(note: this is one of those sections that’s just my preferential changes to the game engine, not specifically an adaptation of the setting. You can just ignore this if you’d like)
While it may be tempting to try and keep track of the precise position of every combatant on an overhead map, taking the most advantage of such maps often requires knowing the precise positions not only of the combatants, but of every shrub, rock and piece of furniture which may be in the way, not to mention the fact that this approach tends to assume that more information is available to all the players involved than is appropriate for a hectic battle scene.
Positions and Approaches
Position combat eschews not only a definitive map, but also all “real-world” measurements. Rather, we assume that fights take place in one or more positions, where combatants might face off. In the simplest of scenes, all combatants might occupy the same position: suppose a barroom brawl or a fight breaking out on a city corner. In these situations, any combatant involved is going to be a short walk away from any others, and provided they aren’t restrained or otherwise occupied, they might maneuver around as they wish. More complex fight scenes might involve characters taking up additional positions farther away, most likely in order to fire upon their enemies with ranged weaponry or to swoop in atop mounts prepared for battle.
GMs can jot down notes about how hard it is to maneuver around within a position, what kind of surroundings there are, etc., without having to map out the position of each rock or patch of difficult terrain. Typically, you would define a position something like this:
Move difficulty: 3 (panicked bystanders, hawkers and pack animals (tethered or loose) are everywhere
Cover: difficulty 0, 50% (plenty of stalls and objects to hide behind)
From these notes, we know the two things combatants are going to need to know: can I get around easily, and can I take cover when things start flying? We also know a couple other facts that might inspire players to do something interesting: there are animals roaming around; how about jumping on one or setting off a stampede? There are goods of all kinds being traded; if you’re short a weapon, how about picking up a clay jug and smashing it over someone’s head?
You might also want to put additional notes here: maybe the Caravansary starts out crowded, becomes even more difficult to move around in as the bystanders rush to take cover, but by the 4th round of combat, is fairly empty because all the non-combatants have run for cover?
When more than one position is involved in a fight, think about how someone gets from one to the other. That is called an approach. As long as an approach exists, combatants have a chance of moving between positions and can attack one another with ranged weapons or effects. Granted, some approaches are easier than others; technically, the Dragon, hovering hundreds of yards in the air raining death down upon you has an approach, it just requires you to be able to fly in order to reach it. Deciding what each approach requires is up to the GM, though commonly it might be expressed as a Difficulty if the going is rough, or even a required type of movement (like needing to fly to reach the Dragon).
Approaches might also need some notes, just like positions: so let’s add a second position to the Caravansary:
The boss of the caravansary and his guard are stationed on a small perch, enabling them to spot danger and to fire upon attackers.
Move difficulty: 0 (the pedestal is clear and open to allow archers free rein to fire at enemies)
Cover: difficulty 0; 50% only from attackers in the Caravansary
Because characters in both of these positions can interact, they are linked with an approach; in this case, the walls of the pedestal are the approach.
Guards on the pedestal have ladders for getting up and down, though these are pulled up at the first sign of danger.
Move difficulty: 3 going up to the pedestal, 0 going down to the Caravansary
Some approaches may have additional notes, making it easier or harder to use ranged attacks from one or the other positions, require a particular type of movement, and so on, just like positions do.
Combatants in a position are considered engaged if they are close enough to swing a normal-sized weapon and hit an opponent, or close enough to an ally to protect them from the same. If a combatant is engaged with one others they are also engaged with everyone the other is engaged with; the entire group of combatants all mutually engaged is called a brawl. once you’re in a brawl, you’re fair game and can be targeted by anyone else in it, though only the first 3 attacks against any human-sized opponent can hit; any later strikes fail as enemies get in each others’ way while piling on. Being engaged carries with it some restrictions, mainly that certain actions will make you vulnerable to opportunity attacks from others in the same brawl.
Sometimes during a fight, circumstances conspire to make it easy to take a shot at someone, even if you weren’t planning to at first. These circumstances are called opportunity attacks. In order to make one, a combatant needs to have an opponent who is open, has to have a weapon ready and can’t have rolled more dice that round than their dice pool with that weapon (if you’re already attacking with it, you should be fine). In order to take the opportunity, just designate one of your unused sets to it, and treat that as a hand to hand attack (even if you’re hitting the same target another time this round). You can take as many opportunity attacks as you want so long as you don’t take more than one against the same target, and so long as you have unassigned sets to use. Opportunity attacks still count against the maximum number of attacks a combatant can suffer in a round.
Major, Move And Minor Actions
Some battlefield actions might happen at the same time, but don’t necessarily interfere with one another as much as other combinations do. Attacking two targets at once with a weapon in each hand is a lot harder than running up to engage someone and striking with a weapon, or looking around for a rock to throw and then throwing it. We sort these types of actions out into the categories of major (attacks, spell casting and anything that takes the majority of your attention), move (any kind of positioning around the battlefield) and minor (usually involving looking for things or purely mental actions). Some of these actions are defined here, some will come up on the fly.
Whenever you’re taking more than one action, you have to roll the lowest of all the dice pools involved (supposing all the actions have a roll). You might be the greatest sword fighter in the world, but if you’re distracted trying to puzzle out the family tree of your opponent, your attacks are going to be affected by your rather limited knowledge of heraldry. Also, presuming the actions all require rolls, you have to actually be able to assign a set to each action in order to succeed. If you don’t have enough sets, you have to choose which one fails. However, you only have to drop a die from your roll if you’re taking two or more actions of the same type.
