Combat House Rules - Black Pearl Campaign
I was asked to detail my combat house rules, I do so here, enjoy! Initiative
Combat rounds are 1 minute long, divided into 10 six second segments. Initiative is deterministic, your initiative score is the segment when your action culminates. So lower initiative scores are better.
Initiative is randomized, e.g. a dice roll gives you your base score, then modifiers are added or subtracted. The base formula is as follows:
Initiative Score = d6 + [Casting Time] + [Weapon Speed] – [Magical Weapon “+”] – [Reaction Attack Adjustment]
For spells and magic items: casting time
For weapons: weapon speed and magical weapon “+”
For any attack: Reaction Attacking Adjustment (dexterity based)
I use a modified RAA system, Dexterity RAA as follows:
I also use customized weapon speeds for weapons, basically half the speeds listed in the 1e PHB for each weapon, rounded up.
All players have character sheets that record their weapon speeds and casting times, if they have a RAA modifier they can either apply it ahead of time to the weapon speeds so they can just roll and add the number, or they can roll, deduct the RAA modifier then add the weapon speed or casting time. The only caveat is that you can’t have a lower initiative score than a 1, no matter what your modifiers.
Because it’s deterministic it eliminates almost all of the disputes about sequencing, as it has a small number of simple and baked in modifiers it is fast, as it is individual it keeps combat interesting, and as it’s d6 based the random factor isn’t too large, but it’s large enough to keep it variable.
All damage to PCs is described. PC’s divide their HP into quarters. For the first quarter damage taken (from 100% to 75%) nothing touches the PC (all luck, favor of the gods, etc.), from three quarters to one half damage is small nicks and cuts, from one half to one quarter, serious gashes and blunt force damage, from one quarter to zero permanent damage such as broken bones that carry “to hit” penalties, below 0 HP severed limbs, etc.
So all PCs and NPC/Monsters get a small buffer against touch attacks for the first ¼ of their HP, e.g. a fighter with 8 HP who takes 1 hp damage from a wight has burned up a HP but has not been touched by the wight, the attack has to do at least 3hp damage to an 8 hp fighter to touch them.
I track player HP when monsters attack them (easy to do, I roll the damage after all) and tell them what the attack did. When I describe them as taking a hit that leads to a nick or cut they know they have been “blooded” and dropped below ¾ hp, but not below ½, as the damage description would be more serious.
When they are hit and below ¼ HP they have to roll a saving throw versus paralyzation or take a lingering damage effect (see below). When they are hit and go below 0 HP they have to save against death magic or take a more serious lingering damage effect.
Targeted Hit System
100%-75% of HP – No contact
75%-50% of HP – Minor contact (cuts, bruises)
50%-25% of HP – Serious contact (deep cuts, crushing bruises)
25%-0% of HP – Critical contact (save versus paralysis or effect)
0-[-10] HP – Lethal Contact (save versus death magic or effect)
Location of Hit Rules
All hits are given a location by rolling two d20 to hit, one dice (the solid) determines the hit, the other (the crystal) the location.
