HD&D: Combat Modifiers

[Index to the Combat System]

Battles aren’t fought on a flat featureless terrain where enemies stand toe to toe and simply slug it out until one falls over. There are countless other little things that characters can do to try and give themselves temporary advantage while in combat. Archers might bed down behind cover so they can attack their enemies, without their enemies being able to attack them. You might gang up or flank your opponents. You might always try to attack from the high ground, or on horseback.

Combat Modifiers are situational bonuses and penalties that most usually apply to a character’s attack rolls or Reflex defence. Seek these out in combat. Gods know you need all the advantages you can get! The following tables summarise the most common combat modifiers:

Circumstance Modifier to Attack Roll
Broken weapon or item -2
Combat Advantage +2
Dazzled -1
Exhausted -5
Fatigued -2
Frightened -2
Grappled -51
Panicked -2
Prone -2
Shaken -2
Sickened -2
1 Except checks made to grapple, or escape from a grapple.


Circumstance Modifier to Reflex Defence
Blinded -5
Concealment +2
Concealment (Total) +5
Cover +4
Cover (Superior) +8
Cowering -21
Exhausted -51
Fatigued -21
Frightened -21
Grappled -5
Panicked -21
Pinned -5
Prone +22
Shaken -21
Sickened -21
1 This modifier also applies to Fortitude and Will defences.
2 Modifier is -2 against mêlée attacks

Combat Advantage

One of the most common combat modifiers (and certainly the one that is mentioned the most) is Combat Advantage. Combat advantage represents a situation where the defender cannot give his full attention to the danger at hand. He might be pressed by multiple foes at the same time, or he might be surprised or stunned or otherwise distracted.

If you have Combat Advantage over a target then you have +2 bonus to your attack rolls against that target. However, this measily +2 does not convey quite how much an advantage combat advantage is for some characters.

Numerous feats, talents and spells key off combat advantage. They don’t work unless you have combat advantage over your foe. A rogue’s sneak attack is the most obvious example of this. If the rogue has combat advantage he inflicts a bucketful of extra damage dice. If he hasn’t then he doesn’t.

Seek out the benefits of Combat Advantage if you can. Even that “measily” +2 to hit can swing a battle one way or another. The more astute combatants will try to avoid reckless tactics that grant combat advantage to their enemies. Of course, this may not always be possible.


Taking cover is often the best way of avoiding ranged weapons, spells and mêlée attacks aimed at you. Cover is a tangible barrier that is inbetween you and harm. You might duck down beneth a low wall, hide behind a tree or duck back behind a corner. If you have cover, your enemies take a penalty on their attack rolls to hit you.

Cover is divided into three categories: Cover, Superior Cover and Total Cover. These categories reflect the increasing degrees of protection provivded by the terrain:

Cover: You gain cover from anything that obscures a quarter of your body or more. Standing at an open window, or behind a tree or around a corner provides cover. If you have cover, then you enjoy a +4 bonus to your Reflex defence against all attacks. Opponents still have line of sight and light of effect to you if you have cover.

Superior Cover: You gain superior cover from anything that obscures more than three-quarters of your body. Peering around a corner, standing at an arrow slit or behind a door that is slightly ajar will grant you superior cover. If you have superior cover, then you have a +8 bonus to your Reflex defence against all attacks. This doesn’t stack with the bonus provided by standard cover. Opponents still have line of sight and light of effect to you if you have superior cover.

Total Cover: If you are completely obscured from view by a solid object then you have total cover. Standing on the other side of a stone wall, inside a wagon or down a deep hole may grant you total cover. If you have total cover then you cannot be attacked. Although attacks can be directed at the cover that is protecting you. Opponents do not have line of effect to you if you have superior cover; they probably don’t have line of sight either (unless you’re hiding behind a transparent barrier).

Creatures and Cover: If you are engaged in mêlée combat, then your opponents and your allies provide you with cover against ranged attacks made against you, but not against mêlée attacks, close attacks or far attacks. See Firing into Mêlée (q.v.) for more informaiton on this.

Destroying Cover: If an opponent cannot hit you because of your cover, then they can target the cover instead. Details for substance and item AC and hit points can be found in the Equipment section. If an attack deals sufficient damage to destroy the cover you are hiding behind, then you take the remaining damage (assuming the attack roll was high enough to hit you).

Cover and Concealment: Bonuses to your reflex defence granted by cover and concealment stack.


Where cover represents a physical barrier between you and your enemies, concealment is an intangible barrier. Darkness, fog, heavy rain or a blizzard may give you concealment from your enemies. If they can’t see you properly, then they have a much harder time targeting you with their attacks.

Unlike cover, concealment only provides protection from attacks that target individuals – i.e. Mêlée and Ranged attacks. Any attacks that affect all or some indviduals within a certain area ignore concealment. It doesn’t matter where in the blast radius of a fireball you enemy is standing, as long as he is standing somewhere in the blast radius. See the Line of Sight rules (q.v.) for guidance on trying to pinpoint the location of concealed characters.

Concealment is divided into two categories that reflect deepening degrees of imperceptibility:

Concealment: If you have concealment, then your opponents find it more difficult to pinpoint where you are standing. Conditions of dim light, heavy foliage, heavy snowfall, smoke or fog grant you Concealment. If you have concealment then you gain a +2 bonus to your Reflex Defence against mêlée and ranged attacks. Opponents still have line of sight and light of effect to you if you have concealment.

Total Concealment: A character with Total Concealment cannot be seen at all. Invisible characters (q.v.) are considered to have total concealment, as is anyone standing in total darknes, in a pea soup fog or similar intangible protection. If you are blind, then everyone has total concealment from you all the time. If you have Total Concealment then you gain a +5 bonus to your reflex defence againt mêlée and ranged attacks. Opponents still have line of effect to you if you have total concealment, but they do not have line of sight to you.

Concealment and Cover: Bonuses to your reflex defence granted by concealment and cover stack.


One of the simplest combat tactics is for you and an ally to move into a flanking position. Flanking works because you and your ally stand on opposite sides of the same target, and both attack that target. Because the foe cannot devote his full attention to either you or your ally, he grants combat advantage to you both.

In game terms, if you are engaged in mêlée combat and you also outnumber your foes by a ratio of 2:1 then you are considered to be flanking those foes. Basically, if you mob your opponent, then you gain an advantage over him. Flanking is a particularly potent manoeuvre if the entire party is attacking the same foe – which often happens in battle against massive monsters such as dragons or purple worms.

When Flanking Fails: You can only flank if you are engaged in mêlée combat. Allies attacking the same foe from range cannot aid in flanking, nor do they enjoy combat advantage over the target. Additionally, characters that are Blinded, Dazed, Stunned or suffering any condition that prevents it from making normal attacks cannot contribute to flanking a target. Creatures with a Reach of 0 (notably diminuitive and miniscule creatures, or swarms) are unable to flank.

Situational Modifiers

There are a vast number of options in combat, and no set of rules can hope to cover them all. As with the rules to skills, the GM is well within his rights to impose situational modifiers to certain situations if he feels the outcome of a certain event is skewed in the direction of success or failure.

These modifiers are always Circumstance Modifiers, and usually they will be a modest +2 or -2 to a skill check or defence, although could be more extreme if the situation warranted. The GM should impose the situational modifiers sparingly, and should be careful that he is not penalising the PCs twice by saddling them with two different penalties to the same activity.

If a circumstance has the effect of improving or diminishing a character’s chance of success (e.g. the character is vomiting uncontrollably) then the modifier should apply to the character’s skill check.

If a circumstance has the effect of making a character easier or trickier to target with an an attack (e.g. they are wearing a luminous balaclava) then the modifier should apply to the characters defence.

For example: the PCs have broken into a museum in the dead of night with the hope of acquiring a magical urn that is currently on display. The urn has special properties that will contain the ashes of a master vampire. The pick up the fragile urn, but are jumped by the museum guards. Now they must fight and keep the urn intact. The GM rules that whoever is carrying the urn takes a -2 penalty to attack rolls and Reflex defence because they are trying to stop the object from getting broken.

Size and Combat

A creature’s size may affect its combat statistics. Only characters of Small or Medum size do not have these modifiers. All other creatures will find their attack rolls, reflex defence and hit points modified by their bulk. These effects are summarised in the following table:

Creature Size




Miniscule +6 +6 1
Diminuitive +4 +4 1
Tiny +2 +2 2
Small 0 0 4
Medium 0 0 4
Large -2 -2 8
Huge -4 -4 12
Gargantuan -6 -6 16
Colossal -8 -8 20

The modifiers to attack rolls only apply to mêlée combat using weapons, natural weapons or unarmed attacks; and to ranged combat using thrown weapons such as axes, hammers and javelins.

Fortunately, these are the sort of modifiers that you only apply once during character generation and can then promptly forget about. Some racial traits and talents may mitigate some of these penalties. Don’t assume all colossal creatures are slow and easy to hit.

A creature’s size can also have a more immediate effect in combat. Questions of how many monsters can mob or attack a character at the same time are fairly common. In these circumstances, GMs need to bear the following principles in mind.

Assuming sufficient space, a creature can be attacked by up to four different creatures of the same size in the same combat round. Obviously, they can be attack by fewer larger foes, and more smaller foes.

Although Small and Medium creatures follow the same rules in most circumstances, they are still different size categories. Different rules govern the types of weapons these characters can wield, and different rules govern how they are reated here/ Each size category less than Medium, or greater than Medium, equates to a decrease or increase in the size of a creature by a factor of two.

Therefore a Large creature is twice the size of a Medium creatue. A Huge creature is twice the size of a large creature, and therefore four times the size of a Medium creatures and so on and so forth. This isn’t an accurate assessmnet of a being’s dimensions in the real world, but it is a handy shorthand for juggling how many creatures of a certain size can be in a given space at the same time.

The following table summarises the number of creatures (of different sizes) that could beseige small, medium or large PCs. in the same combat round:

Creature Size

Small PC

Medium PC

Large PC

Miniscule Many Many Many
Diminuitive 16 Many Many
Tiny 8 16 Many
Small 4 8 16
Medium 2 4 8
Large 2 2 4
Huge 2 2 2
Gargantuan 2 2 2
Colossal 2 2 2

Therefore eight small sized creatures could attack a medium-sized human in one round, but sixteen could get close enough to make an attack on a large ogre. When considering how many PCs can mob an enemy, then simply invert the table:

Creature Size

Small PC

Medium PC

Large PC

Miniscule 2 2 2
Diminuitive 2 2 2
Tiny 2 2 2
Small 4 2 2
Medium 8 4 2
Large 16 8 4
Huge Many 16 8
Gargantuan Many Many 16
Colossal Many Many Many

So up to sixteen large wyverns could surround and attack a gargantuan dragon in the same round. Remember that each increase in size category represents a doubling in size. This means that one Large creature counts as two medium creatures. Therefore fifteen wyverns and two dwarves could attack that dragon at the same time.

