Killing Things: the simple way
Roll 1D20 (a 20-sided die). If you the number rolled was equal to the enemy's armour class or higher, then you hit. Roll damage.
Killing Things: the complicated way
The complicated way is simply adding bonuses to the two rolls mentioned above, along with the chance that your foe can defend. Add in any attack bonuses to better your chance of successfully connecting with the target (i.e. putting the smack down). If the number rolled (before bonuses) is a '1' or '2', then the roll is a critical fumble or critical failure. The Game Master will then ruin your day in an unpleasant way. If the number rolled (before bonuses) is a '19' or '20', then the result is a critical hit or critical success. You do double damage (yes, after everything else has been added in) and possibly have something cool happen like knocking your foe out or crippling them in a gory manner (Game Master decision as to what exactly happens). The Game Master may even decide that the result of a critical hit is instant death in an unfortunate manner regardless of the victim's hit point status. Of course, instant death should only be used for minion type non-player characters; it's a really crappy thing to do to a player character.
Any amount rolled above '20' (after bonuses) adds to the damage done. So, having a +4 to attack and rolling a natural 19 means that you do 3 extra points of damage—before the result is doubled.
The Combat Round
Let's look at each part of the game mechanics individually.
I. Pre-round chaos: combat usually starts when someone states that he or she is doing something stupid—like Tim throwing the lock pick. The players then tend to shout out their intentions simultaneously, much to the chagrin of the Game Master who usually simply smiles evilly and says, "Roll initiative."
II. Initiative: This determines who goes first and when. Initiative is rolled on a 10-sided die. Add in any initiative bonuses and subtract any penalties such as weapon speed. If double-digit numbers result, then the character has multiple actions in this round. Subtract 10 and the result is when you get to go again. Continue to subtract 10 as long as the result is still a positive number. Example: when Tim rolled an 11 for initiative he goes before everyone else who rolled less than 11 and his second action takes place as though he rolled a 1. Had he rolled a 23, then he would act at 23, 13, and 3. Another example: if someone rolled a 28 for initiative they would get to go twice before anyone else (3 times before those that rolled under 8).
Certain actions may mandate that initiative take place in a certain order rather than rolling the dice. For example, if you surprise your opponent, then you get in a free shot; or if you are charging someone who has set his or her weapon to receive a charge, then whoever has the longest reach hits first. The Game Master will determine these special cases. The Game Master will also decide if there is an initiative penalty or bonus for an action—or even require more than one round to accomplish the task.
III. State Actions: The Game Master then asks each player what he or she is doing in order from highest to lowest initiative ("Okay, did anyone get higher than 9? All right Tanya, what are you doing? Okay, 9, 8, 7…"). The Game Master states what non-player characters are doing in the appropriate order of initiative. To keep the flow of play moving resolve each action as it comes up.
If you change your mind about your action after you state it, then the Game Master may require that you make a Wits check to pre-empt someone—this only applies if you have higher initiative than your opponent. Some actions are easy to change after the fact: if you are alone and committing arson, you simply put the flames out; if you decide that you would rather use a different attack in the middle of combat you have a greater problem. The Game Master also determines the length of time that it takes to change your action—if any. As a default, it takes place 4 places behind where it was originally: if you rolled a 12 initiative—but decided later you wanted to do something else—then your effective initiative for the new action is now 8 (which means you no longer get your second attack). The Game Master may choose to only require the Wits check or a Wits challenge to change actions, or automatically allow someone with higher initiative to change an action that would pre-empt someone else's attack. What this means is that having a higher initiative may enable you to react faster than someone with a lower result.
IV. Attack Roll: Roll 1D20 (plus any bonuses such as weapon skill or high agility)—If the total is higher than your opponent's armour class, then you hit. Against unarmoured opponents, a result of 5 or better hits with close weapons and 8 or better hits with ranged weapons—effectively everyone has an armour class of 5 for melee and 8 for ranged attacks. If you don't need to get past the opponent's armour (such as a grapple attack, or in the story above with Tanya), then you only need to roll a 5 (or 8 for ranged attacks) to attack. If the total is higher than 20, the amount over is added to damage. Don't forget about critical hits and fumbles: 19—20 always hits and does double damage, 1—2 always misses and fumbles catastrophically.
V. Defence: You have the option of trying to stop an attack from successfully hitting you. The short version is you roll 1D20 (plus bonuses, of course) and hope to total higher than the attack roll. This is covered in more detail in Part II: Ow, that hurts…
VI. Damage: Add together weapon and strength damage plus the amount rolled over 20. If you are using a weapon with 2 hands (assuming the handle is large enough), your damage is your normal strength bonus plus 1/4th your strength score. Additional damage—such as from a flaming weapon or a jagged edge—causes additional damage, if applicable. The doubling for a critical hit does apply to additional damage.
