HD&D: Actions in Combat

[Index to the Combat Section]

During combat you can choose from a wide variety of options. This sections lists a goodly number of those options, and tells you what type of action you need to use to attempt each one. The list isn’t exhaustive, and never could be. After all, each character’s options are only limited by the player’s imagination. If you want your character to grab an over-ripe watermelon from a convenient market stall and try to ram it on the head of a local watchman then you can – just don’t expect to look here and find rules for “Attacking with Soft Fruit”. What follows are the most common actions, and they can hopefully serve as a guide for adjudicating what happens when you try something beyond the rules.

You attempt the manouevres in the following section as either a standard action, move action, free action, swift action, immediate reaction or immediate interrupt. The following table helpfully summarises this information:

Combat Manoeuvre Action Type
Action Point Free
Active Defence Standard
Aid Another Standard
Attack Standard
Breath Weapon Standard
Bull Rush Standard
Called Shot Standard
Cast a Spell Standard1
Charge Standard
Constrict Standard4
Counterspell Standard
Coup de Grace Standard
Crawl Move
Delay No Action
Dismiss a Spell Standard
Disarm Standard
Draw or sheathe a weapon Move
Drop an item Free
Drop Prone Free
Escape a grapple or grab Standard2
Feint Standard3
Frightful Presence No Action
Gaze No Action
Grapple Standard4
Manipulate Item Move
Opportunity Attack Immediate Interrupt
Over-run Standard
Poison a weapon Standard
Pounce Standard
Rake Free
Ready Standard5
Ready or loose a shield Move
Redirect a spell Move
Rend Free
Retrieve dropped item Move6
Run Move
Speak Free
Stand Up Move
Sunder Standard
Swallow Whole Standard4
Trample Standard
Trip Standard
Two-Weapon Fighting Standard
Use command word item Free7
Use spell-completion item Standard
Use use-actived item No Action
Walk Move
Withdraw Move
1 Some spells take longer than a standard action to cast.
2 This is a Move action if your have the Slippery Customer feat.
3 This is a Move action if you have the Improved Feint feat.
4 These are Move actions if you have the Improved Grapple feat.
5 Using the readied action becomes an Immediate Reaction.
6 A disarmed weapon may require two Move actions to retrieve.
7 Using a magic item after speaking the command word may still be a standard action.

Action Points

Sometimes you want your character to try just that little bit harder, to dig into their deepest reserves of determination and energy; to push themsleves beyond their normal limits. In HD&D, this type of superhuman resolve is represented by your character’s action points.

At first level all characters have one action point. You gain a second action point at 11th level, and a third action point at 21st level. Regardless of the number of action points you have, you may never spend more than one of them on your turn. Once you spend an action point, it is gone until you take an extended rest.

Spending an action point is a free action that must be taken on phase two of your turn – although it can be taken at any point during phase two. Spending an action point gives you one extra Standard action on your turn.

You can do anything with this extra standard action that you could with a regular standard action: make an attack or attacks, cast a spell or even convert it into a Move action. The action gained from spending an action point is above and beyond all the other actions your have in a round. It is possible to take Swift or Immediate action in the same round you spend an action point.

Certain talents, feats or spells alter what happens when you spend an action point. They may grant you an additional effect as well as a Standard action, or a different effect entirely. Spending Action Points to gain different results can often only be attempted in special circumstances.

Active Defence

As a standard action, you can abandon any pretence of wanting to attack your foes and instead concentrate on defending yourself. When you take the Active Defence action you choose one of your Saving Throws and make a roll. That roll becomes you Defence until the beginning of your turn next round.

For example, Elias is scrambling over the cindered remains of Jotan’s Point when he comes face to face with a red dragon. The monster uses its breath weapon on our hero. Elias decides to use his standard action to do all he can to resist his foe’s attack.

The dragon’s attack targets Elias’s Reflex defence. Elias has a Reflex Defence of 22, and a Reflex Saving Throw of +12. He rolls 1d20 and adds 12 to the result. The die is rolled comes up with a 14. Until the beginning of his next turn, Elias has a Reflex Defence of 26.

Of course, taking an Active Defence is fraught with peril. There is a fair chance that you will roll below 10 in which case your defence is worse than when you started. I guess sometimes you can just try too hard.

Certain feats and skills can improve your chances of rolling higher when you take the Active Defence action.

Aid Another

You use a standard action to aid another character during combat. You can aid an ally’s attack roll against one enemy or grant an ally a bonus against an enemy’s next attack. These are exactly the same rules for aiding an ally’s skill check outside combat, and are reprinted here for you convenience.

Choose a target within your mêlée reach and make a skill check with your chosen Weapon Group skill against a DC of 10. If you succeed, deal no damage, but choose one ally. That ally either gets either +2 circumstance bonus to his next attack roll against the target, or +2 to all his defences against the target’s next attack. The bonus ends if not used by the end of your next turn. You cannot Take 10 on this check.

Multiple characters can combine their Aid Another attempts to impart a bonus of more than +2. Two characters would give a +4 bonus, three characters +6 and so on. This is an exception to the rule that circumstance bonuses do not stack with one another. However, only a limited number of characters can help in a given situation: after all, only so many allies can mob the same enemy. The GM is within his rights to limit the number of companions who can attempt the Aid Another action. Also if a character who tries to help does not manage to roll 10 or higher on his skill check, then he actually imposes a -2 circumstance penalty to his companion’s roll. He is more hindrance than help.


Making an attack against a foe is a standard action. The attack action assumes that you are using a weapon of some kind, or attacking with your natural weapons or unarmed strike. If you are attacking with a magic spell, then see the “Cast a Spell” action.

Mêlée Attack: You can strike any opponent within reach of your weapon. This is usually five feet, and it is at this distance that most mêlée combats are fought. Some weapons, such as polearms, have a reach of ten feet or more and can therefore attack foes further away. However, many reach weapons cannot be used to target foes within their reach.

Unarmed Strike: A monster or beast attacking with its natural weapons (such as its claws or bite), or a trained unarmed combatant (such as monk) attacking with his hands and feet, follow exactly the same rules for mêlée attacks. Other characters – including almost all player characters who are not monks, or do not have the Improved Unarmed Strike feat – are slightly less effective.

Unarmed attacks from these characters are resolved normally, but they only inflict subdual damage as opposed to normal (lethal) damage.

Ranged Attack: With a ranged weapon, you can shoot or throw at any target that is within the weapon’s maximum range and in line of sight. The maximum range for a thrown weapon (like a dagger or a warhammer) is five range increments. For projectile weapons like bows and crossbows, it is ten range increments. Some ranged weapons have different maximum ranges, as specified in their descriptions.

Hitting foes at range is difficult. Each range increment (after the first) imposes a cumulative -2 penalty on your attack roll against the target. For example, a long bow has a range increment of 100 feet and a maximum range of 1000 feet. If you are trying to a hit a foe within 100 feet there is no penalty ot the attack roll. If you are trying to hit a foe standing 1000 feet away then you take a heft -18 penalty to hit.

If you are engaged in mêlée combat, and you make an attack with a ranged weapon against either your current foe or someone else, then you provoke an opportunity attack from everyone who is currently engaged in mêlée combat against you. Making an opportunity attack is an Immediate Interrupt for the attacker. The attacker doesn’t have to make the opportunity attack if he doesn’t want to.

The Attack Roll: You make an attack roll by making a skill check with the appropriate Weapon Group skill. Usually the target of the attack roll is your foe’s Reflex Defence. Additional modifiers may be applied to the attack to take into account special circumstances such as cover, concealment or environmental conditions.

If you are attacking with an improvised weapon (e.g. a broken bottle, chair leg or picture frame) then just tell the GM what you’re attacking with, and what skill you intend to use to do it. He’ll impose a penalty on the attack roll of either -2, -5 of -10 depending on the circumstances.

The Damage Roll: All weapons have a damage die. For example a longsword inflicts a base 1d8 damage on an opponent’s hit points. This damage die is almost always modified by the attacker’s Strength Modifier, although some weapons (e.g. crossbows) work slightly differently. Feats and talents may also add to the damage roll. If the opponent is wearing armour, or has a thick natural hide, then the damage roll must overcome the foe’s Armour Class. Certain weapons and certain feats may help you overcome Armour Class without the need to inflict more damage.

Area of Effect: Most weapon attacks target a single individual either at Mêlée or Range. However, certain talents grant special manouevres, such as Whirlwind Attack. These attacks may function in a similar manner to a spell by targeting all foes within a certain area. The description of individual feats and talents will tell you how a particular ability can be used.

Multiple Attacks: Some feats and talents let you attack more than once on your turn. Taking multiple attacks still counts as one standard action. For example, a 1st level ranger with the Two-Weapon Fighting talent and a weapon in each hand can attack twice as a standard action. The text of each individual talent reveals how the attacks are made, and any special rules that may apply to targets or attack rolls.

Shooting or Throwing into Mêlée: If you shoot or throw a ranged weapon at a target engaged in mêlée then there is a chance that you will hit the wrong target. If the target is fighting your friends in mêlée then this could be quite embarassing.

If the target is engaged in mêlée combat then its opponent(s) grant it cover against ranged attacks (but not mêlée, close or far attacks). The cover granted is normally standard cover (+4 to Reflex Defence). In exceptional circumstances, the GM may rule that the target has superior cover (+8 to Reflex Defence).

Any shot taken at such a target should consult the following table. This is assuming that the target has standard cover, obviously the foe’s Reflex Defence and the chance to hit the wrong target will both be higher if the target has superior cover.

Attack Roll


Foe’s Reflex Defence +4

Hit foe normally

Foe’s Reflex Defence +0 to +3

Potentially hit cover

Less than foe’s Reflex Defence

Miss entirely

If the ranged attack roll gets a “Potentially hit cover” result from the above table, the GM checks to see who got hit instead of the intended target. The GM should roll randomly. In a complex mêlée there may be several other viable targets, some of which may be friends and some of which may be other enemies.

Larger targets are also more likely to be hit than smaller ones. Count a Large creature as equal to two Medium creatures, a Huge creature equal to four medium creatures and so on.

Once the GM has decided which random target has been struck by the ill-shot or ill-thrown weapon, then he should look at the original attack roll. If that attack roll is equal to or greater than the Reflex Defence of the random target (with no bonus from cover), then the weapon strikes that target and inflicts damage. Otherwise it misses normally.

For example, Gellis the Yellow Ranger is trying to get a clear shot at a well-bearded enemy warlock, flanked by two troll body-guards. The enemy is currently in mêlée combat with two of Gellis’s friends: Dai the dwarven cleric, and Bruce the stalwart fighter.

The warlock has a Reflex defence of 20, which means Gellis needs to roll a 24 to hit him (+4 for cover). The die is rolled and the result is 22. This is not enough to hit the warlock, but the shot isn’t poor enough to miss the fight entirely. Gellis has hit someone in the mêlée: but who?

There are four other potential targets: Dai, Bruce and the two trolls. As the trolls are large creatures they each count as two targets (there is twice the chance of hitting them as one of Gellis’s friends). The GM decides to determine who is hit by rolling 1d6. On a 1 the arrow hits Dai, on a 2 it hits Bruce, on a 3 or 4 it hits the first troll, and on a 5-6 it hits the second troll. Because the GM is mean, he makes Gellis’s player roll the die.

