The combat mechanics of World of Darkness, as written, leave much to be desired. Combat is clunky, involves a ton of dice rolling, and is very damage/kill focused. In the real world, violent confrontations can end in any number of ways beyond one party killing or beating the other into unconsciousness. From The Ashes: Detroit By Night uses the following conventions, instead. We believe that these alternate rules give players legitimate alternatives to lethal force as a means to emerge victorious from a conflict (without removing lethal force as a legitimate option).
This system also abstracts combat (in particular hand-to-hand, or claw-to-fang engagements) away from the blow-by-blow, where every punch, parry, bob, and weave gets its own dice roll into a contested dice roll between combatants meant to reflect a longer period of time. The reality of a fist fight is that many dozens of punches may be thrown in a very short time, but in the end the results will boil down to a chaotic mix of skill, good fortune, and comparative grit.
These rules are new, should be considered to be 'in beta' and as with anything on From The Ashes: Detroit by Night, players may feel free to agree to resolve things per RAW or whatever other system all participants in the scene agree to.
- 1 Basics: How To Combat
- 2 Grappling
- 3 Chases
Basics: How To Combat
This section covers the fundamentals of resolving combat scenes in WoD. If you're new to WoD, running combat scenes, or just like going back to basics read this section carefully, first. If you're familiar with WoD combat systems in general, you can skim here.
Combat Round Basic Overview:
- Determine initiative order.
- Main Phase: Declare intended actions starting with the lowest initiative.
- Main Phase: Resolve actions starting with the highest initiative.
- Are there Haste Actions (Rage, Time Magick, etc?) If yes, go to 5. If no, go to 11.
- Haste 1: Declare intended actions starting with lowest initiative from among those with haste actions.
- Haste 1: Resolve actions starting with the highest initiative from among those with haste actions.
- Are there more Haste Actions Remaining? If yes, go to 8. If no, go to 11.
- Haste n: Declare intended actions starting with lowest initiative from among those with haste actions remaining.
- Haste n: Resolve actions starting with the highest initiative from among those with haste actions remaining.
- Are there more Haste Actions remaining? If yes, go to 8. If no, go to 11.
- Book Keeping Phase.
- Is there still combat to be resolved? If yes, start new round by going to 1. If no, go to 13.
- End combat, return to normal RP.
Structure of a Combat Round
A combat in World of Darkness, and by extension From The Ashes: Detroit By Night, is broken down into Combat Rounds which represent fifteen seconds of in-character time passing. Because of the nature of World of Darkness' various supernatural powers, Combat Rounds are broken down into Phases. Phases are then broken down into individual characters' actions.
Initiative: At the start of each Combat Round, players roll a single D10 to which is added the sum of their Wits and Dexterity scores. In From The Ashes: Detroit By Night this is handled automatically by the +init commands (+help +init to get a list of what can be done). Initiative represents a combination of a character's mental presence and awareness of the current conflict as well as their ability to swiftly act upon opportunities that present themselves. Ties in initiative are resolved by comparing the non-rolled component (usually Wits+Dexterity, but sometimes other bonuses apply), with the highest non-rolled component being considered to have scored higher. In the case that these are also tied, combatants should declare simultaneously (via paging the storyteller, rather than out-loud) and the ST will declare for both of them at once. Their actions resolve simultaneously as well. Remember, some supernatural abilities (Spirit of the Fray gift) and wound penalties will have an effect on the displayed total (the wound penalty value is directly subtracted from the total).
Characters declare their intended actions beginning with the lowest initiative and moving progressively higher until finally the highest initiative declares last (and thus benefits from knowing what all other actions happening in the combat are). Actions are, however, resolved in the reverse order. Higher initiative characters will be able to interrupt, obsolete, or obviate earlier actions declared in the round. A character who's action is no longer viable or possible may attempt to salvage their action by aborting to another action. See the aborting section in Permutations below.
Every Combat Round has, at a minimum, a Main Phase which proceeds as described above. The Main Phase happens first, after initiative has been rolled. The presence of characters who are entitled to additional actions (Vampires, through Celerity; Werewolves, through the expenditure of Rage; Mages through a variety of means, usually Time magick; and Changelings through the Quicksilver cantrip), called Haste Actions, triggers additional phases called Haste 1, Haste 2, Haste 3, etc. until all participants have used their Haste Actions. In any given Haste Phase, only those characters with actions to spend may be pro-active, characters without Haste actions may only react to attacks made upon them. Consider the following example:
Jane, Frank, Teddy, and Paulo engage in a combat. On the initiative roll, Jane scores a 17, Frank a 9, Teddy an 11, and Paulo a 19. They declare actions in the order of Frank, Teddy, Jane, Paulo. Actions are resolved in the order of Paulo's, Jane's, Teddy's, and finally Frank's. Frank, as part of his declaration, announces that he has a Time Magick effect that gives him a Haste Action so Teddy, a Garou, announces he will spend two Rage points for an additional haste action each.
As a result, this Combat Round will have a Main Phase with the order described above, followed by the Haste 1 Phase, which will feature only Frank and Teddy, with Frank declaring first, and Teddy resolving first. This will, in turn, be followed by the Haste 2 Phase, during which, only Teddy is entitled to act, he declares and resolves in the same go. After this, a new Combat Round begins, starting with a new initiative roll.
