The Red Ash combat system offers a rich dynamic to combat not seen in most games. On this page I will detail and later expand on the rules for conflict resolution in the game. But first a few things you know about Red Ash Weapons, Armor and Shields.
Artist: Karen Hatzigeorgiou
Red Ash makes use of a turn based combat system that is grouped by rounds. Each round contains a total of 20 turns and starts at 20 and counts down by 1 until you reach 1 and the round ends and a new one begins. Like so...
Turn 20, 19, 18...3, 2, 1
Turn 20, 19, 18...3, 2, 1
Turn 20, 19, 18...3, 2, 1
When combat is about to start or when a new combatant enters combat for the first time the player rolls a 20 sided die to determine when their character can begin to attack.
Once your number comes up your character can perform a combat action. When two or more characters are set to go on the same turn, determine who goes first by rolling a die with the highest value going first. Which die...? doesn't matter just pick one that each player will roll.
After they have completed the turn, they finish it with figuring out on what turn they will next go. Without any modifiers you will normally go on the same turn of the next round. But with certain weapons you can attack sooner or later on the next or current round. Also once your characters a better skill in a melee or ballistics child skill you will be able to attack faster.
This is what makes the difference in a dagger fighter and a great axe fighter. A great axe has a weapon speed of -2 and a dagger has a weapon speed of +3. So if we have two combatants that both go on 18 and have no bonuses from skill levels then the great axe user will go on 16 of the next round (18-2=16). While we count down in the turn the great axe user must wait until the next round 16th turn before they can attack. The dagger user has a +3 to weapon speed and will go next on turn 1 of the same round. Here is why. The dagger user starts on 18 and adds 3 for 21. But each round only has 20 turns and so go on round 1 for the current round, or you can say the dagger user is faster at his attacks than the great axe user. Of course the great axe user will do much more damage! So now you have to figure out if speed wins out over damage.
No matter what a character must never be able to attack more than every turn in a round and should never be able to do that until level 100!
The goal of these rules is to set the Red Ash Combat system apart from most other systems that are really little more than a game of whack-a-mole, i.e. your enemy and you see each other and run up and whack at each other until a prize drops (loot). The Red Ash solution to a mindless bash fest is a presented here.
Two Laelaps (Dinosaurs/Dryptosaurus) fighting (1897)
Artist: Charles Robert Knight (1874-1953)
Original Source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Laelops-Charles_Knight-1896.jpg
Winning combat in the Red Ash system can occur in 1 of 4 ways. First you can defeat your adversary by killing them. Next they can run away or they can submit to you. Lastly you can fatigue them to exhaustion and they become helpless.
Congratulations! You have were just successfully hit! Let me tell you what you won!
I find it amazing that in many games a first level character can wear full plate mail armor, equip a shield and a weapon and also a full back pack and then run cross country and fight numerous rats, bugs and other low level encounters and never get winded! Being an older guy, I get winded going up a flight of stairs, LOL. And yes I know, I know...its a game. Still this is one of those things that always bothered me and distracts from the world you are trying to immerse the player in.
EVERY action you perform in combat cost Action Points. Even if you do not kill your opponent you can wear them down to the point they are helpless. Of course this can happen to you too. To this end Red Ash uses a fatigue system based on action points to define how this works.
Action Points are split into two sections, one for Physical Actions and one for Mental Actions. The Base of your PAP (Physical Action Points) is base on the physical ability scores of Coordination, Strength, Agility and Health totaled and then divided by 10. The same is done to find the base of your MAP (Mental Action Points) only use add Focus, Power, Awareness and Identity and then divide by 10. These are called a base value because your skills you train in will add to this value and give you your total PAP and MAP scores.
Each action you perform in combat will consume points from one or both of the sections. When either section is depleted you gain a fatigue counter. This counter tracks how tired you are from the stress of combat. Each fatigue counter you gain increase the penalty you have for attacks, defense, movement and skill checks. You also reset both action points at an increasingly reduced amount of the original value for each fatigue counter you gain to the amount of 75% for the first counter, 50% for the second counter and lastly 25% for the third counter. Any excessive negative Action Points are not carried over to the reset values. So yes, some free energy does exist! As an example say your character has 2 Physical Action Points left and no fatigue counters. The player decides the character will take an action that cost 6 physical action points to do. The character now has -4 PAP and so must take a fatigue counter and reset both PAP and MAP values to 75% of the full amount. The -4 PAP is ignored. MAP is reset even though the character may have not used any of its points.
