Thursday, February 7, 2019

Turning People Into Corpses

(This post is now pretty outdated - the main gist of the combat system remains the same, with chit initiative and brutal wounds, but how attacking and defending works has been updated in a brand new post. I've also added a whole host of new weapons, which can be found in Mimics & Miscreants.)
by Anita Xu
I tried out the combat system I wrote up in Killing In The Name and hated running it. It fell prey to all of the same issues I had in 5e - turns were boring, combats were slugfests, fights were decided too quickly, and all the solutions I thought I'd written didn't work. Wounds took effect too slowly to matter, people kept asking for options that I didn't have written up, and turn order made no sense.

This is round two of combat rules. I'm pushing it a lot more, borrowing Troika's chit initiative system, using an opposed roll system for attacks instead of rolling under a TN, and adding a decision tree for defenders so that turns always have someone doing something on them. Wounds are also more devastating now; something relevant always happens, and you always die at -10 HP or below. Also, you can't heal them when you're in the field anymore without magic or items.

There's issues I'm already expecting to come up - 1+Dex chits being too powerful, wounds still not being punishing enough, players never using Stunts, or not understanding Dodge/Take It/Parry (or Parry being flat-out the best option)... we'll see. Iterative design is something I've never had the luxury of before, and now that I can actually playtest my mechanics, you bet I'll be testing them to their limits.

Everyone in the combat gets 1+DEX chits (minimum 1). They're drawn out of a bag at random, whoever’s chit is drawn takes a turn. When the End Round chit is drawn, all the tokens are thrown back in and a new round happens. In a surprise round, surprising characters act in whatever sequence they want, before chits are drawn.

On Your Turn
Can attack and move, or do something else and move. Casting a spell or spell-like ability takes your whole turn.

Make an opposed roll with your Attack (d20+level+STR (melee)/DEX (ranged)) vs. their defense (d20+level+DEX+armor). Higher roll wins, ties go to the player. Natural 20s crit for double damage dice and double your bonus damage, natural 1s miss and let the enemy take a free turn.

Before you attack, you can choose to Stunt to do an extra effect of your choice if you hit (like tripping, or sundering, or a called shot), at the risk of the defender getting a free turn if you miss.

If the attacker wins, they deal full damage.

If the defender wins, they can choose to either:
Dodge: take no damage and move away 5'
Take It: take damage minus their armor, then they hit you back for damage minus your armor
Parry: take no damage and immediately riposte against your attacker. The riposte is treated as an attack where the defender (whoever originally attacked you) wins by default, but can only Dodge or Take It.

If you're dual-wielding, you can make 2 attacks per turn, but you step down your damage dice.

A short rest takes 10 minutes of downtime and consumes 1 ration. Spend a Hit Die to restore 1HD of HP.
A daily rest takes 8 hours of sleep and downtime and consumes 1 ration. Reroll your HP, if it's higher than your current HP set your total to that. Regain all spent HD.
A long rest takes 24 or more hours of sleep, shelter, downtime, and full meals. These conditions can only usually be found in town. Set your HP to the maximum and heal a wound. Reset Stress.

0-2: Knock Them Away. Push them 10’ in any direction, or disarm them (your choice).
3-5: Knock Them Down. They’re knocked prone. Prone targets can’t Dodge, move at ¼ speed, and take a whole turn to stand up.
6-7: Crush Their Bones. Break one of your target’s bones of your choice, nonlethally. Arms/hands disarm, legs knock prone, ribs make breathing hard. spine forces a save vs. paralysis… ask GM for more. They need to save to use broken limbs.
8-9: Knock Them Out. They’re unconscious. They won’t wake up for d6 hours, and when they do they have to save vs. brain damage as a Cracking roll.
10+: Crush Their Skull. Break your target’s bones, lethally.

0-2: Make Them Bleed. They take an additional d3 damage, and save vs. another d3 damage on each of their turns until they succeed.
3-5: Make Them Stay Put. You can leave your weapon in their body to pin them to whatever’s behind them. They have to save to take it out, and when they do, or if they try to move, Make Them Bleed.
6-7: Make Them Suffer. Pierce one of their organs and either 1. blind them, 2. deafen them, 3. they have to save to move, 4. give them disadvantage on all saves.
8-9: Run Them Down. Knock them down, push them 10’, and deal damage to whoever’s behind them. Pin them together as Make Them Stay Put.
10+: Run Them Through. You put a really big hole in them. They die.

