V. Combat.

          While combat in Alternacy uses the same basic rules as the rest of the game, it has been given it's own section. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that in many groups, combat takes up a great deal of game time, and players enjoy some extra detail when their characters get into a fight. The other is that combat is the time when a player stands the greatest chance of losing his character, so it's best if both the players and the referee have a very clear idea of what's going on.

Time and Initiative.
Multiple Actions.
Special Cases.
Missile Fire.
Hit Location.
Damage Types and Levels.
Attack Results.
Non-Attack Injuries.

          Time and Initiative.

          In Alternacy, there is no set rule for measuring the passage of time. Game time passes at a rate determined by the referee, based on the situation and the dramatic pace he wishes to set. However, Turns are used to give some organization to a table surrounded by players eager to quickly smash their opponents and avoid being smashed themselves. All a Turn really means is that everyone involved in the action you're describing gets a "turn" to do something. When everyone's had a chance to take action, a new Turn begins, but the events of the game continue without interruption (there are no traditional "rounds" that break time up into specific units).

          When characters get into a situation where the order in which actions take place is very important, such as combat, they need to roll for Initiative. This tells you how quickly everyone is able to begin acting. Characters roll 2d5 and add the result to their Initiative Stat, which equals the average of the character's Alertness and Quickness skills (add the scores together and divide by two, then round off). The character with the highest result gets to go first, the character with the next highest result goes second, and so on. Record the name of each character and his Initiative roll from highest to lowest; this is referred to as the Order of Initiative, and will be important throughout the combat.

          After you've described the situation to your players, go to the first name on the Order of Initiative. If this character is a PC, ask the player what action she wants her character to perform. If the character is an NPC, the referee decides what actions will be taken based on the character's knowledge of the situation, intelligence, personality, and so on. Once the character's actions have been chosen, make any necessary skill rolls to resolve their success or failure. Move on to the second character and repeat the process. Continue until the last character listed in the Order of Initiative has performed his actions, then start from the top again. Keep running through the Order in this fashion until the combat has ended.

          If characters enter combat after the Order of Initiative has already been determined, have them roll for Initiative and place them into the Order at the appropriate point. They can begin taking actions as soon as you come to their place on the list.

          Multiple Actions.

          Attempting multiple actions during combat is handled in much the same way that it is at other times. The main difference is that performing actions in rapid succession (and thus rushing through them) also has an impact. Based on how much time the ref decides a given Turn represents, he may allow characters to perform more than one action when their name comes up in the Order of Initiative. If the ref does allow a character to attempt multiple actions at once or in quick succession, he chooses an appropriate penalty from the Advantage/Disadvantage Chart and applies the modifier to the character's rolls. An example of the effect of speeding through a number of actions would be a character who wants to peek out from behind cover, fire at a pair of opponents, then run to a nearby trench and dive in. Since he's rushing through things, you'll probably want to penalize his shooting rolls (Moderate -4, depending on rate of fire)and any movement rolls you require (Small -3, depending on how fast he's moving).

          Special Cases.

          When a character's turn ends and the necessary rolls are made to resolve actions, those actions aren't always finished. Everything that happens during combat is pretty close to simultaneous. If a character shoots a firearm at somebody and scores a hit you can consider that action complete. However, if a character's action is to run across 20 meters of open space, that's going to take a while; the running character doesn't magically cover the distance in an instant while everyone else is frozen in time. If two characters are racing each other, you might give the character who makes the first roll an advantage bonus (she started just a hair sooner), but the second racer still has a chance to compete since they're both running at the same time.

          This fact leads to some special considerations during play. The first is that even if you've already resolved an action, it may not be completed. This would be the case for the running character. Say that, based on his roll, you've told him he'll cover the 20 meters in 4 or 5 seconds, but the next character to act decides to shoot the runner. If it seems to you that the shooter's action would take place while the runner is still up and exposed to fire, the shooter may make an attack roll that will possibly result in the runner dying or being injured to the point that he can't finish the action, even though you've technically already resolved the attempt. The ref is the judge of how long it actually takes to complete an action, and whether other characters can do anything in time to prevent the completion of the action.

          The second consideration is that sometimes events will occur that would reasonably cause characters whose turn has already passed to make an immediate response. Because of this, characters may occasionally take actions out of turn. This would be appropriate when, say, a grenade lands near a character whose turn has already passed. In situations like this, characters who have already acted may, at the ref's discretion, take an action out of turn.

