July 21st, 2009

When a weapon forcefully impacts the human body it causes damage to the area struck. This ranges from minor damage that can effectively be ignored to complete destruction. In WarSpike wounds are categorised by their effect on the human body, of these categories there are two that are of great importance to the fighter; these being the ‘Instant Death’ and ‘Disabling Wounds’. These two do exactly way they say on the tin: an ‘instant death’ means the inflicted wound killed outright. A ‘disabling wound’ does just that: disables the target.

Of the two the Instant Death seems to be the more desirable to go for but this is not always the case. An unskilled fighter may rush in, and seek the immediate kill by going for area such as the head and body. Whereas the skilled fighter is well aware their opponent may have a functioning and effective guard and the body and head may not be easy to get to until the guard is dealt with first. Part of taking down the guard may involve going for areas that will not instantly kill, but will seriously affect their opponent’s ability to continue to defend themselves.

Terminology: Therefore when talking about wounds we will use the following terminology;

  • Primary Area: Head and body. Damage to the brain or vital organs result in instant death.
  • Secondary Area: Bleeding areas, will not kill immediately, and may not disable.
  • Tertiary Area: Tough non-vital areas, the though parts of the arms and legs (the upper inner thigh is a secondary area for example)

Think of the film ‘Spartacus‘ when visualising the areas. Remember when he was being trained as a gladiator? He was painted to show the areas the gladiator should target, along with an explanation of what will happen if damaged. Same thing.

  • Instant Death: These are strikes to primary areas that kill instantly (and obviously ‘disable’)
  • Mortal wounds: These are strikes to secondary areas that do not kill immediately. Such wounds will disable and kill with time (they may or may not disabled immediately)
  • Disabling wounds: These disable the opponent but to not kill them outright (they may also be ‘mortal’)

The categories have a it of overlap as a ‘disabling mortal wound’ will disable the recipient and will also lead to their death. Whereas a ‘mortal wound’ will not disable immediately, but the one suffering such a wound is doomed and will eventually become disabled, and die. there categories are designed to match the aims of the fighter, rather than representative of the wound variations (as some are going to get cut off and ignored!).


There is a simple underlying logic driving the way a skilled fighter goes about things. When looking at the effectiveness of strikes to various body areas, and the availability (openings) of those areas in combat with another skilled opponent, there are many more opportunities to inflict a ‘disabling wound’ than a ‘death blow’. On top of this ‘non-disabling mortal wounds’ are often as hard to get as ‘death blows’ so the death blow is preferable. Lastly some disabling blows are mortal too, but a suffer is unlikely to survive that long on the battle field to be overcome by their wounds.

Gladiator: Non-disabling mortal wounds’ are desirable, but not on the battlefield. This is because they leave the suffer mobile, and able to continue to attack and defend, before being overcome. This is risky thing to do, and is reserved more for gladiator matches in ancient Rome, where a skilled fighter is playing with their victim, or it was a strike of opportunity, and time is on their side. This is primary for show, to entertain the crowd with blood, and watch a slow death.

Limbs: The arms (and legs) are often closer and easier to get to, and if struck can be disabled, and disabling arms and legs will greatly affect the opponent’s ability to defend themselves. Due to the lack of vital organs, damaged arms and legs are less likely to be ‘mortal wounds’. There are arteries within, and if these are severed; could result in a mortal wounds. This knowledge can be capitalised on by the skilled fighter: disable the arms and/ or legs, and their opponent’s defence is compromised, making finishing them off easier. ie. take the easy stuff first, and this makes getting to the hard stuff easy.

Examples: The skilled fighter can seek to achieve this with a good parry that displaces the weapon, then step in, and run their opponent through with the point of their sword. Or by pressing their opponent while in a bind, during the ‘grapple-at-the-sword’, gain the advantage and slice/ rake their opponent’s arms with the sword’s edge.

