Swords & Shields Alternate Combat Rules
by Michal

These combat rules are based on the “highest die” variant for contests with a slight tweak. For example:

Grok the Boor (Barbarian 3) and Selena Silvertoes (Former Elf Samurai 2) enter combat. Selena rolls two 6’s. Grok gets 6, 4, 3. Highest die is 6 for both; discard the tied dice and take the next lowest for the result. That’s 6 vs. 4, so Selena wins the round and Grok’s cliché dice get reduced by one.

Group combat still works as usual; you want to get those 6’s!

That out of the way, here’s some extra rules to spice up old-fashioned skull-bashing gladiator-style fights without altering the spirit of the original rules too much.

Ranged Attacks

Want to shoot an arrow or launch a stone with your trusty slingshot? Ranged attacks are resolved as a regular challenge, with the GM setting a target number representing the difficulty of the shot (add the target’s armour coverage to the difficulty, explained below). HOWEVER, there are TWO target numbers: “shoot to wound” and “shoot to kill.” As a rough guide, the latter can be initial + 4 + armour coverage (again).

A successful shot in the normal range will knock one die off the target’s primary combat cliché. Rolling over the “shoot to kill” number means the missile went right in the face and results in insta-death for the target.

The GM determines how many missiles players can launch before having to enter hand-to-hand combat.

Who’s on First?

If not surprised, characters with speed-and-agility-related clichés get to pick and resolve their combats first when not fighting as a group. Refine order further by having higher cliché totals taking precedence. Roll for ties. Beware--this way a speedy monster can go after a weak character before the meat-shield can get a drop on it.

Draw your Weapons

Weapons have individual weapon ratings. Compare ratings. If the player has a higher rating than the opponent, then they get to add bonus dice for each roll, and vice-versa. Bonus dice are determined by the difference between ratings, and only one side gets them!

 Weapon  Rating
 Unarmed  0
 Knife, dagger, hatchet, claws, horns  1
 Sword, pole-arm, battle axe, breath weapons (fire, poison, etc.)  2
 Enchanted swords & polearms, crazy acid attacks 

So, A Knight of the Holy Order of Brendolin who beats up on an unarmed peasant gets +2 dice. How brave! However, she gets +1 dice against a butterfly-knife wielding rogue, and the demon-warrior with the flaming sword gets +1 dice against our knight.

Bonus dice don’t affect the character’s “health”, i.e., the base cliché dice—once the cliché’s reduced to zero, the advantage a sword brings won’t matter; the character is still defeated.

What’s the Damage?

Tunnels & Trolls-style, armour can absorb damage over the course of a fight. “Armour” here refers to all a character or creature’s defensive gear (shield, helmet, cuirass, rhino-like hide etc). Armour has two important trails: Toughness and coverage. The GM, not the player, determines these traits.

Toughness tells you how much damage the armour can absorb:

 Toughness  Rating
 Light (Boiled leather)  1
 Medium (Chain, partial plate, ringmail, lamellar)  2
 Heavy (Plate, full metal jacket)  3

Coverage is how much armour you’re wearing:

 Coverage  Rating
 Just a shield, just a breastplate  1
 Shield + cuirass + helmet  2
 Shield + cuirass + helmet + greaves + bracers + gauntlets + jockstrap  3

Here’s how it works:

The player lost a roll. Determine the difference between the top dice totals. If it’s equal or lower than the coverage, the armour absorbs the blow instead of reducing the cliché dice. The player marks this down. Armour will only absorb as many hits as its toughness during the contest before the player has to start taking reductions in cliché dice directly with no armour checks. But even in the first round, the player can still take direct damage if their opponent manages to roll a lot higher than they did.

Oh, You Want to See How This Works?

Grok the Boor (Barbarian 3) and Selena Silvertoes (Former Elf Samurai 2) are back in action! Grok carries a battle axe (rating=2), wooden shield and leather armour (toughness=1, coverage=2). Selena has a bow and a tanto (rating=1) but no armour.

Being a former samurai, Selena is faster than the barbarian. She tries to shoot him, and the GM sets the target number to 5 (the distance between them isn’t too big, but Grok is moving) and adds Grok’s coverage to the difficulty, upping it to 7. To insta-kill him, she needs to roll a 13 (7 + 4 + 2)--the GM adjusts this to 12 just to be nice. She tosses her two dice and gets a 10. Grok is wounded and down to two dice.

By now, he’s reached Selena, and she attacks him. Comparing their weapons ratings, Grok gets a bonus die because his axe outranks the tanto.

Selena gets 6, 6. Grok gets 6, 4, 3. Highest result is 6 for Selena and 4 for Grok (the first highest rolls--6’s both--were a tie and discarded). The difference between rolls is 2. This falls inside Grok’s armour coverage (2), so his armour takes the hit instead of his cliché dice.

However, next roll his armour is effectively useless, and he’ll have to take damage to his cliché dice. And even with the bonus die, he can only take two hits…