The Combat Section

The Combat Section

(..just in case your Cinematic characters turn to violence to solve their problems)

     A Cinematic character can do everything a standard character can do in one round – it has the same amount of actions (one move and one standard or two move actions) – it just does them in a simultaneous environment as opposed to the strict, turn-based model of standard combat. Thus, it is possible to have actions resolving at the same time, with imagined actions feeling more realistic (and less of a chess game of threatened squares), but combat can (will) be slower to progress as the DM and players have to account for a much more animated scene.

Duration of a Cinematic Combat Round: In standard rules, a combat round is exactly 6 seconds long. Given the increased options Cinematic characters have, we extended the duration of the combat round to 12 seconds. One of the major decisions Cinematic DMs will have to make is whether to re-scale the duration of standard spells to this new round duration – of particular relevance to spells that measure their duration in periods of time longer than rounds, such as “minutes”, “hours”, etc. We recommend keeping the number of rounds a standard spell lasts constant despite the extended combat round. Thus, a standard spell that lasts for “1 minute per level” (10 standard rounds) in the Cinematic System would last 10 Cinematic rounds, or “2 minutes per level.”

“Well, that’s initiative..” In the Cinematic System initiative is rolled on a d10, rather than a d20, each round. Characters in certain disadvantageous, predefined states, such as when blinded, comatose, confused, cowering, dazed, dazzled, deafened, disabled, dying, entangled, exhausted, fascinated, fatigued, frightened, helpless, nauseated, panicked, paralyzed, petrified, shaken, sickened, stunned or unconscious roll a d12 for their initiative. A character’s Speed stat modifies her base initiative roll by subtracting its modifier (or adding its penalty). Thus, it is perfectly acceptable to have a base initiative in any combat round of zero or less…and negative numbers are entirely possible. In fact, they are preferable, because the character with the lowest base initiative gets to act first. Notice I didn’t say “base initiative number gets to act first” – that’s because what a character intends to do is factored into their initiative. In fact, as characters play out their allotted actions, they keep adding values to their initiatives until everyone is finished, and the round ends. Each possible initiative number represents a “moment” called a segment. Segments are whole numbers – integers – and there is theoretically no lower or upper limit to the number of segments in a round. Thus, segments do not represent any well-defined, quantitative element of time. The amount of segments it takes to do something is referred to as the speed (or speed factor) of the action. The speed or speed factor of some basic actions in combat are as follows..

Action

Speed

Moving 5’ across normal terrain

1

Moving 5’ across terrain requiring a balance check (unless a -5 penalty is taken to attain a speed of 1)

2

Attacking with a weapon

equal to the weapon’s speed factor

Casting a spell

equal to the spell’s casting time

Speaking up to a few sentences…

0

Activating a general magic item

3

Drinking a potion

4

Using a scroll

2 + normal casting time of the spell

Using a psionic power

0 (unless it has a preparation time)

Monster using a breath weapon

1

Drawing a weapon from a sheath

1

 

Let’s say that a character with a Speed stat of 14 rolls initiative…and gets a 5 on a d10. This would make its base initiative a 3, because the Speed stat’s modifier is a 2. Let’s also say that this nameless character wanted to move 5’ as its first action in the round. When the round got to a 3, ticking up from the lowest possible initiative number in the round, the character would start to move. Exactly on segment 4 (we say on a 4), the movement would finish. Now, assuming this character was determined to keep moving until it had moved 30’, it would finish its movement on a 9 (on segment 9). At this point, the nameless character has a standard action left, and decides to cast a spell. Notice in the chart above spells have casting times: In previous editions of standard rules, all spell descriptions came with a “casting time” entry. For arcane spells, this was usually equal to the spell level (although to offset the relative coolness or power of a given spell, the author could increase its casting time to something unusually large). Thus, in the Cinematic System, it is assumed that the casting time of a spell (arcane or otherwise) is equal to its level (unless the actual spell description says something different). In our running example, let’s say the spell to be cast was level 2: the spell begins on a 9 and completes on an 11. If the character’s player preferred, the spell could have been cast first and then the movement could have happened – it is totally up to the player.

Whenever you see a list of speed factors, you have to consider that they are just a guideline – a rough metric. It is entirely possible that a magic item would have an activation time greater than 3 – perhaps in order to use that wand you have to dance like your last name was “Hammer” for 5 segments such that its speed would be 8 (and I’m thinking a DC 15 dancing check is in order…or maybe considering the context the DC would have to be 25…but I digress).

As far as speaking goes, there has never been a quantitative measure of how many words a character can speak in a round until speaking ceases to become a free action and it starts taking up “measurable” amounts of time – it’s just kind of up to the DM’s patience, and rightly so. Typically, a DM will warn players when the boundary has been reached and the speaking starts to burn up a move equivalent action – at that point the DM would require that 1 segment would have to pass before the words are completed (ticking the round up +1).

In standard rules, you can draw a weapon and move at the same time as long as your BAB is +1 or higher: in these cases this combined action would take 1 segment.

For many actions (such as using natural attacks), the size category of the creature in question is the basic consideration for how much time it takes to do something. Consider the following chart..

Action

Speed

Fine creature does something (as in itty bitty, not sexy)

-1

Diminutive creature does something

0

Tiny creature does stuff

1

Small creature acts

2

Medium creature doing things

3

Large creature getting it done

6

Huge creature throwing it around

9

Gargantuan creature winning

12

Colossal creature doing what it wants

15

 

Notice that the chart scales differently in the lower size ranges than the upper size ranges, reflecting the more-significant differences in size among the heavyweights. Using this chart’s logic, a size large monster’s natural attacks have a speed of 6, and a Halfling’s fist trying to punch someone has a speed of 2. The Halfling’s vicious snap kick also has a speed of 2. However, the Halfling’s deadly 8th level spell has a speed of 8, its psionic powers have a speed of 0, and it’s weapons have a speed equal to their speed factor. It’s worth noting that small versions of medium weapons have speed factors 2 less than that of their medium counterparts [and by this logic tiny weapons have speed factors 4 less, diminutive weapons 6 less, and colossal weapons have speed factors 8 greater than their medium counterparts].

