Bloody Verses and spellcasting

I’m sure im blind and just missed how to handle this in the book. Would anyone be able to explain how a bloody verses would run with a person who wants to cast spells in combat? If i understand it correctly, a person using a sword would split their sword skill between attack dice and defense dice. This makes sense to me when two people are fighting with swords. But how do you handle a spell caster and a swordman fighting? the spell caster seems like they would need to roll their sorc to cast the spell, but as i cant see how the skill could defend against a sword swooping towards your head does the spell caster just not get defense dice? alternately it would seem wrong to say that the swordsman could use defense dice to block the incoming wave of flame that was just cast at him. This makes it seem like the encounter would end up being who can damage each other more till someone fails to hit just because of their own dice rolls and not due to any defense of their opponent.

In a slightly shifted example, what about two wizards casting to each other? could they use sorc skill as defense against each others casting? sort of like counterspelling?

I admit that i could be way off on my assumptions here so feel free to correct me or send me to the right page in the book.

My first impulse is “don’t use Bloody Versus for such a conflict.” The time it takes to cast a spell is the primary limiter of their use in a Fight! situation. Further, they have all sorts of special and granular effects, not “win/lose”.

That said, I’ve never used Bloody Versus, because I never have throw-away conflicts, nor do evenly matched, identical-method conflicts ever occur in games I’ve run. I “Say Yes”, if it’s the Grand Heroes versus an equal number of schmucks. (Hmmm, well, MAYBE I do Bloody Versus just to see if they heroes got out unscathed or took some minor injuries. But I don’t play BW to watch conscripts or thugs overwhelm heroes.)

That makes sense. In trying to keep with my reading of the game while trying to get away from a fight of the week feel, I have been trying to incorporate more bloody vs in. If the group decides to smash the front door in to a den of thieves in order to rough up their leader I assume the leader isnt at the front door and there are probably some flunkies watching the door offering token resistance. I dont feel like they should run away every time, nor do i think they deserve the attention of a Fight. The little fight builds a little tension and if played right mike give the impression that they need to get to the leader before the whole house of flunkies get together and try to over run them. Maybe one of the players walks away from the guards with a superficial wound, nothing to be too worried about but it will make the Fight with the boss just a little bit harder/adds a little more tension to the story. The Battle wizard, understandably, wants to blast the guards and walk on by like Indian Jones popping a single shot into a scimitar wielding showoff. Of course i want to “Say Yes” and I want to do it in a way that follows both the BWG rules and its spirit. the spell he tried last time was Breathe of Fire so I felt like it had the same “win/loss” feel that a sword would. Sarch’s Glare, from my other post, seems to have the same potential, but i can see what you are saying about other spells.

I am tempted to run the encounter in a similar way as a sword fight… perhaps dice shifted from “attack” with sorcery to “defense” could be though of, in the breathe of fire example, as some of the flames licking out around the caster in addition to out at the enemy in such a way that it causes the swordman’s attack to be slightly hesitant. That doesn’t feel quite right, especially if you look at it from the view of the swordman defending against a flame spell. If you consider that there is no such defense against the spell in the Fight system.

If you’re going absolutely by the book, you’d use Range & Cover. Only after the swordsman is too close to shoot would you then go to Fight (or bloody versus). This could take just one volley, but it really puts the advantage in the hands of the caster, because, well, ranged attacks are nasty and magic is nasty.

I don’t think I’d be against using sorcery as a bloody versus weapon skill. I can easily imagine using a ranged weapon and/or positioning to keep your opponent at bay. It’s not a blow-by-blow account, it’s abstracted. Those rolls are not intended to and cannot represent discrete swings of a sword or bolts of white fire or whatever. If I use fire breath as a defense, that means I’m not letting people get close, not that I’m projecting a fire shield with my breath - although, if that’s how you want to imagine it, go nuts - just understand, that’s not what a bloody versus roll is about. If you want that level of granularity, Fight is what you seek. However, if you decide to do bloody versus with sorcery or ranged weapons (especially on one side), be aware that you’re almost certainly sapping sorcery and ranged weapons of their power, so you might want to throw some advantage dice their way if you have any interest in consistency.