If the difference in size category between the attacker and the target is three of more, then this sort of comparisson breaks down. Do we really need figures to suggest how many humans can attack a 200 foot dragon, or how many wasps can attack a human? In these cases the tables simply state “Many”. It’s up to the GM to fairly adjudicate if these conditions arise. Chances are he’ll chose to use the swarm rules instead.

Equally, regardless of your size in relation to your target, a minimum of two foes can attack a target in the same round. So two colossal red dragons can attack the same bluebottle in the same round if they choose to.

Types of Modifiers

In HD&D you will find that some of the modifiers (penalties and bonuses) that you ally to your attack rolls are given a name, and some are not. Named modifiers tell you how your character has gained this bonus to his actions. For example, you gained a morale bonus from being inspired and generally cheered up.

Two bonuses of the same type do not stack. if you have two bonuses of the same type, then you take the higher bonus. For example, if you are carrying a heavy shield (which provides a +2 deflection bonus to your reflex defence) and a wizard casts the shield spell on you (which provides a +4 deflection bonus to reflex defence) then you only have a +4 deflection bonus to reflex defence, not +6.

A bonus and a penalty of the same type will still work against one another and perhaps cancel one another out. If you bard is singing an inspiring song that grants you a +2 morale bonus to your attack rolls, and the enemy bard is singing a depressing dirge that imposes a -2 morale penalty to attack rolls then the net effect is to give you a morale modifier of +0.

Untyped bonuses stack with anything. Talents, spells or feats that provide these bonuses will stack with every other bonus, but they are still not cumulative with themselves. A masterwork longsword might grant you a +1 bonus to attack rolls, but you can’t gaffer-tape two of them together and claim a +2 bonus.

The rules for modifier types do not just apply to attack and damage rolls in combat. Situational modifiers can apply any time you pick up and roll a die. Sometimes the modifier will be of one of these listed types; sometimes it will be an untyped bonus. The use of such modifiers, and when to apply them, is left to the discretion of the GM.

The number of modifier types have been kept deliberately small for the hybrid game. These are the types of modifiers you may come across in the combat and beyond:

Armour: Usually only expressed as a bonus, the armour modifier applies to your characters Armour Class. It is granted by manufactured armour (such as chain, hide, plate and so on) or by spells or magical effects that mimic armour. Armour will stack with Natural Armour bonuses, but two Armour bonuses from different sources will not stack.

Circumstance: A circumstance modifier arises from special conditional factors that impact on the success of the task at hand. Trying to pick a lock with masterwork lock-picks grant you a +2 circumstance bonus to your Disable Device skill check.

Competence: These bonuses and penalties reflect an intrinsic (put usually temporary) alteration in your character’s skill at any paricular task. For example, bards have the ability to Inspire Competence which temporaily makes a character more skilled at a particular task than he otherwise would have been. Competence modifiers usually only apply to skill checks, saving throws or defences.

Deflection: Usually expressed as a bonus, deflection modifiers almost always apply to you character’s Reflex defence. They represent the presence of a character-controlled barrier that can be brought to bear to repel attacks. The barrier doesn’t prevent penetrative damage (it’s not armour), it’s designed to turn aside attacks. Certain magical fields of protection, and the humble shield both grant deflection bonuses to characters.

Enhancement: An enhancement bonus (there are no enhancement penalties) is a continuous advantage to your character that is granted by an outside source. A magic ring may, for example, grant a +1 enhancement bonus to all your defences for as long as it is worn. A Firewalker’s Regalia of Consummate Funk may provide a +2 damage bonus to all spells with the Fire description. A magic sword may grant a +1 enhancement bonus to attack and damage rolls. Unlike circumstance bonus, enhancement bonuses tend to be magical in origin although this is not always the case. Enhancement bonuses are lost if you lose the item that grants them to you.

Inherent: An inherent bonus (or penalty) is something that comes from within you. If you take a feat or talent that grants you an inherent modifier then you are making a permanent change to your character. Feats such as Weapon Focus or Iron Will grant inherent bonuses to your attack rolls or defences in certain circumstances. No-one can take an inherent bonus away from you, once you have one it’s yours for life.

Morale: A morale bonus represents the effects of greater hope, courage and determination; while morale penalties induce a sense of hopelessness, cowardice and despair. Creatures without an Intelligence score cannot benefit from morale bonuses.

Natural Armour: This is a bonus to armour class derrived from a thick hide, scales or other uber-dermal protection. A stone golem has a high natural armour because he’s made of stone. Natural armour bonuses stack with armour bonuses.

Racial: These bonuses derrive from your race or heritage. For example, some elves have a +2 racial bonus on Perception checks.

Size: All creatures that are not classed as Small or Medium have size modifiers that apply to certain attack rolls, reflex defence and hit points. Size modifiers do not stack with one another. If a creature changes size, then the size modifier for the next size category applies.


All these rules, and I still haven’t told you how your character gets from A to B. Friday’s update is Movement in Combat.

HD&D: Attacks and Defences

[Index to the Combat Section]

So you know how to determine the order of you turn in the combat round, you know how many actions you can take on your turn… but neither of those things tell you how combat actually works. In this section, we summarise the statistics that determine success in combat, and detail how to use them.

An attack is defined as any offensive action that directly targets an opponent. So casting a spell can be an Attack in just the same way swinging a sword is one. All attacks in the HD&D game follow the same basic process. Talents and feats may alter these rules according to their own descriptions. This is the process in brief:

  1. Your character has numerous attack options open to him. He may cast a spell, swing a sword, throw a dagger or shoot an arrow from a bow. All of these are attacks, and selecting which attack you’re going to use is the first step in any combat. All attacks fall into one of four categories: Mêlée, Close, Ranged or Far so be sure you understand how these attack types work.
  2. Select the target for your attack. Normally you attack one target at a range indicated by the weapon you’re using. However, your feats, talents and spells can completely alter this basic assumption. You normally need to make sure you can see or otherwise target your enemies in order to attack them.
  3. If you are attacking, then you have to make an attack roll. This is a skill check with your appropriate skill. This may be a Weapon Group skill if you’re using a weapon, Spellcraft if you’re casting spell or other skills at the GM’s option.
  4. All attacks target one of your foe’s Defences: either Reflex, Fortitude or Will. If your attack roll is equal to or greater than the foe’s defence then you have hit the target. If not, you have missed.
  5. If you hit you deal damage to the target’s hit points… normally. Some attacks don’t deal damage. Instead they have other nasty or deliterious effects. Sometimes the target has protection against the damage, such as thick armour or energy resistance. All of this is covered below.

Attack Types

Regardless of whether the origin of an attack is mundane (a sword stroke), magical (a spell) or supernatural (a dragon’s breath) all attack types fall into one of four categories. These categories impose consistant rules and conditions on the attack.

Mêlée Attack

A mêlée attack usually uses a weapon and targets one enemy within your mêlée reach. However, it can equally apply to a monk’s round-house kick, a monster’s vicious claws or a spell that can only be discharged by touching an opponent.

Unless otherwise stated, your mêlée reach is about five feet. Certain weapons and long-armed monsters may have a greater Reach than five feet. This allows them to use mêlée attacks at greater range, and to inflict Opportunity Attacks (q.v.) at more distant foes. But it may prevent them from attacking with the weapon within that range.

For example, many polearms have a reach of 10 feet. They can be used to attack opponents at a range of 6-10 feet normally, but they are unable to strike foes standing 1-5 feet from your character.

Some talents (e.g. Double Attack) allow you to make more than one attack as a standard action. You can attack multiple opponents, or attack the same opponent mulitple times. In these cases you must roll each attack on each opponent separately. If your talent tells you to make one attack and apply the result to all targets in a certain area, then you’e not making a Mêlée attack, you’re making a Close or Far attack.

Close Attack

A Close Attack targets an area of effect that originates directly from you. Swinging your axe in an arc so that it hits all the enemies around you in one blow, or shooting a burst of fire from your hands to engulf the foes standing in front of you, are both Close attacks.

If you’re making a Close attack you only make one attack roll, and compare it to the relevant Defence of all your targets. Equally, you only make one damage roll and all targets take the same damage. Many close attacks (particularly spells) may still deal some damage even if you miss.

Close attacks can hit foes you cannot see without imposing a penalty to the attack roll, because you are targeting an area rather than an individual. A close attack does not turn corners or affect foes with total cover (q.v.). If you cast a spell with a 20 ft blast radius in a stone corridor that is only 10 feet wide, then spell still won’t affect anything further than 20 ft away. It doesn’t contort into a different shape to fill the same volume.

Close attacks are further categorised as either Bursts or Blasts.

Close Bursts: These are effects that are centred on you, and affect an area in a specified radius around you. For example, a “Close Burst 10 ft radius” affects everything in a ten foot radius from where you are standing. Bursts don’t necessarily attack all targets in the area of effect. They might still affect only one target, but you can choose which target within the area of effect falls victim to your power. The talent Whirlwind Attack is an example of a Close Burst.

Close Blasts: These are attacks that originates from you, and affect a designated area of a certain shape in a direction you indicate. The most common shape for a Close Blast is either a Line or a Cone.

A Close Blast (Line) affects all targets in a straight line in the direction you indicate. The range of the line is expressed in feet. A Lightning Bolt is a Close Blast (Line). An electrical arc leaps form your fingers and zaps all enemies standing along its path, out to a range of 120 feet.

A Close Blast (Cone) affects all targets in a 90° arc in the direction you indicate. The extreme range of the cone is expressed in feet. The GM determines which enemies are caught in your cone. Normally you can catch up to 2-3 foes who are engaging you directly in mêlée combat, but wily opponents may space themselves to avoid just such an attack. The cone will also catch other enemies in an ever-widening arc. Cone of Cold is an example of a Close Blast (Cone). You gesture and unleash an arc of frozen death out to a range of 60 feet.

Ranged Attack

A ranged attack is a strike against a distant foe. These attacks function in a similar manner to Mêlée Attacks, except that rather than targeting a foe within your mêlée reach, you target a foe at a prescribed distance from you. This distance may be listed in the description of the spell, or is dependent on the maximum range of the weapon you are using. Hitting extremely distant targets with a ranged weapon may result in a penalty to hit (see below).

Ranged attacks are usually a single attack against a single foe. Some talents and spells allow you to make Ranged attacks against multiple targets, or multiple ranged attacks on the same target. In these cases, each attack is rolled separately. Ranged attacks always target individuals, or multiple individuals. They do not target an area.

If you use a ranged attack while you are engaged in mêlée combat, then you provoke an opportunity attack from all the foes currently engaging you in mêlée combat. There’s more on Opportunity Attacks (q.v.) below.

Range Increments: All projectile and thrown weapons have a range increment listed in their description. Projectile weapons (like crossbows) can hit a target up to ten range increments away. Thrown weapons (such as axes or hammers) can hit a target up to five range incremements away. For each range incremement beyond the first that your attack must travel, you take a cumulative -2 to the attack roll. It’s more difficult to hit distant targets, after all.

