Combat – Defence Progression

August 13th, 2011

Forward: This is another article about a combat element I am currently pondering. This deals with the various levels of defence. It looks at the core of defence, developed from base principles extracted from Talhoffer’s fight book, to form a solid foundation to build upon later.

Defence proficiencies

Everyone starts out with basic defence skills, learnt while playing as children, the art of evasion. This is born of base instincts to run and chase, and are important for the young to evade predators. In later life, as the basic evasion ability develops a child can be trained. Building on what they have learnt in play. With training more advanced defence options come to the fore; that give the skilled combatant a tremendous advantage. This advantage does not come from raw speed or power, but in their approach to combat and their actions born of that approach. All this training will be recorded the under ‘Repertoire’ the modifier group for ‘Action’.

(note: for those unfamiliar with WarSpike’s way of doing things: ‘experience’ is separate from training and skill, and is recorded under the Mentality modifier group: ‘Attitudes’. Experience is used to reinforce skills, keeping the person focused on the task in hand)


Basic defence is to stand your ground and move back, and preferable sideways, when attacked. Watching the attack and hoping to make a counter attack if your opponent over-balances. This is like basic knife fighter (as it very hard to parry with a knife!)

The basics of this type of combat can be summed up with ‘dodge’. But it relies on ‘big bomb’ attacks coming in at you, where your opponent is making up a lot of distance to strike.

Another type of defence at this level is the ‘quick charge’ from very short-range. This is done as the attacker raises their weapon to strike with a full power hewing blow. A quick-witted defender could steam them and grapple – but such a move is risky if the attacker is skilled and retains balance. I would say that usually this is mistake on the part of the attacker where range has been misjudged, or the mêlée is confusing and the opportunity presents itself to the attacker and they just go with it.


Next up is basic defensive work, but here the deflection are often combined with the dodge to get out-of-the-way. Here the defence allows you to remain closer, and therefore better able to counter strike.

This can be handled with ‘parry’ or ‘deflection’. This is a more advanced type of attack and can catch out an attacking opponent who over-commits.

Advanced Training

The last type of defence is binding. This allows you to defend yourself and to control your opponent’s weapon. If your opponent does not have binding techniques then they are at a serious disadvantage as you can move in to finish them off and they can do little to stop you.

This type of combat can be summed up with ‘binds’.

These three ‘levels’ of proficiency are used as the basis of the game mechanics.

Game Mechanics

The following is an general concept of the core mechanics of  these proficiencies work. It does not delve into all the aspects of combat. Some areas like ‘damage’ are glossed over for now. What I am looking at is the basic structure on which I can build.


An MA test is required to jump back out-of-the-way (and perhaps move a little sideways!). Failure means your jumped back too far (or moved too soon!). A success means you are still close enough to take a swipe at your attacker before they re-balance. Think ‘bull fighting’ and it gives a much bigger, and easier to see, example of what the dodge basically is. Generally the dodge is designed to keep you alive and get you out of harms way first, and attack is secondary.

Is it possible to actually fail at dodging and get hit? Yes. If you are unhealthy, immobile, or the attacker is skilled and feints an attack and quickly follows up.

Most able-bodied fighters have an Action value of 6, the human average, and dodging is well-developed so uses the 6 value (60% in the Technical Sphere). To fail at a dodge to the point you get hit you have to roll double your stat value which is impossible for a value of 6 (it would work out as a 12 or more on 1D10). However for those who did not play as children, or have underdeveloped dodge skills, such that their value for dodge is 4 or less, it then becomes possible to fail at dodging (value 4 would double up to 8, and it’s possible to roll over 8 with 1D10). For the purposes of this article we’ll ignore this for now, and the other complications such as speed enhancements etc. via Stature agility bonuses.

A dodge is not automatically successful if used to evade a skilled attack. A skilled attack is one that is based on an initial MA test when opening rather than the usual ‘full on’ auto-hit type of attack. This skilled attack is often a ‘feint’ (mechanically skilled attack as handled in the same way but the specifics of what is actually done varies with the situation).

Feint concept: Use deception to compromise an opponent’s defence. Make an MA test to fake an attack, to draw your opponents attention to the fake attack, then quickly change and strike while their guard is temporally compromised by their erroneous response. A successful MA test means the feint is convincing. A failure means the feint is treated as a regular auto-attack (which could be bad against a skilled opponent). Feints allow you to catch dodgers flat-footed, and to draw a skilled opponent’s defence away from your target to reveal an opening.

Feints and dodging.

A successful MA test for feint fools the dodger.

The dodger misreads the signs, and they may be hit. If the dodger fails their dodge roll they are struck! They do not ‘jump back too far’, they actually get hit this time. If the dodger succeeds in their dodge roll they get away by the skin of their teeth. This is close, and while the dodger can stay close to counter, this close shave may convince most to leg it instead (as they have dodged they can run and disengage from combat).

A failed skilled attack MA test means the dodger judges it correctly and gets the usual dodge roll handled in the usual way (and if successful they may come back in for a counter of their own!)


An MA test is required. If you fail you will be hit! If you pass you will defend yourself and make an automatic counter that cannot be dodged! The only way to stop this type of attack is to use deflects too.


An MA test is required. If you fail you will be hit! (or you may simply deflect? Too powerful?). A successful test means you bind your opponent, controlling their blade, from which you can ‘strike from the bind’. The only way to stop a strike from the bind is to use binding or be wearing mail armour. If an opponent does not having binding techniques they are in serious trouble.

Notes: A person without binding techniques may consider wearing mail armour as a defence to make up for their lack of skill. However this is a false security. When facing a skilled opponent who can (and will) bind, this unskilled fellow is in trouble. The unskilled fighter who is bound will automatically fail their defensive MA test. They do not roll an MA test. This failure will allow the binder to push the unskilled fighter away from the bind and set up an automatic ‘unstoppable’ strike. This would result in the unskilled fighter being seriously injured. Mail armour is only useful for those will skills, taking on other’s will skills.

Notes: At a higher level, or more details play of the Technical Sphere, a feint could be stacked with Mentality (Attitude) to ‘sell’ the attack and mess with the targets head. It would be possible to pull of the MA test and fail at the Mentality test. This would allow the target to see through your attack, nit because it was poorly executed, but they ‘knew’ you were going to fake it. At this level your ability to lie and hide your expressions plays an important part.

Note: children could be good at dodging but they have limited range (being small) so they have to make up more distance if they wanted to strike back, which in turn is a disadvantage and make it hard to dodge and stay close. In fact it makes it so hard that an athletic adult should catch a child without any real problem (unless not concentrating or paying full attention). In addition a child is small and could count as a smaller target (stature wise – Stature 5). This should allow for street urchins in fantasy games to escape adults, but not be a dodging ninja and take out adults in hand to hand combat. I’m thinking Arabian adventures.

Notes: Sleep spells and status ailments will work against someone who can dodge, allowing you to catch them even though you do not have the feint ability.

Categories: Concepts, Rules |

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