VII. Resolution: This is where the Game Master determines special results such as effects of critical hits. Any damage taken during a round is a penalty (as shock) to all actions made for the remainder of this round and the initiative for the next (yes this does stack up).
Each round is about four to six seconds long—figure ten per minute if necessary. Note that there is a difference between game-time and real-time. A battle may last less than a minute in game-time, but take several hours in real-time. Game-time may also move much more quickly than real time. For example, the Game Master may state, "You spend the rest of the month healing your wounds and tending to your estates," which moves the story up to the action quickly. In other words, just because you stopped playing in the middle of a battle, you don't heal any hit points just because the next time you play is a week later.
Another thing to consider is that we said at the start of the last paragraph that a round was 'about' four to six seconds. It isn't an exact science. A round may possibly be much shorter or much longer than that. Another vague unit of time that gets used in Midian is an encounter. One way to think of an encounter is as a synonym of 'scene' in a movie, book, or television show. Like rounds or scenes, encounters take as long as they take. Even if you are racing against the clock (before the timebomb explodes), or you are carefully tracking every mile walked and every torch burned, don't get too caught up with time. Rounds and encounters are metagame elements, and as such don't neatly fit into clocks and calendars anyway.
Your First Combat
The first time you witness combat you suffer from certain penalties. The first time you actually participate in combat, you suffer a different set of penalties. If you have never seen battle before, you are at: -6 initiative, -4 attack, & -2 damage. If you have observed, but never actually fought, the penalties are halved: -3 initiative, -2 attack, and -1 damage.
One important note on battle; the Game Master is free to assign penalties and bonuses as she sees fit during game play based on the players' stated actions. These bonuses could offset the penalties noted elsewhere. The purpose of these bonuses—up to a total of +5 to the attack roll—is to encourage greater role-playing. For simple descriptions greater than, "I hit;" such as "I'm aiming for his head with a wide swing of my axe," you could get +1 to your attack roll. This bonus is doubled to +2 for a truly graphic description of your actions. Taking the actions of others into consideration is good for an additional bonus point, such as, "Since he jumped over my sword, now I'll aim high." A fourth point may be gained by incorporating your environment, i.e. jumping on tables, swinging from chandeliers. One final point may be gained from having an advantageous position, such as higher ground, greater reach, or a defensive position. These modifiers can be applied to situations other than just combat, such as social encounters or skill use.
Ability Checks & Challenges
This is an oft-used game mechanic to determine whether you are smart enough, strong enough, convincing enough, et cetera. You attempt to roll under the appropriate attribute on 2D20 for an ability check. Any bonuses or penalties are applied to the ability score, not the number rolled. For example, if you have the heightened smell trait and are required to make an Awareness check to see if you smell something, you make the roll as if your Awareness was three higher than what it actually is.
In some situations, an entire group makes attribute checks. If this is a cooperative situation then the entire group is assumed to succeed if half or more of the individuals' rolls successfully. For example, a band of mercenaries are crossing a river, but no bridge or ford can be found. The Game Master allows them to roll against either their Strength (to fight against the force) or Grace (to find solid footing) whichever is higher. If at least half of the soldiers make their checks against the current, then the entire group gets safely across. Some provide solid anchors for the stronger ones to aid those soldiers who slip.
Ability challenges are similar, but two or more people are making the roll—opposing one another—to determine who is stronger, quicker, et al. Make the ability check as normal, but the winner of the challenge is the one who rolls highest without going over their effective ability score. If neither makes a successful roll, or the result is a tie, then the challenge is undetermined; try again next round.
The standard penalty for repeated actions is -2 for each additional time that you attempt something. The Game Master is, of course, free to assign additional penalties, or to not assign any penalty at all (or even give a bonus). As an example, if you are trying to force open a stuck door, then you try to roll under your Strength attribute on 2D20; if you fail the first check, each additional checks are as though your Strength were two less.
Retests allow you to reroll the dice when you fail at a certain task. Even when a retest does not state how frequently it may be used (i.e. "once per day or game session"), each retest may only be used ONCE per situation. However, you may have more than one applicable retest. For example, let us say that you possess the traits Inner-strength and Divine Blessing. If you are dying in battle, you may retest your system shock roll with Survival Instincts. Should you fail that roll, you get one more try with Divine Blessing. Neither trait may then be used to reroll further system shock rolls during that battle. The result of the second attempt is the one used, even if the original roll was better. That is, regardless of how many retests you use, the final roll is the one that counts.
