Combat Maneuvers

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In real life, combat is one of the closest things to pure anarchy. Each side is attempting to harm the other, essentially causing disorder and chaos. Thus, combats are filled with unknowns—unplanned events, failed attacks, lack of communication, and general confusion and uncertainty. However, to play a battle in the game, it is necessary to impose some order on the actions. Within a combat round, there is a set series of steps that must be followed. These are:

  1. The DM decides what actions the monsters or NPCs will take, including casting spells, if any.
  2. The players indicate what their characters will do, including and casting of spells.
  3. Initiative is determined.
  4. Attacks are made in order of initiative.

These steps are followed until the combat ends—either one side is defeated, surrenders, or runs away.


What You Can Do in One Round

Whatever the precise length of a combat round, a character can accomplish only one basic action in that round, be it making an attack, casting a spell, drinking a potion, or tending to a fallen comrade. The basic action, however, may involve several lesser actions.

When making an attack, a character is likely to close with his opponent, circle for an opening, feint here, jab there, block a thrust, leap back, and perhaps finally make a telling blow. A spellcaster may fumble for his components, dodge an attacker, mentally review the steps of the spell, intone the spell, and then move to safety when it is all done. All of these things might happen in a matter of seconds.

Some examples of the actions a character can accomplish include the following:

  • Make an attack (make attack rolls up to the maximum number allowed the character class at a given level)
  • Cast one spell (if the casting time is one round or less)
  • Drink a potion
  • Light a torch
  • Use a magical item
  • Move to the limit of his movement rate
  • Attempt to open a stuck or secret door
  • Bind a character’s wounds
  • Search a body
  • Hammer in a spike
  • Recover a dropped weapon

There are also actions that take a negligible amount of time, things the character does without affecting his ability to perform a more important task. Examples of these include the following:

  • Shout warnings, brief instructions, or demands for surrender, but not conversations where a reply is expected.
  • Change weapons by dropping one and drawing another.
  • Drop excess equipment, such as backpacks, lanterns, or torches.

Movement in Combat

Since a combat round may be as much as a minute long, it should be easy for a character to move just about anywhere he wants during the course of the round. After all, a person running can cover vast amounts of ground in a minute. However, a character in an AD&D game is not an Olympic sprinter running in a straight line. He is trying to maneuver through a battle without getting killed. He is keeping his eyes open for trouble, avoiding surprise, watching his back, watching the backs of his partners, and looking for a good opening, while simultaneously planning his next move, sometimes through a haze of pain. He may be carrying a load of equipment that slows him down significantly. Because of all these things, the distance a character can move is significantly less than players generally think.

In a combat round, a being can move up to 10 times its movement rating (see Chapter 14: Time and Movement) in feet. Thus, if a character has a movement rating of 9, he can move up to 90 feet in a round. However, the types of moves a character can make during combat are somewhat limited.

The basic move is to get closer for combat—i.e., move close enough to an enemy to attack. This is neither a blind rush nor a casual stroll. Instead, the character approaches quickly but with caution. When closing for combat, a character can move up to half his allowed distance and still make a melee attack.

Rather than slug it out toe to toe with an opponent, a character can move up to one-half his normal movement rate and engage in missile fire at half his normal rate of fire. Thus, a man capable of moving 120 feet and armed with a long bow (two shots per round, under normal circumstances) could move 60 feet and still fire one shot. The same man, armed with a heavy crossbow (one shot every other round) would be able to shoot only once every four rounds while on the move.

Charging an Opponent
A character can also charge a foe. A charge increases the character’s movement rate by 50% and enables the character to make an attack at the end of his movement. A charging character also gains a +2 bonus to his attack roll, mainly from momentum. Certain weapons (such as a lance) inflict double the rolled damage in a charge.

However, charging gives the opponents several advantages. First, they gain a -2 bonus to their initiative rolls. Second, charging characters gain no Dexterity bonuses to Armor Class and they suffer an AC penalty of 1. Finally, if the defender is using a spear or polearm weapon and sets it against the charge (bracing the butt against a stone or his foot), he inflicts double damage on a successful hit.

Retreat
To get out of a combat, characters can make a careful withdrawal or they can simply flee.
Withdrawing: When making a withdrawal, a character carefully backs away from his opponent (who can choose to follow). The character moves up to 1/3 his normal movement rate. If two characters are fighting a single opponent and one of them decides to withdraw, the remaining character can block the advance of the opponent. This is a useful method for getting a seriously injured man out of a combat.