For example: a longbow has a range increment of 100 ft. That means you can try to hit any target standing between 0-100 ft without taking a penalty to hit. For each 100 ft beyond the first, you take a -2 penalty to the attack roll. So an archer using his longbow to attack a foe 850 feet away would take a -14 penalty to the attack roll. The maximum range of a longbow is ten range increments, or 1000 feet. 

Far Attack

A Far attack is the ranged equivalent of Close attack. Far attacks target a particular area of effect, but the origin point of that area can be some distance from you. The shape of a Far attack’s area of effect sets the parameters of the power. There are a variety of Far Attacks although bursts, cylinders and walls are the most common.

If you use a far attack while you are engaged in mêlée combat, then you provoke an opportunity attack from all the foes currently engaging you in mêlée combat. There’s more on Opportunity Attacks (q.v.) below.

Far Burst: This attack functions as a Close Burst, except the area of effect originates at some distance from you, instead of where you are standing. The description of all such attacks presents you with a range in feet, over which you can target the effect. A far burst affects an area within a certain radius of the origin point, also specified in feet. If cast on the ground this takes for form of a hemisphere, but if you cast it in the air (or underwater, or any other terrain where you are able to move in three dimensions) the burst will take the form of a sphere.

The Fireball spell is the quintessential example of a Far burst. Its Area of Effect is described as “Far burst 20 ft radius, within 400 ft + 40 ft / level”. So a tenth level caster can select any point from where he is standing out to a distance of 800 feet as the origin point for the fireball. The spell explodes and engulfs all creatures within 20 ft of that point in fiery doom.

If you make a Far Burst attack, then you only make one attack roll and compare the result to the Defences of everyone in the area of effect. Equally, you only make one damage roll, and everyone caught in the area takes the same damage. Like Close Bursts, far bursts can hit foes you cannot see, but will not affect targets with total cover. They can’t turn corners.

Far Cylinder: A far cylinder is very similar to a far burst, except the area of effect has a different shape. A cylinder affects everything in a certain radius of the origin point, but only in two dimensions: it is a circle and not a sphere. This area of effect then explodes upwards and downwards for a specified distance forming a gigantic cylindrical column. If the origin point is on the ground then the downward thrust of the cylinder may damage the ground it is standing on at the GM’s discretion.

The cleric spell flame strike is a good example of a Far Cylinder. It is a column of holy fire than scorches enemies of the faith. Its area of effect is described as “Far cylinder 10 ft radius (40 ft high) within 100 ft + 10 ft / level”. So a tenth level caster can cause a flame strike to appear at any point within 200 feet of where he is standing. The spell affects anyone standing in a 10 foot radius circle of that point, and also explodes upwards for 40 feet, and downwards for 40 feet (if it can). If cast on solid rock it’s not likely to make much of an impression. Rock has 15 hit points per inch of thickness, and fire does only half damage to such material. The best the cleric could hope for would be a shallow crater.

If you make a Far cylinder attack, then you only make one attack roll and compare the result to the Defences of everyone in the area of effect. Equally, you only make one damage roll, and everyone caught in the area takes the same damage. Like Close Bursts, far cylinders can hit foes you cannot see, but will not affect targets with total cover.

Far Wall: This allows you to create a special area of effect that originates at any point within range of the spell. You create a wall of a specified length, height and thickness. The material the wall is made from depends on the spell (examples include fire, ice, iron and wind).

The wall extends in one direct from the origin point for the specified distance. Some walls can be formed into rings, completely surrounding a certain area (whether to keep something in or keep something out is up to you!). Other walls can even form solid hemispheres utterly encapsulating a given area.

The spell Wall of Fire is a good example of a Far wall. It’s area of effect is described as: “Far wall 20 ft high and either 20 ft long/level or a ring with a radius of 5 ft / 2 levels; cast within 100 ft + 10 ft/level”. So a tenth level caster can cause a wall of fire to spring up at any point within 200 feet of where he is standing. The wall can take the form of either a continuous sheet of flame that is 20 feet high and 200 feet long, or as a ring of fire that is 20 ft high, and with a radius of 25 feet.

If you want to try and trap foes inside a far wall, or place a wall so that foes are damaged by its elemental effects, then you make one attack roll and compare the result to the Defences of everyone in the area of effect. You also only make one damage roll. If you’re not trying to trap or damage foes, then conjuring a far wall doesn’t usually require an attack roll. It simply appears at the point you designate.

Choosing Targets

Understanding the difference between Mêlée, Close, ranged and Far attacks allows you to make an informed choice when you decide which particular can of whupass you’re going to open on your enemy. You may be the world’s greatest archer, but if you’re backed into a corner by a gang of yodelling ettins then you may not want to risk the opportunity attack from each of them that you’ll provoke by using your patented off-the-wall boomerang shot.

A wider issue is not what you want to do, but what you can do. Circumstances may well limit your choice of targets. In this section we look at Line of Sight and Line of Effect. Mostly you need to be able to see you foes to attack them, and if you can see them, then you need a clear path from where you’re standing to where they’re standing.

Line of Sight

If you can see a target then you have line of sight to that target. Any number of things can obscure your line of sight to a target. He might be hiding behind a tree, or standing at the centre of a magically conjured fog bank; he might be invisible, you might be blind or it might simply be too dark to see your target.

In game terms you have line of sight to target who has cover, superior cover or concealment. You do not have line to sight to targets with with total concealment. Targets with total cover are probably outside your line of sight, although they could feasibly be hiding behind a transparent barrier such as a Wall of Force.

If you are using a Close or Far attack (i.e. an attack that targets an area, not individuals) then if doesn’t matter if you can’t see the target. You attack normally and carpet-bomb the area. As you can’t see your foe, there is a possibility that he has had the chance to move out of the way of your area of effect, but the GM will adjudicate this impartially should the need arise.

If you a using a Mêlée or Ranged attack (i.e. an attack that targets separate individuals and not an area) then you can still take you best guess and attack anyway. This works as follows:

There are two steps to attacking a foe you cannot see with a Mêlée or Ranged attack. Firstly, you have to use your senses to pinpoint the general area where he might be standing, and secondly you have to make an attack roll.

You make a Perception check against a DC equal to the target’s Stealth check. The target may have made this stealth check several rounds ago (see the text of the Stealth skill for more information on this). The target gets +10 to his skill check because you can’t see him. Remember that the DC of your Perception check increases by +1 for every ten feet you are from the target, so ranged attackers are less likely to succeed than those in mêlée combat. If you succeed in the Perception check then you can make an attack against the foe. If you fail the Perception check, you have no idea where the foe is, so you cannot attempt an informed attack roll. Kind GMs may still alow you to flail wildly and trust to luck.

Even if the Perception check is successful you haven’t pinpointed your target, you still only know the general area where they are standing. The target still has total concealment (q.v.) from you, so your attack roll is made at a -5 penalty to hit.

Line of Effect

A line of effect is a straight, unblocked path between you and your target. A line of effect is blocked by a physical barrier between you and your intended victim. As a rule, if your target has Total Cover (q.v.), then there is no line of effect between you and the target, and therefore you cannot attack the target, or have an area effect originate from that point. Cover, Superior Cover, Concealment and Total Concealment are no barrier to Line of Effect.

You almost always have line of effect to opponents within your mêlée reach, so these rules most often apply to Close, Ranged or Far attacks. If you do not have line effect to your target then you cannot make a Ranged attack against them, or target them as the origin point of a Far attack. You cannot cast a fireball spell on the other side of a stone wall because you have no line of effect to the other side of the wall. If there is a door in the wall and the door is closed you still don’t have line of effect. If someone opens the door, then you do have line of effect. Boom.

Do not confuse line of effect and line of sight. Line of effect isn’t affected by intangible barriers such as fog or darkness. Such barriers may (feasibly) make the target more difficult to hit, but they don’t stop your weapon or arrow or spell from passing through them.

Line of Effect stops you from designating a particular spot as the origin point for a burst, blast, cylinder or wall affect. It doesn’t stop the area of effect of such an attack from washing over or even destroying the barrier than stopped your line of effect in the first place.

For example: you’re in a geisha house and you’re trying to attack an evil warlock. He’s standing on the other side of a wall made of paper. You can see his evil moustachioed silhouette. The wall of paper blocks your line of effect. You can’t cast fireball on the other side of that wall. But you can cast it against the wall on your side. The fireball goes off, destroys the paper wall in seconds and still catches the warlock in its area of effect.

Using the same example, there are evidently occassions where a ranged weapon can also punch through a barrier that is obstructing your line of effect. You can just as easily shoot a warlock through a paper wall with your crossbow as you can with your fireball. In these cases, the GM will make the ultimate call as to what attacks can and cannot circumvent the barrier blocking line of effect. See the rules on destroying cover (q.v.) for more guidance.

Attack Roll

To determine whether your attack is successful or not, you have to make an attack roll. As previously stated, an attack roll is simply a check with the skill you are using to make the attack. If it’s a weapon you use your Weapon Group skill, if you’re casting a spell you use the appropriate Spellcraft skill.

When making an attack roll you need to roll has high as possible. The result of your roll is compared to your opponents Defence: either Fortitude, Reflex or Will. If the result of your attack roll is equal to or greater than the defence you hit, if not then you miss.

Size and Attack Rolls: Remember that you character’s Size may influence some attack rolls you make. If you’re a Small or Medium character (and most player characters are) then this is a complication you don’t need to worry about. But if you’re Large or larger (or Tiny or smaller) then special size modifiers are applied to your attack rolls in certain situations.

The modifiers are: Miniscule (+6), Diminuitive (+4), Tiny (+2), Large (-2), Huge (-4), Gargantuan (-6) and Colossal (-8). These size modifiers apply to attack rolls in the following situations:

  • Mêlée combat using weapons, natural weapons or unarmed attacks.
  • Missile combat using thrown weapons such as axes, hammers and javelins.

The bonus (or penalty) doesn’t apply to projectile weapons such as bows and crossbows, to Spellcraft checks to cast ranged spells, or to supernatural abilties such as a dragon’s breath weapon. There is much more informaiton on Size in the section on Races and Monsters.

Automatic misses and hits: A natural 1 on an attack roll is always a miss. A natural 20 is always a hit, and it is also a critical hit (q.v). These rules only apply to attack rolls. They don’t apply to skill checks you make at other times.

Defences and Saving Throws

So you can dish out the damage, but can you take it? Any time you are attacked your character’s defences and saving throws spring into action to defeat, mitigate or absorb some of the pain that is coming you way.

Combat in HD&D establishes a relationship between the attacker or instigator of an action, and the target or victim. As a rule it is the instigator that rolls the skill check or the attack roll, against a static DC set by the GM or determined by the defences of his adversaries. So when you make an attack, you are the one who rolls an attack against your foe’s defence. Sometimes, however, attacks are themselves passive. In these cases the instigator is actually the defender, who rolls a Saving Throw to end an ongoing effect.

Defences and Saving Throws work together in HD&D to keep the combat fluid and dynamic and, most importantly, to keep the fate of characters in the hands of their players. The GM shouldn’t roll dice to kill player characters, the players should roll dice to try and stop him.