Applying size modifiers to initiative, a human (size medium) searching through her easy-to-access mailbag for something, completes the action in 3 segments (the act has a speed of 3). The Halfling with the deadly kick attack would complete the same mailbag-searching action in 2 segments. A colossal creature would require 15 segments to search through its own mailbag. If they all rolled a d10 = 5 for initiative and had Speed scores of 10 (a +0 modifier), the human would complete the search on an 8, the Halfling on a 7, and the Colossal PC-killer on a 20. Of course, there is a Cinematic feat that modifies these rules: the Size Matters feat [we all know that it does].

Exploring the speeds of other actions in Cinematic combat yields the following chart..

Action

Speed

Dropping a weapon or held item (a free action)

0

Every other free action I can think of..

0

Attempting a Trip attack

[use size speed]

Attempting a Grapple

[use size speed]

Trying to Disarm someone with a weapon

use weapon speed

Trying to Disarm someone while unarmed

[use size speed]

Taking a 5’ step (sigh)

1

Delaying to see what happens

+1 each time

Smacking a Foo’

[use size speed]

Casting a spell with a range of touch

Use spell’s casting time

Touching self after casting a range = touch spell

0

Touching anyone else after casting a range = touch spell

[use size speed 2 size categories smaller]

Touching someone with your hand

[use size speed 2 size categories smaller]

Touching someone with a weapon, no damage attempted

weapon speed -2

Use a spell-like ability

3

Use a supernatural ability (Su)

3

Use a perceptual skill at DM’s request “make a spot check”

0

Using a perceptual skill on your own as move action

1

Climbing a wall at normal rate

1 per 1.25’ climbed

Climbing a wall at double rate

1 per 2.5’ climbed

Moving 10’ with the Hauling Fantasy Ass feat

1

Climbing a wall at normal rate with Hauling Fantasy Ass

1 per 2.5’ climbed

Running 4 times your speed or faster, every 10’ of movement

1

Moving through terrain that hinders movement 50%

2 per 5’ of movement

Using a non-perceptual skill that can be combined with a move action, such as hide, jump, or tumble

0, use movement speed

Using a non-perceptual skill that requires its own move action to perform, such as using handle animal to get your dog to attack, or ride to dismount from a saddle

3, “size maters not”

Using a non-perceptual skill that requires a standard action to perform, such as using bluff to feint in combat, using intimidate on your foe, bandaging an ally with a heal check, using bardic music, making a sleight of hand check to rob a foe, throwing a grappling hook with use rope

Variable, see below

Using bluff to feint in combat..

Use weapon speed

Using intimidate on a foe..

[use size speed]

Bandaging an ally (or treating poison) with a heal check..

6, “size matters not”

Using bardic music, instrument ready to play..

6, “size matters not”

Making a sleight of hand check to rob a foe..

[use size speed]

Throwing a grappling hook with use rope – in the Cinematic System a character would make a hit roll with the grappling hook instead, treating its use as a Nonweapon weapon

Use the Nonweapon weapon speed of a grappling hook = 8

Using a non-perceptual skill that requires a full round to perform, such as using search on a 5’ x 5’ area, using open lock in battle, or using escape artist to escape from a spell

12, “size matters not”

Delivering a coup de grace – regardless of the speed of the action in segments this takes all your actions that round unless a feat says otherwise..

Twice the weapon speed

Aid Another to convey a +2 AC bonus or +2 to hit to ally

Use weapon speed

Fire a device-propelled weapon (box, x-bow, atlatl) already loaded

3 (usually)

Using an extraordinary (Ex) ability that would take some time to perform

3

Bard casting a spell using an instrument

At least 4 + [the intended spell level]

Bard casting a spell using perform (singing) or perform (oratory).

8 + [2 times the spell level]

Barbarian entering into a Rage

0

Spending special points as metagame actions

0

Casting a spell with a casting time of 1 round

12

Directing your own spells, such as mentally commanding your flaming sphere to change course

0

Delay the entire round to act first the next round (also called “refocusing”)

+X

Making an attack of opportunity or a parry using any kind of weapon, regardless of weapon speed.

0

Changing actions in combat when you’ve already begun an action or formally stated your character’s action.

+1 penalty

Standing up from a prone position

[Use size speed]

 

Without the benefit of specific contexts, the values in the speed chart listed above are merely guidelines, and the DM is the final arbiter of how long an action should take in combat.

When a Cinematic combat round begins, the DM will usually call for initiative, typically by saying something like well, that’s initiative. Everyone rolls either a d10 or d12 (if in one of the afore mentioned special states) to get their base initiative – this base initiative is modified by the negative of each character’s Speed attribute, because lower initiatives act faster. The DM may or may not require that each player formally states their character’s first action, and the DM may or may not state the first actions of those characters under her control. [Of course, any character with the Combat Patience feat is immune to being required to state their actions.] As there is some advantage in seeing what other characters are doing before you commit to an action, another way of handling this process is requiring characters with lower base initiatives to call out their first actions first. The aesthetic choice to formally call out first actions is only relevant in that any character changing their actions suffers a +1 initiative penalty – it also creates a bit of interesting tension.

Keep in mind that a DM may also call initiative for timing purposes – initiative is a metagame event that characters are largely unaware of, so don’t assume that initiative is necessarily a call to arms.

The DM starts the round at the lowest base initiative number, which might well be a negative number in the context of characters with decent Speed scores or initiative modifying feats (such as with the First-Thirst feat). The DM then counts up the round from that lowest base initiative, segment by segment, accounting for the running actions of characters, until everyone involved is out of actions at the highest initiative number left in the round. Consider the following example of how this works..

It is a high-noon-faceoff scenario, whereby an aggressive, utterly mundane house cat with a Speed stat of 18 and the Hauling Fantasy Ass feat (played by the DM) is facing off against a hapless human wizard with a Speed stat of 12 (played by the only player left). Both have straight stats taken from the standard books. They are exactly 30’ apart and facing off in the center of a dusty, old-west center street. Unbeknownst to the player, a 19th Century gunslinger is hiding, with excellent cover, in a dark second story hotel room while pointing a rifle out the only window, which is overlooking the midpoint between the cat and wizard. There is a moment of dramatic tension, and the gunslinger doesn’t know which side to take. The cat growls out a shrill tone of doom, prompting the player to state that his character is going to cast a spell at the cat. That’s initiative the DM announces, and d10s are rolled. The player wonders why the DM is rolling behind her DMing screen, and assumes the extra roll was just smokescreen. The player rolls a 7, modified by -1 for the wizard’s Speed of 12, for a base initiative of 6. The DM decides, on a whim, that the player’s assertiveness has resulted in an initiative bonus of 2, dropping the wizard’s base initiative to 4. The DM requires that the player explain which spell is being cast by the wizard, and the player states confidently, magic missile.

