This page provides a comprehensive list of rules that govern specific aspects of combat. For a more general walkthrough of the combat sequence, go to the gameplay page.
Table of Contents
Starting the Fight
At the start of combat, each character involved rolls initiative and then take turns based on the results. To determine initiative, each character rolls a dice pool equal to their Wits plus their Dexterity at difficulty 6. They cannot spend a willpower for an automatic success, and Wound Penalty does not apply. Turn order in combat is determined by who has the greatest number of successes on their Initiative roll. Ties go to the character with the higher Dexterity, further ties look at their Wits, and a third tie is up to GM discretion, based on the specific positioning as combat begins.
Initiative = Dexterity + Wits, difficulty 6.
- Ambush: A character who is ambushed or caught flat-footed automatically loses initiative. This is usually dictated by the tactical situation rather than by dice rolls. For example, if you round a corner to find guards waiting for you with rifles leveled, you've been ambushed.
- Surprise: Surprise is a resisted skill check of the attacker's Stealth versus the defender's Alertness. The surprising characters gain a free attack which takes place before initiative. This attack is committed. A surprised target cannot take a defensive action. Effectively, the surprised character is unable to react to the first swing.
- A sleeping character suffers +4 Difficulty to the Alertness roll to avoid surprise (normally a base Difficulty of 6, adjusted to 10). A meditating character suffers +2 Difficulty to the Alertness roll to avoid surprise.
Movement in Combat
See Movement page.
Engaging in Combat
There are four Primary abilities which can be used to attack: Brawl (for unarmed combat), Melee (for handheld weapons that aren't guns), Firearms (for guns and other projectile weapons), and Athletics (for any thrown weapon). Generally speaking, the Attribute they are combined with for combat will be Dexterity, though there are occasions where Strength might apply (mostly with Brawl or Athletics). Additionally, any Secondary Abilities of Brawl, Melee, and Firearms, and some of the Secondaries of Athletics, can be used to attack. Characters using those receive -1 difficulty on their attack.
Attacking may be done on your turn, based on initiative rolls.
Rate of Fire
A standard Offensive Action represents an all-out attack. This means that, for Firearms, you shoot a number of bullets equal to your Rate of Fire (listed on the Equipment page). Some single-action revolvers and rifles have a rate of 1 bullet per 3-second round, but the vast majority of modern guns are semi-automatic, meaning they can fire 2 or 3 bullets in a span of 3 seconds without losing too much effectiveness. The Difficulty and Base Damage for guns is based on using a semi-automatic rate of fire.
However, there are some situations in which a character might wish to take a more steady shot despite their gun's superior rate of fire, perhaps to aim more precisely or perhaps to conserve ammunition. In any case, players may declare they are taking a single aimed shot; if they do, they reduce their Difficulty by 1, but cut their Base Damage in half. If a player says nothing about rate of fire, the GM will assume they are utilizing their weapon's semi-automatic capabilities and firing multiple shots.
As a side note for Storytellers, be sure you narrate with this rule in mind, and keep your players abreast of this particular nuance of the system, especially if they are new. For example, if a player simply says "I attack!", you'll depict the scene with multiple shots being fired. If they specify that they only want to shoot them once, make sure they understand that they're taking a reduction in damage and difficulty to do so.
There are three Primary abilities which can be used defensively: Dodge (to dodge, obviously), Melee (to parry), or Brawl, (to contest a grapple or to parry in some circumstances). Generally speaking, the Attribute they are paired with for defensive actions is Dexterity. Any Secondary abilities of Dodge and Melee, and some Secondaries of Brawl, can be used for defensive actions. They receive -1 difficulty when used.
Defensive actions may be done at any point during a round, regardless of initiative, so long as you have not taken an action or you have dice left over from any action taken.
Characters may attempt to multitask some actions during combat. This is done by splitting your dice pool.
In order to split a dice pool, first you'll need to determine which actions you plan on taking or might possibly take, and determine the dice pool for each action. The total number of dice you have available to split between your actions is equal to the smallest of these dice pools. For example, a player with 4 Dexterity, 3 Dodge, and 1 Melee wishes to attack his enemy with a sword, and also attempt to dodge his enemy's punches. His Dex + Dodge is 7, but his Dex + Melee is only 5, so he will have to split the 5 dice pool.
Any action taken from a split dice pool must be allocated at least 2 dice. Therefore, if the total dice available is 3 or lower, the dice pool cannot be split and only one action may be taken, since you have to have at least two groups of two, or four dice total, in order to take two actions.
This cannot be done in order to attack multiple times in one turn. Only one offensive ability may be used per round. You cannot split your dice pool in order to shoot your gun twice, for example. You can, however, take as many non-offensive actions as you wish in a turn, provided you have enough total dice available to split your dice pool.
Some actions may be labelled as "committed actions". This means that a character who takes this action cannot split their dice pool in that round. They must commit all available dice to taking that particular action. The two most common examples are shooting a gun and dodging.
A Dedicated Dodge occurs when a player chooses to commit their entire turn, and all their dice, to dodging. They will only need to roll dodge once, and their successes on that dodge roll will subtract from the attack rolls of each attacker as if they had rolled dodge for each attack.
Much heavy weaponry and some rifles, such as sniper rifles, require a committed action to fire. This leaves the shooter vulnerable to attack, the price that is paid for these weapons' high damage.
