Sundering the Gods

On the Eve of Snows,

come heavens or hells,

war will rage.

Melee Combat Sequence

Unlike many table-top RPG's melee combat in the SCRPG does not occur in an "initiative, your turn, my turn" sequence. While initiative does exist within the system, it is something that happens naturally in the flow of combat rather than as a forced mechanic to enable a turn-based system, and actions tend to take place relatively simultaneously. A simple "turn" of combat in the SCRPG could look a bit like this.

  1. Combatants Declare Disposition (open or secret)
  2. Both Combatants Clash (Roll D20 + Mods)
  3. Maneuver vs Maneuver (Roll D20 + Mods)
  4. Clear

A Combat "turn" could also look like this:

  1. Combatants Declare Disposition (open or secret)
  2. Both Combatants Clash (Roll D20 +  Mods)
  3. Maneuver vs Maneuver (Roll D20 + Mods)
  4. Combatant #1 Maneuver with Initiative (Roll D20 + Mods)
  5. Combatant #2 Maneuver with Initiative (Roll D20 + Mods)
  6. Maneuver vs Maneuver (Roll D20 + Mods)
  7. Clear

 The Clash

This is the moment of initiation of conflict and lasts for so long as two directly conflicting opponents are actively in within Onset Range. Initiating a Clash draws two simultaneous rolls from the combatants with varying results as determined by fighting styles/maneuvers and the difference in their totaled rolls. There are four basic results to the Clash: A Clear, a Bind, Simultaneous "Hits" and Single Hit. 

The Clash is neither a purely Offensive nor purely Defensive action in most cases, just as the Characters don't have a purely Offensive or Defensive Bonus in melee combat. In the SCRPG the dynamic of melee combat is to assume that your ability to fight is both the ability to attack and to defend, and not to rely on numbers unassociated with your skill with the weapon(s) in hand. 

That being said, there are two basic Dispositions that a melee combatant may take: Offensive and Defensive, which could also be seen as "act" and "react". The Disposition a Character is in does not directly effect the Clash, but it does effect every Maneuver taken after the Clash is initiated. 

Maneuvers & Disposition

There are a multitude of Melee Combat Maneuvers in the SCRPG that range from killing blows to retreat. Each of these Maneuvers is either considered Offensive or Defensive, and are subject to modification by the Combatant's disposition.  Dispositions effect the Characters in a variety of ways, such as what maneuvers they may use, but for now the primary concern is how they effect the totals of the Clash. The quick answer here is that the roll of the die GOES TO the Disposition, adding to an Offensive Character's Attack or subtracting from the Attack upon a Defensive Character. A quick illustration:

An offensive action performed while in the Offensive Disposition = Skill + Die Roll
An offensive action performed while in the Defensive Disposition = Skill alone
A defensive action performed while in Offensive Disposition = Skill alone
A defensive action performed while in Defensive Disposition = Skill + Die Roll


As mentioned previously Initiative exists in the SCRPG but not in the typical "dice for it" fashion of so many RPGs. First it is useful to discuss what the condition of having Initiative means within the system. Quite simply, to have Initiative means that your opponent is unable to oppose your action with a roll of the dice. 

While surprise and an opponent being stunned may give Initiative to the attacker, typically Initiative will be seen in the middle of combat when for one reason or another one combatant chooses to give their opponent the initiative. This might seem counter-intuitive, but there are several tactical situations where this can be a consideration. 

The most obvious tactical situation is when a Character wants to Clear Melee Range to regain balance, or for another tactical advantage. If Combatant #1 wants to Clear while off balance they can give their opponent the Initiative, and if they survive that attack, they can potentially Clear WITH Initiative, which has an advantage over trying to Clear in normal Opposed Roll Combat. That said, Combatant #2 may defy Initiative and choose to counter the Clear in some way with a Maneuver of their own, but defying Initiative comes with some penalties of its own. 

Combatant #1 could also give Initiative as a form of Counter, giving the opponent the chance to get in their attack with Initiative gives Combatant #1 the opportunity for Initiative themselves immediately after #2's attack, as #2 is forced to either Concede Initiative (unopposed attack incoming) or to Defy Initiative (suffer penalties to their maneuver/die roll).

Initiative in the SCRPG then becomes something far more interesting than the traditional "roll for it" crap shoot of turn-based combat, in many cases it becomes a tactical decision with its own risks and rewards.


A One on One Scenario

NOTE: The numbers here are outdated, but the concept is the same.

