How Combat Works



How Combat Works


Quick Tutorial


  • Someone attacks you

  • You roll an Active Defense check, which is your attempt at dodging the attack and is opposed by their attack roll. Active Defense = 1d20 + Dexterity Modifier. You may take 10 on this roll unless you are denied your dexterity bonus.

  • If you have a shield, you can instead roll a Shield Defense check with a higher bonus to see if you block the attack, again opposing their attack roll. The roll = Shield Defense Bonus (class) + Shield Coverage Bonus (shield) + Wisdom Modifier. You can take 10 on this roll any time you are granted your wisdom modifier.

  • You can only make a number of shield defense attempts per round equal to your class shield defense bonus, after your shield defense uses are out you must revert to Active Defense for all subsequent rolls during that round..

  • If the attack hits your shield, your shield ignores some damage, takes some damage itself, and then whatever damage is left is done to your armor which filters more out until it reaches the wielder. However, it would take an extraordinary amount of damage to harm the wielder through both shield and armor.

  • If you are unaware of the attack, they roll an attack against your passive defense which is equal to 10 + your shield coverage bonus if you have a shield equipped. This represents the fact that having a large metal shield attached to your arm makes it harder for enemies to hit your body even when you are not actively trying to avoid their attack.

  • Once they have confirmed a hit on you by beating your Defense, you roll a Coverage check.

  • Coverage check is a roll made by someone being struck by an attack to see if the blow strikes their flesh or their armor. This roll is modified by how much of you is covered with armor (your armors coverage bonus) and has a flat DC depending on what damage type the attack hitting you does. The DC is 20 for slashing or piercing weapons, and 15 for bludgeoning weapons.

  • The player always has the option to take 10 on a coverage check.

  • If you beat the DC the attack hits your armor, absorbing some of the damage, taking some itself (that is where the armor degradation comes in) and whatever damage is left the player takes. If you fail the DC, you take full damage.



Combat is cyclical; everybody acts in turn in a regular cycle of rounds. Combat follows this sequence:

  • Each combatant starts out flat-footed. Once a combatant acts, he or she is no longer flat-footed.
  • Determine which characters are aware of their opponents at the start of the battle. If some but not all of the combatants are aware of their opponents, a surprise round happens before regular rounds of combat begin. The combatants who are aware of the opponents can act in the surprise round, so they roll for initiative. In initiative order (highest to lowest), combatants who started the battle aware of their opponents each take one action (either a standard action or a move action) during the surprise round. Combatants who were unaware do not get to act in the surprise round. If no one or everyone starts the battle aware, there is no surprise round.
  • Combatants who have not yet rolled initiative do so. All combatants are now ready to begin their first regular round of combat.
  • Combatants act in initiative order (highest to lowest).
  • When everyone has had a turn, the combatant with the highest initiative acts again and steps 4 and 5 repeat until combat ends.

Combat Statistics
This section summarizes the rules and attributes that determine success in combat, then details how to use them in sequential order to resolve any combat situation.


Attack Roll
An attack roll represents your attempt to strike your opponent on your turn in a round. When you make an attack roll, you roll a d20 and add your attack bonus. (Other modifiers may also apply to this roll.) Your opponent responds with an Active Defense or a Shield Defense check, if he can. If your result equals or beats the target’s Passive Defense, you hit him, unless his Active Defense or Shield Defense beat your result, in which case he evaded or blocked your blow. If you hit your opponent, you deal damage. If he is wearing armor, he is allowed to make a Coverage check to see if you struck him in an armored or an unarmored spot.


Automatic Misses and Hits:
A natural 1 (the d20 comes up 1) on an attack roll is always a miss. A natural 20 (the d20 comes up 20) is always a hit. A natural 20 is also a threat—a possible critical hit.


How to Calculate an Attack Check
Your attack bonus with a melee weapon is equal to your base attack bonus + Strength modifier. With a ranged weapon, your attack bonus is equal to your base attack bonus + Dexterity modifier – range penalty.


Damage:
When your attack succeeds, you deal damage. The type of weapon used determines the amount of damage you deal. Effects that modify weapon damage also apply to unarmed strikes and the natural physical attack forms of creatures. Damage is applied in ‘wounds’ of varying degrees of severity. See the section on Wounds below. These reduce a target’s current hit points; when he reaches zero hit points, he begins to suffer damage to his Constitution as well.