Some guns have a rate of fire which allows them to shoot multiple bullets each round. Ordinarily they will fire as many bullets as possible at a single target. If, however, the player wishes to shoot at multiple targets, they may do so through a committed action. The player only makes a single firearms roll, because all of the bullets are already factored in to that single roll. If they succeed, they may divide their successes between a number of targets no greater than the number of bullets fired (their rate of fire).
Combat Roll Difficulties
Each weapon or type of attack will have a base difficulty associated with it:
- Brawling: difficulty 6
- Throwing weapons: difficulty 6 for light weapons (knives, shurikens), difficulty 7 for heavier weapons (axes, rocks)
- Bows: difficulty 6
- Melee weapons: weapon dependent, either difficulty 6 or 7, see Equipment
- Firearms: weapon dependent, ranges from difficulty 6 to 8, see Equipment
However, many other factors besides your weapon may impact your odds of landing an attack. The following modifiers are our suggestions for how to address those factors; GM's may alter these at their discretion, but sticking fairly close to these values is advised for the sake of balance.
Attack Difficulty Modifiers
If you are…
- Behind cover: +1 difficulty, can't use turns to Aim but can dodge as a free action
- Using your off hand: +1 difficulty
- Walking: +1 difficulty
- Running: +2 difficulty
- Encumbered: +1 difficulty per 25lbs of encumbrance (doesn't apply to firearms)
- Lining up a shot: -1 difficulty per round spent aiming, capped at -3 in general and -2 for moving targets. Shooter must be standing still.
- Using a Secondary Ability: -1 difficulty
- Firing blind: +4 difficulty
If your target is…
- Behind cover: +2 difficulty
- Immobilized: -3 difficulty
- Running: +1 difficulty
- At point-blank range (within two meters): -2 difficulty (doesn't apply to melee weapons or sniper rifles)
- At long range (beyond listed range for weapon): +1 difficulty, up to +2 at max range (which is weapon range x2)
- Roughly the size of
- A normal adult human: base difficulty
- A child: +1 difficulty
- A house cat: +2 difficulty
- A small mouse: +3 difficulty
- A horse: -1 difficulty
- A truck: -2 difficulty
- A house: -3 difficulty
If your surroundings are…
- Dark: +2 difficulty, down to +1 with Perception at 5
- Foggy: +3 difficulty, down to +1 within point blank range
- Stormy (torrential rain, heavy snow, hail): +1 difficulty
- Underwater, and you are using a…
- Knife/your bare hands:+1 difficulty
- Small melee weapon (short swords, hand axes, clubs): +2 difficulty
- Large melee weapon (long swords, polearms, flails): +3 difficulty
- Throwing weapon: doesn't work
- Firearm: doesn't work, with the exception of harpoons and some specially designed pistols
Defensive Difficulty Modifiers
When an attack successfully connects or an event occurs that might damage a character, a damage roll must be made to determine the severity of the injury. Damage rolls are at Difficulty 6. Add together total successes to determine damage dealt. Most dice penalties are not subtracted from the damage dice pool. 1's are not subtracted from successes with damage rolls.
When a character takes damage, their Wound Level increases to the level equal to the damage you dealt; for example, if you deal 4 damage, they will rise to the fourth Wound Level, Wounded. If, however, the damage dealt is lower than or equal to the character's current Wound Level, they will instead increase their Wound Level by 1; for example, if you dealt 4 damage, and they were already at Wounded, they would rise to the fifth Wound Level, Mauled. See the Wound Levels page for more details.
The number of damage dice available depends on the nature of the attack. Powers will specify their own damage dice, but conventional weapons follow these general rules.
In the table below, "outcome" refers to the number of successes on your aiming roll minus the number of successes any defenders scored on their dodge / parry roll. The Equipment page provides further details on weapon damage for a variety of different weapons. The resulting Damage is rolled and applied as an Injury.
|Weapon Type||Aiming Roll||Damage|
|Hand-to-hand||Dexterity + Brawl||Strength|
|Brass knuckles and similar||Dexterity + Brawl||Strength + weapon damage|
|Held Knives, swords, axes, clubs||Dexterity + Melee||Strength + weapon damage + outcome|
|Thrown knives, axes||Dexterity + Athletics||Strength|
|Bows||Dexterity + Athletics||Strength + outcome|
|Firearms||Dexterity + Firearms||weapon damage + outcome|
|Crossbows||Dexterity + Firearms||weapon damage + outcome|
The Equipment page has more detail about the specific damage values for various weapons.
A character's Armor Rating is subtracted automatically from damage dice against them. For instance, if your character is getting slashed for 6 damage dice but has a Kevlar vest on (which has an Armor Rating of 2), the enemy rolls 4 dice of damage. Armor cannot reduce the damage roll below a single die.
If a combatant can soak damage due to different abilities or items, the abilities or items usually do not stack. Typically, general categories don't stack. Items do not stack. Powers do not stack with the same type of bonus unless it provides an entirely different type of effect.
If you take damage greater than your Stamina from a single attack (not attack sequence), you are stunned. A stunned character loses any remaining actions for the current turn and is unable to act in the following turn.
If you take 4 or more damage from a single attack (not attack sequence), you will gain a Battle Scar, as evidence of the mutilation you received.