“What is best in life?”: Fighters and Combat Skill

Doesn’t it suck when a character playing a Fighter just says “I attack x” round after round?Do you wish they would say something like “I move forward, circling my opponent to force them nearer to the spiked pit before I drive my shoulder into them, pushing them backward”? What if there were a mechanic to inspire that creativity and allow characters to develop their own signature fighting styles and special moves?

While other classes like Specialists and Magic-Users get to enjoy a wide range of skill development and character customization, Fighters gain +1 to attack and some hit points every level. They’re masters of weapons and tactics; they deserve to develop badass, unique abilities as they adventure and improve. Thus, the Combat skill.

If Conan were in a band, it'd probably be High on Fire.
All Fighters gain the skill when they reach level 2. It applies to one of the following categories, reflecting the Fighter's specialty: melee, ranged (bows & other non-firearm missiles), and firearms. The Ref may choose to create additional categories of specialization such as mounted attacks, command/leadership, etc. With a level 1 skill, the character may attempt Basic Use of the skill. At levels 2 and above they gain access to Expert Use of the skill and creation of maneuvers unique to that character.

Using the skill
When the Fighter attacks, they may first make a Combat skill check. On a success, they use one of their special maneuvers. If they fail, the attack functions normally.

The skill, like others, has 1 in 6 chance for success. The skill improves by 1 point for every 3 levels the Fighter gains (2 at level 5, 3 at level 8, and so on). It may be used twice per day per point in the skill.

Basic Use: With a level 1 Combat skill, a player may attempt to use one of the standard Combat Options with either an additional 1 point bonus or a 1 point reduction to the penalty. For example: a successful Combat check on a Press maneuver would allow a choice between an AB of +3 or an AC penalty of -3 instead of -4. When using the Combat skill this way, the Fighter applies their Strength or Dexterity modifier (whichever is most appropriate) to the roll, increasing their chance of success. For example, a Fighter with a level 1 Combat skill and a +2 Strength modifier would have a 3 in 6 chance of success when using the skill.

Expert Use: At level 2 and above the player and the Ref collaborate to create another maneuver, adding to the Fighter’s repertoire. These maneuvers are unique to them and can never be duplicated with the Combat skill by another character, as they are the result of each Fighter’s own skill, experience, and natural talents. As a general rule, these maneuvers should be temporary, have simple effects, limited or situational application, and not adversely affect the actions of other PCs or rob enemies of actions in order to preserve player agency and the challenging elements of combat.

A table of Maneuvers can be found here

Example maneuvers:
  • Trigger a Morale check in enemies 
  • Knock an opponent to the ground 
  • Make a grapple check in addition to the normal attack 
  • Disarm an opponent/removing a worn item 
  • Gain extra movement after attacking 
  • Automatically win initiative the next round 
  • Hit a second opponent with the attack after a second successful attack roll 
  • Gain +1 AC for the next round 
  • Disorient the opponent 
  • Redirect an opponent’s next attack to a different target 
  • Reload more rapidly 
  • Reduce equipment failure chances or using it even if it has failed (a wet firearm, for example) 
  • Force an opponent back 
  • Double an attack's damage, breaking the weapon in the process


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