War of Ashes
Conflicts are used to resolve situations where characters are trying to harm one another, whether morally (hurting feelings), socially (demolishing reputations), physically (coming to blows), or through some other means. It could mean physical harm (a sword fight, a magic duel, a good old fashioned bar brawl), but it could also be mental harm (a shouting match, a tough interrogation, a debate between scholars).
Let's start with a quick overview of how advanced conflict unfolds, then we'll go into more detail showing you step-by-step how this plays out.
Conflicts: The 30-Second Version Set the scene. Determine turn order. Optional: Roar phase. Start the first exchange: On your turn, take an action. On other people's turns, defend against or respond to their actions as necessary. At the end of everyone's turn, start a new exchange or end the conflict.
Setting the Scene
Establish what's going on, where everyone is, and what the environment is like. Who is the opposition? The GM should write a couple of situation aspects on sticky notes or index cards and place them on the table. Playerscan suggest situation aspects, too.
The GM also establishes zones, loosely defined areas that tell you where characters are. Rather than limiting—as many other games would—how far in measurement units you can get in one unit of time, or how far you can shoot, then applying penalties for local conditions like terrain or visibility, it skips the math and looks at local conditions to thenestablish how far you can move or shoot.
This method is also part and parcel of Fate's fractal nature, since it allows re-scaling; if you change the time unit, or the size of the map, or both, then naturally your zones are going to change too, while necessitating no change to the rules describing how things work.
Zones and the Battlefield
Even in physical conflict, zones aren't measured in yards in the fiction or inches on a map—they're much more abstract than that. Roughly speaking, if another combatant is close enough that you could take a few steps and attack them with a hand-to-hand weapon, like a spear, axe, or dagger, you're both in the same zone. In non-physical conflicts a zone might represent areas of political influence, a clan supporting one of their own, the various gods' attention, or groups of people you can talk to.
You can visually represent zones using a number of different means, such as a series of connected squares drawn on a piece of paper, index cards arranged together on the table, elaborate 3-D terrain tiles, or anything in between. The only thing that really matters is that everyone has a clear idea of where the zones begin and end and how their spaces relate to one another.
Physical conflict: Raiders are attacking the characters in an old farm house. The kitchen is one zone, the bedroom another, the front porch another, and the yard a fourth. Anyone in the same zone can easily throw punches at each other. You can also carry the fight from one room into another.
Zones for Non-Physical Conflicts
That's all nice and well for a battlefield, but what about conflicts that don't involve coming to blows? How do you establish zones for a social conflict (for example, about who will become the new leader of a scout troop) or a mental one (for example, a debate between scholars of the Royal Academy of Sciences)?
The process is essentially the same, but the zones represent more abstract divisions of the metaphorical ground the opponents are fighting over.
Social conflict: Jusipio and Meloria, respectively members of the Architects' Guild and the Merchants' Guild, disagree about what to do with the limited supply of stones excavated from a quarry. Jusipio argues for a bridge across the river to ensure the new city's communications, while Meloria wants to build a new granary to protect the food reserves from barbarian incursions. The Architects' and Merchants' Guilds form two zones, the city council a third in between them.
Of course, zones aren't merely abstract space—they're the very terrain of the battlefield. To that end, every zone can have a zone aspect that tells you what's in it. Unlike character aspects, zone aspects shouldn't be particularly nuanced. The simpler and more straightforward, the better. No matter what the terrain in the zone is like, it's going to be useful in some situations and a hindrance in others. An aspect that clearly communicates that in one or two words is ideal.
Keep it intuitive and broad—and short enough that it can easily fit on an index card. There are two good reasons for this rule of thumb. One, the battlefield is likely going to contain several zones and therefore several aspects, and you don't want things to look cluttered and confusing for the players or yourself. Two, time spent crafting the perfect zone aspect is time not spent actually playing the game. Better a good zone aspect now than a great one in 90 seconds.