Actions, in a combat, tend to fall into one of three categories: Attacks, Defenses, and Miscellany. Attacks are broken up into basic, powerful, feinting, committed, and grappling attacks. An attacker is NOT considered to have abandoned their defense, unless they explicitly do so by declaring the high-risk Committed Attack. Defenses, by comparison, are someone abandoning the attack in order to prevent personal harm, they come in blocks, dodges, escapes, and grapple defenses - the latter two of which are a special case. These are broken out, and discussed below.
Miscellaneous actions represent actions during a combat that are not pertaining to the combat, for example: trying to hack a locked door's keypad while a Garou is trying to chew your face off is a Miscellaneous action. (Also ill-advised.)
Some basic guidelines: When two individuals attack each other, the attack rolls are contested. The loser's successes subtract from the winner's, and then the winner's attack resolves while the loser's is negated. When two individuals defend against one another, nothing happens.
Subsequent Attacks, aka "piling on": Any individual who is attacked is entitled to a defense roll. When multiple attacks come in, however, anyone carrying on with an offense suffers a cumulative 2 dice penalty to defend against each subsequent attack until their pool hits zero, at which point any remaining attacks simply land. Storytellers should keep in mind that unless the character is facing a firing squad, there is a limit to the number of attackers that can successfully engage a single person. Terrain like fighting in a doorway can limit this even further. More than five attackers is probably not reasonable, and that requires the victim to be completely surrounded. Three is a reasonable maximum if the victim's back is to a wall. Consider a situation where A is fighting B and C. A and B attack each other, and C attacks A. A wins over B (barely) and inflicts damage. In this instance, C's attack does not land uncontested. A is still fighting, and is hardly unaware of C's attack - but he does suffer from split actions. He defends with his choice of a Block or Dodge (the choice may be made for him, by the ST if the situation warrants it), but at -2 dice. If there was a third attacker, D, A would block or dodge at -4 dice, and so on with each new attacker increasing the penalty by 2 dice until the pool hits 0.
An individual engaged in a Defense suffers half the penalty for someone carrying out an attack would. So the second attack they must defend against incurs -1, the third, -2, the fourth -3, etc.
An individual who uses an Escape defense makes ONE roll, and all attackers compare against that roll. If anyone breaks the defense, those attacks land and the escape fails. If no one breaks the defense, the defender escapes and starts a chase.
An individual who uses dodge against multiple ranged attackers makes ONE roll, and all attackers compare against that roll. Any attackers who beat the defense may inflict normal damage. All others miss. Storytellers may make exceptions for victims taking fire from unique angles of attack, where the quality of cover is substantially different versus one angle than the other(s). One roll per group of attacks originating from a given direction makes the most sense here. See the Firefights section under Permutations for more.
Special Note: Haste Actions: Haste Actions represent supernatural speed or acuity. As such, they count as subsequent attackers for purposes of piling on. If a Garou spends two rage to make a total of three attacks, the poor sod on the receiving end defends against the first one at full, Haste 1 at -2, and Haste 2 at -4. This is less powerful than Garou players are accustomed to, but given the consequences of a single Garou's attack passing a defense, we feel that the fuzzies will still do just fine.
Basic Attack: By hook, crook, or cannon, you attempt to hurt the other person. The attacker's pool is based on the means of harm. Bare-handed would use Brawl. A sword or the like would use Melee. A gun would use Firearms. A Magickal attack would use whatever the prescribed pool is.
Power Attack: Basic attacks include an understood level of concern for one's own safety. When you're throwing that away to pile on the hurt, you may add 1 to your attack's difficulty (making an opponent's counter-attack more likely to prevail), and add 2 to your subsequent damage pool.
Feinting Attack: The opposite end of the spectrum is an attack that doesn't have the full force behind it; the focus is instead on getting through an strong opponent's defense. -1 difficulty on the attack, and it suffers from -2 damage pool.
Grappling Attack: Reaching out and grabbing someone. This is how someone who wants to start a non-consensual grapple does so. Brawl is the only ability that makes sense here, and is either paired with Dexterity or Strength, depending upon the type of grappling technique used. Grapples are unique situations that have their own mechanics — see the Grappling section below.
Committed Attack: A special-case attack which utterly forgoes personal safety and abandons the defense. The attacker may not defend against ANY inbound attack this round, but their target must either accept the full force of this attack, suffer a +2 difficulty, or abort to a defense (they do not need to roll to abort). Committed attacks may not be initiated during Haste Actions.
Blocking Defense: Using your weapon to intercept or deflect an incoming attack. Importantly, the pool used for this defense depends upon the type of attack. Defending against a Brawl attack uses Brawl. Defending against a Melee or Ranged attack may use Brawl or Melee. Defending against Ranged attacks comes at +2 difficulty for launched projectiles (bolts, slings, and arrows), and +4 versus gunfire, freakin' laser beams, and other beyond-sight attacks. The base difficulty for blocking is 4 with same-pool, 5 with different pool.
