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Variant Rules and Options for Combat

Source Goldenrod Guides: A Guide to Swords & Wizardry Combat

These variant rules focus options related to combat, such as weapon proficiencies and combat styles, as well as rules for running jousts and other competitive tournaments.

Understanding The Combat Round

Before getting to the meat of these rules a sampling of common conventions of combat in “old school” role playing games must be given for those unfamiliar with the reasoning behind these systems. Most systems based upon the oldest role playing game that have been created since the Year 2000 hold the common convention that a combat round is made up of some short length of time (typically 6 or 10 seconds) and that all action occurs simultaneously.

The original rules and most rules prior to the game released in the Year 2000 used a different approach to the combat round. Each round was typically one minute long and participants acted during segments lasting either six or ten seconds depending upon the system. The segment that a participant, or group of participants would act on was determined by initiative. Because of the clean division of a one minute round into six or ten second segments either a d6 or d10 would be used to determine the order of initiative. The roll would be affected by things such as DEX bonus and Casting Time, if casting as spell. Weapons even had a speed factor incorporated used to determine who acted first in case of a tie. In some cases the round would be divided into ten six second rounds, but a d6 would be rolled for initiative. This would give four additional segments for spells and other effects that took multiple segments to take place before the next round. The rules presented herein assume for a round that is one minute long, divided into ten six second segments.

Alternate Combat Sequence Methods

The standard rules present four distinct combat sequences. This method is for groups that prefer individual initiative- that is, a system in which each character has a separate initiative. There are two ways to go about this, a simple variation and an advanced variation.

Simple Individual Initiative:

  1. Check for surprise as normal
  2. Actions are declared, including declaring spells etc.
  3. Each participant rolls 1d10 and acts in ascending order. The Referee may decide to have groups of the same creature type or the entire enemy group use the same initiative roll to simplify the order.

When using this variation it is possible to disrupt a caster's spell as normal.

It is up to the referee whether to roll initiative each round, or keep a static initiative throughout the entire encounter. Rolling each round increases randomness and can be exciting but can also slow down play somewhat.

Advanced Individual Initiative

  1. Check for surprise as normal
  2. Each participant rolls 1d10 and acts in ascending order. The Referee may decide to have groups of the same creature type or the entire enemy group use the same initiative roll to simplify the order.
  3. Each participant declares their action at the beginning of their segment. Participants who chose to cast spells must use casting time when using this alternate sequence.

Rounds remain static in this variation. When all participants have taken their turn, the round cycles back to the combatant with the lowest initiative roll.

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Spell Casting Times in the Advanced Individual Initiative Rule

In this sequence, spell casters add a casting time to their spells. A spell’s casting time is a number equal to the spells level.


Casting Time

Casting Time


1 1 1d2
2 2 1d3
3 3 1d4
4 4 2d2
5 5 2d3
6 6 2d3+1
7 7 2d4+1
8 8 3d3+1
9 9 4d3+1

Each participant rolls initiative normally. When it is a spell caster’s turn the player indicates the spell he is casting and adds a number equal to the spells level to his initiative. The spell takes effect on the segment equal to his original roll plus the spells casting time. For example, the player rolls a 4 for initiative on 1d10. On segment 4 it is his turn. The referee asks the player what he or she is doing. The player states “I cast fireball!” Fireball is a 3rd level spell therefore it’s casting time is 3 segments. The spell takes effect on segment 7, before any other actions take place. The referee notes the player’s choice and moves on to other players or has his monsters act.

If the caster takes damage after his initiative roll but before he completes casting the spell (i.e. anytime between segment 4 and 7 in the previous example), the caster must make a concentration check equal to the prime ability score (INT for magic-users, WIS for clerics etc.) minus the damage taken. If successful, the spell is retained and cast as normal. If unsuccessful, the spell is lost. The concentration check is rolled on 1d20 and must be equal to, or lower than the final score. That is, if a magic-user with an INT of 16 is hit for 6 points of damage, he must roll 10 or less on a d20 to retain his spell.

Note that sometimes a spell may not take effect until the following round due to the length of time that it takes to cast. For example, a cleric takes his turn on segment 8 of the combat round. He casts Blade Barrier, a sixth level spell. The spell takes 6 segments to take effect. Thus the spell does not take effect until segment 4 of the following round.

