ST 212: Basic Combat

CoD Basic Combat

Given the emphasis of role-playing games in general on social interactions, why do we even concentrate on having any combat mechanics for live action gaming? Combat serves multiple purposes within any gaming system; It is an avenue for providing action, drama, and even heroics within a context of most games. Yet combat often seems either forced or out-of-place within a role-playing game such as White Wolf’s World of Darkness setting. How do we make it a valid and viable process within our games?

Please look at the following documents for venue specific guidelines:

  • CoD Primer

  • BNS Masquerade Primer

  • WoD Apocalypse Primer

Describing Combat/Wargaming

Combat within most RPGs mirrors the process very similar to war gaming. War gaming is simply acting out a scenario. A war game contains four distinct elements; the scenario itself, the participants, the referee, and victory condition/final result. So how does this tie into our running combat within the MES games? Let us look at each component in a generalized overview of what must be present for successful resolution of the scene or scenario. Something to remember as the storyteller not every player desires to be a participant in a combat scene or scenario. See what players desire combat and if it doesn’t hurt the story allow them to remove themselves from the scene.

Setting the Scenario/Preparing for Combat

First we begin with the scenario itself, for example you are fighting to capture or destroy a key enemy building or fortification. As the storyteller or referee it is your responsibility to paint this scenario clearly for your players. Do not gloss over important elements especially those that will come into play during the scene itself. Simply put tell them what it looks like, what can be visibly seen, and where they are in relation to their target.

Examine who is involved and determine how to proceed

Next we look at the participants themselves, who’s involved in the scenario/scene? What is the correlation of forces or in layman’s terms, who has what present with them at the scene prior to start of combat? This is very important so you can properly adjudicate the combat that will occur. It also helps prevent potential mistakes and accusations of cheating during or afterwards. Write down or make clear mental notes of all elements, characters, and assets involved in the scene.

Now once the scene is set comes the complexity of running the war game or combat scene itself. The rhythm is quite simple actually; action, counter-action, and reaction. This applies to primarily wargaming but is quite functional for running combat. In a MES game combat should look like this;

  • Initiative
  • Action
  • Pulls
  • Resolution of each action in the initiative order

Simply stated just keep things focused as players will often be confused or hesitant about options, actions, or how to act.

Prepare players prior to combat by familiarizing them with the mechanics of combat.  This leads us to you and how you should prepare for your “war-game” or combat scene. First make sure you have refreshed your memory on how combat should flow and its appropriate mechanics. If you are running NPCs make sure that you know what gear, powers, and support you have given them. Item cards help regarding running NPCs. If it is PvP combat then be prepared to look up powers if a question arises. It is strongly recommended to have a copy of the most current addendum available so you may consult it if needed.


Once you have ran your war-game or combat scene what comes next? First of all, help the players find final resolution. Simply put, take a quick moment to summarize what happened, looking internally for any missteps or mistakes made. If you find them correct them on the spot. Have an assistant move the game forward while you do a quick review with the parties involved in the scenario. War-gaming or running combat isn’t difficult as long as you are prepared and focused on the mission at hand.

A final item of note, remember to have plot and activity for those not participating in the combat, it will keep your overall game healthy for all play types and role-play styles.