Generic, Endlessly Applicable Roleplay System (3rd Ed.)
In most games, in most genres, the player characters will find themselves fighting for their lives against vicious opponents, be they orcs, robots, zombies, ninjas, the Cardinal’s Guard or whatever else the GM can throw at them. In GEARS, Combat is swift and deadly. In a matter of seconds wounds are given and received that may take weeks to heal. The combat rules reflect the extremely hazardous nature of fighting.
Combat works as described below:
Order of action:
Each combatant (including NPCs) rolls against their Reaction Speed. The character who passes by the most goes first, followed by the second highest and so on until everyone has acted. Then a new turn starts. Each turn is assumed to last approximately 5 seconds, and all action is near-simultaneous.
Note that unless a character has a very low Reaction Speed, it is very unlikely that a character will actually fail a roll against his Reaction Speed. If they somehow do, they simply go last. However note that it is possible to critically fail your Reaction Speed roll. This means that you are taken completely by surprise and stand gaping for the first round. At the end of this round, roll again, taking your place in the order of action. If you critically fail again, you spend another round inactive and staring. If attacked whilst inactive in this way, you may defend yourself as usual, but will get no actions, and therefore may not attack.
It is also possible to critically succeed a Reaction Speed Roll, the character acting with blinding speed. This character effectively gets one free turn before anyone else can react, in which they may act as normal. If they attack, their opponent can defend as normal. After this free turn, roll again, taking your place in the order of action. If you roll a 1 again, you do not get another free round, but will likely be one of the first to act in any case.
(Note to GMs: In a combat in which the characters face a number of statistically identical foes, it can be much easier to roll for the enemies as a group, and have them all acting at the same time, rather than trying to keep track of half a dozen different RS rolls, and who’s attacking whom, and when, and how. Obviously actual NPCs should be rolled for seperately. It is advised that you do not bother with the rules for critical successes and failures for groups of NPCs, merely treating rolls of 1 or 20 as standard rolls.)
Each character gets one action per turn. This will usually be to attack an opponent, but could include drawing a weapon, casting a spell, using an item, unlocking a door or a more complicated action that may take several turns to complete.
Unlike many roleplay games, there are no separate ‘Hit’ and ‘Damage’ rolls. This system works on the basis that the amount of damage inflicted is a direct product of the power and/or accuracy of the blow, and how poorly the opponent defends themself, varying, of course, by weapon type.
Attacks are Opposed Rolls as described in Playing the game. To attack an opponent, roll against the relevant Speciality in the normal way, modified by weapon type, armour and complimentary Specialities (see below). If you roll equal to or lower than your rating, you have successfully struck at your opponent.
They then get to attempt to defend themselves. To defend, roll against the relevant Speciality in the same way as if you were attacking, again modified by weapon type, armour and complimentary Specialities. However, your defence is also affected by the skill and ferocity of the attack. In game, this is done by modifying your Speciality by the amount the attack roll succeeded by. E.g. A fighter with Swordsman 15 rolls a 6 to attack, succeeding by 9. His opponent has an Swordsman rating of 17, and so to successfully defend, he must roll 8 or less (17 minus 9).
Defending yourself does not count as an action, and you may attack your opponent and attempt to defend yourself (possibly more than once) in one turn.
For the rules for different weapon types, see below:
Once you hit, the amount of damage done to your Durability is determined by the degree of failure of the defence. To continue the example above, the defender rolls an 15. Since he needed to roll a 8 or less, he has failed by 7 points (or 7 ‘degrees’). To discover the amount of damage taken, consult the table below.
|Degree of Damage (I.e. amount Defence Roll failed by)||0-1||2-3||4-5||6-7||8-9||10-11||12-13||14-15||16-17||18-19||20-21||22+|
|Very Large Claws||3||4||5||6||7/1||8/2||9/4||10/5||11/5||12/6||14/7||16/9|
Serious Damage: You will notice that the higher degrees of damage have 2 numbers. The first of the scores is the amount of damage done to your Durability. However, more serious wounds will hamper you and slow you down. Very serious wounds might even cripple you, at least temporarily. The second number is the number of points of both Brawn and Coordination damage you take if wounded this badly.
Remember that if your Coordination decreases, so will your Reaction Speed, so the order of actions may change during the course of a fight, possibly even several times.
There is a wide variety of armour available, from simple leather jerkins to full suits of steel plate armour, modern-day flak jackets and combat armour through to futuristic powered battle suits.
