A few more notes on Combat...
What if my weapon isn’t on the Weapons Chart?
The bad news is, it’s impossible to cover every single damaging object known to man on one chart. The good news is, that’s not really necessary. It’s easy enough for a Game Master to approximate weapons by looking up the information on a similar weapon and then modifying it (or not) however seems appropriate. For instance, if Tommy is using a crowbar, the Game Master may choose to use the statistics given for a bat, or they may modify those statistics slightly to represent the crowbar’s shorter length and harder material. See “Here’s what makes for a good combat scene” below for more information on ‘realism’.
How do I calculate 1/3 box of damage? Basically, you’ll just round down to the nearest full box. If a weapon or a fist does 1/3 box of damage, then it takes 3 successes to give the target one box of damage. Less than three successes does no damage. Four successes would give you a total of 1 1/3 boxes of damage, so you’d round it down; the opponent would take one box of damage. Six successes would damage the opponent by 2 boxes, as would 7 or 8, but 9 successes would produce 3 boxes of damage.
How far can I move before attacking? A general rule of thumb is that you can move 10’ and still attack that round, or 20’ while dodging. However, certain situations, such as rough terrain, may alter that number at the Game Master's discretion.
What ranges do my weapons have? Magic can reach anyone within line of sight. A longbow can fire arrows almost 100’ semi-accurately. Pikes or javelins can range up to about 20’ long before getting unwieldy. To get past something like that, a character must spend a round or two dodging and getting close enough to attack. For melee weapons and fists, however, a good rule of thumb is “if you can reach them, they can reach you.”
Learning a New Weapon: Just because you can use one kind of sword doesn’t mean that you can use any sword. After your initial character creation, if you want to learn to use a new type of weapon, you can; however, for the first few sessions after you acquire your new weapon, you will only roll as many dice as you have dots in the applicable Statistic for that weapon. After you have used the weapon for a while, the Game Master will allow you to use the applicable Statistic and Skill, though you may have to work at it for a while before you get your full number of dots.
For example, if you normally used a rapier, you would look on the weapons chart under “sword” and see that the applicable Statistic is Dexterity and the applicable Skill is Melee. A katana is also a sword, but if your character only knows rapier and tries to use a katana, then they only get to count the number of dots they have in Dexterity until they became familiar with the weapon. As they become familiar with a katana, the Game Master will allow you to use more and more of your Skill rating. Optionally, the Game Master may simplify things by allowing the full Skill rating after an initial “learning” period.
Here’s what makes for a good combat scene:
*A sense of urgency. Roll dice as necessary, but keep the scene moving. If a player is wasting time deliberating their next move, remind them that the combat is continuing and they must act now. If this causes a rash decision, chalk it up to the heat of battle.
* A sense of timing. The clash of swords and cries of battle happen in an instant. Bandaging, studying, or covering large distances takes longer. Try to be realistic, and not to ‘pause’ the action while a character does a long and involved action just because it’s their ‘turn’.
* A sense of reality. Some weapons hurt more than others, some are easier to dodge, and some are easier to wield. The chart above is meant to approximate that. However, it’s possible to slice a throat with a tiny knife or to barely graze someone with a gunshot. Because of this wide variation, the charts (or Game Master’s approximations) do not have to be perfect to convey reality. Simply describe the attack in a way consistent with the damage done; for example: if a crossbow bolt does only one box of damage, the Game Master may describe it hitting the outside edge of the character’s shoulder. If it did 7 boxes, then it may have hit a throat or an eye. If a character sneaks up on a sleeping opponent and slices their throat, it would be silly to make them roll to hit, or to give their opponent a chance to dodge--and it's possible that the player wouldn't have to roll damage, either.
The system outlined in this chapter is all well and good, but sometimes things aren’t so simple. What happens if one of the combatants is wearing an armor that’s not on the chart? Or if they’re hiding in a bunker and you can only see their eyes? What if the guy hitting you with his fists happens to be the next Bruce Lee? Game Masters, relax. With judicious use of a few modifiers, all these situations and more can be resolved quickly and easily, and your players will never even see you sweat.