  • Minimum Damage:
    If penalties reduce the damage result to less than 1, a hit still deals 1 point of damage. This may, however, be blocked by armor.
  • Strength Bonus:
    When you hit with a melee or thrown weapon, including a sling, add your Strength modifier to the damage result. A Strength penalty, but not a bonus, applies on attacks made with a bow that
    is not a composite bow.
  • Off-Hand Weapon:
    When you deal damage with a weapon in your off hand, you add only 1/2 your Strength bonus.
  • Wielding a Weapon Two-Handed:
    When you deal damage with a weapon that you are wielding two-handed, you add 1-1/2 times your Strength bonus. However, you do not get this higher Strength bonus when using a light weapon with two hands.
  • Multiplying Damage:
    Sometimes you multiply damage by some factor, such as on a critical hit. Roll the damage (with all modifiers) multiple times and total the results. Note: When you multiply damage more than once, each multiplier works off the original, unmultiplied damage.
  • Exception:
    Extra damage dice over and above a weapon’s normal damage are never multiplied.
  • Ability Damage:
    Certain creatures and magical effects can cause temporary ability damage (a reduction to an ability score).

  • Passive Defense
    A character’s Passive Defense represents how hard it would be to hit him if he acted normally without taking measures to defend himself. For example, if you were waiting in a tree to ambush a rich Egyptian merchant who was strolling blithely down a road with no idea that you were waiting for him, he would have only his Passive Defense – the intrinsic difficulty of hitting him – to protect him.

Your Passive Defense for any given attack is equal to 10 plus your Relative Size modifier for that attack plus any circumstantial modifiers. The vast majority of characters have a Passive Defense of 10 against most attacks, which is the standard. In terms of size and shape, one human being is about as easy to hit as another. The most common modifier to Passive Defense for creatures other than human beings and for objects is difference in size. Large creatures and objects have a lower Passive Defense when attacked by human-sized creatures, while small creatures have high Passive Defense when attacked by human-sized creatures.

The table below gives the modifier to the defender’s Passive Defense when attacked by a creature of a given size. It applies for that attack only. Most of the time, characters will be attacking other characters, so size will not come into it.

As is apparent from the table above, larger creatures have more trouble hitting medium-sized things than smaller creatures do. To a huge Cyclops, swinging his club about, the men beneath are quick little things that it is difficult to hit. A Stymphalian Bird, which is smaller than human-size, sees its human prey as large, slow creatures, easy to tear at with its brass beak and claws. There are some other factors that can affect your Passive Defense. Certain spells can alter your Passive Defense rating. Moving targets have a bonus to Passive Defense, as described below in Combat Modifiers. As a rule, anything that makes a target harder to hit but is not done as a response to a specific attack affects Passive Defense.

Cover, such as standing behind a wall, affects your Passive Defense, because it reduces your effective size as a target. Passive Defense assumes that a creature is moving about and taking ordinary actions. If a creature is standing completely still or is incapable of movement, it suffers a –2 penalty to its Passive Defense. Objects, such as a straw archery target, are thus easier to hit than creatures. Any attack roll made against you that scores lower than your Passive Defense has missed you outright. No matter how clumsy you are, if an arrow is fired five feet over your head, you are not at risk of stumbling into its path. Characters without the Combat Sense feat cannot judge whether or not an incoming attack is likely to hit them and must decide whether or not to defend themselves.

Characters with Combat Sense can tell what the result of an opponent’s attack roll is and can take appropriate action. They do not risk using up important Shield Defense checks against attacks that would not have scored a hit anyway. If you have Combat Sense, you can tell whether an attack aimed at another person adjacent to you will hit them or not and can choose to defend them if you are competent to do so; see the Defending Another section below.


  • Active Defense
    A character’s Active Defense is given as a modifier, which is added to a d20 roll to make an Active Defense check. You make such a check to get out of the way of an attack aimed at you. If your Active Defense check scores higher than your opponent’s attack roll, you have dodged the attack, even if he scored higher than your Passive Defense. If your opponent scores higher than your Passive Defense and your Active Defense, he has hit you. Making an Active Defense check is always a free action.