On occasion, a referee is encouraged to rule that a spell is too complex to complete in combat, as it is more ritualized and takes minutes or turns to cast. High level spells that are not combat oriented such as Limited Wish, Wish or Resurrection should be in this category.

If desired, to add a level randomness to the casting of spells, variable casting times can be used instead. See the Casting Time table to determine what to roll for variable casting time.

Melee Combat Options

Disarm Opponent

Attempting to disarm an opponent is a specific use of the called shot rules (see above). Note that this rule can be used independent of the general called shot rules.

Table: Disarm Location

6 8 7
4 Defender
2 1 3

A combatant can attempt to disarm an opponent by making a called shot against her foe's weapon with the normal penalty to-hit vs. a held object. If this attack is successful damage is rolled, but does not affect the weapon. Instead, the defender must make an attribute check against his DEX, less the damage rolled. Thus if a fighter, attempting to disarm her and opponent with a DEX of 12 hits his weapon for 6 damage, he must roll below 6 or drop his weapon.

If an opponent is successfully disarmed, the attacker rolls 1d10 to determine where the weapon is thrown. On a roll of 0 the weapon lands on the ground near the opponent's feet. Otherwise the weapon flies in a random direction per TABLE: DISARM LOCATION. It is assumed that the defender is facing the number 1. Rolls of 9 are ignored.

Fight with Two Weapons

A character may opt to fight with a weapon in each hand. This gives the character an additional attack each round. Both attacks are made at the same time. Because the character must divide her attention between the two attacks, both are made at a penalty. The first attack roll is made with a -2 to-hit penalty. The second attack is made at a -4 to-hit penalty.

Fight with a Weapon Two-Handed

When fighting with a two-handed weapon a fighter, and only a fighter, gains their their strength bonus to damage as normal then adds half of that bonus again. This means that a fighter with a 17 Strength score will gain a total of +3 to the damage that they deal when fighting with a two-handed weapon (+2 for Strength bonus +1 being half of the original bonus.)

Note: The previous two rules replace the standard rules for Two-Weapon Fighting and Two-Handed Weapon Fighting in the standard rules. For reference, the official rules for fighting with two weapons or fighting with a weapon two-handed are:

Melee from a Mount

A mounted combatant gains a +1 bonus to-hit creatures smaller or shorter than his mount with melee weapons. Similarly the same creatures take a -1 penalty to melee attacks against the rider (unless they wield a polearm or spear).

Dismount a Mounted Foe

Inevitably, when mounted combatants entry the fray, those combatants that are not mounted will make attempts to dismount them. A character can be dismounted in many creative ways, which must be addressed by the individual referee on a case by case basis.

Polearms and other weapons that might reach the rider can attempt to dismount the rider at a -5 penalty to attack. Another rider can attempt the same dismounting technique with any weapon. If the attack is successful damage is done as normal and the rider must roll 1d20 attempting roll below his DEX score, less the damage dealt (a fighter with a DEX of 12 hit for 5 points of damage would have to roll 7 or lower) or be dismounted. If, the character is dismounted and falls to the ground taking an additional point 1d3 points of damage. If this dismount attempt misses, but would have otherwise hit the target's AC, damage is done as normal.

Make a “Called Shot”

Typically in combat a character is not targeting a specific part of an opponent's body. Occasionally, however, there may be a desire for this. These occasions can be handled by using called shots. A called shot occurs any time that a combatant specifically targets a particular part of an opponent or an object held or worn by that opponent. When a combatant, player character or otherwise, chooses to make a called shot a penalty is applied. See Table: General Penalties to Called Shots to get a general idea of what the penalty should be by comparing the size of the target to the sample body parts. Note that the penalty for making a called shot should never be less than -4. The table only provides general guidelines. The Referee should apply situational modifiers as appropriate. A character making a called shot has a penalty of 4 segments applied to initiative for targeting purposes.

Specific details regarding what happens when a called shot is successful are up to the individual Referee. As a guideline, body parts struck by a called shot should be unusable, with appropriately ruled penalties, for 1d6 rounds following the attack. As an option, if a natural 20 is rolled on a called shot that a more severe injury occurs to the targeted body part or item. This will result in the loss of eye, a broken limb or sundered weapon.