Ambush situations can often eliminate the enemy before they can retaliate. If the Game Master determines that one side has surprise over another, the ambusher's get in a free round of attacks without rolling for initiative while those surprised don't have any active defence (i.e. no parries or doges) and cannot counter-attack until next round. If both parties are surprised you all stand there with dumb looks on your face for one round, then roll initiative normally. The Game Master may allow an Awareness check to notice a potential ambush ahead, or may automatically grant surprise if an assault came from out of nowhere (Dwarven artillerists are notorious for their night-time catapult "deliveries"). If no one is surprised, proceed with combat normally.
If you choose to wait for something—for example to see what your opponent will do—then you voluntarily lower your initiative one 'step' at a time until you use your action. This may prevent you from having multiple attacks if you reduce your initiative until it is 10 or lower. The Game Master counts each initiative step (starting from the highest… 10, 9, 8…) until you decide to act. If you miss a chance to act by waiting, you don't get it back; it's just gone. If you had initiative over someone, but waited to see what he or she will do, you must make a Wits challenge with your opponent to see if you can act first. This assumes that the Game Master allows the possibility that you can pre-empt your enemy.
You may use your interrupts to defeat someone's actions in combat. Instead of going at your normal place (based on the initiative roll), your action takes place just barely before your opponents—thus ruining their attempt. For example, an alchemist (who has the higher initiative) is attempting to throw a canister of a flaming substance at the player characters. The rogue with a high wits score chooses to interrupt the alchemist's actions by flinging her sword at his face. If her attack roll is successful, the alchemist is too busy dodging (or bleeding) to throw the canister. His attack is ruined for this round. Had she missed, the alchemist would be sending a sticky, fiery doom towards the group instead of possibly being covered in his own flaming goop.
Interrupts do not add actions; they simply cause those actions to happen sooner than the normal initiative roll indicates. For example, if your opponent has a 27 initiative and you only rolled a 9, interrupting his action at 27 still only allows you one action this round.
Some tasks take time to accomplish. Obviously long actions, such as putting on armour, require more than one round to complete. Other actions, like most combat actions, can happen within a fraction of a second. Success in trying to stop someone when you do not have an interrupt depends on the initiative roll. An action that gets a bonus for initiative happens too quickly to be stopped without an interrupt. Actions that have an initiative penalty take longer to accomplish and may be stopped in progress. Figure that an action begins with the base (or natural) number rolled, and end with the initiative penalty added. For example, lighting and throwing the flaming canisters in the example above has an initiative penalty of -4. If your opponent rolls a natural 7 on the initiative check, his attack begins at 7 and ends at 3, when he throws it at you. If your initiative is between 3 and 7, you stop him mid-attack. This guideline is only important in cases when it is important whether you stopped your opponent before or during his action. In the 'fiery goop of doom' example, the canisters explode on contact. If your attempt to stop the alchemist breaks them, or causes him to drop them, the explosion still occurs. If you stopped him before he lit the canister (i.e. your total initiative roll exceeded 7), they do not explode.
What to Do with Your Hands
Always a big question in life, much more important in combat, "What do I do with my hands?" Each option has benefits and flaws that must be weighed to determine what best fits your character's style.
Both hands free: the option of both bad-assed martial artists and the totally defenceless; if you encounter someone without obvious weapons, they tend to fall into one of these two categories almost exclusively
- Both hands free: the option for brawlers, martial artists, and the unfortunately unarmed
- 1-hand: this leaves the other hand free for punching, grappling, or scratching yourself
- 1-hand & shield: good option for both attack and defence
- Just shield: this is a total defence option—unless you have a spiked shield—in which case this is similar to 1-hand attacks above, but with the added defensive bonuses
- Two shields: unless your shields have spikes or blades, this is just plain nuts
- Two weapons: you have a weapon in each hand; see Attacking with Two Weapons below
- 2-handed: by keeping both hands on a single weapon, you get added leverage to do more damage—you do 1/4th your Strength score (round up) as bonus damage; e.g. if you have an 11 Strength you do +1 damage (your normal bonus) plus 1/4th your attribute (11 divided by 4 is 2.75) rounded-up to 3, for a total of 4 additional points
Attacking with Two Weapons
While some may argue that having two weapons should grant an initiative bonus (your opponent doesn't know which way the attack will come from, increased initiative will integrate multiple attacks into the combat engine), some argue that there should be substantial penalties to using two weapons simultaneously in combat (harder to coordinate, cannot change-up grips easily). The reality is that being untrained makes using multiple weapons very difficult to use for fighting, while having the necessary training merely gives you additional options in combat. The multiple weapons penalty is -3 to attack plus an additional -3 for off-hand use. Ambidexterity reduces the penalty to -3 for both weapons and having appropriate skill for two-weapon style (such as Florentine style) negates the penalty altogether. The shield skill includes the necessary training in using both weapon and shield and so has no penalty for using both at once. Obviously, you cannot use a weapon that you couldn't hold and use one-handed for two-weapon attacks. If you don't have proficiency in a weapon, there is an additional -5 unskilled penalty for a possible total -11 penalty.