          To determine if an extra action should be allowed, there are a few things you should consider. The first is that whatever is prompting the extra action should have been truly unexpected by the character. In the case of the running character from the previous example, he wouldn't be allowed to react out of turn if he knew when he set out that he might be shot at. If he didn't realize there were any potential attackers in the area, however, a response would be permissible. Second, the response has to be appropriate to the surprise and something that can be done very fast. The runner could quickly hit the dirt, try to surrender, or dive for cover, but can't use this as an opportunity to reload his weapon. Third, the response can not be an attack. Character's can try to save themselves with an out of turn action, but can't try to harm someone else; they have to wait for their next turn to do that. Anyone trying to react needs to make an Alertness roll. Decide on a difficulty appropriate to the situation; if the character succeeds he can react, but if he fails he either doesn't notice the change in his surroundings or does so too late to do anything about it.

          Lastly, some actions are just going to take more than one Turn to complete. If, for instance, a character is trying to hack a computer while his friends engage in a firefight to cover him, the hacker is probably not going to finish his work in the same amount of time it takes his comrades to fire a few rounds or throw a grenade. If the actions a character is attempting will take longer than one Turn to finish, those actions will be "continued" into the next Turn and as many more as it takes for the character to complete the attempt or stop trying. Character's working on these type of actions have the same opportunity to react out of turn as everyone else. If an action will require a number of Turns to complete, make sure the player has an idea of how long it will take before she commits herself.


          In Alternacy, how quickly and how far a character can move during his actions is left up to the judgement of the referee. Basically, if a character wants to cover a distance in a certain amount of time, or before some event occurs, assign a Difficulty Number to the attempt using your best judgement and a sense of what would be appropriate in terms of the drama of the moment. If characters wish to race or chase each other, use Competing Skill Rolls. Some movements may take a number of Turns, at your discretion. Characters should be able to take small movements without having to make any skill rolls, e.g. walking across a room, dodging and leaping about trying to hit someone, etc. While such minor movements require no skill roll, a character must wait until his turn to make them.


          When one character wishes to attack another in hand-to-hand combat (missile combat is handled differently, see below), he must engage his opponent. Engaging is an action that means one character has a chance in the current Turn to attack and defend himself from another. Based on the situation, the referee decides the maximum number of opponents a character may engage in one Turn, as well as any disadvantage penalty for trying to do more than one thing at a time. No matter what, though, a character may engage each opponent only once per Turn. An engagement can represent any number of offensive and defensive maneuvers in terms of describing the scene to the characters, but in game terms it allows for a single attack roll.

          When a character declares his actions for a Turn, he announces if he is going to engage another character. If the victim is aware of the attack, he may declare that he will engage the attacker, so as to defend himself; if he is unaware, or the ref rules he is too busy or distracted, he is assumed to be caught unprepared or off-balance, and may not defend against the attack. Either way, the attacker makes a skill roll using the appropriate Combat skill for the weapon or attack type he is using. If the defender is also engaging, he makes an appropriate defense roll (Shields, Dodge, or weapons skill) to evade or parry the attack. The rolls are compared as a Competing Skill Roll, including any advantage/disadvantage modifiers the ref feels are fitting. If the victim is not engaging his attacker, the ref instead chooses a Difficulty Number for the attack roll based on the situation. If the attacker rolls less than the defender's defensive roll or the attack's Difficulty Number, he has missed; if he equals or exceeds the appropriate number, he has hit his opponent. The section on damage explains how to interpret the effects of a successful attack.

          Once the initial attack has been resolved, reverse the process. An engagement allows a character to both defend and attack, so if the defender engaged and is still active, he gets to make a return attack. If the victim did not engage, move on to the next action.

          Missile Fire.

          Somewhat different rules are used when a character is attempting to damage someone from a distance. Ranged attacks do require that the aggressor engage his target, and only one attack roll is made regardless of how many actual rounds are fired. However, the Difficulty Number for a ranged attack is always selected by the referee; a target character may take actions that increase the difficulty, such as dodging or hiding behind cover, but they do not use their skills for Competing Skill Rolls in the same way that characters engaged in melee do. Hit determination is handled in the normal fashion, followed by deciding the effects of damage.

          When assigning Difficulty Numbers to ranged attacks, refs should basically make an informed guess as to how tough it would be to make a given shot. Factors to consider include the distance to the target, intervening terrain, lighting conditions, size and actions of the target, weapon type, rate of fire, and so on. Alternacy doesn't use "range tables" to determine the difficulty of missile combat, mainly because I simply don't know enough about weaponry past, present, and (especially!) future, to accurately assess the effectiveness of a given weapon at a particular distance.

          More importantly, though, the Difficulty Numbers for missile fire should probably vary from one campaign to the next. If one ref knows a lot about, say, firearms of the American Civil War, and is running a very realistic game in that setting, he'll be able to choose difficulties (probably quite high) that fit well in his game. If another ref has a science fiction setting with an action movie kind of feel, she'll probably set lower Difficulty Numbers that will allow characters to behave like cinematic heroes.