Table: General Penalties to Called Shots

Target Penalty
Arm -4
Leg -4
Head -6
Eye -8
Hand/Foot -6
Held Object -6
Worn Object -4

Maim Opponent

This is a rule which the Referee may wish to invoke if allowing called shots. This may also be the result of a critical hit, or even when a character is hit for a total which lowers his current hit points 10% of his total. When the appropriate condition is met the following tables are consulted. The exact nature of the maiming is up to the Referee, but should make sense when held against the rolls from the tables. If the tables are consulted based upon the result of a called shot the hit location table is ignored.

Table: Severity of Damage (1d20)

Roll Capability of Healing
1 - 10 No permanent damage after completely healed
11 - 18 No permanent damage if magically healed
19 - 20 Permanently maimed unless a Wish, Restoration of equally powerful spell is employed

There are guidelines to understanding the following tables. If a result is the impairment of an ability score the “damage” listed in parentheses is taken to the given score. Therefore, a Thief with a DEX of 16 that takes 2 points of DEX impairment is left with a score of 14. If a Save is impaired the number in parentheses is now factored into the characters saving throw against that particular effect. If the roll denotes that Fighting is impaired, the penalty is applied to the creature's to-hit bonus. Impairment to a “sense” such as sight or hearing is up to the referee to rule on. An example might be that a character with impaired sight may only gain partial descriptions of rooms in dungeons and take a penalty to rolls made for things such as finding secret doors. Loss of a sense is just that. If speed is impaired, the character's movement per turn is reduce by as much. If speech or gestures are impaired the character must succeed a WIS or DEX check to cast a spell properly. This check is equal to the character's ability score minus the level of the spell.

Table: Hit Location (1d20)

Roll Hit Location
1 – 7 Trunk
8 – 12 Head
13 – 15 Arm
16 – 18 Leg
19 Hand
20 Foot

Table: Trunk Damage (1d4)

Roll Impairment
1 CON Impaired (1d3)
2 Save vs. Poison & Para reduced (-2)
3 STR Impaired (1d3)
4 Fighting Impaired (-1)

Table: Head Damage (1d8)

Roll Impairment
1 Impairment or Loss of Hearing
2 Impairment or Loss of Sight
3 CHA Impaired (1d3)
4 INT Impaired (1d3)
5 WIS Impaired (1d3)
6 DEX Impaired (-1)
7 Speech Impaired
8 Fighting Impaired (-1)

Table: Arm Damage (1d4)

Roll Impairment
1 Fighting Impaired (-1)
2 Gestures Impaired
3 DEX Impaired (-1)
4 STR Impaired (1d3)

Table: Leg Damage (1d4)

Roll Impairment
1 Speed Decreased (1d3x10 ft)
2 STR Impaired (1d3)
3 DEX Impaired (1d3)
4 Fighting Impaired (-1)

Table: Hand Damage (1d5)

Roll Impairment
1 Fighting Impaired (-1)
2 Gestures Impaired
3 Can No Longer Wield Weapon in Hand
4 STR Impaired (-1)
5 DEX Impaired (1d3)

Table: Foot Damage (1d3)

Roll Impairment
1 Speed Decreased (1d3x10 ft)
2 Fighting Impaired (-1)
3 DEX Impaired (1d3)

Parting Strike

If an opponent moves away from a foe they are currently engaged in melee combat with, the foe gains a free attack against the moving opponent with a +2 to-hit bonus. This is in addition to any attacks that the opponent normally receives and even if the opponent has already made all of her attacks for the turn.

A combatant can avoid receiving a parting strike if they take no other actions during the round.

Shield Wall Defense

The use of shield walls was a widespread tactic in pre-early modern warfare. The shield wall is a protective formation made by warriors standing side by side locking their shield together to form a “wall.” A second rank of warriors may stand behind the initial defensive rank with polearms or spears to attack over or through the wall. At the referee's discretion, characters in the first rank can make attacks at a -4 penalty with weapons that can conceivably fit through the limited openings in the wall.

The shield wall itself provides protection to those behind it. Any creature attempting to attack anything within the shield wall makes to-hit rolls at a -4 penalty. Creatures attacking with missile weapons must make check to see if they bypass the wall before rolling to-hit. This equates to a 4 in 6 chance.

In Sample Shield Wall 1, pictured above, orcs A and B gain a -4 penalty to attack the shield bearers in the front rank. The orc archer must roll 1d6 to attack any of the five combatants and may only roll to-hit on a result between 1 and 4. Meanwhile the pike bearers may attack orcs A and B normally and the Mage is free to cast spells.