EXAMPLES: Tony is engaged in fisticuffs with Juan. He uses a blocking defense against Juan's punch. His roll is Dexterity + Brawl, difficulty 4. Elsewhere, Maria was caught empty handed against a Ninja with a sword. She uses a Blocking defense to deflect the Ninja's sword, using Dexterity + Brawl, difficulty 5. Finally, Jake - a total badass - is facing off against a psycho with a machine gun with nothing but a titanium spork. He attempts to block the bullets with the spork, because he's that badass. His roll is Dexterity + Melee, versus difficulty 9. Good luck, Jake.
Dodging Defense: Evasion is always an option, and for ranged attacks usually much easier. The roll is usually Dexterity + Athletics, but other rolls can be asked for if the situation warrants. (Dodging an anti-tank missile while driving your 1964 Dodge Dart is a Dexterity + Drive roll, for example.) The difficulty for hand-to-hand attacks is generally 5. Against ranged attacks, the difficulty depends on the availability of nearby cover: Being half-hidden behind a brick wall would be difficulty 3. Having a counter close-by enough that one could dive and land behind it would be difficulty 6. Standing alone in an open field is difficulty 9.
Escape Defense: Not always an option, but sometimes it makes no sense to block or dodge, but rather to get the hell out of dodge. Generally this will involve Dexterity + Athletics, but as with dodging, creative escape techniques call for different dice pools. The difficulty is 6, but a successful defense, in addition to negating the attack, starts you with a head-start for a subsequent chase. As with grapples, chases are unique. As a form of extended conflict with potentially violent circumstances, chases are covered in our combat rules, in the Chases section, below.
Grapple Defense: Aikidoka, Wrestlers, and people taught to fight in Krav Maga classes or by a military learn that sometimes the best way to end a fight isn't necessarily to inflict wounds, but to take control of and immobilize the attacker. When you're not willing to initiate violence, but still want this as an option, you may initiate a grapple in response to an attack. See the Grapple section for how to handle this situation. The only functional difference between a Grapple Defense and a Grapple Attack is that the Attack variant starts the grapple, period. The Defense variant only begins the grapple if one is attacked, similar to Guarding.
Guard: A special-case defense. Sometimes you have low initiative and want to attack, but ONLY if the other person is going to be violent. Guarding leaves you the option of attacking in this case, even if your initiative is low. If a person in a Guard defense is attacked, this action automatically converts to an Attack action against the first person to attack them. If they are not attacked, they do nothing.
Attack vs. Attack: Once the manners of attack and defense have been identified and the relevant dice pools selected, resolution is fairly straightforward.
In the case of two individuals attacking each other in hand-to-hand combat, only one can be successful. The lower number of successes is subtracted from the greater and that attack is successful at the reduced number of successes. A successful attacker rolls damage appropriate to the method of attack, plus 1 die for any successes beyond the first. Damage pools are rolled versus difficulty 6. The amount of damage inflicted is equal to the successes scored. The damage type is dependent upon the method of attack.
Anyone can soak bashing damage. Shifters not in their breed form, Vampires, Ghouls, Fae that have called upon The Wyrd, and others under special circumstances may soak lethal. Vampires with Fortitude, Shifters not in their breed form, and others under special circumstances may soak Aggravated damage. 'Unsoakable' damage, obviously, may not be soaked (except by armor dice, see below). A 'soak' roll is generally (see Armor, below) Stamina versus difficulty 6, successes are subtracted from the inbound damage from an attack.
Special Case: Armor: Armor dice, which are granted by wearing armor and certain other abilities, are not subject to the 'unsoakable' restriction, and often apply to damage types that the wearer may not, themselves, soak. If the armor may soak the incoming attack, but the user may not, then the soak pool is just the armor dice. If the armor and the user may soak the attack, then the pool is Stamina + Armor.
Attack vs. Defense: The subject of an attack who is using a defense subtracts their successes from the attacker's roll. If the attack is reduced to or below zero, the attack is utterly negated, no further resolution is necessary. If the attack has at least one success left it is successful and is resolved as above.
Attack vs. Escape: When an escape confronts an attack, the relative successes are compared and reduced as with the Attack vs. Attack case. A successful attack has its successes reduced by the escape attempt's successes and then is resolved as above. A successful Escape begins a chase with the Prey having a Head Start equal to the number of successes remaining in the Escape attempt. See 'Chases' below.
EXAMPLE: Uriel is suddenly beset by a Sabbat Vampire looking for a snack. The Vampire opens with a basic brawling attack, and Uriel would like to be somewhere else. The vampire rolls and scores four successes on his attack. Uriel's dice are searing hot, however, and he manages a whopping 7-success Escape defense using Dexterity + Athletics. Since he scored more successes, Uriel's defense is successful, and the attack is negated! As long as the Vampire is inclined to finish what he started, the chase is on! Uriel's Escape is reduced by the Vampire's attack: 7 - 4 = 3, so Uriel, as prey, has a Head Start of 3 (a narrow lead, but better than being a snack, by far), and the Vampire enters the chase as the Predator.
Attack vs. Grapple (Attack or Defense): A grapple attack or defense that is successful begins a grapple with a Control equal to the number of successes remaining. See Grappling below.
There are a couple of situations which require unique handling to preserve realism and open up more options for players than simply doing damage and avoiding damage.