Either both weapons must be light or no load, or one weapon may be medium weight if the other is light or less. See the section on Weapon Encumbrance in Part II for details.
Using two weapons at once in combat grants you a few options: strictly for attack, for attack and defence, defensive attack, or total defence. Note that initiative is based on the initial attack; using your second action for a (slower) follow-up attack occurs at the normal initiative point for your second action unless otherwise mentioned.
- You may use the second weapon for only attacking, in which case you get an extra attack for each action in the round, but you cannot parry with either. The Game Master may require that weapons of differing speeds attack at the point that they would normally (as though each was the only weapon in your hands) based on their individual speed rather than from the initial attack if using this option—this option does require more per-round bookkeeping.
- If you choose to both attack and defend (the most common and perhaps best all-round choice), you gain an extra attack after your last action each round with the secondary weapon. You may still parry once per two skill levels (round up) with your secondary weapon only.
- Defensive attack is using only the primary weapon for attacking and the secondary weapon for defending. This option allows you to parry once with your primary weapon as well as once per skill level with your secondary.
- Total defence allows you to parry once per level with each weapon per round. Total defence, of course, precludes attacking in that round.
These guidelines also apply to using shields. In most circumstances, the shield counts as the secondary weapon. See Shield Use below.
If you can slay your opponents before they close to attack you, then you will have few worries in this world. Unlike with melee weapons, ranged weapons miss on any roll under an eight, before bonuses. Each ranged weapon has a 'range increments' notation listed in its description in the equipment chapter. Each time that the distance to the target surpasses the range increment, there is a cumulative -2 penalty to the attack and -1 to damage rolls. For example, a spike thrower has a range increment of 10 feet. If the distance to your enemy is 34 feet, you have a -6 penalty to attack and -3 to damage. In this example, the penalties accrue when the range passes 10 feet, 20 feet and 30 feet. You are not penalized if your target is within the first range increment. Longer-range weapons tend to be more accurate at long ranges. Any weapons that are very accurate—but have short ranges, or any weapon that is lethal for a great distance—but has poor accuracy even at close range, will have range modifiers detailed in the descriptions of those weapons. Ballistic ranged weapons—such as arrows or any thrown weapon—require a ceiling of at least 1/4th the linear distance. For example, if you fire an arrow down a corridor at a target 80 feet away, you need at least a 20 foot ceiling. Line-of-sight weapons—crossbows and firearms—do not have this requirement; they have less ballistic flight paths.
Weapons that are not designed for ranged attacks that are hurled will have their range increment set by the Game Master. Generally, this will be 5—10 feet based on how good of a projectile it is. Unless otherwise noted in the weapon description, hurled weapons have a maximum range of 5 range increments, and device-propelled weapons have a maximum effective range of 10 range increments.
Often the exact distance to the target is not needed. This is especially true for longer range weapons, such as bows. Rather than give the exact distance, the Game Master may instead give a 'close enough' range, such as two range increments. If the encounter is far enough away that it will be resolved entirely by long range attacks, penalties to the roll are really all that are needed. That is, if your opponent is too far for you to reach them on foot and too far to throw something, the two of you instead just pepper each other with arrows; in these cases knowing you have a -4 to attack and damage is sufficient. Another example of this is someone is escaping from a crossbowman. With every attack the target increases the distance by one range increment. A better method, but one with more dice rolling, is for a Wits versus Speed challenge with the fleeing foe winning with their Speed attribute to increase the range increments.
Firing into Melee
Using a ranged weapon in melee is risky and problematic. You cannot parry with most missiles very well. Attempting to do so automatically spoils your attack (losing an action to recover) and is highly likely to damage a bow or other delicate device. Firing ranged weapons into melee requires that you have a line-of-sight to your target. When you shoot at a person who is engaged in melee with another, the body of the other combatant (i.e. your ally) provides 40% cover. An aware obstacle can modify this percentage by 20% either way. That is, they can try to protect your target, or they can try to not get themselves hit. If your ally knows you are aiming his way, he can drop that down to 20%, but if his foe sees you instead, she can increase it to 60% by putting his body in the way. Should someone intentionally shield another with their body, they also increase the cover to 60%. If they both are aware--or neither know you are shooting at them--it stays 40%. If firing into a crowd any miss hits a bystander on an odd-numbered attack roll. A successful attack roll is still a hit, but bodies in the way provide cover, as previous. Someone whose body is providing cover--deliberately or otherwise--is themselves hit on these odd-numbered misses.
