Combat Rules

How A Combat Plays Out

This section gives an overview of how combat works overall. The next section The Combat Round gives a detailed explanation of specific combat actions and how combat works as an exchange of attacks.

Combat procedure:

  1. Work out who is involved in the combat. The Referee works out who is on the player characters’ side and who is involved in the hostile group attacking them.
  2. Work out encounter distance. The Referee chooses how far away the hostile group is to the player characters, either at range or close.
  3. Surprise attacks. Surprise may be a factor in the combat. Either the characters or the hostiles may ambush the other side, one side may sneak up on the other, or the characters may simply come upon their opponents suddenly.
  4. Can combat be avoided? Can the characters run away, intimidate their opponents into giving up, or fast-talk their way out of fighting?
  5. FIGHT! Drop into combat rounds. A single round has a duration of five seconds, giving 12 rounds in every minute. During a round, every character can perform one action. Combat rounds cycle through a set of steps outlined below.
  6. Take damage. As a result of combat, the character may take damage in the form of hit point loss.
  7. End the combat. If the characters or their opponents all have 0 hit points or less, or have surrendered or have run away, the combat ends.

Work Out Who is Involved in the Combat

The characters will be on one side, with the other side being the hostile group they are fighting. The Referee manages the hostile non-player characters, so needs to be clear on who is in that group. Writing down the names and hit point totals of the hostile group is a good idea. Also, the players need to determine who is involved in the combat on their side. Some players might not want their characters to be involved in the combat. They might rule that their characters are not in the immediate area where the combat is occurring and are standing away in an adjacent area which is safe from even magical or ranged attacks. The Referee should rule whether this is the case or if they are involved in the combat because they cannot avoid it.

Encounter Distance and Engaging in Combat

Not all combats start with the two sides, the players, and their opponents, directly facing each other within a sword’s reach.  At the beginning of a combat, or potential combat, the Referee must determine which of the two distances is relevant.

  • Close distance is a range of two metres or less and is the distance at which a character can engage in either Close or Unarmed combat.
  • Ranged distance is a range beyond two metres up to double the range of the missile weapon a character is holding. It is the distance at which the character can engage in ranged combat. Ranged combat typically happens out in the open countryside, where groups of combatants can see each other coming over the horizon or emerging in the distance from old ruined buildings.

If the opponents are hidden, either through sneaking up on the characters or setting an ambush for them, move onto the Surprise Attacks section below.

Scouting Ahead

In a typical encounter, where the characters are moving through the wilderness or ruins, roll a basic Perception skill test for any characters who are ahead of the main party scouting. Modify the Perception skill, for the amount of cover that the opponents have, using the following table.

Modifier Opponents cover
+50% All the opponents are in clear sight.
+20% Some opponents are visible, such as perimeter guards.
-20% The opponents are hiding in the undergrowth.
-50% The opponents are hiding in very good cover such as ruins or woods.

If any of the scouts succeed, they can spot the opposition and choose the encounter distance. If they roll a critical they know the exact numbers and positions of opponents that they can reasonably see. They can, if needed, take extra time to scout out the rest of the opponents and they may make another Perception test with a +20% modifier, ignoring any modifiers for cover.

If any of the scouts fail, they are spotted approaching at ranged distance by the opposition. If any of the scouts fumble, they are split off from the rest of the party and may be at close range at the Referee’s discretion.

Surprise Attacks

There are three types of surprise attacks, all of which can happen at close or ranged range.

  • Ambushes, where one side is hiding in cover awaiting their opponents.
  • Sneak Attacks where one side uses Deception to stealthily creep up on their opponents, catching them unaware.
  • Rush Attacks where one side charges from range looking to overwhelm their opponents before they realise what is going on. In the procedure below use Athletics if on foot, or Ride or Drive if mounted or in some sort of vehicle (such as a chariot), instead of Deception as the skill for the attackers.

Surprise Attack Procedure

  1. Note that there can only be a surprise attack if the conditions for it exist, e.g. decent cover, such as undergrowth, for the ambushers to hide in for an ambush; or an unaware opponent undergoing a sneak or rush attack.
  2. If it is the characters who are the unaware side, each player makes an opposed skill test using their character’s Perception vs the highest Deception in the opposing side.
  3. If the characters are performing the attack, each player makes an opposed skill test using the character’s Deception vs the highest Perception in the opposing side.
  4. When being attacked, if the character fails their Perception skill test, they are surprised for one combat round and are unable to do any combat actions except Parry or Dodge. If they fumble, they cannot even defend themselves. The encounter distance is determined by the attackers as a group and will usually be at Ranged distance.
  5. If attacking, an opponent is unable to make any attacks and may only Dodge or Parry as defensive reactions. If the opponent fumbles the Perception test, they cannot even defend themselves. The encounter distance (Close or Ranged) is determined by the players individually for their characters.