The cat’s initiative roll was, unfortunately for the wizard, a 1. Considering the Speed stat of the cat, it’s base initiative is a -3. The gunslinger’s initiative roll was a 5, and as the DM didn’t work-out his Speed beforehand she assumes his Speed modifier is zero and thus the gunslinger starts on a 5. The DM starts counting up the round at -3, and explains that the feline takes off directly for the wizard supernaturally fast, covering the distance to the wizard in three segments, arriving just in front of the character on a 0. The cat’s reach is negligible, and has to enter the “square” of the wizard in order to attack him (not that any of the characters involved are aware of such local geometry). The DM counts up the round now to a 1, as the feline leaps at the wizard. As the cat breaches the “square” of the wizard, it provokes an attack of opportunity from the wizard, and make-believe time pauses for a moment, cat in mid-air. The wizard’s player thinks for a second – he doesn’t have his dagger out (his only weapon), and so could only make an unarmed strike at the cat as his attack of opportunity. The player knows his wizard has yet to begin its spell (it would do so on a 4, completing the spell on a 5), so making an opportunity attack won’t ruin the magic missile. Real time passes as the wizard’s player ponders his options, and the DM has to but in “so, are you going to take your attack of opportunity?” The player is indecisive, trying to determine the pros and cons of acting, and the DM mentions that the Five Second Rule is now in effect (a Cinematic method of speeding all this shit up).

The wizard isn’t proficient with any kind of natural attack (having no ranks in the background skill brawling for example), and has a fighting style based on Intelligence…unfortunately for him he has never engaged a house cat in mortal combat, and suffers a -2 to hit on top of the -4 non-proficiency penalty, for a total penalty of -6. The wizard’s Strength score and BAB provide no help. The wizard’s player decides to take the -4 extra penalty to deal lethal damage to the cat, for a total “bonus” to hit of -10! The DM, fully aware that the cat’s claws and bite should game mechanically require that the Wizard’s attack of opportunity provokes one from the cat first (who is technically armed), asks the player exactly how his wizard is going to attack the cat. The wizard calmly states I’ll fucking punt it, and the DM decides to ignore the cat’s opportunity attack considering the situation [if the player said something like “I punch it” or “who cares!” the DM might well have allowed the cat its rightful opportunity attack]. The wizard rolls a pitiful 2 on d20, for a total hit roll of -8. The DM rolls the cat’s defense roll on d20 to set its AC…and gets a 14, modified by +2 size and +2 Dex, for a total AC of 18. The wizard’s kick utterly misses, and in the Cinematic System because his total attack roll is negative, it might be a critical fumble. The player makes a confirmation roll, and rolls an 18…subtracting 10, achieving a final result of 8, fumbling critically. The DM gleefully rolls the critical fumble on one of her homebrew charts, and gets a fumble result of “Dexterity check DC 10 or fall prone”. The wizard rolls the Dexterity check, and gets a 7, failing. Thus, the wizard is going down (after throwing his leg out way too fast) as the cat’s bite attack launches forward (the DM decided to use bite first). As a tiny creature, its bite has a speed of 1, and goes off just after the wizard falls backward on segment (or initiative) 2 of the round; the DM decides that the cat lands on top of the wizard as it attacks…rolling a 12, subtracting 1 for its total hit “bonus” with bite (-1), for a total of 11. The wizard’s defense roll, factoring in being prone and all bonuses, is a measly 11; thus the cat hits (as the defense roll sets the DC of the hit roll), doing 1 point of lethal damage to the wizard, who has 4 hit point remaining. The cat takes its next attack, a claw swipe, 1 segment later on a 3, rolling a 14, +4 to hit for a total and formidable attack roll of 18. The wizard’s defense roll is a 6, +2 for bonuses to AC and -2 for being prone, for a total AC of 6; thus the claw lands home, scoring 1 more point of lethal damage, leaving the wizard 3 hit points to spare. The DM counts up the round to a 4, and the cat is going to swipe again, but now the wizard has a choice to make as well – this is when he gets to act. The wizard decides to wait and see how the cat’s last attack goes, and delays until a 5. The cat hits again, scoring one more point of damage, leaving the wizard with 2 hit points. The round counts up to a 5, and the wizard decides to cast his spell – technically this goes off on a 6 because of the +1 initiative penalty for changing actions…the gunslinger is fairly certain who is going to win this contest, and decides to ally with the mighty feline: his weapon is ready to fire and has a speed of 3 (device propelled weapon), going off on an 8. The wizard’s player decides to cast defensively…in the Cinematic System the concentration check DC for casting defensively is 5 + [the threatening opponent’s best attack bonus] + [the level of the spell]. The cat’s best attack, its mighty claws, comes at a +4 bonus, so the concentration check DC is 10. The wizard makes the skill check with a final result of 13 and is ready to magic missile the cat. However, the wizard has taken 3 damage, and needs another concentration check DC 10 + [the damage taken thus far in the round] to get the spell off, or DC 13. Given the situation, with the deadly cat bearing down and the wizard prone, the DM decides to modify this check’s DC +2, for a total DC of 15. The wizard fails the skill check and the spell is ruined [even if he had made the skill check, he would have needed another concentration check in this system to cast the spell, because the wizard just acquired this level of spells – DC 10 + 2x the spell level]. The round counts up from 6 to a 7 (where there is nothing to resolve), to an 8…and the gunslinger fires a Spencer rifle round at the Wizard. As the DM describes the resulting sound and asks for a flat-footed, prone defense roll from the wizard, the player begins to suspect the DM doesn’t want to DM this campaign for much longer…

That round would continue until everyone was out of actions. The house cat was out of movement, and out of actions after its attack. The wizard still has a move action, and might try to stand up (speed of 3), or if the player was thinking he might try to roll away from the cat to escape its negligible reach, assuming the cat couldn’t really hinder this in the context of the moment. Let’s examine some specific combat actions to see how they fit into the Cinematic combat round..