A character’s Active Defense modifier is equal to his Dexterity modifier, plus any bonuses for experience level, class features, feats or magic. Note that armor limits the maximum Dexterity bonus to Active Defense that may be applied. The more encased in armor you are, the more likely it is that you will survive a hit, but the more likely it is that a hit will land in the first place. By contrast, the less armor you wear, the more vulnerable you are, but the easier it will be for you to get out of the way.

You may not add your Dexterity bonus (if you have one) to Active Defense checks made while flat-footed. If you are completely helpless, such as when asleep, you cannot make Active Defense checks at all. You are also unable to make Active Defense checks if you are unaware of your attacker.

There are set ways in which any character can boost his Active Defense. You can choose to fight defensively, which reduces your attack rolls by –4 in exchange for a +2 dodge bonus to your Active Defense. You can take a standard action to go on Full Defense, which adds +4 to your Active Defense checks for the remainder of the round but prevents you from attacking at all. You have to wait for your turn to come round to declare this. See Actions in Combat below.


  • Shield Defense
    Warriors and similar martially inclined characters have a Shield Defense bonus. A character’s Shield Defense is much like his melee attack bonus, in that it increases from level to level and eventually progresses into multiple iterations, such as 6/1. You may make a Shield Defense check to attempt to block an incoming attack with your shield. You do this instead of making the usual Active Defense check.

You may make a Shield Defense check reactively (other than on your turn) but you are limited to the number of Shield Defense checks indicated by your Shield Defense bonus. If your opponent rolls higher than your Passive Defense with his attack roll but lower than your Shield Defense check, then your shield takes the blow. You never have to make a Shield Defense check; they are always voluntary. The Combat Sense feat is extremely useful when using Shield Defense, as you can save your Shield Defense checks to use against those attacks that you know will hit you unless you block them.

Shield Defense checks are far more efficient at protecting you from damage than Active Defense checks, as the shield’s Coverage bonus greatly increases the chance that the attack will not get through. Your Shield Defense bonus is that given for your character class and experience level, plus your Wisdom modifier, plus the Coverage bonus of the shield you are using, along with any other modifiers for class features, feats, magic and so on.

Shield Defense checks are always made as free actions if you are proficient with shields, but you can only make as many Shield Defense checks per round as your bonus allows. If your level of experience allows you to have multiple Shield Defense checks, then the first one in the round is made at the listed bonus and the second one at the second listed bonus. Similar actions to those available for boosting Active Defense can be taken to boost your Shield Defense. You can take a standard action to fight defensively with your shield, reducing your attack rolls by –4 in exchange for a +2 cover bonus to your Shield Defense checks for the remainder of that round. You can also go on full shield defense, an action equivalent to hiding behind your shield; this adds a +4 cover bonus to your Shield Defense checks for the remainder of the round but prevents you from making any attacks at all.

You may make Shield Defense checks while flat-footed, but you cannot apply your Wisdom bonus (if you have one) to the check, as you have not yet gathered your wits to defend yourself properly. You cannot make Shield Defense checks if you do not have a ready shield or if you are unaware of the attack. Even though you can only use a shield to defend yourself a limited number of times in a round, it still provides a degree of protection against any attack that hits you and which you have not tried to block, as it covers part of your body. See the section on Coverage below.

A character who is not proficient in the use of a shield but who has picked one up and is attempting to defend himself with it may make one Shield Defense check per round (at the cost of a move action when his turn comes around) at a –4 penalty, but may not do so if he has moved more than five feet already in the round.


  • Defending Others:
    At any time when you would be granted your Wisdom bonus to Shield Defense (whether you have one or not), you may defend an adjacent character or even an object with your shield, warding off an attack directed against them. You must be aware of the attack to do this, though they do not have to be.

The character you defend must be directly adjacent to you and no more than one size category larger than you are. This takes up one of your Shield Defense uses for the round. You make a Shield Defense check to defend another at a –2 penalty, as it is harder to defend others than to defend yourself.


  • Armor
    Armor in this setting does not make you harder to hit. It only comes into play once you have been hit. It is treated as a second skin that absorbs damage before it reaches you, assuming the attack strikes the armor rather than your flesh. The kind of damage you suffer is reduced by varying amounts according to the type of armor you are wearing.