Defences: All defences have a base of 10 + half your level (rounded up) + your related ability score modifier (see below). Each defence is then modified by your racial modifiers, the decisions you made in character generation and a host of spells, feats, talents and items that can add to your defence score. Your Size may also affect your Reflex Defence. You never roll your defence, it is a static DC against which enemies can take shots.

Saving Throws: Your saving throw modifier is the same value of your defence -10. You make a saving throw by rolling 1d20 and adding this modifier. So if you have a Fortitude Defence of 25, then your Fortitude Saving Throw is rolled on 1d20+15. Normally all bonuses that apply to defences also apply to saving throws, but there are sometimes exceptions. As with Attack rolls, a natural 1 rolled on a Saving Throw is an automatic failure, and a natural 20 is an automatic success.

There are three Defences in HD&D, each with its corresponding Saving Throw. The higher the defence the better, but remember that it doesn’t matter how good you are, there are always enemies out there who are better. So don’t get cocky!

Fortitude (Con)

This measures your ability to stand up to physical punishment and attacks against your vitality and health. Fortitude represents your inherent toughness, mass, strength and resilience. It is the defence you use to fight off diseases and poisons. A high Fortitude Defence helps you avoid being pushed, tripped or grappled.

Attacks against Fortitude might take the form of the poisonous bite of an iron cobra, or a repulsion spell that sends you hurtling over a cliff to your doom. Fortitude saving throws are most often made to fight off disease or other ongoing afflictions. The better your saving throw, the quicker you can return to full health.

Reflex (Dex)

This measures how hard it is for your enemies to land a significant blow upon you. A high reflex defence lets you deflect or dodge attacks that would otherwise have hit you. If you’re proficient in its use, a shield increases your Reflex defence and makes it harder for your enemies to attack you.

Most attacks with weapons and spells are targeted against your Reflex Defence. Someone is trying to hit you, and you are doing your best to get out of the way. Reflex saving throws are often made to avoid known dangers. If you want to move down a corridor avoiding the huge axe that is swinging backwards and forwards on a long pendulum then you would make a reflex saving throw to do it.

Size and the Reflex Defence: Just as your Size can affect your attack roll, it can also affect your Reflex defence. Bigger creatures are just easier to hit. Full rules for Size are presented in the section on Races and Monsters, but in brief the modifiers are as follows:

Miniscule (+6), Diminuitive (+4), Tiny (+2), Large (-2), Huge (-4), Gargantuan (-6) and Colossal (-8). Characters of Small or Medium don’t need to worry about these size modifiers.

Will (Wis)

This measures your resolve, self-discipline and general strength of mind. A good Will defence lets you resist effects that would otherwise daze, disorientate or distract you. You are not easily fooled by other’s lies, and you also show a remarkable resistance to mind control.

When one thinks of attacks that target the Will defence, one automatically thinks of spells such as charm person, dominate or confusion. But a high Will can equally defend against mundane threats. You can use Will to avoid being Intimidated, or having your opinion changed by honeyed words. Will is the defence that protects you from fear in all its guises and descriptions. If a Will effect has penetrated your defences, you are often allowed a Will saving throw to try and shake off the compulsion after a certain amount of time has passed.

Attack Results

You have made your attack roll and penetrated your foe’s defences. Now you want to know what has happens to your enemy. Most attacks deal hit point damage, but things are seldom as simple as that. Some foes are inherently resistant to certain attacks, others are wearing thick armour; some are inherently resistant and wearing thick armour. Here’s the low down on some of the things you need to think of when applying the results of your attack.


If your attack succeeds, you normally deal damage. All weapons and spells have a damage die (or dice). Roll this and apply whatever additional modifiers you gain from your ability scores, feats or talents. That’s your damage score. Subtract that from you opponent’s hit points.

Usually, you add your Strength modifier to the damage you inflict with mêlée weapon. If you are wielding a two-handed weapon, or versatle weapon with two hands, then you inflict +1 damage in addition to your Strength modifier. Characters with the Two-Handed Master talent inflict much more.

The strength modifier is also added to the damage inflicted by thrown weapons, but may not apply to projectile weapons such as bows and crossbows. Always check the description of the weapon you are using (in the Equipment section) before using it. Don’t just assume that all weapons work the same way, because they don’t!

You seldom add ability score modifiers to the damage inflicted by spells. Such damage tends to be dependent upon your character’s level, rather than your character’s ability scores. Check individual spell descriptions for details of how much of punch the spell packs.

Ability Damage: Some damaging attacks don’t reduce a character’s hit points, instead they reduce a character’s ability scores. These attacks are particularly nasty, so of course the GM likes to use them as frequently as possible. Refer to the section on Wounds and Healing (q.v.) at the end of this chapter for details on inflicting (and suffering) Ability Damage.

Special Qualities: Make sure you understand the special qualities of your weapon or your spell. Details of these are found in the equipment section or the spells section. Your attack my bypass your enemy’s armour class, be stopped by his resistances, or play to his vulnerabilities. It’s the player’s job to remember these qualities so make sure you write them on your character sheet. If your weapon inflicts acid damage rather than regular damage, make sure the GM knows!

Armour Class

Anyone with a lick of sense doesn’t enter combat wearing a posing pouch and a big smile. Armour can help protect all characters against damage. The degree of protection offered by armour is called Armour Class, or AC.

Many monsters, and some player characters, are lucky enough to have a little thing called Natural Armour. This means their skin is so thick that it resists damage as if they were wearing armour. As you can imagine, this very handy. What is even handier, is that the AC bonus you get from natural armour, and the AC bonus you get from manufactured armour (such as splint mail) stacks. It’s probably best to stay away from a great wyrm red dragon dressed in full plate.

For those not in posession of natural armour their only recourse is to go and get a trusty suit of armour from their local outfitters. Different types of armour are described in the section on equipment. They range from simple leather armour (AC 1) to shiny honking plate armour (AC 8). So how does AC work?

Regardless of its source, Armour Class acts as a buffer zone. Whenever your character takes damage, the damage is reduced by your Armour Class value. For example, chainmail gives you AC 5. That means any damage you receive from an attack is reduced by 5 points before it is subtracted from your hit point total.

This degree of protection applies separately to all attacks. So if someone wearing chainmail is struck once for 50 points of damage, they will take 45 damage. But if they’re struct five times for 10 damage each time, they’ll only take 25 damage. If this sounds too good to be true, then it is. Armour is a useful tool, but using it effectively is difficult, and it comes with a price.

Armour Check Penalty: All manufactured armours carry an armour check penalty that applies to the following skills: Acrobatics, Athletics, Climb, Disable Device, Escape Artist, Fly, Sleight of Hand, Stealth and Swim. Depending on the armour you choose, this penalty is anywhere from 0 to -7. Natrural armour never imposes an armour check penalty.

Reduced Speed: If you’re wearing armour, you can’t move as fast as unarmoured characters. Manufactured armours can imposed a 5 or 10 ft penalty to your character’s speed. Natural armour slows you down as well, but because its part and parcel of your being, its effects are already accounted for in a race’s Speed score.

Light, Medium and Heavy Armour: All manufactured armour is characterised as light, medium or heavy. Any character in the game can wear light armour with no bother at all. However, if you want to wear anything heavier than that, you need to pick up one of the two Armour Proficiency talents (Medium or Heavy). If you don’t, then the armour check penalty is doubled and also applies to all Weapon skills and Spellcraft checks to attack with spells that have somatic components. As penalties go,that’s crippling.

Protection is not universal: Armour doesn’t stop all attacks. Some weapons are specifically designed to go through certain types of armour. For example, a dirk will go through chain mail as if it isn’t there. Also, armour provides absolutely no protection against energy damage. So if you are attacked by fire, lightning, acid, poison, thunder, cold, necrotic or radiant energy then you might as well just be wearing your underpants. It works against force attacks though, which will probably be cold comfort to your family as they are scooping your cindered remains into a bucket.

Minimum Damage Value: Regardless of what armour you are wearing, all successful attacks do a minimum of 1 point of damage. No suit of armour or natural armour lets you avoid damage completely. Therefore even if you have an AC of 18 (and some monster do!) you are not invulnerable. You can still be killed by attrition – albeit rather slowly.

Armour and Magic: Some magic spells or effects can grant you an Armour Class value. Spells like Mage Armour are very popular with low level wizards. However, unless the text of the spell expressly states otherwise, the armour bonus conferred by these spells does not stack with either Natural Armour or manufactured armour.


Some characters and monsters possess inherent resistances to certain types of attacks and forms of attack. These most commonly manifest themselves as Energy Resistances. For example, a Fire Giant is resistant to fire attacks.

Energy Resistance works in the same way as Armour Class. The resistance is expressed as a figure, and this figure is subtracted from the energy damage before it is applied to the target’s hit points. For example, a Fire Giant has Resist Fire 20. That means all fire attacks do 20 less damage to the giant. Unlike armour class, there is no minimum damage for energy resistances. If the resistance reduces the damage to below 1 point, then the target takes no damage at all.

Sometimes energy resistance is taken to such a degree that it becomes Energy Immunity. The more powerful fire giants simply can’t be damaged by a flame of any intensity. Other creatures such as elementals and dragons enjoy the same degree of protection.

However, do not think that such resistances are only for monsters. Plenty of player character races and classes have access to energy resistance. Gods often provide such protection of their clerics, genasi are closely tied to an element and receive some resistance to its effects, and wizards are able to call upon the Weave to defend them from such forces.

Resistances may apply to a form of attack that is not energy; and they may use different mechanics to the ones presented here (and for Armour Class). Here are some examples:

Regeneration: This is a classic example of a form of resistance. While Armour Class and Energy Resistance stop a creature from taking damage, a monster with Regeneration takes the damage, but heals it almost immediately. Lycanthropes and trolls both have regeneration, and its very difficult to put these foes down and get them to stay down without special types of weapons or attacks. There’s more on Regeneration in the section on Wounds and Healing (q.v.).

Incorporeal: Some creatures have a degree of the intangible about them. Sometimes these are beings that stand between two worlds. Ghosts and Ethereal Marauders, for example, are half in our reality and half in the misty Ethereal Plane that divides Iourn from the Shadowfell. Insubstantial characters take no damage from mundane attacks. Magical and Supernatural attacks (including damaging spells, dragon breath and magic weapons) do only half damage if they hit. Fortunately for player characters insubstantial characters usually have to manifest completely on Iourn to affect the real world in a meaningful way.


Heroes are often overmatched, under-powered and on the brink of total defeat. Often only those who are clever enough to exploit the vulnerabilities of their enemies will live to fight another day.

There are several different types of vulnerabilities. Most common are creatures that have vulnerability to a particular energy type. Creatures with a vulnerability to a certain form of energy take extra damage every time they are exposed to it. It works a little like ‘anti-resistance’ if you will.