          The point is, you know how you want your campaign to look and feel. When characters are blazing away at each other, think for a second about any factors you believe would affect the shot, as well as the type of game you're trying to run, and assign a difficulty that sounds right. Also, try to remain consistent from one game session to the next; don't say a rifle can fire 300 meters one day, 600 the next. Just try to pay some attention to reality, and keep things fun for the yourself and your players.

          Hit Location.

          There are two options for determining where an attack has hit a target. The first is to roll a single d6 (results of 6 equal 0) and look up the result on the Hit Location Chart. The attack lands on whichever general body area is indicated by the chart.

          The second option is to allow characters to decide what body part they are trying to hit. If you allow this, the attacker should suffer a disadvantage; it's more difficult to target one specific body part than to strike at whatever becomes available. If the attacker succeeds in a roll against the heightened Difficulty Number, she hits the target in the desired location. If the attacker failed the roll, but would have hit if she hadn't targeted a specific area (she beat the original DN, but did not beat the DN plus the disadvantage modifier), you can either declare the attack a clean miss or treat it as a hit with random determination of location.

          Determine hit location before an attack is rolled. The suggested method is to have the player making the attack describe what his character is doing. This should include specifying whether a specific area is being targeted, as mentioned above, as well as which body part the character would choose to hit if given the opportunity; this is important if you're using the optional result which allows attackers to choose where an attack lands if the hit location roll is a zero. The ref should roll for hit location while the player makes the attack roll. This lets the ref know ahead of time where a successful attack will land, which allows him to select more appropriate damage results (see below).

Hit Location:
d6 Result: Hit Location:
0 Player's Choice*
1 Head
2 Torso
3 Torso
4 Arm**
5 Leg**
**Roll d6: 0-2=Left, 3-5=Right.

          Damage Types and Levels.

          In Alternacy, the damage a character receives when he is injured is divided into three basic types. The first is Wound damage, which represents how badly the injury will interfere with the character's use of the affected body part. If a character attempts an action that involves one or more body parts currently affected by Wound damage, the ref assigns a disadvantage to the character's skill roll. This represents pain, damage to muscles, tendons, and bones, or even the total loss of some body parts.

          The second type is Shock damage. While Wound covers impairment, Shock tracks the deadliness of an injury. It expresses the effects of shock, blood loss, and damage to vital organs. Arrows demonstrate the meaning of Shock damage well; although they don't generally kill by destroying large amounts of tissue, they're still dangerous because they can do a great deal of harm to a very focused, vulnerable area, such as a blood vessel or the heart. Severe injuries will often cause increasing Shock damage long after a fight is over, as the victim continues to bleed and weaken. When left untreated, wounds of this sort will lead to incapacitation, unconsciousness, and eventually death.

          The third type of damage is Stun. It encompasses injuries that are likely to render a victim unconscious or knock the wind out of him. Stun damage is similar to Shock, the difference being that Stun damage is very short term and can't lead to death. The most common source of Stun damage is combat between unarmed opponents.

          Damage Levels (DL's) represent how much of the three types of damage characters take when they get hurt. General effects of the six DL's are described below:

Glance: Very light bruise or scratch. No Wound or Shock, very little Stun.

Light: Noticeable bruising, minor cuts. Slight Wound and Shock, light Stun.

Moderate: Serious bruises, swelling, deep cuts. Light Wound and Shock, significant Stun.

Heavy: Serious gashes and tissue damage. Significant Wound. Shock will increase without treatment. Stun is likely to leave victim dazed.

Severe: Broken bones, cut or torn muscles, deep cuts. Wound: the affected body part cannot be used. Shock: most victims will die in a matter of minutes without treatment. Stun: most victims will at least be dazed, unconsciousness likely.

Massive: Crushed bones. Severed limbs. Destroyed organs. Wound: the body part is crippled, without fantastic medical treatment a permanent disability is certain. Shock: victim will either die immediately or within moments. Stun: victims are probably knocked cold.

          Attack Results.

          The first step in determining the effects of injuries is to choose the Damage Level you believe is the most likely result of an attack or other damage-causing event. Factors to consider include the type of weapon used, the strength of the attacker (if the attack was muscle-powered), the general sturdiness of the victim (trolls should be harder to hurt than pixies!), what type and how much armor the victim is wearing, and anything else you believe would make an attack more or less dangerous. Keep in mind that you're only choosing the most likely Damage Level; there is still an element of randomness that can cause the actual damage done to be higher or lower.