In a real fist fight, the concept of two blows landing simultaneously is all but patently absurd. People fighting hand-to-hand are working hard on avoiding harm simultaneously with dealing it out. In a firefight, however, there's only so much you can do to protect yourself and still have a clean line of fire. For this reason, attack rolls during RANGED combat are not contested. Combatants may elect to attack and defend, using the split-pool rules below. The difficulty for firearms is usually 6. Being outside effective range adds +2 difficulty for every increment of effective range one is from the target, rounding down. Being within five yards of the target, but not engaged in hand-to-hand combat, lowers the difficulty to 4.
Bringing a Gun to a Fist Fight
Most firearms are quite dangerous in hand-to-hand combat, but there are exceptions. Pistols, SMGs, and long-guns with bayonets are the most common excuses to use a gun close enough to spit on someone. The problem is that such close proximity gives empty-handed defenders all kinds of options to fight back. As a general rule, uncontested attacks (meaning the defender's relevant pool is zero, or they are otherwise ineligible for a defense) count as point blank fire, and is subsequently difficulty 4, as above. Pistols retain this difficulty of 4 even against an aware defender. SMGs, however, face a difficulty of 6. Long-guns being used with Firearms (instead of Melee), are difficulty 8. A firearms target who is attacking back further forces the attack rolls to once again be contested — he can deflect the gun and punch you in the face.
A long-gun with a bayonet that successfully strikes as a Melee attack may inflict either the Bayonet's damage OR expend a round from the chamber and inflict that damage + 2 instead.
Furthermore, Brawl and Melee fighters who can come to grips with a gunner may use their blocking defensive options as per the standard 'mismatched methods' - blocks are diff 5.
The best laid plans of mice and men... and all that jazz. When your action becomes null and void (your target vanishes in a poof of magic or moves out of sight, your gun is disintegrated, etc) or you come under an attack that was declared after your declaration, you may attempt to Abort to another action. In the latter case, you may only abort to a defensive action. In the former case, if you successfully abort you suffer from the split pool penalties for however many actions you've aborted this round. Yes, you can attempt to abort more than once, but it's not recommended and you have to have first succeeded the prior attempt(s).
To abort your action, you roll Willpower vs difficulty 8. If the roll succeeds, you may immediately declare your new action.
Environmental Damage, Periodic Damage, Book Keeping
Sometimes you're fighting over the volcano. Sometimes you're fighting in it. Some characters need to make frenzy checks or gain Rage or roll things to sustain effects, etc. We call this stuff, book keeping effects. Book Keeping stuff happens at the end of every combat round, after all Haste phases have been resolved. Characters who would like to ask for things to be checked (such as rage increases for taking their first wound) need to remind the ST before first declarations have begun for the subsequent round. (Ideally before +init, but some people get trigger happy with that command. ST's should ask before +initing the next round, too.)
This is also when all effects and delays with durations measured in combat rounds would end.
Sometimes you really do have to do two things at once. Firefights may involve ducking behind cover AND shooting (especially if you're facing multiple opponents). Sometimes you need to recite a sixteen-page passphrase while fighting off waves of security robots (don't laugh, I've seen it happen). Whenever your character must do two (or more) things at once, each action has it's pool reduced by 2 dice, and then reduced further by one die for each action past the first that you are attempting.
EXAMPLE: Toni the gun-ninja is walking on a tightrope when suddenly it begins to rain gun-ninja from a rival gun-ninja clan. As the combat begins she dashes across the tightrope and engages two RGN (Rival Gun-Ninja) with her ninja-submachineguns. She is performing three actions: Dex + Athletics to keep her balance, and two discrete Dex + Firearms actions against separate targets. She rolls each attack at -4 dice. -2 for splitting, and -2 more for 3 discrete actions. If she were attempting to only shoot one RGN, she'd only reduce her pools by 3.
These are the three cardinal rules of action splitting:
- You may never split actions to duplicate attacks against the same target.
- Your pools CAN be reduced to zero, and you are limited to a number of actions equal to your character's Wits
- Haste actions may never be split
Grappling is a unique kind of fighting situation that requires special handling. In a slugfest, the name of the game is to batter your opponent to the point that their body and/or mind gives in and surrenders to unconsciousness or death. In a grapple, however, it becomes possible to render an opponent helpless - either locally or globally - without having to crash through their vitality.
Grapples come in many flavors and from many different schools but all rely upon one of two basic principles: either the grappler is using raw physical strength to restrain or locally overpower the victim, or the grappler is exploiting a weakness of the opponent's physiology. It is up to the storyteller to determine whether or not one of these factors is present. Generally speaking, Strength is always an option - and requires only the use of Strength + Brawl for the grapple pool.
For Dex+Brawl based grappling, the opponent must be biological in nature (or close enough that the distinction is mechanically pointless e.g. a robot that uses myomer but otherwise duplicates human musculoskeletal structures is vulnerable in the same ways as a human), and must have a muscle-and-internal-skeleton physiology. Furthermore, most people only learn to grapple with humanoids. Grappling non-humanoids adds +1-3 to the difficulty, at Storyteller discretion.
