Combat

This page presents a general overview of the combat mechanics, with separate links detailing all of the options and technical details.


The Combat Sequence

Combat is organized into a cycle of rounds and turns.

Round: In a round, each combatant takes a turn. A round represents about 6 seconds in the game world.

Turn: On your turn, you take actions: a standard action, a move action, and a minor action. See Actions for what you can do with these different actions.

The actions in a combat encounter happen almost simultaneously in the game world, but to make combat manageable, combatants take turns acting—like taking turns in a board game. If your turn comes up before an enemy’s, your actions take place before the enemy’s actions do. The order of turns is determined at the beginning of a combat encounter, when combatants roll initiative.

A combat encounter follows these steps:

1. Determine which combatants are unaware of their opponents. Apply the surprised condition to these combatants. (see conditions for a description of how conditions work in combat)
2. All combatants roll initiative.
3. Combatants act in initiative order.
4. Repeat step 4 until combat ends. *

* Combat is over when the characters take a short rest.


Actions

A combat turn is made up of actions. Loosing an arrow, casting a spell, running across a room, opening a door—-each of these activities, along with many others, is considered an action. You use different action types to do different things.

Standard Action: Standard actions are the core of combat. Examples: most attack powers, charging an enemy, using your second wind.

Move Action: A move action generally allows you to move your speed on the battlefield. There are some additional powers and activities that also use a move action.

Minor Action: Minor actions are enabling actions, simple actions that usually lead to more exciting actions. Examples: pulling an item from a pouch or a sheath, opening a door or a treasure chest, drinking a potion.

Free Action: Free actions take almost no time or effort. You can take as many free actions as you want during your or another combatant’s turn. Examples: speaking a few sentences, dropping a held item, letting go of a grabbed enemy.

Triggered Actions: You can take certain actions in response to a specific triggering action, event, or effect. These actions are usually taken during another combatant’s turn.


Taking Your Turn

When your turn comes up in the initiative order, it’s time for you to act. Your turn has three phases: the start of your turn, the actions on your turn, and the end of your turn.

The Start of Your Turn

During the first phase of your turn, you track certain effects, including ongoing effects, regeneration, and powers recharging. The start of your turn always takes place, even if you’re unconscious, and it takes no time in the game world.

Taking Actions

During your turn, you can take a few Actions. You decide what to do with each, considering how your actions can help you and your allies achieve victory. You get a standard, move, and minor action on your turn, in addition as many free actions as you want. You have the option to substitute actions by taking a move or minor action in place of a standard action, or a minor action in place of a move action. These actions can be taken in any order.

When you really need an additional standard action, you can trade in an action point to gain an extra standard action for your current turn. You can use an action point this way only one per turn.

The End of Your Turn

After you act, you track the durations of any conditions or effects on you or created by you. The end of your turn always takes place, even if you’re unconscious, and it takes no time in the game world.


Movement and Position

During a battle, heroes and monsters are in constant motion. The rogue skirts the melee, looking for a chance to set up a deadly flanking attack. The wizard keeps a distance from the enemy and tries to find a position to make the best use of area attacks, while goblin archers move to get clear shots with their bows. You can increase your effectiveness in battle by learning how to use movement and position to your advantage.

Combat takes place on a grid of squares, with each square representing about 5 feet in the game world. A medium sized creature like a human fits in one square, while larger creatures like ogres and dragons can occupy many squares at once.

During your turn, you can use a move action to move up to your speed in squares, and still use a standard action to launch an attack.

Each creature has a speed score, which is measured in squares. Your speed is determined by your race and the armor you wear. An unencumbered human has a speed of 6 squares.

Most battles don’t take place in bare rooms or plains, however. Adventurers fight in boulder-strewn caverns, briar-choked forests, and steep staircases. Each battleground offers its own combination of obstacles and terrain. Obstacles like large trees, pillars, and walls block squares or the borders between squares, preventing movement into the blocked square or across the blocked border between squares. The other frequently encountered type of terrain falls into the category of difficult terrain. Each square of difficult terrain you enter costs you an additional square of movement, reducing how quickly you can move through these areas.

Some powers allow you to force opponents to move. These effects are called pushes, pulls, or slides, depending on the direction you move the opponent. See Forced Movement for more details on pushing, pulling, and sliding.


Attacks and Defenses

Making attacks is how you defeat your enemies, and this requires overcoming your adversaries’ defenses. On a typical turn, you will use your standard action to make an attack. And your own defenses will regularly be tested by your foes’ attacks.

You make an attack by using an attack power. Every attack is a little different according to the text of the power, but most of the basic rules are the same for every attack power.

When you attack, you use the core d20 mechanic by rolling a d20 and adding your attack bonus, then comparing the result against one of the target’s four defenses: Armor Class, Fortitude, Reflex, or Will. If your result equals or exceeds the target defense, you hit and deal damage as described in the power.