Aiding Another: The Cinematic System assumes that it would be harder to aid allies facing well-armored, mentally focused opponents, than to aid allies facing naked, easily-distracted opponents. In order to bestow the +2 to hit or AC bonus to an ally when aiding another, a character has to make a hit roll DC 5 + [the opponent’s total bonus to AC]. This attack does not do damage – it merely bestows the bonus to the ally. The opponent can make an opposed concentration check with this attack roll to negate the aid another bonuses, but must expend an attack of opportunity to do so. Using aid another to assist an ally’s skill check takes as many segments as the ally’s use of the skill.

Bull Rushing: The speed of these maneuvers is simply based on the amount of movement required to reach your target – you do not then add your size speed to your running initiative before making the opposed Strength check. The first 5’ you push your bull rushed foe back occurs on the same initiative number or segment that you entered their square. Each additional 5’ you push your opponent backward and move with them requires 1 segment or initiative point to resolve. If you fail the bull rush attempt your backward motion occurs 1 segment after your bull rush was attempted.

Charging: When performing a charge, you have to move to your target (usually taking 1 segment per 5’ of ground to cover) and then you attack, adding your weapon speed to the segment your move would end to determine when the attack lands. If your weapon would deal double damage during a charge (typical for piercing-pole-like weapons), you do not have to add your weapon speed to the maneuver – your attack lands as soon as you arrive. Thus, if hermando, a charging human wielding an awl pike (15’ reach), were to charge his opponent, an ogre 50’ away, and his base initiative (after being modified by his Speed stat modifier) was a 4, he would deliver his pike attack on an 11, because he would have to cover 35’ of ground and wouldn’t need to add-in his speed factor. If hermando were using a battle axe, his attack would go off on a 20, because he would have to cover 45’ of ground (+1 segment for every 5’ of move for a total of +9) and then add the speed factor of his battle axe (which is +7), for a total of 4 + 9 + 7 = 20. If hermando had the Hauling Fantasy Ass feat, his battle axe charge would go off on a 16, because his move would only take 4.5 segments, and segments round up. If hermando had the Improved Charge feat as well, his charge attack would go off on a 4 + 5 + 2 (because some of the weapon speed is subsumed in the hauling ass move) = 11.

Typically, any weapon described as scoring double damage when “set” vs. a charge also scores double damage when used during a charge. The +2 AC penalty as described in standard rules applies to your defense rolls until the segment after your charge attack goes off. Thus, if your charge attack lands on an initiative of 8 (on segment 8) and you are simultaneously attacked on an 8, your defense roll that segment is penalized 2.

Grappling: The speed of a grapple attack is merely the size speed of the initiating character making the initial touch attack. A character who is pinned has an effective Dexterity of 0, is susceptible to sneak attacks, and suffers an additional 4 penalty to AC against those not pinning her. A character critically failing an opposed grapple check is immediately pinned by any grappling opponent who didn’t critically fail their own check. A character who is pinned suffers a cumulative -1 penalty to opposed grapple checks made to escape the pin (and to escape artist checks) each time they fail to escape. Any character with a feat which improves their performance when grappling (such as the Ambidexterity, Grasping Strike, Improved Grapple, Tactical Grappler, or Super Tactical Grappler feats), can attempt for render an opponent they have pinned helpless by succeeding on an additional grapple check at a -4 modifier. This special check does no grapple damage. A grappled-helpless character (assumed to be in some sort of lock which keeps them immobile) is susceptible to coup de grace attempts by bystanders, and has only one option – escaping the grapple on their turn as a full round action, using either an opposed grapple check or an escape artist check at a -4 penalty (at least, also use the cumulative penalties for any missed grapple attempts while pinned). The DM may rule that certain characters are physically unable to pin or render helpless a given opponent based on such factors as size and strength comparisons. Thus, a house cat, even one with the Super Tactical Grappler feat, is not able to render a Halfling with a Strength of 16 pinned or helpless. A size tiny fairy isn’t going to render a size large Ogre helpless either – even if the die rolls go afoul for the Ogre. Characters who are expending energy grappling (or making strength checks in a strenuous way, such as when trying to force open a door) count each round as 2 rounds when considering the Constitutional Fatigue Effect of combat. Characters who attempt to render their foes helpless, or who attempt to escape being pinned or rendered helpless, immediately add +2 rounds of fatigue at the time of the check.

Overrunning: Much like a bull rush, the speed of this attack option is based on the amount of movement required to reach your target – you do not then add your size speed to your running initiative before making the overrun attack. If you knock-down your opponent or they dodge you, this all happens on the same segment as the overrun attempt. If you get knocked back, you land prone on the next highest segment (or initiative number) after your overrun attack was launched – essentially the meeting of bodies in resistance caused the round to count up to the next segment.

Trip: The speed of this action is the speed factor of the weapon in question – for creatures using unarmed attacks use their size speed. Creatures fall prone on the same segment as the trip attempt was launched. If instead you are tripped (because of a failed trip attempt and a successful opponent trip attack), you fall on the same segment as your failed attack.

More Specific Combat Rules

The Resolution of Timed Events: As a general rule, when something in a Cinematic combat round lasts for 1 round, its duration extends into the next round, and ends on the same segment it began on. If, for example, an abjuration spell were to last for 3 rounds and it was cast on a 7, one round of its duration expires on initiative 7 the next round, and the spell would end after three of these cycles. Thus, when a character is stunned for 1 round, and this occurs on X segment, they will be stunned until segment X the next round. This makes these kind of states all the more deadly.

Weapon Speed Limitations: If because of weapon size, applied feats, and so forth a weapon’s speed factor is negative, this does not mean your secondary attacks with it occur “back in time” before the first attack was launched in the round. In these cases, where the weapon speed is negative or zero, the next attack with the weapon occurs 1 segment later. Thus, a character with a long sword that has an effective speed of 0 making three attacks per round, who starts on a 6, would attack with the long sword on segments 6, 7 and 8. If the sword had an effective speed of -2, the first attack would occur on a 4 and the other two attacks on a 5 and 6. Considering that each magical or psionic +1 of a weapon lowers its speed factor by 1, as well as the large number of feats which lower weapon speeds [such as the Combat Quickness family of feats], negative speed factors are entirely possible.

