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[Fire and Sword] Combat Exploits


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An idea being considered for Third Edition Fire and Sword is Combat Exploits. They are intended to be a way to put spice into specials, crits, and cinematic hits:

Combat Exploits

When a character manages a special, critical, or cinematic success, he or she has the chance to perform a “combat exploit”. A special success allows one combat exploit that round, a critical success allows two combat exploits, and a cinematic success allows three combat exploits in a given round. With the exception of “natural critical”, discussed below a character must know a combat exploit to perform it. , a character must know the exploit.

All characters know the Maximum Damage, Negate Exploit and Ignore Armor Exploits. One additional attack exploit is learned when weapon attack skill reaches twenty; another attack exploit is learned when weapon attack skill reaches twenty five, and a new exploit is learned at every level divisible by 5 thereafter. A parry exploit may be learned when parry skill reaches twenty, twenty five, thirty etc. Exploits that are neither attack specific nor parry specific may be leaned as either attack exploits or parry exploits.

A character may use exploits that do not increase damage whenever he or she manages a special, critical, or cinematic success. No exploit can be used if the success is reduced to a miss or fumble, whatever the initial level of success. Exploits that increase damage, such as Maximum Damage, Ignore Armor, Impale, or The Bigger They the Harder they Fall cannot be used when the success is reduced to an ordinary success (”parried down”), but are otherwise treated like exploits that do not increase damage.

A player may choose which exploit his character performs after rolling. If both sides in a melee bring off a combat exploit, both players roll D20 and the lower result declares what combat exploit it is attempting first.

Name Description

Attack or Parry Emphasis Can switch attackand parry rolls as desired. Switch is made after rolling, if it is written on the character sheet that this is his default Exploit. Decision to switch if the die roll is good enough must be made prior to die rolling, either by announcing intent to use this exploit or by having it written down on the character sheet. If this is written down, though, the character does this even when it does ot help him or her. The default can always be overridden if the players announces that he is planning on using a different combat exploit.

Maximum Damage (A) Attacking weapon damage roll is automatic maximum – i.e. 1D10 roll is automatically ten. Cannot be invoked if enemy parries the blow with a roller higher than the die rolled, even if parry is not a special, crit, etc.

Negate Exploit Ignore effect of enemy exploit on character

Ignore Armor (A) Eliminates up to 5 points of the effect of an enemy’s armor. Cannot be invoked if enemy parries the blow with a roller higher than the die rolled, even if parry is not a special, crit, etc.

Force Retreat(A) Enemy must retreat at least one half normal move, independently of whether or not he is affected by damage from the blow. Enemy chooses where to retreat to. Effects of movement enhancing spells like Wingfoot not counted as part of normal move. If enemy cannot retreat and is forced to retreat, apply both Maximum Damage and Ignore armor instead. A second level of Force Retreat allows the attacker to choose where the defender retreats to. If a character has learned two levels of Force Retreat they only count as one exploit against the total allowed for a special, critical or cinematic hit.

Fighting Retreat (P) May retreat from combat, moving up to ½ normal movement distance per round generally backward, whether or not retreater is affected by damage from the blow. Enemy must follow or disengage. Effects of movement enhancing spells like Wingfoot may be counted as part of normal move, if the retreater chooses to do so.

The Bigger they are, the Harder they fall (A) Offsets one level of size difference, against larger than human targets only. May be chose three times, but never does more than damage than the enemy opposed has in size advantage. A character fighting a large, huge, etc monster, he or she can always use this if he knows it, even if he has attack or parry emphasis written down as a default. If a character has learned multiple levels of this exploit they only count as one exploit against the total allowed for a special, critical or cinematic hit.

Impale (A) When using a broadsword, dagger or spear, add +5 to damage. If target falls down, the weapon is stuck in the target. Pulling it out will require a strength -5 roll on D20.

Hold Enemy Off If using the longer weapon, keep enemy at a distance presenting him from closing to strike this round. If enemy attack has already been rolled, ignore it.

Attack 2 Foes (A) Attack 2 foes at roll -5.

Parry 2 Foes (P) Parries 2 foes at roll -5

Attack All Foes (A) Attack All foes in reach at roll -10.

Parry All Foes (P) Parries All foes at roll - 10

Parry Arrows (P) Parries an arrow at roll – 5. May be chosen more than once, in which case more than one arrow can be parried.

