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© 1996-2008
æthereal FORGE ™

The MUD Slide

Iconoclast -- RPG -- Combat Reactions

There are three basic ways to actively avoid damage in combat: When the attacker misses, when the defender dodges, and when the defender deflects. A fourth, passive means of avoiding damage is when armor or cover soaks it up before it reaches you.

The effects of a miss are obvious--the blow missed because the attacker failed to roll under their target. Absorbing, dodging and Deflecting need a bit more attention, however.

Absorbing damage is the default, passive reaction during combat situations. If an attacker sends damage your way, and you choose not to react to it, then you are absorbing the damage. This incoming damage is first applied to any armor you may be wearing, and then the remainder affects you directly and is deducted from your Current Trauma.

Dodging damage is the default ACTIVE reaction during a combat situation. If you make a defensive roll and don't specify anything else, it's going to be assumed that you are dodging. With a successful dodge, the attacker succeeds in sending damage your way, but you in turn succeed in dodging that damage by rolling against your combat target and exceeding the incoming damage. If you fail to dodge, and are hit, the damage dealt to you affects your armor, followed by you, just like in an absorb.

Because of the evasive tactics necessary during a dodge, doing so applies a 2 beat penalty on anyone choosing to do so. For example, if I choose to dodge a blow during beat 3, I cannot act or react in beats 4 or 5. If I choose to dodge during beat 5, I cannot act or react in beats 6 or 1 (since the penalty rolls over to the next combat round.)

Ex.1: Both Josef and Bobby chose to dodge one another's attacks in beat
5 of the round. Since dodging applies a loss of the next two beats, both
Josef and Bobby miss out on beat 6 (which is no great loss, since
neither of them could do anything there anyway) and beat 1. For Josef,
this hurts a bit, because he's lost an action round, but for Bobby it
really makes no difference; he can afford to dodge around a bit more,
since he's not nearly fast and agile enough to be attacking people as
often as Josef. Thus, for the next round, Josef misses beat 1, and can
first act in beat 2, while Bobby is mostly unaffected, acting first in
beat 4, as usual.

Note that while it is physically impossible to truly dodge a bullet, moving in an evasive pattern can affect where the bullet hits, if it does, and can even make someone miss. Likewise, moving around during combat can make a sword or knife miss its mark entirely. This is all assumed to be happening during combat, which is why there is no special "dodge" skill. Dodging means not being where the attacking object is, be that a bullet, a bat or a bologna sandwich. So if I'm running around like a fool and someone's trying to shoot me, I am attempting to dodge their bullets.

There are those who like to think they can stand stock still, hear the click of the trigger, and move out of the way of the bullet at the last second. Daemons, for instance. Nobody can move faster than a bullet, but daemons can at least think faster than a bullet. Their superior cognitive skills allow them to take into account a number of factors (where the shooter is, type of gun, wind speed, humidity, etc) in order to rapidly determine when and where a bullet will be. They can then OCCASIONALLY appear to step out of the way of a bullet, dodging it. In actuality, what they do is simply figure out where the bullet won't be, and move there.

This is not as easy as it sounds. You can't, for instance, dodge a sniper bullet, since you can't see it coming. Silencers, flash suppression, etc. will also make it nearly impossible to do. And of course, this is all theoretical. Daemons who like to think they can dodge bullets usually have some interesting scars to show their friends.

Deflection of incoming damage is meant to represent a middle ground between absorb and dodge. In essence, what you are doing is attacking the attack, trying to get a weapon or other object in between you and the source of the damage, in the hopes that you will be able to knock it to the side, at least reducing the damage in part. Deflection with a sword is typically known as a parry; we use the broader term "deflect" here because of the wide array of objects that can be used to deflect.

Since dodge is the default active reaction, you MUST declare your intent to deflect before rolling a defense roll. It also goes without saying that in order to deflect, you must also be holding something that you can deflect things with--this can be a weapon, a broken branch, a trash can lid, or just about anything else within reason.

Once you declare that you will be deflecting, you roll your defense against your target, as normal, and compare it to the attacker's incoming damage. If you succeed, and your success is higher than the incoming damage, then you subtract the incoming damage from your roll--the difference between the two is the amount of damage that was deflected, the remainder is the amount that you take in Trauma. Thus, if you can roll twice as high as the incoming damage, you can deflect all of it.

Deflection is not as passive as absorb, but it's also not as active as a dodge, so the penalty for the defensive maneuver is only -1 beat. Thus, if I choose to deflect within beat 3, I miss beat 4; if I choose to deflect in beat 5, I miss beat 6 (if it were available to me).

Ex.1: In beat 2, Cade, a skilled swordsman, attacks the hapless Terek
and rolls successfully within his target, getting a 20. Since he's using
a katana (x10), the incoming damage is 2x10, or 20. This is quite a lot
of damage that will be dealt to Terek if he should fail his defense
roll, and he knows it. Terek has three options in beat 3:

First, he can choose to simply do nothing and absorb the damage. But
it's 20 points, and he's not wearing any body armor, so he's not eager
to just let that happen.

Secondly, he could dodge. If he rolled a standard defense roll against
his Target (PA:15, Combat:15), he would have to roll between 21 and 30
in order to hit his Target, and beat the incoming damage. If he
succeeded, he would dodge all the damage, but he'd then suffer a 2-beat
penalty, which would mean he would miss beats 4 and 5. And since he
can't act in beat 6, that would mean he was finished for the round. In
the meantime, Cade would get another action in beat 4, and since Terek
would then be out of position and unable to do anything, he would be

The best option seems to be the third option--deflection. By attempting
to deflect, Terek still has to roll against his Target of 30, and he
still has to do better than the 20 incoming damage. But in this case, if
he succeeds in doing so, he reduces the incoming damage by the
difference between his successful roll and the damage, and only suffers
a 1 beat penalty. So while he wouldn't be able to attack in beat 4, he
WOULD be able to defend himself against an attack from Cade in beat 5.

Terek opts to try to deflect the sword with his bowie knife. He rolls
and gets a 25, so he subtracts 20 from 25 and gets 5; the difference of
5 is subtracted from the incoming damage, and Terek takes 15. Not great,
but certainly better than 20.

Deflection is typically done with either a shield or a weapon designed for deflecting things (parrying). The best parrying objects are light and tough like fencing weapons, but you can use just about any object (from a lead pipe to a couch cushion). It's also worth noting that certain skills afford some extra advantages to these defensive maneuvers, reducing or eliminating the beat penalties under certain circumstances, and even allowing for special maneuvers (eg. ripostes) along with them.

In the FORGE Gold system, weapons used for parrying take damage just like armor takes when it absorbs damage. More will be explained as that system is fleshed out more fully.

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