For example, most undead are vulnerable to damage from radiant energy. A death knight has “Vulnerable 10 Radiant” in the description of his statistics. That means, whenever he takes any radiant damage, he takes +10 to the value. If he’s hit three times, each attack doing just one point of radiant damage, then the death knight actually takes 33 damage.

Some creatures are vulnerable to certain materials. Lycanthropes are unusually vulnerable to attacks from silver weapons. They take extra damage whenever they are struck with a silver weapon. Lycnathropes can’t regenerate damage from silver weapons either, so their doubly vexed.

Regeneration and energy vulnerability often work hand in hand. Trolls for example have vulnerability to fire and acid damage. They take more damage when exposed to these forms of energy and, like lycanthropes, they can’t regenerate the damage they take from these sources, even though they can regenerate everything else.

Vulnerabilities are usually the province of non-player characters and monsters. However, there may be occassions when player characters pick up a vulnerability – perhaps through a disease, a curse or a spell. Some GMs might even entertain PC trolls and lycanthropes. Of course these GMs are mad. Vulnerabilties are usually acquired through a compulsory extra racial trait during character generation.

It’s possible to have both resistance and vulnerability to the same form of energy. For example, a troll wizard with Vulnerable 10 Fire, might cast a spell to give himself Resist Fire 5. In these cases simply take the net result. The troll in this example would have a net vulnerability to fire of 5.


Conditions are special circumstances that can be opposed on your character by outside force or entity. For example, if someone grabs you then you immediately gain the Grappled condition. If you engage in too much physical activity you might gain the Fatigued condition, and if you push yourself too hard you might become Exhausted.

Having conditions allows HD&D to have a consistant set of rules that apply in all circumstances. If, for example, we have a Blinded condition then at any point in the game that your character cannot see, all you need to do is refer to the effects of the Blinded condition. This degree of uniformity in the rules is essential in creating a seamless and consistant system.

In HD&D there are twenty-nine different conditions that can affect your character. If you are suffering from more than one condition then the effects of each condition is combined. If it cannot be combined, then the most serious effect applies instead.

Blinded: A blinded creature cannot see, cannot flank opponents and grants combat advantage to his adversaries. All opponents of blinded creatures are considered to have total concealment. Blinded creatures take a -5 penalty to their Reflex defence, and to all Strength and Dexterity based skill checks (including all attack rolls). All sight-based Perception checks automatically fail, and Perception checks that rely on a combination of sight and other senses take a -10 penalty. A blinded character must make a DC 10 Acrobatics check to move faster than half speed. Creatures that fail this check fall prone. Those who remain blinded for a long time grow accustomed to these drawbacks and can overcome some of them.

Bloodied: A bloodied character is someone whose hit point total has been reduced to a number from 0 to their bloodied value. A character’s bloodied value is a negative number equal to their Constitution score or one quarter of their total hit points, whichever is the greater. Bloodied characters fall unconscious. They drop whatever they are holding, fall prone and are considered helpless.

Broken: This condition applies only to inanimate objects that have lost half their hit points or more to damage, but have not been reduced to 0 hit points or less. Broken items are less effective at their designated task. Any tool required to use a skill check imposes a -2 circumstance penalty on that check. Broken weapons impose a -2 cirumstance penalty to all attack and damage rolls. Broken armour has its armour class value halved, and its armour check penalty doubled. A broken magical item such as a wand or a staff may begin to behave erratically if broken. Other broken items may impose penalties at the GM’s discretion. Magical spells such as mend and make whole can repair items, although if the item is magical the caster has be a higher level than the item. Mundane items can be mended by anyone with the appropriate Craft skill. The DC to mend an item is the same as the DC to create it. The cost of repairing an item is usually 10% of its value. Use this figure to work out how long the repair takes.

Confused: A confused character is mentally befuddled by a magical spell or effect and cannot act normally. In phase one of each turn that a character remains confused, his actions are determined randomly by rolling percentile dice: 

d100 roll Behaviour
1-10 Attack caster with any means available, or close to the appropriate range.
11-25 Act normally
26-50 Do nothing but babble incoherenetly
51-70 Flee from caster at top speed
71-100 Attack nearest creature (excluding familiar or other bonded companion)

If a confused character cannot carry out the indicated action then they babble incoherently instead. Attackers are not at any special advantage when attacking a confused character. Any confused character who is attacked automatically attacks its attackers on its next turn, as long as it is still confused when its turn comes. A confused character does not make opportunity attacks against any creature that it is not already devoted to attacking (either because of its most recent action or because it has just been attacked).

Cowering: The character is frozen in fear and can take no actions. A cowering creature also takes a -2 morale penalty to all defences and saving throws.

Dazed: A dazed character grants combat advantage to its enemies. Dazed characters can take only one Standard action on their turn. They may not take swift or immediate actions. They may take free actions only at the GM’s discretion, although they can still spend action points. Dazed characters cannot flank opponents.

Dazzled: You are unable to see well because of the over stimulation of the eyes – usually because of a sudden bright light. Many subterranean races do not function well in normal light conditions and are easily dazzled. Mole people often accompany the dazzled conditions with cries of “Eeeee!” and aimless running with their arms held above their heads, but this is not compulsory. Dazzled creatures take a -1 penalty to all attack rolls and sight-based Pereception checks.

Dead: There are many ways to be declared dead. You may have had your hit points reduced to your bloodied value or lower, failed three stabilisation checks, had your constitution ability score reduced to zero or gained negative levels equal to your character level. Some spells and other effects can kill you in an instant without meeting any of those criteria. If you are declared dead, then your spirit has departed your body and you can no longer benefit from regeneration, magical or mundane healing. Dead bodies decay normally unless magically preserved. You can be returned from the dead by certain complex rituals such as raise dead and resurrection. However, these are not easy and there is often a price to pay.

Deafened: A deafended character cannot hear. He takes a -5 penalty on Initiative checks and on all Spellcraft checks to cast spells with a verbal component. All hearing-based Perception checks automatically fail, and Perception checks that rely on a combination of hearing and other senses take a -10 penalty. Those who remain deafened for a long time grow accustomed to these drawbacks and can overcome some of them.

Dying: See Bloodied. The terms are interchangeable.

Encumbered: Encumbered characters are carrying more weight than they can comfortably manage. A character that carries a Medium Load is considered encumbered. The weight of this load is dependent upon the character’s size and strength (see Carrying Capacity). Encumbered characters reduce their Speed by 10 ft per round and cannot run or charge. Slowed is a more extreme form of encumberance.

Exhausted: An exhausted character cannnot run or charge, and moves at only half speed. He also takes a -5 penalty to all defences, saving throws, skill checks and ability checks. After one hour’s complete rest an exhausted character becomes fatigued (q.v.). A fatigued character becomes exhausted after doing something else that causes fatigue.

Fascinated: A fascinated creature is entranced by a supernatural or magical effect. The creature stands or sits quietly, taking no actions other than to pay attention to the fascinating effect, for as long as the effect lasts. It takes a -5 penalty on skill checks made as reactions, such as Perception or Insight checks. Any potential threat, such as a hostile creature approaching, allows the fascinated creature a Will saving throw against the fascinating effect. Any obvious threat, such as someone drawing a weapon, casting a spell, or aiming a ranged weapon at the fascinated creature, automatically breaks the effect. A fascinated creature’s ally may shake his friend free of the spell as a standard action.

Fatigued: A fatigued character can neither run nor charge, and takes a -2 penalty to all defences, saving throws, skill checks and ability checks. Doing anything that would normally cause fatigue, causes the fatigued character to become exhausted (q.v.). After eight hours of complete rest, fatigued characters are no longer fatigued.

Frightened: A frightened character is fearful of a particular object, location or creature. Such a character flees from the source of its fear as best it can – this includes utilising any magical or supernatural powers at its disposal. If unable to flee, then it may choose to stand and fight. Frightened characters also take a -2 morale penalty to all defences, saving throws, skill checks and ability checks. Frightened is a more severe state of fear than Shaken, the effects do not stack. Panicked is a more extreme state of fear than Frightened.

Grappled: A grappled creature is being restrained by another creature, trap or effect. Grappled creatures cannot move, and take a -5 penalty on Spellcraft checks to cast spells with somatic or material components, their Reflex Defence, and all attack rolls (except those made to grapple, or escape from a grapple). In addition, grappled creatures can take no action that requires two arms to perform. Grappled creatures cannot make opportunity attacks.

Helpless: A helpless character is one who is bound, sleeping, paralysed, unconscious or otherwise at the mercy of the attacker. Any attack against a Helpless opponent hits automatically. If a character can potentially take an action to dodge or deflect incoming damage then they are not helpless. A sleeping creature would probably get a Perception check to notice the attack, and therefore not be helpless when the blow is struck. A helpless character can be killed in one blow. Helpless characters are susceptible to a Coup de Grace: a special attack action that is quite likely to be fatal. Fortunately, a coup de grace is too tricky a manoeuvre to deliver on opponents with their wits about them – unless the attacker happens to be an assassin.

Invisible: If you are invisible you cannot be seen by normal vision, low-light vision or darkvision. While invisible you receive a +10 to your Stealth check to avoid notice, and even if you are found enemies can still not pinpoint you. You have Total Concealment from enemy attacks, as well as combat advantage over everyone who cannot see you. Regardless of what you do, you don’t provoke opportunity attacks from enemies that can’t see you.

Nauseated: Nauseated characters are experiencing severe stomach distress. Nauseated characters are unable to attack, cast spells or do anything else that requires attention. The only action such a charatcer can take is a single Move action per turn. Nauseated characters may not use swift or immediate actions, but they may take free actions and spend Action Points. Nauseated is a more extreme form of illness than sickened.

Panicked: A panicked creature must drop anything it holds and flee at stop speed from the source of its fear, as well as any other dangers it encounters, along the most expedient path. A panicked creature will use any items, spells or abilities at its disposal to facilitate its escape. During flight, the panicked creature cannot take other actions. It also takes a -2 morale penalty to all defences, saving throws, skill checks and ability checks. If cornered, a panicked creature cringes in fear and does not attack. Typically, it uses the Active Defence option to protect itself. Panicked is a more extreme state of fear than shaken or frightened.

Paralysed: Paralysed creatures are frozen in place and unable to move or act. Depending on what the creature was doing at the time paralysis set in, the GM may rule that the paralysed creature topples to the ground and is Prone. A winged creature flying in the air cannot flap its wings and falls. A paralysed swimmer cannot swim and may drown. Paralysed creatures are Helpless and cannot move or speak, buy they are not unconscious. Purely mental actions such as telepathy, or the direction of active spells are still possible. A paralysed wizard with the still spell, silent spell and eschew materials feats could still cast spells. A creature flying under the power of the Fly spell could still fly, but wouldn’t be able to do anything else.

Petrified: A petrified character turns to stone and can take no actions. Petrified characters are considered unconscious, and are completely unaware of their surroundings while suffering this condition. Damage to a petrified character has no effect unless the character is returned to flesh while still damaged. Any pieces broken off a petrified character are still missing should the character be restored, although they can be held in position at the appropriate point when the condition ends, and will safely fuse back into place. If the petrified form is smashed into small pieces, or if crucial pieces are missing, then the character cannot be returned to the flesh without instant death. However, a smashed statue could be rebuilt months or years later and the character returned without harm. A character does not age while petrified, and may live out an eternity in his stone prison.