Attacks take many forms. A fighter swings a greatsword at a foe. An archer looses an arrow at a distant target. A dragon exhales a blast of fire. A wizard creates a burst of lightning. These examples illustrate the four attack types: melee, ranged, close, and area.

Melee: Melee attacks usually use a weapon and target a single target you can reach. Some powers allow you to make multiple melee attacks against one or more targets, all of whom must be within your reach.

Ranged: Ranged attacks strike a single distant target. All ranged attacks have a limited range, and you must be able to see your target in order to make a ranged attack against it. Making a ranged attack while surrounded by enemies in melee is dangerous; this lets down your guard and lets your enemies make an Opportunity Attack against you.

Close: A close attack is an area of effect that comes directly from you: its origin square is within your space. Swinging your sword in an arc to hit every enemy next to you with one blow, creating a blast of fire from your hands, or causing radiant energy to burst from your holy symbol—these are all examples of close attacks. Usually a close attack effects every creature within its area, but some allow you to single out only enemies or allies, and some affect only a single target who must be within the area. This last use can be confusing, but because close attacks don’t provoke Opportunity Attacks, it is intended to indicate that the power can affect a target at range without exposing you to enemy attacks.

Area: Area attacks affect multiple squares on the battlefield, and originate from a point of your choosing. A ball of fire that streaks across the battlefield and explodes is an example of an area attack. A magical wall of fog that springs from the ground to obscure a dungeon corridor is another example. Like ranged attacks, using an area attack while enemies are adjacent provokes an Opportunity Attack.

Learning how to read a power is critical to understanding their effect in combat. There are many additional rules on the Attacks and Defenses page that clarify regular questions and cover special issues.


Conditions and Modifiers

Combat rarely consists of foes standing toe to toe and bashing each other. Movement and position are key; if one archer can fire from behind a tree at an enemy archer out in the open, the one using the tree for cover enjoys an advantage. Similarly, the use of magic or special abilities often creates opportunities you can exploit. If your wizard ally turns you invisible, you can easily evade your enemies, but if an enemy wizard stuns you with a spell, you can’t readily defend yourself and your enemies can easily gang up on you.

Temporary advantages and disadvantages in combat are reflected in a set of common attack modifiers. An attack modifier is a bonus or penalty that applies to your attack roll.

Combat Advantage

The most common attack modifier is combat advantage. Combat advantage represents a situation in which the defender can’t give full attention to defense. The defender is pressed by multiple enemies at the same time, stunned, surprised, or otherwise caught off guard. When you have combat advantage against a target, you gain a +2 bonus to your attack roll against that target.

Cover

Many types of terrain offer you places to hide or obstructions you can duck behind in order to avoid attacks. Solid obstructions that can physically deflect or stop objects are considered cover. When you are attacking an enemy behind cover you suffer a -2 penalty to your attack roll. If the target is protected by a significant terrain advantage, such as a small window or arrow slit, your attack roll penalty increases to -5.

Concealment

If you can’t get a good look at your target, it has concealment from you. You might be fighting in an area of dim light, in an area filled with smoke or mist, or among terrain features that get in the way of your vision, such as foliage. You take a -2 penalty to your attack roll against a concealed target. If the target is so well concealed that you can’t see it at all, you can still try to attack it by picking a square to target, but you suffer a -5 penalty to the attack roll even if you picked the right square.

Conditions

Many powers, monster abilities, and activities can impose bonuses and penalties or restrict how you can act in combat. A condition is a state that imposes a penalty, a vulnerability, a hindrance, or a combination of effects. The conditions page contains a list of all of the conditions and their effects. While modifiers apply to a single attack, conditions persist until their duration expires, often for 1 or more turns.

Some conditions persist until you can successfully shake them off. These conditions, marked (save ends), allow you to make a saving throw during your End of Turn phase to potentially remove the condition.

A saving throw is a d20 roll against DC 10. Normally there are no modifiers to this roll, but some feats, abilities, and items can grant you small bonuses.


Special Actions

In addition to moving and using powers, there are additional special actions that all combatants can take. The following is a cursory list of the most common of these actions, but you should familiarize yourself with the full list of Special Actions to understand how these actions work and the additional tricks you can use them for.

Action Point: You start the day with one action point and gain additional points over the course of a day’s encounters. On your turn, you can trade in one of these action points to gain an additional standard action to use for whatever you wish.

Aid Another: You can use a standard action to distract an enemy, cover an ally, or help a friend perform a task.

Charge: To bring the battle to your enemies, you can combine movement an attack into a single standard action called a charge. A charge lets you move your speed and make a basic attack at the end of your movement, with a +1 bonus for the momentum. You must charge at least 2 squares.

Delay: You can choose to delay your entire turn until later in the initiative order to set up a synergy with an ally or wait for enemies to come closer to your position.