The 1d6 is rolled and the result is a 2. Gellis has hit Bruce. However, Bruce is an experienced fighter and is carrying a large shield. His Reflex defence is 23, which is higher than Gellis originally rolled for his attack. The GM rules that the arrow shot at Bruce but was deflected harmlessly by the fighter’s shield. Gellis has avoided skewering his companion his time. He quickly draws another arrow.

The feat Precise Shot allows you to fire into mêlée combat and ignore this penalty to hit. It also eliminates any chance of accidentally hitting the wrong target on a miss. Gellis should probably look to get hold of that next level.

Fighting Defensively: If you are engaged in mêlée combat, then you can attempt to fight defensively. You still make attacks, but your main intent is to avoid being hit. Fighting defensively imposes a -4 penalty on all your attack rolls, but gives you a +2 bonus to your Reflex defence.

Anyone can fight defensively, although characters with the Parry talent are far better at it. Some weapons grant additional bonuses when you fight defensively with them. Alternatively you could abandon all your attacks and use the Active Defence action instead.

Breath Weapon

A breath weapon is a gout of elemental energy that is vomited up by a plethora of unpleasent beasties, but is appropriately regarded as the signature weapon of dragons and dragonkind. If your character does not have a specific racial talent saying that you have a breath weapon, then you don’t have a breath weapon.

Breath weapons are Close Blast attacks, and the damage they inflict is often based on some sort of energy type such as fire, lightning, cold, thunder, radiant, necrotic or poison. The breath usually takes the form of a Line or a Cone depending on the statistics of the breathing creature. The attack roll for the breath weapon is:

Weapon Group (Breath) vs Reflex

As a Close Blast you make one attack roll and apply it to all the targets within range. Some breath weapons don’t deal hit point damage, but have other effects. In these cases the breath weapon may have to hit Reflex and one other defence in order to be effective – either Fortitude or Will depending on the circumstances.

Breath Weapons are usuallly supernatural effects. They don’t use the magical weave, but neither are they mundane.

Bull Rush

A bull rush is an attempt to push your opponent backwards instead of damaging him. You don’t actually have to rush anywhere when you initiate a bull rush. You can be standing toe to toe with your enemy and simply give him a good shove. However, if you can build up momentum from charging your foe, then the Bull Rush is usually more effective.

Bull Rush is an excellent technique if you want to push your enemy off a cliff, into a bubbling pool of lava or under the hooves of a stampeding herd of wildebeest.

You can only bull rush an opponent who is one size category larger than you or smaller. So a hobbit could Bull Rush a human, but not a horse.

Attack Roll: Making a bull rush attempt is a Standard Action. You make a Bull Rush attempt by rolling either an Athletics or Unarmed Strike check. You make one attack roll, and the result must beat your foe’s Reflex and Fortitude defence:

Athletics vs Reflex and Fortitude


Unarmed Strike vs Reflex and Fortitude

Some weapons can be used to make Bull Rush attempts, in which case you would roll on your weapon skill instead of Athletics or Unarmed Strike. In special circumstances you can inflict damage at the same time as making a Bull Rush attempt, but you need to see the text of individual weapons, feats or talents for information about that.

Success: If you hit with a Bull Rush then you push your opponent back 5 feet. For every point that you beat the target’s Fortitude defence, you push your foe back one extra foot. If you beat your foe’s Fortitude DC by 5 or more, then the foe falls prone at the end of the forced movement.

For example, you attack a foe with a Reflex Defence of 18, and a Fortitude Defence of 16. Your attack roll is 26, which is enough to hit both defences. You push your target back 15 feet, and the target falls prone.

Failure: If you fail the Bull Rush attempt, the foe stays where he is. If you have a move action remaining you can attempt to withdraw or move away from your enemy, although you may provoke an opportunity attack for do doing.

Improved Bull Rush: If you have the Improved Bull Rush feat then you roll two attack rolls every time you make a bull rush attempt and take the higher result. The target always falls prone if the bull rush attempt was successful.

Bull Rush when Charging: You can Bull Rush instead of making an attack when you charge a foe. Charing gives you a +2 bonus to your Bull Rush attempt.

Called Shot

Sometimes whittling away an opponent’s hit points with repeated attacks is not enough. Sometimes you need to hit a more precise target. Maybe you want to leave a jagged scar down your enemy’s cheek; maybe you want to slash him in the eyes, or cut his tendons or give him a nasty whack on the funny bone. On those occassions, the Called Shot rules are here to help you.

HD&D has no system of hit locations, and nor should it. While appropriate for some settings, hit locations make characters more fragile. They don’t tend to work well with a game of heroic fantasy. They are also slow down play, and make it more difficult to adjudicate healing. HD&D’s Called Shot rules are more in keeping with the legacy of the Dungeons and Dragons game.

The rules for Called Shots allow a character to strike a specific body part, or target, but only if you specifically aim for one. If you don’t declare you are taking a called shot, then your attack is resolved normally. Taking a Called Shot is not as easy or as straight forward as one might think.

Standard action: When you take a Called Shot you make a single attack roll against one foe as a standard action. Making this one attack is your standard action for the round. You can’t apply the effects of any other manoeuvre, talent or feat that is also a standard action. So a character with the Double Attack talent cannot make two called shots, a character with the Sneak Attack talent cannot apply his sneak attack damage to the damage roll.

Attack Type: The attack you use to make a called shot can be a mêlée, close, ranged or far attack, but it must be an attack that targets only one foe. An attack that covers a wide area, but only affects one target within that area is fine. An attack that covers an area, and targets multiple opponents in that area is not fine. You can make a called shot with a spell but that spell must only abide by this restiction. So you can make a called shot with Melf’s Acid Arrow but not with Lightning Bolt. The GM may rule that some called shots are impossible: you can’t sever your opponent’s ear with a hurled warhammer; you might not be able to break a dragon’s leg regardless of how hard you try.

Additionally, your attack must be one that targets a foe’s Reflex defence, and inflicts hit point damage if successful. The GM may allow other sorts of attacks to work with the called shot rules on a case-by-case basis.

Penalty to Hit: You make an attack roll as normal against your foe, but you take a -5 penalty to hit. If the target you are aiming for is very small, you take a -10 penalty to hit.

Called Shots and Armour Class: Manufactured armour doesn’t normally cover the entire body. There are often chinks in the armour where you can direct your attack. In these cases you are taking the penalty to hit from the called shot, in return to targeting an area that has a lower armour class rating. Even creatures with natural armour may have less well armoured spots. Whether the penalty to attack this spot is -5 or -10 is up to the GM. If you’re attacking a foe in full plate armour and you’re trying to get an arrow through the visor of close-faced helm the penalty would be -10.

Inflict Damage Normally: If you strike with your called shot then you inflict damage normally. Any talents or feats that can apply to a single attack roll, apply normally. You can inflict lethal damage with a weapon that usually only deals subdual damage (q.v.) by making a Called Shot at a -5 penalty to hit.

Additional Effect: A called shot cannot do more damage than a normal attack would. However, it can have an additional effect upon your target. Sometimes the affect is self-explanatory. For example, you might be trying to dislodge an evil broach from the clothing of an possessed child. If you succeed at a Called Shot with a -10 penalty (the GM rules the locet is very small) then you flick the broach to the ground, without harming the child.

Sometimes you might try and injure a particular body part of your foe for maximum effect. You might want to stab your opponent in the eye, for example. Doing this doesn’t inflict any additional hit point damage, and it will never kill a foe outright in one blow, but it might have an extra deliterious effect: stabbing someone in the eye has a chance of blinding them in that eye. However, in these cases, your enemy’s Fortitude defence is taken into account.

Target Fortitude Defence: If you are making a called shot to inflict a specific wound on a target, then you have to make a successful attack roll against your target’s Reflex Defence and its Fortitude Defence.

Weapon Skill vs Reflex and Fortitude

Make one attack roll. If you hit the foe’s reflex defence, but not the fortitude defence then you hit and inflict damage but don’t inflict a wound. If you hit the foe’s fortitude defence but not the reflex defence, then you’ve missed completely and still don’t inflict a wound. Only if you roll is good enough to hit both the foe’s reflex and fortitude defence do you attack and inflict a wound.

Remember that you are imposing a penalty to this roll, and the penalty applies equally to attack against fortitude and the attack against reflex.

Wounds: If you attack is successful the target picks up a Wound. Wounds are described in the section on Afflictions (q.v.). They work in a similar fashion to curses, poisons and disease. Wounds usually heal by themselves, but this can take a long time. Magic can heal wounds, but some wounds require more powerful magic. For example, a broken bone can only be mended by a Cure Serious Wounds spell or greater.

If you strike a part of the body, you can inflict a wound associated with that body part:

Target Penalty Suggested Wound
Arm -5 Broken Arm
Chin -10 Knocked Unconscious
Ear -10 Severed Ear
Elbow -5 Bruised Elbow
Eye -10 Blinded Eye
Foot -5 Broken Foot
Hand -5 Broken Hand
Head -5 Scalped
Heel -10 Severed Tendon
Knee -5 Fractured Kneecap
Leg -5 Broken Leg
Scar -5 Cosmetic Injury

Unless the called shot inflicts a cosmetic injury, special rules apply to wounds gained by way of the Called Shot manoeuvre. If you receive a wound, then you take any penalty associated with the wound’s Initial Effect until the end of the encounter. At this time you make a Fortitude saving throw against a DC set by the GM (usually the Save DC of the wound) for each wound you possess.

If the save succeeds then the wound wasn’t as serious as it first appeared, and its effects fade after a few minutes. If the saving throw fails, then it’s a true wound and you treat it the same way as you would any other wound. Such wounds may take weeks to heal without magical aid. Some might even be permanent. Refer to the section on afflictions (q.v.) for more information.

Cast a Spell

The casting time of spells can vary enormously from a few seconds to hours, or even to days for the complex high-level incantations. A spellcaster must use his discretion when selecting a spell to cast: it should be a spell that he can realistically finish casting before the combat ends.

Fortunately, most spells require one standard action to cast. As with attacks, a spell can be cast either before or after your move action: whichever is most advantageous to the caster. Judicious use of the Move action can keep the often fragile spellcaster out of harm’s way (especially combined with the Attack on the Run feat). Of course, some spellcasters like to throw caution to the wind and plough into mêlée with the party fighters.

Verbal and Somatic Components: Unless the text of the spell explicitly says otherwise, the casting of all spells requires the caster to be able to speak and gesture in an eldritch manner.

A caster who is gagged, within the area of a Silence spell or similarly incommoded cannot cast a spell. A deaf character has a -5 penalty on Spellcraft checks to cast spells. The feat, Silent Spell allows the spellcaster to cast his spells without the need for a verbal component.

Equally, a character who is restrained, tied or pinned (q.v.) cannot cast a spell. Spellcasters involved in a Grapple have a -5 penalty on their Spellcraft checks to cast spells. The feat, Still Spell allows the spellcaster to cast his spells without the need for a somatic component.

Material Components: Some spells also need the use of material components. These components may be consumed in the casting, or they may be a foci that can be used time and again. Rummaging around in a pouch for a component and using it properly during spellcasting is not considered an action. It is instead part of the action of casting the spell.