It can be assumed that a skilled fighter is aiming for certain areas, using a range of techniques, that result in disablement. All have the same mission, to take down the opponent’s guard first, then take down the opponent. The reason is simple: the guard allows a defence, defeat the guard and the body has no defence and has all the vital organs.

Order of priorities regarding wounds: The first order of business for a skilled fighter is to disable their opponent in some way. Once disabled the fighter can finish of their opponent with a heavy blow, while their opponent can no longer defend (being disabled). If the fighter can disable and kill with one strikes they will, but this will only be done if the defender screws up their defence! Another possibility is that a wound may be mortal in the long run, and may or may not immediately disable, but will disable as death approaches.

Direct Attack: As mentioned before; it is possible to attack without consideration for the guard and go direct for the primary areas with an aim kill outright. I hope the above highlights, in part, this is not the strongest way of doing things. A direct attack like this is so obvious that it can easily be defeated, and is handled in Warspike under the ‘direct attack’ rules. However all the weaknesses of the direct attack vanish if the opponent is disabled. Therefore the correct order to use these two attacks is:

Order: ‘Bind’ > ‘Direct Attack’.

Note: ‘Bind’ in the WarSpike combat loop includes parries, and all weapon vs weapon techniques.


Reach considerations: As first blush it seems thrust weapons have far longer reach that swung weapons. It is true that with a sword the tip is used to thrust and as such the full length of the weapon is used, and that when used to hew the impact edge is not the tip but about two thirds up the blade. Open and shut case you may think? The problem is that it’s not the whole story, and a weapon has to be looked at in it’s entirely, included its most effective method of use. Thrusting and swung weapons approach the same mission in different ways. In general terms: a thrust to the body with a piecing weapon is likely to kill, but a thrust to a limb may not disable and is far harder to place (i.e. miss). Whereas swung weapons, be they edged or blunt, are more likely to hit a limb (due to the sweep of the weapon) and are far more likely to disable a limb.

Therefore the way these weapons are used is slightly different, but all roads lead to Rome!

Thrust point (if used without a shield): the attacker’s weapon is used to displace the defender’s weapon, and then the defenders body (or face/ throat) is attacked. If defended the attacker has to reposition or back off (unless it’s a sword) as the point can not be used in close. The only other recourse is to use secondary weapons like elbows, punches, kicks or grapples.

Thrust point (with a shield): Shield is used to bind the opponent’s weapon or shield and then a thrust is made to the side or head depending on opening.

Swung edged (if used without a shield): the attacker’s weapon is used to displace the defender’s weapon and then a strike is made to the body or head. However the attacker may also strike the arms or the legs which are closer and involve less stepping in (no need to ‘lunge’). In addition to this, an edged swung weapon such as a sword can be used effectively when in close. If the attacker’s strike ends in a bind; the sword can still be used to attack by slicing/ raking. Therefore no need to back off or resort to secondary attacks (though they are still handy to gain the advantage in a bind) and the primary weapon is still effective.

Swung edged (with a shield): Many more options that with a thrusting weapon. In a shield bind, the attacker who gains the advantage may be in a position to reach over and slice the back of their opponent with the false edge (the back edge that is not used when hewing), or they may be able to reach down and slice the hamstring with the false edge (this is the main reason for the false edge, and the false edge is likely retain it’s edge and be very sharp). These slices are highly effective, and as a result the attacker can make a direct attack while their opponent is stunned.

Notes on Mail Armour while we are here: One of the reasons mail armours became popular is that they are highly effective at stopping these slices, forcing an attacker to take greater risks to achieve a disabling strike, often forcing them to go for the head and body direct (and all the risk that implies). Therefore when faced with an defender armoured in mail, the primary disablement method is to displace the defender’s weapon, forget about slices and go for a good heavy hew or thrust.

Tactical considerations

In the Tactical Sphere we can now condense the above concepts. If we look at what a fighter aims to do on the field of battle we can remove some options, and combine others (as they have the same outcome) in order to streamline the rules. This can be excused as a ‘generality’; the average of wound results over the whole battlefield.