Grab: You can attempt to grab hold of an enemy to prevent him from escaping or maneuvering as a standard action.

Opportunity Attack: When an opponent lets down their guard by moving or performing certain actions, you can make a special attack called an Opportunity Attack against them. You must be able to reach the opponent when they let down their guard. An opportunity attack is normally triggered by moving out of a square adjacent to you or by making a ranged or area attack.

Ready: If you want to take your action in response to a predicted circumstance, you can use a standard action to set up an action to trigger when something happens later in the round.

Run: When you need to cover distance quickly, you can run to double your movement speed, but this makes it difficult to attack and temporarily lowers your defenses.

Second Wind: When you have been battered in combat and are running low on hit points, you can step back out of the battle for a few seconds and draw on stores of vitality to heal yourself. You can activate this ability only once per encounter though, so use it wisely. Using second wind is a standard action.

Shift: For tactical maneuvering in tight quarters, normal movement is dangerous because it provokes opportunity attacks. Using a move action to shift lets you move 1 square without letting down your defenses.

Total Defense: Sometimes it is more important to survive for another round than to try to hit your foes. By spending a standard action to focus on defending yourself, you can gain a +4 bonus to defenses for one round.


Healing, Hit Points, and Dying

Over the course of a battle, you take damage from attacks. Hit Points (hp) measure your ability to stand up to punishment, turn deadly strikes into glancing blows, and stay on your feet during a battle. Hit Points represent more than physical endurance. They represent your character’s skill, luck, and resolve—all the factors that combine to help you stay alive in a combat situation.

When you take damage, subtract the damage number from your current hit points. As long as your current hit point total is higher than 0, you can keep on fighting. When your current total drops to 0, however, you are dying.

Powers, abilities, and actions that restore hit points are known as healing. You might regain hit points through rest, heroic resolve, encouragement, or magic. When you heal, add the number to your current hit points. You can heal up to your maximum hit point total, but you can’t exceed it.

Even in a heated battle, you can heal. You can heal yourself by using your second wind, an ally can use the Heal skill on you, or an ally can use a healing power on you.

Once combat is over, you can take a short rest to catch your breath, dust off your wounds, and bandage or magically heal more serious injuries. Once you have taken a a complete short rest, you regain all of your hit points.

Dying

When you take enough damage in combat to reduce your hit points to 0, you are unable to continue fighting and drop to the ground dying. In order to continue fighting, your allies must fight their way over to you to revive you using healing magic or the Heal skill.

Even when an attack would deal enough damage to put you below 0 hit points, set your hit points to 0. You don’t need to keep track of negative hit points. When you are at 0 hit points, you gain the dying condition, which leaves you unable to act and prevents normal healing until the condition is removed. What’s worse, as you are dying you slowly bleed, and if your allies can’t get to you quickly enough, you may even die.

Each round at the end of your turn, you must make a saving throw. If you fail, you gain a death counter. These counters accumulate with each failed save, and if you reach 5 of them, you die.

There is a small chance to overcome the dying condition on your own without outside assistance. If you get a 20 or higher on your saving throw result, the dying condition ends and you immediately heal one quarter of your maximum hit points.


Notes to clean up:

Starting with the basics:


How Combat Works

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

1. When combat begins, all combatants roll initiative.
2. Determine which combatants are unaware of their opponents. Apply the surprised condition to these combatants. (see conditions for a description of how conditions work in combat)
3. Combatants act in initiative order.
4. Repeat step 4 until combat ends. *

* Combat is over when the characters take a short rest.


The Combat Round

Each round represents 6 seconds in the game world; there are 10 rounds in a minute of combat. Each combatant gets a turn to act once during a combat round.

The concept of a round is a simple way of keeping track of the cyclical nature of combat—turns loop through the initiative order once during each round. Aside from an organizational tool, the start or end of a combat round plays no direct role in game mechanics. When the term round is used as a duration, such as an action usable once per round, it means that the action’s use is recharged at the beginning of that particular combatant’s turn.


Actions

A combat turn is made up of actions. Loosing an arrow, casting a spell, running across a room, opening a door—-each of these activities, along with many others, is considered an action. You use different action types to do different things.

Using Actions

In order to perform any activity (save free actions like speaking), you must use up an available action of the appropriate type. Each power, skill, or item describes the action you need in order to use it. There are also certain Common Activities that all combatants can use, such as walking or drawing a weapon, that you can use with the appropriate action.

When you gain actions to use, you must either use them to perform an activity at the current point in the initiative order or lose them. You can use up any actions you have in any order. If you wish to save an action for later, you can Ready that action to be triggered later.