Armour provides a bonus to Defence rolls, but can also slow down and hamper a fighter, giving a penalty to Reaction Speed. They will also make it harder to be stealthy, and make actions such as climbing, jumping or swimming much harder, as shown below. Armour will usually come with some sort of head and hand protection, and perhaps leg protection as well.
|Armour||Examples||Defence Modifier||Reaction Speed||Other Modifiers|
|Level 1||Leather Jerkin, Padded Doublet, Heavy Coat||+1||-1||-1 to Swimmer|
|Level 2||Stab Vest, Buff Coat, Leather Hauberk||+2||-2||-1 to Leaper, Climber, Tumbler, Runner, Swimmer|
|Level 3||Gambeson, Byrnie, Breast Plate||+3||-3||-1 to Leaper, Climber, Tumbler, Runner, Swimmer; -1 to Stealthy, Evasion|
|Level 4||Buff Coat and Cuirass, Flak Jacket||+4||-4||-2 to Leaper, Climber, Tumbler, Runner, Swimmer; -1 to Stealthy, Evasion|
|Level 5||Hauberk, Arma Segmentata, Modern Combat Armour||+5||-5||-2 to Leaper, Climber, Tumbler, Runner, Swimmer; -2 to Stealthy, Evasion|
|Level 6||Full Mail, Yori||+6||-6||-2 to Leaper, Climber, Tumbler, Runner, Swimmer; -2 to Stealthy, Evasion|
|Level 7||Plate-Reinforced Mail||+7||-7||-3 to Leaper, Climber, Tumbler, Runner, Swimmer; -3 to Stealthy, Evasion|
|Level 8||Half-Plate||+8||-8||-3 to Leaper, Climber, Tumbler, Runner, Swimmer; -3 to Stealthy, Evasion|
|Level 9||Full Plate||+9||-9||-4 to Leaper, Climber, Tumbler, Runner, Swimmer; -4 to Stealthy, Evasion|
|Level 10||Powered Combat Armour, Armoured Exosuit||+10||-4||-4 to Climber, Tumbler, Swimmer; -3 to Stealthy, Evasion|
Other Specialisations in Combat
Strongman: This complements any close combat attack (but not defence). See Playing the game.
Evasion: This complements any close combat defence (but not attack). See Combined Specialities above. Evasion may be used to fight defensively (see Playing the game), in which case you get no attack action but receive the bonus to your defence roll. Evasion is also used to attempt to leave a combat (See below).
Disarm: In combat, instead of making an attack action, you may attempt to disarm your opponent. Roll to attack as normal against this Speciality. They may defend as usual, but if they fail, their weapon is plucked from their hands. However, they take no damage. It is up to the GM as to where the weapon ends up.
If a character is attempting to fight hand to hand, and has no close combat Specialities at all, then they will be rolling against their Brawn or Coordination -4, as normal.
However, if they do have a close combat Speciality, but for whatever reason are using a different weapon, they may use their Brawn or Coordination without penalty, as they already have some idea of how to move, parry and strike.
An exception to this is when using offhand or parrying weapons. If lacking these Specialities, even if you have other close combat Specialities, you will still be using them with a -4 penalty.
If you are attacked by more than one opponent at once you may only attack one per round, but are able to defend yourself from all of them. However, each successive parry will have to be faster and more frantic if you are to avoid being hit. Each successive defence roll after the first suffers a -5 penalty. Thus, if attacked simultaneously by 4 people, who all passed their Attack Rolls, the first roll would be made as normal, the second at -5, the third at -10 and the last at -15. This also applies if fighting an opponent capable of more than one attack per round. The first attack will be defended against as normal, the second at -5.
If also avoiding missiles or blocking them with a shield, each missile dodged or blocked also counts as an attack, stacking up the defence modifier even further.
Defensive and Offensive Combat
Sometimes, especially when hard pressed by several foes, it can be advantageous to restrict yourself to defence until your comrades can come to your aid. At the start of your turn, you may state that you are going to fight defensively, in which case, any attacks you make this turn are at -5, but all defence rolls made that turn are at a +5, to your Speciality or Coordination roll. The Evasion Speciality can also be used for this (See Other Specialities in Combat above).
An ingenious (and realistic) use of this rule is if you have the Speciality Offhand Weapon or Parrying Weapon. You can use the second weapon for defence, taking the -5 penalty to the attack for that weapon and a bonus to your defence, although in this case it is only +3 since you are concentrating on 2 actions at once. Your main weapon can still be used to attack as normal, without penalty.
If you have Offhand Weapon or Parrying Weapon, and choose to use both actions to defend, you may add 7 to any defence rolls you make that turn, and both attacks are made at -5.
