Greetings and (I will have) questions about combat

:flushed: I want this!

Hey Thor, great to see you too! I remember you posted a description of that campaign, it sounded epic. I think you really made the most of the book. I wish I had more time back then to hear more details about how it all went. My day job was running me ragged at the time. I’d love to hear more about it now (and any other historical campaigns you may have run), and I have an idea for another setting I’d like to do I wouldn’t mind running by you, maybe I should start another thread for that…


Josh says, “Hi.”

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Say hi to Josh for me, hope he’s better last time I saw him (last Summer in Houston I think?) he was injured.

Ok back to questions on combat.

I have to say so far everything sounds quite sensible. I’m impressed that BW handles weapon defense, different ranges or the effects of reach, parries which are also counters, attacking around and (where possible) through armor, and different maneuvers.

A few more questions:

  1. I see those manuevers include things like “Beat”, “Counterstrike”, “Attack” and “Parry”. Are there any specific trained manueveurs which aren’t universal?

  2. How much are weapons differentiated? I gather they are rated for reach, anything else?

  3. What kind of variability is there? You use D10s? What are the target numbers for success or failure? Do those change or are they always the same?

  4. Are there any specific rules for grappling?

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Thor I started an “Historical Campaign” thread here:

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  1. Without a book in front of me, Block & Strike (defending and attacking in one action) requires Shield Training plus a shield, or Two-Fisted Fighting Training and 2 weapons. I think that’s it, though there might be a couple others.

  2. Melee weapons are rated on range (“Weapon Length”), base damage (“Power”), how easy it is to increase damage (“Add”, which is only different for Dagger-like weapons), ease of repeated striking (“Weapon Speed”), effectiveness vs armor (“Versus Armor”), handedness (1- or 2-hands), and how good it is (“Quality”, which is the first thing you determine). Ranged weapons work a bit differently, but we’ll ignore those for now.
    For instance, a Poor Quality Sword is Pow 3 / Add 2 / WS 2 / VA - / Long 1-Handed, while a Superior Long Sword is Pow 3 / Add 2 / WS 3 / VA 1 / Long 1-Handed. Both of these use the Sword skill, but the higher quality sword can strike more quickly and is better against armored foes.

  3. The base difficulty to hit (what we call Obstacle or “Ob”) is 1, meaning that to score a hit you must roll at least one 4, 5, or 6 on your pool of d6 dice. The size of the pool you roll is based on your skill rating with the weapon type you are using, plus any advantages you have. The difficulty will alter based on the action your opponent scripts and any penalties for being ranged by your foe (plus an additional penalty if your weapon is of Poor quality). Additionally, as others have noted, you can spend extra rolled successes (your Margin of Success, or “MoS”) to do things like move the hit location or increase damage.
    Damage isn’t done as different die sizes as in D&D or similar games. Instead it’s rated as a series of three numbers called IMS (for Incidental/Mark/Superb) that reflect how well you hit. Your Mark damage is the weapon’s Power plus your Power, Incidental is half that rounded up, and Superb damage is 1.5 times that rounded down. So with a 4 Power character and a Sword (3 Weapon Power) your IMS is 4/7/10. By default hit deals the low “Incidental” damage; extra successes on the Strike can be spent to move from Incidental to Mark damage, and from Mark to Superb.

As an example, let’s say we are fighting Long Sword (you) vs Dirk (me). We’re both wearing some leather armor but no helmets. We both have a rating of 4 in our respective weapon skills and 4 Power, and are fighting at your Range. Your IMS is 4/7/10, while mine is 3/5/7. Your Ob to hit me will be 1 (base 1 + 0 penalty) while mine will be 3 (base 1 + 2 penalty).

We both script and reveal Strikes against each other, and roll our skills. I offer my chest as your target, hoping to absorb the blow with the reinforced chest armor, while you offer your left leg so keep me away from your head. You get 2 successes, which is a hit with 1 MoS (2 successes minus 1 Ob = 1 MoS); because the Add of a Sword is 2 it costs 2 MoS to increase damage so you don’t have enough MoS upgrade the strength of your hit. You decide instead to spend your extra success to move the blow from my chest to my unarmored head, and score a B4 hit on me with no chance for me to ward it off. I get very lucky and manage 4 successes on my dice, also a hit with 1 MoS (4 success - 3 Ob). Because the Add of the Dirk is 1, I keep the hit on your left leg and spend the MoS to go from Incidental to Mark damage. I’m threatening a wound of B5, but your armor may ward it off!