Voras is a gladiator, and a very good one at that. Trained in more weapons than most people can name, if he’s pointed at his enemy, there’s a very good chance he can kill it (Body 3, Fight 4). However, the crowds aren’t too crazy about him, because he fights to kill and isn’t the athletic showman that the younger generation of gladiators tend to be (Run 2). And all the years he’s been in the arena fighting obvious enemies haven’t taught him much about attention to detail (Sense 3, Scrutinize 0). Now, however, Voras is not in the arena; he’s been chosen for bodyguard duty and his master is threatened by a group of would-be assassins.
In the first round of the fight, Voras is surprised by one who engages him immediately; his only action that round is an attack with his obsidian blade. He rolls his full Body + Fight pool, chooses the best match and his attacker goes down screaming.
For the second round, the now-unengaged Voras goes for the next-closest enemy: he intends to engage and strike. Engaging is a move action (Body + Run) and attacking is the same pool as before. Because he is taking two non-conflicting actions, Voras has to roll the lower of his two pools (Body + Run, or 5), but he takes no penalty to that roll; since engaging is a simple enough task, he also doesn’t need to assign a set to it unless he’s presented with an especially tough situation. He makes his roll, hits but thinks he could have gotten a better hit in if he hadn’t been rushing in.
For the third round, Voras alternates his efforts between parrying and attacking; he’s taking two Major actions, so he rolls the lower of his two pools (Body + Parry: 6) assigning one set to the parry and one to the attack. This time, his second target goes down.
Now Voras realizes that he might spend all day running and chopping down lesser attackers while the rest overwhelm his team with numbers. He needs to find the leader of this operation, run in and take them out. This is going to require a Minor action (Sense + Scrutinize to figure out who’s leading whom), a Move action (to engage) and a Major (the attack). Again, he has no die penalty to the roll, but he’s limited to rolling the lowest of his dice pools (Sense + Scrutinize: 3). Voras manages to get a single match, which he decides is best used on the Minor action, since now he recognizes a flash of gold jewelry marking one of the atttackers are more important than the rest, though they’ve all taken steps to dress the same. Next turn, Voras knows just who to kill…
Actions in Combat/Bringing it all Together
For the most part, the actions listed in the Enchiridion’s combat rules remain the same when dealing with position combat, and nearly all count as Major actions. Exceptions are:
Dodge: this is a Major action when used to foil attacks against you, but diving for cover is covered under Take Cover, a Move action, below
Move: obviously, this is a Move action now; less obviously, it doesn’t really exist on its own, and Move actions tend to be defined by what you plan to get out of them.
Draw: this is now a Minor action with a dice pool of Coordination + Fight/Weapon, though it will succeed even without a set being assigned to it.
Cower: is a Move, Major and a Minor action, rolled into one; as it says in the book, you can’t to anything else while cowering.
Restrain: successfully restraining a combatant means they can’t become disengaged from you without first getting out of the restraint.
Stand: this is a Move action, with a pool of Coordination + Athletics. No set is necessary to succeed unless standing up is combined with another Move action.
Shove: this move can force a target out of a brawl if the attacker succeeds and wishes to do so.
Charge: this works as described, but has to be done following an Advance move (running at a target in a different position).
Major Actions (new)
Block: the character interposes themself between potential attackers and something worth defending. Choose either a combatant or an approach you would like to defend and roll as if you were attacking; if you’re blocking an ally, anyone who engages with that ally (including anyone who engages with anyone in the same brawl as them) opens themselves up to an opportunity attack from you; if you’re defending an approach, anyone who advances on that approach opens themselves in the same manner. Anyone who takes damage from one of your opportunity attacks ends up engaged with you instead of their original intent, while anyone who you opt not to attack or whose armor absorbs all damage may continue on engaging or advancing on the approach.
Rather than tracking your position on a static map, these rules assume that your combatant is ducking, weaving rushing at enemies or shirking away. There is no single “move” action; rather, what you want to accomplish with your movement is important. Unless otherwise noted, the dice pool for these actions is Body + Run, and if one requires a set, that set has to hit the position or approach’s movement difficulty..
Engage: If you are disengaged, you become engaged with any combatant or brawl happening in your position. This doesn’t require a set to succeed unless it’s combined with another Move action (or unless you’re engaging with someone who’s maneuvered; see below).
Disengage: If you are in a brawl, you become free without exposing yourself to opportunity attacks.
Maneuver: If you are disengaged, you make some space between yourself and the rest of the combatants in your position without fully moving to a new one. If your roll is successful, anyone who wants to engage with you needs to dedicate a set to their engage action; that set is affected by the movement difficulty of your current position. The effects of a maneuver continue until you take any other Move action or until you become engaged.
Advance: You move from one position to another, along an approach. The dice pool is your Body + Run, though you don’t have to dedicate a set to it in order to succeed.
Sneak: You move while trying to evade detection; this works exactly as described in the rules, but it’s included here in case it becomes necessary to combine it with other Move actions.
Take Cover: You weave in and around obstacles on the battlefield. Roll Coordination + Dodge, affected by the Cover difficulty of your position. If you succeed, you’re considered to have cover against any ranged attacks coming your way this round; how much cover is also determined by your position; usually this will be a percentage of your body that can be covered; exactly what body locations are covered are up to you, as long as they make sense and you aren’t using any body parts that would be covered (it’s very hard to shoot back at an attacker if both your arms and your head are behind cover).
Example Voras is escorting his master through the Caravansary (described above as having 0 no difficulty to find cover, and 50% coverage), when the rear guard of a group of assassins with slings attack. Voras first wants to take cover; he easily gets a match on his Coordination + Dodge roll. 50% cover means he gets to cover 5 hit locations; because he isn’t attacking back this turn, he chooses to hide his right arm (5-6), his head (10) and most of his torso (8-9) behind a tied-up kank.