Combat Basics

Combat Basics

Time and Actions

Once combat begins, actions are resolved in three second bursts called combat rounds. In each round your character usually gets to perform one action, though characters can sometimes do more than one thing in a round.

The following are examples of actions:

  • Engage in an attack (whether unarmed, with a melee weapon or a ranged weapon).
  • Throw a stone, bomb, bouquet or other item.
  • Draw a weapon.
  • Reload a weapon.
  • Pick up a nearby object.
  • Walk, run, sneak, leap, swim or otherwise move up to your maximum movement
  • Open or close a door.
  • Activate or otherwise briefly utilize a piece of machinery.
  • Stand up, sit down, or lie down.

Note that some actions, such as reloading a weapon or utilizing a piece of machinery, might take more than one combat round. In that case, one action can be used to start, continue or conclude the activity.

Free Actions

Some actions can be performed at the same time as another combat action without interfering with that action, as long as the GM agrees. As a rule of thumb, if you don’t need to roll dice for it, and can perform it in 3 seconds, it counts as a free action. Such things might include speaking, keeping an eye on the surroundings (a Perception + Wits roll may be allowed at the GM’s discretion.).

Movement in Combat

Movement speeds, based on Dexterity and listed on your character sheet, show how far your character can move in a round. This is especially important for determining the relative speeds of characters chasing each other.


When a fight starts, it’s important to know who is going to take the initiative. If you’ve crept up on someone and they don’t know you’re there, you obviously have the initiative. But when everyone knows a fight is happening, things are different.

To make an initiative check, roll a number of dice equal to your Initiative rating (Dexterity + Wits + Perception). Whoever gets the highest roll gains the initiative. Sometimes two characters will get the same roll. If so, it works as follows:

  • If Initiative rolls are equal, compare Dexterity.

  • If Dexterities are equal, compare weapon Skills used in fight.

  • If weapon Skills are equal, compare Wits.

  • If Wits are equal, both characters go at the same time.

Winning the initiative doesn’t mean that your character necessarily goes first. It means you have the initiative giving you and advantage against the person you are fighting, and allowing you to choose your target or disengage. If you have the initiative over the person you are fighting, you gain +2 to your dice pool when attacking. You can only actually attack someone who is near enough to you. If you are selected as a target by another character, you have little option but to defend yourself – if you choose to attack another opponent instead, you make yourself into a very easy target. However, it is possible for you to engage multiple targets.

Making a Melee Attack

A combat round represents a flurry of blows, parries and dodges rather than a single attack. Both characters roll Dexterity + weapon skill, and whoever gains the most successes manages to land a blow to their opponent. The more successes than your opponent that you get, the more damage you do. As mentioned above if your character has the initiative this round, they get +2 to their combat dice pool. Successes are added to the damage caused by the weapon itself. If the dice pools are tied, the character who has the initiative is assumed to have won the round, as long as they had at least one success on their roll. The character’s weapon causes damage but the character doesn’t get any extra damage for winning the round.

If your character’s opponent is unaware of your attack (or chose to attack a different opponent and ignore your character) you get to make a surprise attack. Your opponent doesn’t get to make a roll, and as long as your character gains at least one success, they do damage as normal.

Making A Ranged Attack

Ranged attacks include everything from thrown stones to bows, from needlepistols to steamrifles. The great advantage of a missile weapon is, of course, the user doesn’t need to get anywhere near the enemy to damage him. The disadvantage is that the enemy could be shooting back.

With a ranged attack, the character with the initiative makes a Dexterity + weapon skill roll against the targets Dexterity + Dodge. Of course, if the person dodging wins the test, they don’t get to do the any damage to their opponent because he’s too far away. Dodging a ranged weapon is not the easiest thin in the world, particularly at close range. If the person firing the gun is less than five feet from their opponent, point blank, the target only gets to use his Dexterity, without adding Dodge skill. A weapon cannot hit a target beyond its maximum range, unless the user has the Hawk-eyed Aim Talent.

Of course, the opponent may choose to use his own weapon (whether this be a gun in a gunfight, or a melee weapon at close range) instead of attempting to dodge the missile. In this case he will damage his opponent if he wins the test, but stands to take a lot more damage if he fails the roll, as an attack with a missile or melee weapon against an attack with a missile weapon does not count as a defense, and the character with initiative gets, in effect a surprise attack.

If you spend an entire round aiming, you gain an extra 1 die to your roll to hit on the following round. You can aim in this way for up to 3 rounds, for a total of 3 extra dice to hit.

Firing Into Melee

You might choose to shoot at someone from a distance while they are engaged in melee combat. The GM might rule you do not have a clear shot and that is the end of that. However, if your attack is possible and your target is unaware of your attack, you can roll as if you had surprise. ONe the other hand, you suffer an additional 3 black dice penalty to your roll for each other person they are fighting. They are likely to get in the way of your shot and even if you don’t care if you hit them, they are not who you are aiming at.

If your target is aware of you, he can make a dodge roll against your attack as with any other ranged weapon, but using only half his dice pool. However, this attack is resolved separately to any other melee attacks and doesn’t affect them. On the other hand, the GM might insist on a black dice penalty due to the target’s attention being divided between two places.

Combat Basics

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