Most of the time there are no penalties when attacking a specific target; i.e. "I'm swinging my axe at his neck." However there are times when a target will be especially difficult to hit, because it is small, fast, etc. The Game Master assigns a penalty to the attack roll; -2 for something relatively easy, such as stabbing someone in the eye; or -5 or more for something more difficult such as cutting a rope with an arrow at 100 feet, or shooting into a crowd without hitting an innocent bystander. There are times when the penalty for a called shot is worth the additional effort. For example, if your opponent is so heavily armoured that you need a critical hit just to connect, then you could go for the eyes instead.
The converse is true when your target is substantially easier to hit. Swinging you sword indiscriminately through a tightly-packed crowd will get many people hurt. Another example would be a bonus to hit a building with a melee weapon (damaging it however…) of at least +1 unless your Game Master is in a pissy mood—more, (as in automatic—it is a building) if you bribe her with pizza.
Movement in Combat
Most melee combatants will circle one another, stepping forward and back for better position. The attackers can run top speed or just stand there slugging it out—it really doesn't matter. For ranged combat however, movement is definitely a factor; each point of speed the attacker moves subtracts one from the attack roll. If the target is moving, divide the speed by 5 to determine the penalty. That is an average Human moving (Speed 10) is -2 to attack with ranged attacks, whereas an Elf with a Speed of 20 is twice as hard to hit with a -4 penalty (of course you get +2 to offset the penalty for your bonus to attack something in the back when the pointy-eared bastard tries to run away).
Unless you are guarding a narrow passageway, or are standing shield-to-shield in a military formation, there is no reason to stand still during melee combat. Some archers and artillerists are able to zero in on unmoving targets. Even if you are fighting in close range, doesn't mean that your opponent lacks allies with missile weapons, or who are sneaking around to flank or backstab you. Constant motion helps against this.
Charging and setting against a charge screw with the normal initiative process. Charging is an act borne of desperation and is often used by those who continually lose initiative and wish to force their opponent to stand in the path of an oncoming maniac on horseback with nothing but a spear and a look of panic to defend with. Whoever has the greatest reach actually hits first whenever some fool chooses to charge. In order to charge, one must first have at least 20—30 feet to build up speed, and run full tilt into one's opponent. Note that this is relative, so that a charge may be a dive from a falcon or a ninja squirrel jumping down from a tree onto someone's head while biting ferociously. The advantage of charging is that you do double damage on a hit. The disadvantages are that your opponent does double damage as well if they 'set' a weapon against your charge (God bless you, Sir Isaac), and you cannot actively defend (no dodges or parries). Hit or miss, multiple attacks are generally precluded by having to turn around after running past.
'Setting' a weapon against a charge typically involves jamming the end of a spear or other polearm into the ground and angling the business end towards a charging foe. You do double damage if you hit the one charging (and hit first if you have greater reach) but must simply stand there and pray you survive—you also get no active defence. If you choose to defend or attack some other way, then treat this as a regular attack/defence (greatest reach still connects first). Hit or miss—as with the charger—multiple attacks are generally precluded by the one charging having to turn around after running past (follow-up combos are nastily effective, however).
There are no additional attack bonuses or penalties for either the attacker or the defender because of a charge. The speed you are moving may reduce your accuracy, but your inertia helps you get past defences (such as armour).
It is possible for someone to charge against someone who is charging him or her. This is what jousting is all about.
Long weapons with the reach feature are useful for keeping an enemy at bay. These weapons give an immediate interrupt when defending against an attacker not armed with a comparable weapon. When your foe closes, you may attack just before them, spoiling their attack. In order for the attacker to get past the weapon with reach, they must successfully parry your counterattack (it's hard for them to go forward with your spear sticking in their side) and in-fight past your defences by dodging. If both rolls succeed, then the attacker is now close enough to strike on their next action. To counter a successful in-fight, the spearman must (on his or her next action) back up to increase the distance again. To counter this counter—and stay within their striking distance—the attacker needs only to make either of a parry or dodge roll (not both this time) to keep the combat distance favourable to them.
If the reach weapon holder does not make this initial attack, then there isn't much to counter the rushing foe from casually strolling past the pointy bits and doing whatever they want. The only danger is if they are in too much of a hurry, trip, and put their eye out on your spear. These guidelines are also useful for palisades. Like the passively wielded spear, these sharpened stakes don't pose much of a threat against someone who can take their time to pass through, and anyone outside of combat may do so with little real danger. Someone rushing in during battle—pity the poor charging cavalry—must still in-fight past this fortification. The ground is not very proficient at spear use however, and effectively only rolls a 10 for a standard row of sharpened stakes set six inches apart. The 'attack' roll for the ground is halved for a palisade with one or two feet of distance, and increased to 12 if they are jammed together in depth with really sharp points.