          The damage done by an attack is determined by the attacker's Damage Number (Dmg #). This is the amount by which the aggressor's attack roll surpassed the victim's defensive roll (or the Difficulty Number for the attack), zero if the roll was a tie. A high Damage Number can cause an attack to do more harm than expected, while a low number will do less. This reflects the impact of skill and luck on an attack.

          If the Damage Number is less than 5, subtract it from 5 and treat the result as a negative number. For example, a Damage Number of 3 is subtracted from 5 for a result of 2, which is considered -2. If the result is greater than 15, subtract 15 from the Damage Number and treat the result as a positive number. For example, a Damage Number of 19, minus 15, yields a result of +4. For Damage Numbers of 5 to 15, the result is automatically 0. This formula is recorded on the Attack Success Chart, but it's simple enough you should be able to memorize it quickly. Whether the result is positive, negative, or zero, it is the attack's DL Modifier.

          Next, look at the Damage Effects Chart. Find the DL you chose as the most likely result of the attack. If the DL Mod is negative, reduce the DL of the attack by a number of levels equal to the modifier. Thus, a Heavy DL with a Mod of -2 is dropped 2 levels to Light. Similarly, a Light DL with a Mod of +4 is raised 4 levels to Massive. Note that DL's lower than Glance and greater than Massive are not possible, regardless of the modifier. The modified DL is the level of damage the victim of the attack receives; apply the listed results from the chart. The effects of each damage type are explained in the following chapter.

          Note: If you're new to reffing Alternacy, or you wish to emphasize quick play during combat, it's best to choose one Damage Level for all types of damage. However, once you're familiar with running the game, it's recommended that you choose different DL's for different damage types. Take boxing as an example. Damage that would be classified as Wound or Cumulative is pretty uncommon (unless a boxer takes a bite out of an opponent's ear or something...), but Stun damage is common, it's pretty much the whole point of the sport. If you were reffing a boxing match, you could simulate this by having a punch deliver Glance for Wound and Cumulative damage, but a much higher DL for Stun, one that reflects the Brawn of the attacker. Similarly, you could recreate the effects of arrows and small caliber firearms by assigning a DL of Moderate/Severe/Moderate, since their deadliness is based on causing focused damage to vulnerable areas. Should you use this approach, apply the DL Mod to each damage type equally. For example, a Moderate/Severe/Moderate gunshot with a DL Mod of +1 would inflict Heavy/Massive/Heavy damage.

          Keep in mind that assigning varying DL's will give you a bit more to keep track of during combat, which could slow things down a bit. While this method is encouraged because of it's greater realism, you should decide whether or not to use it based on the needs of your own style of play.

Attack Success:
DN: DL Mod:
< 5 5 minus DN, negative
5 to 15 Zero
> 15 DN minus 15, positive

Damage Effects:
Level: Wound: Shock: Stun:
Glance - - +3
Light Minor, +1 +1 +5
Moderate Moderate, +3 +3 +10
Heavy Major, +6 Deadly, +6 +15
Severe Disabling, +15 Mortal, +12 +20
Massive Crippling Fatal, +20 +30


          Posture represents a character's attitude during combat; is she more interested in hitting her opponents, in avoiding being hit by them, or does she wish to balance both goals? If she wants to emphasize one or the other, a character may temporarily reduce her attack skills by 1 to 5 points and add the same number to her defensive skills, and vice versa. This decision is made as soon as a character engages an opponent, before any dice are rolled. Posture does not affect making or dodging missile attacks. A character does not have to make a Posture alteration; if she is equally intent on hitting and evading, no change is declared and all attack and defense rolls are made using the character's regular scores.

          Non-Attack Injuries.

          Characters can suffer injuries from sources other than direct attacks, such as falls, traps, explosions, and vehicle crashes. When they do, you need to use a slightly different method to determine how much damage they take, since there is no attack roll to give you a Damage Number. If a character is the victim of non-attack damage, choose a DL as you normally would and choose or roll randomly for the Hit Location(s) that will be affected. Next, roll 2d5 and consult the Damage Variance Chart. Find the number you rolled on the left side of the chart and apply the DL Mod to your chosen Damage Level. The character suffers the indicated damage for the modified DL.

          You can also use this method for attacks that would affect more than one Hit Location. If, for instance, a character was sprayed with automatic weapon fire, you might decide that the bullets would strike more than one location. As an option you could apply the normal, modified DL to the first affected body part, then check for damage variance to get somewhat different DL's for any other areas hit.

Damage Variance:
Roll: DL Mod:
2 -3
3 -2
4 -1
5 to 7 0
8 +1
9 +2
10 +3

continued in VI Damage & Healing


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