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Combat Pacing Options

Fudge gives three options available for handling the pacing of combat: moving from story element to story element, using simultaneous combat rounds, or alternating combat turns. An individual GM may devise others.

Story Elements

In the simplest combat system, the GM explains the situation in as much detail as is apparent, then asks the players to describe what their characters are doing. The more complete the description of their characters’ actions, the better the GM knows how to assess the situation.

This can be important if she has something that won’t be revealed until the middle of a battle. Die rolls, if any, are required by the GM for each story element.

A story element is the smallest unit of time in this type of combat resolution. The GM may break the battle down into several story elements, or treat the whole encounter as one element. This depends on the GM’s style, the importance of the battle, the number of participants, whether or not there are unexpected surprises, etc. Each element should be a dramatic unit.

For example, the PCs are faced with a detachment of guards at the door while the evil mastermind is trying to activate the Doomsday machine at the back of the room. The fight with the guards might be one element while the confrontation with Dr. Doomsday could be a second. Another GM might treat the whole battle as one story element, while a third GM would treat each 5-second segment separately. Whatever the number of elements, keep the battle description as word-oriented as possible.

The GM may ask for a single die roll from a player occasionally, or require three rolls and take the median roll. (The median is the middle value die roll, which may be the same as either the high or low die roll. For example, if the player rolls a Good, a Mediocre, and a Superb result, the median is Good, since it’s the result in between Mediocre and Superb. But a result of Poor, Great, and Great gives a median die roll of Great. Using a median tends to soften the role of extreme luck.

Some GMs use a median when a single die result represents many actions.) Once the GM has decided which trait (or traits) each PC should use for this combat, she then gives them a modifier, ranging from -3 to +3. Zero should be the most common modifier. The modifier is based partly on how well the PCs’ plan would work, given what the GM knows of the NPCs, and partly on circumstances: fatigue, lighting, footing, surprise, weapon superiority, bravery or cowardice of NPCs, wounds, etc.

Here is a long example of story element style of combat:

Gunner, separated from the other PCs, surprises five members of a rival gang in a garage. The player announces that Gunner will shout and charge the rival mob, carrying his Tommy gun as if he’s about to fire they don’t know it’s irreparably jammed. He hopes to see them run away, hit the dirt, or freeze in fear. He’ll then use his Tommy gun as a club, starting at the left end of their line.

He’ll keep his current opponent in between him and the others as long as possible. He hopes to then roll up their line, one at a time, keeping the wall to his left side as he charges.

The GM makes a Situational roll for the mob:

Mediocre. The mob members don’t recover quickly from their surprise, so she gives Gunner a +1 to his Brawling skill of Good for this plan. She also decides that one mobster will run away and the others won’t draw their guns until Gunner has already engaged the first enemy. His Running skill is Great, so she gives him another +1, since he can cover ground quickly. Total modifier for Gunner is +2, bringing his Brawling skill to Superb for this combat. Since this is a fairly long action and she doesn’t want a single unlucky roll to ruin Gunner’s chances, she asks him for three Brawling skill rolls (at the +2 modifier), and to use the median roll.

Gunner rolls a Good, Superb, and Great result, in that order. The median roll is Great, and the GM decides this is good enough to have downed the first two mobsters, and describes the battle so far in entertaining detail.

Now Gunner is facing the last two thugs, who finally have their pistols out and could probably plug him before he charges that far. The GM asks, “What does Gunner do now?”

Gunner hurls the Tommy gun into the face of one gunman while making a low diving tackle for the other, hoping to dodge under any bullets.

The GM calls for a single roll against Brawling to cover this whole action: Gunner gets a Fair result. The GM rules that Gunner throws the Tommy gun well enough to distract one gunman, but not harm him. He does, however, manage to tackle and subdue his other foe, whose shots all go wild.

At this point, the GM rules that the mobster grazed by the thrown Tommy gun now steps over and points his pistol to Gunner’s head while he’s kneeling over the other mobster.