A zone might have Trees or a Steep Slope, or it might be a Kitchen or a Crumbling Stairway, or even a Waterfall or Bottomless Chasm. Every zone needs a zone aspect. That flat, featureless meadow over there? Why, that's an Open Field.
If a zone has more than one potentially interesting feature, either combine the two into one succinct aspect (like a Farmhouse On Fire) or pick the one that you think will be most entertaining or relevant to the scene and go with that (what feels more fun for this combat, a Narrow Passage or all those Rocks and Boulders in it?).
Normally it's the GM's job to assign zone aspects, but that doesn't mean they all have to be done in advance. If the PCs are in a starting position that prohibits them from seeing the entire battlefield—due to a closed door, outcropping of rock, heavy fog, or the like, feel free to leave them blank and fill them in as the PCs gain visibility to them.
Alternately, let the players define some of these aspects by exploring these zones. Handling zone aspects in this way gives the players more control over their situation and lends a little more unpredictability to the combat. This is a create an advantage action, typically using Clever or Careful, and can be done from another zone, provided the character in question can see into the unexplored zone. Generally speaking, you can't replace an existing zone aspect, unless the aspect itself is responsible for obscuring the zone in the first place. The difficulty for this task should be fairly low, such as Average (+1) or Fair (+2). If it makes sense that a zone aspect would make the task more difficult, increase it by +2 for every such aspect. Likewise, if the unexplored aspect is more than one zone away from the character, increase the difficulty by +2 for every zone that separates them.
Olivia the scout wants to know what's hiding in the Fog a couple zones over, so she takes time to Carefully peer into it and see what she can make out. The GM sets the difficulty at Average (+1), then bumps it up by +2 because of that Fog and another +2 for being two zones away. That doesn't sound so good to Olivia's player. Fortunately, she's able to move a zone closer, lowering the difficulty to Good (+3), and gets a result of Great (+4). Success! Since the scene takes place in a mountain pass, the player suggests that the zone actually contains a Fog-Shrouded Chasm, and the GM agrees. Someone's in for a surprise.
Each pre-defined zone aspect starts the scene with one free invocation. Aspects "discovered" by the players (that is, by creating an advantage) start with one or two free invocations, as usual.
GMs are encouraged to use common sense when determining whether an aspect would affect a particular creature or character. For example, flying creatures would be affected by Buffeting Winds but not by Icy Ground, and a swamp-dwelling creature would not mind Marshy Terrain but would be at a disadvantage on High Rocky Ground.
Number of Zones
Deciding the size of a battlefield—how many zones it contains—can be a tricky business. Too many and you have wasted space, or combatants spread so far apart that their spatial relationships to one another have little meaning. Too few, and everyone's crammed together into a too-small space, without a variety of terrain types to make things fun and interesting.
Start by visualizing the scene in your mind's eye. What does the surrounding area look like? Is it all on a flat plain, or is there varying elevation? What's of interest nearby? If the answer comes back "Uh I dunno." then put something interesting in and expand outward from there.
In the course of their quest, Olivia, Rolf, and Deliah and some hired mercenaries need to deal with a hostile lizardmen encampment. The GM wants the scene to take place in a tactically interesting location, but other than knowing that she wants the PCs to have to take care of some guards, she isn't sure where to start. Fighting guards in a flat plain would be pretty dull, and she can't imagine the lizardmen would camp in such a vulnerable location anyway. Maybe they're in some badlands where they can post lookouts on natural pillars of rock—it's a cool visual. Even better would be access via a narrow ravine cutting through a low cliffside. So far the battlefield looks like this:
At the bottom of the cliff, our GM pictures a sparsely forested area with a clearing—so the lookouts can see intruders coming—but also a water feature of some kind, just to mix things up. A lake would be good. It's fun to throw people into, and it makes some sense with the ravine. And a waterfall flowing into it. Sure. You don't to be a professional geologist; we just want a battlefield with interesting features.