Here is how it plays out in combat. Larry the Axe Guy is attacking the Impaler. He can't go just rushing in swinging Matilda (his axe) without the Impaler going all stabbity on his ass. Larry must in-fight if he wants to chop up this crazy woman. First, the Impaler attacks Larry. It doesn't matter what her initiative roll is, this attack happens on Larry's turn. Mister the Axe Guy must first parry, then dodge, the Impaler's attack. Use the Impaler's attack roll—no sense adding unnecessary rolls here—for both the parry and dodge rolls. If the parry fails, Larry gets poked; no need to roll any further, and Larry's action ends. If the parry succeeds but the dodge fails, Larry doesn't get stabbed (yet), but he doesn't get past the Impaler's weapon, either. Matilda doesn't get to hack at the aforementioned crazy woman until Larry's next turn.
Those untrained in fighting hand-to-hand roll to attack using only their attack bonuses from Agility and traits—hands are natural weapons, so there are no penalties—but damage is only the strength bonus (if any). Untrained brawlers use up an action to parry with their bare hands. Putting your hand in the way of a weapon hurts. It hurts a lot. Damage from a bare hand parry depends on the weapon you are blocking. Even on a successful parry, stabbing weapons do 1 point of damage, and hacking or smashing weapons do 1/4th damage (round down) to improperly untrained brawler.
Successfully grappling with someone first requires an attack roll with the Grab Attack skill. Your opponent's armour class bonuses for armour or thick hide do not apply. If successful, both of you drop your initiative counts to the end of the round. Roll a contest of either Strength or Agility, whichever is higher for each of you. The winner gains the advantage, determines whether grappling continues into the following round, and what your relative positions are. If neither one of you wins the challenge—or it's a tie—then you both continue to roll around on the ground fighting for position for another round.
Unskilled grapplers (i.e. you do not know any holds or throws) have a penalty of -5 on the Agility or Strength challenge, or any additional checks to resist or break a hold. Continuing a hold precludes rolling for initiative for the rounds that you are grappling, and damage done (if any) is assessed at the end of the round. In subsequent rounds you do not need to roll for initiative or attack. If you are using a grappling skill that causes damage, this automatically happens on any round where you have the advantage or anytime you roll under your Agility or Strength (even if you don't win the challenge). No attack roll is needed.
To escape from a hold or joint lock, use the opposed challenge using either Strength or Agility—both combatants get to choose. Add in any applicable bonuses and penalties such as the -5 non-grappler penalty or bonuses from the Escape or Grab skills. The winner gets to choose whether the hold continues or is broken. Note that it is possible to use a grappling move on someone who is holding you. For example if you are wrestled to the ground, you may not be able to bring your sword into play effectively, but you can choke the son-of-a-bitch. Multiple holds are figured separately—you can break free of his hold, but maintain your own.
Joint locks are an advanced form of holds that are painful, but do not cause damage unless the victim struggles to escape, or the grappler uses an action to hyperextend/hyperflex the joint. This can cause a sprain, dislocation, or even a broken bone.
You want the really short version of all this? Roll to grab, then it's a Strength or Agility challenge at the end of every round.
To knock a weapon out of someone's hands, roll D20 and add in any bonuses to attack. The defender also rolls D20 and adds in any bonuses for parries. Whoever has the higher result determines whether the defender keeps his or her weapon; a tie result means that the weapons are locked up—roll again next round. Whoever uses both hands to hold onto their weapon adds in +4 to the roll. If you catastrophically fail (natural 1 or 2), or your opponent critically succeeds (natural 19 or 20), then your weapon is lost instead. The Game Master determines where the fallen weapon lands (unless you are a master of the disarm), but an easy method is 1 foot per point the roll was made by in the direction of the winner's dominant arm.
On Being a Sneaky Bastard
An immobile or unaware victim of slaughter is an easy hit. If you attack someone from behind, or from an angle that they cannot easily defend against, you receive a +3 to attack. Your opponent cannot block or parry your attacks—dodge is the only active defence possible. In addition, if you successfully sneak up on someone—or they are otherwise unsuspecting of an attack (nudge, nudge), then you gain a round of surprise. An unconscious or immobile opponent is an automatic hit with melee attacks if you are not in a combat situation. Even in the middle of a fierce battle, you get a +6 to strike someone who is already unconscious or tied up. You also gain the +6 attack bonus any time that you strike a helpless or unmoving target with a ranged weapon. Attacking someone from a blind-spot is called 'flanking', and is considered a 'good tactical move'. Let's tell it like it is… you are an underhanded backstabbing bastard. Good work, congratulations.
When you knock people down, not only to you get the +4 to attack them after they are on the ground, but also they are at -4 to hit you.