Fleeing: To flee from combat, a character simply turns and runs up to his full movement rate. However, the fleeing character drops his defenses and turns his back to his opponent.
The enemy is allowed a free attack (or multiple attacks if the creature has several attacks per round) at the rear of the fleeing character. This attack is made the instant the character flees: It doesn’t count against the number of attacks that opponent is allowed during the round, and initiative is irrelevant.

The fleeing character can be pursued, unless a companion blocks the advance of the enemy.


Maneuvers

Called Shots
AD&D game combat does not use a hit location system to determine where every blow in a battle has landed. Sometimes, however, characters and creatures will find it necessary to aim their blows at an exact point. A fighter may want to smash a vial held in the evil wizard’s hand; a thief might attempt to shoot the jeweled eye out of an idol with his crossbow. Monsters often have body parts or features with extraordinary or magical effects; examples include the eyes of the beholder, tentacles of the carrion crawler, individual heads of the chimera, and so on. Many animated statues are motivated by a medallion, inscription, or embedded gem. These are cases where the character is attempting a “called shot.”

To make a called shot, a player must announce his intention before any initiative dice are rolled. Upon doing so, he suffers a +1 penalty to his initiative (representing the time spent carefully aiming his attack). When the character does get a chance to act, his attack roll suffers a -4 penalty. If the roll succeeds, the called shot accomplishes what the player wanted; if the roll missed, no damage occurs.

  • Torso: All normal attacks are assumed to strike the torso. Called shots to the torso have no additional effect.
  • Head: A successful called shot to the head causes one of the following effects (selected at random) for 1d6 rounds. If the attack deals more than 25% of the targets total hit points in damage, the effect is permanent until magically healed. A specific effect may be selected by taking an additional -4 on the attack roll.
    1. Blindness: The character is blinded (from the pain, not injury to his eyes) until the Numbness or Uselessness ends. When a character is blind but still trying to defend himself, anyone attacking him gets a bonus of +4 to attack rolls. (If, for some reason, he is also kneeling, sitting or flat on his back, the bonuses to attack rolls are cumulative).
    2. Deafness: The character hears ringing in his ears until the Numbness or Uselessness ends. The character suffers no combat penalty, but cannot hear orders or warnings shouted at him.
    3. Dizziness: The character is concussed and dizzy. He performs any Dexterity ability rolls with a penalty of –4 until the Numbness or Uselessness ends. Anytime he is hit in combat for more than 2 points of damage, he must make a Dexterity ability check to avoid falling down.
    4. Knockdown: The character is knocked flat on his backside by the blow, but does not suffer any additional ill effect. His head is not really Numbed or Useless; as soon as he stands up again, the disadvantage for the Knockdown goes away.
    5. Blindness and Deafness.
    6. Dizziness and Knockdown.
  • Arms: A damaged arm cannot hold a weapon; the character immediately drops anything held in the hand in question. The character will not drop a shield strapped to the arm, but does not get the AC benefit of the shield until his arm recovers.
  • Legs: When a character’s leg is damaged, he must immediately make Balance check. On a successful check he remains standing (on one foot); otherwise, he falls to the ground (and is considered sitting for purposes of striking at him). His movement drops to a fourth normal be until he recovers. Attempts to knock prone a character who is already standing on one foot automatically succeed.

Carving Initials Into Someone. A successful Called Shot will enable a character with a sharp blade to slice one letter or initial into a tabletop, a wall—or the flesh of an opponent. This does only one point of damage, and has one of two results: Against an enemy of equal or lower level or influence, it forces the enemy to make a morale check or surrender; against an enemy of equal or higher level or influence, it will be considered such an insult that this enemy will not rest until you are dead. Thus, it is best performed against enemy minions to impress and scare them, to persuade them to run away or help you. Performed against enemies who are your equal in ability or status, this maneuver merely earns you a foe for life.

Cutting Buttons Off. Each successful Called Shot will enable a character to snip off one button, brooch, gem or other sartorial element from an enemy’s outfit. It can also be used to flip a necklace off someone’s head, spring the catch on a bracelet, etc. This has the same good effects as carving initials into someone, but will not earn you the enmity of an opponent who is your equal.

