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Combat Systems

Combat attempts to capture the drama of violent conflict without downplaying its grim reality. Every effort has been made to create a system has the feeling of dynamic, vicious combat while still leaving room for the unique (and often spectacular) elements that characters bring to it.

The Storyteller should be flexible when arbitrating combat situations; no rules can fully reflect the variety of situations encountered in warfare. If these systems slow the game or cause bickering, don’t use them. Combat systems are meant to add depth to the game, not create conflict between the players and the Storyteller.

Types of Combat

There are two types of combat, each involving the same basic system with minor differences:

Close Combat: This covers unarmed combat (Dexterity + Brawl) and melee (Dexterity + Melee). Unarmed combat can involve a down-and-dirty bar brawl or an honorable test of skill. Opponents must be within touching distance (one yard/meter) to engage in unarmed combat. Melee involves handheld weapons, from broken bottles to swords. Opponents must be within two yards/meters of each other to engage in melee.

Ranged Combat: Armed combat using projectile weapons — pistols, rifles, shotguns, etc. Opponents must normally be within sight (and weapon range) of each other to engage in a firefight.

Combat Turns

In combat, many things happen at virtually the same time. Since this can make things a bit sticky in a game, combat is divided into a series of three-second turns. Each combat turn has three stages — Initiative, Attack, and Resolution — to make it easier to keep track of things.

Stage One: Initiative

This stage organizes the turn and is when you declare your character’s action. Various actions are possible — anything from leaping behind a wall to shouting a warning. You must declare what your character does, in as much detail as the Storyteller requires.

Everyone, player and Storyteller character alike, rolls one (d10) die and adds it to their initiative rating (Dexterity + Wits); the character with the highest result acts first, with the remaining characters acting in decreasing order of result. If two characters get the same total, the one with the higher initiative rating goes first. If initiative ratings are also the same, the two characters act simultaneously. Wound penalties subtract directly from a character’s initiative rating.

Although you declare your character’s action now (including stating that your character delays her action to see what someone else does), you wait until the attack stage to implement that action. At this time, you must also state if any multiple actions will be performed, if Knacks will be activated, and/or if Willpower points will be spent. Characters declare in reverse order of initiative, thus giving faster characters the opportunity to react to slower characters’ actions.

All of your character’s actions are staged at her rank in the order of initiative. There are three exceptions to this rule: The first is if your character delays her action, in which case her maneuvers happen when she finally takes action. Your character may act at any time after her designated order in the initiative, even to interrupt another, slower character’s action. If two characters both delay their actions, and both finally act at the same time, the one with the higher initiative rating for the turn acts first.

The second breach of the initiative order occurs in the case of a defensive action (see “Aborting Actions” and “Defensive Maneuvers”), which your character may perform at any time as long as she has an action left.

Finally, all additional actions that turn occur at the end of the turn. If two or more characters take multiple actions, the actions occur in order of initiative rating. An exception is made for defensive multiple actions, such as multiple dodges, which happen when they need to happen in order to avert attack.

Stage Two: Attack

Attacks are the meat of the combat turn. An action’s success or failure and potential impact on the target are determined at this stage. You use a certain Attribute/Ability combination depending on the type of combat in which your character is engaged:

Close Combat: Use Dexterity + Brawl (unarmed) or Dexterity + Melee (armed).

Ranged Combat: Use Dexterity + Firearms (guns) or Dexterity + Athletics (thrown weapons).

Remember, if your character doesn’t have points in the necessary Ability, simply default to the Attribute on which it’s based (in most cases, Dexterity).

In ranged combat, your weapon may modify your dice pool or difficulty (due to rate of fire, a targeting scope, etc.); check the weapon’s statistics for details.

Most attacks are made versus difficulty 6. This can be adjusted for situational modifiers (long range, cramped quarters), but the default attack roll is versus 6. If you get no successes, the character fails her attack and inflicts no damage. If you botch, not only does the attack fail, but something nasty happens: The weapon jams or explodes, the blade breaks, an ally is hit, and so on.

Stage Three: Resolution

During this stage, you determine the damage inflicted by your character’s attack, and the Storyteller describes what occurs in the turn. Resolution is a mixture of game and story; it’s more interesting for players to hear “Your claws rip through his bowels; he screams in pain, dropping his gun as he clutches his bloody abdomen” than simply “Uh, he loses four health levels.” Attack and damage rolls are merely ways of describing what happens in the story, and it’s important to maintain the narrative of combat even as you make the die roll.

