Combat Situations

Combat can throw up all sorts of strange situations which are impossible to predict and cover in the rules. For these, the Game Leader uses their judgement and awards situation bonuses to the attacker or defender as appropriate. However, there are a lot of situations that do occur regularly in combat which the rules can cover.

Size & Distance

The most common situation bonus in combat relates to the distance the attacker is from the target and the area or size of the target. Critical to this are the Range (x) and Area (X) keywords which define the situation bonuses awarded. This includes attacking multiple targets with a single action, e.g. shooting two people with a single shot. See Action Scope for more details.


Cover is anything that protects or obscures the target from the attacker. This includes walls, fog, foliage and force fields. It needs to protect a large part of the body to generate a 1d6+0 situation bonus, most of the body for a 2d6+0 bonus and all but an eye or similar for 3d6+0. What should be counted as cover depends on the nature of the attack but it is recommended things are kept simple. Obscurement such as mist or foliage is ignored by melee attacks but does inhibit range attacks. How effective a stone wall is against a psionic or magical attack is left to the group to decide but as a rule of thumb, anything that makes the target harder to see provides protection.

Blast (xd6) and Aura attacks are harder to defend against. These keywords cover poisonous gas attacks, magical fireballs, sonic attacks and many other magical or technological dangers. The real-world behaviour of cover against such attacks is very complicated and how cover helps against magical attacks is anyone's guess. For simplicity cover should only be allowed against areas of effect if it is solid, such as a well-built brick wall, covering most of the character. For each solid wall or substantial barrier between the centre of the area of effect and the character, add 1d6+0 to the resistance.

Mr L. Pliskin is crouched behind a makeshift barricade exchanging gun fire with a pirate who is using a doorway for cover. The group decides Pliskin has 2d6+0 of cover as most of his body is hidden but the pirate gets 1d6+0 as the doorway only protects half the body.

The pirate takes a shot at Mr L. Pliskin with 4d6+3 worth of advantages. Pliskin immediately gets 2d6+0 for the cover plus 1d6+2 for his free resist. To bolster his defence, he returns fire with his pistol and expertise for 2d6+3 giving him a total resistance of 5d6+5. However, though the danger from Pliskin's gunfire make life harder for the attacker, the threat is reduced by the pirate's cover which is added as a situation bonus to his roll, bringing the pirate's attack up to 5d6+3.

Attacking Hidden Opponents

Characters may attack opponents who are hidden, i.e. foes they know are nearby but not their specific square. This is automatically an area attack as the character has to target one or more squares and situations bonuses are driven by the number of squares a character attacks. A character without the Area (x) keyword in the action adds 1d6+0 to the resistance for every square they attack. The player may choose to attack specific squares but if the player chooses the wrong squares to attack they will always miss and the defender does not need to take a resistance action. Alternatively, a character with a reasonable knowledge of where the attacker is located can decline from stating which squares they are attack and instead take a 3d6+0 bonus to the resistance. The defender must resist such an attack and suffers the action's effect if it is successful. A player with only the vaguest idea of the monsters location can choose to take add 6d6+0 to the resistance instead of naming the specific squares. Though an area attack, the character is always attacking a single foe. If the character wishes to target multiple foes, regardless whether they are hidden or not, they must specify the target squares and follow the rules for the Area (x) keyword.

Relative Position

The relative position of the attacker to the defender may be important. In melee the higher person gains a 1d6+0 bonus to their action. With range weapons it is more of a mixed blessing as the angles and foreshortening can make the target appear smaller. A 1d6+0 bonus to range attacks only applies if the relative position gives a clear benefit, however a height advantage may allow an attacker to reduce the benefits of cover.

Flanking / Multiple Attackers

Attacking from behind or from the side does not give any bonuses nor does having to defend against multiple attacks. A character's potential incorporates their ability to defend themselves against an attack from any direction. The less potential they have in the bank, the more vulnerable they are to attack.

Point Blank

When the target of a range weapon is adjacent to the character, it counts as point blank range. This makes no difference to the attack or defence except when the weapon has a long barrel (e.g. a rifle) or is similarly cumbersome (e.g. a long bow).