The Main Action Types

Standard Action: Standard actions are the core of combat. Examples: most attack powers, charging an enemy, using your second wind.
Move Action: A move action generally allows you to move your speed on the battlefield. There are some additional powers and activities that also use a move action.
Minor Action: Minor actions are enabling actions, simple actions that usually lead to more exciting actions. Examples: pulling an item from a pouch or a sheath, opening a door or a treasure chest, drinking a potion.

Drop Down Rule: You can always decide to convert a standard, move, or minor action to a lower action (Standard > Move > Minor). For instance, you could drop your standard action down to a move action in order to take two move actions in a turn.

Additional Action Types

Free Action: Free actions take almost no time or effort. You can take as many free actions as you want during your or another combatant’s turn. The DM can restrict the number of free actions in a turn. Examples: speaking a few sentences, dropping a held item, letting go of a grabbed enemy.

Triggered Actions: Two action types— opportunity actions and immediate actions—require triggers. A trigger is an action, an event, or an effect that enables you to use a triggered action. The specific triggered power will clearly state the trigger required to use it. Some powers require a trigger but are free actions or aren’t actions at all.

  • Immediate Action: An immediate action is a type of triggered action that lets you act outside of your turn. The only immediate action that all combatants can use is a readied action.
  • Opportunity Action: Opportunity actions let you take an action in response to an enemy letting down its guard. Usually this will be used to make an opportunity attack against the triggering opponent.

Taking Your Turn

When your turn comes up in the initiative order, it’s time for you to act. Your turn has three phases: the start of your turn, the actions on your turn, and the end of your turn.

The Start of Your Turn

Before you act on your turn, certain effects and bookkeeping take place in the following order:

  • No Actions: You can’t take any actions (even free actions) at the start of your turn.
  • Regeneration: If you have regeneration, you regain hit points now.
  • Battlefield Effects: Apply the effects (if any) of the terrain in squares you occupy, as well as the effects of any zones that cover the squares you occupy.
  • Ongoing Effect: If you’re suffering ongoing damage or another effect that affects you every turn, you take the damage or resolve the effect during the start phase of your turn.

Actions on Your Turn

Your Actions: You get the following three actions on your turn:

Delay: You can choose, before taking any actions, to delay your turn until later in the initiative count, possibly in order to set up a synergy or tactical positioning with an ally. This ends your current turn immediately before you can take any actions, with some modifications to the end phase of your turn.

Extra Action: At any point during your turn, you can spend an action point as a free action to gain an additional standard action to use during this turn. You can spend no more than one action point this way each turn.

The End of Your Turn

Once you have used up your actions, some bookkeeping of effects and conditions takes place. The end of your turn always takes place, even if you’re unconscious, and it takes no time in the game world.

  • No Actions: You can’t take any actions (even free actions) during the end of your turn.
  • End Conditions: Any condition on you without a specified duration ends.
  • Check Durations: Count down by 1 round the duration of all conditions on you, and of all zones, conjurations, or other effects created by you. If this reduces the duration to 0 rounds, remove the effect or condition.
  • Check Sustained Effects: Some powers and effects require sustained concentration in order to maintain. Check that you spent the action required to sustain a power or effect during your turn. If you didn’t spend the action, the power or effect ends now.

Hit Points, Healing, Injury, and Death

Hit points represent your character’s ability to persevere in combat. They can represent many different things: skill avoiding blows, bruises through armor, fatigue, arcane energy sustaining your body. The specific idea depends on your character’s flavor. What doesn’t vary is that once you run out of hit points, you cannot continue fighting. Any damage you sustain while you have hit points remaining represents only minor wounds or setbacks—you may get some scars from the hit, but it’s nothing lasting. When you are dropped to 0 or fewer hit points, however, you collapse to the ground, possibly with a serious injury.

Debate: how do characters bleed after being knocked down? (4e style or pathfinder style?)
- I like the concept of not keeping track of negative hit points: if you are dropped below 0 hit points, you are simply at 0. But this brings up the question of how characters die. In the absence of normal hit points, killing a downed character simply requires an execute action.

When characters are knocked down to 0 hit points, they aren’t necessarily knocked out—in fact, I think this best to leave up to DM discretion. If the character isn’t specifically knocked out, then they can take some limited actions, like calling out for help, crawling to cover, pulling a switch, rolling an item to another player…and the big question: can they drink a healing potion? Should characters be able to heal themselves when they go down?

- This would virtually ensure that every character carries a healing potion on them at all times, and that they would use it as soon as they are knocked down
- Which gets into a larger discussion about the role of expendable items in a character’s repertoire of abilities

The combination of no negative hit points (or 4e healing from negatives) and being able to drink a healing potion while wounded won’t work. If there is to be wounded drinking, it has to incorporate negative hit points in order to ensure the use of more powerful healing potions to wake a wounded character up.

One additional point: healing potions work as ointments spread on the wound. They can be drunk if need be, as the only requirement is that they get into the bloodstream.


Combat

Homebrew Rules IanStory