Normally, additional successes gained on a Trait roll simply mean that you do exceptionally well. In combat, each extra success you get on an attack roll equals an additional die you add automatically to your damage dice pool. This creates cinematic and often fatal combat.

Damage Types

All attacks have specific damage ratings, indicating the number of dice to roll for the attack’s damage (called the damage dice pool). Some damage dice pools are based on the attacker’s Strength, while others are based on the weapon used. Damage dice rolls are made versus difficulty 6. Each success on the damage roll inflicts one health level of damage on the target. However, the damage applied may be one of three types:

Bashing: Bashing damage comprises punches and other blunt trauma that are less likely to kill a victim instantly. All characters use their full Stamina ratings to resist bashing effects, and the damage heals fairly quickly. Bashing damage is applied to the Health boxes on your character sheet with a “/.”

Lethal: Attacks meant to cause immediate and fatal injury to the target. The damage takes quite a while to heal. Lethal damage is applied to the Health boxes on your vampire’s character sheet with a “X.”

Damage dice pools can never be reduced to lower than one die; any attack that strikes its target has at least a small chance of inflicting damage before a soak roll is made. Moreover, damage effect rolls cannot botch; a botched roll simply means the attack glances harmlessly off the target. Specifics on applying damage effects are here.


Characters can resist a certain degree of physical punishment; this is called soaking damage. Your character’s soak dice pool is equal to her Stamina. A normal human can soak only bashing damage (this reflects the body’s natural resilience to such attacks). Some people are tougher, and can thus use soak dice against lethal damage. After an attack hits and inflicts damage, the defender may make a soak roll to resist. This is considered a reflexive action; characters need not take an action or split a dice pool to soak. Unless otherwise stated, soak rolls are made versus difficulty 6. Each soak success subtracts one die from the total damage inflicted. As with damage rolls, soak rolls may not botch, only fail.


Armor adds to your character’s soak. The armor’s rating combines with your base soak for purposes of reducing damage. Light armor offers a small amount of protection, but doesn’t greatly hinder mobility. Heavy armor provides a lot of protection, but can restrict flexibility.

Armor protects against bashing and lethal damage; it does not protect against fire or other sources of damage. Armor is not indestructible. If the damage rolled in a single attack equals twice the armor’s rating, the armor is destroyed.

Armor types, their ratings, and other specifics are described on the Armor Chart.

Combat Maneuvers

These maneuvers give you a variety of choices in combat. Roleplaying combat is more entertaining if you can visualize your character’s moves instead of simply rolling dice. Most of these maneuvers take one action to execute.

General Maneuvers

Aborting Actions: You can abandon your character’s declared action in favor of a defensive action as long as your character hasn’t acted in the turn. Actions that can take the place of a previously declared action include block, dodge, and parry. A successful Willpower roll versus difficulty 6 (or the expenditure of a Willpower point) is required for a character to abort an action and perform a defensive one instead. When spending Willpower for an abort maneuver, a character may declare the Willpower expenditure at the time of the abort. A Willpower roll to abort is considered a reflexive action. (See “Defensive Maneuvers” for descriptions of block, dodge, and parry.)

Ambush: Ambushes involve surprising a target to get in a decisive first strike. The attacker rolls Dexterity + Stealth in a resisted action against the target’s Perception + Alertness. If the attacker scores more successes, she can stage one free attack on the target; she then adds any extra successes from the resisted roll to her attack dice pool. On a tie, the attacker still attacks first, although the target may perform a defensive maneuver. If the defender gets more successes, he spots the ambush, and both parties determine initiative normally. Targets already involved in combat cannot be ambushed.

Blind Fighting/Fire: Staging attacks while blind (or in pitch darkness) usually incurs a +2 difficulty, and ranged attacks cannot be accurately made at all.

Flank and Rear Attacks: Characters attacking targets from the flank gain an additional attack die. Characters attacking from the rear gain two additional attack dice.

Movement: A character may move half of her running distance (see “Movement,”) and still take an action in a turn. Other maneuvers such as leaping or tumbling may be considered separate actions, depending on their complexity.

Multiple Actions: If you declare multiple actions, declare the total number of actions you wish to attempt and determine which of the dice pools is the smallest. If a character performs only defensive actions in a turn, use the appropriate block, dodge, or parry system. See Defensive Maneuvers for more information.

Targeting: Aiming for a specific location incurs an added difficulty, but can bypass armor or cover, or can result in an increased damage effect. The Storyteller should consider special results beyond a simple increase in damage, depending on the attack and the target.