The “Five Second Rule”: In certain dramatic circumstances, the DM will only allow 5 seconds of real time for a player to decide their character’s action. If the time runs out, the character receives a +1 initiative penalty, along with an additional +1 initiative penalty for every additional X seconds of game time wasted on deciding the action (where X is set by the mood of the DM but is typically 2 or 3 seconds). Once the initiative penalty reaches +4, the character loses a move action. Once the round ticks up to this point, the player has another 5 seconds to decide their character’s actions, or the penalties begin to accrue again – at the second +4 initiative penalty in a round the character loses a standard action as well!

Weapons Have Relevant Stats: Usually in standard rules, melee weapon combat is modified by Strength and ranged combat is governed by Dexterity. In the Cinematic System, each weapon has a “relevant stat” associated with its use. The concept of a relevant stat is synonymous with a “key ability”. For example: battle axes are a Strength-based weapon (and Strength modifies hit rolls when using this weapon), but Kawangas are a Dexterity-based weapon (and Dexterity modifies the hit rolls of this weapon). In this way, the Weapon Finesse feat’s utility is greatly reduced.

Modification to Critical Rules: All weapons (except certain weapons of quality players might find in the course of their adventures) now have a threat range of “20.” If a hit roll of a natural 20 is required to hit a target, it is not possible to critically hit said target – period. Expanded threat ranges are a function of the skill of the user in the Cinematic System, reflected in the number of ranks a character has in their weapon skills. With enough ranks in a given weapon, the weapon’s threat range increases.

When an attack threatens a critical hit, the standard rules apply, and a critical roll (also called a threat or confirmation roll) is made against the same AC. If this critical roll succeeds, a critical hit results. The DM is encouraged to use special charts – critical hit charts – to determine what happens at this point. At minimum, double damage will occur. If the confirmation roll threatens a critical hit, then another confirmation roll is called for, and this process can repeat, resulting in multiple confirmed critical hits. In these cases, the DM should do one of the following things: [1] if the critical hit chart is d100 based, the DM might have each extra confirmed critical hit result in +10% to the charts, [2] roll as many critical hit results as were indicated, and somehow combine them into one effect, or [3] roll as many critical hit results as were indicated, and take the better result.

Note that the various Cinematic weapon and armor skills modify d100 rolls on critical hit charts by various percentages depending on the skill level of the wielder/wearer. If a roll on a d100 based critical hit chart is negative after these modifiers, any special result (other than double damage) is usually negated. Furthermore, for each +1 enhancement of a weapon, it gains a +10% bonus on d100 critical hit charts. Consequently, each +1 enhancement of a suit of armor or shield reduces incoming critical hit chart rolls by -10%. It is entirely possible that certain quality or masterwork weapons, suits of armor, or shields could be designed by the DM to provide minor critical hit chart modifiers as well.

Critical Fumbles: Whenever an attack roll, after all modifications, is negative then it might result in a critical fumble. This can happen on a hit roll on d20 of a natural 1, since this roll is treated as a -10, and it can happen as the result of a low roll and a lot of negative modifiers (such as seen in the previous house cat versus wizard example). To determine whether or not a critical fumble occurs, a confirmation roll is made. If this roll does not hit the target AC DC (I’ve been waiting to write that), a fumble occurs. Cinematic DMs are encouraged to use special charts – critical fumble charts – to determine what happens at this point. If the confirmation roll is itself another fumble (because the final modified roll is negative again), another confirmation roll is made – potentially resulting in additional fumbles! In the case of multiple critical fumbles, the DM has the same options as with critical hits: [1] apply a +10% modifier to the critical fumble chart roll, [2] roll up however many fumbles happened and take the worst result, or [3] roll each fumble on the charts and try to apply each result.

As with critical hits, weapon and armor enhancements matter during critically fumbled hit rolls; for each +1 enhancement of the weapon reduce the critical fumble chart roll by 10%, and for each +1 enhancement of the defender’s armor or shield increase the critical fumble chart roll by 10%.

The Defense Roll: In the Cinematic System characters do not take 10 on their armor class, but rather roll a d20. Armor classes are thus expressed as +X [where X is the standard armor class – 10]. A character gets one defense roll per segment, unless they have the Multiple Dodge feat. Thus, every attack becomes an opposed roll. Ties go to the attacker, since the defense roll sets the DC of the attack roll, but in these cases only ½ damage is scored. To reiterate, when an attack roll ties a defense roll the defender takes ½ damage (Idea from Ian Kaplan). For defense and attack rolls, natural 1s are treated like -10s, and natural 20s are treated as 30s. At the whim of the DM, defense rolls can be critically failed for added mal-effect for the defender (up to and including receiving a critical hit).

That defenders suffer ½ damage when their defense rolls tie incoming attack rolls creates interesting situations where special effects are involved. If, for example, a sword cast a spell on anyone it hit, in the case of ½ damage the target is still hit and thus the spell would discharge. If a weapon were poisoned, and it only did ½ damage in the case of a tied defense/hit roll, the DM might rule that the DC were diminished, or she might rule that the poison still reached the victim, requiring a saving throw as usual. If the “½ effect on a tie” rule gets too complicated, simply ignore it. We included it because there are too few times where weapons barely hit their targets, or where parries mostly prevent damage. We also thrive on complexity, but that’s another matter..

Being flat-footed: As soon as a combat round begins, all combatants are allowed their dexterity bonus to AC unless some outside force would prevent this. It is still possible to be flat-footed during a surprise round, but otherwise it is not a concern. These rules replace the standard rules for being flat footed, which were designed for a non-simultaneous combat round.

Constitutional Fatigue Effect: As an obscure Cinematic rule, characters can expend energy in combat for as many rounds as they have points of Constitution (double this if their fighting style is Constitution based) before needing a Constitution check DC 5 + 1 per further round of exertion. If this check fails, the character is temporarily fatigued and limited to the actions of someone who is disabled (and can take non-lethal hit point damage by taking strenuous actions). If a character in this state takes more than their constitution modifier in damage through strenuous action, they become temporarily exhausted rather than temporarily fatigued, and are still limited to the scenario of someone who is disabled, but take 2 non-lethal hit point damage on strenuous actions. A character can spend all their available actions on rest to move from exhausted to fatigued or from fatigued to normal and in need of a DC 5 Constitution check next round (if they pass the check they are no longer fatigued, else they remain in this state). A character not currently needing or passing their Constitution check can spend a full round action resting (where they are not helpless but not taking other actions, such as entering into full defense) to reset their number of rounds of exertion to zero. At the judgment of the DM, certain actions may substitute for rest, such as taking the time to root through a backpack and not move more than 5’.