0-2: Cut Them Up. You lacerate them. They save vs. taking an additional d6 damage.
3-5: Cut Them Deep. You shred their organs, give them disadvantage on STR/DEX/CON saves, and Make Them Bleed.
6-7: Cut Them Down. You sever their tendons and knock them prone. They can’t dodge, move at ¼ speed, and must save to stand.
8-9: Hack It Off. Remove one of the target’s appendages, of your choice. They save vs. unconsciousness from blood loss.
10+: Hack Them To Ribbons. They die in pieces.

0-4: Scorched. 1 random flammable object on the target burns away.
5-9: Blazing. They take an additional d3 fire damage, and save vs. another d3 fire damage on each of their turns until they succeed.
10+: Crisped. Target is reduced to cinders.

0-4: Chilled. Target is stuck to whatever it’s touching. They need to save to break free.
5-9: Frostbitten. Target needs to save to move, attack, or defend until they rest.
10+: Flash Frozen. All heat is removed from the target’s body. They shatter at a touch.

0-4: Etched. Target loses 2 AC.
5-9: Scoured. d3 of the target’s items are melted away.
10+: Rendered Down. The target melts away into a pile of goo.

0-4: Aged. Target moves at half speed.
5-9: Withered. The target loses d3 STR and CON, and has disadvantage on all tests.
10+: Rotted. The target rapidly rots away as every cell in its body dies.

0-4: Shocked. Target drops whatever they’re holding, and takes double damage if they’re wearing metal.
5-9: Paralyzed. Target saves vs. paralysis. If they succeed, they’re Shocked. If they’re wearing metal, they don’t get a save.
10+: Fried. Target burns to ash.

0-4: Panicked. Target gains d6 Stress and rolls to Crack.
5-9: Traumatized. Target Cracks.
10+: Mindwiped. You scoop their memories, personality, and drive out with a spoon. They’re a husk of autonomic functions and nothing else.


  1. I like how the common damage types get more detailed injuries compared to the more esoteric injuries, I think that's an issue that's held back a few other Dismemberment systems. To clarify, is that total negative HP, or just for each hit?

    1. Negative HP plus damage dealt, so an 8 damage hit at -2 HP is gonna kill you.

  2. I'm not familiar with Troika. How many chits do monsters get?

    1. Or I guess they're included in "Everyone"?

    2. The short answer is "as many as I want", the longer answer is "I'm not sure yet, but they do count in Everyone", and what I'm thinking is 1 chit per 2 HD, with extras for monsters that reasonably would be acting more often, because I don't explicitly give monsters ability scores.

  3. Is Parry really just this?

    Give your opponent to either:
    1. Dodge (so both sides take no damage)
    2. Take it (so both sides take damage - armor)

    If so, if you elect to Parry you're essentially giving your opponent the option to dodge or force you to Take It (in terms of total damage to both sides).

    This doesn't seem like an appealing option. Shouldn't Parry give the defender some benefit? And Parry seems particularly bad if you're lightly armored since your foe is more likely to chose Take It and punish you. Which seems to conflict with the idea of a lightly armored but nimble sword wielder defeating their more heavily armored opponent through good sword work (successful defense combined with parry).

    1. Initially, I had parrying just let you attack back, but that made it the best option bar none - this either forces them not only to waste their turn but also back off, or take damage that they might not be able to afford to take. Rapiers (and I realize that I didn't put my revised weapon rules here, so you're entirely valid in your critique) let you attack back as normal after parrying, so your dream of being a nimble swordfighter is very doable.

    2. Ah, very cool! So with a rapier, they can Dodge and avoid further harm or Take It to deal damage to you at the cost of damage plus you get an attack?

      Or does the rapier grant the attack even if they opt to dodge?

      Can't wait to see how this continues to evolve!

    3. With a rapier, your parries let you attack and have a chance of dealing full damage - if you miss on that attack, then they have to Dodge or Take it.


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