Stapling. This classic maneuver is best performed with a thrown knife or with an arrow or quarrel, though it can be performed with sharp melee weapons. The target must be near some piece of furniture or wall, and that furniture or wall should be wood, plaster, or any other material that such a weapon will penetrate. With a successful Called Shot, you staple some item of the target’s clothing (your choice) to that nearby surface. The target must spend a combat round getting himself free. (This does not require any sort of roll; it just takes a few moments to pull the knife free, tear the cloth of his garment, whatever it takes.) If someone attacks him while he is pinned, he suffers a –2 penalty to AC and attack rolls. If the target is stapled and must defend himself while trying to tear himself free, he suffers those AC and attack penalties but will be able to tear himself free after a total of three rounds.

Hostage-Taking. If a character successfully grabs a victim during one round (see the Grab maneuver, below), he may use a Called Shot on his next round to put his dagger to the hostage’s throat. This does no damage to the hostage, but the attacker can then, at any time, drive the knife home for twice normal damage (which he will probably do if the hostage does not surrender, or if someone else he is threatening does not surrender.)

Disarm
The Disarm is a specific variation on Called Shots. With the Disarm, the attacker takes a Called Shot at the weapon his target is currently using. With the basic Disarm maneuver, the attacker follows the normal rules for Called Shots (announcing his intention before initiative and receiving a +1 modifier to initiative, and then suffering a –4 attack penalty); if his attack is successful, he will (normally) cause his enemy’s weapon to go flying from his enemy’s hand. Roll 2d6. The number rolled is the number of feet the weapon flies. Roll 1d6. The number rolled determines which direction the weapon goes. (This is described in terms of the attacker’s facing. Straight Ahead means straight ahead from the attacker; Behind means behind the attacker.

  1. Straight Ahead
  2. Ahead, Right
  3. Behind, Right
  4. Straight Behind
  5. Behind, Left
  6. Ahead, Left

This Disarm can also be used on magic wands, crystal balls, and any other sort of magical apparatus which is held in one hand. If the item is worn (like jewelry), it cannot be Disarmed. (Note: Weapons, when used, cannot be worn like jewelry.)

Disarm does not work nearly so well against two-handed weapons. If you perform a Disarm against a wielder of a two-handed weapon (including magical staves), it merely knocks the weapon out of alignment briefly; the weapon’s wielder automatically loses initiative on the next round1. However, two Disarms made against the wielder in the same round will knock the weapon free (as described above). The two Disarm maneuvers don’t have to come from the same character. Two characters can work together to disarm the two-handed wielder; or, one character with multiple attacks in a round can do the job himself.

If a character finds his two-handed weapon partially disarmed, and he still has at least one attack to perform this round, he can elect to forget about his next attack and may use that attack to recover his weapon instead.

Disarm is only of partial usefulness when struck against a shield. It won’t tear the shield loose from the wielder’s arm. However, it will draw it out (knock it out of alignment, so that the wielder is not protected by it). For the rest of the round, the shield-wielder loses the AC bonus of the shield (and any magical benefits, too). At the start of the next combat round, even before initiative is rolled, the character regains his shield’s AC bonus. If a shield has other properties, those stay in effect, even when the shield is Disarmed out of alignment. For example, let’s say a shield radiates a protection from evil spell. If it’s Disarmed, and drawn out of alignment, its wielder still gets the benefits of that protection from evil spell. Only when he drops the shield or has it forcibly wrested away from him does he lose that benefit. As with the Disarming of two-handed weapons, if a character finds his shield disarmed, and he still has at least one attack to perform this round, he can elect to forget about his next attack and may use that attack to recover his weapon instead.

Expert Disarms
If you’re a very experienced fighter, and are willing to suffer a serious penalty in order to impress your enemy, you can perform an “expert disarm” against single-hand weapons only. This suffers a +2 to initiative and a –8 to attack rolls. But if it does hit, when you Disarm the weapon, you can send it pretty much where you want it to, within 12 feet of the target. If, for instance, one of your allies has lost his sword, and your enemy is wielding a comparable sword, you might wish to Expertly Disarm your enemy’s sword to land right in front of your friend. Or, if you’re fighting with a dagger and your enemy has a sword you want, you might Expertly Disarm his blade to fly up into the air; you drop your knife and the sword drops right into your hand.
This is an almost preposterously heroic sort of thing to do (it only happens in the most fantastic of swashbuckling fiction and movies). The DM is free to grant bonus XP to characters with the temerity to try it…and succeed!

