So last time I talked about TDE mechanics, I talked about how it does an excellent job of supporting games that are not combat focused, with a whole bunch of great main, optional and focus rules (see here for what those mean) to allow for social heavy games with court intrigues, or wilderness survival games if desired.
But this time I'm going to talk about combat, it’s not a mandatory part of the game, but I believe most groups expect at least a little combat in their TTRPGs, particularly those coming from other popular fantasy RPGs.
I’m going to break this article into a few sections for ease of reading.
How does combat work?
In TDE, combat is broken into Combat Rounds (CRs) made up of turns for each participant, much like many other games. These CRs represent 2-5 seconds (a little different from the common 6 seconds many games use). The PC/NPCs take their turns in Initiative order, a familiar concept to anyone that’s played almost any TRPG. On a characters Initiative step they can make an Action and a Free Action; again, pretty familiar concepts for anyone with any TRPG experience.
So how does Initiative get determined?
Pretty simple, characters have an Initiative derived attribute (which is based on the characters (Courage + Agility)/2) and a d6 is rolled to add to this number. Characters act in order of this total, highest to lowest, ties favour the character with the highest Initiative attribute, if that’s also a tie, then use a d6 to see who goes first.
Ambushes are also possible, simply being a competitive test of Stealth (Hide) opposed by Perception (Detect Ambush), if the ambushers win the check, the group being ambushed get the Surprised state which stops them being able to react to the first action taken against them.
Great, but what can characters do on their turn?
So, we know how to setup a combat, but what can characters actually do? As noted earlier, characters each can take an Action, and a Free Action. Some specific monsters can take additional Actions as well.
Actions cover making attacks, moving, drawing weapons, loading weapons, casting spells or liturgies and interacting with the environment.
Free Actions cover a smaller subset of options, shouting, dropping items, standing up, moving, even turning around.
Many special abilities in the game also use an Action or a Free Action.
The third type of option characters have in combat is purely reactive – this is defence. Characters can Dodge or Parry attacks made against them, PCs have the ability to do this multiple times a turn, whilst NPCs can only do it once. Whilst PCs get to make the attempt multiple times, each subsequent defence made in a turn is made with a -3.
How do characters perform Actions/Free Actions?
Attacking with a Melee weapon or Ranged weapon is pretty simple:
The player rolls 1d20 and needs to score equal to or lower than the characters rank + modifier for the weapon being used.
There are typically modifiers for things like the size of target, the weapon being used and if the space is cramped.
Like many other games, characters can score a critical hit which has to be confirmed (this means that the player rolls again and so long as it succeeds, its a full critical).
A confirmed critical reduces the targets defence by half and deals double damage.
An uncomfirmed critical just reduces the targets defence by half.
Rolling a 20 on an attack is a botch, but as with a critical, the character rolls again, if the second roll is a success, then the check is a simple failure, if the second roll also fails then the character suffers 1d6+2 damage that ignores their armours protection.
For example: A character attacks with a longsword, they have 12 ranks in the Swords combat technique and a Courage of 14, their target is going to be 14. 12 from ranks plus characters get +1 for every 3 points above 8 their Courage is for Melee, and +1 for every 3 points above 8 their Dexterity is for ranged.
Defending, regardless of if its a Dodge or a Parry works in a similar way, rolling equal to or less than the target number. As with attacks it's possible to critical or botch such a roll:
A confirmed critical allows an immediate Attack of Opportunity (this is an attack made with a -4 penalty and cannot be defended against)
An unconfirmed critical simply negates the attack
A confirmed botch causes the character to suffer an additional 1d6+2 damage that ignores their armours protection.
For example: A character has been attacked and decides they will attempt to Parry with their Shield, they check their character sheet and see that their Parry score with the shield is 10, they make their roll and get 6, a success! the attack is negated, but their next defense will have to be made with a -3.
How does damage work?
Characters deal damage based on their weapon, and gain additional damage based on the weapons primary attribute. Each weapon has a Threshold, for each point the characters attribute is above the Threshold, the attack deals 1 additional point of damage.
When a character suffers damage, they reduce it by the Protection (PRO) of their Armour, the character reduces their Life Points (LP) by the remaining value.
Characters suffer the Pain condition for every 25% of their total LP they have lost, this condition causes penalties to all checks, as well as additional penalties at higher levels.
For example: A character has been hit by a longsword, the attacker has dealt 7 damage, the player checks and their character is wearing chainmail which has a PRO of 4, therefore they reduce the 7 to just 3 damage.
Later, the same character is hit by a heavy crossbow bolt, which deals 12 damage, their PRO reduces that to 8, however they have not healed since getting hit by the sword and realise they've now lost enough LP they gain the Pain 1 condition, and suffer -1 on all checks.
This creates something fairly uncommon in TRPGs, a death spiral. It's not so bad that combat becomes insurmountable, but it certainly helps instill the idea that all combats can become deadly, and shouldn't be undertaken lightly!
What about performing other Actions in combat?
If a character wants to perform an action that involves a skill, or they want to cast a spell, it's typically a standard check. I'll do separate articles for skills and magic, but for now a brief overview:
The player rolls 3d20, each one relating to one of three attributes associated with the skill, spell or liturgy.
A success is when all three results are equal to or lower than each attribute.
With skills and spells/liturgies characters ranks are instead used to reduce the number rolled on any of the dice to make the results go from a failure to a success, if theres not enough ranks to convert failed rolls to successful ones, the entire check is a failure.
On a successful check the remaining ranks are used to determine the quality level (QL) of the check, 0-3 is QL1, every three after increases QL by to a max of QL 6.
The QL is used to determine effects for most spells or liturgies, for skill checks the QL usuall indicates how well the thing was performed.
Characters can score a critical success on these checks by rolling a 1 on any two of the dice.
Characters can score a botch on these checks by rolling a 20 on any two of the dice.
The exact effects of a critical or botch on these checks varies, in the case of spells and liturgies, the cost in AE/KP is halved and they increase their remaining ranks by 1d6.
For example: A character wants to leap a gap to get to a foe, the GM might call for a Body Control (Jumping) check, which would require the player rolls against their characters Agility/Agility/Constitution, for example 15/15/11. The player rolls a 17/12/10 succeeding on the second and third rolls but failing the first, they check their ranks and see they have 6 ranks so spend 2 to make it a success, leaving them with 4 ranks, a QL2 success! They easily make the jump
Characters can use skills to do just about anything as an action, in some cases the GM might ask a player to spend a couple of CR performing the action, but it's always worth considering the environment and how to use it in TDE.
Can I get special abilities that let me do more?
If all the above wasn't enough, due to the nature of TDE character creation and progression, characters can pick up special abilities by spending Adventurer Points (AP) which is the games version of experience. For those of you familiar with Dungeons & Dragons these are similar to feats from editions like 3rd edition, or similar to some class abilities in fifth edition!
There are special abilities available for almost everything you can think of, this includes a great many that are not combat related, however warrior characters will find things like fighting styles, complete with special moves the character can perform as well as more general options, many of which will feel familiar. I've not covered any of them in detail here, but might do another article on it later.
There are a great many other things you can do!
Characters have a plethora of options through the use of their skills and environmental interactions (The Aventurian Compendium has some examples of this), but even with the core rules there are options for:
Mounted combat (expanded in other books)
Getting advantageous position over another
The impact of one character having a longer weapon than the other
How cramped environments impact different weapons
Being attacked from behind
How visibility impacts both ranged and melee
Attacks of opportunity
Fighting in water
Impacts of cover
size modifiers for combat (characters cannot parry large creatures with weapons, and can only dodge huge creatures!)