A wizard who is unable to use somatic components is also unable to employ material components, and so the same restrictions apply. However, not all spells require material components.

For the most part components are measured in terms of their value. A spell might cost 1 sp or 1 gp worth of arcane components. Rather than keeping track of how many owl pellets or blobs of fox faeces a wizard has in his pocket, the player can simply deduct the monetary value of the components during play in the same way a ranger keeps track of his ammunition.

However, some components are extremely costly and rare. Some are unique and have to be specially made. A spellcaster needs to keep track of these special components separately on his character sheet. Fortunately, a spellcaster is likely to have very few spells that require such components in his repetoire. If a spell component has “rare” noted after it in parenthesis, then then player must keep track of his supply of such components separately.

The feat Eschew Materials removes the need for a spellcaster to use any components what are not designated as “rare”. These special components must still be obtained as usual.

Opportunity Attacks: If a spell is designated as a Ranged or Far Attack then there is a chance you will suffer an opportunity attack from casting it.

If you try to cast a ranged or far spell when engaged in mêlée combat, then you provoke an opportunity attack from everyone currently engaged in mêlée combat against you. As making an opportunity attack is an Immediate Interrupt your foes may be unwilling, or unable, to make this attack.

The opportunity attack is not provoked because such spells are inherently more distracting to cast than spells aimed at a closer range; it is provoked because ranged and far spells draw the spellcaster’s attention away from the threat at hand and toward a distant target.

The Attack Roll: Attacking with a spell requires a Spellcraft check. The target DC is one of your foe’s defences: either Reflex, Fortitude or Will depending on the spell in question. As with weapon attacks, other modifiers can apply. Spells cast on allies or yourself do not require attack rolls; indeed, some offensive spells don’t require them either.

The Damage Roll: Spells do not always inflict damage. Often they impose other deliterious conditions on the target. However, if they do impose hit point damage then this is often dependent on the level of the spellcaster. Damage from spells is often (but not always) energy damage, that ignores a target’s armour class.

Area of Effect: The area of effect of spells varies far more widely than weapon attacks. See each individual spell for more details.

Disrupting Spells: A foe that readies his action (q.v.) and attacks at exactly the same time that a spellcaster casts his spell has a chance of disrupting that spell. In this case the foe makes a single attack roll as normal. Compare that attack roll to both the spellcaster’s Reflex defence and his Will defence.

If the roll is good enough to hit both the wizard’s Reflex and Will defence, then the wizard takes damage and the spell is disrupted. If the spellcaster was casting a Recharge spell then it is still expended (it can be regained normally). If it is an at-will spell, then the caster can try to cast it again with his next standard action.

If the attack roll hit Reflex but missed WIll, then the wizard takes damage, but the spell is not disrupted. If the attack misses Reflex and hits Will, or if the attack roll misses both defences then nothing happens.

A spellcaster with the Combat Casting feat gains a +5 bonus to his Will defence for the purpose of resisting attempts to disrupt his spellcasting.

Dismiss a Spell: Once cast, many spells have a set duration and will continue without any futher input from the spellcaster. If a spellcaster wants to try and end one of these spells prematurely he can do so as a standard action. Unless the text explicitly says otherwise, all spells than have an autonomous duration can be dismissed by the original spellcaster.

Direct or Redirect a Spell: Some spells, such as flaming sphere and spiritual weapon, allow you to redirect the effect to new targets or areas after you cast the spell. Redirecting a spell usually requires a move action.

Casting Spells over Multiple Rounds: If the spellcaster attempts to cast a spell with a casting time of more than one standard action then it is going to take that caster more than one round to finish casting the spell. For example, a spell with a casting time of one minute would take ten rounds to cast.

The caster is assumed to be involved in casting the spell continuously from the beginning of his turn in round one until the end of his turn in round ten. He cannot take any other actions except free actions (or actions gained by spending an Action Point) during this time. This also means that any attack that strikes him at any point during this time as a chance of disrupting the spell.

Even if the spellcaster has a Will of adamant, cunning foes should still disrupt the spell by restraining the wizard, stealing his components or erasing any magical glyphs that the wizard has painstakingly drawn.


You throw yourself into the fight, running at your enemy and landing a telling blow against him. Charging a foe is a reckless tactic, but also one that can be quite effective. Although you increase your chance to hit your opponent, you are also easier to hit, and run the risk of being impaled by a prepared opponent.

Charging is a special Standard Action that incorporates both movement and an attack. When you Charge you must move a set distance and then make a single mêlée attack against your enemy. You can make a Bull Rush attempt against your enemy instead of an attack if you like.

When charging, you must move at least 10 feet and no more than twice your Speed in feet. So a human with a Speed of 30 must move a distance of somewhere between 10 ft and 60 ft in order to charge a foe.

Obviously, a charging character has an unused Move action for the round. However, special rules apply here. The standard action to Charge has to be the last thing you do in a round. You can use your Move action to move a set distance, or to draw a weapon or open door, but you must do those things before you Charge. If you haven’t used your Move action by the time you Charge, then you lose the action for the round.

You may still spend an Action Point or use a Swift or Immediate action after a Charge.

Benefits of Charging: Charging characters get +2 to hit, and +2 to damage against their foe. In addition, certain weapons score additional damage if used when charging. Some of these weapons (such as lances) need to used from a mount, but others can be used by foot-bound adventurers.

Disadvantages of Charging: Charging grants Combat Advantage to all your foes until the beginning of your next turn. This may mean that if the Charge attack doesn’t drop your foe, then they could react with a devastating counterattack. Additionally, some weapons can be set to receive a charge, and inflict a lot of damage on the attacker.

Other variables: If you have the Combat Mobility feat then you do not grant Combat Advantage while charging. If you have the Attack on the Run feat then you may take your Move action to move away from your foe after you have made the charge attack.

If you have attacked a Fighter with the Combat Superiority talent then moving away may still provoke an opportunity attack. If you are charging a foe then trying to move past them then you are actually making an Over-run attempt (q.v.).

You don’t necessarily need to move across solid ground to make a Charge attempt. Flying characters with a fly speed, and Swimming characters with a swim speed, can still charge a foe as long as they make the requirements. You can use the Athletics skill to jump as part of a charge attack (this counts as part of the Charge action).


Some creatures, notably snakes and giant squid, have the power to wrap around their foes and squeeze the living daylights out of them. Constriction is a special attack that certain creatures can inflict upon targets they are already grappling (q.v.). If you don’t have special racial trait, talent or feat that says you can constrict then you cannot constrict.

Once you have made a successful attempt to grapple a foe, subsequent successful checks allow you to continue grappling and to perform another action. Options to move, damage or pin your foe are open to everyone. Constrict is simply another option, but it is a potent one.

Constriction simulataneously pins, damages and suffocates your target. Apply these following inconveniences to the victim of a constricting creature:

Pin: The target gains the pinned condition (q.v.)

Damage: The target takes hit point damage as given in the creature’s statistics. The amount of damage inflicted while constricting, is not usually the same as the creature’s normal mêlée attack.

Suffocation: The target is no longer able to breathe. Treat characters in this state as if they were drowning. You can hold your breath for a number of rounds equal to your Constitution score, but only if you do nothing other than take move actions or free actions. If you take a standard action (such as trying to escape a grapple), the remainder of the duration for which you can hold your breath is reduced by 1 round. This means that a character in combat can hold his breath only half as long as normal. After the period of time you can hold your breath has elapsed, you must make a DC 10 Constitution check (or a DC 10 Athletics check if you prefer) every round to continue holding your breath. Each round, the DC for that check increases by 1. If you fail the this check, you automatically drop to zero hit points and have to start making death saving throws.


Sometimes stopping an enemy from casting a spell is more important than casting a spell of your own. Sure, you could rely on the fighter to wade into mêlée combat and disrupt the enemy wizards spell, but who really trusts the party fighter? If he had any sense he’d be a spellcaster, right?

Counterspelling is a way in which a spellcasting character (of any class) can cast a spell that automatically nullifies a spell cast by an enemy spellcaster. Here’s how it works:

Firstly, you have to designate an enemy as the target of the counterspell, and Ready an Action (q.v.). The act of readying an action counts as your standard action for the round. As soon as your opponent casts a spell, you must try to identify what spell he is casting. You do this by make a Spellcraft check. The DC is set under the Spellcraft skill, but is usually 15 + 2 per level of the spell cast. Making this Spellcraft check is a free action.

If you identify the spell being cast, and you know the same spell yourself, then you can can cast the same spell at the exact same instant your enemy does. Both spells automatically neutralise one another, and neither have any effect. You do not need to make a Spellcraft check to counterspell opponents in this manner.

Range of Counterspelling: Normally the range of counterspelling is the range of the spell. However, if you are trying to counter a Mêlée or Close you need to be within ten feet of the enemy wizard to do it.

Exceptions to the Rule: Some spells automatically cancel out one another. For example, casting Slow on a subject under the effect of the Haste spell. If a spell specifically counters (or can be countered) by another, different, spell then the text of the spell description will explicitly say this.

Dispel Magic: The spell dispel magic can always be used in place of any other spell when counterspelling. However, using dispel magic does not guarantee success. You must make a Spellcraft check when using dispel magic. The target DC is your enemy’s Spellcraft skill.

Improved Counterspell: The feat improved counterspell grants you a +5 bonus to Spellcraft checks to identify the spell you enemy is casting, and lets you counterspell with any spell of the same School as opposed to the specific spell in question.

Coup de Grace

There are times when you have the opportunity to attack a foe who is completely defenceless. While it’s not sporting or chivalrous to put the boot in like this, it is damnably effective. A coup de grace can be delivered against any target with the Helpless condition.

Making a coup de grace attack is standard action. Make an attack roll against the target’s Fortitude Defence. If you succeed the victim’s hit points are reduced to her bloodied value and the target dies. If you miss, then the victim instead takes damage equal to a critical hit with the weapon you are using. This includes any extra attack from (e.g.) Sneak Attack. This damage might still prove fatal.

A coup de grace must be delivered with an attack that targets a particular individual. You can’t make a coup de grace with a fireball. The attack must also be targeted from mêlée range, so although you can deliver a coup de grace with a bow or a crossbow, you have to be standing right next to the target in order to do it.

If you cannot see the target (you are blinded, or the target is has total concealment) you must first find the target before delivering a coup de grace. Finding a target in this manner takes at least one standard action, but may take more at the GM’s discretion.


As a Move action you can crawl half your Speed. When crawling you enjoy the same advantages and disadvantages of Prone characters (q.v.). Dropping to the floor to the start crawling is a free action, but standing up from a prone position is another move action.


Sometimes you don’t want to act at the point in the initiative order where the dice say you act. While you cannot act any quicker than your initiative roll, you can choose to delay your action and act later in the round. There are many tactical advantages in doing this. You might want to wait until your friendly paladin heals you before jumping into the fray against the dragon, or you might want to wait until the second the evil wizard casts his spell so your attack has a chance of disrupting it.

Delaying is also referred to as “holding your action”. If you want to delay during the combat round, you have to tell the GM that you’re delaying – and you also have to tell him why. If the GM knows you’re waiting for a specific event then you might be able to use your action in the nick of time to save your companions. In these cases you are Readying an action (q.v.). There’s more on that below.