Grab
The Grab is another type of Called Shot. To perform it, you must have at least one hand free; two hands are better if you’re grabbing and trying to hold a person. When performing the Grab, begin as with a Called Shot (announce before initiative, +1 to initiative, –4 to attack rolls). If you hit, you’ve gotten your hand on whatever it was you were trying to grab: It could be an enemy’s weapon, an important item you’re trying to retrieve, or any such thing. However, just because you’ve grabbed hold of the object doesn’t mean that you’re in control of it.

If some other person already has hold of the object, he’s going to struggle with you for control. You and your opponent must both roll 1d20 (adding any attack bonus for having a high Muscle score). The higher result wins the tug-of-war. A tie means that you re-roll, during the same round. Treat this second roll as if it were a second attack in the same round for determining when in the round it takes place (in other words, at an initiative 3 higher for a medium-sized creature attempting a grab). However, all these Strength rolls resulting from a single Grab maneuver are counted as one “attack;” if a character can make two attacks in a round, and his first attack is a Grab, and the grab leads to two or three Strength rolls due to struggling, that’s all still only one attack. The character still gets his second attack at its normal initiative count.

Grabbing A Person
If you’re Grabbing someone to hold him against his will, you need to consult the Wrestling rules. If you’re Grabbing someone and you use only one hand the attack is treated as a Called Shot, with the usual penalties, and you are treated as if your Strength were 3 less. If you use both hands you resolve the wrestling attack normally.

Parry
To perform a Parry, you must announce before initiative is rolled that you’re going to Parry (if you have more than one attack per round, you must announce how many of them are going to be Parries.) Then, during the round, the first time an attacker strikes at you (even if it’s before your turn to strike), you roll your Parry. Make an attack roll, if your roll exceeds the opponent’s attack roll his attack is parried and does you no damage.

You can Parry thrown weapons, but not missile attacks (quarrels, arrows, sling stones, magic missiles, etc.).

Pin
With the Pin maneuver, you move close to your enemy (right up in his face) and use either a weapon or your shield to pin, or trap, his weapon—usually by pressing it against him so that he can’t move. This maneuver suffers a -4 penalty on the attack roll. If you successfully hit, the victim can’t use his pinned weapon until the pin is broken, and you can’t use your pinning weapon or shield until the pin is broken.

When the pin is first performed, the victim gets one chance to struggle, using a Strength roll exactly as described for the Grab maneuver, above. If he succeeds, he yanks the weapon free; if he has attacks left this round, he can use them normally. If he fails, the weapon remains pinned for the rest of the round, but he may use any additional attacks (during the current or subsequent rounds) to make another attempt to struggle free.

Pull/Trip
This maneuver is designed to knock opponents down. When using the Pull/Trip maneuver, the attacker announces his intention when it’s his turn to attack. He describes how he’s performing the maneuver to the DM, who may rule that it’s impossible. If it is possible, though, the attacker rolls vs. the target’s AC as with any normal attack. If the attack hits, the target must make a Balance check. If he succeeds, he stays on his feet. If he fails, he falls down.

A stationary character gains a +6 bonus on his Balance check. A character who is unaware of the attack suffers a -3 penalty on his check. Thus, the Pull/Trip maneuver is best performed on someone who is moving and unaware of you. A target who is standing still (not walking or running) and is aware of his attacker is very hard to knock down.

Polearms are good weapons to have when you’re trying the Pull/Trip maneuver. You can Pull/Trip someone at the maximum range of your weapon, for instance, with no additional penalty to attack rolls. The Pull/Trip maneuver can also be used to knock a mounted rider from his horse when using a polearm.

Sap
Sapping someone (i.e., hitting him over the head in order to knock him out) is a maneuver you undertake when you wish to capture an enemy alive (or just incapacitate him without killing him). To do this, the attacking character makes a Called Shot. If the attack hits, the character rolls ordinary damage for the weapon. He gets a 5% chance of knockout (as per the Punching rules) for every point of damage he does, up to a maximum of 40%.

The damage done by Sap attacks is the same as that done by Punching; in other words, only 25% is normal, or “permanent,” damage. The other 75% is temporary non-lethal damage. When using a special or magical weapon to perform the Sap, you do not count the weapon’s attack or damage bonus. You’re not using the weapon the way it is meant to be used; you’re hitting your target with the flat of the blade, with the hilt or pommel of the weapon, etc. Therefore, those bonuses don’t count for anything.