As for bloody versus being reserved for “throw-away conflicts,” I disagree. Hell, you could handle combat with just regular versus rather than bloody versus and the further simplification of the resolution mechanic doesn’t make the conflict more throw-away. You handle a zillion other non-martial conflicts with just a single roll, are those throw-away, too? To me, you go to more complex subsystems when you want to feature something, which usually means a belief is on the line and you want a blow-by-blow of how the belief was fulfilled or lost. If a combat makes it harder to pursue a belief, bloody versus, but if a belief will be fulfilled or put absolutely out of reach by the combat, it’s Fight time. Bloody versus can also handle large-scale combat in a way that nothing else in the system can.

If he constantly uses the same technique, I’d be tempted to vote in the trait ‘Predictable’ at some stage.

How would you account for Tax in such a system?

Iunno. You’re using a specific spell, that’s how you account for weapon length and damage, right? So you’d test just as if you’d cast it any other time, I guess. The only difference here is that we’re assuming casting went off without a hitch. I haven’t really examined it, but, personally, I think I’m okay with that. I suppose you could have a test prior to the whole bloody versus exchange to see if you can cast the spell. If you don’t, you either hesitate and get hosed, or, more up my alley, you’d be able to test in the bloody versus with a weapon skill - perhaps at a disadvantage equal to the margin of failure?

I don’t think that’s egregious drift, but I’d certainly test stuff like that before just welding it into a game. Seems like Range & Cover + Fight is a fine way to go in the first place if you’re going to bother adding that many rolls to bloody versus just to include consistent sorcery.

So , if I go by the rules as written and, for whatever reason, bloody verses is the best way to handle the combat. We go around the table and someone wants to cast a spell. Do people just shift the combat at that point from bloody verses to fight or range and cover? What if bloody verses is used as both sides are using swords and, for whatever reason both sides have to do a second set of rolls (perhaps both side miss). In this second round one swordsman decides to cast a spell instead of attacking with a sword, do you switch to fight? It seems like this would cause unnecessary system shifts which would only complicate things. If you have multiple people on each side off the fight and you had to switch to fight since one person decides they want to cast a spell, would you shift all other combatants to fight? Would you run one fight for the spell caster and two bloody verses for the other two PCs?

It seems like there are no rules written for spell casting in bloody verses that I have overlooked? I’m new to the game so I’m sure that it is possible I have missed it.

You don’t go around the table, except for helping. If someone helps with a spell, just pass over the die.

There aren’t any specific rules for using spells in Bloody Versus but I really don’t think there needs to be. Using a spell would go as follows:

Base skill: Sorcery + FoRKs
Attack bonus dice:
+1D longer weapon (if appropriate)
+nD VA

No specific bonuses to defend pool.

No specific bonuses to general pool.

Then you roll dice with the Sorcery dice split between Attack and Defend. If the spell caster hits with their attack, resolve it just like if you hit them with the spell in Fight (roll for IMS, have them mark the appropriate wound). Then roll for tax.

Remember that BV is under the umbrella for Let It Ride so once that one round of bloody versus is finished you can’t just have another round of fighting (at least not using the same skills, so a swordsman-mage could use sword for one round and sorcery for another but that’s about it).* This is the point where the GM needs to describe the outcome of the fight (specifically in this case how hosing them down with fire affected the outcome of things).

*Remember that both sides failing to injure in BV is not “both sides missing in a single exchange of blows.” It should be narrated as a short but vicious conflict and that the reason both sides failed is because they were fighting defensively, their armor held strong, or they stayed out of range of their enemies weapons. It should never be a case of both sides missing their single swing.

Here’s the way I interpret Bloody Versus: multiple rounds are still part of the same intent AND task. Your intent is to kill the enemy or corral them into a trap or whatever, your task is physical combat. So a new round with new skills tested doesn’t mean any old skill. You can’t suddenly persuade your enemies to put down their swords or intimidate them. So you also don’t fling sorcery in there - if that’s something you wanted to do, you should begin with Range & Cover and/or Fight as is appropriate.