Pinned: A pinned creature cannot move and grants combat advantage to his enemies. He also takes a -5 penalty to his Reflex Defence. Normally, the only physical action a pinned character can make is an attempt to escape the pin: he cannot make attack rolls against his opponent, draw weapons or items or signal to allies. A pinned creature can speak, although the grabber can prevent speech if desired as a free action. A pinned creature cannot cast any spells that require a somatic or material component. Purely mental actions such as some psionic powers, or casting a spell using the Still Spell and Eschew Materials feats are unaffected by being pinned.

Prone: A prone character is lying on the ground. Unconscious characters automatically fall prone, but sometimes characters throw themselves prone on purpose. Prone characters grant combat advantage to anyone attacking them in mêlée combat, but gain a +2 bonus to all defences against enemies who attack from beyond their mêlée reach. Prone characters take a -2 penalty to attack rolls except for those with weapons they can easily use from their position – such as crossbows. If you’re knocked prone when you’re flying you can glide safely down a distance equal to your Speed, but if the drop is longer than that, then you fall.

Shaken: A shaken character is nervous, jumpy or suffering from shock. He takes a -2 morale penalty on all defences, saving throws, skill checks and ability checks. Shaken is a less severe state of fear than Fightened or Panicked.

Slowed: Slowed characters are carrying so much extra weight that they can barely move. A character that tries to carry a Heavy Load is considered slowed. The weight of this load is dependent upon the character’s size and strength (see Carrying Capacity). Slowed characters reduce their Speed to 10 ft per round and cannot run or charge. Slowed is a more extreme condition than Encumbered. The two do not stack. Some spells can impose this condition without the character carrying a medium or heavy load.

Stable: A character who is Bloodied, but has stopped having to make stabilisation checks is considered Stable. Such characters are no longer dying, and will probably recover on their own given sufficient time.

Stunned: A stunned creature cannot take any actions. It drops everything it is holding and grants combat advantage to its enemies.

Surprised: A surprised character cannot take any actions of the duration of the Surprise Round. He also grants combat advantage to all his enemies during the surprise round.

Sickened: A sickened character is one who feels queasy. Such characters take a -2 penalty on all defences, saving throws, skill checks and ability checks. A more extreme form of illness is nauseated.

Unconscious: Unconscious characters fall Prone, cannot take any actions and are Helpless. They may be attacked automatically,, and are susceptible to coup de grace or similar attacks. Bloodied characters are usually unconscious.

Critical Hits

A natural 20 is always a hit, but it might also be a critical hit. If you roll a natural 20 and the result of the attack roll is also enough to strike the defence of the target, then you have scored a critical hit. This is worth repeating. If 20 + Skill Modifier is not enough to hit a foe’s defence, then you cannot score a critical hit with the attack. A natural 20 will still hit, but it won’t be a critical hit.

So what’s so good about critical hits anyway? When you score a critical hit you don’t roll damage. You attack scores the maximum possible damage instead.

For example, a fifth level rogue sneak attacking with his flaming dagger would normally inflict 1d4 (dagger) + 1d6 (fire damage) + 3d6 (sneak attack) + 2 (Strength bonus). If he scores a critical hit, he doesn’t bother to roll the dice, he simply inflicts 30 damage instead.

Some weapons, talents and feats allow you to score a critical hit more frequently. For example, you might score a critical hit on a natural roll of 19-20, or even 18-20. An extended critical range does not change the rule that only a 20 is an automatic hit. If your critical range is 19-20, you can score a critical hit on a natural 19, if 19 + your skill modifier is equal to or greater than your foe’s Defence. But if it isn’t then, a natural 19 is not an automatic hit. Only a natural 20 is an automatic hit.

Critical Misses: In a game with Critical Hits, you would think that it would only be logical to have a system for critical misses. If you roll a natural 1 then something bad happens to you. Right? The problem with critical misses is that they have a disproptionate impact on player characters, who tend to roll more dice than the GM. Characters making multiple attacks are also penalised in this respect. Critical misses are usually only fun if you’re not on the receiving end of them. Should your seasoned battle veteran have a 1 in 20 chance of slicing off his own ears every time he draws his sword? A natural 1 is already an automatic miss. It’s probably best not to be any harsher than that.


For the most part attacks in combat are over and done with in an instant. The stab of a knife, the whoosh of an arrow or the muffled cries of an ally as he is turned inside out by a powerful spell. However, some abilties may last much longer than this. Some may last as long as you concentrate on them, others will persist autonomously for a set amount of time, and some will last forever.

In this section I will take number of examples from the game’s talents and spells and demonstrate how the duration functions for each of them.

Tactical Presence: This is a Warlord Talent that allows the warlord to grant a morale bonus to the attack rolls of allies who can see and hear him. The bonus is +1 at first level and increases by +1 at every five levels after that. Using Tactical Presence is a standard action and the duration of the effect is one round. That means it lasts until phase three of the warlord’s turn in the following round. If he wants, the warlord can use his standard action the next round to use Tactical Presence again. In this case it lasts another round. The warlord can go on maintaining the effect with his standard action indefinitely, until the battle is won or he sees a dire need to use his standard action to do something else.

Melf’s Acid Arrow: This spell allows a wizard to send an arrow of acid hurtling across the battlefield, to stab a foe for 1d4 damage per two levels (maximum 5d4). That damage is an instantaneous effect. However, the arrow goes on to inflict 5 points of acid damage every round until the target makes a successful Reflex Saving Throw to shake the effect off. This is an example of ongoing damage. Every round, during phase one of his turn, the victim takes the ongoing damage; and every round, during phase three of his turn, the victim gets to make a saving throw to stop taking the damage the following round. Obviously the victim can, if he wants to, try something in phase two of his turn to stop the acid damage more quickly. For example, he might jump into a barrel of milk and hope for the best.

Hold Person: Another spell, although this one doesn’t damage opponents. Hold Person paralyses a single victim for one round per level of the caster. So if the spell is cast by a tenth level caster, then the victim is going to be held fast for ten rounds (one minute) before the spell wears off. The caster could wander off and do anything else he liked, and Hold Person would keep running. However, Hold Person is special. It gives the victim additional chances to break free of the effect every round if the victim wants to take them. Once per round starting on the round after the spell was cast, the victim may elect to use a standard action to make a Will Saving Throw to end the effect prematurely.

Wall of Fire: This spell conjures a broiling sheet of flame either as a wall or as a ring around a particular area. In either form the duration is described as “Concentration + 1 round / level”. This means that the spell lasts for as long as you concentrate on it, and then for one round per level after you stop concentrating. In order to concentrate you must use your Move action each round to maintain the spell.

Mage Armour: Once cast upon a target this spell (which gives you a +4 bonus to AC) lasts for 1 round per caster level. So a seventh level caster can make this spell last for seven rounds. There are no strings and no hidden rules. The spell simply persists with no concentation required by the caster.

Unless the description of the spell specifically says otherwise then spells with an autonomous duration can be ended by the caster as a move action. Normally, you would have to be within the maximum range over which you can cast the spell in order to dismiss it. Any spell with a duration of longer than Instantaneous can be brought down with Dispel Magic.


The rules for attacks and defences are only true if all things are equal. But in combat, all things are never equal. On Wednesday we’ll look at combat advantage, cover, concealment and all types of Combat Modifiers.

HD&D: Taking your Turn

[Index to the Combat Section]

Combat is the most mechanically complex part of the hybrid game; it is also potentially the most confusing. Both players and GMs have much to remember. In addition to knowing their character’s abilities as well as their own, they need to properly visualise the scene in order to exploit every potential avenue to success. This vision also has to mesh with the visions of everyone else around the gaming table.

The last thing any player or GM needs is an overly complicated or extended system of turn taking. Your actions in combat (whatever they may be) should be quick to enact and quick to adjudicate. The system introduced here should help to expedite matters.

Your turn is divivded into three phases:

Phase One: This is the beginning of your turn. At this point you take no actions, but you perform a little housekeeping on your character. Even if you are unconscious or dying you still go through phase one of your turn, applying all effects that can apply: 

  • Ongoing Damage: If you are suffering ongoing damage from any source, then you take the damage now. Remembering to inflict the damage is the responsibility of the attacker. So if you keep quiet and the GM forgets that you’re on fire, then you may get away with it. 
  • Regeneration or Fast Healing: If you have either Regeneration or Fasting Healing then you regain hit points at the start of your turn. 
  • Other Effects: Some effects or conditions in the game may start or end at the beginning of your turn. If they do then they do it here in phase one.

Phase Two: This is the meat of your turn where you can take actions and influence the course of the game. Some conditions may limit the number of actions you can take in phase two; indeed some make it impossible to take any actions: 

  • Take Actions: On your turn you can take a standard action and a move action, or two move actions. You may also take any number of free actions the GM deems possible. 
  • Swift Action: If you are able to take a Swift action then you take it here in phase two. 
  • Any order: You can take your standard, move, free and swift actions (if applicable) in any order you like. 
  • Action Pont: At any point during phase two you can spend an action point to get an extra standard action. 
  • Other People’s Actions: Remember what you do may precipitate an action from your enemies or your allies. The chance of provoking one of these immediate actions may affect your character’s tactics. 

Phase Three: This is the end of your turn. It is here that you tidy up your character and make it ready for your turn next round. Even if you are unconscious or bloodied, you must perform all the steps that you are capable of performing. 

  • Check ongoing effects: Any effect that you instigate that last for a number of rounds comes to an end in phase three of your turn. If a wizard casts a Shield spell that lasts five rounds then it ends in phase three of the wizard’s turn five rounds after it was cast. It’s up to the instigator to keep track of these effects, no one else will do it for you. 
  • Saving Throws: Most saving throws are made as reactions to events that happen to you on other people’s turns. However, some saving throws against ongoing effects, or death stabilisation checks are made here in phase three. It is the player’s job to remember to make these saving throws.

In addition to the above you may sometimes find yourself in the position of being able to take actions on other people’s turns. You can normally take Free actions at any point in the round as long as the GM is in agreement, but you may find yourself able to make special attacks designated as Immediate Actions, but don’t forget to remember any ongoing effects your character his handing out to his enemies. Ongoing damage and other effects happens on your enemy’s turns, but it’s your responisbility to remember it!

If you choose to hold your action and act later in the combat round, you are only actually delaying phase two of your turn. Phases one and three happen normally at your original initiative point. See the section on Actions in Combat (q.v.) for more information on delaying your actions.

 Speeding Up Play

 Here are a few pointers on how to best speed up combat play in the Hybrid Game:

 1) Know your character!

