Attacking in the Melée

Character attacks, regardless of the means by which they are made, commonly take the greater part of a character’s attention and desire in spending his actions, once an enemy has been engaged.

An attack is often as simple as reaching out and taking a swing at a foe, hopefully hitting him, especially when striking with Surprise, but just as often it isn’t. When engaging a foe in battle, the process of attack includes testing his defenses, trying to assess style (Warriors, etc.) and fighting habits and body language, even making a few false starts before actually finding an opening or likely opportunity to make an attack.

A character may use any weapon, shield or other similarly battle-worthy object in hand (tankard, candlestick, dueling cape, fireplace poker, etc. especially in conjunction with a Brawling skill, GM’s discretion) one time to attack over the course of a single action.

IF a character has a weapon or battle-worthy object like a shield, buckler, dueling cape or other similarly hardy object (as above) in both hands, EACH may be used once for attack, allowing the character a total of two attacks.

IF the CND Action Allowance rules are in play, each CS in which a character either attacks or defends (or does both) costs him one (1) point from that allowance.

These attacks need not be both directed at the same foes, BUT attacks against different foes are limited to those that are immediately adjacent, in fields of approach to which the character can respond, unless he makes use of a Turn movement prior or after his attacks to keep track of the foes.

The character only has normal chances of attacking or defending with the off-hand when the player has specified during character creation that the time and trouble were taken to train in that off-hand, which can be certified by showing a separate skill for it on the character record sheet – an entry for that weapon/shield, etc. marked for the off-hand.

An attack can also be modified according to the needs of the moment and the shifting tides of fortune, to allow a character to keep track of how his comrades are faring. A Turn prior to an attack or to conclude one can change the character’s view of the field of battle, a Sidestep or Back-step to lead a foe’s movements, or Advance to press an attack and make a foe give ground. Combatants can Advance in the Movement Phase to press an attack and Back-step to give ground again in the Movement Phase to maintain the distance necessary to keep a larger weapon in play, shift to higher ground, step into and back out of the close mode to punch, elbow jab, knee or kick when his opponent has Bound his weapon.

Weapons can be used to block and lock (see “Bind”, as follows) and check Advances, perhaps to give a body-check and throw a foe back, if one has the advantage of STR and/or size (modified STA). An unarmed foe may make a successful Grab at the hilt or haft of a character’s weapon – or even the blade if wearing a mail or plate gauntlet to protect his hand – and try to wrest it away. The PC should expect to encounter such tactics, and is always free to employ the same tactics, of course.

Stepping past an enemy’s guard, past a larger weapon and into close combat eliminates the ability to use that weapon ONLY in the conventional sense of the manner in which it is intended to be used. It does NOTHING to stop the wielder from throwing a punch with the weapon hand holding the haft or hilt or hammering with the pommel, which then deals normal base damage instead of Brawling Damage (1/10th normal), and does not stop the butt of a hafted weapon from being used to Thrust in close quarters to knock a foe’s breath from him, or take a stab at pinning or crushing a foot, nor stop the haft from being gripped in both hands, cross-wise (if space permits) to crack the advancing foe in the face or pin a body or neck against an adjacent wall or other tall barrier (provided has sufficient size/weight advantage for this to work, GM’s discretion).

The weapons purchased for the character from Appendix G. are grouped on their rosters not merely for the sake of convenience and the definition of Weapon skills, but according to common characteristics they share that dictate the basic strategies and types of strokes generally required to use them effectively in combat.

Should the player find that the character is restricted to a particular type of attack due to the type of weapon he wields, he need not keep repeating the attack type when declaring his attacks. If the character’s weapon allows more than one type of attack, the player MUST state in every declaration how the weapon is to be used for that action when it is Declared.

While it is impossible to anticipate in these rules every single type or kind of attack a player might wish his character to make with a given weapon, a concerted effort is made here to provide enough of a variety of types of attacks to take advantage of all the basic differences in weapon types mentioned in their descriptions, to show both their strengths and weaknesses, but also to account for the various elements of “fighting style”.