Additional ranks of shield bearers can add to the effectiveness of the wall by locking shields top to bottom as well as side to side. This affords an additional -4 penalty to attacker's to-hit rolls, for a total of -8. The chance of blocking missile attacks is likewise doubled. In this instance a ranged combatant only has a 2 in 6 chance of hitting an opponent within the shield wall. All combatants within the shield wall in Sample Shield Wall 2 gain this additional advantage against all orcs in the combat.

Unarmed Combat

There are two main options for unarmed combat, engaging in fisticuffs (standard hand-to-hand fist-fighting), and grappling/overbearing.


Fist-fights may be conducted exactly as described in the standard rules except that rather than doing 1 point of damage upon a successful hit, unarmed combatants deal 1d3 points of damage on a hit. Optionally, bare-handed attacks by non-monk characters against opponents wearing metal armor (or creatures with extremely tough hides) suffer 1 point of damage regardless of the amount of damage dealt to the armored opponent.

Grappling and Overbearing

Where grappling and overbearing are concerned in these conventions, there is one difference from the standard rules. The official rule states that grappling an opponent is resolved by having the attackers make individual attack rolls. Each one that is successful rolls 1d6 per hit die, as do any defenders. If the sum of the attackers is higher than the defender(s) the defender becomes pinned and is helpless. The helpless defender can then be killed automatically the next round unless he manages to break free. If the defender(s) wins the attackers are beaten back and stunned. If the result is a tie, both sides struggle until the attackers withdraw or are successful and no one can attack with a weapon. The Goldenrod option for this changes only one thing, that the base to-hit bonus is used rather than the hit dice of each combatant, as this makes more logical sense.

Ranged Combat Options

Careful Aim

If a character spends an entire round aiming at a foe with a ranged attack and the foe is still visible in the next round he gains a +4 bonus to-hit that foe with ranged attacks the round following the round spent aiming. During the round spent taking aim, the character does not gain his DEX bonus to AC (if any).

Fighter Strength Bonuses and Ranged Attacks

As presented in the original rules, a fighter gains her Strength Bonus To-Hit Modifier and Damage to both melee and ranged combat. In the rules presented here, this holds true, with one exception. That exception is mechanical missile weapons such as crossbows and firearms. No Strength is used to fire these weapons, and thus only the Dexterity modifiers apply.

Ranged Attacks into Melee

A combatant may choose a specific target engaged in melee. Such an attack is made a -4 penalty to the to-hit roll. Any attack made in this way missing the target's AC by 4 or more is subject to another to-hit roll made against the next closest creature in the melee (at the referees discretion), still at the initial -4 penalty.

Ranged Attacks While Mounted

Missile fire from the back of a moving mount is possible, but very difficult. This can only be done if using a short bow, light crossbow or a specialized bow meant specifically to be fired from horseback. Even with one of these weapons a mounted archer takes penalties dependent upon the speed at which he is traveling.

Table: Mounted Missile Fire

Mounts Speed Attack Roll Modifier
Not moving +0
Up to ½ normal rate -2
½ to ¾ normal rate -4
¾ to normal rate -6
Normal rate + -8

Attack Prone or Helpless Opponent

Prone Opponents: Melee attacks against a prone opponent gain a +4 to-hit bonus, as the prone target is less able to defend itself and more of it's body is exposed to attacks. Ranged attacks against a prone opponent that is not directly adjacent to the attacker suffer a -4 to-hit penalty, as less of the prone target's body is exposed to attacks.

Sleeping Creatures: Sleeping creatures can be killed outright if they do not detect a potential attacker.

Critical Hits

Some players like critical hits, some hate the inclusion of such rules in their games. Below, you will find several methods for those who like the inclusion of critical hits. If any critical hit system is utilized, it is highly recommended that the standard Fumble system be used as well.

Option 1: Double Damage

In this option, when a natural 20 is rolled to-hit one of two things can happen. Either double damage can be done automatically or the referee can call for a second roll to be made. In this instance if the second roll would hit the opponent's AC then a critical hit is scored.

In this first option true double damage is dealt by rolling damage as normal, doubling the roll then applying any modifiers.

Option 2: Multiple Damage Dice

The second method also deals extra damage upon a natural to-hit roll of 20 (and confirmation, if that option is being used.) In the second option, however, a combatant that scores a critical hit rolls its damage twice, then adds the results and any damage modifiers for a total.