In the case of armor, the defender is either harder to hit or must be hit harder--or both. Basically, the attacker is going to have a little more difficulty hitting the target, and when they do hit, there's a chance that less damage will be done. This can be approximated by raising the Hit Difficulty of anyone who attacks them and/or giving them more boxes of damage. The chart above gives a guideline for handling armor. If a character’s armor type is not listed, try to determine what category is most similar to what they are using and modify it if necessary. Keep in mind, though, that magic is normally not affected by armor, so the higher Hit Difficulty and extra health box will do no good if the attacker is using magic (without special GM dispensation).
If the defenders are in extreme cover, they are hard to hit (of course). Raise the Hit Difficulty from one to three points to simulate the difficulty of hitting the small part of the target that is visible.
If the defender is prone, drunk, or stunned, lower the Hit Difficulty accordingly.
For an extremely skilled opponent, treat them as if they have the Advantage known as Combat Mastery.
If your character comes across or creates an incredibly damaging weapon, bump the damage accordingly, but you should not allow a weapon to do more than 2 1/2 boxes of damage per success. Beyond that, weapons tend to get over-powered to the point of absurdity. Remember, too, that sometimes incredibly damaging weapons are large and unwieldy, causing them to have a lower HD, a higher DD, or to do slightly less damage than they otherwise would.
Basically, the Weapons Chart works well for straightforward encounters and is an excellent starting place for complex ones. What this means for the Game Master is that when a player says, “Ok, I take my axe and swing it at him…” the Game Master can reference the chart and either say, “Roll Dexterity and Melee against a difficulty of six” or, “All right, but that armor’s pretty thick. Roll Dexterity and Melee against a difficulty of eight”. Remember, real life is flexible, and as a Game Master, it’s Ok if you are, too. Try for accuracy, try for consistency, but if you slip up now and then, well, life’s like that.
The two most common combat modifiers are exhaustion (which is mentioned in detail above), and injury. When a person is injured, they mark off sections of their hour-glass, also known as Health Boxes. There are ten sections, or boxes. Once a person takes a certain level of damage, they suffer penalties. The penalties are detailed on the right side of the hour-glass.
There is a space at the bottom of the character sheet where a player may jot down their modifiers. It is the PLAYER’S responsibility to keep up with their exhaustion and injury modifiers, and the Game Master’s responsibility to keep up with the ‘special case’ type modifiers.
(NOTE: There is a special Cheat Sheet for Game Masters, so that they can keep up with all modifiers for all players. I will give this sheet next time.)
*At the beginning of a combat scene, each character determines their Initiative by adding together the number of dots they have in Perception and Reflexes, rolling a D10, and adding the result to their total.
*Whomever has the highest total goes first, second highest goes second, ect.
* To attack, add the number of dots in the applicable Stat and Skill. Roll that many dice. For every die that shows a number equal to or above the Hit Difficulty of the weapon (plus any additions granted by the opponent's armor), the attacker has scored one success.
* The opponent may dodge or parry. To dodge, add the number of dots in Dexterity and Dodge. Roll that many dice. For every die that shows a number equal to or above the weapon’s Dodge Difficulty, one success is removed from the attacker’s successes. To parry, the player rolls the same dice they would to attack. If they score more successes than their attacker, then the blow was parried and does no damage. Otherwise, they take full damage.
*The Dodge and Parry dice available to a character may be split amongst multiple attacks, if necessary.
*Damage is calculated by multiplying the weapon’s Damage by the remaining number of successes.
*Once everyone has taken an action, the ‘round’ is over. If the number of rounds is equal to or has exceeded twice the number of dots in someone’s Physical Stamina Stat, then that person must roll a number of dice equal to the dots they have in Physical Stamina, vs. 6. If they succeed, they are fine, if not, then they get a 1 point penalty for every following round until they get to rest. This is cumulative.
* Everyone must now determine Initiative again.
Next time: the Game Master's Cheat Sheet. See you then. ^.^