Equally, some (often less stable) characters may decide to throw caution to the wind and go with an all-out attack to try and finish off an opponent before they can counter-attack. This is often the last desperate act of someone who thinks that they are about to die; an all-or-nothing charge. If a character chooses to do this, then they may make their attack roll with a +5 bonus. However, all Defence rolls that turn are at -5 to their roll. If a character chooses to do this, they must say so at the start of the round.
If you have the speciality Offhand Weapon or Parrying Weapon, you may NOT choose to go all out with one, and fight normally or defensively with the other. This is a savage, vicious assault, throwing caution to the wind and potentially exposing yourself to serious or even fatal injury if you do not finish off your opponent straight away.
If you want to try and disengage from your opponent for whatever reason, you can either attempt to leap away and put a bit of distance between yourself and your foe, or you can just turn tail and run, risking a sword blade between your ribs or a blow to the back of your head.
To attempt the former requires a defence roll against Evasion (or Coordination -4), modified as usual by the opponent’s degree of success. If successful, you have slipped away from your opponent’s blow and can now try and make good your escape. No other action may be attempted this turn and this does not count as Defensive Combat with its bonus to the roll (see above). If an opponent wishes to close again, they must catch you, requiring a successful opposed roll against Sprinter (or Coordination -4).
If you wish to just turn tail and flee, then your opponent may have a free attack, dealt with as normal. This does NOT constitute an Unopposed Attack. You may make no other actions in the turn you attempt to flee.
Critical Successes and Failures
A critical failure in defence means that not only have you been hit (and probably quite badly hurt), you are now wide open for a second blow. Your opponent gets a free second attack in addition to his previous action.
A critical success when defending yourself means that your superior technique has left your opponent wide open to a swift riposte. You instantly get a free attack in addition to your normal action that turn.
A critical failure in an attack means that you have missed horribly and exposed yourself to counter-attack. Your opponent gets a free attack in addition to his normal action.
A critical success when attacking means that in addition to what will most likely be a large amount of damage, you have also inflicted additional damage in the form of a lasting, and possibly even permanent injury. Note that the opponent may make a defence roll as normal (although presumably the modifier for the degree of success will be quite high), and if they pass, take no damage as normal.
In the event of a successful critical hit, the character should roll 2d10 and consult the following table. The effect is in addition to any damage they receive from the hit itself:
|2||Massive head wound||-6 Wits, -3 Knowledge.|
|3||Mutilated||-4 Personal from the character’s initial attribute.|
|4||Lost eye||-2 Coordination, -2 Wits from the character’s initial attribute.|
|5||Head wound||-2 Wits from the character’s initial attribute.|
|6||Head Wound||-2 Knowledge from the character’s initial attribute.|
|7||Broken Arm||The character is at -4 Coordination and Brawn until the arm is healed, and cannot use that arm in any way. The arm will take 4 weeks to heal, or the use of a Heal or Regeneration spell (which will have no other effects)|
|8||Stunned for 1d10 Rounds||May not attack or defend.|
|9||Severe Bleeding||The character loses 1 Durability per round until the bleeding is stopped.|
|10||Damaged Armour||If the character’s wearing armour, its defence bonus is reduced by 2. If this takes the armour to 0 or less, it is destroyed. If the character is not wearing armour, re-roll.|
|11||Knocked off balance||The character may defend themselves but may not attack in their next turn.|
|12||The character’s weapon is broken.||If the character is using 2, the attacker may choose which is broken.|
|13||Fear||The character is ‘shell-shocked’, and will suffer flashbacks and irrational fear in situations of stress, such as combat in the future. Before any future combats, the character must make a Wits roll, modified by the number of opponents that the characters are outnumbered by (i.e if 3 player characters were facing 5 opponents, the roll would be at -2). If this roll is failed, the character will flee, or if this is impossible cower as far away from the fighting as possible. It is possible that with proper psychiatric treatment, or if they roll a critical success (at the GM’s discretion) that they will recover from this and be able to act and fight as normal.|
|14||Broken Leg||The character is at -4 Coordination and Brawn until the leg is healed, and cannot use that leg in any way. The leg will take 4 weeks to heal, or the use of a Heal or Regeneration spell (which will have no other effects)|
|15||Deep wound||-1 Brawn from the character’s initial attribute.|
|16||Scarred||-1 Personal from the character’s initial attribute.|
|17||Weakened||-2 from the character’s initial Durability.|
|18||Crippling injury||-5 Coordination from the character’s initial attribute.|
|19||Lost limb (roll for arm or leg)||-6 Brawn and Coordination.|
Ranged weapons such as guns are used much as close combat weapons. Simply roll 1d20 and get less than or equal to your Speciality Rating. However, there are other modifiers that apply as well:
|More than a quarter of target covered||-2|
|More than half of target covered||-4|
|Smoothbore (Not including rifles, duelling pistols,
shotguns or blunderbusses)
|Each previous turn spent aiming (up to 3 turns)||+2|
|Sharp Vision (only at long range)||+1|
|Firing twice in turn||-2|
|Firing 3 times in turn||-4|
|Firing 5 times in turn (Full auto)||-5|
Below are the ranges, reload times and other information for various types of missile weapon
As with close combat, the amount by which you pass your roll is used to calculate the amount of damage inflicted.