The “Parry” Combat Option: The Cinematic System uses a combat mechanic whereby the attacker makes an attack, and the defender rolls their armor class with a defense roll. If the defender gets hit by a physical attack, they can still try to Parry the incoming attack (thereby kind of rewinding the moment). In order to attempt a parry, the character needs to “spend” one physical attack (the one they are using for the parry) as well as one attack of opportunity. The character then rolls a hit roll for the attack they are using, modified by an applicable context penalty assigned by the DM (which mainly factors in size differences of the two attack forms in question – it is far harder to parry a giant’s club with a dagger than with a large sword) – if the parry attempt’s hit roll beats that of the original attack, the attack is parried and blocked. If the parry attempt’s hit roll ties that of the original attack, the attack is partially blocked and the defender takes ½ damage. An example is called for..

Let’s say our human wizard from the previous example wanted the parry the house cat’s first attack – at the moment of the cat’s successful bite, the wizard had used his 1 attack of opportunity, and wanted to cast a spell later in the round. However, let’s assume the wizard wanted to abandon the spell and focus on doing something about the cat’s incoming attack. By choosing to use an attack, the wizard will expend his standard action – as he didn’t have a weapon out he would have to try to parry with an unarmed strike. The wizard is also lacking an attack of opportunity, but in the Cinematic System he can forego his move action and trade it in for an extra attack of opportunity that round. Recall that the wizard’s bonus to hit with unarmed attacks, including the -4 to hit for trying to score lethal damage, was a hideously poor -10! The house cat’s bite attack hit roll was an 11, so the wizard would have to roll a natural 20 to parry this attack (since a natural 20 hit roll is treated as a 30). This wizard’s player could go for it and hope the unarmed strike connects, or he might want to forego the -4 to hit for lethal damage and have a small chance in hell of parrying (with a -6 to hit, the wizard needs to roll a 17 or better to parry). In situations like this, where a creature’s natural attacks could be parried in such a way that the creature might suffer damage if the parry is successful, the DM will usually rule that a successful parry does at least ½ damage (not full damage, because the weapon is not being used with full force, unless it is a special piercing weapon that would score double damage during a charge). In this case, the DM rules that a house cat facing a human’s unarmed attacks is in some danger and would suffer ½ damage (lethal or non-lethal depending on what the wizard does). Recall also that the wizard is prone at the point the cat bites – this is factored into the parry attempt as well. The DM rules that the cat’s bite is easy to parry with whatever appendage the human wizard tries to use, and applies a +1 bonus to the parry attempt. However, that the wizard is prone (and just landed on his back) encourages the DM to apply a -2 to the parry, for a total modifier of -1. The wizard is not likely to parry the bite…

  • You can only parry with a weapon you have out and ready, unless you have a feat or special ability that allows you to draw a weapon as a free action (or something similar).
  • You can parry without a weapon as well, but doing so is dangerous. Attempting to throw something like a punch or kick to block a weapon attack (as if you were Bruce Lee) is possible (depending on the context), but the parry is at a -4 penalty; if it fails, the incoming attack hits the punch or kick wrong and the defender takes 150% damage from the attack. If instead, a character wants to parry by deflecting the arm or appendage of the person attacking them, use the same procedure, but require the defender to make a Speed check DC equal to the attack roll first – if this fails, the defender walks into the attack and suffers 150% damage. In both cases, treat the size category (medium, small, etc.) of the character parrying as their “weapon’s size” when considering any parry modifiers based on weapon size difference (see below).
  • Remember: when a creature’s natural attacks could be parried in such a way that the creature might suffer damage if the parry is successful, the DM will usually rule that a successful parry does at least ½ damage – not full damage, because the weapon is not being used with full force, unless it is a special piercing weapon that would score double damage during a charge
  • By rather ancient (early 1990’s) convention, a character using two weapons to parry – assuming they have two weapons out and ready – can spend an attack from each weapon and one attack of opportunity to parry with both weapons, rolling the best weapon’s hit roll at a +2 bonus (credit to Matt Wein).
  • While parrying is possible without needing to consider weapon speeds, it is not possible to parry the same segment you are launching a physical attack (unless of course you have two weapons out and have an available attack in the weapon you are not attacking with in that segment). Thus, sometimes a character will choose to delay in the event of a simultaneous attack in order to retain the possibility of parrying.
  • It is also possible to parry by using your armor or shield; this possibility is discussed in the weapon skill section under the armor and shield (offensive) If you receive a bonus to parry using your armor as a consequence of an armor skill, you are considered to be proficient in using that armor to parry.
  • You can also parry attacks launched at anything your weapons can reach – including your allies. As a general rule, you can use medium sized weapons to “cover” those adjacent to you with parry maneuvers – the DM may require that a character in certain situations make spot checks to notice incoming attacks not directed at them or Speed checks (DC 10 or 15) to react in time to parry for a comrade.
  • Inevitably, the “Wonder Woman” factor is going to arise as characters attempt parries against incoming projectiles. For thrown weapons: daggers, hand axes, javelins, spears: a parry can be attempted at a -4 penalty. For device-propelled projectiles such as arrows, bolts, and sling-bullets the parry can be attempted at a -10 penalty. For modern projectiles such as bullets, launched grenades, and missiles the parry attempt would be at a -20! Of course, in these situations, the DM is likely to apply a significant contextual modifier to the parry if the weapon being used to block is inadequate for the task (try parrying an arrow with a stiletto).
  • It is entirely possible to critically fumble a parry attempt! In these cases, the confirmation roll is (of course) checking the DC set by the attack roll that was to be parried.
  • As there are nearly an infinite number of weapon on weapon combinations that would result in special parry modifiers, we only offer the following thoughts. First, for every size difference there is a special modifier based on this progression: [1, 3, 6, 10, 15, 21, 28, 36] – parrying larger weapons is more difficult than parrying smaller ones. Trying to parry using a one-handed weapon in two hands yields a +1 bonus; Trying to parry a weapon requiring two hands to wield with a one handed weapon causes a -2 penalty.