Whenever an attack scores a hit, your armor may come in between you and the weapon. The more of your body the armor covers, the more likely it is that the blow will strike an armored part. Make a Coverage check (d20 plus the armor’s Coverage rating) against the appropriate DC for the type of attack. If you fail this check, you take full damage from the blow and your armor does not intervene at all. If you succeed, the blow has struck your armor.

You can choose to take 10 on any coverage check as long as you are aware of the attack and not flat footed.

Coverage checks made by armor against bludgeoning attacks are made against a DC of 15, as a blunt impact is spread across the armored surface and is consequently less likely to penetrate a vulnerable area. The DC against slashing attacks and piercing attacks is 20.

When making a Coverage check, a natural roll of 1 (before modifiers) is always a failure. This is sometimes called the ‘Achilles’ Heel’ rule. No matter how much of your body is armored, there is always the chance that an attack will find its way in through a chink in the armor. Daggers can slip between armor plates, arrows can pierce between the joints of harnesses and spears can be driven into the gap under the arm.


  • Helmets:
    Helmets are an armored covering for the head, usually made from leather or metal. They provide a small measure of additional protection but interfere with your hearing and vision slightly. They function in the same way as armor does, though they do not have degrees of condition, only a total number of hit points.

All helmets allow you to add an additional +1 Coverage bonus to your Coverage checks to see if your armor has protected you when you are hit. If this bonus means that you reach the DC for the check exactly, then the helmet takes the damage rather than your armor. Damage that gets through your helmet to your body is not increased in any way, nor does it count as a critical hit.

For example, Amenet is wearing an Egyptian leather helmet and a set of Egyptian leather armor when an arrow hits him. He must therefore make a Coverage check against a DC of 20, as arrows inflict piercing damage; he has coverage of +3 for his leather armor and +1 for his helmet, for a total Coverage bonus of +4. He rolls a 16, which is exactly enough to make the Coverage check. The arrow therefore hits his helmet instead of his leather armor. The arrow inflicts 6 points of damage. The leather helmet ignores 2 and absorbs 2, so Amenet suffers a 2-point wound and his helmet suffers 2 points of damage.


  • Automatic Shield Coverage Against Ranged Attacks:
    If your character is carrying a shield and is unaware of an incoming ranged attack, then there is a chance for any ranged attack to strike the shield purely by happenstance. A large piece of strong material covering part of your body is going to offer a degree of protection, whether you are moving it to block blows or not.

When a ranged attack is made against you that you were not ready for, you add your shields coverage bonus to your passive defense of 10 before you go on to make a Coverage check for your armor. If the Coverage check for your shield is successful, then apply the damage to the shield as if you had blocked the attack deliberately (see below).

If the Coverage check for your shield fails, then move on to your armor’s Coverage check. You do not add the shield’s Coverage check to that of your armor! The checks are resolved sequentially.


  • Damage Absorption/Reduction
    When a blow strikes armor, a certain amount of the damage is ignored (the armor’s Damage Reduction), the armor suffers some (the armor’s Damage Absorption) and the rest is applied to you. The amount of damage that is ignored depends on the type of weapon and the type of armor.

For example, padded armor is good for reducing bludgeoning damage but not very useful against piercing damage, while armor made from metal plates is effective against slashing and piercing damage but not so good against bludgeoning. If arrows were flying at a character, he would prefer to wear metal armor, but if he were falling from a height, padded armor would be more useful. Heavier armor also encumbers you. Consult the armor’s entry in the Equipment chapter to find the amount of damage that each kind of armor ignores and absorbs.

Armor’s protection is always listed as DR/DA or Damage Reduction followed by Damage Absorption. The first figure is the amount of damage of each type ignored by the armor, the second the amount absorbed by it. Once damage reduction has been applied, damage absorption occurs, in which damage is applied to the armor. The damage that the armor suffers does not disappear.

Armor does not stay in the same condition indefinitely; sooner or later, it develops dents, tears and buckles. Like objects, all suits of armor have hit points. Unlike objects, the armor is not destroyed outright when its hit points are reduced to zero. Metal armor never suffers damage from blunt wooden weapons. If a blunt wooden weapon (such as a stick) strikes armor, treat the armor’s damage absorption as if it were damage reduction. The same rule applies to anything softer than wood that should happen to strike the armor.