If the target is aware that they are being shot at, they may make an attempt to dodge the missile using Evasion, plus any defence bonuses from armour, or Coordination -5. The Evasion (or Coordination) roll, modified by armour can be recorded on the Character Sheet under ‘Missile Defence’. This roll is modified by the shooter’s degree of success, and If attempting to evade bullets, there is an additional penalty of -4.
If the character has Parrying Weapon: Shield, they may use this to defend against missiles instead, modified by the shield’s defence bonus and any armour bonus. This will not work against bullets unless the shield is specifically designed to be bullet-proof.
Whether dodging or using a shield, if the roll is a success, the missile is avoided or blocked. If they fail, the amount they fail by is the degree of damage they receive. As with close combat, every shot after the first that they try and avoid has an extra -5 modifier.
It is assumed that any character in a ranged combat will be taking some sort of evasive action. However, if a character prefers, they can stay stock still and instead take careful aim. If they do this, they may gain a +5 to their shot, but will not get any sort of defence roll against shots made against them. If armed with a weapon that can fire multiple times in a round, such as a revolver, this only works if a single shot is being fired that turn.
Equally, a character may choose to do nothing but duck and dodge in their turn. They will gain a +5 bonus to their evasion roll, but may do nothing else in their turn.
Note that a critical success for ranged weapons is the same as for close combat. You hit them with a perfectly accurate shot, inflicting potentially permanent and crippling damage on your opponent.
A critical fail however is different. If you critically fail, not only have you not hit them, but you may have hit an ally. Make another roll to hit, targeted at the friendly character closest to the original target, dealt with as a normal shot.
A critical success if trying to dodge a missile simply means that you have avoided it all together. A critical fail means you have been hit and knocked off your feet. Take damage as normal, and the character is now lying on the floor, vulnerable until their next turn, which they must spend struggling to their feet.
When fighting mounted on a horse or other animal, combat progrsses more or less as normal. However, at the start of each round, each mounted combatant should make a roll against Cavalryman (or Rider with a -4 penalty, or Coordination with a -8 penalty).
If you are charging into combat that round, the amount that you succeed or fail your roll by is a modifier to all attack and defence rolls this turn. If you’re already in combat, then this modifier is halved (rounding up).
If you are successfully struck whilst mounted, you must make a Rider roll, modified by the degree of damage you’ve received. If you fail, you are knocked from your steed, and will receive 1-5 points of Durability damage.
Combat between small, one man vehicles such as fighter planes, starfighters or armed hoverbikes is quite simple. Combat is conducted as normal, with the characters involved rolling Attack and Defence against Combat Pilot (Vehicle), or Pilot (Vehicle) with a -4 penalty, or Wits with a -8 penalty.
Order of action is rolled against the pilot’s Reaction Speed as normal.
Damage is calculated in much the same way, but is applied to the vehicle. Where a hit would also inflict Brawn and Coordination damage to the target, this is the number of degrees of damage inflicted on the pilot. If the vehicle is reduced to 0 Durability, or the pilot falls unconscious, the vehicle crashes destroying the vehicle and, if an airborne vehicle such as an aircraft, inflicting 2-40 points of Durability damage to the pilot, or 1-20 points if ground-based.
Combat involving larger vehicles such as ships, airships and starships is more complicated, and will involve more characters than a single pilot. These may include Age of Sail ships, with broadsides from entire decks of more-or-less fixed cannon, or air or star ships that fight in a similar fashion, or ancient sailing ships with mounted ballistae or catapults and later marine vessels, and in fiction, airships, landships and starships fighting with multiple independent turrets and gun emplacements.
Combat for larger ships is worked out as follows:
Order of action is rolled against the commanding officer’s Tactics: Naval/Aerial/Space/Land, or Knowledge -4.
The pilot of the vessel then against Combat Pilot (Vehicle), or Pilot (Vehicle) with a -4 penalty, or Wits with a -8 penalty. The pilot also gets a modifier to their roll depending on the speed and manoeuvrability of their vessel.