The various attacks are found on the following roster, descriptions and rules for implementing them in play immediately following. Some of these are considered optional rules, the player should check with his GM to discover what is allowed and what is not in the game in which he is participating.

The players and GM are both advised to read all attack descriptions thoroughly and check the weapon descriptions themselves for special properties, as many weapons are mentioned in the various attack descriptions along with notes on special uses and any special circumstances restricting those uses.

Improvising a Weapon

Should a character find himself without a weapon, having been disarmed or otherwise caught flat-footed, the following restrictions must be observed when looking for an item to fill in as a weapon from the objects found on-site at the battle.

To use an object as a 1-handed weapon, it must weigh 1/4th the character’s STR or less, in pounds, AND it must be less than 3/4th’s the character’s height.

If it is heavier than this, its use carries a Progressive penalty to use, per pound of weight.

To be used as a 2-handed weapon, it may weigh 1/2 the character’s STR or less, in pounds, and must be larger than 3/4th’s the character’s height.

If it is heavier than this, its use carries a Progressive penalty to use, per pound of weight.

The object must have a general configuration similar to a weapon, like a spit for roasting meat, or an iron skillet, a tankard, a plank of wood or curtain rod, or the like. Suitability of the object for use as a weapon must be agreed upon between the player and the GM. The weapon type which the configuration of the object and its properties most closely resemble should determine the general rules for its use in battle (e.g., a 10-foot bargeman’s pole is subject to the limitations in use as any polearm; an iron spit is bound by the rules regarding rapiers or other thrusting swords, according to its length, etc.).

A Word about Crossbows

While crossbows are among the more deadly of the weapons in the game, they are rather cumbersome in the fray, especially in the melée – little better than a club, really, once fired. Crossbows are best for snipers who wish to stay hidden out of harm’s way so they have time to reload after firing, or for a deadly one-shot ranged attack before discarding the weapon to wade into the melée.

Any character who fears that danger may be afoot and that he and his comrades are in danger should keep his crossbow cocked and loaded, HOWEVER, for every full day that the bow is kept cocked (GM’s discretion) a minus one (-1) penalty will be applied to the amount of damage rolled for any attack with it.

Because of the difficulty involved in cocking and reloading these powerful engines, crossbows take much longer to load and fire than any common hand-bow. It can be a lengthy process to attempt in the heat of battle, especially if the crossbowman is anywhere near the heat of the fray. As explained in the notes for these machines, crossbows generally require some sort of tool to cock them, sometimes taking a number of actions (CS’s) to complete, either a goatsfoot or belt-hook (light crossbow) or a crannequin/windlass (heavy crossbow). If lying out within reach, the character requires a full action (CS) to grab up the tool and hook it to the crossbow, another action (or more) if he must retrieve the tool from elsewhere. Actually cocking the bow then requires another full action and a successful STR check vs. a DV of 13 (light).

IF the goatsfoot is actually built into the haft of the (light) crossbow, the bow can be positioned, the string hooked, and the bowman attempt to cock it all in the same action. This feature must have been stipulated when the bow was purchased.

A crannequin or windlass is guaranteed to work, no STR check required, BUT it takes a full action (CS) to attach, another to wind back and hook the string, and a third to disengage and drop. If it is built into the bow, this can be shortened to two actions.

A character can attempt to cock a light crossbow without a tool with a STR check vs. a DV of 20, or a heavy crossbow with a STR check vs. a DV of 30, but failure in either case may mean the string has bitten his hands (depending on the degree of the failure, GM’s discretion).

Once the tool is used it still must be dropped and a bolt grabbed and loaded into the weapon before it can be aimed and fired.

This is why they are usually reserved for the CS’s in which the foes are closing, before the melée is engaged and the danger of hitting a comrade in arms becomes a hindrance.