Strike: It is assumed that all strikes are intended to cause injury. That the mission of all strikes, be they thrusts or swings, is to disable first. A disabling strike with make a huge opening, and will quickly followed up with a ‘finisher’ (an auto-hit direct attack that can not be defended). This can be combined with the ‘death blow’ result, and while disable > kill is two blows instead of the death blow’s single strike, it all comes out pretty much the same. Therefore;

A successful strike will remove the target miniature from the table unless they can defend themselves with an MA test, or have armours that can defeat that specific type of attack.

Armours: These can be matched against attack type as simple ‘trumps’ system.

Example: A slice/ rake attack is defeated and ignored by mail armour. Therefore a skilled fighter will not use slice/ rake on an opponent who is wearing mail armour.

Ignore: Within the Tactical Sphere the fighter is looking to put down their opponent as fast as possible, and as the combat loop effectively ends as soon as one is ‘disabled’, that is what they are going for. Gladiator style ‘non-disabling mortal wounds’ can be ignored. It is possible that a trooper may die after the battle, but during the fight they are still active. This type of wound can be handled in more specific detail in the Technical Sphere (RPG) side of things well outside the Tactical Sphere.

TFM Thread

// Ignore the following for now;

Specific Injuries

It would seem that these weapons apply force in very different ways, and while a piecing strike is more deadly in many cases, it is not applying more force. It is merely delivering the same force to a smaller point. This is important to remember as force is going to affect armour penetration and the effect on the body struck (i.e. a punch and a dagger thrust has the same force, and if the dagger hits plate armour and does not penetrate, the force delivered is similar to that of a punch. If is dose penetrate is cause a piecing wound which can be fatal)

These injuries operate on a ‘trumps’ system. All the variability is in the MA test to strike (and defend!), and a successful strike is a place strike to specific areas (as defined by the successful MA test!)

1P: Piecing

A piecing wound requires very little strength to inflict a mortal wound. Even a child has sufficient power to effectively stab an adult; and for that wound to be fatal if piecing through vital organs. The Roman were well aware that a 2″ stab wound to the solar plexus quickly disables (collapses the lungs) and kills quickly. In general any damage to the vitals often resulted in disablement and nearly always followed by death. Therefore it can be assumed that any stab wound to the body, as would result from a successful ‘direct attack’, will drop the target. Though that are many variables, the basic assumption of the direct attack with a trusting is a body shot, or in close a head shot, but body is best. Therefore any armour that can resist a piecing strike has to completely resist it, else it will be beached and a fatal wound delivered.

Result: a stab wound on target to the body (without armour) is fatal. There is really no way around this. Therefore a stab wound is highly effective is targeting (and hitting) primary areas. However they are less effective to the limbs and arms and as a result will not ‘disable’ if striking a tertiary area.

Notes: Weapons like the Rapier, which are not swung to hew, often retain the cutting edge to enable ‘slices’. Slicing is an important ability of the sword, and even light contacts can be dangerous with a drawing of blade.

2P: Edged

This confers a cut attack, and in the case of swords a ‘draw cut’ use to slice and augment the cut. If we first look

Result: Effective on all areas. Very good at disabling limbs. Sword have a special ‘slice’ ability that can be delivered from a grapple-at-the-sword.


The body is most resistant to this, and when comparing men of similar size, a body strike is rarely fatal, but repeated blow are painful and can result in submission (hence blunt weapon like clubs are used in law enforcement).

Result: Stun. Most people hit with a blunt weapon square to a primary area by someone of similar power will be stunned. Blunt force truma can kill but you need to be stronger – i.e. leverage bonuses for swung weapons. Strikes to limbs are ineffective and need a lot of power, therefore strikes of similar power have no effect.