Gunner wisely heeds the call to surrender and hopes his friends can rescue him. . . .

Simultaneous Combat Rounds

Those who like their combat broken down into discrete bits can use combat “rounds.” In simultaneous action rounds, all offensive and defensive maneuvers happen at the same time. This is realistic: few real combats consist of fighters taking turns whacking at each other.

The GM determines which traits the combatants should roll against. This depends largely on which weapon they are using, which might simply be a fist. Weapon type also affects damage (see Wounds).

Each combatant makes an Opposed action roll. On a relative degree of zero, the combat round is a standoff the fighters either circled each other looking for an opening, or exchanged blows on each other’s shields, etc. nobody is hurt.

A minimum result of Poor is needed to hit a (roughly) equal-sized opponent. That is, a human needs to score a Poor blow (and still win the Opposed action) in order to hit another human. If both opponents roll worse than Poor, the round is a standoff.

If one opponent is significantly bigger than the other (of a different Scale, at least), he needs a Mediocre or even Fair result to hit his smaller foe, while even a Terrible result will allow the small fighter to hit the larger. (Of course, such a blow must still win the Opposed action.) Extremely small targets, such as a pixie, may require a Good or even a Great result. Examples include humans fighting giants, or very large or small animals.

If the result is a relative degree other than zero, and the minimum level needed to score a hit is achieved or surpassed, the winner checks to see if he hit hard enough to damage the loser. In general, the better the hit (the greater the relative degree), the greater the likelihood of damage.

If one combatant is unable to fight in a given round (possibly because he’s unaware of the attacker, or because of a critical result in the previous round (see Critical Results), the combat may become an Unopposed Action for the active fighter, usually with a Poor Difficulty Level. If a character can defend himself in some way, such as using a shield, it is still an Opposed Action, but the defending character cannot hurt the other character even if he wins the combat round.

Combat often takes more than one combat round. Characters are not limited to attacking each round they may attempt to flee, negotiate, try a fancy acrobatic stunt, or any other appropriate action.

Alternating Combat Turns

Using alternating combat turns, each combat round consists of two actions: the fighter with the higher initiative attacks while the other defends, then the second combatant attacks while the first defends. With multiple characters involved in combat, the side with the initiative makes all their attacks, then the other side makes all their attacks. Or the GM may run the combat in initiative order, even if fighters from both sides are interspersed throughout the combat turn.

Gaining initiative is an Opposed action. If the characters don’t have an Initiative attribute or skill such as Reflexes or Speed simply use Opposed Situational rolls. A gift such as Combat Reflexes can grant a +1 to initiative. Surprise may grant a bonus to the roll, or give automatic initiative. Initiative can be rolled once for each battle or once each round. Perhaps a character could trade skill for initiative: attack hastily (+1 to initiative that round) but be slightly off balance because of it (-1 to attack and defend that round).

Each attack is an Opposed Action: the attacker’s Offensive skill (Sword, Melee Weapon, Martial Art, etc.) against a defender’s Defensive skill (Shield, Parry, Dodge, Duck, etc.). This type of combat takes longer than simultaneous rounds, but some players feel it gives a character more control over his own fate.

Using these rules, a Defensive parry skill may simply equal the weapon skill, or it may be a separate skill that must be bought independently of an Offensive skill. The GM must tell the players at character creation which method she is using or allow them extra levels on the fly to adjust their defensive abilities.

Some weapons, such as an Axe, are poor parrying weapons. Players should ask the GM at character creation if a weapon may be used to parry and still be used to attack without penalty in the next turn and give their characters decent Shield or Dodge skills to compensate for poor parrying weapons.

All-out offensive and defensive tactics can be used. A character forfeits his attack for a round if he chooses Allout defense, and is at -2 on his defense on his opponent’s next turn if choosing All-out offense or perhaps gets no defense at all!

The default defense for animals depends on their type:

carnivores will usually have a Defense value one level less than their Offense, while this is reversed for most prey species.