  • Armor Conditions:
    Armor has four conditions: mint, damaged, battered and ruined. Once a suit of armor has had its hit points reduced to zero, it drops to the next most dilapidated condition and starts again at full hit points. For example, a Mint suit of leather armor that suffers a total of 21 hit points of damage is now Damaged. You can find out what kind of condition a suit of armor is in by using an Appraise check to assess its quality.

The more dilapidated a suit of armor is, the less effective it is at protecting the wearer. On a dilapidated suit of armor, plates hang loose, missing pieces let arrows through and tears leave vulnerable areas exposed. This is expressed as a penalty to the armor’s Coverage checks. Damaged armor has a –1 penalty to Coverage checks; Battered armor has a –2 penalty and Ruined armor has a –3 penalty.

You can still make Coverage checks with armor that has an effective Coverage bonus of zero, as there is always the chance (even if it is only a slim one) that the armor will protect you. If Ruined armor is reduced to zero hit points, it simply falls to pieces and is no longer any good for anything. Armor that has become dilapidated can be repaired with a Craft (armor) skill check or other appropriate Craft skill, at the same DC needed to craft the armor in the first place but without any materials cost. It may not, however, be repaired to anything better than the next highest condition bracket. For instance, a Battered suit of leather armor can be repaired so that it becomes a Damaged suit of leather armor with full hit points but it could never be made Mint again.


  • Shields
    Shields are a vital component of warfare in the Ancient world. They do not just sit passively on your arm, waiting to absorb damage. To use a shield properly is to actively seek to place it in between yourself and an incoming blow. The Shield Defense rating shows how competent a character is at defending himself (or others) with a shield. If you are able to react to an attack and you would not be denied your Dexterity modifier to Active Defense (whether or not you actually have one), you may oppose an enemy’s attack roll with a Shield Defense roll.

You do not make a Coverage check with a shield. Instead, you add the shield’s Coverage rating directly on to your own Shield Defense roll. If your Shield Defense roll is greater than your opponent’s attack roll, then you have successfully blocked the attack with your shield, unless your opponent rolled less than your Passive Defense on his attack roll after modifiers were applied, in which case his attack missed you completely and your shield suffers no damage.

An attack blocked with a shield still does damage but all the damage is applied to the shield before getting a chance to effect the wielder or their armor. If his attack roll beats your Shield Defense roll, then unless he rolled a total of less than your Passive Defense, the attack hits and you suffer damage from it. Armor can still absorb some or all of this damage; see above.

Shields suffer damage much like armor does, having hit points that are steadily reduced. Like armor, shields ignore a certain amount of each kind of damage. They absorb some of the rest. Slashing and piercing damage that exceeds the shield’s Damage Absorption is applied to the wielders armor and then filters down to the wielder like normal.

If a damaged shield suffers damage in excess of its remaining hit points, then all the excess damage is applied to the wielder of the shield. The blow simply punches right through, destroying the shield in the process. If the shield user is wearing armor, he is allowed to make a Coverage check to see if the armor takes any of the excess damage. Metal shields completely ignore damage from blunt wooden weapons, such as staves.


Other Defensive Factors
Some other factors come into play when a character is defending himself against an attack.

  • Natural Armor:
    Natural armor is like having armored skin, providing a layer of armor beneath any other that you wear. It covers you all but perfectly. Natural armor only ever ignores damage; it does not absorb any, as it is part of you. Ordinary mortals can only acquire natural armor as a result of magic, whereas certain animals and monsters have natural armor as a feature. Scales and leathery skin are both examples of natural armor.
  • Dodge Bonuses:
    Some bonuses to your Active Defense represent superior avoidance of blows. These bonuses are called dodge bonuses. Any situation that denies you your Dexterity bonus to Active Defense also denies you dodge bonuses. (Wearing armor, however, does not limit these bonuses the way it limits a Dexterity bonus to Active Defense.) Unlike most sorts of bonuses, dodge bonuses stack with each other. Many characters and some monsters have an Evasiveness rating, which is an additional dodge bonus to Active Defense that is given because the character or monster is experienced at getting out of the way of harm.