Category: Prototype Rules Page

Comments: 4

Feedback is vital to the development of WarSpike. I would like to thank all those who have taken the time to critique and discuss the concepts and rules of WarSpike, and especially those who's comments are posted below. If you would like to chip in too, you are most welcome! To jump to the comment form at the bottom of the page click here, or browse other's comments and hit 'reply'.

  1. Hive Trygon says:

    I like this system a lot Philip, my main concern would be complicated areas of effect. Your system is so streamlined I’d have to say there should be no need to decided legs or arms for disabled attacks. I think just causing a negative modifier for that would be enough. For instance if a warrior had a massive arm or leg injury he will have trouble attacking or avoiding blows and to me that would help speed game play.

    However for a RPG system I see this as not so much of a problem and since you are combining all of the games together this system would be perfect for that type of game. I think most of us assume “war game” now day’s due to the popularity of Warhammer and 40K.

    • Philip S says:

      I’m glad you like it. Streamlining is very important to me and everything in the system should be designed in such a way as to be fast. This is an overview of wounds, the common elements over all Spheres, and it will change when we delve into the specific Spheres. This is setting out the broad concepts used and laying the foundations for later (when written up in the specific Spheres – and they will have a lot less explanation, as it’s all here!)

      You are right about there being no need to specify what area is hit to disable in the Tactical Sphere (as it’s more generalised). In the Tactical Sphere sense a disabling wound dies just that: disables. In the Technical Sphere which is more like an RPG it will be an option to have more detail.

      I am not keen on modifiers in any sense, and would rather ‘design them out’. I suppose do not mind them for fatigue, or blood loss, in smaller games within the Technical Sphere – or in a very general sense for the Tactical Sphere. I am unconvinced they should be the standard way to represent for wounds. In my mind it’s not a case of a modifier, but complete failure!

      A disabling wounds is pretty serious and putting them into context raises some issues. While minor flesh wounds can be ignored thanks to adrenaline (but hurt like hell later) serious wounds can not. When a wounds that disables is first inflicted it will cause great pain (which could be ignored by some thanks to adrenaline) but it will almost certainly mess with their defence until they adjust (even if they do not notice the pain, the fact a body part is not moving and they think it should, and assume it should, it going to compromise their defence). This is all the opening their opponent needs to finish them off.

      On top of this I see another issue. Any fighter attacking a wounded opponent is going to go for the weakness. There attacker will will exploit the wound. It’s something that can be assumed about the attacker – they will hit ’em where is hurts. At the very least the defence of such a wounded defender is easily circumvented, and for the generalisations of the Tactical Sphere it could be assumed that a fighter suffering a disabling wound has ‘no-defence’.

      This may seem a bit extreme, but thinking about a limb being disabled;
      > If their leg is disabled their footwork is compromised and as such everything else goes with it.
      > If their sword arms is disabled and they loose their attack, their opponent will wail on them with impunity – even if they have a shield (grab the shield).
      >If their shield arm is damaged (while in a shield bind) they have no shield.

      For the Technical Sphere more details could be added.

      On the RPG side of this the details could be quite interesting – for example, the ‘ignored’ wounds would cause pain later, and be a possible site of infection. Also a player who character is struck but no disabled could have their character ‘fake it’, using their acting skills, to lull an opponent into making a direct attack. A direct attack is much easy to counter! A case of opportunity knocks.

  2. Guy says:

    This is great, I like how it fits together for all the Sphere’s with greater or lesser details. That sort of inter-connectedness is one of Warspike’s greatest strengths. I’m trying to find something to C&C but I can’t see anything right now. I’ll re-read this tomorrow and see if I can find anything then. 😉

    • Philip S says:

      It’s good to hear that the interconnectivity of WarSpike is coming across. I look forward to what you come up with!

      Now this foundation is pretty much laid, I hope it will make finalising the Tactical (and then Technical, and even the Strategy) Spheres much easier with this as a common frame of reference.

      As everything is built upon the common elements it’s best to catch any errors now before the whole lot goes up 😀

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