All HD&D characters are complex with a myriad of different abilities, modifiers and powers that only apply in special circumstances. It may seem obvious, but you need to know and understand what your character can do. If you are a fighter with the Combat Superiority talent and you keep forgeting to make your opportunity attack at Withdrawing foes, then something is wrong. Maybe you’d rather being playing a wizard, or maybe you just need more time studying what your character is capable of.

2) Keep your character sheet up to date!

Your character sheet is your best friend. It has boxes and space for every die roll you need to make in the game. If you want to know what you should roll, then a quick glance at the character sheet should be all you need. Under no circumstances should you be calculating modifiers for skills or defences on your turn. Everything should be written down on the character sheet for your ease of reference.

3) Keep reference materials close at hand!

No player can remember the details of all the spells that their wizard knows. Even non-spellcasting PCs will have talents or feats that you may need reminding of.  In these cases, then make sure you have the reference for these abilities at hand. This could be a bookmarked copy of the printed rules, shortcuts to your favourite pages of the HD&D site or simply printed pages of relevent information cut and pasted from an electronic version of these rules. Do whatever is easiest for you, but do something.

If you find yourself continually turning into a bear, or summoning the same horde of dire apes, then have the stats for these monsters ready and rolled up in advance. It will save such a lot of time if polymorph-happy summoners have everything prepared in advance.

4) Make notes!

If you’ve cast a spell that inflicts 2d6 damage every round then note down that you’ve done that. It’s the aggressor’s responsibility to remember these things. If you can’t remember then just jot it down on a sheet of scrap paper, that you can then look at when your turn comes around. A scrap of paper is also a good place for noting down spells cast, as well as your current hit point total.

5) Know what you’re going to do before you do it!

You should always pay attention to combat on other people’s turns. In addition to being polite, it keeps your mind ‘in the game’ and doesn’t leave you floundering for what to do when your turn comes around. When it isn’t your turn, you should be planning what you’re going to do when it is your turn. Other people’s turns are the best time for looking up the description of that spell you want to try, or working out your chances to hit an invisible foe. Change your plans if circumstances change, but make the effort to put your plan into practice. It’s always more fun to direct the action than to react to it, don’t you think?

6) Roll all the dice at once!

If you have multiple attacks then all the attacks are likely to use the same skill modifier. Simply roll enough dice for every attack and then declare the result of the lowest die. If that’s good enough to succeed then all the others have succeeded as well and you don’t need to declare them. If it isn’t good enough, then declare the result of the next lowest die and so on. You’d be surprised how much time that saves.

Even if multiple attack rolls represent different attacks with different skill modifiers – e.g. an attack roll vs Reflex to damage a character, and an attack roll vs Fortitude to poison through the wound – still roll both dice at once. Obviously, declare which is which before rolling. If the first attack misses you may not need the second at all, but if you do need it then it is rolled and ready for use.

Additionally, you may choose to roll damage dice at the same time as your attack roll. If you make multiple attacks then colour coordinate: roll a d20 and a damage die of the same colour or design. 


The first three parts of the Combat section have been short and to the point. That’s all behind us now. On Monday we begin to look at the nitty gritty of HD&D’s combat mechanics. Come back then for the post on Attacks and Defences.

HD&D: Action Types

[Index to the Combat Section]

When combat starts your character has a lot of options open to him. Do I cast a spell? Shoot an arrow? Jump on my horse and gallop to safety? Any and all of these options is considered to be an action. However, a combat round only lasts six seconds. Therefore in any given combat round there are a finite number of actions that you can perform. The rules in this section tell you how many actions, and the types of action,  you can attempt.

Not all actions are considered equal. In the hybrid game, actions are divided into six categories: standard actions, move actions, free actions, swift actions, immediate actions and those actions that are not really an action at all. Sound complicated? It’s not really. The number of actions you can take on your turn is as follows:

1 Standard + 1 Move + Free Actions


1 Move + 1 Move + Free Actions

 In addition you may be able take one Swift or one Immediate action during the round depending on circumstance. The different types of actions are summarised below:

Standard Actions: You can perform one standard action on your turn. Standard Actions are “doing” actions. If you want to pro-actively influence combat or other characters then the chances are you have to take a standard action to do it. Making an attack with a weapon, casting a spell, grabbing a foe, drinking a potion or stabilising a dying friend are all standard actions.

Move Actions: You can perform one Move action on your turn. This can be either before or after your Standard action. You always have the option to take a second Move action instead of your Standard action. Therefore you could take two Move actions in a round (but no Standard action) if you desired. A Move action normally lets you move up to a set number of feet equal to your character’s Speed. However, you can sometimes perform other quick actions (e.g. drawing a sword, mounting a horse) as a Move action. You cannot take another action within a Move action. So you can’t move a little bit, take a Standard action, and then move some more.

Free Actions: These are actions that take so little time that you can effective perform as many as you like in the course of one round. The GM has the final say on whether an action is possible or not. Free actions include dropping an item, falling prone or speaking (tossing off pithy one-liners to your foes is always encouraged). Unless explicitly stated, you may take free actions at any time during the round – not just on your own turn.

Swift Action: A swift action is an extra action that you can perform in addition to your Standard Action and Move Action during the round. You can only perform a Swift action in certain special circumstances. For example, the Haste spell lets you make one extra mêlée attack as a swift action each round. The Quickend Spell feat allows you to cast a spell as a swift action as long as you meet the prerequisites. You may only perform one Swift Action per round even if circumstances grant you more than one.

Immediate Action: These are actions triggered by external events. Immediate actions are therefore the only type of meaningful action you can take when it isn’t your turn. For example, a foe you are fighting in mêlée combat turns tail and runs from the fight. You can make an opportunity attack on that foe as an immediate action. Immediate Actions may be further categorised as Reactions (happening after the triggering event), or Interrupts (happening before the triggering event). Some talents, feats and spells are immediate actions, or let you take immediate actions in special circumstances. An immediate action counts as your Swift action for the round. So you can’t take an Immediate action and a Swift action (or two Immediate actions) in the same round.

No Action: Some actions are so insignificant that they aren’t considered actions at all. Sometimes this is because they are part of other actions. For example, the act of drawing an arrow and notching it to your bow is part of the Standard action required to attack a foe with the bow.

Next Time…

Come back on Friday for rules on Taking your Turn.

HD&D: The Combat Sequence

[Index to the Combat Section]

The clang of sword on sword, the hiss of arrows as they shoot  through the air, the bellow of monsters and the girlish scream of paladins plummeting from tall buildings. Hybrid Dungeons and Dragons is a game of heroism, of standing up for the little guy, and seeing the quest through to the end. Not all enemies can be talked into submission. When words fail, there is no recourse but to fall back on violence: to rely on a strong sword-arm (or a thick spell-book) to overcome your enemies.

Combat is the lifeblood of any roleplaying game. No matter how much fun it is to talk up a storm, or roleplay your character to the hilt there is no more decisive and fitting way to end great adventures, or campaigns, than a final no-holds-barred throw down with a compelling villain. However, despite its potential for creating unforgetable moments for players and GMs, there is always the danger that combat degenerates into the sum of its parts – i.e. a bunch of people rolling some dice, adding some numbers and declaring the results.

Combat therefore has to be dynamic. Play has to move quickly from player to player, and all players should feel involved at every moment of the fight. Combat can’t last too long or the players will get bored, but it has to last long enough for the every one to feel their character has contributed in a meaningful way. Even if that contribution is as a millstone around the neck of the party’s effectiveness. It is the GM’s heavy responsibility to keep combat meaningful, swift and, above all, fun.

Combat is chaos. It is a gruelling dance of skill and steel; a flurry of feints, parries and spellcasting. Like previous editions of the game, HD&D organises this hellish pandemonium into a cycle of combat rounds and turns.

Round: In a round, every combatant takes one turn. The order in which turns occur is determined on a character’s initiative. Once all combatants have taken their turn, the round ends and a new round begins. A round represents about six seconds in the campaign world.

Turn: A turn is not a unit of time. It is your character’s ‘go’ during the combat round. On your turn, a number of prescribed events may happen to your character. You also have the opportunity to instigate actions of your own. There’s more on taking your turn, and action types below.

Combat is usually fought between foot-bound opponents going at each other in mêlée combat. Some characters often deliberarely back away from the fray to bring ranged or area attacks to bear against their enemies. The combat rules and the combat round assume this style of combat play. More unusual combats, such as aquatic or aerial battles are covered separately in this chapter.

Combat in HD&D follows this sequence of events:

  1. Determine Surprise: The GM determines which combatants (if any) are surprised. All those characters who are not surprised gain a Surprise Round against their enemies (q.v.).
  2. Establish Positions: HD&D doesn’t use a battle grid, but it’s still important that the GM acquaint the players with their relative positions to each other and their enemies. A verbal description is often sufficient, but if it isn’t then a whiteboard can be a helpful visual aid.
  3. Roll Initiative: Everyone who is not surprised by the battle rolls initiative. This determines the order of the combatant’s turns. Initiative is only rolled once per encounter. 
  4. Take surprise round actions: If there is a surprise round, then these actions take place now. Everyone who is not surprised can take their turns as normal, with the exception that they only take one Standard action on their turn. 
  5. Begin the next round: After all the active combatants have taken their turn, the round ends and the next round begins. If there was a surprise round, then all surprised combatants are no longer surprised; they roll initiative normally and enter combat this round. If there was no surprise round, then combat simply continues. Everyone takes their turns in initiative order. 
  6. Continue the Cycle: Repeat step 5 until one side is defeated or until the danger has passed. Combats don’t necessary end with mass slaughter. Enemies may flee, surrender or fall unconscious from their wounds.


Each combat, all combatants roll an Initiative check to determine at which point in the round they can take their turn. To simplify matters, GM controlled characters may all act on the same initiative point, or groups of characters may act in unison. For example, if the player characters are battling a heinous wizard, five fire giants and their dozen hell-hound minions the GM may only roll initiative three times: once for the wizard, once for the giants and once for the hell hounds. The initiative check is: 

1d20 + Dexterity Modifier

The Initiative check does not increase as you character gains levels. However, sometimes additional modifiers apply to the role. Some spells (such as Haste) and some talents (such as the warlord’s Combat Leader) grant positive modifiers. External circumstances may also affect the initiative count at the GM’s discretion. 

By far the most common initiative modifier is granted by the feat Improved Initative that grants a +4 inherent bonus to initiative checks (rising to +8 at 21st level). 

The character with the highest initiative result goes first in the combat round, followed by the next fastest and so on until the slowest character acts. In the event of a tie, the character with the smaller Size category goes first. If both characters are the same Size category then then the character with the highest Dexterity score goes first. If there is still a tie then roll 1d20 (with no modifiers) to determine the initiative order of the tied combatants. 

Delaying and Readying Actions: Characters can choose to hold their action and act at a later initiative count than they rolled. Sometimes it is advantageous to wait until after your allies have acted, or your foes have moved into range. Some characters may wish to ready an action, so they may act instantly when specific circumstances are met. Both these options are covered in the Actions in Combat section (q.v.). 