That seems like enough for some variety, with enough space that missile weapons will make a difference. Our GM imagines hidden lizardmen archers on the clifftops letting fly at the approaching PCs, a PC or two sniping back from cover of the trees, someone being pushed into the lake, or maybe even off the waterfall or a big jagged pillar
Note that our GM hasn't assigned aspects to two zones. She figures the PCs can't see them from where they're starting (the Sparse Trees in the upper left), plus it'll be fun to define them during play.
Determine Turn Order
Your turn order in a conflict is based on your approaches. In a physical conflict, compare your Quick approach to the other participants'—the one with the fastest reflexes goes first. In a mental conflict, compare your Careful approach—attention to detail will warn you of danger. Whoever has the highest approach goes first, and then everyone else goes in descending order.
Break ties in whatever manner makes sense, with the GM having the last word. For example, in an open fight, Forceful might break ties. In an ambush, it might be Sneaky. Of course, if the situation makes it clear who attacks first (such as an ambush, a ritual, or some sort of asymmetrical situation) then the situation should trump the approaches.
GMs, it's simplest if you pick your most advantageous NPC to determine your place in the turn order, and let all your NPCs go at that time. But if you have a good reason to determine turn order individually for all your NPCs, go right ahead.
The Roar phase is a fun option if you're using approaches (as in War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus or Fate Accelerated) and your setting lends itself to it. At the start of conflicts, combatants can psych themselves up, call out challenges to each other, cast rituals, jockey for position, etc.; this is called the Roar phase, when opponents can enter a transcendent state.
This state may occur through intense concentration and focus, through wildly uncontrolled (and usually violent) emotions, through fearless derring-do, or the like.
To Roar is to be a paragon of one chosen facet of oneself. To outside eyes, the studiously intense scholar would seem to have nothing in common with the literally-foaming-at-the-mouth barbarian warrior, but both are, in fact, roaring.
In Fate terms, Roar is an initial step of conflict during which anyone can create an advantage. With great reward, however, comes great risk, and roaring means not having access to the full range of your usual capabilities.
Creating a Roar Aspect
In one respect, creating a Roar aspect is like creating any other situational aspect—they're both just using an approach to create an advantage. But there are three major differences when it comes to actually bringing one of these aspect extras into being.
For one, when you roar and as long as you are in this state, you are limited to using the approach you used to create the Roar advantage, and the two connected approaches (see the diagram).
Olivia is entering a conflict with Lord Marcus Sidonius and Olivia's player wants her to roar with Careful, so she attempts to create the advantage Intensely Focused. Once she's roaring, she can use the free invoke from that aspect normally, but she's limited to the Careful, Sneaky, and Clever approaches.
Second, the base difficulty to create one of these Roar aspects is +2. The players and the GM take turns rolling for Roar aspects—that's right, the GM can create as many aspects as the players do. How many free invocations are generated for each aspect, however, depends on the roll results.
Finally, trying and failing to create a Roar aspect means success at a cost. The Roar aspect will be created, but along with it will come a related consequence for the GM to use against the PC. On a tie, the GM only gets a boost against the PC rather than a consequence. It's a tricky business, transcending the bounds of mortal consciousness and capability. With great ambition comes great risk, and the gods don't take kindly to hubris. Note that minor NPCs who can't take consequences thus can't create a Roar aspect at a cost; they simply fail altogether.
Olivia fails the roll to create the roar aspect Intensely Focused for her debate against Lord Marcus Sidonius. The GM decides that Olivia will gain the mild consequence Oblivious to her Surroundings. The GM gets one free invocation of that consequence.
Minor GM characters can roar with something they are skilled at, but lose the Roar aspect automatically if they have to use an ability they are bad at.
The NPC Lord Marcus Sidonius is skilled (+2) at appraising goods, negotiating contracts, and avoiding a straight answer, so he might roar by beating around the bush with a flowery opening speech to avoid getting to the point. He is bad (-2) at physical activity and admitting he's wrong, so he would automatically lose his roar aspect if he had to face evidence that he gave incorrect figures, or if Olivia managed to move around so that he is huffing and puffing to keep up with her pace.