  1. Grappling is handled with the Lock action, which must be done at Hands weapon length. It’s a natural followup to Charge/Tackle or Beat for that reason, and uses your character’s Power rather than a weapon skill. Locks reduce your opponents physical stats and offensive capabilities while applied, and reducing one of their stats to 0 incapacitates them.

Small addition, throw person requires martial arts/boxing instead of the standard brawling


Ah thanks, I was going to ask about throwing

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I’m gonna expand on Agnelcow’s response, since they were so thorough.

  1. The Codex (the game’s supplement) also offers some optional maneuvers like, “Counter-Lock” and “Counter-Disarm”. If you do use those, they’re meant to be out in the world where you have to learn them from certain instructors. Block amd Strike is certainly the big one. I once hacked an Infighting (Wing Chun) Training that let the fighter add a shorter range than Hands that they could Engage their opponent at. Other than that, there’s also a distinction between Brawling and Martial Arts: Brawling can be used for basic actions and for Lock and Push, but Martial Arts open up special actions for bare fisted fighting, like Feint. It’s also the skill you test for Throw Person, so that maneuver is kind of locked behind Martial Arts.

  2. Weapon Speed is the amount of consecutive Strikes you can use in a given exchange without having to break up your flow with a different action. Handedness is what the weapon requires–You can wield a longsword two handed, and there are some benefits to doing so.

  3. [quote=“Agnelcow, post:18, topic:23533, full:true”] The base difficulty to hit (what we call Obstacle or “Ob”) is 1, meaning that to score a hit you must roll at least one 5 or 6 on your pool of d6 dice.

Add 4 to that range, heh.

Rather than a static, Base Obstacle, some actions interact such that you roll against each other. Block vs Strike, for instance. Penalties for being ranged eat up successes before they are applied to the roll. Some Base Obstacles are half the opponent’s Stats, rather than 1. Locking an opponent who’s Striking, for instance.

  1. You can also use Brawling or Martial Arts(I think) instead of Power (BW’s Strength). Doing so can be advantageous at times. There’s also Throw Person. Locks can be maintained and improved over the course of the Fight and have some fun fringe benefits–Like, if you’ve got me Locked, I can’t well Engage you at Spear range, can I? You can also use Lock starting from any range, but you give your opponent the Advantage to do so.

Eric says, “Hi.” Josh’s pretty much recovered.

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Agh! Can’t believe I got the success threshold wrong. Shouldn’t have been reading ShadowRun books last night, clearly.

All of these clarifications/additions are great, thanks for rounding out stuff I’d missed!


Ok so ‘Throw’ is a subset of ‘Martial Arts’ - what is the terminology for the two levels of these things? Are there any other actions which come out of ‘Martial Arts’ for example?

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Throw is an Action. Martial Arts is a Skill. You test Skills (or Stats where appropriate) to perform Actions. You can perform most actions unskilled, but there’s a penalty. Some Actions you can’t take without special Training Skills or Traits. In D&D 3.5 terms, it’s a bit like how you can attack with any weapon, but you take -4 if you aren’t proficient with it, you can do special stuff if you have a Feat that allows you to, and you can’t cast spells unless you’re a Wizard (or some such).

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I’m hip man. I get the idea of of a trained vs. an untrained skill. I’m interested in the relationship between Skill and Action. Couple more questions

About how many Skills are available?
About how many Actions are typically derived from each Skill. Is there any overlap?
About how many Skills would a Character typically acquire (post character generation) after say, six sessions of play?
How many at the start (typically or a range)?


Hey, now. Not all games let you perform an Action that calls for a Skill if you don’t have it. Some do, but assumed that not having the skill bonus is penalty enough! :stuck_out_tongue:

Hmm… The skill list starts on page 253. It ends on page 309. A quick and dirty sampling of three random pages produced an average of 7 Skills listed per page. So… 400ish? That seems a bit high. The best answer, I think, is, “A lot.” In terms of combat, each weapon type has a Skill: Sword, Knives, Spear, Polearm, etc. Brawling and Martial Arts cover hand-to-hand stuff. Brawling is relatively easy to acquire in Chargen, but Martial Arts is sort of locked; you have to specifically gun for it at the expense of something else. Throwing [weapons] is a separate Skill, to quote Luke, “Because I am a bastard.”

