succeed at an Agility roll against you (a 1-delay action on their part) in order to then Engage you. It may not always be possible to set up a Sniping position (in confined areas, for instance) just as it may not always be possible to attempt to Avoid an Engagement.
Cover There are two types of cover: partial and total. If you are being attacked at range, you can attempt to find cover (although cover may not always be available, such as in a bare corridor), a 1-delay action. Taking partial cover means you cannot Engage a new target (although you are still Engaged with any current targets), and ranged attackers are at a -5 to their attacks. Taking full cover, on the other hand, renders you completely unable to Engage and you cannot make any ranged attacks, but it means that no one can make ranged attacks at you, either. Note that cover is, again, intended to be an abstract system. It doesn’t cover situations where ranged attackers normally can’t hit someone because they’re simply out of sight.
Friendly Fire Shooting into a melee is problematic, as everyone involved is moving around quite a lot. There aren’t any penalties to attack as even enemies not engaged in melee will be moving around to try to avoid ranged attacks, but if you miss with a ranged attack you have a chance to hit anyone in that particular Engaged cluster. (Anyone Engaged with or by the target.) The GM will tell you who you may have hit and you will roll an Attack against them normally. All Talents that would modify the attack are negated by the miss, although Spells are not.
Friendly Fire with Area Attacks Area spells and attacks are a special case (all area effects are indicated as such under the description). Friendly fire with area spells is not a matter of missing since you don’t have to roll to hit with them—they automatically affect everyone in a given Engaged cluster. If an area effect causes Wounds or Stun, it works just as well on allies as it does on foes.
Undefended at Range You only become Undefended against ranged attackers if you cannot move, i.e. if you are Paralyzed, Blown, or Unconscious.
Siege Weapons Siege weapons are special weapons that do massive damage but must be operated by a crew and are extremely difficult to aim. They are not normally usable in standard combat, only in mass combat, however should the situation arise where a siege weapon can be used in a standard combat (GM’s discretion or you have the Siege talent and can override the GM), they work like normal ranged attacks except that they have a chance to hit multiple opponents simultaneously and you take a -10 to the accuracy of your attacks with them.
Mounted Combat is essentially the same as normal melee or ranged combat, the primary difference is that your mount possesses its own melee attacks and may attempt to make them on its own when you are Engaged in melee. However, this adds another level of difficulty to directing yourself around the battlefield. When you wish to Engage, you must first succeed in a Ride roll against your mount’s Willfulness rating. You must also roll Ride when you are hit in combat or when the mount is hit in order to stay in the saddle. Other situations may provoke Ride checks at the GM’s discretion.
You and your mount count as a single target for the purposes of Engaging and opponents may choose whether to attack you or your mount at their discretion without changing their Engage target. When you Engage a target, the mount also Engages that target, except that talents that enable you to engage multiple targets simultaneously do not affect your mount.
Note: As with other areas, I’m not going to list exactly how long it takes to get in and out of the saddle or what happens when you fall off as this will depend on the precise circumstances. Suffice to say that falling off a horse is not a pleasant experience and will probably involve some Stun at the very least.
The mount’s extra speed enables you to add +5 to rolls that involve moving around, such as Engaging, Disengaging, Sniping or chasing down someone who is Sniping. However, you cannot take cover when you are mounted and 2 more human-sized foes may simultaneously Engage you.
Spells Spells work a little differently than most talents in that they don’t modify existing attacks or actions, instead they are actions in and of themselves. Spells also cost a certain amount of magic to activate. All spells may be cast at range. Personal spells affect the mage (and only the mage) casting the spell. Beneficial spells require no roll, they automatically affect their designated target, but they cannot be cast on the mage, only on another target. (Some spells may be both Personal and Beneficial). Ranged spells require a Magic Attack roll to hit. Area spells require no roll.
Maintain Some spells have a Maintain rating, meaning that if the mage sacrifices that portion of their current Magic, the spell will remain in effect. They may release the spell at any time to regain a number of points of Magic equal to the spell’s Maintain rating. If you do not have enough points of magic to pay the Maintain cost, you cannot cast the spell. If you are maintaining a spell and lose pain, you must either cease maintaining the spell or make an immediate flat Endurance roll. If you succeed, you continue Maintaining all spells. If you fail, you cease maintaining the spell of your choice and must roll again until you succeed or are out of Maintained spells.
For spells that have effects that are “used up” (such as ones that animate creatures or grant extra health points), the mage does immediately regain the Maintain cost if the spell is ended by an outside agency (the bonus health is used up, the animated creature is killed). Bonus health or pain points are used up before regular health or pain points. If the spell is still maintained, the bonus points recover at the end of combat.
Interruptions Like the Engage action, spells take effect at the END of the delay period, not immediately when they are declared. Each time they lose Pain during the casting delay, they must make a flat Endurance roll or the casting is immediately interrupted. (If the mage is also Maintaining spells, use the first Maintain roll result for this). They do not pay the casting cost and may declare that they are casting again on the next segment.
Note: spells which deal or add damage add a number of d6’s equal to the casting mage’s spell power to that damage unless otherwise noted.
Other Combat Actions
Sometimes you may want to do things during a fight other than directly attack foes. Here’s a short list of the delays on other combat-related actions. Note that you are Undefended while undertaking any of these actions.
Switch Weapons: 2 or 5 (2 is for easy-access weapons on your person, such as a sheathed dagger. 5 is to switch to any other weapon in the immediate vicinity. It also requires a flat Agility roll to succeed.)
Use a Magical or Alchemical Item on Yourself: 2 (this applies to any magic item that is not an attack)
Use a Magical or Alchemical Item on Another: 4 (as above)
Use the Medicine skill on Yourself: 15 (it’s actually a bit harder to doctor yourself than someone else).
Use the Medicine skill on Another: 10
Use any other skill: 15
Combat Status Short List
Engaged: you are actively engaging a foe in melee combat, able to attack and defend using your utmost skill.
Fully Engaged: you are surrounded by opponents, engaged by the maximum number who can get to you.
Undefended: you are not in a position to dodge a foe effectively. You lose any bonuses to physical defense from the Agility attribute and from Talents, although Spells are still effective.
Sniping: you are making ranged attacks while making an effort to stay away from melee foes. You have a -5 to your attacks, but foes must make an agility roll against you before they can Engage you.
Stunned: you are undefended against all melee foes (you don’t have to Engage them again when the stun ends, though, you resume whatever previous Engages you had when the Stun resolves assuming the enemies are still standing). You also lose all cover. You cannot take any combat actions.
Paralyzed: As Stunned, but you also cannot move.
Partial Cover: Ranged attackers have a -5 to hit you, but you cannot Engage new enemies.
Full Cover: Ranged attackers cannot hit you, but you cannot Engage or make ranged attacks.
Wounded: As stunned, but you are bleeding and take 1 pain and 1d6 damage per segment, or 2d6 damage if you are out of Pain.
Winded: You are out of pain. You cannot take any actions that would require you to spend Pain. When you would normally take Pain from injuries, you instead take an additional 1d6 damage.
Blown: Your negative pain equals your positive Pain. You cannot move or take any combat actions and are Undefended against attackers. If you take any more pain you are automatically Wounded.
Unconscious: Wounded and Paralyzed. Also unaware of your surroundings.
Dead: You’re dead.