Hit Location * (d20) – [1/4HP-0HP – save vrs. paralysis]/[Below 0 HP–save vrs. death magic]
1–Right Foot - [broken/cut foot, ½ move]/[sever foot]
2–Left Foot - [broken/cut foot, ½ move]/[sever foot]
3-4–Right Leg - [broken/cut leg, move 3”]/[sever limb]
5-6–Left Leg - [broken/cut leg, move 3”] /[sever limb]
7–Right hand -[broken/cut hand, – 5 to hit]/[sever hand]
8–Left hand - [broken/cut hand, – 5 to hit]/[sever hand]
9- Right hand finger – [broken/cut finger, -3 to hit]/[sever finger]
10– Left hand finger – [broken/cut finger, -3 to hit]/[sever finger]
11 - Right arm - [broken/cut arm, – 3 to hit]/[sever limb]
12- –Left arm- [broken/cut arm, – 3 to hit]/[sever limb]
13-Chest -[broken/cut rib – 3 to strength] /[vital organ crushed/pierced - death]
14 - Upper back - [broken/cut rib – 3 to strength]/[vital organ crushed/pierced - death]
15 – Stomach – [internal damage/cut muscles – 5 to str]/[disembowelment - death 1-4 rounds]
16– Lower back - [broken bones/cut muscles – 5 to strength]/[permanent paralysis]
17–Neck - [1 hp/rd lost to bleeding]/ [broken neck/decapitation - death]
18–Face - [– 3 charisma,33% blind/33% mute/33% deaf]/[-5 to chr,50% blind/50% mute]
19-20–Head - [concussion (unconscious 1-8rds,-2 to hit/1 day)] /[coma 1-2 weeks]
*When reduced below ¼ HP by an attack the target must save versus paralysis, dexterity defensive adjustment applies, or suffer additional effect (d20). When reduced below 0 HP roll a save versus death magic (dexterity defensive adjustment does not apply, but hit point adjustment works as a bonus on the save), or suffer additional effect (d20). If a single hit takes a PC below -4 hp they are dead. PCs may go to -10 HP otherwise, once below 0 HP they lose an additional 1 HP per round if their wounds are not bound and the bleeding stopped.
Critical Hits and Misses
A natural 20 on a “to hit” roll indicates a “critical hit”, unless the victim can only be hit on a roll of 20 or more (in this case a second roll of a 3-6 with a d6 is required for a critical hit). When this occurs, roll a d12 to determine effects.
1. Double base dice damage
2. Knock down (+2 to hit and lose one attack)
3. Knock back (opponent knocked out of melee range)
4. Blinding target (-4 to hit for 1 round)
5. Opponents weapon saves versus crushing blow or is destroyed
6. Opponent disarmed (weapon knocked out of melee range, 1 round to retrieve)
7. Attacker gets extra attack that round
8. Next attack from opponent is -2 to hit (off balance)
9. Opponent loses next attack
10. Opponent’s armor damaged (save versus crushing blow or be one AC worse)
11. Opponent stunned for 1 round (+2 to hit and no return attack)
12. Opponent immobilized for round (no movement)
* Note that the table needs to be interpreted, e.g. if the result is opponent disarmed and the opponent is a monster with natural attacks, the DM may reroll or deem that there is no critical effect, depending on what is preferred, just be consistent, e.g. if you prefer to have a non-intuitive result ignored it should be ignored for the PCs and the NPC/Monsters, if you prefer a reroll then you should always reroll for NPC/Monsters or PCs.
A natural 1 on a “to hit” roll is an automatic miss, or so-called “critical miss”. When this occurs, roll a d12 to determine effects.
1. Weapon is dropped
2. Weapon must roll save versus crushing blow or be destroyed
3. Opponent can redirect attack to anyone in the appropriate range
4. Weapon speed is doubled for the next attack
5. Next attack is at -2 to hit (off balance)
6. Attacker loses next round’s attack
7. Weapon is stuck in shield/wall/tree etc., BBLG to remove
8. Attacker immobilized for round, no movement
9. Attacker falls (+2 to hit and lose one attack)
10. Attacker collides with target and falls prone
11. Attacker’s next attack is randomized amongst all opponents in range
12. Attacker falls out of melee range
**Fighters get a save (versus paralysation) against all critical miss impacts
Weapon Versus Armor Class Modifiers
I have a custom set of WvrsAC modifiers for every weapon in my game, weapons get modifiers against no armor, leather armor or metal armor. Some are positive, some are penalties, all are small, but cumulatively with magical weapon “+’ and strength bonuses they can be important.
First I check for surprise if it is possible given the circumstances, then we roll initiative.
Everyone gets out a d6, they roll, add their modifiers and report their number as I go around the table and ask each person to tell me (alternately I call out the initiative scores and those players with the score I called out tell me that is their score).
I record their player names on my initiative sheet, it has the round across the top and the segment down the side, I place the PC’s name in the box for their segment of that round, that is when their attack culminates, their spell casts, etc.
