Wednesday 3 May 2023

Mythic Manoeuvres

Combat manoeuvres are something I keep coming back to. 

As with so many things I think the specific mechanics are only as good as their actual implementation by the person running the game. So what guidance lies in the Oddpocrypha?


Moss is in the middle of a duel against a rival Knight that’s been tormenting them.

Moss: Right. So instead of swinging my cudgel I’ll draw my dagger and try to stab him right through the eye.

Ref: Erm… hang on

Ref flicks through the combat rules for a moment, thinking about how best to make a ruling

Ref: Okay, so what are you actually trying to achieve with this? Like kill him in a single stab? Blind him permanently? Temporarily?

Moss: Yeah I want to make sure even if I can’t kill him I’ll leave him without an eye. 

Ref: Right. I mean as far as killing him goes, you’re already trying to do that with a normal attack. You could do a Smite if you really want to try to take him out, but if it’s more about leaving a lasting mark we could… hang on…

Ref looks through the rules a bit more

Ref: Yeah how about we do it as a Smite but instead of the extra damage you’ll leave a mark. Probably only makes sense if you actually Wound him too, so you’ll need to take him down to 0gd. I don’t think you could do this to any old opponent, but here there’s clearly hatred between the two of you. 

Moss: Yeah that sounds fair. So I’ll only take the Shame if I actually get his eye, right?

Ref: Yeah that sounds right.

Moss rolls their attack and successfully Wounds their enemy.

Ref: So sure enough, you thrust your dagger at his eye and… urgh, you get the idea! He clutches his face, screaming, but he’s still standing. 


Even with access to Feats and Onslaughts, and the chance of causing Scars, players will sometimes want to cause a specific effect with their attack. Here Ref falls back on the standard Taking Action Procedure, asking for clarity on what exactly the intent of the action is. It’s easy to get bogged down in the specifics of what the character is doing, but here it’s useful to know what the player is actually trying to achieve. 

It’s good that Ref clarifies that with a normal attack the character is already assumed to be trying to cause maximum harm to their target, and going beyond that is usually covered with a Smite Feat. Taking this as a starting point, they change that Feat to apply extra long-term damage instead of simply improving the normal damage of the attack. 

Importantly, the details of the ruling are explained to Moss before they confirm they want to go through with it. Upon weighing up the ruling, a player might decide it’s no longer worth it. At this point the Referee can suggest an alternative, or the player might simply decide to go ahead with a normal attack or Feat. 

I also appreciate that Ref made it clear that the ruling here is a bespoke ruling for the current combat, leveraged by the established hatred between the combatants. If the players tried something similar in another situation the ruling could be different. 

There’s clearly a bit of discomfort from Ref in having to describe the eye-gouge. In a game with this much focus on combat, and a system for Scars, there’s always going to be a bit of gore, but it’s perfectly acceptable to draw a veil over the grisly details if the group isn’t fully comfortable with them, as Ref does here. This is something that becomes easier to judge through experience playing with the same group of players. 

Heed the guidance of the Seers. 


Art by Midjourney

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