Ganging up on someone so that you and your companion are on opposite sides of the opponent, gives both of you the bonus. In addition, flanking a target in this way prevents him or her from blocking or parrying all of your attacks. If someone that you are ganging up against turns all of his attention to one of your allies (so that only you get the bonus), then he cannot actively defend against you at all; and cannot tell what you are doing. Other sneaky tactics can more easily be used then. Up to eight people can gang up against a single target on open ground. Larger victims may face more people, and thousands of tiny opponents can gang up on one target—ants, for example.
Any time that someone rolling to attack gets a natural 19 or 20 (that is if the number actually showing is 19 or 20) then the result is a critical hit. Damage done is doubled and the Game Maser assigns a special punishment for the unfortunate who was just hit so severely. If the attacking character has modifiers to attack that effectively place the roll over 20 then that amount is added into the damage done before doubling. The Game Master has the right to declare that a critical hit causes instant death to speed up combat (especially against unimportant, easy to kill minions). A critical hit chart for this game system would be stupid—i.e. you are trying to drop a brick down on someone from a rooftop but the chart says that their hamstring was severed—instead we will have a list of possible effects. Feel free to add your own.
Blinded (eye lost or from blood dripping down)
Blow to jaw or base of skull (unconsciousness)
Crippled (Achilles tendon cut, knee smashed)
Volatile equipment set off
Fingers smashed (hand mostly useless)
Funny bone hit (drop weapon, and arm is numb and useless for 1D6 rounds); ha ha indeed
Hit in ear (loss of balance -3 attack & parry, dodge impossible)
Hit in the nuts—this one is just wrong
Knocked down (must spend 2 rounds getting back up)
Knocked back (nothing funnier than watching someone get hit hard enough to fly through the air)
Leg mangled (cut Speed in half & -2 Grace)
Nose broken (possible Appearance loss)
Ribs broken (-4 to Stamina & cannot run)
Severe throat wound (death in 2D6 rounds)
Shocked (just sits there staring straight ahead or acts slow and confused)
Spleen, kidney, or liver damaged (will slowly poison themselves)
Teeth knocked out
Thumb of sword-hand cut (cannot hold weapon in primary hand)
Wind knocked out (-6 to all rolls for 1D8 rounds)
Combos are also called: combinations, manoeuvres, techniques, feats, and stances. Combination moves are not recommended for beginning characters, and as such do not require expending skill points. You must know all of the skills involved and practice using them together in your combo. The Game Master may restrict combos to knowing a specific level of a skill, or having a needed character level. Feel free to create your own combos—the combat engine was designed to allow this. In fact, the Midian game's combat engine was created specifically for such creative, descriptive actions.
- Automatic Flip: requires Hand Parry and any flip; you may flip someone automatically after a successful parry; this does count as an action
- Chi Attack: requires Akijutsu V (two-finger) and Atemi: Pain Touch; both skills stack (an exception to the Atemi skill); you push your opponent back, and the result of the attack roll over 10 is the stun damage
- Closed Strike: so called because this manoeuvre was originally usually used for sai in the closed-hold position; requires Rear Defence and Melee Weapon: Short or Medium; by placing the weapon upside-down along your forearm, you are able to attack foes behind you; you ideally want a weapon that extends a few inches past your elbow; this may be considered a sneak attack (no defence)
- Dragon Kata: this famed combo of the Killian people requires Battle Cry, Take It Like A Man, and Timing; you do nothing but "power up" by shouting for the round (incoherent—not insults) in order to do double damage on the next round; you may not defend yourself the round that you "power up"
- Drunken Stagger: useful to fool people into thinking that you are more intoxicated than you really are; requires Acting and Dodge; your dodges look more like happy accidents
- Explosive Attack: requires Timing and Battle Cry; you wait until the 3rd round to use your Battle Cry skill; this is even more impressive when you only defend for the first 2 rounds; you receive the total bonuses for both skills
- Flying Spin Kick: involves other combos—Reverse Turn Kick and Jump Kick; you dodge by jumping and spinning into the air, with your foot landing hard on your opponent; this looks impressive as Hell
- Grab/Attack: requires the Grab skill and any other martial skill and is done simultaneously; roll to attack separately
- Grab/Headbutt: requires Wrestling III; roll to grab and to smash separately, but the attack happens with one action; doubles headbutt damage
- Grab/Kick: requires the Grab skill and any other martial skill and is done simultaneously; roll to attack separately
- Grab/Slash: a favourite of the Killian samurai; requires Grab and melee weapon proficiency with a hacking weapon; this is a sneaky move that involves grabbing someone and pushing them away—when they resist (instinctive), you pull them toward you and slide the weapon up into them; if both attack rolls are successful you do an extra 1D6 damage with the weapon