EXAMPLE: Ron The Garou and Po the Aikido Master are facing off. Aikido relies almost exclusively on Dex+Brawl based grappling techniques. Ron engages Po directly, and Po proceeds to toss Ron about in several amusing ways by consistently using Grapple Defense and having way more dice than Ron. Sick of Po's shit, Ron shifts into Crinos! Assuming, for now, that Master Po is also Willpower 10 and thus mechanically immune to the Delerium and thus able to hold his enlightened shit together, Ron's newfound strength gives him a substantial boost when confronting Po's grapple defense. However, the Crinos form is still fundamentally humanoid! It suffers from the same problems of hilariously poor shoulder and hip design as Homid and Glabro! Po's techniques are still effective, and even with his bonus Strength Dice, Ron is having a helluva time. Thinking quickly, he shifts further, all the way into Lupus! Now, Po is a badass and all that - but Aikido techniques really don't have much for confronting four-legged assailants with gnashing teeth instead of punches that throw their center of gravity off. There's still a skeleton there that can be exploited to Po's advantage, but he's facing a +2 difficulty penalty as he desperately tries to figure out which way this opponent's joints are situated! Even so, the Lupus form has it's own disadvantages when it comes to grappling (namely, all it can really do is wriggle unless he can get Po on the ground first). Being too small to knock Po over, Ron shifts into Hispo - the Dire Wolf form. Now Po's penalty goes to +3 because in addition to being non-humanoid physiology now the creature's skeleton is as far away from anything Po could've trained for as to render his mastery of the martial arts nearly useless. Po's in some shit now!
EXAMPLE 2: After his success fighting Po, Ron resolves to always use Hispo when he's facing someone who's fond of grappling! His next opponent is Rufus the Lion Tamer! Rufus spends his days wrestling bears and lions, as well as volunteering at the local Public Library. He's also Po's star Aikido pupil! Ron quickly recognizes the hallmarks of Aikido as he engages rufus and shifts into Hispo! But oh-ho! Rufus is someone who is quite familiar with non-humanoid, and in particular quadropedal physiology! He only suffers a +1 when facing down this Hispo form!
EXAMPLE 3: Ron defeats Rufus anyway, and gloats about both of these victories at the next moot, pissing off a Stargazer Ahroun, Steve, who decides to see what Ron's made of. He challenges Ron and agrees to only use grappling techniques. Ron shifts into Hispo. Steve is an Ahroun, and a Stargazer. He is intimately familiar with what every single one of his forms is capable of. He has zero problems grappling Ron in any form. Now, if Steve were to try this against an Anansi or Rokea? He'd have some difficulty (but not as much as Ron would).
EXAMPLE 4 (LAST ONE): Ron and Po, having kissed and made up, are out having ice cream when suddenly Robot Ninjas from Planet X drop from orbit on their ice cream parlour, bent on seizing the entire global ice cream supply. Being fans of ice cream and grappling, Ron and Po step up to fight off the Robot Ninjas. Po sees a humanoid form factor and figures he'll use the Aikido that he's so good at... but here's the thing, Po: A robot's shoulder can bend in all kinds of ways that a human shoulder can't. In fact, the robot can just lay face down on the ground and still punch you in the face while you're atop it's back. Ron, on the other hand, shifts into Crinos for strength and starts bear hugging robots left and right. Since this is just strength vs strength, it's absolutely a valid grappling strategy.
Storytellers are responsible for determining whether one or more of these principles are present. If I see a ground swell of Animal Trainers, or people who wrestle bears in their spare time, I will make all of the bad guys in this game Anansi and Rokea just to troll the hell out of you all.
- Grappler: The person who is presently in control of the grapple, they are attempting to build their Control up, as well as spend that Control on various effects.
- Victim: The person who is presently not in control of the grapple, they are attempting to reduce the Grappler's Control and, if they're feeling lucky and/or good, sieze control themselves, reversing who is the Grappler and who is the Victim.
- Control: A numerical value representing how well the Grappler has attained a position of comparative leverage over the Victim.
- Pin: An end-condition wherein the Grappler may be assumed to have attained complete control over the Victim, ending the conflict with the Victim immobilized so long as the Grappler wishes to hold them there.
- Grapple Pool: The attribute and ability pair used for Grappling. In almost all cases, the ability is Brawl and the attribute is either Strength or Dexterity. Unusual grapples may call for unusual pools. For example, a Virtual Adept trying to bog a psychotic computer system down with a logical paradox may effectively 'grapple' with Wits + Enigmas, but this really corner-case stuff.
- Grapple Effect: An action that a Grappler may perform upon the Victim once he attains a certain level of Control. Success is automatic once the Control is banked. Performing the effect spends the Control. Trying to do too much with too little control runs the risk that the Victim will escape, or worse.
Starting The Grapple
A grapple begins whenever an attacker succeeds (scores more successes than the defender) with a Grapple Attack, or a defender succeeds (scores more successes than the attacker) with a Grapple Defense. Regardless of their role as attacker or defender, they begin the grapple as the Grappler with a base Control equal to the number of successes they had, minus the number of successes the Victim had.
EXAMPLE: Ted engages Peter with a Grapple Attack using the Strength + Brawl method. Peter defends by Dodging using Dexterity + Athletics. Ted succeeds with 5 successes to Peter's 3. He begins the grapple with a Control of 2.
During a the Declaration portion of a Combat Phase, the Grappler must declare if they are continuing to sustain the grapple or releasing the Grapple. If they sustain the Grapple this becomes their main Action. To do anything else except defend themselves, they must split their pools as per Split Actions, above. If they release the Grapple, the Victim is immediately released and if they already declared, this phase, they may attempt to abort to something else. A Victim who is subject to a grapple that has not yet been released, may only resist the grapple, attempt to reverse the grapple, or relent.