Note, if the characters or their opponents are successful in their surprise attack, both sides are now engaged in combat.

Avoiding a Fight

If the characters are not a victim of a surprise attack (see above) they can do one of the following to avoid a fight completely:

  • Run away. The characters can turn tail and flee as quickly as possible. If the opposition chooses not to, or cannot for any reason, give chase (they are guards on a castle wall, for whom it would take a good minute or so to climb down and are under orders not to desert their post, for example), the characters can get away without any further problems.
  • If the characters move faster, because they are on a mount that moves quicker than a standard human or they are using magic which gives them superhuman speed, they can run away without any more problems. If they are chased by an opponent who has a comparable speed, then they make an opposed Athletics skill test. If they win, they escape. If they fail, their opponents have caught them and get +20% on their next action. If they fumble, not only do their opponents catch them but those caught suffer the effects of surprise and are only able to defend themselves in the first combat round.
  • The characters can try to intimidate the opposition to surrender or leave the battleground. One character, usually the one with the greatest Influence, leads the attempt, with the rest of the group assisting them. See Social Combat.
  • Fast Talking. The characters can try to fast-talk their way out of a confrontation. See Fast Talk in Social Combat.

FIGHT! Drop into Combat Rounds

The combat round is a measure of game time equalling five seconds, during which a character can normally do one thing, such as swing a sword.

Each combat round follows the following procedure:

  1. Statement of intent. Each player declares what their character is doing. The Referee declares what the non-player characters are doing if they are visible to the characters. Otherwise, they keep it secret until the non-player character(s) act.
  2. Choose skills and apply modifiers. The players work out which skill the characters will use to complete their combat action, normally one of the three combat skills (Close, Ranged and Unarmed Combat). The Referee then determines if there are any situational modifiers. If the characters have any modifiers due to active magic, add these to the situational modifiers (see below). Finally, each player should know what their modified skill value is. Likewise, the Referee should work out for the opposition what skills they are using and what modifiers apply.
  3. Determine order. The Referee counts down from 100%, and characters and non-player characters act in highest skill order.
  4. Take action. When it’s the player’s turn, they state what their character’s action is. Then they make any skill tests to try and make the stated course of action successfully. If called for, opponents make dice rolls for defensive reactions (Parry or Dodge). If a combat action is successful, apply its effects right there and then.
  5. End of combat round. Once all eligible characters have acted in the combat round, it is over. If there are characters still engaged in combat with enemies, another combat round begins.

Taking Damage

When a character successfully scores damage against a target, remove it from the target’s hit points. Every weapon has a damage rating, listed in its entry on the character sheet. This rating is the amount of dice rolled when the weapon successfully hits a target. Add the attacker’s Damage Modifier to all Close Combat weapons and Ranged weapons, except those that rely on a mechanism to provide the force to throw the missile (such as Crossbows).

Reduce damage by the armour point (AP) value, if any, of any armour the target wears, and then subtract the damage from their hit points.

There are two types of wounds.

Minor wounds, where the hit point total is still positive.

Mortal wounds, which are the result of injuries that reduce the character’s hit points to zero or less.

Minor Wounds

As long as hit points are above zero, any damage taken is considered minor wounds, meaning superficial cuts, bruises, and exhaustion.

Mortal Wounds

When hit points are zero or below, any damage is life-threatening; for what happens then see Zero Hit Points. Such wounds are considered mortal.

Healing Wounds

If the character is only suffering minor wounds, some magical spells, such as Heal, instantly heal damage to hit points. The Healing skill also helps. Over time, minor wounds heal naturally.

A character who is mortally wounded will need to either be treated by another character with the Healing skill or by strong healing magic before natural healing starts.

If using the Healing skill, the wounded character must first be stabilised by a successful skill test,  and then undergo surgery to treat the wound, which is another successful skill test using the right tools and conditions.

Healing magic that is strong enough to heal mortal wounds is Heal at magnitude 6 (Personal Magic), Divine Heal (Divine Magic), or  Treat Wounds (Sorcery).

A character with a mortal wound needs to be healed or stabilised immediately within the same combat round or by the end of the next combat round at the very latest.  If healed the character will also regain consciousness on a successful Resilience skill test.