- Hand Hold/Strike: you hold onto your opponent's hand while simultaneously attacking; roll both attacks separately; requires Grab and Hand Parry; you may also combine this with Wrist Lock to add insult to injury; this hold is especially hard to break—your opponent's Strength and Agility are effectively -2 for the escape challenge; Bruce Lee loved doing this
- Hand Power Block: requires any hand-to-hand skill and Power Block; you do your normal hand-to-hand damage on a successful parry against another unarmed attacker
- Jump Kick: also called a flying kick; requires both skills and does double damage if both checks are successful
- Kick/Knife Parry: requires Florentine style, Melee Weapon: Hand, and any kick; you lock up an opponent's weapon with the paired knives, and simultaneously kick; using the blades counts as a parry (you must roll over the opponent's attack roll), and the kick counts as an action—but happens immediately regardless of initiative order as an interrupt; the kick cannot be blocked or parried
- Leg hook: requires either Body Check or Pin, and either Leg Hold, Ankle Lock, or Knee lock; you knock someone down with a trip and immediately have them in a hold
- Neck Flip: combines Neck Hold with Shoulder Flip to attack someone from behind and throw them onto the ground; this is normally quite difficult with a normal shoulder flip; don't forget your +2 to attack from behind
- Neck Hold/Choke: requires both skills and has the bonus that your victim must break both holds
- Parry/Attack: this rapid one-two combo allows you to make an immediate attack after a successful parry; you still have the same number of attacks in a round, but this may step up their effective order in initiative; roll for success separately
- Parry/Grab: requires Grab and Hand Parry; you may grab automatically with a successful parry; may also be combined with Wrist Lock
- Parry/Kick: requires weapon proficiency and any kick; you parry with the weapon while kicking your opponent; you roll separately, but both occur simultaneously
- Pistol Whip: you may use a ranged weapon that can be used one-handed to attack in melee by striking with the handle; requires any hand-to-hand skill and the appropriate ranged weapon skill; use the hand-to-hand skill to attack; damage is 1D4 points + strength damage
- Pommel Strike: combines Closed Fist Style with any melee weapon proficiency; you fake a strike over your opponent's shoulder—a near miss (or should that be a 'near hit?')—and hit him or her on the back of the head with the hilt of your weapon
- Power Block/Parry: in this turn-of-events manoeuvre you parry with your weapon while smashing your shield into your opponent; requires Power Block, Shield, and the appropriate weapon proficiency; the shock value of this unusual action gives a +3 bonus on both the parry and attack rolls
- Pull Punch: requires Timing and either a hand-to-hand skill or a non-flex melee weapon proficiency; anyone can strike with less than full force, but you have it down to a science; you can decide how much damage you will do—up to your normal amount
- Reverse Turn Kick: this spinning kick requires Dodge and any kick skill; roll to dodge first and if successful, roll to kick; this only uses one action total
- Roll With Blow: requires Breakfall and Dodge; you may use your retest from Breakfall to overcome the result of a failed dodge; the retest allows you to roll a save against crushing attacks to reduce the damage from an attack to half;
- Rolling Attack: requires Tumbling and either Ground Fighting or any hand-to-hand skill; you roll along the ground and trip your opponent; use Tumbling as your attack skill
- Sticky Hands: requires Dodge and Grab; you hold onto your opponent with one hand (a light touch is all that is needed), and read his or her actions; you receive a +3 on dodges against that person, and may have cover from their body against attacks from others
- Throat Strike: requires proficiency with a flex weapon, and either Choke Hold or the Neck Flip combo; you may use your weapon proficiency to choke or flip someone when you strike his or her neck; this happens with one action
Total Attack and Fighting Defensively
The Total Attack is the last, raving, psychotic refuge of berserkers, vengeful mothers, mindless Undead, redheads, and madmen. This attack style is used when you are not concerned with your own safety and self-preservation, but only on the assault. In exchange for a +2 on attack, damage, and initiative rolls, you are unable to defend yourself this round. In other words, you can neither parry nor dodge. Your shield only offers an armour class bonus, and cannot be used to block. You may not wait for an enemy to come to you, voluntarily lowering your initiative until after their action. Instead you rush towards them and act straight away. If launching a ranged weapon, you must stand out in the open rather than cowering behind cover. However, it must be said that those who choose this attack style usually aren't using ranged weapons beyond dishes or beer bottles, and generally prefer to get their hands around the throats of their opponents.
Fighting Defensively is also called a tactical withdrawal. It enables you to continue trying to strike your opponent while concentrating on not being hit yourself. You receive a +2 to parry or block, but -4 to attack. You may back up (slowly, you don't want to trip) to the safety of your allies or a more defensive position. See also Total Defence in Part II. If you are armed and able to defend yourself, but focus solely on defence by not counterattacking, then the bonuses from fighting defensively stack with the doubled number of defensive actions and +2 armour class bonus from total defence.