When you hold you action, you don’t delay your entire turn. You only delay Phase Two of it. Phases one and three of your turn happen normally at your regular initiative roll, but you can put off phase two until your initiative count in the following round.

If you haven’t used phase two of your turn by the time the initiative order reaches your turn in the following round, then you lose any actions associated with it. Your initiative point for this round (for all the phases of your turn) is the same as the initiative that you originally rolled.

For example: Elias has rolled an 18 on his initiative check. It is now the fourth round of combat, and it looks as though he and his allies have won. Brack is polishing off his fourth yuan-ti abomination, and the villain that Elias himself was fighting died last round. Elias can see no-one else to fight, and none of his friends seem to need any help. Elias decides to hold his action and see what happens in the rest of the round.

At initiative point 18, Elias’s turn starts as normal. All actions associated with phase one and phase three of his turn take place as they would if Elias hadn’t delayed his action. So if Elias is taking any ongoing damage (from that Acid Arrow he was shot with two round rounds ago) he takes the damage now. If he has any regeneration or fast healing (from standing close to Syrah’s aura of vitality, perchance), he applies those effects now. Any spells or ongoing effects that end in phase three of his turn also end now. So that handy shield spell Elias has running now evaporates. And if Elias has any saving throws to make (from that yuan-ti poison that is coursing through his veins) he makes that now as well.

Once all that is out of the way (at initiative point 18) Elias begins to hold phase two of his turn. This is the part of his turn that includes his standard and move action. He can hold it for as long as he likes, and can leap back into the initiative order at any point between now and the end of the round.

Once the initiative cycle gets to point 1 the round ends, but Elias is still holding his action. At the beginning of round five he is still holding his action, and he continues to hold it until the initiative order reaches 18. At this point the GM asks Elias if he actually wants to do anything with his held action or not.

If Elias chooses not to do anything with his held action, then he loses all the actions he could have had in phase two of the previous round. Elias has now reached his turn in the current round. He can choose to do something, or he can choose to delay again.

Acting Twice a Round? A character with can choose to delay phase 2 of his turn in round one, and take it in round two as long as he takes it before the initiative point in round two that he rolled. Therefore in round two he could potentially take two move and two standard actions. Is this fair?

Combat in the hybrid game is not a closely regulated dynamic. The rules say that rounds take six seconds, but if you stop to consider how ridiculous that is (we managed to defeat the great wyrm red dragon in just 42 seconds!) then it should be apparent that the six second round is just a convention.

While characters can delay their actions to the following round, and then take more actions, the fact remains that they haven’t taken any actions at all in the round before. The Delay action doesn’t cause a great imbalance in the game.


Perhaps you’re just a flash swashbuckler with a penchant for tormenting your foes before your dispatch them. But even if you’re not, there are still plenty of good reasons why you would want to disarm an opponent instead of (or as well as) killing him.

Using Disarm is akin to making a called shot. Making an attempt to disarm your opponent is a standard action. During this standard action you make one mêlée attack, against your foe’s Reflex Defence. Disarming a bad guy with a weapon is usually more difficult that simply plunging the weapon into his black heart, so you take a -5 penalty on the attack roll. Even if successful, the attack inflicts no damage.

(Weapon Group -5) vs Reflex

you succeed then you have knocked the weapon out of your enemy’s hand. The weapon falls to the ground at your enemy’s feet, and the enemy can stoop to pick it up with their next Move action if they desire. An enemy who tries to pick up a weapon in this way grants combat advantage until the end of his next turn.

Disarm doesn’t have to be used on weapons. It is equally effective against wands, orbs or anything else an opponent could be holding.

You cannot attempt to disarm an opponent of an item of a larger size category than the biggest weapon you can wield. So a human cannot disarm a giant of his ten foot tall greatsword – it’s just too big.

Using Disarm to Grab Items: If your hands are free – you are fighting with the Unarmed Strike skill – then you can attempt to use the disarm manoeuvre to grab unattended items on your foe’s person. The GM should use his discretion in adjudicating what can be grabbed in this manner, but well secured items such as a ring or a bracelet cannot be snatched. The target would have to be restrained in some manner first.

If you have the Martial Arts talent, then you can even try to grab the weapon of the foe you are fighting instead of disarming him. If you succeed in your disarm attempt, then you are holding the foe’s mêlée weapon in your hand. This looks extremely flash, and is good for demoralising opponents.

Using Disarm on Two-handed weapons: It is more difficult to disarm a two-handed weapon than a one-handed weapon. In these cases, you take an additional -5 penalty to the attack roll against the foe (for a total penalty of -10).

Using Disarm on Shields: A shield counts as a two-handed weapon for the purposes of disarming. Disarm attempts take a -10 penalty to the attack roll. However, the disarmer can choose to take the lesser -5 penalty and attempt to knock the shield out of alignment, rather than divest the foe of it completely. If successful, the deflection bonus to Reflex Defence granted by the shield does not apply to the opponent, until the beginning of the opponent’s next turn. During that time another ally or you (via an Action Point) could take advantage of this opening.

Improved Disarm: If you have the Improved Disarm feat, then you make two attack rolls when you make a disarm attempt, and take he higher result. Disarmed items no longer land at your foe’s feet, but at any point within a 15 foot radius of the foe that you choose: even in the hands of your comrade. Enemies moving to retrieve a weapon still grant combat advantage, and now it takes two Move actions to retrieve their item.

How to avoid being disarmed: Having your weapon knocked from your hand in the middle of combat is a potenially fatal inconvenience. There are several ways that canny combatants can get around this; these are the most common two:

A one-handed mêlée weapon can be secured into a specially created locked gauntlet. Weapons secured in this manner grant a -10 penalty to attack rolls that attempt to disarm you. Locking a weapon into the gauntlet is a Move Action, but removing it is a standard action. It is possible to wear two locked gauntlets, and lock a two-handed weapon into them. This would provide a -15 penalty to disarm attempts. However, it would also be pretty silly, as the combatant could nether put down the two-handed weapon, or remove the gauntlets, without help.

The easiest way around being disarmed is to carry a back-up weapon. If you also have the Quick Draw feat, then losing your weapon to a disarm attempt won’t even slow you down. The truly paranoid might want a back-up weapon for their back-up weapon.

Draw, Sheathe or Drop

Drawing a weapon so that you can use it in combat, or putting it away so that you have a free hand, requires a move action. This action also applies to weapon-like objects carried in easy reach, such as wands. If your weapon or weapon-like object is stored in a pack or otherwise out of easy reach, then getting hold of it may take a standard action or longer.

You don’t need to sheathe a weapon: you can simply drop it. Dropping an item is a free action. Of course, if you drop an item someone else can pick it up, and if you try and pick it up then your enemies have combat advantage over you until the end of your next turn (just as if you had been disarmed). If you have the Quick Draw feat them you can draw and sheathe an item as a free action instead of a move action.

Drawing ammunition for use with a ranged weapon (such as arrows, bolts, sling bullets, or shuriken) is not an action. Rather it is part of the standard action of attacking with the weapon.

Ready or Loose a Shield

Strapping a shield to your arm to gain its deflection bonus to Reflex defence is a Move action. Unstrapping or dropping your shield, so you can use your shield hand for another purpose is also a Move action. If you have the Shield Proficiency talent then the act of readying or loosing a shield is a free action instead.

Drop Prone

Flinging yourself to the ground is a free action that you can take on your turn. It doesn’t take much concentration to fall over, after all. Once you’re on the floor you gain the prone condition (q.v.). Prone characters grant combat advantage to all enemies attacking them in mêlée range, but have a +2 bonus to all their defences against attacks from further away.


As a standard action, you can attempt to use the Bluff skill to mislead an opponent that you are currently fighting in mêlée combat. Make a Bluff attempt with a DC equal to your enemy’s Passive Insight score. If you are successful, you gain Combat Advantage against the foe until the end of your next turn.

Bluff vs Passive Insight

You can make a feint attempt multiple times during a single battle or encounter, but never more than once against a particular foe. The Improved Feint feat allows you to make a feint attempt as a Move action instead of a Standard action.

Frightful Presence

Some creatures possess an aura of unmitigated terror that they can use to sow disquiet, dread and abject fear in their foes. Frightful Presence is not the same thing as a successful Intimidate check. With Intimidate you can impose the Shaken condition (q.v.) onto one target. Frightful Presence is altogether more impressive than that, but because it is more impressive then you need to have the right feat or talent to use it. If you don’t have such a power, then you don’t have Frightful Presence.

Using Frightful Presence is a not an action, rather it is part of another dramatically appropriate action. When a creature snarls, charges or attacks, its Frightful Presence automatically kicks in. When this happens, the creature with frightful presence makes the following attack against its enemies:

Intimidate vs. Will

Frightful presence is usually a Close Burst (q.v.) attack that affects all targets within a certain radius of the frightful creature. Anyone in range who is the victim of a successful attack either becomes Shaken (q.v.), Frightened (q.v.) or Panicked (q.v.) depending upon the creature’s potency.

If you are the target of an unsuccessful Frightful Presence attempt, then you are immune to that particular creature’s frightful presence for one day.

Frightful Presence may be a Mundane or a Supernatural effect depending on the creature in question.


Some horrible monsters possess a Gaze attack. These are special attacks that take effect when an opponent looks into the creature’s eyes. Special racial talents are usually required to give your character access to a gaze attack, although some spells may work in a similar fashion.

The effect of catching the eye of a creature with a Gaze attack are legion. Gaze attacks may petrify a victim (as in the case of a gorgon), but they may also charm, immolate or instantly slay. Few, if any, gaze attacks have a beneficially effect on their targets. All should be avoided.

Making a gaze attack is Not an Action, and doesn’t require an attack roll. The creature with the Gaze attack just looks in a certain direction, and all potential targets that it can see are affected. Usually a limit in feet is placed on the efficacy of the attack, so the gaze is only potent out to a certain range. It is treated as a Close Blast (Cone) that is in continuous effect as long as the creature’s eyes are open.

The gaze is a passive attack. No attack roll is required to hit with it, but everyone in the area of effect can still make a saving throw. Saving throws against Gaze attacks are made during Phase One of a character’s turn, so it is possible to become petrified before one has a chance to act. The DC of the gaze attack is set by the gazing creature, and is usually the same as that creatures Will defence.

For example: a medusa has a gaze attack that petrifies its foes. This gaze affects all creatures in the medusa’s line of sight out to a maximum range of thirty feet. Everyone in the area of effect must make a DC 15 Will saving throw or be turned to stone. They must repeat that save every round they remain within range of creature’s gaze.

Avoiding the gaze: Characters may try to move behind the creature so they can’t be seen. This only works if the creature doesn’t know the character is there. It takes nothing for the (e.g.) medusa to spin around and look behind her. However, the medusa can only focus her gaze on one 90° arc each round. So if the party spreads out sufficiently, she will find it more difficult to target everyone at the same time. However, a creature can use a Move action to swivel on the spot and affect everyone withinin 360°. Anyone engaging the medusa is mêlée is automatically considered caught in her gaze, no matter where they’re standing.