When performed on a character who is asleep or magically held, the Sap maneuver automatically hits. The chance for knockout goes up to 10% per point of damage done, up to 80%. However, if the knockout attempt fails, the victim is awakened by the attack.

The Sap maneuver can only be performed with melee weapons or bare hands; it cannot be performed with missile weapons. The Sap maneuver will not work on creatures of a size larger than the attacker (thus a goblin cannot sap an Elf and a human cannot Sap an ogre).

Shield-Punch
The shield-punch is a very basic maneuver. If you are using a shield, you can use it to attack with as well as defend, by slamming it into your target’s body. A shield-punch is resolved as a normal attack, using the character’s unarmed initiative modifier. You get no attack bonus from the shield, regardless of its size or magical enchantment.

A shield-punch does 1–3 damage, plus your Strength bonus. Once you have performed a shield-punch, you lose the AC bonus of the shield for the rest of the combat round from now until your next attack. If you have an attack later in the round, you regain the AC bonus then; if you don’t have an attack until next round, you regain the AC bonus at the very start of the next round. This is a good maneuver to perform when you’ve dropped your weapon, as it will do somewhat more damage than a barehanded attack.

Shield-Rush
This maneuver is like a combination of the Pull/Trip and Shield-Punch maneuvers. The attacker must start at least 10 feet away from the victim, and must have either a medium or body shield. Basically, he runs at full speed up to his victim, slamming full-tilt into him, hoping to injure him or knock him down.

As with the Shield-Punch, the attacker gets no bonus to attack rolls from the shield, nor does he get the AC bonus of his shield from the time he starts the maneuver until his next attack. If he hits, he does damage equal to the Shield-Punch, and the target must make a Balance check to stay on his feet. The target applies these modifiers to the Balance check:

  • +3 Target Was Moving Toward Attacker
  • +3 Target Was Not Moving
  • –3 Target Hit From Behind
  • –3 Target Was Unaware of Attack

As you can see, it’s more reliable a knockdown than the Pull/Trip. However, the attacker also has a chance to be knocked down. If he misses his roll to attack, he slams into the target anyway, and does no damage to his target. He must make a Balance check at a –6 penalty; if he makes it, he is still standing, but if he fails it, he is knocked down. Either way, his target remains standing.

Surprise and Flash Maneuvers
All of these maneuvers, and the many possibilities they provide for characters to customize their fighting styles, should give you the idea that the DM should be encouraging wild, extravagant, interesting maneuvers and styles in combat. This is a lot more entertaining than ordinary, plodding swing vs. swing combat. Therefore, the DM should reward intelligent, creative efforts in combat by granting them bonuses to attack rolls and damage.


Optional Attack Modifiers

Facing
Normally, a defender attempts to keep his opponents in sight. Thus, if there are no special circumstances (such as a thief moving silently behind the defender), opponents first occupy the front, then the flanks, and finally the rear. It’s assumed that the defender will try to keep attackers from getting around him.

This description applies only when combat involves creatures of the same size. If the attacker is one size greater than the defenders, he occupies two spaces on the diagram. For creatures two sizes or more larger (small creatures attacking a large one, for example), the attacker occupies four spaces.

Besides determining the number of attackers a single character can face, the relative positions of attackers affect the chance to hit. Characters attacked from the rear do not gain their Dexterity-based Armor Class bonus, cannot apply any Shield AC bonuses, and their attacker gains a +2 bonus to his attack roll.

A shield is an item of limited size, strapped to only one arm or slung on a character’s back. Characters generally position a shield so it offers maximum protection. Usually, this means it protects the shield-arm side of the body, most frequently the left side of a right-handed character. In this position, attacks from the rear or rear flanks of the character can’t be blocked by a shield. In these cases, the shield’s AC bonus is not applied.

It is possible to strap a shield to one’s back. If this is done, the shield bonus is applied to the rear of the character, but the character can’t use the shield to protect his front. Furthermore, the straps hinder the character’s movement, giving him a -2 penalty to his attack roll. Nothing prevents a character from having a back shield, and a shield on either arm to protect all angles, but he’ll be hard-pressed to fight back.

Pole Arms
Pole arms and similar thrusting weapons are designed primarily for use in highly specialized formations. The average length of these weapons—12 to 20 feet—makes their use in individual combat silly, if not futile. An opponent can easily slip inside the reach of the pole arm, at which point the poor pikeman can only try to back up or drop his weapon. Little else is likely to be effective. However, if the same man with a pike is lined up with 30 of his fellows in a nice tight formation, he suddenly becomes very dangerous. Where one pikeman presented only a lone spear point, 30 pikemen present a deadly thicket.