Target Size Difficulty Damage
Medium (limb, briefcase) +1 No modifier
Small (hand, head, phone) +2 +1
Precise (eye, heart, lock) +3 +2

Defensive Maneuvers

It’s a given that your character tries to avoid being hit in combat — that’s why everyone makes attack rolls to try to hit you. Sometimes, though, all your character wants to do is avoid attacks. You may announce a defensive action at any time before your character’s opponent makes an attack roll, as long as your character has an action left to perform. You can declare a defensive action on your character’s turn in the initiative, or can even abort to a defensive maneuver. You must make a successful Willpower roll (or may simply spend one point of Willpower) to abort. If the Willpower roll fails, your character must carry out the action that you declared originally.

There are three types of defensive actions: block, dodge, and parry. Your character can defend against virtually any kind of attack with these three maneuvers. However, your character may not be able to avoid every single attack that’s directed at her. She can’t dodge when there’s no room to maneuver, and she can’t block or parry if she doesn’t know an attack is coming.

Each defensive maneuver uses the same basic system: The defensive action is a resisted roll against the opponent’s attack roll. Unless the attacker gets more total successes, he misses. If the attacker gets more successes, those that he achieves in excess of the defender’s successes, if any, are used to hit (the attacker doesn’t necessarily use all the successes he rolled). So if the defender has fewer successes than the attacker does, the defender’s maneuver can still reduce the effectiveness of the attack, even if the maneuver can’t counteract it completely.

Block: A Dexterity + Brawl maneuver using your character’s own body to deflect a hand-to-hand bashing attack. Lethal attacks cannot be blocked unless the defender is wearing armor.

Dodge: A Dexterity + Athletics maneuver useful for avoiding attacks of all types. Your character bobs and weaves to avoid Melee or Brawl attacks (if there’s no room to maneuver, she must block or parry instead). In gunfights, your character moves at least one yard/meter and ends up behind cover (if there’s no room to maneuver or no cover available, she can drop to the ground). If your character remains under cover or prone, cover rules apply against further Firearms attacks (see “Cover”).

Parry: A Dexterity + Melee maneuver using a weapon to block a Brawl or Melee attack. If a character makes a Brawl attack and the defender parries with a weapon that normally causes lethal damage, the attacker can actually be hurt by a successful parry. If the defender rolls more successes than the attacker does in the resisted action, the defender rolls the weapon’s base damage plus the parry’s extra successes as a damage dice pool against the attacker.

Block, dodge, and parry can be performed as part of a multiple action in your character’s turn (punching then blocking, shooting then dodging, parrying then striking). Using a multiple action to act and defend is advantageous because your character can still accomplish something in a turn besides avoiding attacks.

Rather than having to divide your dice pool among multiple defensive actions, you may declare that your character spends an entire turn defending. The normal multiple-action rules are not used in this case. Instead, you have a full dice pool for the first defensive action, but lose one die, cumulatively, for each subsequent defense action made in the same turn. It is still difficult to avoid several incoming attacks, but not as difficult as trying to attempt multiple things at once.

Remember that any actions, including defensive ones, versus multiple attackers still suffer difficulty penalties (see “Multiple Opponents”).

Close Combat Maneuvers

This is simply a listing of the common maneuvers used in close combat; feel free to develop your own moves (with the Storyteller’s approval). All hand-to-hand attacks inflict bashing damage unless stated otherwise. The damage inflicted by melee attacks depends on the weapon type (see the Melee Weapons Chart). It is typically lethal, though clubs and other blunt instruments inflict bashing damage.

Difficulty and damage for these maneuvers may be modified at the Storyteller’s discretion, depending on the combat style the character uses. As always, drama and excitement take precedence over rules systems.

Bite: A bite maneuver is a “combat” bite, intended to cause damage. Bite damage is lethal. To use a bite attack, the character must first perform a successful clinch, hold, or tackle maneuver (see below). On the turn following the successful attack, the player may declare the bite attempt and make a roll using the modifiers below.

Traits: Dexterity + BrawlDifficulty: NormalAccuracy: +1Damage: Strength +1

Clinch: On a successful attack roll, the attacker goes into a clinch with the target. In the first turn, the attacker may roll Strength damage. In each subsequent turn, combatants act on their orders in the initiative. A combatant can inflict Strength damage automatically or attempt to escape the clinch. No other actions are allowed until one combatant breaks free. To escape a clinch, make a resisted Strength + Brawl roll against the opponent. If the escaping character has more successes, she breaks free; if not, the characters continue to grapple in the next turn.