Averting your eyes: Characters can try to avert their eyes, so they do not look at the creature in the face. If they do this, the creature gains concealment against their attacks (they are at a -2 penalty to hit), but the character increases its chances of resisting the attack. If you avert your eyes, then you gain a +5 bonus to your Will saving throw against the creature’s gaze attacks. But you still need to make the saving throw every round.

Wearing a blindfold: Some characters go to extremes to avoid gaze attacks. Characters wearing blindfolds are considered to have the Blinded condition (q.v.) and take all requisite penalties from so doing. However, they do not need to make saving throws against gaze attacks at all.

Gaze attacks can affect incorporeal opponents. A creature is immiue to its own gaze attack, and the gaze of others of its kind, unless the description of the creatue explicitly states otherwise. Other allies of a creature with a gaze attack might be affected, although they are all considered to be averting their gaze and therefore get a +5 bonus to their Will saving throws. The creature can also veil its eyes, thus negating this ability.


As a standard action you can attempt to grapple a foe, hindering his combat options. Grappling (or grabbing) is the favoured technique of many monsters, and is offten the prelude to something even nastier – such as constricting (q.v.), raking (q.v.) or swallowing (q.v.) their hapless victim.

A grapple attempt is an attack roll against the target’s Reflex and Fortitude defence. You make one attack roll, and the result must beat both defences. A number of different skills can be used to grapple, and the choice speaks to the technique employed by your character:

Atheltics vs Reflex and Fortitude


Unarmed Strike vs Reflex and Fortitude


Weapon Skill vs Reflex and Fortitude

Ahletics: You fall upon your foe and try to prevent him from moving. Using Athletics in this way is not subtle and it is certainly not pretty. You grab your opponent’s hair, pinch his skin, bite his ear and get a good hold of his clothing.

Unarmed Strike: You use your skills of hand to hand combat to get your opponent into an unbreakable headlock, or half-nelson. Unlike Atheltics, you know exactly what you are doing, and can grab an opponent with a minimum of fuss.

Weapon Skill: Some weapons, such as whips, lassoes and certain hooked polearms, can be used to grapple a foe in addition to any other effect they possess. In these cases you would use your appropriate weapon skill.

The choice of which skill to use is down to personal choice and the strengths of your character. Mechanically, they all work the same way. Someone with +10 in the Athletics skill is as likely to succeed at a grapple attempt as someone with +10 in the Unarmed Strike skill.

In order to grapple successfully you need to have two free hands (or the requisite number of appendages if you’re not humanoid). If you don’t have two hands free then you take a -5 penalty to the grapple check.

If you successfully grapple your target, then both you and the target gain the Grappled condition (q.v.). You must then continue to make a check each round as a standard action to maintain the hold.

Once you are grappling an opponent, a successful check allows you to continue grappling the foe, and also allows you to perform one of the following actions (some creatures have more options). Maintaining the grapple and using one of these actions counts as one standard action.

Move your foe: You can move both yourself and your target up to half your Speed in feet. At the end of the movement you can place your target anywhere within reach. If you attempt to place your foe in a hazardous location – such as inside a wall of fire or over the edge of a cliff – then the target receives an additional and immediate attempt to escape the grapple as a free action.

Damage your foe: You can inflict damage to your target equal to your unarmed damage without the need for a further attack roll. Whether this damage is normal or subdual damage depends on the nature of your natural attacks.

Pin your foe: You can give your foe the Pinned condition, which further incommodes them and makes it impossible for them to take most actions.

Restraining your target: If you have your target pinned, then you can use rope or mannacles to permanently restrain them. In order to do this, you must maintain the pin for one round by making a successful grapple check. If you succeed then you may attempt to restrain the target as part of the same standard action.

When you restrain a target you tie them up with rope, or you can attach mannacles. If you are tying someone up then you must make a Survival, Profession (Sailor) or similar skill to knot the rope. This check gains a +10 bonus because it’s easier to tie someone up, than it is to escape.

Obviously, if the target is unconscious or otherwise helpless, there is no need to make any grapple checks before you can restain the target in this manner.

Multiple grapplers against one target: Allies can gang up to grapple a single target. The rules for Aid Another (q.v.) apply here.

Escaping a Grapple: If you are grappled, then you can attempt to break the Grapple as a Standard action. You do this by making an Athletics, Unarmed Strike or Escape Artist check against the grabber’s Fortitude Defence. If you are pinned then you must make succeed in one check to break the Pin, and another check to break the Grapple. However, you can keep trying unless you are further restrained.

If you are restained with mannacles or rope, then it is still not quite the end of the story. A character can try to wriggle out of restraints by making an Escape Artist check. The DC of this check is either dependent on the quality of the mannacles, or the foe’s rope use check +10. Unlike normal checks against a grapple, you may only make a check to escape restraints once. If you fail then you remain restrained unless the circumstances change, or until someone frees you. See the Escape Artist skill for more information.

Instead of the Escape Artist skill, you could make an Athletics check to burst the restraints by dint of raw strength. The GM has the break DCs of various materials. It is usually much more difficult to break restraints than to slip out of them.

Turning the Tables: Clever characters can turn the tables on grapplers so that the grabber becomes the grabbee. If you have been grappled (i.e both you and your attacker have the grappled condition) and you succeed in the check to the escape the grapple, you can instead choose to remain in the grapple, but now you take on the role of the aggressor.

Basically if someone grabs you, instead of escaping, you can try and grab them instead. If you are pinned then you must first break the pin with a successful grapple check, before you can attempt to turn the tables on your foe.

An Example of Grappling: The rules for grappling offer a lengthy explanation for something that is actually quite straight forward. Here’s an example to illustrate the point:

Ravenna”s Uncle Jhasik is wandering home through the mean streets of Jotan’s Point when he is set upon by a trio of harpy hooligans. One harpy makes an Athletics check against Jhasik’s reflex and fortitude defences. The harpy gets a +4 to the roll because the other two harpies are helping her (using the Aid Another action).

The harpy’s attack is successful, both she and Jhasik gain the grappled condition. On his turn, Jhasik tries to escape, by making his own Athletics attack against the Harpy’s Fortitude defence, but he fails. In the second round the harpy makes another grapple attempt. This is also successful; as part of the standard action of making the grapple attempt, the harpy also pins her victim. Jhasik now has the pinned condition, although the harpy is still only grappled. On his turn Jhasik tries to escape again, but he’s an emphysemic old codger and he fails once more. He tries to call for help, but the harpy puts her hand over his mouth as a free action.

In the third round, the harpy makes a grapple check again, and it is once again successful. As part of the standard action of making the grapple check, the harpy decides to restrain Jhasik. She quickly hog-ties and gags him. While doing so she makes a Survival check at +10 to set the DC to wriggle free of the bonds.

The DC is 35. On his turn Jhasik makes an Escape Artist check to try and escape, but fails. He cannot try this check again, and is now stuck with no hope of escape. The harpies hang him from a nearby lamp-post where he is found six hours later by the local bread-boy, Douglas.

Manipulate Item

In most cases, moving or manipulating an item is a Move action. This includes retrieving or putting away a stored item, picking up an item, moving a heavy object, and opening a door. Move actions are usually passive actions, that is performing a Move action (while advantageous for you) doesn’t directly incommode your enemies on the battle field.

Both players and GMs should use the rule that if the character does something for himself, or interacts with an inanimate object that is not in the possession of another character, then the action required to do so is probably a Move action.

Opportunity Attack

In battle, all characters are assumed to be doing their utmost to avoid attacks at all times. When the swords come out and the spells starts flying, you can bet that even the most arthritic family retainer is dodging and weaving like a field mouse on speed.

However, despite your character’s best intentions and ingrained instinct for survival, there will be times in combat when you deliberately let your guard down. On these occassions, enemies can take advantage of your momentary lack of concentration by making an extra attack against you. This extra attack is called an opportunity attack.

An opportunity attack is an Immediate Interrupt, that is triggered when you do something foolish in the face of your foe. The foe’s immediate action takes place before the action that triggered it, so it is possible that a successful opportunity attack could prevent the triggering action from taking place at all. However, characters are only permitted one Swift action (which includes Immediate actions) per round. So it’s possible that even if an opponent is granted such an attack he may be unable or unwilling to take it.

Although, opportunity attacks can be triggered in special circumstances, there are two main actions that provoke them:

Running away: if you are engaged in mêlée combat, and you try to disengage from combat without using the Withdraw (q.v.) action, then all foes who are currently engaging you in mêlée combat can make an opportunity attack against you.

Ranged of Far Attack: if you are engaged in mêlée combat, and you try to used a Ranged or Far attack (q.v.) then all foes who are currently engaging you in mêlée combat can make an opportunity attack against you.

Some special talents and feats (usually only available to Fighters) allow characters to deliver opportunity attacks in other circumstances. These are special cases. As a general rule, your character will only run foul of opportunity attacks if he performs one of the two acts listed above.

Note than an opportunity is one single attack with a mêlée weapon. You can’t make opportunity attacks with ranged weapons, and you can’t make opportunity attacks with spells, even if they are delivered by mêlée touch. You cannot take multiple attacks when you make an opportunity attack even if you have the Two-Weapon Fighting, Double Attack or similar talents.


Sometimes time is of the essence. You have to reach your destination, and you simply don’t have the time to battle every single enemy between you and your target. Maybe your old nanny is chained to an altar and about to crushed by a giant stone block, maybe there’s a boulder tumbling down a steep hill toward an orphanage or maybe its five-to-closing on Friday afternoon and your library books are late.

An Over-run is attempt to barrel past your foes without fighting them. Your only intention is to get from point A to point B. You can only attempt to over-run a target that is one size category larger than you, or smaller. Using Over-run is a standard action.

When making an over-run attempt, you must move at least 10 feet and no more than twice your Speed in feet. So a human with a speed of 30 must move a distance of between 10 ft and 60 ft in order to make an over-run attempt.

Obviously, a character making an over-run attempt still has an unused move action. Unlike Charge (q.v.) there is no restriction at what point in the round the Move action can be used. You character could simply add the Move action to the distance covered by the Over-run attempt (up to 90 feet for a human), use it to draw a or sheathe a weapon or anything else a Move action can be used for.

Attack Roll: You make an Over-run attempt by rolling either an Athletics or Unarmed Strike skill check. You roll once, and the resuly must beat the target’s Reflex and Fortitude Defence:

Athletics vs Reflex and Fortitude


Unarmed Strike vs Reflex and Fortitude

Some weapons can be used to make Over-run attempts, in which case you would roll on your weapon skill instead of Athletics or Unarmed Strike.

Success: If you hit with the Over-run attempt then you push the target out of your way, and they do not interfere with your movement. You do not inflict any damage to the target and, unlike <a href=”#bullrush”Bull Rush (q.v.), you aren’t trying to push your foe an appreciable distance. You probably only displace them sufficient distance to allow you to pass.

If your attack roll exceeds the target’s Fortitude Defence by 5 or more, then you also succeed in knocking the target prone.

Multiple Opponents: If you’re trying to push your way past multiple opponents, then pick one opponent as the focus of your Over-run attempt and make one attack roll. The result of this roll must beat the Reflex and the Fortitude Defence of the target you single out. Every additional target that you must move past adds +2 to the target number, as if they were using the aid another action. If you fail, the GM rules how far you got into the mass of your enemies. The rules for knocking enemies prone still applies.