To be clear, bloody versus is not blow-by-blow. It’s fully within its scope to say that a single Bloody Versus round is a struggle that lasts all day. That may not be a particularly good idea, but the point is that you aren’t attacking with a sword when it’s your turn and then casting a spell when it’s your turn. The closest thing BW has to that level of granularity is Fight, and if it’s important to you to allow people that degree of detail, use Fight. Otherwise, abide by intent+task, which, to me, when filtered through Bloody Versus, is about 1. physical combat, not riddling people with arrows and lightning bolts from a distance, and 2. is abstracted, not turn-based. If it helps, you can even imagine all the rounds of BV as happening simultaneously: Dave is fighting a Thug. First round, they both use their brawling skills, neither hit or both hit, second round, Dave rolls for sword and Mr. Thug rolls his knife skill. Combat ends in whatever way it ends. It’s not necessarily that they fist-fought and then drew weapons, it could easily be that they punched and kicked and wrestled while also using their weaponry from the very beginning. More rolls are there just to fulfill resolution, not as D&D style rounds.

Plus, regardless of what subsystem you’re using, if you have the opportunity to light up your enemy with ranged attacks and magic before he gets to you, why the hell are you passing that up and going straight to in-your-face-murder-town - only to then decide hey, wait, I just remembered I have magic? The only reason I can imagine is because you’re fishing for a combat test of some kind before you turn your enemy to ash.

Honestly, you may just consider regular old versus rolls instead of Bloody Versus. I, personally, would just make it one roll OR a linked test with sorcery as part of the combat, but if you really want, you can break down intent and task further (I think Fight does this better, but it still works). Instead of having an intent of killing your enemy, it could be something more like you want to knock him to the ground. Then, once he’s on the ground, it’s up to you to decide what your next intent+task will be. You could walk away, you could attempt to subdue him, or you could barbecue him with a spell, whatever. Regular rolls, no BV necessary.
I think Burning Wheel works much better when your intents are larger; so, if you said, “I have martial arts training, I want to knock him to the ground with a sweep kick,” I would ask you what you want to get out of having him on the ground. If your ultimate goal is to kill him, then THAT is your intent and I’d either reject your knock to ground (intent) + sweep/martial arts (task), OR, more likely, I’d see that you want a finer grain/fiddly combat, and we’d go to Fight. Doing it piece-by-piece is, for lack of a better term, the coward’s way. It creates a lot of rolls, for one, which is boring and cheatery; and it creates reactive play, in which you continually test the waters and demand narration from the GM, hoping for a result, but allowing you to cut and run before things actually get dangerous. But, moreover, it creates a weak story instead of strong character vectors that fire into conflict.

If you’re new to the game, forget about the rim of the wheel until you’ve mastered the hub and spokes. Add subsystems one at a time. The way intent+task works will internalize the game’s heart for you, and the feel for when to turn to finer grain subsystems will allow you to know that you should either lean on a regular tests instead of complicating things or when you should have gone all the way to Range & Cover or Fight in the first place.

The Ob for Tax if using Sorcery in BV would be the harder of the two Obs for your two pools. Enemy puts up 5 successes in Defense, and only 3 in Attack? Ob 5 Tax test.

As someone who is fairly new to the system, I think Pauls description is a very good read. It emphasises Intent/Task, and the need to really have a good reason for not using a simple Intent/Task and a simple roll.

It feels like this thread really isn’t about magic in Bloody Versus as much as it is about Bloody Versus in general, or perhaps about the granularity of the system. I was tempted early on to skip to Fight, even though I knew I shouldn’t, and by now we very rarely use this mechanic - it’s great fun for when there are really big stakes, but it slows down time to a crawl and you really have to be sure that the conflict is important enough before you do that. The Versus / Bloody Versus method is so extremely fast, fun and furious in comparison once you get how to use it.

A practical example from play is when my players raided a possessed sorcerer’s mansion and a mini-zombie-apocalypse ensued (all the walking dead they had locked in the basement managed to break free while they were on the second floor). If we would have run a Fight against all those zombies, the game would have turned tedious and the players’ ability to outmaneuver and outwit the zombie horde would quite possibly have been lost. As it were, it turned into both a Bloody Versus conflict where the entire party was desperately fighting the zombies in the mansion’s stairwell to prevent them from reaching the upper floor and a number of tests for the characters to make their escape, lock the zombies in and set the mansion on fire - an all in all, it was over in under 30 minutes. The tension at the table was priceless.

As regards to spellcasting in Bloody Versus - why go there? If the mage has magical capabilities, just let him cast a spell at his opponent/opponents if they don’t have the drop on him or the spell would take too long. If the opponents survive, then you can skip to Bloody Versus, but at that point he will not have the time or opportunity to sling any spells (and might be taxed as well). Or choose another method if this doesn’t suit you - maybe opposed Speed tests, with a penalty for the mage if he is casting a slow spell, with the mage getting to cast his spell if he wins the test?

argh! I just spent 45 minutes writing a post and it was lost!

ok it was partially saved…

Let me try this question from a different angle. I understand how combat works simultaneously in play and intent + task. My question i guess goes a bit into what is actually said at the game table. so let me set up a scenario and see how other would run it at the table.