On the Grappler's resolution, the Grappler and Victim each roll their Grapple Pools. Whomever has more successes has their successes reduced by whomever has the least. If the Victim had more and declared that they would resist, then the Grappler's Control is reduced by 1 for every success they have remaining. If the Grappler had more, then Control is increased by the same - and the Grappler may perform one Grapple Effect, paying it's cost in Control. At the end of any round where a Grapple was sustained, the Control is reduced by one. If the Victim declared that they would attempt to reverse the grapple, they must score twice as many successes, after subtracting the Grappler's successes, as the Grappler has Control remaining. If they do this, then the Reversal is successful and Grappler and Victim change places with the Control rising by 1 for every success the former Victim had in excess of his requirement to reverse. If they do not do this, but score more successes than the Grappler, then the Control remains unchanged, as do the roles.
EXAMPLE: In the following round, Ted and Peter are engaged in the Grapple. Ted has a Control of 2 but loses initiative and declares that he will sustain the grapple. Peter has no choice but to resist, reverse, or relent. He chooses to resist. They roll again. Ted scores 2 successes, but Peter fails to score any. The Control rises to 4. In the following Round, the actions repeat, with Ted scoring 1 success, but Peter scoring 4. The Control drops to 1. In the next round, Peter declares that he will attempt to Reverse the grapple. He rolls a whopping 5 successes against Peter's 2, leaving him with 3 successes remaining. With a Control of 1, Peter only needed 2 successes to reverse the grapple, he succeeds! He becomes the Grappler with Ted the Victim, and what's more, his Control rises from 1 to 2 because of his extra success.
Now Ted is on the defensive. Deciding turnabout is fair play, he also declares a reversal, and out-scores Peter 5 to 2, leaving him with 3. However, Peter's Control right now is 2, meaning Ted needs 4 successes to reverse. He fails to reverse, and Peter's control remains at 2. Had Ted attempted to Resist, his three successes would've been enough to reduce Peter's control to Zero, ending the grapple with him breaking free. Reversal is very difficult.
|Pin||10 Control||Ends the grapple in a pin.|
|Disarm||5 Control||Grappler removes an object from the Victim's hands.|
|Shrug Off+||1 Control||Make a defense roll against an attack from a 3rd party.|
|Hostage Block+||2 Control||As above, but if attack is fully negated, Victim takes base damage of attack.|
|Drop||2 Control||Victim is supinated or pronated, suffering appropriate penalties even if grapple continues.|
|Slam||3 Control||As drop, but also inflict Str + Remaining Control in bashing damage.|
|Throw||All Control||Victim is hurled Str + Control yards, Victim must be on feet to perform this.|
|Prop||5 Control||Victim is forced to stand.|
|Clinch||1 Control||Str + Half Remaining Control Bashing Damage|
|Crack||4 Control||Str + Half Remaining Control Lethal Damage|
|Action*||2-6 Control*||Perform some other action, cost and effects are at ST's discretion.|
* - Actions can include, rifling through the Victim's pockets for his ID, applying handcuffs (a cheaper form of Pin), hacking the security terminal on the wall next to where you're holding the guard, &c.
+ - Shrug Off and Hostage Block are forced costs of being attacked, see 'Third Parties' under Grapple Permutations, below.
Ending the Grapple
A grapple ends either when the Grappler decides to release the grapple, gains enough Control to choose to Pin, the Victim relents, or the Control is reduced to zero or less.
If the grapple ends with the Victim relenting, or the Grappler establishing a Pin, the Victim is rendered immobilized, harmless, and helpless until the Grappler decides to release them. If the Grapple involves all combatants, then the combat ends, as well. If there are other combatants, the Grappler must remain with the Pinned Victim, sustaining the Pin or elect to release the Victim. A victim who was pinned, loses their action in the Main Phase of the Combat Round where they were released. (The Grappler gets to safely disengage and get one action's worth of distance before a Pinned victim can act against them.)
If the grapple ends with a Grappler releasing the grapple before establishing the Pin, or because the Control was reduced to zero, the grapple ends immediately and one or both participants may be eligible to abort. (A third party can break up a grapple before either of the grappling parties acts, thus negating both of their actions.) Grapple rolls for an ongoing grapple happen on the Grappler's intiative resolution. The Victim's action is, however, considered to have been taken in breaking free, even if their intiative was lower than the Grappler. No aborting just because you broke free with a low init, sorry.
Environmental Hazards: The Drop, Slam, Throw, and Action Effects may all be used to force a Victim into harm's way. e.g. Throwing the Victim into traffic on the Interstate. ST's discretion applies, usually this results in the Victim eating environmental damage in the Book Keeping round, but Haste Actions may be spent to evade/avoid the hazard.
Third Parties: A third party may assist the Grappler, using the same pool as the Grappler, and adding 1 to the Control for every two successes they score. A third party may assist the Victim by the same mechanics, reducing the Control by 1 for every two successes they score. A victim may Block while being grappled, but must split their pool to do so. The pool is split only in the case where they are actually attacked and make a block attempt. A Grappler may be attacked, forcing them to use the Shed or Hostage Block actions. These actions may be used outside of the Grappler's initiative and normal grapple procedure. If they reduce the Control to zero, the Shed and/or Hostage Block is still performed, but the grapple ends immediately after the attack in question concludes.