Compelling a Roar Aspect
Naturally, a Roar aspect can be compelled, either by the player who created it or by the GM. If the player compels it, it's worth a fate point, as usual. If the GM compels a character's Roar aspect, however, refusing a compel not only costs the player a fate point as usual, but also removes the Roar aspect from play. See "Losing a Roar Aspect" on the next page.
Losing Your Roar Aspect
A Roar aspect lasts until you choose to use a non-adjacent approach or until the end of the scene, whichever comes first. Barring any interference, of course. If the GM offers you a fate point to keep on Raging just as you're about to calm things down, for example, accepting means you're stuck with it for a while. You can pretty much count on the GM using this to your disfavor one way or another. What happens when the Raging barbarian can't stop raging, even though the only combatants still standing are his allies? Excellent question. Hopefully someone will survive to answer it.
As noted earlier, refusing a compel on a Roar aspect not only costs a fate point, but immediately removes the Roar aspect from play. There are no half-measures with Roar—either you're roaring or you're not. And as soon as you're not, it's over.
Back to our earlier example, where Olivia was Intensely Focused. During their heated conversation, Olivia had started walking briskly to wear Sidonius down. Their walk has led them to a glade outside of town. Unfortunately for the both of them, one lone Orc has strayed from its pack to the same glade. If it notices them, more will soon follow. If Olivia wants to flee (Quick) or defend (Forceful), she will have to lose the Roar aspect. The GM offers a shiny fate point if Olivia will keep roaring, and Olivia's player accepts. She thinks she can Cleverly hide from the Orc. Let's hope she has not underestimated their keen sense of smell.
Roar isn't something to be entered into lightly. Roaring can mean risk and loss just as easily as power and glory.
Magic Rituals in the Roar Phase
Priests and others who bravely court the favor of the gods can create very special aspects through magic rituals during the Roar phase. See under "Battle Rituals".
So Why Have the Roar Phase?
Fate veterans may wonder why we have a Roar phase and its effects, if both sides can create an equal number of advantageous aspects. Here's why:
First, it's part of the setting for a lot of historical material that inspires fantasy, such as ritual calling-out and boasting in many societies from Western Europe to Western Africa to the Pacific Islands
Second, even when Roar aspects aren't used directly against each other, it adds to the fiction by shining a spotlight on each character in conflict and what they're about. These aspects are used in a variety of ways; the Roar phase doesn't guarantee a zero sum between GM and players because some of them are won by way of taking a consequence before the battle even starts.
Third, it lets you create lots of temporary aspects with free invocations you can stack later (see "Invoking for Effect") at the moment in combat when the enemy is not trying to hurt you yet, so you don't have to worry about defending.
Finally, it's the only way to create certain types of advantages, particularly battle rituals (see "Magic").
Next, each character takes a turn in order. On their turn, a character can take one of the four actions. Resolve the action to determine the outcome. The conflict is over when only one side has characters still in the fight.
Rolf has been challenged for leadership of his crew by First Mate Hans, in front of the assembled scurvy sailors of the good ship Fiero. This is a fairly dramatic point in the story and the GM decides to run it as a conflict. The two opponents will deal other stress through use of bombastic boasting, savage threats, well-crafted arguments, and base personal attacks. It's possible that they may come to blows, but what matters is convincing the crew to fall in behind one of them.
Exchanges in Combat
While various types of conflict in Fate—social, mental, physical, etc.—use the same basic rules,combat and warfare can play out as a special type of conflict, relying much more than others on visual elements. When a conflict escalates into the physical, it's often time to go to the maps and the minis.
In the following discussion, anyone in a fight is called a fighter. They don't literally have to be a career soldier or anything—it's just shorthand.