Option 3: Exploding Damage Dice

In this option, the to-hit roll is not taken into account at all. In this option whenever the maximum amount of damage is rolled on a damage die, the die is rolled again and the results added. This continues as long as maximum damage is being rolled! If a combatant is lucky, this can make for some very high damage totals.

Death and Dying Variant Rule

The standard rules provide one official rule for death and one alternative. In the official rule a character is unconscious at 0 hp and dies when its hit points are -1 or worse. The alternative option offered allows a character to remain alive until its hit points are a negative number equal to or greater than their level (but unconscious from 0 to that number.)

In this option a character makes a saving throw each round their hit point total is a negative number. If the saving throw is successful nothing happens. If it fails they lose 1 hp. If a natural 20 is rolled on the saving throw their hp total becomes 0. If a natural 1 is rolled on the saving throw they die immediately. If the characters hp total is a negative number equal to their level they die.

In this option a character at 0 hp is unconscious but not in danger of dying. She remains at 0 hp until healed by another or for 8 hours, whichever comes first. If she is not healed by another character, 8 hours later she wakes with 1 hp (and then heals per normal rules.)

Weapon Proficiencies

Weapon Proficiencies provide a bit more realism to a campaign. That is to say, despite a level 1 fighter being more skilled in combat than a 0 level commoner, perhaps they should not be trained with every weapon, as the rules state. This system stands on the shoulders of similar systems that came before it, using the advanced game's optional proficiency system, in an attempt to create an optional system for those who desire a slightly more realistic approach to training in weapons & combat. For those who do not desire such a rule, it is designed to be modular and will affect nothing else found herein, should you decide not to use it.

This system allows a player to customize his character's training while curbing the advantage of being trained in every weapon in your class's “weapons permitted” list. Once a character's class is determined, they gain a certain amount of proficiency “slots” based upon the attack table/attack bonus that the class receives. Multiclass characters would use the best of their attack tables. Additional slots, reflecting further training, are gained at subsequent levels, per the following table:

Table: Weapon Proficiency Slots by Attack

Attack Table

Initial Slots

Additional Slots Gained

Table 29: Cleric


Every 3 Levels

Table 30: Fighter


Every 2 Levels

Table 31: Mage/Thief


Every 4 Levels

The initial proficiencies and advancement presented on this table reflect the time spent in martial training by the classes that use the three respective attack tables. Classes are listed to give a framework for on the fly conversion to referees using other game systems. Here is an example to clarify how to read the table, in case of confusion: A fighter at first level has 4 proficiency slots with which she can learn how to use various weapons. When she reaches 2nd level she gains another slot, yet another at 4th level and so on. There are a few guidelines when using the weapon proficiency system:

Weapons can be learned on a 1 for 1 basis if they are weapons that are on your class's permitted list. Meaning that a character can spend one slot to learn how to use a mace.

Groups of the same style of weapon can be learned on a 2 slots per group basis. For example, two slots can be spent to gain training in “all swords” or “all bows.”

A broader group may be selected at a cost of 3 slots. This meaning a group of weapons such as “all bladed weapons” or “all hafted weapons.” Groupings are, in the end, at the Referee's discretion.

Slots can be saved from level to level to allow this training to occur. Meaning, that a level 1 fighter may save a slot and add the slot gained at 2nd level to it to learn to use “all swords” at that time.

If using this system a character gains a -4 penalty to any roll made with a weapon they are not proficient with.

Combat Styles & Weapon Specialization

Combat styles and specializations replace the fighter's “Multiple Attacks” standard class ability.

In this variation the Fighter gains one Combat Style or one Weapon Specialization at 1st level and again at 3rd, 6th, and 9th levels.

The second way that Combat Styles and Specializations can be attained is in using the optional “weapon proficiency” rules presented in this work. A style or specialization can be taken on a one slot per one style basis. Note, that you do not have to use either of these rules together and each is entirely modular.

Note that all classes besides the Fighter are limited to taking ONE combat style and cannot specialize when using the weapon proficiency rules.

Weapon Specialization

Weapon Specialization is presented out of alphabetical order because it is unlike the combat styles that follow.

Specializing in one weapon indicates the character has achieved a rare level of mastery of a particular weapon. Such warriors spend years honing their skills in their weapon of choice.