The easiest thing to look at is a classic one on one duel, in this case we will deal with two Viking-like warriors, lightly armored and wielding sword and shield. These men are named Geir and Hauk for this example. The two men square off outside their village in a nice clearing. The two men are mad but not looking to kill each other and have decided to settle a dispute by blood challenge. Geir is a little better with Sword & Shield (12) than is Hauk (10).

For this example, we will run the Clash with identical rolls but altering the Dispositions. A Clash with a difference of 0-4 is a "Clear" or "Bind" situation depending on various factors, while a difference of 5-10 is Simultaneous Hit opportunities, and a difference of 11+ gives the winning Character a lone hit - not including the possibility of an "Automatic Hit" which will be explained later.

Version 1 (Offensive v Offensive): Both Characters immediately roll the Clash: Geir (7+12=19) v Hauk (15+10=25). This is a 6 point difference in Hauk's advantage, in what is a "Simultaneous Hit" scenario, and for this scenario, let's take a look at the numbers as if both warriors would take these hits directly without Maneuvers. So Geir checks his Attack: 19-10= 9! Woah nelly, wait a second. Shouldn't Geir's attack be 19-25 = -6? No, and Hauk's Attack is 25-12= 13. Why is this? This is the result of being in Offensive Dispositions, where the dice roll of the opponent is not considered in the defense of the Attack, only in the numbers of the Clash. 

Version 2 (Offensive v Defensive): Both Characters immediately roll the Clash: Geir (7+12=19) v Hauk (15+10=25). This is a 6 point difference in Hauk's advantage, in what is a "Simultaneous Hit" scenario. So Geir checks his Attack: 19-25= -6! A big old whiff! With Hauk in Defensive Disposition, his D20 roll now counts directly against Geir's attack. [In a real game, Geir would not actually attempt to hit, realizing he will miss, and opt for another maneuver, but for illustration purposes, we assume he attacks]  Hauk does not automatically get a hit in this scenario, as he is given a choice. He could take the normal Attack (15+10-12= 13) on the attack roll, but that is a pretty lame hit.  The better option is to take that 6 points of Advantage for Hauk with which he can perform various Counter Maneuvers against the opening his opponent left him with a +30 to his Maneuver action roll.

Version 3 (Defensive v Offensive): Both Characters immediately roll the Clash: Geir (7+12=19) v Hauk (15+10=25). This is a 6 point difference in Hauk's advantage, in what is a "Simultaneous Hit" scenario. Geir checks his Attack: (19-10= 9), so Geir's Hit Opportunity is pretty weak but the Attack was not Geir's goal, it was to play it safe to start and not get clobbered. So how did he do? Hauk's Attack is (25-19= 6) which results in very minor contact with neither gaining a clear advantage.

Now let’s reset this opening Clash with some more extreme rolls, to show varying effects 

Version 4 (Offensive v Offensive): Both Characters immediately roll the Clash: Geir (98+72+60=230) v Hauk (97+98+52+50=297). Here we see that both Geir and Hauk roll Open-Ended with follow up rolls, and Hauk followed up his open-ended 97 with a 98, also open-ended, and a 52. The difference between the two is greater than 50, which is one heck of a hit for the Clash. Hauk's result is (297-60= 237) a Devastating Hit that might normally be deadly if they weren’t just fighting to the blood. And ordinarily Hauk would easily have defended Geir for a Single-Hit, but Geir also rolled Open-Ended. In a situation where an Offensive Character is beaten by 50+ despite the Open-Ended roll, they automatically get a Hit Opportunity. So Geir also lands a hit, (230-50= 180) which would normally be a duel winning hit, except this opponent out-blooded him.

Version 5 (Offensive v Defensive): Both Characters immediately roll the Clash: Geir (98+72+60=230) v Hauk (97+98+52+50=297). In this Clash Geir once again gets an automatic Hit Opportunity due to his Open-Ended roll, however the results look like this: (237-297= -60) because Hauk is Defensive and his Open-Ended Rolls outweighed Geir’s. The Open-Ended guarantees opportunity, not positive results.  Hauk has completely defeated Geir’s attack and has options like before, where he could take the basic hit (50+67-60= 57) or instead take that hefty difference of 67 and parlay that into a Counter Attack. With that kind of advantage a blood duel is likely over soon. 

Version 6 (Defensive v Offensive): Both Characters immediately roll the Clash: Geir (98+72+60=230) v Hauk (97+98+52+50=297). This scenario sees the Defensive Geir saved from defeat by his choice of Disposition. He still loses the encounter by 67, but that is not a hit that will draw blood. He is likely to be at a disadvantage for a time, but better that than defeated or accidentally dead!

Background Art by Jon Gibbons

© 2018 L. James Rice