Traits: Strength + BrawlDifficulty: NormalAccuracy: NormalDamage: Strength

Disarm: To strike an opponent’s weapon, the attacker must make an attack roll at +1 difficulty. If successful, the attacker rolls damage normally. If successes rolled exceed the opponent’s Strength rating, the opponent takes no damage but is disarmed. A botch usually means the attacker drops her own weapon or is struck by her target’s weapon.

Traits: Dexterity + MeleeDifficulty: +1Accuracy: NormalDamage: Special

Hold: This attack inflicts no damage, as the intent is to immobilize rather than injure the subject. On a successful roll, the attacker holds the target until the subject’s next action. At that time, both combatants roll resisted Strength + Brawl actions; the subject remains immobilized (able to take no other action) until she rolls more successes than the attacker does.

Traits: Strength + BrawlDifficulty: NormalAccuracy: NormalDamage: None

Kick: Kicks range from simple front kicks to aerial spins. The base attack is at +1 difficulty and inflicts the attacker’s Strength +1 in damage. These ratings may be modified further at the Storyteller’s discretion, increasing in damage and/or difficulty as the maneuver increases in complexity.

Ability: Dexterity + BrawlDifficulty: +1Accuracy: NormalDamage: Strength +1

Multiple Opponents: A character who battles multiple opponents in close combat suffers attack and defense difficulties of +1, cumulative, for each opponent after the first (to a maximum of +4).

Strike: The attacker lashes out with a fist. The base attack is a standard action and inflicts the character’s Strength in damage. The Storyteller may adjust the difficulty and/or damage depending on the type of punch: hook, jab, haymaker, karate strike.

Traits: Dexterity + BrawlDifficulty: NormalAccuracy: NormalDamage: Strength

Sweep: The attacker uses her own legs to knock the legs out from under her opponent. The target takes Strength damage and must roll Dexterity + Athletics (difficulty 8) or suffer a knockdown (see “Maneuver Complications,”).

The attacker can also use a staff, chain, or similar implement to perform a sweep. The effect is the same, although the target takes damage per the weapon type.

Traits: Dexterity + Brawl/Melee Difficulty: +1Accuracy: NormalDamage: Strength; knockdown

Tackle: The attacker rushes her opponent, tackling him to the ground. The attack roll is at +1 difficulty, and the maneuver inflicts Strength +1 damage. Additionally, both combatants must roll Dexterity + Athletics (difficulty 7) or suffer a knockdown (see “Maneuver Complications”). Even if the target’s Athletics roll succeeds, he is unbalanced, suffering +1 difficulty to his actions for the next turn.

Traits: Strength + BrawlDifficulty: +1Accuracy: NormalDamage: Strength +1

Weapon Length: It is difficult to get in range with a punch or knife if someone else is wielding a sword or staff. A character being fended off with a longer weapon must close in one yard/meter before striking, losing a die from her attack roll in the process.

Weapon Strike: A slashing blow, thrust, or jab, depending on the weapon used. See the Melee Weapons Chart for particulars.

Traits: Dexterity + MeleeDifficulty: NormalAccuracy: NormalDamage: Weapon type

Ranged Combat Maneuvers

Many physical conflicts involve ranged weapons. The following maneuvers allow for a number of useful actions during a firefight. Don’t feel limited by this list; if the need arises, try developing a new maneuver (at the Storyteller’s discretion). Refer to the Ranged Weapons Chart for specific information.

Aiming: The attacker adds one die to her attack dice pool on a single shot for each turn spent aiming. The maximum number of dice that can be added in this way is equal to the character’s Perception, and a character must have Firearms 1 or better to use this maneuver. A scope adds two more dice to the attacker’s pool in the first turn of aiming (in addition to those added for Perception). The attacker may do nothing but aim during this time. Additionally, it isn’t possible to aim at a target that is moving faster than a walk.

Automatic Fire: The weapon unloads its entire ammunition clip in one attack against a single target. The attacker makes a single roll, adding 10 dice to her accuracy. However, the attack roll is at a +2 difficulty due to the weapon’s recoil. Extra successes add to the damage dice pool, which is still treated as equivalent to one bullet. An attacker using automatic fire may not target a specific area of the body.

This attack is permissible only if the weapon’s clip is at least half-full to begin with.

Traits: Dexterity + FirearmsDifficulty: +2Accuracy: +10Damage: Special

Cover: Cover increases an attacker’s difficulty to hit a target (and often the target’s ability to fire back). Difficulty penalties for hitting a target under various types of cover are listed below. A character who fires back from behind cover is also at something of a disadvantage to hit, as he exposes himself and ducks back under protection. Firearms attacks made by a defender who is under cover are at one lower difficulty than listed below. (If a listed difficulty is +1, then the defender suffers no penalty to make attacks from under that cover.) If your character hides behind a wall, attackers’ Firearms rolls have a +2 difficulty. Your character’s attacks staged from behind that wall are at +1 difficulty.