Weapon Specialization may only be taken by single class fighters and may only be taken once. Specialization can also only be applied to one weapon. It may not be applied to a weapon group. That is to say, a fighter may be specialized in “longsword” but not with “all swords” or “all bladed weapons.” When wielding the specialized weapon a fighter gains a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls. If the weapon is a melee weapon, the fighter also gains a +1 bonus to Armor Class.

Berserker Style

Berserkers are found primarily in primitive cultures and are a common fixture in fantasy roleplaying games. To become an expert in this combat style a fighter must typically have extended contact with a primitive or savage culture.

A practitioner of this style may enter into a berserker rage once per day at 1st level and an additional time per day at every odd-numbered level thereafter.

Before the warrior gains the full benefits of his fury he must build the state of mind necessary to enter the berserker rage. To do so he must spend either at least 5 rounds engaged in melee combat, or one turn out of combat focusing his rage (jumping about, hitting himself, screaming, etc.) After doing so he may either immediately become enraged or hold his fury for up to 6 turns. If he does not choose to surrender to his fury within 6 turns the state of mind passes and cannot be attempted again for 1d6 turns. Once he surrenders to his fury his rage lasts for 1d3 rounds per level of the warrior. A warrior can attempt to end his rage prematurely by making a saving throw at a -5 penalty.

While thus enraged any actions requiring clarity of mind, fine dexterity, or thoughtfulness, as well as saving throws against anything “dodgeable” (breath weapons etc.) are made with at a penalty of -5.

An enraged berserker feels no pain. While in a berserker rage the referee keeps track of the character's hit points. Likewise the berserker is immune to all mind-affecting magic such as Charm Person and Fear while enraged. Saves against illusions and similar effects are made at a +5 bonus for the duration. Further, instant death spells and effects do not take effect until the rage ends.

In addition to feeling no pain, a berserker gains +1 to-hit rolls, +3 to damage rolls, and 1d5 hit points per time per day he can enter a rage. These hit points are temporary and go away when the rage has ended. Temporary hit points are taken away before the character's “real” hit points. A berserker cannot die while in a rage unless his head is severed from his shoulder, or another equally devastating head injury is endured. Even with no hit points left, a berserker will only die upon coming out of the trance.

An enraged berserker attacks the nearest enemy to him until all foes are dropped. He cannot choose which enemy to attack, he strictly attacks the nearest foe and moves on to the next. If the berserker does not come out of the trance after the final foe in a combat is felled, he will begin to attack allies. Due to the same lack of control, no bonuses he might gain from other combat styles he knows apply during a rage.

Eldritch Archer Style

This style is only available to elven warrior-mages.

The Eldritch Archer has the ability to imbue arrows with magical power, albeit for a limited time.

A warrior-mage who practices this arcane art may cast magic-user spells upon his arrows, rather than cast a spell normally. An arrow imbued in this manner retains the spell for a number of turns equal to the spell's level. If fired within this duration, the spell is released at the point of contact, that is, if the spell has an area of effect it is centered where they arrow strikes. If an enchanted arrow is not fired within this duration the spell is lost for the day.

Alternately an Eldritch Archer can burn off spells to add a magical bonus to his arrows. This may be done any time the archer fires an arrow. Upon declaring his attack, the archer can choose a spell to sacrifice and gains a bonus to-hit and damage equal to the spells level, (max +3) for the next arrow fired. Higher level spells can be sacrificed in this way, but the magic to-hit remains limited to +3.

Thus an Eldritch Archer with the spell Sleep memorized can choose to sacrifice this spell to add a +1 bonus to-hit and damage on one arrow, rather than cast the spell. Arrows imbued in this was affect creatures that may only be hit only by magical weapons as if they were permanently enchanted arrows.

Eldritch Sword Style

This style is available only to elves and half-elves who are multi-classed fighter/magic-users.

This style can only be used while wielding a one-handed melee weapon, as the other hand must be free for spell casting.

These warrior-mages spend a great deal of time training in this elven art. Over time the combatant learns to ensnare the magical energies released at the time of the casting of a spell, binding it in their weapon to be released at a later time.

A warrior-mage trained in the Spell-Sword style can cast a spell and hold it in her melee weapon. The spell can be any magic-user spell and can remain held within the weapon for up to a number of rounds equal to the character's level or until she makes a successful attack with the weapon holding the spell. The spell targets the struck opponent, and is therefore best used in conjunction with touch based attack spells (but others might be allowed at referee discretion.) Only one spell can be stored at a time. This spell must be one that the warrior-mage knows and thus cannot be a spell cast from a scroll (unless the warrior-mage also knows the spell.)

