See also Combat Maneuvers
Types of Combat
There are two types of combat, each involving the same basic system with minor differences:
• Close Combat: This covers unarmed combat (Dexterity + Brawl) and melee (Dexterity + Melee). Unarmed combat can involve a down-and-dirty bar brawl or an honorable test of skill. Opponents must be within touching distance (one yard/meter) to engage in unarmed combat. Melee involves handheld weapons, from broken bottles to swords. Opponents must be within two yards/meters of each other to engage in melee.
• Ranged Combat: Armed combat using projectile weapons — pistols, rifles, shotguns, etc. Opponents must normally be within sight (and weapon range) of each other to engage in a firefight.
In combat, many things happen at virtually the same time. Since this can make things a bit sticky in a game, combat is divided into a series of three-second turns. Each combat turn has three stages — Initiative, Attack, and Resolution — to make it easier to keep track of things.
Stage One: Initiative
This stage organizes the turn and is when you declare your character’s action. Various actions are possible — anything from leaping behind a wall to shouting a warning. You must declare what your character does, in as much detail as the Storyteller requires.
Everyone, player and Storyteller character alike, rolls one die and adds it to their initiative rating (Dexterity + Wits); the character with the highest result acts first, with the remaining characters acting in decreasing order of result. (Storytellers looking for a slightly faster or more predictable system can choose to use Dexterity + Wits + 6 for each character’s initiative, forgoing the die roll.) If two characters get the same total, the one with the higher initiative rating goes first. If initiative ratings are also the same, the two characters act simultaneously. Wound penalties subtract directly from a character’s initiative rating, while Celerity dots that aren’t being used for extra actions add to it (see Celerity). Although you declare your character’s action now (including stating that your character delays her action to see what someone else does), you wait until the attack stage to implement that action. At this time, you must also state if any multiple actions will be performed, if Disciplines will be activated, and/or if Willpower points will be spent. Characters declare in reverse order of initiative, thus giving faster characters the opportunity to react to slower characters’ actions. All of your character’s actions are staged at her rank in the order of initiative. There are three exceptions to this rule: The first is if your character delays her action, in which case her maneuvers happen when she finally takes action. Your character may act at any time after her designated order in the initiative, even to interrupt another, slower character’s action. If two characters both delay their actions, and both finally act at the same time, the one with the higher initiative rating for the turn acts first.
The second breach of the initiative order occurs in the case of a defensive action (see “Aborting Actions” and “Defensive Maneuvers”), which your character may perform at any time as long as she has an action left.
Finally, all additional actions that turn (including actions gained through Celerity) occur at the end of the turn. If two or more characters take multiple actions, the actions occur in order of initiative rating. An exception is made for defensive multiple actions, such as multiple dodges, which happen when they need to happen in order to avert attack.
Stage Two: Attack
Attacks are the meat of the combat turn. An action’s success or failure and potential impact on the target are determined at this stage. You use a certain Attribute/ Ability combination depending on the type of combat in which your character is engaged:
• Close Combat: Use Dexterity + Brawl (unarmed) or Dexterity + Melee (armed).
• Ranged Combat: Use Dexterity + Firearms (guns) or Dexterity + Athletics (thrown weapons). Remember, if your character doesn’t have points in the necessary Ability, simply default to the Attribute on which it’s based (in most cases, Dexterity).
In ranged combat, your weapon may modify your dice pool or difficulty (due to rate of fire, a targeting scope, etc.); check the weapon’s statistics for details. Most attacks are made versus difficulty 6. This can be adjusted for situational modifiers (long range, cramped quarters), but the default attack roll is versus 6. If you get no successes, the character fails her attack and inflicts no damage. If you botch, not only does the attack fail, but something nasty happens: The weapon jams or explodes, the blade breaks, an ally is hit, and so on.
Stage Three: Resolution
During this stage, you determine the damage inflicted by your character’s attack, and the Storyteller describes what occurs in the turn. Resolution is a mixture of game and story; it’s more interesting for players to hear “Your claws rip through his bowels; he screams in pain, dropping his gun as he clutches his bloody abdomen” than simply “Uh, he loses four health levels.” Attack and damage rolls are merely ways of describing what happens in the story, and it’s important to maintain the narrative of combat even as you make the die roll. Normally, additional successes gained on a Trait roll simply mean that you do exceptionally well. In combat, each extra success you get on an attack roll equals an additional die you add automatically to your damage dice pool. This creates cinematic and often fatal combat.
All attacks have specific damage ratings, indicating the number of dice to roll for the attack’s damage (called the damage dice pool). Some damage dice pools are based on the attacker’s Strength, while others are based on the weapon used. Damage dice rolls are made versus difficulty 6. Each success on the damage roll inflicts one health level of damage on the target. However, the damage applied may be one of three types:
• Bashing: Bashing damage comprises punches and other blunt trauma that are less likely to kill a victim (especially a vampire) instantly. All characters use their full Stamina ratings to resist bashing effects, and the damage heals fairly quickly. Bashing damage is applied to the Health boxes on your character sheet with a “/.”
• Lethal: Attacks meant to cause immediate and fatal injury to the target. Mortals may not use Stamina to resist lethal effects, and the damage takes quite a while to heal. Vampires may resist lethal damage with their Stamina. Lethal damage is applied to the Health boxes on your vampire’s character sheet with a “X.”
• Aggravated: Certain types of attacks are deadly even to the undead. Fire, sunlight, and the teeth and claws of vampires, werewolves, and other supernatural beings are considered aggravated damage. Aggravated damage cannot be soaked except with Fortitude, and it takes quite a while to heal. Aggravated damage is applied to the Health boxes on your character sheet with an asterisk (“*”).
Damage dice pools can never be reduced to lower than one die; any attack that strikes its target has at least a small chance of inflicting damage before a soak roll is made. Moreover, damage effect rolls cannot botch; a botched roll simply means the attack glances harmlessly off the target.
Characters can resist a certain degree of physical punishment; this is called soaking damage. Your character’s soak dice pool is equal to her Stamina. A normal human can soak only bashing damage (this reflects the body’s natural resilience to such attacks). A vampire (or other supernatural being) is tougher, and can thus use soak dice against lethal damage. Aggravated damage may be soaked only with the Discipline of Fortitude. Fortitude also adds to the defender’s soak rating against bashing or lethal damage (so a character with Stamina 3 and Fortitude 2 has five soak dice against bashing and lethal damage, but only two soak dice against aggravated damage).
After an attack hits and inflicts damage, the defender may make a soak roll to resist. This is considered a reflexive action; characters need not take an action or split a dice pool to soak. Unless otherwise stated, soak rolls are made versus difficulty 6. Each soak success subtracts one die from the total damage inflicted. As with damage rolls, soak rolls may not botch, only fail.
Armor adds to your character’s soak. The armor’s rating combines with your base soak for purposes of reducing damage. Light armor offers a small amount of protection, but doesn’t greatly hinder mobility. Heavy armor provides a lot of protection, but can restrict flexibility. Armor protects against bashing, lethal, and aggravated damage from teeth and claws; it does not protect against fire or sunlight. Armor is not indestructible. If the damage rolled in a single attack equals twice the armor’s rating, the armor is destroyed.