Situational Awareness Character may Listen or Spot with a -5 difficulty modifier while fighting

Gift of Command Character may issue a seven word order, shouting to his followers, while fighting. Getting them to hear and obey will require a roll of Leadership with a -5 difficulty modifier.

Comments Anyone?

Issues Anyone?


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Looks interesting. It kind of reminds me of the way they handle crticals in the Usagi Yojimbo. In that RPG players got to pick an attacks "special effects" based upon the degree of success (number of crticals),.

One thing UY did, that might go well with the "Combat Exploits" idea is to give certain options to certain weapons. For instance, in UY, a sai got the disarm special effect as one of its specials. So a character who rolled one or more crticals could choose to disarm a foe. Most weapons have 2 or three special "built in", and these really helped to differentiate weapons.

Chaos stalks my world, but she's a big girl and can take of herself.

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This looks very similar to the cinematic opposed roll combat rules I came up with for MRQ. A older version of which is on the MRQ Wiki...

Opposed Roll Combat - MRQWiki

Take a look. There might be some other ideas within for 'Combat Exploits' which you could rework for F&S.

Although I didn't limit most of my special effects according to weapon type (save entangling, since most weapons are tactically adaptable), I did originally propose that some effects could be limited to certain training schools, similar to secret teachings of Japanese sword masters. However, since then I've further adapted the idea to combine some of my system's special effects with MRQ's Heroic Abilities instead, which seamed to fit better.

I do like the way you have PC's learning new exploits with increasing skill competence, but it doesn't quite gel with my rw fighting experience where knowing a set of tactical tricks isn't dependent on prowess, but rather how well you execute them is. However your rule is quite elegant. :)

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  • 5 weeks later...

I liked how Steve stripped out all the special/impale/critical effects in his SPQR and simply said: "You get a good roll, choose from this menu of effects."

I applaud it wholly, as long as we aren't saying that these aren't the only ways to get these effects.. just that in this way you get them for free.

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Steve Perrin is, I assume, using his combat exploits in a wargame tactics kind of way. The purpose of his rule on "good hits" is to offer a wider assortment of possible combat results, to better mimic reality.

D&D "feats" and Spirit of the Century's "stunts" serve the dramatic purpose of differentiating characters by fighting style. This makes fighters more interesting, by providing different ways of developing the character {to some extent SoC stunts are like divine spells in traditional RQ}.

My combat exploits are intended to promote both additional tactical options and character differentiation, but with most of the emphasis on the later. Given this aim, it is obvious that abolishing the differentiation among characters in ability to exploit special and critical hits would not serve my ends.

My limited understanding of reality suggests that (as usual) reality has not been coordinated with the needs of game designers. Most fighters most of the time can figure out what they want from combat maneuvers, and even how to perform them, long before they can actually bring them off in a fight. It is unlikely that real fighters either follow Perrin's abstraction and learn them all at once or that they follow my abstraction and learn them in discrete chunks. The relationship is probably some complex correlation in which all depend on a certain amount of training and ability to execute quickly, but which are learned first and at what level depends on the talents and motivation of the fighter. More seriously, trying to represent any form of combat {fencing, SCA combat, unarmed combat as taught by the USMC} in enough detail to be recognizable to experts in that form of combat rapidly brings up two problems. The first is that expert level combat in any fighting style involves things that are very hard to represent abstractly, and the second is that expert level combat in any two different styles is represented by the experts in whose styles differently. So it is just a can of worms.

Finally, most of the players of any fantasy game are not experts in any martial art and their intuitions {to avoid creating problems in suspending disbelief you need to match the player's intuition, not reality} are formed by the movies.

After all that, if your purposes are better served by some rule from SPQR {or BRP, or MRQ} than by my offering, use the SPQR {or BRP or MRQ} rule. I expect that most of the people downloading F&S will either steal ideas from it to use in their games, or use it as a framework replacing a couple of rules they don't like with others. While you can play F&S pretty much by the rules as written, I don't think this will be the way most people use it.


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I definitely wasn't stating an objective preference for one or the other.

I like your combat exploits option, and I like Perrin's SPQR variant.

My friends do swing metal sword and axes at each other and as such we sometimes meander through the whole simulation vs simplicity vs cinematic debate.

However my view is always to try what you like and then review.

I like your point about the game objective, since a clear game focus makes for better game in my experience.


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