Story- characters are trying to muscle their way into an inn in order to arrest a person on the second floor whom they believe is going to assassinate the local mayor. The would be assassin has rough an tumble friends down in the main room of the inn who are wanting to protect the assassin because they believe the mayor is screwing people over. The players walk into the inn, state their intentions to the room showing that they have been deputized. The assassin’s 10 friends decide to keep the PCs locked up in a little brawl while one of their friends runs upstairs to tell the assassin people are there to arrest him. two of the PCs pull their swords and a brawl breaks out.

ok so with that story i just came up with on the fly, how would people address the combat? I will lay out my thoughts and show where trouble spots arise. Please tell me if I am doing all this wrong.

(As i lost the other 3/4 of this post before it got posted, I’ll go shorthand with the rest)

So knowing the that fight is not integral to the story line, I say to the players “How about we do this as a BV?” both players say “yes that sounds good”

So i Ask player one what he wants to do and he says " I want to take my hammer and knock the wind out of the biggest MF there." I turn to player two and as “what would you like to do?” and he says “I want to cast fire breath and burn the nearest guy to me to a crisp”. Does this mean i now have to switch to a Fight?

I would be happy to do as Paul stats and just use the hub and spokes, but that would seem to keep the problem there. With Fight and Range and Cover being off the table, how do any spell casters use spells in combat? I would also like to use BV just as Storapan say, in order to have fast and furious combat…but does tha mean the second someone wants to cast spells in the combat I will need to start scripting Fights for all 30 Zombies that have escaped? Its seems to me that BV and fight, if we were to watch the action as a film, would look the same, what we are talking about are how in detail we want to get actually scripting the exact actions taking place in the fight. a 30 second fight on film could take 10 minutes of scripting all the actions using fight, or short handing the action down to a couple rolls using BV. It doesn’t seem like in the “film” there would be any less time to cast spells in BV than in Fight.

But as many of the replies to my post seem to say something along the lines of “why would you want to have spells in BV” means there are no rules for it.

p.s. Sorry if my post seems a little edgy, im on day three of quitting smoking and am climbing up walls over here. Please ignore any perceived antagonism, it is not intended and is the lack of smoking getting the better of me.

So how do you know if players would like to do anything?

Hi Wamoomaw

Situation one (swords):
One person with sword leads, other helps vs. 10 goons. Both sides do the BV math with help. Injuries happen to everyone on the injured side (so if the two guys land a B6 wound on the goons, all the goons take a B6 wound, similarly for our heroes). Fell free to reduce the number of goons who can help because otherwise our heroes are hosed (+9 dice in help).

Situation two (one hammer, one fire breath):

Dude with Hammer vs. 5 goons. He does the BV math, they do the BV math with a bunch of help. If he wins, he hurts all of the people he’s fighting.
Dude with magic vs. 5 other goons. He does the BV math (as per my earlier post), they do the BV math with a bunch of help. If he wins, he hurts all of the people he’s fighting.

Similar as before, limiting the number of people who can help might make sense depending on what’s going on within your fictional space (if the two guys are locked in a supply room and msot of the guards are outside, reducing the number of enemies that can participate is totally reasonable). Also, like any other test in Burning Wheel, make sure you get an intent out of your players before they engage so you know what to give (or deny) them. If they are trying to secure that supply room against the goons and they succeed, even though they only wounded four of them (because, hypothetically only four were valid to engage) they have gotten their intent and secured the room. Any potential injuries that the PCs receive in the process is the penalty for using violence and is icing on the cake.

Let me know if you have any questions.

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Awesome! thanks for this. This answers all my questions for BV combat. I really appreciate it!

One more quick question, if people are helping like this, does armor factor into the equation? If the NPC team scores a hit and the PCs are wearing armor, do the PCs get to roll their armor to try to negate the hit? If so and two make their armor rolls and one does not i assume that it is still considered a “hit” in regards to the outcome of the set of rolls correct?

In BV armor is already factored in, so a hit is a hit, no armor roll.