Once you gain your fourth fatigue counter you are running on fumes. All action points you spend are totaled and compared to either Health or Identity which ever is lower. Once the total of your characters action points that have been spent is equal to or exceeds this ability the character will collapse from exhaustion and will be at the mercy of his attackers.
Resolving a characters turn depends on the actions selected and may optionally require defensive actions on the part of one or more defenders. When a defender must act they can select a combat response unless the attack forces a specific response for them, like when being attacked with a Trip Action the defender must roll a Balance Action.
Success and failure results are defined by the combat action and the response selected. Many actions have special notes on exceptional success or failure so be sure to understand these. A counter attack is possible and is always treated as a surprise attack (read below).
While in combat the opponents can make use of the root skill to determine what to do. For example melee characters can make use of the melee skill to determine how combat will plays out for that turn. The character with the lowest melee skill must select and display their combat action first. The character with the higher melee skill can then "read" his opponents actions and then select his combat action. In the event of a tie the defender always wins and can see the attackers action first.
The same holds true for other root skills, except for Psyche. An archer can determine another archers actions based on a higher skill level in the Ballistics skill. A devote can read an opponents actions in combat if his Ritual skill is of a higher level.
Psyche in combat gives no outward appearance of use and so an attacker can select their Psyche based skill and the user must guess a proper response.
Melee has one distinction from the other root skills and that is when a character is within his strike area of an opponent they can use their melee level vs a different skill like ritual, arcana, ballistics, etc...but not Psyche.
Once characters have determine their actions they perform the actions which can include rolling dice to determine a total score for attack and defense, movement usually does not include a dice roll. All combat actions will state what rolls are needed and the success and failure of them. An exceptional success or failure will also be described. For example many response actions can result in a counter attack as an exceptional success of a defender.
A critical hit is a strike that a attacker scores over the defenders score. This 20 point difference can be lowered with the power, Augmented Critical or the class feat, Improved Critical Strike. A successful critical does double damage to your opponent before any damage reduction is applied. Critical hits do not over ride exceptional success, they are added to it.
A surprise action is one that the target is ill prepared for. In active melee combat this takes the form of the target guessing at what action you will use when trying to defend. When the target is not aware of your presence this means an automatic critical if you score a hit and on a true critical strike you can by pass armor but not natural armor.
During a characters turn the combat action they chose to use may only take a half turn and so they can perform another action. The actions that are a full turns are usually more aggressive and grant a bonus to hit or damage, but they also have a penalty the character must deal with until their next turn when they can act again.
After each action your character will spend PAP (Physical Action Points) and/or MAP (Mental Action Points) as related to the fatigue system (see abilities, fatigue for more information on this).
At the end of your turn you will determine on what turn you can go next on. This is figured based on the weapons you used and its attack speed plus your skill with that weapon. your Armor and maybe even your sheild can effect speed too.
Pollice Verso (1872)
Artist: Jean-Leon Gerome (1824-1904)
Original Source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jean-Leon_Gerome_Pollice_Verso.jpg
Characters go unconscious at 0 and will die in a number of rounds equal to their health score. Once down you will bleed 1 point per round until your wounds are healed or you roll a successful stabilization roll. Regardless of the amount of damage you take you will die in a number of rounds equal to the characters health ability. Once this amount of time has elapsed, your character has died.
Recovery is based on regaining life points at +1 per 7 Health Ability score per day. If the whole party is dropped then your fate will reside in the NPCs that dropped you and of course the DM.
This does not mean you are bound to make a new character. You may be healed to find you have been captured and facing interrogation. A wander adventurer may have ran off your opponents, a predator attack what downed you and they both died, you wake up after days of laying in the forest with no idea why you are alive, or any other solution the DM feels fits the bill.