If their attack culminates in the same segment as someone else their attacks are simultaneous.
I then go down the sheet in order of increasing initiative score.
Monster CCB attacks all happen simultaneously in one segment, all natural attacks have a weapon speed of one. This makes monsters with multiple attacks very dangerous.
Multiple attacks by PCs (e.g. bowfire) happen on their initiative segment and at the end of the round, if they have three attacks per round on their initiative score then halfway to the end of the round and the end of the round, etc.
PC’s and monsters/NPCs are allowed to move up until the segment of their attack and after the segment of their attack until the end of the round, however, if by doing so they put themselves out of melee range their attack is wasted. E.g. if their attack lands on segment 4 and they move for three segments and are now out of melee range, their attack is wasted.
Attacks are executed in the order listed on the initiative sheet.
When the attack is made the player rolls two d20, a solid and a crystal (any easily differentiated pair will do), the solid is their “to hit” score, the crystal is their “location of hit” roll. If the first is sufficient, the second is consulted. The location of hit only matters for flavor purposes until the target is below ¼ of their HP total, as at that point a saving throw versus paralyzation is rolled and the possible lingering effects are tied to the location of hit.
If a 1 or 20 is rolled an additional d12 roll is made on the critical hit tables.
Example of Play
Rogahl the Red is a 4th level fighter, he has a +1 bastard sword (weapon speed 4, WvrsAC of -1 against metal armor, +2 against no armor), AC 5, MV: 9” and 20 HP. He is up against Kleith Khavar, 5th level thief, 3rd level MU with a dagger (WS 1) and a crossbow (WS 4) as well as a RAA of 1, AC 7, MV: 12” and 14 HP. He has Magic Missile (Casting time 1) and Levitate (CT 2) memorized.
Surprise is not indicated. They are 50’ apart.
The two roll initiative, Rogahl is attacking with his bastard sword, Kleith is firing off his crossbow at the approaching fighter. Roghal rolls a 4, +4 for his sword, -1 for the magical sword bonus, leaving him with a score of 7, Khavar rolls a 2, +4 for his crossbow, -1 for his RAA, giving him a 5.
Roghal moves at 9’ per segment, so it takes him six segments to reach Khavar, Khavar fires his crossbow on segment 5, so it goes off at short range for no to hit penalty. Khavar rolls two dice a solid with a 17 and a crystal with a 12. He rolls for 3 hp of damage, that takes Rogahl down to 17 HP, above the ¾ mark of 15, so the crossbow bolt doesn’t actually hit.
Since the idea is that the to hit roll was successful, but it doesn’t actually physically touch the opponent, I narrate that in the following way,
“The crossbow bolt hisses past your left arm, only a last minute twist of your body saves you from a hit”, the idea is to convey that it was barely a miss due to dodging, luck, etc. Until my players are used to how I describe this I might say, “that was a successful to hit roll, so it took HP, but it didn’t hit your body”.
On segment 7 Rogahl attacks, he gets a +2 to hit against Khavar as Khavar is in no armor, and he gets an additional +1 for strength and +1 for the magic bonus of the sword, so +4 to hit! He rolls a 1 on a d20, a critical miss so his crystal dice can be ignored. He then rolls a 7 for the critical, however fighters get a saving throw versus the effects of a critical. Roghal rolls a 3 and fails his save.
I would narrate this as follows:
“Roghal brings down his bastard sword in a mighty, two handed cleave, Khavar smoothly dodges to the side and the massive blade buries itself in the ground several inches.”
First round done.
Initiative is rolled.
Roghal has to spend his action freeing his blade, any simple action like this has an initiative modifier of 1, Khavar attacks with magic missile (CT 1). Roghal rolls a 4 + 1 = 5, Khavar rolls a 4+1 = 5, simultaneous initiative.