To keep track of things in a combat, every fighter is represented on the battlefield by a miniature or token of some kind. Miniatures are ideal, because they give the battlefield more color and visual interest. If they don't come pre-painted, they can be fun to paint, whether you're good at it or not. If you don't have any miniatures handy, distinctive markers such as cardstock standees or cardboard tokens will do the trick equally well. For nameless NPCs, you can even use coins of varying denominations. (Hey, they're nameless for a reason. Representing them with pennies is apt.) As long as you can tell who's who, you're golden.
Why are miniatures so popular in roleplaying games and what do we use them for in physical conflict scenes? Visualizing the action: Playing out scenes is visually exciting and focuses the attention of the players. Having a scaled-down model of the scene also helps the gamemaster define zones and the entire group stay on the same page as the events unfold. Adjudicating movement and maneuvers: It helps to see what is going on in order to decide whether Ragnar can actually move past Salvia, or whether the sparse trees provides any cover against Goomba's ranged attack. Suggesting actions and supporting tactical decisions: Just as the GM gets a better idea of what is possible, being able to see the action suggests to the players some of the cool actions their characters might take.
Weight represents how importance, influence, size, or numbers favor one side over the other.
Weight in Combat
Things like a fighter's facing and positioning within a zone don't really come into play—these rules don't care about that level of detail. Instead, it's the relative weight of combatants within a zone.
Add up the weights of all fighters on each side of a combat in a zone. If one side's total is greater than the other, that side outweighs the other side, or is "heavier." Unless a character has a specific stunt that would affect their weight, the general size of the character determines weight. Humans and most player character types normally have an individual weight of 1. Other creatures (monsters) can have different weights.
If the heavier side outweighs their opponents in the zone by at least two to one, they can replace any one of the dice they rolled with a [+].
If the heavier side attacker outweighs their target by at least four to one, they can replace two of the Fate dice results with [+].
It's a good idea to indicate weight advantage on the battle map using Fate dice, Campaign Coins' Fate Tokens, or Deck of Fate cards so you'll remember when it's time to roll dice.
Deliah is facing off against a couple of City guards; they outweigh her two to one, so the GM sets down a Fate Token to mark a[+]and rolls the dice for the guards' attack. She rolls[00-+], but replaces the[-]with a[+], for a final result of[00++]. On her turn, Deliah concentrates her attack on taking one guard out as fast as possible to gain a respite; by himself, the surviving guard no longer outweighs her and does not get the chance to change one die result to[+]. Alas for Deliah, the guard hangs on long enough for reinforcements to show up, and she now faces four more guards. They outweigh her at least four to one (five to one, really, but there's no additional bonus) so they now get to change results ontwodice, thus changing a[0-+-] roll to[0+++]. Deliah is in trouble.
Weight comes into play whenever common sense dictates it would be relevant. Always include it when attacking or defending, but not necessarily when creating an advantage or overcoming. It depends entirely on context. Generally speaking, if the mere presence of allies in a zone would help accomplish something, it's reasonable to include the weight advantage.
Rolf wants to create an advantage against the horde of goblins he's fighting by toppling a ruined wall onto them. He and his allies outweigh the goblins in their zone, but in this case that's not really helping him since he's acting alone, so he'll roll as usual. Later, channeling his ancestors of old, he attempts to create another advantage by intimidating the opposition with a savage battle cry. In this case, the GM rules that the presence of his allies around him makes Rolf's threats more credible, so he rolls the dice and can change one result to[+].
If the relative weights of two sides change during a round, adjust the dice accordingly on thenextroll after they've changed. In other words, who outweighs whom can change on a turn-by-turn basis, no matter how things started out.
Our three heroes, along with a mercenary pal of theirs, face off against four lizardmen in their zone. So far, their relative weights are equal, so everyone will roll normally on their attacks and defenses. Rolf acts first, and manages to take out two lizardmen fighters. Now the PCs outweigh the lizardmen two to one, so when the next player's turn comes around, they'll get the benefit of the[+]die on their roll.