Weapon Used to Parry

Incoming Attack Form

Contextual Parry Modifier

Longsword

Broadsword

+0

Longsword (medium size)

Broadsword (small size)

 +1

Longsword (medium size)

Broadsword (large size)

-1

Longsword (medium size)

Broadsword (huge size)

-3

Longsword (medium size)

Broadsword (gargantuan size)

-6

Longsword (small size)

Broadsword (gargantuan size)

-10

Longsword (fine size)

Broadsword (gargantuan size)

-28

Longsword (fine size)

Broadsword (colossal size)

-36 (ya right)

Dagger

Broadsword

-1

Dagger

Battle Axe

-2

Stiletto or Gaff Hook

Battle Axe

-3

Stiletto or Gaff Hook

Halberd or Meteor Hammer

-4

Broadsword

Dagger

+1

Battle Axe

Stiletto or Gaff Hook

+3

Belaying Pin

Longsword

-2

War hammer

Broadsword

-2

Rapier

Broadsword or Longsword

-1

Fencing Foil

Broadsword or Longsword

-2

Longsword in 2 hands

Broadsword

+1

Dagger

2 Handed Axe

-4

Dagger (small size)

2 Handed Axe

-5

 

It is left as a project for the reader to devise a comprehensive listing of weapon stats for “how hard X weapon would be to parry” and “how well X weapon would generally parry” in terms of d20 modifiers..

Move Action Can Be “Cashed In” For Attacks of Opportunity: A character who has not moved farther than 5’ can choose to “cash in” their move action for an attack of opportunity, thus giving the average character 2 possible opportunity attacks per round. A character trading in their move action in this way is still allowed a 5’ step. It is not possible to trade your standard action in for a move action in any round you cash in a move action for an attack of opportunity.

Sneak Attack Reconsidered: The standard rogue ability to sneak attack a flanked opponent is lost in the Cinematic rules! If a sneak attack is to work the defender must be “denied a dexterity bonus to AC” in regard to the sneak attack attempt. The Deadly Flanker feat restores this advantage.

Spell Interruption Modification: A spell caster that takes damage in any round she is casting a spell must make a concentration check (DC 10 + damage taken) or lose the spell (they still get a move action, but the action that would be used to cast the spell is lost – chalk it up to the mental strain of a ruined spell or whatever). Multiple sources of damage received while casting a spell result in multiple, cumulatively difficult, concentration checks. If a caster receives multiple sources of damage in the same initiative segment, these stack into one (DC 10+ damage taken) roll. Thus, a wizard who received 23 points of damage (from one or a variety of sources) prior to casting a spell needs a DC 10 + 23 = 33 concentration check to get the spell off. If instead, the wizard were actively casting the spell and received 3 attacks doing a total of 23 damage (let’s say 4 damage, 12 damage, and 7 damage), he would have to make individual concentration checks at each moment damage was taken – DC 14, DC 26, and then DC 33. If any of these were failed, the spell would be ruined.

Casting Defensively: In the Cinematic System, the DC for casting defensively is equal to 5 + [the level of the intended spell] + [the opponent’s total bonus to hit with their best attack of opportunity]. If this check is failed, the spell is ruined; if it is critically failed the defensive caster provokes an attack of opportunity as well.

Damage-Knockdown Rule: The GM can (but won’t always) assign a knockdown chance for a given attack based on the amount of damage scored; ½ the total damage taken as a percentage. If the dice indicate a knockdown occurred, the player can attempt a balance check DC equal to 5 + [½ the total damage taken] to avoid falling down.

Penalty to Dodge Modern Weapons: [Yes, this comes up from time to time]: All characters, unless in possession of a feat that says otherwise, have a -4 to their defense rolls against modern weapon fire. This includes grenades, energy weapons, flame throwers, bullet-shooting firearms, but not black powder weapons appearing in the weapon tables of this rule set, such as the arquebus.

Jumping In Front of Attacks: (Idea from Matt Enga) In those cases where a character wants to jump in front of an ally and take an attack that would otherwise hit the ally, the DM will assign a Reflex save DC for this event to occur (typically equal to the attack roll). When a character jumps in the way using this mechanic, they spend 1 attack of opportunity to do so, and are usually automatically hit by the attack in question. However, if the DM is in a particularly beneficent mood, she can have the hit roll check the AC of the character jumping in the way, requiring a defense roll on the part of the jumper. Typically, this defense roll is made flat footed (at least). The distance a character can “jump” is equal to how far they could theoretically jump out of the way of something by making a Reflex save – usually not more than 5-10 feet. Depending on the context, the DM may require spot checks to notice the impending danger or Speed checks to see if the character intending to leap can react in time to do so. Whatever the result, jumping in front of an attack should earn a healthy amount of XP (experience points) for the jumper.

When Is a Character Taking Actual Damage to Their Body?: When a character is taken below 20% hit points, they are assumed to be taking physical, bodily harm as opposed to scrapes/scratches and near misses. This is mostly significant when players ask if their opponents look badly injured (and the consider skills is useful in determining these states..).

The Trouble With Picks and Scythes: Is that they tend to get stuck in your opponent! If a pick or scythe hits an opponent, penetrating their C.H.P. and actually wounding them by penetrating their body with a puncture wound (taking them below 20% hit points), then the Strength check DC to get the pick/scythe out is equal to the damage done by the pick/scythe. For this DC, don’t count critical hit multipliers, but add +2 per multiplier. The maximum this DC could be is the target’s total hit points on impact. Each time the wielder attempts a Strength check to retrieve their pick and it fails, lower the DC 1.

Similar Weapons: Certain weapons, such as light and heavy rope darts, thrown rocks and thrown metal balls, javelins and thrown spears are similar enough that having weapon skill ranks in one results in less of a non-proficiency penalty (+1 less) when using the other. It is left as a task to the reader to assemble the full list of “similar” weapons, but we suggest reserving this task to the flow of the game and the arguments of clever players..

Piercing Weapons Used With The Ride-By Attack Feat: “Note that piercing weapons used during Cinematic Ride-By Attacks have speed factors of +0 as long as the wielder does not have to shift which side of the horse they are attacking from – they simply land when the weapon “gets there.” If the wielder has to shift sides, the weapon speed applies during each “shift.” Of course, character with this feat can ride past opponents and attack them without charging, and their piercing weapon speeds are still +0.” Thus, the Ride-By Attack feat is extremely significant to mounted combat.