Failure: If you fail the Over-run, the foe stays where he is and your movement ends in front of your enemy. You may attempt to move away if you still have a move action remaining, although this may provoke an opportunity attack.

Disadvantages of the Over-run: When you try to Over-run an opponent, you grant Combat Advantage to all your foes until the beginning of your next turn. If an enemy knows you are going to try and run past him, then he can attempt to ready an action (q.v.) to attack you when you pass. The same impaling weapons that are so effective against charging enemies, could also be brought to bear against you.

An anticlimactic gesture: There is nothing stopping the target of the over-run simply stepping to one side and letting you pass. In this case, there’s no need to make an attack roll and you simply progress your intended distance unmolested.

Trample: If you attempt to over-run creatures that are one size category smaller than you or less, then you can choose to Trample (q.v.) instead of Over-run your targets.

Feats: The Improved Over-run feat makes you more effective at barrelling through your opponents, while the Improved Trample feat lets you bring the full benefit of your size when you make over-run or trample attempts.

Poison Use

Unless you’re a paladin, it doesn’t pay to fight fair. There will be times when rather than meeting your foe in honourable combat it is far more expedient to simply poison him and be done with it. Using poison in battle is a tricky and potentially dangerous enterprise. The different types of poison and how they work are discussed in the section on Afflictions (q.v.), in this section we look at how best to employ poison against your enemies.

There are four broad types of poison: Contact, Inhaled, Injury and Ingested. Any one of these types of poison may be employed by the terrible monsters that characters meet in their adventures However, only injury and contact poisons tend to be used by PCs in mêlée combat, because these are the poisons that characters can spread liberally over their weapons.

Applying poison to a weapon or a single piece of ammunition is a standard action. Whenever a character applies or readies a weapon for use he must make a DC 10 Alchemy check, or a DC 15 Acrobatics check to avoid accidentally poisoning himself. If that check fails, then the poison affects the character normally. A character poisoning himself in this matter, does not consume the dose of the poison.

Poison that is applied to a weapon retains its potency for about five minutes. After that time a poisoned weapon has no additional affect, except in the case of some particulalry virulent contact poisons that remain deadly after several hours exposure to the open air. However, placing any poisoned weapon into its sheathe or scabbard is likely to wipe off the poison. In almost all cases, you poison you weapon shortly before you intend to use it, and keep the weapon drawn.

When you attack with a poisoned weapon, you make your normal attack roll first. If that is successful, then you make a secondary attack against the foe’s Fortitude defence. This secondary attack must be a separate die roll. The poison’s attack modifier is set by the poison’s potency, it has nothing to do with your character’s power level.

One dose of poison applied to a weapon is good for one successful attack. After you make one successful attack, the poison is used up. If you want to attack with a poisoned weapon again, then you will have to spend another standard action spreading a second dose of poison on the blade.


A pounce is a special form of Charge (q.v.) possessed by certain creatures such as lions, giant spiders and megaraptors. The ability to pounce is usually conferred by a racial trait, talent or feat. This is a not a combat manouevre that you can attempt without such a power.

A Pounce is a standard action that incorporates both movement and an attack. A pouncing creature moves a distance of between 10 feet and twice its Speed in feet. At the end of the movement it attacks a foe. Unlike Charge, a pouncing creature may make multiple attacks after the movement.

More often than not, creatures with an ability to pounce also have a talent that lets them make multiple attacks in a round. For example, a lion can attack with two claws and a bite each round. If it pounces, it can still attack with two claws and a bite. If the ability to pounce falls into the hands of a player character, then it has no effect unless the character has the means to make muliple mêlée attacks as a standard action.

If the character has such a means (e.g. Double Attack, Two-Weapon Fighting or Flurry of Blows) then the ability to pounce allows them to charge and make all their attacks as one standard action.

In all other respects, Pounce functions exactly like a Charge Attack. Including the +2 to hit and +2 to damage, as well as the disadvantages such as granting combat advantage to yourenemies.


Creatures that can rake have the ability to make extra attacks against foes they have grappled. Imagine a cat grabbing a foe with its front paws and biting down on it, while using its back claws to rip its prey to ribbons. Those rear claw attacks are Rake attacks.

Only creatures with a specific racial trait, talent or feat have the ability to rake. Almost all creatures that rake do so with their back claws, and therefore the ability to rake is usually limited to four-legged predators with offensive claws on all their feet (such as the aforementioned cat).

In order to rake you must first grapple (q.v.) your foe. Once you are grappling, subsequent successful checks allow you to continue grappling and to perform another action. Options to move, damage or pin your foe are open to everyone. Rake is another option that can be added to the list.

Whenever you choose to damage a foe you are grappling you may make two extra attack rolls against that foe as free actions. These are your two rakes:

Weapon Skill vs. Reflex Defence

Most attacks made when grappling at made at a -5 penalty to hit. This penalty does not apply to Rake attacks. Remember that grappled and pinned characters have a -5 penalty to their Relfex defence, and so therefore your rake attacks far more likely to hit them. The damage for the rake is whatever the damage of your normal physical attack – usually (but not exclusively) a claw attack.

PCs who Rake: With the right feat and equipment (a pair of clawed boots for instance) it’s possible that PCs may also be able to rake when they grapple their targets.


Readying an action allows you prepare for the unexpected. You have the opportunity to tell the GM: “as soon as that happens, I’ll do this”. For example, you can say that as soon as someone pokes their head around the corner, you’ll hit it with your hammer; or as soon as the prisoner makes a noise you’ll slit his throat.

Readying is a little like Delaying your action (q.v.) but you don’t actually need to delay anything. Declaring that you are going to Ready is a standard action that you take on your turn. If you want to take a move action for the round, then you need to take it on your turn as normal. During phase two of your turn you simply tell the GM two things:

1) What will trigger your readied action.

2) What your response to the trigger will be.

Your response to the triggering action has to be something you could normally do as a standard action.

You cannot change your mind later. If you say that “As soon as I see a troll, I’m going to shoot it!” then that’s what you’ll do. If it the troll turns out to be one of two hundred trolls, and a better readied action would have been “As soon as I see a troll, I run for the hills!” it’s your hard luck.

Once you have declared your intention to Ready as a standard action, you now simply wait to see if the triggering criteria that you specified are met. If they are, then you enact your response as an Immediate Reaction at the appropriate time.

This is an important point. The readied action is carried out as an Immediate Reaction. It happens after the triggering event. If your criteria is “I’ll hit the wizard if he casts a spell” then you’ll do just that: wait for the wizard to cast a spell, and then hit him. If you’re waiting to try and disrupt a wizard’s spellcasting, which is a common use of this combat action, then you need to say: “I’ll hit the wizard when he starts to cast a spell.”

If you have not used your readied action by the time the intiative order reaches your turn on the following round, then you lose the action. However, on your turn, you can choose to ready the same action again for the next round.


Rend is a rather nasty ability that allows characters who make multiple attacks with multiple weapons to inflict even more damage on their opponents. Creatures attacking with two claws, or characters attacking with a weapon in both hands, can potentially rend.

Rending is not an ability that is open to just anyone. Like pounce and rake it is an ability that player characters would need to ‘unlock’ by selecting the appropriate feat or talent.

If you are attacking you two mêlée weapons (or two natural attacks) and both those attacks hit the same foe, then you may attempt to Rend that foe. Rending is a free action, that must follow your successful attacks. Make an additional attack roll for the rend:

Weapon Skill vs. Fortitude

If the attack is successful then you inflict additional hit point damage. If you have claws, then this is because you tear the flesh. If you aren’t attacking with a piercing or slashing weapon then you are judged to simply have grabbed hold of your foe and pulled, ripping tendons and dislocating bones.

The damage inflicted by a Rend is indicated in a creature’s description, but it is usually twice the damage die for your character’s basic punch or claw attack, plus your strength modifier.

You may only rend once per round, even if you have more than two attacks per round. Although more than two attacks increases the chance of your rend from working.


Running is sometimes called a double-move. As part of your move action you travel twice your Speed in feet, instead of just your Speed in feet. So a running human could cover 60 feet with a move action instead of 30 feet. Running helps you to get to places more quickly, but it also comes at a price.

If you are running, then you grant combat advantage to all your enemies until the beginning of you next turn. Even if you keep your wits about you, you just can’t dodge all those attacks if you’re moving at speed.

If you convert your standard action into a second Move action, you can use it to take a double move as well. This is a flat out sprint. A human who does this actually manages to cover 120 feet in a round.

You don’t need to be walking on the ground to take the Run action. Creatures with a climb speed can take the run action when climbing, creatures with a fly speed can take the run action when flying, and creatures with a swim speed can take the run aciton when swimming.


Nothing makes the doggerel of combat more bearable that a little snappy banter. Why would you become an heroic freedom fighter if you couldn’t mock the uptight villain to his face? And what’s the point of being an evil overlord if you don’t get to sneer condascendingly, and reveal the true extent of your genius to these upstart adventurers?

Of course, the ability to speak has a wider application than role-playing or comic relief. There are times that it may be beneficial (or even essential) to impart words of advice, warning or encouragement to your companions.

The ability to speak is therefore a free action that you can take at any time during the round, not just when it’s your turn. Exaclty how much you can say, and when you can say it is up to the GM who will do his best to adjudicate as fairly as possible. He may rule that shouting a short sentence or two is fine, but reciting the entire Gilbert and Sullivan back catalogue would be pushing your luck.

It should be noted that many talents, feats and spells allow you to influence the battlefield merely with the sound of your own voice. Using one of these abiilties is not the same as speaking. Refer to the text of the relevent talent or feat for more details about how they work.

Stand Up

It’s quite remarkable the number of times an adventurer finds himself lying on his back. It may be because you’ve been knocked prone by an attack, you might have thrown yourself to ground to avoid an explosion or you must might be asleep when the action starts.

However you got there, chances are you don’t want to stay lying on the ground for long. For one thing it’s uncomfortable, but more importantly your combat actions are somewhat limited if you’re just lying face down inhaling the humus.

Standing up up from a prone position is a move action. However, you can stand up as a free action if you take the feat, Kip Up.


Rather than attacking your enemy in combat, you can target the weapon or shield that your enemy is holding. Instead of dealing damage to the foe, you deal damage to their equipment. If you can hit the target and inflict sufficient damage, you may render the item less effective. If you deal enough damage, then you can destroy the item entirely.

In order to make a Sunder attempt, you must attack with a mêlée weapon. If you have the Improved Unarmed Strike feat then you can make a sunder attempt with your hands or feet instead. Ranged weapons cannot be used to make sunder attempts. Some spells may break or destroy weapons, but they’ll use different rules explained in the individual spell description. Normally, you cannot use a spell to deliberately target and sunder a weapon.

As a standard action, make a single attack roll against any one item in your foe’s possession. Normally, this would be the foe’s weapon or shield, but could be his armour, necklace, backpack or anything else you can see. Normally the attack roll is made at a -5 penalty. If the object is particularly small, then the attack is made at a -10 penalty.

(Weapon Group -5) vs Reflex

If you are successful, then you deal damage to the object and not to your foe. All objects have an Armour Class value, as well as hit points based on their size and the type of material the object is made from. As with your character’s own Armour Class, the item’s AC is deducted from any damage before it is taken off the object’s hit points.