EXAMPLE: Jo and Kelly are having a grapple. Jane comes around the corner to see Jo holding her friend Kelly on the ground, as the Grappler, with a Control of 2. (She uses Perception + Brawl if she didn't see the grapple get established.) Yelling for Jo to leave her friend alone, she rushes in and kicks at Jo. Jo elects to use the Hostage Block, and scores enough successes to negate Jane's attack. Kelly takes damage as if Jane had kicked her with only 1 success on the attack. Jo, meanwhile, loses Control of Kelly and the grapple ends. If Jo's resolution in the initiative had not yet come up, her action to sustain a grapple would've been invalidated and she'd have to abort if she wanted to do anything else. If Jo had not scored as many or more successes as Jane's attack, no only would she lose control of Kelly, but the kick would still have landed on Jo!
It is damned hard to hold a grapple on one guy while his six friends clobber you. Just sayin'. There is, however:
Single Effect Grapples: Sometimes you don't want to fully grapple with someone, you just want to drop them, throw them, disarm them or whatever. These effects may be executed immediately by spending all of the Control gained on the successful Grapple attack or defense. The grapple is not sustained in the following round, period.
EXAMPLE: Po, our Aikido master, is facing off against six guys with baseball bats. He maneuvers so that only three can come at him at one time, and splits his pool to Grapple Attack two of them. Engaging any of them in a grapple for any length of time would eliminate his ability to maneuver, or effectively fend off the mob so he elects to perform Single Effect Grapples on the two lads he's engaging. He's splitting his pool two-ways, taking -3 dice on each grapple attack, but he succeeds with 2 and 3 successes. He can drop them both, drop one (2) and slam the other (3), throw either of them Str + 2 or 3 yards... in this way he can engage in crowd control while fending off a high number of attackers - just as an RL Aikido master would.
A regular staple of thrillers, spy movies, and action flicks, a good chase is often an important and exciting part of a conflict's climax. Storytellers often have their own mechanisms for handling chases, and if a given ST has such a thing, they are encouraged to rely thereupon. For the rest of us, here are rules I use, roughly inspired by Spycraft D20, which really knows how to make chases fun.
Predator: The Predator is the one doing the chasing. In a given chase there may be more than one Predator. If any predator catches the Prey, the chase ends (and usually a combat will begin).
Prey: The Prey is the one being chased. In any given chase there is usually only one Prey, but if a group is running and doesn't want to split up, the whole group can be considered The Prey. In vehicle chases, in particular, the Prey is the driver of the Prey vehicle and passengers in the Prey vehicle are along for the ride. They are not necessarily passive observers, however, see Attacking During a Chase, below.
Head Start/Lead: Generally Head Start is used at the start of a chase, and Lead used thereafter, but the two terms may be used interchangeably, these terms refer to the distance between Predator and Prey. The objective of the Predator is to reduce this to 0. The objective of the Prey is to open this to 10. The rules for a chase on foot, in the air, or behind the wheel of a sports car are the same, so the value for Head Start/Lead is unitless. When the Prey has a Lead of 10, they're far enough away from the Predator that they can begin attempting to end the chase with their escape.
Course: The setting for the chase scene. This is characterized by the type of terrain and exact location of the chase, as well as the conditions that make life easier or harder for the participants. Chases may move from one course to another.
Maneuver: A chase maneuver is something that gives an advantage to Predator or Prey at the cost of Lead/Head Start. When the Prey performs a maneuver, they lose Lead. When a Predator performs a maneuver, the Prey gains Lead. Maneuvers are generally made when one participant wins a chase round.
Run: Sometimes - especially during Police chases - the Prey's odds of escape drop precipitously as the Chase goes on. The prey may have, therefore, a certain distance or time limit within which they have to lose the Predator. This maximum duration for the Chase is the Run. Storytellers should define the run with an eye for the limiting factor. In a police chase, police response time (which varies from neighborhood to neighborhood), is the limiting factor. After the mean response time, we can assume that avenues of escape are cordoned off, and all sorts of backup has arrived. Predators may be subject to Run limits as well, either because of fuel constraints or - e.g. in the case of an Awakened Cyborg with his gear out, paradox may eventually overwhelm him.
Chase Pool: The Chase Pool is the default method for determining progress during a chase. For a chase on foot, this would be Dexterity + Athletics. For a car chase, this would be Dexterity + Drive or, if traffic is super heavy or the course is particularly labrynthine, Wits + Drive. For a chase in the water, Strength + Athletics might play. Essentially it's a test against whatever the limiting factor is for navigating the course. Unlike with Grapples, both Predator and Prey may Maneuver to adjust their own and each other's Chase Pools to jockey for advantage. Is the other guy a better technical driver? Take the chase into traffic and see how well he can think on his feet. Is he a better runner? Introduce obstacles and see if that slows him down.