Speed
Your speed tells you how far you can move in a round and still do something, such as attack. Your speed depends mostly on what armor you are wearing. If you use two move actions in a round (sometimes called a ‘double move’ action), you can move up to double your speed. If you spend the entire round to run all out, you can move up to quadruple your speed or triple your speed if you are in heavy armor. Humans have a base speed of 30 feet (6 squares) or 20 feet (4 squares) in medium or heavy armor. Non-human creatures such as animals and monsters have their speed listed in their creature descriptions.


Saving Throws
Generally, when you are subject to an unusual or magical attack, you get a saving throw to avoid or reduce the effect. Like an attack roll, a saving throw is a d20 roll plus a bonus based on your class, level and an ability score. Your saving throw modifier is: Base save bonus + ability modifier.


Saving Throw Types
The three different kinds of saving throws are Fortitude, Reflex and Will:

  • Fortitude:
    These saving throws measure your ability to stand up to physical punishment or attacks against your vitality and health. Apply your Constitution modifier to your Fortitude saving throws. For example, you make a Fortitude saving throw to avoid suffering the effects of poison.
  • Reflex:
    These saves test your ability to dodge area attacks. Apply your Dexterity modifier to your Reflex saving throws. For example, you would make a Reflex saving throw to dodge a patch of quicksand that magically appeared under your feet.
  • Will:
    These saves reflect your resistance to mental influence as well as many magical effects. Apply your Wisdom modifier to your Will saving throws. For example, you would make a Will saving throw to resist becoming charmed by a nymph.

Saving Throw Difficulty Class
The DC for a saving throw is determined by the attack or effect itself. Various effects, such as feats, ability scores in the case of special abilities with Difficulty Classes calculated on a creature by creature basis and other enhancements can influence DCs dramatically.


Automatic Failures and Successes
A natural 1 (the d20 comes up 1) on a saving throw is always a failure and may cause damage to exposed items; see Items Surviving after a Saving Throw. A natural 20 (the d20 comes up 20) is always a success. This is a notable exception to the basic rule that natural rolls of 1 and 20 on a d20 do not automatically indicate failure or success respectively.


Initiative
Initiative is a measurement of how quickly a character gathers his wits in a combat situation. Those who are quick to react to a fight breaking out can act first, while those whose reactions are more sluggish do not get a chance to act until others have taken a turn.


Initiative Checks
At the start of a battle, each combatant makes an initiative check. An initiative check is a simple Dexterity ability score check. Each character rolls a d20 and applies his Dexterity modifier to the roll. Characters act in order, counting down from highest result to lowest. In every round that follows, the characters act in the same order unless a character takes an action that results in his initiative changing, for which see Special Initiative Actions. If two or more combatants have the same initiative check result, the combatants who are tied act in order of their total modifier to initiative (their Dexterity modifier plus any additional modifiers, such as that derived from the Improved Initiative feat) with the highest going first. If there is still a tie, the tied characters should roll again to determine which one of them goes before the other.


Flat-Footed
At the start of a battle, before you have had a chance to act specifically, before your first regular turn in the initiative order – you are flat-footed. This term simply means that you are not yet fully alert and able to defend yourself. To be flatfooted is to be caught in that instant of time between an event happening and your becoming able to react to it purposefully. You still have automatic reflexes (and can thus make Reflex saving throws) but you easily cannot take deliberate defensive action. While you are flat-footed, you cannot add your Dexterity modifier to your Active Defense checks or your Wisdom modifier to your Shield Defense checks. Making a Shield Defense or Active Defense check does not count as ‘acting’ for the purpose of determining whether a character is flat-footed or not. A flat-footed character cannot make attacks of opportunity.


Inaction
Even if you cannot take actions, you retain your initiative score for the duration of the encounter. This may be necessary to determine when an effect occurs on your character in a given round or when you may overcome some adverse condition.


Surprise
When a combat starts, if you are not aware of your opponents and they are aware of you, you are surprised. Careful tactics or blind luck can provide the opportunity for characters to achieve surprise on unprepared or unsuspecting opponents. Generally, surprise does not occur often, as most people are wary and alert at all times when combat could be a possibility. When it does occur, it is usually as the result of a deliberate ambush attempt. The Games Master is the final authority on when surprise occurs for any given encounter, if at all.