Multiplying Damage: In standard rules, a situation that doubles a damage result twice would actually multiply the damage by 3. Thus, a weapon that causes double damage in a given situation (like a dagger of dragon smacking), scoring a x3 critical hit, would only score x4 damage. In the Cinematic System, damage multipliers occur one at a time, using the standard rules of math, after all the usual modifiers apply (Strength bonus, weapon plus, skill, and so on). Thus, a sword of mahogany dragon slaying that scores double damage to these foul beasts, that critically hits a mahogany dragon for a x3 critical, that rolled 12 damage after applying the usual modifiers, would end up whopping the dragon for 12 x 2 x 3 = 72 points of damage. Combat is @#$%-ing lethal and something to occasionally avoid.

“Ready To Fire” Speed Factor: The speed to fire a bow, crossbow, or similar device-propelled weapon (not an atlatl) that is loaded and ready to fire (string pulled at least tight and projectile knocked and ready) is 3, not the actual speed factor of the weapon. If, for some reason, a character has a bow weapon speed of 2, 1, or zero then use that speed as the character’s ready to fire speed.

Archery, Ranged Attacks, and the intuit distance standard skill: At the whim (or by the evil core) of the DM, it is perfectly acceptable to require an intuit distance skill check when launching a ranged attack at a target more than 2 range increments away. The DC of this check is equal to 10 + the number of range increments the target is actually distant; if this check is failed, the ranged attack gains a 50% miss chance (as the shooter totally misestimates the range). Of course, auto-hitting projectiles (bolts of never missing) are exempt from these requirements.

Thoughts on Handedness in Combat: When a right-handed character faces off against a left-handed foe, the DM can apply a situational +2 modifier to the left-handed character’s attack rolls (assuming the right-handed character has not engaged a significant number of left-handed foes…this is almost always the case unless their background story or Quarks indicates otherwise). This modifier can be applied to the hit rolls of left-handed characters against other left-handed characters as well, as most left-handed characters do not have extensive experience with other left-handed opponents. Note that the Ambidexterity feat negates these concerns.

“Disarming” a Shield – Possible: Characters can use the Disarm combat option to knock or pull their opponent’s shields out of alignment: treat the shield as a “non-melee weapon” so long as the user has insufficient ranks in their offensive shield skill (thus, with sufficient ranks, the shield is considered to be a weapon and [1] its owner can try to return the disarm attempt, and [2] the owner does not have a -4 penalty to the opposed roll). During the opposed roll phase of the disarm, so long as the shield is properly donned its owner gets a +3 bonus to their roll (in addition to any bonuses gained from their defensive shield and offensive shield skills). If the character attempting to disarm the shield wins, the shield is only truly disarmed if her roll beat the defender’s roll by 10 or more. Otherwise, the shield is knocked out of alignment (and essentially useless) for as many segments as she beat the defender’s roll by.

Trapping a Weapon: Certain weapons, such as the main gauche (parrying dagger), the sai, and the trident are particularly good for catching the weapons they parry and then trapping them – preventing their owners from using them effectively for a certain period of time. Weapon traps are kind of like grapple checks between weapons: these maneuvers can be attempted after a successful parry, or as an offensive action on its own – either way the attempt requires an attack action (one of the character’s attacks for the round with the weapon they are trapping with), and if the character wielding the weapon to be trapped wants to fully react to the attempt, they have to expend an attack of opportunity of their own.

The process for trapping a weapon after a parry: [1] the defender making the parry has to announce the intent to trap the incoming weapon before the parry roll is made: this penalizes the parry attempt by 2, [2] the parry has to be successful, [3] both characters make opposed hit rolls with their weapons – the trapping character applies any size penalty to their roll using the same modifiers listed in the parry section, and applies any bonus based on their weapon (parrying daggers, sais, and tridents get a bonus for example). If the trap-defending character does not expend and attack of opportunity (announced before their roll) the highest roll they are allowed to achieve is a 10 (so if they roll a 19, it is treated as a 10…if they roll a 4, then great), [4] If the trapping character wins, the opponent’s weapon is trapped; if the opponent wins their weapon evades being trapped; on a tie the combatants struggle with one another for 1 segment and then they roll again (no additional actions or attacks of opportunity are required).

A trapped weapon is a grappled weapon – it remains trapped until (1) the wielder drops it, or (2) the wielder expends an attack action to reinitiate the trap check and then win the opposed roll, or (3) the trapper relinquishes their hold over the weapon. A trapping weapon is essentially “occupied” with the trap, and can not be used to do anything else but hold the opponent’s weapon in place.

A character trapping their opponent’s weapon gets a +2 bonus to hit said opponent with any other weapon they might be simultaneously wielding in other hands.

When a combatant attempts to initiate a grapple after their weapon has been trapped by an opponent they gets a +2 to the touch attack made to initiate a grapple against this opponent. When trapping someone’s weapon, you get a +4 to the touch attack made to initiate a grapple against that person.

The process for trapping a weapon without using a parry: [1] The trapper (not to be confused with the clapper) uses an attack action and provokes and attack of opportunity from the opponent: if the attack of opportunity deals damage, the trap attempt fails. If the attack of opportunity misses or does no damage, it is on to the next step. [2] The trapper makes a called shot (-4 to hit) against the weapon to be trapped, using the touch AC of the opponent. If this succeeds, we’re on to the same step 3 as listed before – the opposed roll happens (with the defender needing to expend an attack of opportunity to get better than a 10), and we see if the trap occurred.

Of course, characters with the Improved Trap feat have an easier time trapping weapons, and avoiding weapon traps

Beating The @#$% Out of a Character with Non-Lethal Damage: In standard rules, when you take non-lethal damage equal to your current hit points, you are staggered and if you take non-lethal damage greater than your current hit points, you are knocked unconscious (unless you have the K.O.I. feat..). But can a character be killed by non-lethal damage? Yes it can! When a character takes non-lethal damage that exceeds their current hit point total, they go unconscious – it doesn’t matter if this attack did 60 or 6000 points of non-lethal damage – the only effect is that the recipient is knocked out.

However, after that point, additional non-lethal damage taken by a character knocked unconscious by non-lethal damage is a serious problem: one half of it converts to lethal damage. Thus, if a character knocked unconscious by one non-lethal attack were subjected to an additional non-lethal attack doing 12 damage, they would actually take 6 lethal damage. Sucks to be them.

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