Rerolling Initiative: Once you have rolled initiative you are stuck with the result until the GM says otherwise. There is usually no chance to reroll initiative during a combat. However, if a character leaves combat and then rejoins it a few rounds later the GM may allow initiative to be rolled again. 


Some combats begin with a Surprise Round. A surprise round occurs if any of the combatants are unaware of their foe’s presence or hostile intentions. Surprise is usually determined by rolling a skill check against one side’s Passive Perception or Passive Insight scores, depending on the situation. For example: 

Stealth vs Passive Perception


 Bluff vs Passive Insight 

Usually it is the instigator of the conflict that rolls the skill check. So if you’re trying to sneak up on an enemy and plant a knife in his back then you roll your Stealth against the enemy’s Passive Perception. However, if you walk into a ambush then it’s the enemies rolling Stealth against your Passive Perception.

If you are trying to sneak up (or bluff) foes as a group then the member of the group with the lowest skill modifier makes the roll. You are only as stealthy as your clumsiest member. However, the rules for Aiding Another apply, so other party members can attempt to help their inept friend.

On occasion, the GM may allow characters to make opposed skill checks against being surprised, as opposed to using the skills passive values. This slows down play, and makes little statistical difference to the outcome of an encounter. Usually it should be reserved for characters who are deliberately on a high state of alert – a state that cannot persist for more than a couple of minutes.

Surprised Characters: If you are surprised then you may take no actions during the Surprise Round. Additionally, you grant Combat Advantage to your enemies. After the end of the surprise round, you are no longer surprised regardless of your initiative roll. You can then act normally.

Non-surpised Characters: Everyone who is not surprised (including the instigators of the conflict) can act normally, with the exception that they can only take one Standard Action during the surprise round. Normally, characters would take one Standard Action and one Move Action on their turn.

Next Time…

Tune in on Wednesday for rules on HD&D’s Action Types.

HD&D: Combat

The blog has been quiet for a while, but don’t be deceived! Behind the scenes, the HD&D-elves have been working furiously on the new Combat system. It’s been a tricky exercise, and has taken significantly longer than I would have expected, but I’m pleased to say that it is now finished. However, rather than dump all the information on you in one go, I’m going to drip-feed it over the next three weeks. Hopefully, this will both keep your attention and allow me to finish the next post on Equipment.

The Combat section of the hybrid game is divided into nine sections. Starting next week, and for three weeks, the blog will update on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays with the next part of the combat rules. In order to whet your appetite, here’s the Contents of the combat chapter. I’ll add hyperlinks when the pages become live.

Table of Contents

1. The Combat Sequence

1.1 Initiative
1.2 Surprise Round

2. Action Types

3. Taking Your Turn

3.1. Speeding Up Play

4. Attacks and Defences

4.1. Attack Types

4.1.1. Mêlée Attacks
4.1.2. Close Attacks
4.1.3. Ranged Attacks
4.1.4. Far Attacks

4.2. Choosing Targets

4.2.1. Line of Sight
4.2.2. Line of Effect

4.3. Attack Roll
4.4. Defences and Saving Throws

4.4.1 Fortitude
4.4.2 Reflex
4.4.3 Will

4.5. Attack Results

4.5.1. Damage
4.5.2. Armour Class
4.5.3. Resistances
4.5.4. Vulnerabilities
4.5.5. Conditions
4.5.6. Critical Hits

4.6. Durations

5. Combat Modifiers

5.1. Combat Advantage
5.2. Cover
5.3. Concealment
5.4. Flanking
5.5. Situational Modifiers
5.6. Size and Combat
5.7. Types of Modifiers

6. Movement in Combat

6.1. Speed
6.2. Tactical Movement

6.2.1. It’s all relative

6.3. Overland Movement
6.4. Special Movement

6.4.1. Climb
6.4.2. Jump
6.4.3. Fly
6.4.4. Swim
6.4.5. Burrow
6.4.6. Teleportation

6.5. Terrain

7. Actions in Combat

7.1. Action Points
7.2. Active Defence
7.3. Aid Another
7.4. Attack
7.5. Breath Weapon
7.6. Bull Rush
7.7. Called Shot
7.8. Cast a Spell
7.9. Charge
7.10. Constrict
7.11. Counterspell
7.12. Coup de Grace
7.13. Crawl
7.14. Delay
7.15. Disarm
7.16. Draw, Sheathe or Drop

7.16.1. Ready or Loose a Shield

7.17. Drop Prone
7.18. Feint
7.19. Frightful Presence
7.20. Gaze
7.21. Grapple
7.22. Manipulate Item
7.23. Opportunity Attack
7.24. Overrun
7.25. Poison Use
7.26. Pounce
7.27. Rake
7.28. Ready
7.29. Rend
7.30. Run
7.31. Speak
7.32. Stand Up
7.33. Sunder
7.34. Swallow Whole
7.35. Trample
7.36. Trip
7.37. Two Weapon Fighting
7.38. Use Magic Item
7.39. Walk
7.40. Withdraw

8. Atypical Combat

8.1. Seige warfare
8.2. Mounted Combat
8.3. Aerial Combat
8.4. Underwater Combat
8.5. Vehicle Combat

9. Wounds and Healing

9.1. Losing Hit Points
9.2. Dying
9.3. Subdual Damage
9.4. Ability Score Damage
9.5. Healing

9.5.1. Regeneration
9.5.2. Temporary Hit Points

9.6. Afflictions

9.6.1. Curses
9.6.2. Diseases
9.6.3. Poisons
9.6.4. Wounds

Overview of the System

As you can see, this is a pretty comprehensive list. The more observant of you will also notice that it follows the structure laid down in the fourth edition Player’s Handbook. I spent a while comparing the lay out of the information in various editions of D&D before coming to the conclusion that the presentation in 4e was by far the clearest and the most logical. Don’t take this as any endorsement of the content of the fourth edition rules.

If you read the HD&D combat system, and come away wondering why I bothered because it’s just like third edition, then I will have done my job well. My intention is not to stray too far away from the core mechanics of the d20 system. The changes I’ve made are (hopefully) fairly subtle, but should have quite profound affects on the way that we play the game. The HD&D combat system had two main goals:

Excise all Rules for Miniatures

We don’t play with miniatures, I don’t own any miniatures, so there’s no point having any rules that assume the use of miniatures. This means that I have made radical changes to the rules for movement and opportunity attacks. Even versions 3.0 and 3.5 of D&D heavily relied on miniatures to represent combat. It even crept in to the last couple of years of second edition material (I’m looking at you: Combat and Tactics).

In brief, Movement does not provoke opportunity attacks except in very specific circumstances. You can wander through combat without any real fear of provoking casual attacks, unless you do something that distracts you. Casting a ranged spell or using a ranged weapon while engaged in mêlée combat provokes an opportunity attack from all foes currently engaging you in mêlée combat. If you run away from combat without taking the Withdraw action then any one engaged in mêlée combat can take an opportunity attack at you. And generally that’s about it. There may be other, very particular circumstances in which opportunity attacks apply but by and large the number of times you can provoke one has been reduced to two.

Unless you’re a Fighter. He’s the king of opportunity attacks, so he gets to make them when other classes cannot. But we’ll have the full rules for the Fighter up in October, so you’ll be able to see his Combat Superiority talent for yourself at that time.

Making an Opportunity Attack is no longer a free action. It is an Immediate Action. Which means you are limited to only making one in a round. And only then, when you aren’t using your Immediate or Swift action for anything else. This could mean characters might be unwilling or unable to take the opportunity attack at all.

Feats and other abilities from earlier edition that reference movement in squares, opportunity attacks or any of the forced movement rules from fourth edition have either been modified or just discarded from the game. For example, in third edition the Combat Reflexes feat used to let you make additional opportunity attacks in a round equal to your Dex modifier, as long as you directed those attacks at different foes. In HD&D, Combat Reflexes lets you take one additional Swift action per round (an Immediate Action is a type of Swift action).

Speed up Play

The most important consideration of the new rules is to speed up play. In previous posts, I’ve stated that the average combat between characters of the same level should last six rounds. Each successful attack should inflict one third of a character’s maximum hit points and every other attack should be successful. Of course there are exceptions. Some characters have more or less hit points; healing magic or regeneration can skew these results and some players are just profoundly unlucky. And we all know who I’m talking about.

Despite this, six rounds should be the most common length of a combat. However, reducing combat to six rounds is pointless if each round takes an hour to play through. The combat rules are therefore designed to speed up table play. This is what I’ve tried to do with these changes:

Less Actions: Characters take one Standard Action and one Move action on their turn (or two Move actions). There are no minor actions and no full round actions. It’s just a choice between two options. This doesn’t mean your character can do less, but you don’t need to mechanically work out the minutiae of different actions for different action types.

Broader Standard Actions: The Standard action is your “doing” action. You can use it to make an attack, cast a spell and all the other things you would think your character can do. If you can attack multiple times per round, then you do it as one Standard Action, not multiple actions or a Full Round Action or anything as confusing as that.

Iterative Attacks use the same skill modifier: If you make four attacks and your weapon skill is +20 then you make those attacks at +20/+20/+20/+20 and not +20/+15/+10/+5 as you did in third edition. Using the same skill modifier means you can roll all the dice at once. That saves time.

Defences over Saving Throws: Normally in the game, the instigator of an action (often the attacker) rolls a skill check against a static defence. So a poisoned weapon makes an attack against your Fortitude Defence, you don’t make a Fortitude Saving Throw. If you’re sneaking, then you make a Stealth check against your enemy’s Passive Perception, the enemy doesn’t make a Perception check. This is the fourth edition way, and it is a quicker resolution system as it halves the number of dice that need to be rolled. Of course, sometimes the victim is the instigator. If you’re trying to fight off a disease you make a Fortitude saving throw against a disease’s static DC. Opposed Rolls haven’t been completely consigned to history, but they’re not used very often. And they’re used even less frequently in combat.

Critical Hits on a Natural 20: A natural 20 is a critical hit. You don’t roll to confirm a critical any more. As in fourth edition, a critical hit inflicts the maximum possible damage and not a multiple of the damage. Taken together this means you roll many less dice when you score a critical hit.

Beyond the Two Goals

Aside from these two main goals, the HD&D combat system seeks to consolidate the best aspects of second, third and fourth edition. Rules for Called Shots (last seem in second edition) have returned to the game, been combined with the rules for damaging specific body parts (from the third edition DMG) and then folded into the the rules for Wounds (which are based on fourth edition’s disease track, and Pathfinder’s rules for Afflictions). It’s as close as HD&D is going to get to rules for hit locations.

I am hoping that because the system is still built on the robust d20 system, that these changes won’t destroy the game. I could be wrong, of course. Issues still remain. Should a wizard with the Quickened Spell feat and the Combat Reflexes feat be able to cast three spells per round? As the rules stand at the moment they can. Of course, they could in version 3.0 of Dungeons and Dragons as well, and that didn’t seem to cause too much of a problem.

Hopefully, next week’s ensuing discussions should provide a starting point to clear up some of these issues. Be sure to tune in on Monday for the post on The Combat Sequence.