Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Theater of the Mind Tactical Combat

"There is a Grand Party that all the young folk have been attending. There is a Special Cost associated with the invitation. You must give this Cost to the Hooded Escort. The Escort appears at Midnight on certain days of the week, near the Wall of the Ancient City. I have been to the Party once; I knew someone who was able to collect the Special Cost -- he had it wrapped in a bit of butcher's paper."
-Young 'Piper' (an Opium smoker) in an Opium-Den in the Southerly Slums of Nein

The combat system in Sophia's Children is a hybrid of Theater of the Mind and Tactical Combat. There is no grid upon which the combat occurs and all positioning is relative. I have intended for combat to be either represented by minis, but easily done using no minis at all.

In this post I want to lay out the Basic Rules governing combat relations. They are, in my opinion, very simple and straightforward and allow for plenty of tactical play at the same time. The rules have some other wrinkles, but they all build on top of these very simple axioms.

Relations & Targetting

 All combatants exist in spatial relation with one another as well as an oppositional relation. Allied combatants are either Close to one another or Far. Opposed combatants are either Engaged with one another or Far. Your spatial relations with allies will also impact your spatial relation with opponents. Anytime an opponent becomes Engaged with you, they also become Engaged with any allies who are Close with you. Also, in reverse, Moving from Engaged to Far with one opponent Disengages you from all opponents who are Close with one another.

A Melee occurs when at least one combatant is Engaged with at least one opponent. Barring certain special circumstances and abilities, Melee Attacks may only be attempted when inside of a Melee and against those opponents. Flanking is a result of having more allies in a Melee than your opponents. If you and your allies (who are Close to you) outnumber the opponents in a Melee -- you and your allies in the Melee are Flanking them. So, in reverse, if the opponents in the Melee outnumber you and your allies -- you are being Flanked. Flanking is required for certain Melee Abilities -- such as the Thief's.

Line of Sight is when a combatant has direct aim to an opponent. This has two requirements: 1) there must be no intervening allies or opponents between and 2) if the target is in a Melee, they must NOT be Flanked. Basically, Line of Sight is inverted Flanking. Line of Sight is used as a condition for certain Ranged Attacks requiring precision.


There are two sorts of movement in combat, Walking and Running. Walking represents carefully striding across the battlefield. Running represents quickly moving across the battlefield, usually in combination with some other action. Walking is its own action, though you can move in and out of Close and Engaged with allies and opponents with it. Running can be combined with other actions, such as attacking, and also moves you in and out of Close / Engaged in relation to other combatants.

If you are Engaged with an opponent and choose to Run out of the Melee, you Provoke an Opportunity Attack from each opponent you are Engaged with who are armed with Melee Weapons. If you Walk out of the Melee, you do not Provoke, but any opponents who are Guarding with a Melee Weapon may take an Opportunity Attack against you. If you are HIT by any of these Opportunity Attacks, the attacker may cancel your move and keep you in the Melee.

It is possible to Flee from combat under certain circumstances. First, you move to the edge of the combat zone -- this is an arbitrary boundary set up by the encounter. E.G.: the stairs leading to a different floor, the door exiting the building, a hallway adjacent to the room. Once on the edge of the combat area, you can Run from the combat zone and are taken out of the combat -- this Run may provoke Opportunity Attacks if you end up in a Melee at the edge of the combat area or if Ranged Attackers are Guarding.


Guarding is a Basic Action that any combatant can opt to perform instead of attacking. If you Guard with a Melee Weapon, you are able to perform two reactive actions: 1) any opponent who Walks or Runs into a Melee with you Provokes an Opportunity Attack, 2) any opponent who Walks OUT of a Melee with you Provokes. It is the Guarders choice whether or not to make this attack, as they will no longer be Guarding after the attack.

When Guarding with a Ranged Weapon, a combatant has similar options: any opponent who Runs in Line of Sight triggers an Opportunity Attack. This requires some adjudication, but if the Guarder can directly see any part of the movement, they get a free Basic Attack with their Ranged Weapon. Walking does not trigger this attack.

Whenever a combatant who is using Ranged Weapons is Engaged in a Melee, they will Provoke Opportunity Attacks from their opponents under certain circumstances. ANY Ranged Attack they make will Provoke an opponent who is NOT the target of the attack. E.G.: If a combatant, armed with a Short Bow, is Engaged with one opponent in Melee and attacks that opponent -- there is no Opportunity Attack. However, if under the same circumstances, but with an additional opponent in the Melee, the opponent who is NOT the target of the Short Bow attack gets a free Basic Attack.

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