The problem with using a sizeable range weapon against an adjacent target is the ease with which the opponent can deflect the weapon by pushing it aside. Plus, due to the close range, the user has to move their weapon a relatively large amount to keep the weapon aimed as the target moves. All two-handed range weapons grant the target a 1d6+0 situation bonus at point blank range unless they are specifically a short-barrelled weapon such as as a carbine or coach gun.

Avoiding Friendly Fire

When a target is next to a friendly character, i.e. someone the attacker does not want to harm, range attacks become harder. For each friendly character adjacent to or in the same square as the target, the target receives a 1d6+0 situation bonus.

Occupying the Same Square

Two or more human-sized characters can occupy the same 5' square. However, they may impinge on each other's ability to act depending on the type of action being attempted. Attacking someone from a square with multiple occupants adds a 1d6+0 situation bonus to the defender as the attacker cannot swing their sword so easily or are more likely to be nudged whilst trying to aim their gun. In the reverse situation, when two defenders occupy the same square, there is no bonus. A target's disadvantages from being restricted are offset by the extra cover earned from their companion. If a square is occupied by two characters attacking each other there are no situation bonuses as both parties are equally advantaged or disadvantaged.

Other types of actions, such as awareness, are unlikely to be disadvantaged by multiple occupants; however each situation should be judged on its own merits. The nature of the action, the number and size of the occupants and the general environment are all factors to be considered.

Other Situation Bonuses

Beyond the common bonuses, there are an infinite number of other circumstances that might warrant giving a situation bonus to one side or the other. When deciding whether to give a bonus or not, consider these points.

  • How does this circumstance actually help or hinder the character? Just like using an advantage in an action, the player must be able to justify the situation bonus.
  • Is the effect significant enough to justify a bonus? A 1d6+0 bonus gives quite an advantage. The circumstances may be helping the player but are they helping enough?
  • Lots of little things? Sometimes no single factor can be judged to warrant a bonus but the sum of several minor advantages can.
  • Is it fair? Is it fun? To be fun for all, games need to be fair. If giving a bonus to one player would be unfair to another then the bonus should not be given. However if no player is disadvantaged by the bonus and it makes the game more fun, give the bonus.
  • Each situation is different. Giving a situation bonus once does not mean the bonus will be awarded every time a similar situation comes up.

Returning Fire

Using any form of attack in a resistance action grants the attacker situation bonuses exactly as if the defender was the attacker. The counter-attack's purpose is to hinder the attacker's ability to complete their action. To do this the counter-attack must be a credible threat to the attacker which requires it to be on target. This is why the resistance action may give situations bonuses for range and cover to the attacker. In some cases, the number of situation bonuses the resistance action gives the attacker may outweigh the value of the resistance action.

Little Red Hawk is standing in the street when the notorious cowboy Fast Fingers Freddy takes a shot from a nearby window. Spotting the danger just in time and having no other way to protect herself, Little Red Hawk throws her tomahawk. Freddy is attacking with 1d6+2 for his Rifle and a Rifle Expertise of 1d6+2 for a total of 2d6+4.

Little Red Hawk is resisting with her 1d6+2 Tomahawk, 1d6+1 Throw and 1d6+0 of Brawn. Things look good for the native with a resistance of 3d6+3 However, Fast Fingers Freddy has cover from the window and gains a 1d6+0 situation bonus. Now Freddy has 3d6+4 against Red Hawk's 3d6+3.

Fast Fingers Freddy and Little Red Hawk are 30' (6 squares) apart. The rifle is Range (3) so Little Red Hawk gains a 1d6+0 bonus because she is in the weapon's second range step. Little Red Hawk has Range (1) for her tomahawk and Range (1) for her Throw giving a total of Range (2). This puts Freddy in the weapon's third range step and he gains a 2d6+0 situation bonus.

Fast Fingers Freddy now has an attack of 5d6+4 whereas Little Red Hawk has a resistance of 4d6+3. The odds are back in favour of Freddy but Red Hawk still has a slightly better chance of avoiding damage by throwing the tomahawk than by not acting.

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open/mechanics/core/situationbonuses.txt · Last modified: 2016/02/18 15:52 by tregenza
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