Weight in Social Conflicts
In social conflicts—for example, a debate between two leaders for control of a Guild—weight represents the importance, influence, and authority of the opponents. Rank, reputation, credibility, and circumstances will factor into this, and unlike physical conflicts, sheer numbers may not carry the day.
Example Weights When addressing the Royal Court: The monarch has a weight of 8; A high-ranking Houselord has a weight of 4; The Houselord of a small Mercantile House has a weight of 2; Commoners have a weight of 1, no matter how many of them are there. In a scholarly debate: A renowned academician might have a weight of 4. A run-of-the mill professor might have a weight of 2; A mere graduate student would have a weight of 1; Commoners would have a weight of 0; it takes a swarm to add up to a weight of 1 and heckle enough to derail an argument.
Some creatures, like hornets or crows, are so small they have a weight of 0. They are too small to affect a creature of weight 1 or more unless there are a large number of them. Defeating an individual creature with weight 0 is handled using the overcome action instead of a conflict. So when creatures such as these attacken masse, they do so in aswarm.
Swarms come in three basic sizes. A small swarm, the size of an average human, is weight 1. Abig swarm, one about the size of a bear, is weight 2. Ahuge swarm, one as big as a troll, is weight 4.
If you want really huge swarms, the kind that can cover an entire farmstead, use several huge swarms. Five huge swarms are a lot more interesting and versatile in a fight than one gargantuan weight 20 swarm. Not only can five huge swarms spread out to five different zones, they can also work together to get a teamwork bonus. See "Characters and Creatures" for more about groups of adversaries.
"What if I want to use swarms of something larger, like wolves or hyenas?"
Sure, you can do that too. See "Groups of Minions" for more details.
While they outweigh their opponents, swarms can't be damaged by normal attacks that don't affect an entire zone, nor are they affected by opposed movement—there's just too many of them to try to make them go anywhere they don't want to go. Without a weapon such as an alchemical explosion, you have to invoke an aspect for effect to make your attack affect a wide area, like Boiling Oil or Flooded Room.
Olivia and Rolf have run into three big (weight 2) swarms of vampire bats spread out around the ancient ruins they were exploring. Right now the heroes are outweighed so their particular weapons are useless against the swarm. With all his might, Rolf knocks one of the giant pillars loose and uses the create an advantage action to add the aspect Wobbly Pillar. On her action Olivia invokes the aspect for effect and is able to attack one of the swarms by pushing the pillar and letting it crash down on the bats.
Movement on the Battlefield
A fighter can move to an adjacent, uncontested zone during their turn as a free action. This is made more difficult if:
The zone the fighter is in or going into has an aspect that suggests an obstacle.
The fighter is attempting to move more than one zone.
Someone is blocking the fighter, by grabbing or otherwise trying to stop zone change.
If the first or second condition is met, the fighter will face passive opposition to moving into another zone. If the third condition is met, they'll face active opposition. Either way, it's an overcome action.
Note that because this is an overcome action, the fighter will at the very least always have the option of succeeding with a serious cost. This means that if theyreallywant to get out of their current zone, they will always be able to do so—but the cost may be more than they're willing to bear.
Rolf is on a Narrow Mountain Path, facing ranged attacks from bandits throwing javelins from the Sparsely Wooded Slope above. Rolf really wants to move into this adjacent zone to engage the bandits in melee, and the bandits oppose him. Unfortunately, the GM rolls well for the bandits and they tie with Rolf. Rolf's player still has the option to have Rolf succeed at a minor cost rather than remain an easy target; he offers to give the bandits a boost on Rolf, Winded For A Moment, and the GM agrees.
Regardless of the opposition and the outcome, opposed movement costs the fighter their action for the turn.
Passive opposition means the fighter's struggling against the environment. If either the starting zone or destination zone has an aspect that suggests an obstacle to be overcome, the difficulty is Fair (+2). Ifbothzones have such an aspect, the difficulty is Great (+4).