Determining Awareness
Sometimes all the combatants on a side are aware of their opponents, sometimes none are and sometimes only some of them are. Sometimes a few combatants on each side are aware and the other combatants on each side are unaware. To determine awareness, the Games Master should consider which senses would give away the presence of one group of people to the other group. Thus, determining awareness may call for Listen checks, Spot checks or other checks. If the checks in question are successful, then those characters are aware of their opponents. For example, Acius the warrior is exploring a labyrinth underneath an ancient temple. At the heart of the labyrinth, close at hand, a minotaur is lurking, waiting for its latest victim. Neither is aware of the other’s presence. If the minotaur hears Acrius approaching (a Listen check) or sees him moving in the passageways (a Spot check) then the minotaur is aware of Acrius. If Acrius notices the minotaur, which will be a more difficult Spot check as the minotaur is partially concealed by shadows, then he becomes aware of it.


The Surprise Round
If some, but not all, of the combatants are aware of their opponents, a surprise round happens before regular rounds begin. Any combatants aware of the opponents can act in the surprise round, so they roll for initiative. In initiative order (highest to lowest), combatants who started the battle aware of their opponents each take a standard action during the surprise round. (Remember that you can take a move action as a substitute for a standard action, if you want to close with your enemy; see Actions In Combat below.) You can also take free actions during the surprise round. If no one or everyone is surprised, no surprise round occurs. For example, the minotaur makes its Spot check, sees Acrius enter its chamber and is now aware of him but Acrius fails his Spot check and does not see the minotaur. The minotaur may now start a surprise round, in which it can take a standard action and Acrius can do nothing. Once the surprise round is over, regular rounds begin. If Acrius had noticed the minotaur, then both characters would be aware of each other and there would have been no surprise round.


Stealth and Surprise:
All creatures are considered to become aware of their opponents once combat breaks out. Most of the time, this is a straightforward matter. Sometimes, however, one side or the other will want to use stealth tactics. If, for whatever reason, all the creatures on one side are still unaware of the other side at the end of a surprise round, then a second surprise round starts. You switch to regular combat rounds as soon as the standard action or move action taken in a surprise round makes the unaware side aware.

For example, if you are watching from a concealed position while other characters are moving past you, so that you are aware of them but they are not aware of you, you can take one standard action or one move action; if they notice, they become aware and regular combat rounds start. If they do not notice, you move to a second surprise round. Under these circumstances, you could drink a potion, a standard action that makes no noise and attracts no attention, without moving to regular combat. If you fired an arrow at one of them, it missed and he and his friends completely failed to notice, this would not start regular combat.

You may take advantage of this to sneak up on an unaware enemy, by taking repeated move actions to approach him and then a standard action to attack. Naturally, this requires repeated Stealth skill checks on your part. If you completed a move action in a surprise round and your enemy failed to beat your Stealth skill check result with his Perception skill check result, you could move on to a second surprise round.


Unaware Combatants
Combatants who are unaware at the start of battle do not get to act in the surprise round. Unaware combatants are not able to defend themselves with Active Defense or Shield Defense checks.


Attacks of Opportunity
Sometimes, a combatant in a melee lets her guard down. In this case, combatants near her can take advantage of her lapse in defense to attack her for free. These free attacks are called attacks of opportunity. The idea behind attacks or opportunity is fairly straightforward but including them as a combat complication is not. As such, a Games Master can choose to treat attacks of opportunity (also called AoOs) as an optional rule. If this is done, the operation of several feats, namely ones like Mobility and Combat Reflexes, may need to be changed to give them new abilities or removed completely from the campaign, as they will no longer apply.


Threatened squares
You threaten all squares into which you can make a melee attack, even when it is not your action. Generally, that means everything in all squares adjacent to your space, including diagonally. An enemy that takes certain actions while in a threatened square provokes an attack of opportunity from you. If you are unarmed, you do not normally threaten any squares and thus cannot make attacks of opportunity.

  • Reach Weapons:
    Most creatures of Medium or smaller size have a reach of only 5 feet. This means that they can make melee attacks only against creatures up to five feet (1 square) away. However, Small and Medium creatures wielding reach weapons threaten more squares than a typical creature. In addition, most creatures larger than Medium have a natural reach of 10 feet or more.

Provoking an Attack of Opportunity
Two kinds of actions can provoke attacks of opportunity: moving out of a threatened square and performing an action within a threatened square.