Hit point and armour class values of all objects are given in the equipment section, and should be noted on your character sheet for ease of reference during play. Examples of the most common items are given in the table below.

Example Item

Item AC

Item Hit Points

Shortsword 10 2
Longsword 10 5
Greatsword 10 10
Light Mace 10 10
Heavy Mace 10 20
Handaxe 5 2
Battleaxe 5 5
Greataxe 5 10
Crossbow 5 5
Leather Armour 2 10
Chainmail 10 25
Fullplate 10 40
Buckler 10 5
Light wooden shield 5 7
Heavy wooden shield 5 15
Light steel shield 10 10
Heavy steel shield 10 20
Tower Shield 5 20

Note the difference between the armour class that manufactured armour confers upon its wearer, and the armour class that manufactured armour has to defend attacks against itself. Often, the values are the same, but you cannot always assume this is the case. For example, Plate Armour confers AC 8 on a wearer, but has an item AC of 10.

Broken and Destroyed objects: If an object is reduced to half its hit points or less, then it gains the Broken condition (q.v.). Broken objects are less effective. An object reduced to zero hit points is destroyed, and cannot be used. Broken items can be repaired, Destroyed items cannot usually be repaired.

Sundering unattended objects: Obviously, your destructive urges do not need to be limited to objects held, worn or carried by an enemy. You can use you weapon to smash just about anything. If you are not under stress (i.e. outside combat) hitting an inanimate target with a mêlée attack requires no attack roll. In combat, an inanimate object has a Reflex Defence of 10 (or 15 if it’s particularly small).

Sundering Masterwork Items: Masterwork items tend to have a higher item AC and hit points than normal items of their type. In general, masterwork items gain a +2 bonus to hardness for each +1 of their masterwork bonus; and a +10 to their hit points for each +1 of their masterwork bonus. So a +3 masterwork longsword would have an Item AC of 16 and 35 hit points.

Sundering Magical items: Sundering magical items may be impossible, or may require a special materials or particular preparation. For example, you may only be able to sunder a magic sword if you are using another, more powerful, magical weapon. Individual magic item descriptions will list details of how, or if, such items can be sundered.

Swallow Whole

Some creatures are so enormous that they can grapple with their mouth. When they make a grapple attempt they do not us hands, claws, pinscers or tentacles: they use their bite attack. Obviously, this isn’t an option that is open to all characters. Usually a special racial trait, talent or feat is required to be able to swallow your victims whole.

In order to swallow your foe must first grapple (q.v.) him. Once you are grappling, subsequent successful checks allow you to continue grappling and to perform another action. Options to move, damage or pin your foe are open to everyone. Swallow Whole is another option that can be added to the list.

A Swallow Whole attempt may only be made on creatures that are one size category smaller than you or smaller. A swallowed victim automatically takes bite damage before they are consumed. Swallowed creatures continue to have the grappled condition, while the creature that did the swallowing does not.

Swallowed creatures usuallly continue to take damage after they are swallowed. This damage is often in the form of crushing damage from their foe’s body, and acid damage from their foe’s digestive juices. One can only imagine that being swallowed alive is not a pleasant experience. Unless otherwise stated, this damage occurs in Phase Three of the character’s turn, starting the round after they were swallowed.

A swallowed creature can attempt to cut its way free of a creature as long as it is conscious. However, it must use a light slashing or piercing weapon to do so. Spellcasting is possible, but the normal penalties for being grappled apply. If cutting yourself free, the Reflex Defence of the creature’s interior is 10 less than its exterior, and it does not have an armour class.

Even if you succeed in cutting your way out of a foe, you don’t leave a hole that anyone else can use. Anyone else swallowed by the same creature still has to cut their way out on their own.

Alternatively, the character can attempt to climb back out of the creature’s mouth. A successful grapple check, or a DC 30 Climb check is required to get back into the creature’s mouth. A character that gets himself back into this position is still considered grappled, and still must make another successful grapple check to free himself.


If you attempt to Over-run (q.v.) opponents that are at least one size category smaller than yourself, you can choose to make a Trample attempt instead. Trample is an attempt to crush as many foes as possible under your size thirteen feet. It is a combat manoeuvre designed to do the greatest damage to the greatest number, not to get from Point A to Point B.

Using Trample is a standard action during which you must move at least 10 feet and no more than twice your Speed in feet. So a horse with a speed of 60 must move a distance of between 10 ft and 120 ft in order to make a trample attempt.

Obviously, a creature making a Trample attempt still has an unused move action. Unlike Charge (q.v.) there is no restriction at what point in the round the Move action can be used. You character could simply add the Move action to the distance covered by the Over-run attempt (up to 180 feet for a horse), or use it for anything else a Move action can be used for.

Attack Roll: You make a Trample attempt by rolling either an Athletics or Unarmed Strike (natural weapons) skill check. You roll once, and the result must beat the target’s Reflex Defence:

Athletics vs Reflex


Unarmed Strike vs Reflex

If you have the Mounted Combat feat, and you are attempting to trample your foes with your mount, then you can use your Ride skill to make the attack roll.

Success: If you hit with the Trample attempt then you inflict damage equal to the damage you (or your mount) would normally inflict with a kick or claw attack. If your attack roll is also good enough to hit the foe’s Fortitude defence, then you succeed in knocking the target prone.

Multiple Opponents: If you’re trying to trample over multiple opponents, then pick one opponent as the focus of your Trample attempt and make one attack roll. The result of this roll must beat his Reflex Defence of the target you single out. Every additional target that you must move past adds +2 to the target number, as if they were using the aid another action. If you fail, the GM rules how far you got into the mass of your enemies. The rules for knocking enemies prone still applies.

For example, the result of your trample check is 25. You target the trample at one foe with a Reflex Defence of 13. You trample than target, and a further six targets with the one roll.

Failure: If you fail the Trample attempt fails then the foes are unaffected, but your still move your stated distance. You may attempt to move away if you still have a move action remaining, although this may provoke an opportunity attack.

Improved Trample: If you take the Improved Trample feat then you receive a bonus on trample checks depending on the difference in size between you and your targets.


A Trip is an attempt to push you opponent over, trip him up or otherwise knock him to the floor. Despite the name, you don’t actually have to try to trip your foe. Any violent means you employ to get your foe from a standing position to a prone position is considered a trip. You can only try to trip an opponent that is one size category larger than you, or smaller.

As a standard action make a single mêlée attack roll. The result of this roll must beat the target’s Reflex and Fortitude defences. Usually you use the Athletics or the Unarmed Strike skill to make a Trip attempt, although you can make trip attempts with some weapons or with a good solid bash from your shield.

Athletics vs Reflex and Fortitude


Unarmed Strike vs Reflex and Fortitude

If you are successful, then your opponent falls to the ground where they are standing. They are prone (q.v.) and suffer the same benefits and penalties of all prone characters (such as granting combat advantage to anyone engaging them in mêlée combat).

Although it is possible to knock creatures prone with the Bull Rush or Over-run manoeuvre, Trip is a much easier way to accomplish the result. Also, characters with the Improved Trip feat may be able to get an attack in on their prone foe before they have a chance to scramble to their feet.

Two Weapon Fighting

For many characters, the idea of fighting with a weapon in each hand is extremely appealing. Not only does it make your character look suitably suave and rakish, but it can also be devastatingly effective, particulalry against unarmoured foes. If you want to be a swirling dervish of death, and you can live without the protection a shield can provide, or the added damage of a two-handed weapon, then this could be the fighting style for you.

Anyone can grab a couple of weapons and take a stab at two-weapon fighting. However, unless you also have the right talents and feats, the chances are that you”re not going to be very effective at it. This is how it works:

Normally, when you make the Attack standard action (q.v.) you can only attack once. However, if you have a weapon in each hand then you can attack once with the weapon in your primary hand, and once with the weapon in your off-hand, as one standard action. You make two separate attack rolls (one for each weapon). You can direct both attacks at the same foe, or at two different foes, as long as you can reach them.

Double Weapons: The same rules apply for double weapons, such as the quarterstaff, dwarven urgosh or gnomish hooked hammer. With these weapons, you can attack once as you would with any other weapon, or you can attack twice: you attempt to bash your foe with either end of the weapon.

Whether you are fighting with a weapon in each hand, or attacking with a double weapon, you make the attacks with a penalty to hit. These penalties are summaries in the following table:

Circumstance Primary Hand Off Hand
Off-hand weapon is not Off-hand -10 -10
Off-hand weapon is Off-hand -5 -5
Two-Weapon Fighting Talent +5 +5

Weapons in HD&D are categorised by a number of special qualities. These are fully explained in the Equipment section, but for the purposes of two-weapon fighting, you need to understand the One-hand and Off-hand qualities.

One-hand: This is a weapon that can be wielded in one-hand. Some one-handed weapons can be used two-handed, but if a weapon has the One-hand quality then it is designed to used in one hand. A longsword is a such a weapon. One-handed weapons may still be heavy weapons with significant damage potential, such as a longsword or a warhammer.

Off-hand: An off-hand weapon is a weapon that is small and light enough to be held in your character’s off-hand while he is also holding another weapon in his primary hand. All Off-hand weapons are also One-hand weapons, but not all One-hand weapons are Off-hand weapons. A dagger, short sword or a main gauche are examples of off-hand weapons.

When fighting with two weapons, most combatants will wield a One-hand weapon in their primary hand, and an Off-hand weapon in their off-hand. Alternatively, they may wield an Off-hand weapon in both hands. The ‘standard’ penalty for two-weapon fighting (the -5 to hit with both attacks) assumes that you are taking one of these two approaches.

If you choose to wield a weapon that doesn’t have the Off-hand quality in your off-hand (you are attacking with two One-hand weapons, such as two longswords) then the penalty to hit increases from -5 to -10.

If you are using a Double Weapon, then you take the lesser penalty of -5 to hit. The rules consider the use a double weapon the same as wielding a One-hand weapon and an Off-hand weapon.

A character with the Two-Weapon Fighting talent doesn’t take the -5 penalty to attack with two weapons as long as they wield an Off-hand weapon in their off-hand. The penalty for using two One-handed weapons is reduced from -10 to -5.

A character with the Oversized Two-Weapon Fighting feat (which require them to also have the Two-Weapon Fighting talent) ignores the penalty to hit when they wield two One-handed weapons in combat.

The talent Improved Two Weapon Fighting (available from 11th level) lets characters make four attacks per round with their weapons instead of two. The talent Greater Two Weapon Fighting (available from 21st level) lets characters make six attacks per round with their weapons instead of four.

These talents are usually only available to Fighters and Rangers, or characters with the appropriate Multiclass feat.

Use Magic Item

If you are lucky enough to have a magic item, then you undoubtedly want to use it as quickly and as often as possible during combat. There are three broad types of magic items, and their uses vary accordingly.

Spell Completion: This is the activation method used for magical scrolls and similar items. Using these magical items is the equivalent of casting a spell, and you normally have to be a spellcaster to use them. Using a spell completion magic item is a standard action.

Command Word: Some magic items require only a special spoken word to invoke their power. Speaking the command word is not an action. However, using the magic item that you have just activated with the command word is normally a standard action.

