Roleplayer
Roleplayer #23, May 1991

Very Basic Melee Combat

Really Simple Shortcuts for Really Quick Battles

by Steffan O'Sullivan

I was running a game at a convention, and the PCs were in the middle of a big battle. Unfortunately, I had to catch a plane, and it looked like they would never get through their foes to the denouement in time. In desperation, I made up the following combat system, which I offer to those who either don't like complicated combat rules or are pressed for time.

Attack, Defense, Damage

Attack, defense and damage rolls are combined into one roll. Each fighter rolls versus Weapon (or other Combat) skill, and the result is treated as a Contest of Skills. If one fighter has a greater PD, add the difference in PD to his skill. (E.g., if one fighter has PD 3 and the other PD 2, the first combatant adds 1 to his Weapon skill.) If both fighters miss their rolls, they both missed their attacks. If one makes the roll, and the other misses, the one who missed is hit. If both make the rolls, the one who makes it by the least is hit, while the other is not – ties result in no damage.

Basic damage is determined by the same roll: if someone is hit, he takes basic damage equal to the amount his foe made the roll by, up to maximum damage for that weapon. Basic damage is reduced by DR as per the regular rules, and increased for Impaling or Cutting as per the regular rules.

Example: PC Raoul is facing NPC Edmond. Raoul's skill with his weapon is 15 and he has PD 2. Edmond's skill is 13, but he has PD 3: he rolls as if his skill were 14. Raoul rolls a 12 – he makes it by three. Edmond rolls a 10 – he makes it by four. Raoul takes 1 point of basic damage – but his armor stops it. In the next round, Edmond rolls a 15 – a miss. Raoul rolls a 6, however, making his roll by 9! Edmond takes 9 points of basic damage, unless Raoul is using a Rapier (for example), which has a maximum damage of 7. Note that even though Raoul beat Edmond by 10 (he made his roll by 9, Edmond missed his by 1), basic damage is only equal to the amount that Raoul actually made his own roll by.

Multiple Combatants

It is possible to let all the PCs roll simultaneously, if desired, and combine the NPCs' rolls into one. In this case, it is assumed that all NPCs have equal skills. The GM simply rolls once for all NPCs, and announces how well the roll was made. This is the result for each of the PC's opponents – the players then simultaneously roll and the results are applied as above.

If the GM is rolling once for multiple NPCs, very high and very low results should be thrown out. Such rolls might indeed occur for some of the foes, but it is highly unlikely that ten fencers at once would all score critical hits or failures! In general, treat any roll below 7 as a 7, and any roll above 16 as a 16 when rolling for numerous characters.

If a character is facing two or more fighters, he has two choices:

A) He can All-out Defend. In this case, he rolls as above, but does no damage. His roll is compared to each of the enemies' rolls, and he only takes damage from those that beat him.
B) He can attack one foe, and do his best to defend against them all. Only one roll is made for such a hero: read the roll as usual against the chosen foe. Read the same roll against two-thirds skill (round down) for each additional fighter – he cannot inflict damage on them if he wins, however.

Critical Hits and Misses

For simplicity, treat a critical miss as a dropped weapon. Treat a critical hit as maximum damage.

Unarmed Fighters

If an unarmed fighter is facing an armed foe, he can roll versus a Martial Art skill or DX to attempt to grapple in Close Combat. He does no damage if he wins, but his opponent must take a turn to break free.

An unarmed person can also pick up a weapon. He rolls versus DX, and takes damage if he loses the Contest. He gets the weapon in one round whether he takes damage or not.

Otherwise, an unarmed fighter can simply retreat: roll a Quick Contest of DX versus the armed fighter's Weapon skill. Take damage if you lose, successfully evade if you win.

Non-Combat Maneuvers

Some people may be doing other things while the fight is raging. Since this system tends to speed combat slightly, give anyone not directly involved in combat two or even three turns for each Quick Contest in the fight. As soon as a character joins the fray, of course, he loses the ability to take double moves. This rule allows one's friends to hold off the foe long enough to pick a lock or rob a safe.

Other Situations

It would defeat the purpose of Quick and Dirty rules to go into the detail necessary to cover every possible situation! The GM should be guided by the suggestions above, using common sense to cover unusual requests. The players should not make the GM's job any harder by arguing about a decision, especially if these rules are being used because of limited time!

(Back to Roleplayer #23 Table of Contents)


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