Roghal rolls his BBLG and successfully yanks the sword from the dirt, when this happens Khavar’s magic missiles hit, for 8 damage. Roghal is now down to 9 hp, less than half, so the damage from the magic missile is significant, I would likely roll for location of hit in this case, say i rolled a 15, I would narrate it like this:
“You pull your sword from the ground with a massive heaving motion, but at the same time two magic missiles from the thief smash into your stomach, you feel a shock through your whole body, then a burning sensation in your gut where the missiles hit. You can smell the smouldering flesh”
Because they did not have to roll a save versus paralyzation they know they are not below ¼, but because the damage is described as serious they know they are below half.
Roghal knows that Khavar means buisness, his sword freed he goes for a direct attack, Khavar attempts to stab the swordsman with his dagger as the fighter pulls back for the swing.
Roghal rolls a 3, -1 for the magical weapon plus, + 3 for the weapon speed, for a total of 5, Khavar rolls a 6+1 for the weapon speed, -1 for his RAA, a flat 6. Roghal rolls a 15 on his solid and a 20 on his clear dice. The 15 gets +4 to hit (magical weapon plus, strength and WvrsAC), so it is a hit, and the 20 gives a location of “head”. He rolls 5 points of damage +2 for his strength and +1 for his sword for a total of 8 hp of damage to Khavar, that leaves him with 6 hp, under half but above ¼, so it's a serious hit.
Khavar stabs with his dagger, he gets a -2 to hit against metal armor, he rolls a 13, too low, so he misses.
“The big fighter’s sword bites into your head, spraying blood through the air and sending a wave of agony through you. In you pain you lash out with the dagger, but the ferocity of the attack doesn’t help, it misses by a wide margin”
Khavar casts levitation on the fighter, Roghal swings his sword.
Khavar rolls a 3, +2 for the casting time, -1 for his RAA, for a total of 4. Roghal rolls a 1, +3 for his weapon speed, -1 for the magical weapon plus, for a total of 3.
Roghal rolls a 15 to hit and a 12 for the location of hit (left arm), the 15 with modifiers is enough, so he rolls damage of 5 HP (his minimum in this case), which brings Khavar to 1 hp. As he is below ¼ but above 0 he rolls a saving throw versus paralyzation, in this case he fails.
“Roghal’s blade swings forward and bites into Khavar’s left arm, the sickening snap of his bone can be heard as the blade bites deeply, almost cutting it off.”
Khavar’s spell is disrupted as he took damage before it culminated, so that’s the round.
Khavar makes a last desperate lunge at the fighter with his dagger, fortunately he is right handed so he takes no penalty from the broken left arm. He rolls a 1 +1 for weapon speed, -1 for RAA, for a total of one. Roghal pulls back his blade for the killing blow, he rolls a 2 + 3 -1 = 4.
Khavar rolls a 20 to hit and an 18 for location of hit. He rolls a 1 for his critical hit. Thats 2x base dice damage. He rolls a 4 for damage, x 2 = 8hp of damage, leaving the fighter with 1HP. He has to roll a save versus paralyzation, which he fails, and the 18 for location of hit requires a % roll, which produces a 40%, I would narrate it like this:
Roghal rolls a 7 to hit, 11 with bonuses, but takes -4 due to the blindness, and misses.
“Khavar’s dagger slashes your forehead, blood pours into your eyes, blinding you, you stab forward to catch the thief on your blade, but he is nowhere you can see through the red haze.”
Roghal strikes out blindly with his sword, Khavar attempts to turn and flee. No need for initiative, Roghal gets a strike at a fleeing opponent at +4 to hit, giving him a +8, - 4 for blinding, so a flat +4, he rolls a 12, +4 for 16 is a hit, and a 16 for location. Damage is 7 hp, which takes Khavar below -4 in on hit, slaying him.
“Roghal stabs as Khavar turns to flee, his sword striking out wildly and connecting to the thief’s lower back, skewering him on the blade.”
The appeal of this system is that there are enough flourishes (critical results, saves once your HP are low enough) to make it interesting, and there is enough detail (location of hit) to allow for a visceral narration of the results.