The pole arm’s big advantage is the small frontage each man needs to be effective. A man using a piercing pole arm can use his weapon effectively with just three feet of space, side-to-side. This allows a tightly packed line of pikemen. In a group, men armed with pole arms should be set for defense or advancing slowly (1/4 normal movement rate). They automatically make their attack rolls prior to any opponent attempting to close with them. However, after the first round of combat any surviving opponents are inside the reach of the pole arms and the pikemen must drop their pikes and draw weapons more suitable for close-in work.

Kneeling and Sitting
A character who is kneeling or sitting (for example, because he’s been knocked down or injured) is at a disadvantage in combat. He can’t move around as effectively and so cannot dodge incoming attacks. For that reason, whenever someone attacks a victim who is kneeling, the attacker gets a +1 to attack rolls; when someone attacks a victim who is sitting, the attacker gets a +2 to attack rolls; and when someone attacks a victim who is flat on his back (but aware of the attack and trying to avoid it), the attacker gets a +4 to attack rolls. Attacking a character who is held (by magic) or asleep is automatically successful, causing normal damage.

When a character is kneeling, sitting, or on his back, he can get to his feet one of two ways. If he still has an attack left to perform this round, he can give it up, not make an attack, and stand up instead. Or, he can wait until after initiative is rolled for the next round: When it comes time for him to describe his action, he can stand up then, without losing any of his attacks for that round.

Darkness and Blindness
When things are really dark, characters have a hard time finding and attacking their foes…and defending against their enemies’ attacks. Characters and monsters don’t start suffering penalties in darkness until it’s very dark indeed. When it becomes very dark, they suffer penalties to hit their enemies. And if their enemies can see better than they can, their enemies get bonuses to attack rolls.

Combat Modifiers for Darkness and Blindness

Condition Melee Penalty Missile Penalty (per range)
Clear sky (daytime) –0 –0
Mist or light rain –0 –1
Light fog or snow –1 –2
Moderate fog –2 –3
Dense fog or blizzard –3 –4
Twilight –1 –2
Night, full moon –2 –4
Night, no moon –3 –6
Total darkness –4 –6

When a character is in a situation where he suffers a penalty to attack rolls in melee combat, he’s obviously in some dark area. He, and everyone else with similar vision, suffers the penalties to attack rolls in melee and missile combat. The missile penalty gets worse and worse the further away the attacker is from his target.

A character with infravision ignores all attack penalties for darkness (night, twilight, or total darkness) against targets within the range of his infravition (60-ft. for most creatures).

Horseback Archery
Only the Composite Short Bow, Short Bow, and Crossbows may be used from horseback. The Long Bow and Composite Long Bow may not be. Firing a bow from the back of a still horse (one which is not running) is done at no penalty to attack rolls.
Firing from the back of a walking or trotting horse is done at a –2 penalty to attack rolls.
Firing from the back of a galloping horse is done at a –4 penalty to attack rolls.

Attacking with Two Weapons
A tricky fighting style available to certain characters is that of fighting with two weapons simultaneously. The character chooses not to use a shield in favor of another weapon, granting him a greater number of attacks, with a penalty to his attack rolls.

When using a second weapon in his off-hand, a character is limited in his weapon choice. His principal weapon can be whatever he chooses, provided it can be wielded with one hand. The second weapon must be smaller in size and weight than the character’s main weapon (though a dagger can always be used as a second weapon, even if the primary weapon is also a dagger). A fighter can use a long sword and a short sword, or a long sword and a dagger, but he cannot use two long swords (unless he is specialized in the Two Weapon Style. Nor can the character use a shield, unless it is kept strapped onto his back.

When attacking, characters fighting with two weapons suffer penalties to their attack rolls. Attacks made with the main weapon suffer a -2 penalty, and attacks made with the second weapon suffer a -4 penalty. The character’s Surprise Adjustment (based on his Balance score) modifies this penalty. A low Balance score will worsen the character’s chance to hit with each attack. A high Balance can negate this particular penalty, although it cannot result in a positive modifier on the attack rolls for either weapon (i.e., the Surprise Adjustment can, at best, raise the attack roll penalties to 0).