Obstacle: Could be a crowded fish market, a cabbage cart crossing the street, or a super tight canyon, but at some point, somebody's chase is going to wind up in a place where escape, capture, or death, isn't a matter of lead, it's a matter of not screwing up. Most often introduced by STs and Prey, Obstacles require incidental skill checks on the part of all chase participants. Failure generally means that party is out of the chase (and the chase may be over as well) and further, they may be making their next trip to the hospital or morgue (unless it's a tight canyon, in which case the crash probably results in not enough to fill a casket, either)
Starting a Chase
Many chases will start 'cold.' Which is to say, there is no prior conflict and both Predator and Prey learn of the chase starting at the same time. The Head Start is defined by a single roll, made by the Prey with the Chase Pool vs. 6. The number of successes + 1 is the Head Start. A Botch indicates that the Prey panicked and made a wrong move, ending the chase before it truly began.
Often a chase will start with a 'Stalk and Pounce.' In this scenario, the Predator-to-be began the 'chase' some time ago, Identifying the prey and slowly jockeying for a closer position. A successful pounce can end a chase before it begins so it becomes important for the Prey to identify that they're being stalked. A common staple of espionage stories, this is the "We're being tailed...hang on!" moment. The Prey makes a Perception check (usually Perception + Alertness, but storytellers should feel free to mix it up) often contested by the Predator's Manipulation + Subterfuge. Successes (remaining) on this roll are added to the Prey's Chase Pool for the start-phase. The Predator and Prey then make a contested Chase Pool roll with the number of successes scored by the Prey above those scored by the Predator becoming the Head Start. If the Head Start is zero or less, the Pounce is successful and the chase is over before it began.
Sometimes a chase will start as the result of a Defender in a Combat deciding it's time to book it. The 'Escape' defense option gives someone a chance for freedom. If their attacker elects to pursue, the chase starts immediately. The Defender's roll, to start the chase, must have out-scored their attacker in which case the attacker's successes are removed from the defender's successes - the successes that are left become the Head Start. Often this is very small. These chases often end quickly, and can frequently lead to a cycle of fight->chase->fight->chase->... as the original attacker continues to attempt to bring the victim down.
Handling The Chase
Once the Head Start, Predator, and Prey are defined, the Chase is on! The foundational mechanic is that Predator and Prey make a series of contested Chase Pool rolls with each winner adding to or subtracting from the Lead. After winning a given chase round, the winner may elect to perform a maneuver. The base difficulty is 6 and should be modified by the difficulty of the course. A chase on an open, empty highway could be diff 4. A chase in rush hour traffic could be diff 9. A lack of success does not mean that the parties aren't moving, either - it simply means that neither party can open or close the lead right now. Chases are very dynamic scenes, and Storytellers should alter the difficulty in waves to represent the chase moving from one course to another.
Storytellers are encouraged to play loose with maneuvers but some suggested examples are offered here.
* - The margin of success for the next round's roll. e.g. If the Predator scores 4 and the Prey scores 2, the Predator's Margin of Success is 2.
+ - This maneuver may be used any time an Obstacle is confronted.
Attacking During A Chase
Fighting during a chase requires a method of ranged attack. If the Predator or Prey are attacking during a chase, they must split their pool, suffering penalties accordingly. Defenses are automatic for both predator and prey. Passengers must make their own defensive arrangements (though vehicles provide pretty decent cover, usually) and may focus on defending, attacking, or both (see Firefights above, for more). The Lead must be lower than 5 for most weapons to be used, and less than 7 for most supernatural abilities to be used. Storytellers make the final call as to whether or not the participants are close enough for attacks.
Ending The Chase
Chases end when a Prey with a Lead of 10 or more is successful in the contested Chase Pool check. They have built up enough of a lead that they are able to shake pursuit. They also end if the Lead drops to 0 or below, as the Predator catches the Prey somehow either disabling the Prey's ability to flee or cutting off all avenues of escape.
Chases may also end if one or the other party has exhausted the duration of their Run. Whomever's Run is exhausted loses the chase, so a Predator who's Run is up loses the Prey immediately. A Prey who's Run is up is shortly penned in and the Lead is adjusted to 0.
Chases may also end if one or the other party harms the other sufficiently through attacks as to render further pursuit or flight impossible.
Chases end immediately if either party fails to navigate an obstacle. A new chase may begin, however, if both parties fail the same obstacle - both cars crashed but drivers are alive? Sounds like we're on foot now, to me!
Sometimes chases get weird.
Not all mismatches are as unbalanced as they seem. The guy running, on foot, from the Helicopter in the middle of the desert? Yeah, okay, no point in having a chase for that. But the Garou with City running trying to evade police helicopter while running on the rooftops? That's an interesting chase and the Prey has enough options to potentially foil the pursuit that it's worth a Chase scene. The meaning of 'lead' here is very loose.
Generally speaking, Storytellers should determine whether or not running away and shaking pursuit is a legitimate option for the Prey. Players finding themselves as Prey are encouraged to make arguments for their eligibility. If the storyteller concludes that escape is a potential option, a Chase may be warranted.
Chases, especially on foot or the like, are exhausting affairs. After five or six rounds of sprinting with Dexterity, Storytellers should switch the pool to use Stamina, instead, and possibly introduce Exhaustion as an obstacle at decreasing intervals. Fifteen seconds is a good guideline for how long a Chase round should last. After six such rounds, you've been sprinting flat-out for ninety seconds. That'll wind most people.