Wednesday 31 May 2023

Gaining the Upper Hand

I've spoken about how I give Bonuses before, but I've revisited the topic for Mythic Bastionland. The current rules look like this.

 And here's what the Oddpocrypha has to say. 


Moss and Tal are sparring using wooden swords (d6 hefty) and shields (A1). Ref has ruled that any damage sustained from this can be shaken off afterwards.

Ref: Okay so you both agree that this is a duel, right? That means you’ll roll and deal damage simultaneously.

Moss: Okay, let’s go.

Both players make a normal attack to begin with. Moss rolls 2, Tal 3.

Ref: So you’re both sort of feeling each other out first, wooden sword clattering against shield, a few probing jabs. No sharp blade to worry about, but a wooden sword to the ribs isn’t a barrel of laughs.

Tal: Hey, Moss, aren’t you scared you’ll fall in the mud again like when you fought that brand new squire?

Moss: Hey!

Ref: Are you actually trying to distract Moss here? It might backfire and give an opening.

Tal: Yeah sure.

Ref: Okay, Moss, make a GRA Save.

Moss rolls a 10, passing the Save. Ref looks at the Upper Hand section of the Combat rules.

Ref: Okay, Moss, you keep your cool as Tal mocks you, capitalising on their lack of focus to drive them back onto a patch of gnarled roots. You’ll get +d8 on your attack this turn.

Tal: Argh, fair enough I guess.

Both players roll to attack again, Moss getting +d8 this time. Moss rolls 3 and 7, keeping the 7, and Tal gets 4. The shields take this down to 6 and 3 damage.

Ref: Tal, you struggle with your footing here, letting Moss knock your attacks aside and smack you across the head with their wooden sword. You’re down to VIG 7 so it’s a wound, but you’re still in the fight. What do you both do next?


In combat, sometimes one side just has a clear upper hand. Consider two knights fighting in pitch darkness, one with perfect nightvision.

While these are straightforward, more often players will try to earn the upper hand through their own actions.

As mentioned in the Combat section, there are typically three ways to do this, and here we see Tal taking a Risk. There are a few ways this can go. The classic is "roll a save, if you pass then you attack with bonus if you fail then something bad happens instead" but there's a lot of fine tuning that can be done in there. Here we see Ref has Moss make the Save instead of Tal. I think either would have worked, but here I think it makes sense as the question is really “will Moss keep their cool” rather than whether Tal knows the right thing to say.

Even with Risky actions, there are cases where you might not call for a Save, and just allow a bonus in return for taking a burden. Maybe you can fight recklessly and both sides you will get +d8 to attacking each other. If they join in the recklessness maybe it goes up to +d10! Here the Risk element is still present, even without a Save.

The second method is through having useful Information. Perhaps you've learned something that would help here. This how I might handle the classic “hit the monster in their weak spot”. Not glowing targets, but a reward for going out and talking to hunters and those who have fought the creature before. That stone mammoth has VIG 19, Armour 3, so getting a +d10 to every attack because you learn of its hatred of fire is practically necessary.

The last method is to reward good Preparation. Action now to enhance action later. The classic is "setting up" an ally for their attack, or driving the enemy into a disadvantageous position with an Onslaught. In essence, if a player can point back to a previous action that specifically set up the current attack I'm happy to give them a bonus for it.


Art by Midjourney

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