Next, for each weapons turret, or for age of sail-type ships (or vehicles that work the same way), each deck of guns, the chief gunner for that turret/gun deck makes an Artilleryman roll, modified by the pilot’s degree of success or failure.
If they hit, the target ship’s pilot may make a Defence roll against his Combat Pilot (Vehicle), or Pilot (Vehicle) with a -4 penalty, or Wits with a -8 penalty, further modified by the gunner’s degree of success.
For vehicles with decks of more or less fixed guns, such as sailing ships, every gun over 5 on each side that a gun deck has, the Chief Gunner may add 2 to his roll. For every gun under 5, he must subtract 2. You may have no more than 15 guns per side, per deck.
Damage is inflicted on the ship’s Durability as normal, using the following damage lines:
|Degree of Damage (I.e. amount Defence Roll failed by)||0-1||2-3||4-5||6-7||8-9||10-11||12-13||14-15||16-17||18-19||20-21||22+|
|Light Weapons e.g. swivel gun, Machine Gun, AA Gun, Light Laser Cannon||1||1||3||4||5||5/1||5/2||6/2||7/2||8/3||9/4||10/5|
|Medium Weapons e.g. Light Cannon, Rocket Battery, Laser Cannon||2||2||4||6/1||7/1||8/2||9/3||10/3||11/4||13/5||15/6||17/8|
|Heavy Weapons e.g. Heavy Cannon, Missile, Energy Torpedo||2||3||5||7/1||7/2||8/3||9/4||10/5||12/5||14/6||16/6||18/8|
Where a hit would also inflict Brawn and Coordination damage to the target, this is either:
1. A number of NPC crew who are killed, and the number of degrees of damage inflicted on a randomly selected Player Character, using the damage lines above.
2. A permanent penalty to the pilot’s Pilot and Combat Pilot rolls, due to damage to the ship.
The target ship may choose which it is.
|Example Ship Type||Speed||Durability||Maximum number of cannon/deck/side||Maximum number of gun decks||Maximum number of weapon turrets|
|Heavy Fighter, Heavy Starfighter||Very Fast||10||/||/||2|
|Pinace, Heavy Bomber||Very Fast||20||3||1||3|
|Sloop, Light Interceptor||Fast||32||6||1||4|
|Barque, Heavy Interceptor, Destroyer||Fast||40||8||1||6|
|Frigate, Light Cruiser||Medium||60||10||2||10|
|Galleon, Heavy Cruiser||Medium||80||12||2||16|
|Man O’War, Capital Ship||Medium||100||15||3||20|
These are the rules that were developed for creating airships in a steampunk game I ran, but they should work just as well for a starship, or possibly even a Landship or more modern type of marine ship. Star and marine ships may require larger amounts of hold space in relation to other elements.
Ships are built using a number of construction points (CP). A decent-sized ship manageable by a crew of 4-6 PCs can be constructed with 20 points.
Each ship is constructed of various room types, each representing a 10 foot by ten foot area, and about six and a half feet high:
|Room Type||CP Cost|
|Navigation (Required for ships making journeys of more than 1 day)||1|
|Crew cabin (Sleeps up to 4, or 2 more comfortably)||1|
|Engine Room (Required)||2|
|Galley (i.e Kitchen, required for ships making journeys of more than 1 day)||1|
|Mess Room (i.e dining area)||1|
|Hold (At least 1 unit required for ships making journeys of more than 1 day. Each unit equivalent to 650 cubic feet)||1|
|Light armament (Rockets, Light Laser Cannon)||1|
|Medium Armament (Gatling Gun, Medium Laser)||2|
|Heavy Armament (Cannon, Heavy Laser Cannon)||3|
A vessels’ Durability is equal to its Construction Point total times two.
|Very slow||1 engine unit/20 units|
|Slow||1 engine unit per 15 units|
|Medium||1 engine unit per 10 units|
|Fast||1 engine unit per 5 units|
|Very fast||1 engine unit per 3 units|
This is a lightly-armed free trader airship I created for the aforementioned steampunk game.
This is a zeppelin-style craft with a gondola fixed beneath a large, gas-filled envelope, plying the perilous skies above the wildest border-regions of the British Empire in the year 1881. It’s not a warship, but is sufficiently well-armed to be able to see off sky-pirates as long as they’re not too well-armed and determined.
|Crew Cabins x3||3|
|Rocket Emplacements x2||2|
|Engine Room (2 units)||4|
|Hold (6 units)||6|
Gondola Width: 25ft (including central corridor)
Gondola Length: 75ft (including entrance corridor)
Envelope Length: 225 ft
Envelope Width: 45 ft
Hold space: 3900 cubic feet
Min Crew: 2 (Pilot/Navigator, Engineer)