I don’t know that thinking about Actions as being derived from Skills is the right way to think of it. Partly why I felt like saying you could do an Action that called for a Skill with a penalty was a clarification worth making. Martial Arts being a key to special unarmed Actions it is kind of a unique case. Typically Actions just call for your Weapon Skill (Or Brawling or Martial Arts if you’re unarmed). Actions are generally more about what tool you’re using than what Skill (though, then you’re gonna be Skilled in that tool or not). So… If you want to take the Shoot Action, you’re gonna use a bow or a crossbow or a gun to do it. If you have a bow, it’s a Bow test. If you don’t have a bow (or similar) you can’t take the Shoot Action. Sorry, I realize a lot of this stuff is probably simple enough to not bear explaining; I feel like maybe there’s some simple misunderstanding I’m having trouble wrapping my head around. :sweat_smile:

The rate at which Characters acquire Skills (and which ones they acquire) varies quite a bit. Skills are acquired (“opened” in the resident lingo), by testing them, primarily. If we’re playing a game that involves a lot of combat, I’m more likely to open combat Skills quickly (Hopefully! gulp). If we’re getting in one Fight per game, and I’m deliberately trying to open Martial Arts, for instance, I can probably log 1 test toward opening it per session. If I’ve got an Aptitude of 6 (probably I do), it takes 6 tests to open the Skill. So, in 6 sessions, I’ll have it open by the end of the last one. But that’s 6 potentially wasted Actions in a fight, which can be quite risky. If we’re playing courtly intrigue, I’ll likely be testing other Skills toward opening. Those penalties for untrained Skills can get pretty nasty, though, so trying to navigate a diversity of problems through unskilled actions to try to gun for opening a Skill up can lead to… A snowballing effect of worsening consequences. You can also take downtime to work toward opening Skills, or find (and pay) an instructor to expedite that process.

It depends on how you build your character. Some options offer more Skills to choose from than others. And you can spend points upping Skills rather than opening new ones. Usually, it’s better to build broad rather than deep. The sample human character in the book has 19 Skills open. The sample Orc character (who tend to have less diverse, harsher options) has 10. 10 to 20 isn’t a bad range, I think. Right now I’m playing a human who was enslaved for a bit; he started with 11, and is notably under-skilled.


Ok lets drill down on this relationship between Skills and Actions a bit more.

Are there any other Actions which are connected in the way that Martial Arts opens up the option to Throw, or is that unique?

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It’s pretty much unique. I think you need Martial Arts to Feint unarmed, but you can Feint with a sword if you have Sword. Those are the only examples like that that I can think of. I think you can use those Actions by Testing Martial Arts untrained.

Some Training Skills (like Feats) get you access to other Actions. I think the full list of those is Two-Fisted Fighting lets you take the Block and Strike Action (like with a parrying dagger), and lets you split you dice-pool on Strike to make two attacks at once (generally not ideal; Block and Strike is usually the best asset from that training, I think). Shield Training lets you use Block and Strike as well (as opposed to a shield just giving you a bonus to Defensive Actions).

There’s also Savage Attack, which, like Martial Arts, is a Skill that grants access to an Action. In this case, it’s Lock and Strike… But it’s for, like, monsters. The idea, I think, is that a Dragon’s toothy maw can bite you and hold you, hence Lock and Strike. That’s why I’m bringing it up here as kind of a footnote. I’m pretty sure you can’t use Lock and Strike untrained without some kind of horrifying, inhuman anatomy.


Ok thank you again. I really appreciate all of the detailed explanations, they are very helpful.

So here is where it gets tricky. What if I wanted to introduce a Skill which could unleash some new actions. For example, Kunst Des Fechtens skill, which would then make available the action of doing a Counter-Strike with a sword, i.e. no shield required. And maybe a few other things too but lets start with that one.

Kunst Des Fechtens is a skill you might pick up from training with a fencing master, or possibly by reading it in a book and training with a colleague or two.

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There are two ways Burning Wheel can handle something like that rather easily. A Trait, such as the Crushing Jaws of the great wolves, does similar to what you’re describing here. It lets great wolves use Lock and Strike with their jaws. There is also Training Skill, such as Armor Training or Mounted Combat Training. I’d go with a Training Skill for what you’re describing.

Training Skills are binary. They are learned as any other skill, but the skill itself has no rank, you either have it or you don’t. The ability to act outside the rules and do actions others can’t in the same situation is what that training skill would give you. You’d still need to rely on your skill with the sword to see how well you can make use of that opportunity the other skill gives you!

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