Use-Activated: This type of item simply has to be used in order to activate it. You need to drink a potion, swing a sword or interpose a shield between you and the bad guy. The action required to use a magic items such as this varies considerably.

For example, drinking a potion is a move action. Attacking with a magic sword is a standard action in the same way attacking with a mundane sword is a standard action. Interposing a shield to block an assault is not an action whether it is magical or mudane.


Including “Walk” in a list of combat actions may seem misguidedly thorough. However, Walk is the default means of locomotion for your character in combat. If you don’t specify that your character is running, charging, jumping, climbing or otherwise moving in strange and mysterious ways, then you are walking.

Walking is a Move action. When you walk you move a number of feet equal to your Speed score in any direction. Walking is the way you move safely through combat, without granting combat advantage to your enemies. If you want to cover move distance than you can by walking, you can always take the Run action (q.v.) although this is inherently more dangerous.


There are times when the battle is simply going poorly. Your dice are not your friend and whatever you try to do, your enemy keeps evading your blows while continually stabbing you in the liver. The time has come to withdraw from the fight. But disengaging yourself from combat is not easy.

Using Withdraw is a move action. You safely disengage yoursel from mêlée combat, and back away five feet. Five feet may not seem like very far, but this is out of the range of most mêlée weapons. Once at this distance from your enemy, you can move away normally.

If you try to Walk or Run from mêlée combat without first using the Withdraw action, then every enemy who is currently engaging you in mêlée combat can make an opportunity attack against you as an immediate Interrupt. This is a very bad thing, and you should do your best to avoid it.

For example: Illyan Snowmantle is engaged in single combat against a disfigured kaorti swordsman. He decides that discretion is the better part of valour, and the time has come to depart combat. It he runs or walks away, then the kaorti can make an opportunity attack against him, so Illyan decides to use the Withdraw action.

As a move action, Illyan steps back five feet. He is now out of range of he kaorti’s sword attacks. He still has a standard action remaining this round, so he opts to convert it to a second move action. He decides to use this Move action to Run (q.v.) away. During the course of one round he has successfully disengaged from his foe, and put 60 feet distance between them.

When Withdraw doesn’t work: If you are fighting a character with the Combat Superiority talent then he’ll be able to make an opportunity attack against you whether you Withdraw or not. Usually only Fighters have this talent, but you’re still taking a chance by withdrawing.

If you are standing on hindering terrain (q.v.) then you can only move half your speed. This also applies to the Withdraw action. This means that if you’re standing in hindering terrain, such as thick mud or waist-deep water, you simply cannot move back far enough to avoid the opportunity attack. Therefore Withdraw doesn’t work.

Also, Withdraw only lets you step back 5 feet. If your foe has reach of 10 feet or move (either with a long weapon, or long arms) then they can still make an opportunity attack against you if you try and walk or run. You may have to Withdraw twice (with two move actions) in these cases. Or you could take the Rapid Withdraw feat that lets you move further with the Withdraw action.


The next part of the combat section is Atypical Combat. Experience the wonders of aerial, underwater, mounted and vehicle combat. With added Seige Warfare, at no extra cost. Sadly, this post won’t see the light of day on Wednesday (you didn’t think I could keep up this schedule indefinitely did you?) but there will be a little something on Wednesday just to keep your interest alive.


7 thoughts on “HD&D: Actions in Combat

  1. Critique

    This is the longest post in the combat section and, unsurprisingly, needs the longest critique. Many of the combat manoeuvres listed here have caused issues and problems over the years. Third edition always seemed a bit too complicated, and fourth edition wasn’t complicated enough. Hopefully HD&D takes a line between them.

    There are forty manoeuvres listed above. Things like Breath Weapon, Constrict, Fightful Presence, Gaze, Poison Use, Pounce, Rake, Rend, Swallow Whole and Trample haven’t appeared in this list before. Third edition, fourth edition and Pathfinder hide these rules away in the Monster Manual or the DMG. Personally, I think it makes the game much easier to reference if these common combat elements are found at the heart of this chapter. The rest of the list is made up of old favourites, some of which have a slightly different twist.

    One of the “innovations” I would hope to introduce in an HD&D combat system is using one attack roll against two defences simultaneously. Take grapple as an example:

    In third edition, in order to grapple someone you first had to make a touch attack against your foe – this almost certainly provoked an attack of opportunity. If the OoA succeeded then the grapple attack failed. If the initial touch attack was successful, then the grappler and the grapplee make opposed grapple checks. If the attacker is successful then he has grappled his opponent. (And if that sounds long-winded, I’m simplifing it considerably).

    In fourth edition (with the happy introduction of Defences), a grapple check was just an attack roll against Fortitude. But this was too simple. Presumably there are characters who are very hard to hit, but if you do manage to hit them they are easy to grapple?

    So in HD&D you make one attack roll and compare it to your foe’s Reflex and Fortitude defence. If you hit both then you manage to get your hands on your foe, and you manage to grapple them. As simple as that? Or too simple? You decide!

    Action Points: In past editions of D&D action points aka faith points aka fate points aka piety points were used to reroll dice. I prefer the use introduced in 4e far more, and that’s the mechanic that I’ve decided to keep in HD&D. There are no milestones in the hybrid game, so you get more action points as you gain levels.

    Called Shot: These I think will be fairly contentious rules. I’ve been playing with a rather woolly versio of called shots for years. They oscillated from being too powerful, to being weak to the point of uselessness. I think this strikes a balance. If anything, I think it’s too easy to take a called shot and inflict a Wound on an opponent in battle. I’ve slightly mollified this by saying that Wounds gained in combat only last beyond the encounter if you fail a saving throw. I’m not sure that’s enough. Have a look and let me know what you think. I really want Wounds in the game somewhere, and this seemed like a good place to put it. Details of what Wounds entail will be published in the post on Wounds and Healing next week.

    Cast a Spell: Just a note to look at the rules for disrupting spells. There is no Concentration skill in HD&D, the Will defence is used in its stead. However, as opportunity attacks happened much less often it seems unlikely this is ever going to play a major role. Gone are the days of casters built around a high Concentration score. Which is just as well in my mind, as I never really liked those rules.

    Coup de Grace: This is brutal. Roll to hit your foe’s fortitude defence. If you hit then you automatically kill them. If you miss then inflict maximum damage. Too much?

    Delay: These observations apply to the Ready action as well. If you delay in HD&D then your Initiative doesn’t change. This means you cannot refocus you initiative. These are the same rules that were found in fourth edition. However, unlike 4e you can delay you action all the way up to the beginning of your turn on the following round, as opposed the end of the current round.

    I felt that losing delayed actions at the end of the current round was an unrealistic guillotine, when you might feasibly still want to act between the beginning of the next round and your initiative point. As I state in the text above, this does mean we could have a situation where a character could take two standard and two move actions in the same round. Is this a problem?

    Grapple: I’ve already touched on this briefly… I just wanted to point out that grapples should now be much quicker than before. Using the grappled and the pinned condition really helps. You can do much more in a grapple than you could in 3rd ed, but much less than was possible in 4e. This is largely the way the Pathfinder game handles grapple, but attacking a passive defence as opposed to making an opposed roll, makes the mechanic even quicker.

    Opportunity Attack: A footnote to say I was within inches of removing all opportunity attacks from the game, and simply using Combat Advantage to cover all instances when characters are off their guard. In the end I thought it would be more in keeping with the spirit of D&D to retain the OA rules in these two instances. After all, you could make a free attack at a foe who turned tail and ran even in second edition. The lack of a battlegrid has moved these rules from the centre of the combat system to the periphery (where they belong). It won’t take much to push them out of the game entirely.

    Run: A note on the change from third edition. Now when you spring you run at four times your speed. There are no feats that let you run at five times you Speed. However, there are feats that increase your base speed, which has much the same effect.

    Two-Weapon Fighting: This gives you a look at the various two-weaopn fighting feats and talents that will be available to fighters and rangers. Under HD&D Brack goes down to four attacks per round.

    Which I think covers more or less everything I specifically wanted to say. Obviously, there’s a lot to read here. I’ll shut up now and let you get on with it.

  2. This from INdran:

    Just brisking through the various items on the blog
    havent had the time to read it through…. but sorry to ask… aren’t u getting a little carried away


    this is DnD….not Merc :)

    I dont know… seems to much complexity and variable.
    I think it is important to have various attacks as previously we have come accross encounters where we had to invent actions, which is fine.

    But in combat, i would like to think 90% of the time, an attack is just an attack… if we start refering types of attack, then we have to read the rules and that will slow down combat.

    For example, I know raza has Improved Trip. I think it is useful but I sometimes can’t be bothered to use because I have forgotten how to use it.

    I supposed it comes to this: simplicity is important… I dont want to be thinking I have been inflicted with a specific wound…to know i have to take a -10 to my actions.

  3. Right. Well, 90% of the time an attack will just be an attack. It is much simpler to do it that way. However, the rules are there to be used. And hopefully the rules for Trip (and Improved Trip) are simpler in HD&D and therefore easier to remember.

    As for Wounds…

    Well, they fill two roles. First of all, they need to exist in the campaign world. It’s possible to break your arm, therefore I need to know what happens if you do. That’s not a Combat System issue, that’s just verisimilitude.

    Secondly, in combat there will be times when you might take a serious wound. HD&D simplifies this by stating you can’t take a serious wound unless the attacker actively tries to inflict one. The penalties to hit are such, that you probably wouldn’t want to even try against an enemy of your level unless you were desperate.

    On the whole the mechanic is simple. One attack roll at a penalty against Reflex and Fortitude. If you hit both defences then you inflict a wound. Wounds themselves aren’t that complicated. No more complicated than having a spell cast on you, certainly. And they’ll come up a lot less often than spells.

  4. I like the wounds. There should be far more broken arms in D&D like there was in Warhammer Fantasy Role Play (anyone remember that?). I am not sure about the active defense works well though as there is a 45% chance of being worse off. With those odds it is a very unappealing, so perhaps it whould only be worse if you roll a natural 1.

  5. I’m glad you like the Wounds, Steve. I think they serve a role, although they can be overdone. I do remember WFRP, although I haven’t played the game very much. I think I would like to one day.

    Active Defence is definitely a gamble. It’s actually based on optional rules that appeared in the third edition Unearthed Arcana. The odds are unappealing and to some extent they’re designed to be. Using the Acrobatics skill to Tumble increases the chance of you rolling higher when you perform Active Defence. I am also thinking that there could be some feats or talents that play of the mechanic as well. I haven’t quite worked out how the Parry talent will work, but it’ll be something along these lines.

    To some extent, you’re not seeing the whole picture here. But as it stands you definitely have a point.

  6. WFRP definitely had some good features. I quite liked the fact that the difference between starting charcacters and high level ones wasn’t anywhere near as extreme a D&D. The wounds and injury locations were a lot of fun though. If you ever got two guys without a big strength fighting with staffs the combat became an absolute epic with every wound and injury crucial. The careers were a bit silly though. Your character sheet would say you were a jailor but actually you didn’t jail anybody and went adventuring instead. The races were hideously unbalanced too. Still it had its good points – I might dig it up and bring it along to the next retreat.

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