The use of two weapons enables the character to make one additional attack each combat round, with the second weapon. The character gains only one additional attack each round, regardless of the number of attacks he may normally be allowed. If the character is specialized with his off-hand weapon, he gains a number of additional attacks per round as a warrior of his level (but not the increased specialist number of attacks).

Other Combat Modifiers

Situation Attack Roll Modifier
Attacker on higher ground (included mounted) +1
Defender invisible -4
Defender off-balance +2
Defender sleeping or held Automatic2
Defender stunned or prone +4
Defender surprised +1
Missile fire, long range -5
Missile fire, medium range -2
Rear attack +2

Firing Into a Melee

Missile weapons are intended mainly as distance weapons. Ideally, they are used before the opponents reach your line. However, ideal situations are all too rare, and characters often discover that the only effective way to attack is to shoot arrows (or whatever) at an enemy already in melee combat with their companions. While possible, and certainly allowed, this is a risky proposition.

When missiles are fired into a melee, the DM counts the number of combatants in the immediate area of the intended target. Each medium figure counts as 1. Tiny figures count as 1/3, Small figures as 1/2, Large as 2, Huge as 4, and Gargantuan as 6. The total value is compared to the value of each character or creature in the target melee. Using this ratio, the DM rolls a die to determine who (or what) will be the target of the shot. After the DM determines who or what is the target, a normal attack is rolled. The DM doesn’t tell the player who will be hit if the attack succeeds.

For example, Tarus Bloodheart (man-sized, or 1 point) and Rath (also man-sized, or 1 point) are fighting a giant (size G, 6 points) while Thule fires a long bow at the giant. The total value of all possible targets is 8 (6 + 1 + 1). There’s a 1-in-8 chance that Rath is the target; a 1-in-8 chance that Tarus is hit; and a 6-in-8 chance the shot hits the giant. The DM could roll 1d8 to determine who gets hit, or he could reduce the ratios to a percentage (75% chance the giant is hit, etc.) and roll percentile dice.


Grenade-Like Missiles

Unlike standard missiles, which target a specific creature, a grenade-like missile is aimed at a point, whether this point is a creature or a spot on the ground. When the attack is announced, the player indicates where he wants the missile to land. This then becomes the target point and is used to determine the direction and distance of any scatter.

Most grenade-like missiles are items of opportunity or necessity, such as flasks of oil, vials of holy water, or beakers of acid. As such, these items are not listed on the equipment tables for range, ROF, and damage. The range each can be thrown varies with the Strength of the character and the weight of the object.

A missile of five pounds or less can be thrown about 30 feet. Short range is 10 feet, medium range is 20 feet, and everything beyond is maximum range. Heavier items have reduced ranges. Just how far an object can be thrown is decided by the DM.

Exceptionally heavy items can be thrown only if the character rolls a successful bend bars/lift gates check. In no case can a character throw an item heavier than his Strength would allow him to lift. Thus, the DM can rule that a character would have little trouble chucking a half-empty backpack across a 10-foot chasm, but the character would need to make a check to heave an orc 10 feet through the air into the faces of his fiendish friends.

Once a container hits, it normally breaks immediately. However, this is not always true. Some missiles, like soft leather flasks or hard pottery, are particularly resistant. If there’s some doubt about whether a thrown object will break, the DM can require an item saving throw to see if it shatters or rips, spewing its contents everywhere.

ScatterIf a missile is off-target, it is important to know where it landed—an errant grenade-like missile could present a hazard to other characters, start a fire, or eat a hole in the floor. The process of finding where it lands is known as “scatter.” First roll 1d10 and consult the Scatter Diagram.

Next determine how far off the mark the throw is. If the throw is at short range, use a 6-sided die. If the range is medium, use a 10-sided die. If thrown to long range, roll 2d10. The number rolled is the number of feet away from the intended target the missile lands.

The damage taken from a grenade-like attacks depends on whether a direct hit was scored or the target was in the splash area. The “area of effect” is the amount of space covered by a direct hit. Any creature in the area of effect will suffer damage according to the Direct Hit column. All creatures within 3’ of the area of effect are subject to splash damage.

Most Alchemical Items can be used as grenade-like missiles.


1 A character that automatically loses initiative for a round acts as if his group initiative roll was a 10.

2 If the defender is attacked during the course of a normal melee, the attack automatically hits and causes normal damage. If no other fighting is going on (i.e., all others have been slain or driven off), the defender can be slain automatically.

Combat Maneuvers

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