Olivia is pinned in anIcyopen zone by enemy archery volleys from a nearby cliff. She wants to get out and under cover of the nearby Boulders, so it's a passive roll and her difficulty is Great (+4) for the two adverse aspects.
If the fighter is trying to move more than one zone, add +2 per additional zone to the difficulty. If these have adverse aspects, add +2 per adverse aspect as well.
Rolf wants to move out of the Avalanche! zone, through the Rockfall zone, and into the Tundra Plain zone. The difficulty will be +2 for the extra zone and +4 for the two adverse aspects, for a total of +6. Difficult, but then again, so is recovering from being buried under falling rock
Active opposition means the fighter and their opponent(s) will make an opposed roll, with the opponent's total providing a difficulty for the fighter to overcome. Moreover, the opposition can invoke adverse terrain aspects, as appropriate, to increase the difficulty by +2 per invocation.
Deliah is struggling in melee with a bandit who tried to prevent her from moving out of the Gaping Cliff Edge zone and into the Mountain Path zone. It would be an opposed roll instead, and the GM can invoke the adverse aspect to add to the difficulty.
It's often important in combat to force your opponents to be where you wantthemto be—and to resist being moved where they wantyouto be.
We've included some examples below of how you can take advantage of the four basic actions to create specific maneuvers.
Most maneuvers allow your character to move to a more favorable location (e.g., adjacent zone with a useful aspect such as Higher Ground or Good Footing), or move an opponent to a less favorable location (adjacent zone with a troublesome aspect such as Avalanche! or where the opponent will be outweighed).
Maneuvers as Actions
Maneuvers as actions should be declared before rolling. The player should think about the specific flair they want to add, and choose the appropriate maneuver. If it's not on this list, the GM can assist in making up the maneuver on the fly. Here are some examples of maneuvers that can be performed with basic actions:
Push: When you and your opponent are in the same zone and you succeed in an opposed overcome action, you can push the opponent back one zone as your action. At your discretion, you can end in the same zone or choose to push only your opponent.
Pull: When you and your opponent are in the same zone and you succeed in an opposed overcome action, you can move and pull the opponent with you one zone as your action.
Charge: When you run into melee in an adjacent zone, you double your weight for one attack action. Additionally, if you succeed with style, you can force the opponent back one zone in a straight line at the end of your action (in addition to the attack). You both end in the same zone. However, if you fail in your attack, you give your opponent a free boost—that's in addition to taking one stress for failing the attack as normal;andalso in addition to the boost they would normally gain if they defended with style.
Rolf shouts a mighty battle cry and runs into the fray in the adjacent Foredeck zone, attacking two pirate sailors. He doubles his weight thanks to the charge, so no one is outweighed. Alas for Rolf, the pirates defend with style, gaining not only a boost as normal but an additional boost for the failed charge.
Full Defense: When you create an advantage to improve your defenses against attacks this turn, you create a Full Defense aspect that you can invoke freely once for every attack made against you, but the advantage goes away once you take any other action.
Full Attack: When you fully commit to an attack while disregarding your own safety, you can make an attack lethal (see "Lethal Attacks"). To do this, you must describe what you are doing and overcome a Good (+2) difficulty using an appropriate approach; on a success, your next attack will be lethal. However, your give your opponent a boost that works in their favor when they attack you, such as Exposed. A risky trade-off for adding extra oomph to your attack.
Ntombi decides to use a Full Attack against the grizzly she unwittingly angered. She swings her double-bladed polearm in a dizzying spiral to briefly force the grizzly backward, then with a great cry suddenly lunges with one blade aimed at the beast's neck. She rolls an overcome action using her Flashy approach; on a success, Ntombi's next attack will cause lethal damage. However, the grizzly gains an In Range! boost for its next attack.
Maneuvers as Boosts
Maneuvers as boosts are determined after the roll. Sometimes you land a lucky blow or make a skillful shot. Instead of taking a boost for succeeding with style on an attack, you can instead perform one of these maneuvers. Again, think about what you want to achieve, and interpret accordingly.