Note that difficulties for combatants who are both under cover are cumulative. If one combatant is prone and one is behind a wall, attacks staged by the prone character are at +2 difficulty, while attacks staged by the character behind the wall are also at +2 difficulty.

Cover Type Difficulty Increase
Light (lying prone) +1
Good (behind wall) +2
Superior (only head exposed) +3

Multiple Shots: An attacker with a fast firearm may try to take more than one shot in a turn. The attacker can divide his attack dice pool by how many shots she wants to fire at a similar number of targets, up to the weapon’s rate of fire (multiple attacks against the same target are covered under maneuvers like “Automatic Fire” and “Three-Round Burst”). Each attack is then rolled separately.

Ability: Dexterity + FirearmsDifficulty: NormalAccuracy: SpecialDamage: Weapon type

Range: The Ranged Weapons Chart lists each weapon’s short range; attacks made at that range are versus difficulty 6. Twice that listing is the weapon’s maximum range. Attacks made up to maximum range are versus difficulty 8. Attacks made at targets within two meters are considered point blank. Point blank shots are made versus difficulty 4.

Reloading: Reloading takes one full turn and requires the character’s concentration. Like any other maneuver, reloading can be performed as part of a multiple action.

Strafing: Instead of aiming at one target, fully-automatic weapons can be fired across an area. Strafing adds 10 dice to accuracy on a standard attack roll, and empties the clip. A maximum of three yards/meters can be covered with this maneuver.

The attacker divides any successes gained on the attack roll evenly among all targets in the covered area (successes assigned to hit an individual are added to that target’s damage dice pool, as well). If only one target is within range or the area of effect, only half the successes affect him. The attacker then assigns any leftover successes as she desires. If fewer successes are rolled than there are targets, only one may be assigned per target until they are all allocated.

Dodge rolls against strafing are at +1 difficulty.

Ability: Dexterity + FirearmsDifficulty: +2Accuracy: +10Damage: Special

Three-Round Burst: The attacker gains two additional dice on a single attack roll, and expends three shots from the weapon’s clip. Only certain weapons may perform this maneuver; see the Ranged Weapons Chart for particulars. Attacks are made at +1 difficulty due to recoil. As with automatic fire, the damage dice pool is based on one bullet from the weapon in question.

Ability: Dexterity + FirearmsDifficulty: +1Accuracy: +2Damage: Weapon type

Two Weapons: Firing two weapons is considered performing a multiple action, complete with dividing the dice of the lowest pool between two different targets. Additionally, the attacker suffers +1 difficulty for the attack with her off-hand (unless she’s ambidextrous). Each attack is rolled and resolved separately — multiple attacks made against the same target are covered by maneuvers such as “Automatic Fire” and “Three-Round Burst.”

Ability: Dexterity + FirearmsDifficulty: +1/off-handAccuracy: NormalDamage: Weapon type

Maneuver Complications

The following are common combat complications. The Storyteller should add any others as the situation warrants.

Blinded: Add two dice to attack rolls made against a blinded target. Furthermore, blind characters are at +2 difficulty on all actions.

Dazed: If, in a single attack, the attacker rolls a number of damage successes greater than the target’s Stamina (for mortals) or Stamina + 2 (for others), the victim is dazed. The target must spend her next available turn shaking off the attack’s effects. Only damage successes that penetrate the defender’s soak attempt count toward this total.

Immobilization: Add two dice to attack rolls made on an immobilized (i.e., held by someone or something) but still struggling target. Attacks hit automatically if the target is completely immobilized (tied up or otherwise paralyzed).

Knockdown: The victim falls down. After suffering a knockdown, the subject makes a Dexterity + Athletics roll. If successful, she may get back on her feet immediately, but her initiative is reduced by two in the next turn. On a failed roll, the subject spends her next action climbing to her feet, if she chooses to rise. On a botch, she lands particularly hard or at a severe angle, taking an automatic health level of bashing damage.

Maneuvers like tackle and sweep are intended to knock an opponent down. However, an especially powerful attack of any kind may send the target to the ground. Such instances are best left to the Storyteller’s discretion, and should occur only when appropriately cinematic or suitable to the story.

combat_systems.txt · Last modified: 2014/02/28 00:39 by storyteller