  • Moving:
    Moving out of a threatened square usually provokes an attack of opportunity from the threatening opponent. There are two common methods of avoiding such an attack—the five footstep and the withdraw action, for which see below.
  • Performing a Distracting Act:
    Some actions, when performed in a threatened square, provoke attacks of opportunity as you divert your attention from the battle. The table entitled Actions in Combat notes many of the actions that provoke attacks of opportunity. Remember that even actions that normally provoke attacks of opportunity may have exceptions to this rule.

Making an Attack of Opportunity
An attack of opportunity is a single melee attack. You can only make one per round. You do not have to make an attack of opportunity if you do not want to. You make your attack of opportunity at your normal attack bonus, even if you have already attacked in the round. When an attack of opportunity is made against you, you can use Active Defense to avoid the blow as usual. If you have any Shield Defense uses left for the round, you may defend with a shield instead. As ever, this takes up one of your Shield Defense uses. An attack of opportunity ‘interrupts’ the normal flow of actions in the round. If an attack of opportunity is provoked, immediately resolve the attack of opportunity, then continue with the next character’s turn or complete the current turn, if the attack of opportunity was provoked in the midst of a character’s turn.

  • Combat Reflexes and Additional Attacks of Opportunity:
    If you have the Combat Reflexes feat, you can add your Dexterity modifier to the number of attacks of opportunity you can make in a round. This feat does not let you make more than one attack for a given opportunity but if the same opponent provokes two attacks of opportunity from you, you could make two separate attacks of opportunity, since each one represents a different opportunity. Moving out of more than one square threatened by the same opponent in the same round does not count as more than one opportunity for that opponent. All these attacks are at your full normal attack bonus.

Actions in Combat
The Anatomy of a Combat Round
Each round represents 6 seconds in the game world. A round presents an opportunity for each character involved in a combat situation to take an action. Each round’s activity begins with the character with the highest initiative result and then proceeds, in order, from there. Each round of a combat uses the same initiative order. When a character’s turn comes up in the initiative sequence, that character performs his entire round’s worth of actions. For exceptions, see Attacks of Opportunity and Special Initiative Actions. For almost all purposes, there is no relevance to the end of a round or the beginning of a round. A round can be a segment of game time starting with the first character to act and ending with the last, but it usually means a span of time from one round to the same initiative count in the next round. Effects that last a certain number of rounds end just before the same initiative count that they began on.


Action Types
An action’s type essentially tells you how long the action takes to perform (within the framework of the 6 second combat round) and how movement is treated. There are four types of actions: standard actions, move actions, full-round actions and free actions. In a normal round, you can perform a standard action and a move action or you can perform a full-round action. You can also perform one or more free actions. You can always take a move action in place of a standard action. In some situations, such as in a surprise round, you may be limited to taking only a single move action or standard action.

  • Standard Action:
    A standard action allows you to do something, most commonly make an attack or cast a spell. See Table: Actions in Combat for other standard actions.
  • Move Action:
    A move action allows you to move your speed or perform an action that takes a similar amount of time. See Table: Actions in Combat.
  • You can take a move action in place of a standard action. If you move no actual distance in a round (commonly because you have swapped your move for one or more equivalent actions), you can take one five foot step before, during or after the action.
  • Full-Round Action:
    A full-round action consumes all your effort during a round. The only movement you can take during a full-round action is a five foot step before, during or after the action. You can also perform free actions; see below. Some full-round actions do not allow you to take a five foot step. Some full-round actions can be taken as standard actions, but only in situations when you are limited to performing only a standard action during your round. The descriptions of specific actions, below, detail which actions allow this option.
  • Free Action:
    Free actions consume a very small amount of time and effort. You can perform one or more free actions while taking another action normally. However, there are reasonable limits on what you can really do for free. Some free actions can only be performed a limited number of times per round, such as making a Shield Defense check to ward off a blow.
  • Not an Action:
    Some activities are so minor that they are not even considered free actions. They literally do not take any time at all to do and are considered an inherent part of doing something else.
  • Restricted Activity:
    In some situations, you may be unable to take a full round’s worth of actions. In such cases, you are restricted to taking only a single standard action or a single move action, plus free actions as normal. You cannot take a full-round action (though you can start or complete a full-round action by using a standard action; see below).








How Combat Works

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