Knockback: When you succeed with style at a melee attack with a heavy weapon (e.g., two-handed mace), you can knock the opponent back one zone at the end of your action. You and the opponent end the action in two different zones.
Disarm: When you succeed with style at a melee attack, you can force your opponent to drop their weapon or shield. This prevents the use of any equipment stunt associated with it until they succeed at an overcome roll (difficulty +2) to pick it up or pick up another handy piece of equipment.
Footwork: When you succeed with style in a melee attack, you can move automatically one zone, even if someone is opposing your movement.
Deliah is fighting a crocodile at the water's edge, where it has an advantage. Next to her is a rocky upland terrain zone. Deliah succeeds with style with her attack, so instead of a boost she can move one zone even though the rocky terrain would normally provide her opposition.
The astute reader will notice that maneuvers as boosts are examples of invoking aspects for effect. In this case the aspect is a boost so it goes away once it's used, and since it's used as soon as it's gained, we don't bother writing the boost down.
For a variety of reasons, some attacks are more deadly than others. They're less a matter of wearing your opponent down than of landing exceptional blows which can have an immediate and devastating effect on the defender. In game terms, we call these attackslethal.
While an average attack can usually be mitigated by checking a stress box, lethal attacks go straight to the defender's consequences, bypassing their stress track entirely. This means that a successful lethal attack will always mean some sort of longer-lasting trauma for the defender—or, in the case of mere minions, who don'thaveconsequences to begin with, instant defeat. (Probably by death. We don't call them "lethal attacks" for nothing.)
Making an Attack Lethal
Broadly speaking, there are five main ways to make an attack into a lethal attack.
- Using certain maneuvers.
- Having a relevant stunt.
- Using an appropriate magic ritual.
- Some deadly creatures have lethal attacks.
- Creating such excellent attack conditions that the GM judges the attack to be lethal.
The Full Attack maneuver sets you up to deliver a lethal attack but makes you exposed as well. See the "Maneuvers" section for more detail.
Having A Stunt
Certain stunts with a special weapon or using a particular technique can give particular attacks the ability to cause lethal damage. Lethal damage is always a "once per session" stunt effect. See the "Equipment Stunts" section for more detail.
Using a Battle Ritual
Rituals essentially grant temporary stunts and some rituals, such as "Combat Fury," can grant the ability to cause lethal damage. Lethal damage is always a "once per conflict" effect. See the "Battle Rituals" section for more detail.
Some creatures are just naturally deadly! For example, creatures that are venomous (e.g., snakes, scorpions); creatures with particularly dangerous fangs or claws (e.g., leopards, alligators, sharks); creatures with supernatural attacks (e.g., vampires, werewolves, demons.)
Sometimes the players come up with a brilliant plan that leaves the enemy at a serious disadvantage. If they put serious (and successful) effort into creating conditions that would make their attack much more dangerous, the GM can decide to declare that an attack will do lethal damage.
The heroes know they are badly outnumbered by the goblin pack roaming the area, so they decide to create an ambush to even things out. The GM offers to treat this as a challenge. The heroes will have to create an advantage by locating a suitable ambush spot, create a second advantage by preparing the location, and overcome the goblins' wariness to bring them into the prepared trap. Deliah scouts out the perfect bottleneck in a narrow rocky pass; Rolf piles boulders above, ready to trigger an avalanche; and Olivia brews a fantastic-smelling stew that should attract goblins for leagues around. They prepared well and described their actions interestingly, so the GM declares that the ambush will indeed be lethal, both the direct damage caused by the avalanche and the heroes' first attack in battle.
Often such situations will be represented by lots of preparatory aspects and boosts, which will in turn convert into substantial bonuses. The GM should not give a deadly outcome in that situation—the bonuses will be damaging enough. But it may be useful in a situation where the GM knows the players will be able to do all that preparation, and just skip over it in favor of making the initial attacks lethal rather than stretching out an otherwise unimportant conflict.