Hammer and Anvil Style

This is a dwarven martial style and, under normal circumstances, can only be learned by dwarven characters. Being a race that often dwells beneath the surface world, the dwarves have had a great deal of experience fighting in enclosed spaces. Warriors trained in this martial style know how to use their surroundings to their advantage. Hafted weapons, such as war hammers or axes must be used to employ this fighting style.

Warriors trained in this art are at their best when their foes lie between themselves and a hard surface. For this reason the style has also been called “rock and a hard place style.” If an opponent is in melee the warrior and within a few feet of a vertical surface such as a wall or pillar the warrior can use the force of his blow to drive his opponent into that surface, dealing extra damage, resembling the way that a blacksmith drives steel against his anvil. In this situation, when a warrior trained in the Hammer and Anvil style rolls to-hit, an attack roll beating the targets AC by 4 or greater, forces the opponent into the obstacle causing an additional 1d4 damage.

Haymaker Style

Warriors trained in this style know how to throw their weight around, literally. These warriors make wild swings throwing their entire weight behind every attack. This takes away from the accuracy of an attack, but adds to the damage done, should the warrior hit.

Characters with this combat style can opt to take a penalty of up to their level to any attack roll adding the same number to their damage roll as a bonus. Thus, a third level fighter trained in this style may take up to a -3 penalty to any attack roll to add up to a +3 bonus to his damage roll should the attack hit.

Marksman Style

Marksmen spend their entire lives studying and using ranged weaponry. Utilizing this combat style allows the marksman to bypass the normal penalties of firing into melee.

When firing into a melee the marksman chooses which combatant is targeted, rather than the Referee. If using the rules for firing into melee presented in this work, these are bypassed as well. Additionally, if firing at a target outside of melee, within 30' of the attacker, a +1 bonus is gained to-hit for being “point-blank.”

Mounted Style

While mounted, practitioners of this style gain a +1 to-hit bonus against non-mounted foes. If charging, the practitioner of this style also gains a +2 bonus to damage against non-mounted foes. If using the optional jousting rules the practitioner of this style rolls twice to resist being dismounted and keeps the roll of his choice.

Single Weapon Style

In this style of combat a warrior uses a weapon in one hand and carries nothing in the other hand, including a shield or other weapon. A warrior specializing in this style learns to use her weapon defensively as well as offensively.

When using this combat style the warrior gains a +1 bonus to attack rolls and his Armor Class improves by one point.

Sword & Shield Style

The Sword & Shield Style refers to intense training using a one-handed weapon with a shield in the other hand. A combatant using this style can make a shield bash attack in addition to the normal attack with their weapon. The attack with the weapon is made normally, while the attack with the shield is made at a -2 penalty. If the shield attack is successful, it deals 1d3 damage. If a shield bash attack is made, no AC bonus is granted to the wielder until the next initiative. See the Maneuvers section of this work for normal penalties that apply when making attacks with an off-hand.

Additionally, a warrior trained in the Sword & Shield Style can apply the shield's AC bonus (including any magical bonuses) to all Saving Throws that the Referee rules could be aided by the uses of a shield.

Two-Hander Style

The Two-Hander Style of combat denotes that the warrior is a master of fighting with large, two-handed weapons, such as two-handed swords, pole-arms, quarterstaves, and footman's flail etc. This might also include weapons that can be handled one or two-handed, such as the bastard sword, battle axe or even the longsword. If used in this way, the weapon must be used with two hands to gain any the Style bonus.

When using this style a combatant gains a +1 bonus to both attack and damage rolls. This bonus is in addition to the normal bonus for fighting two-handed.

Two-Weapon Style

The Two-Weapon Style of combat denotes utilization of a weapon in the combatant's primary hand, and another weapon in the off-hand. The off-hand weapon must be a lighter weapon than the primary. Examples of this being short sword, dagger, hand axe etc. Two larger weapons, such as attempting to wield two long swords, would be far too un-wieldy to be effective.

The benefit of this style is that two attacks can be made in a round. The first attack is made with the primary weapon at the normal combat bonus. The second, made with the lighter secondary weapon, is made at a -2 to the attack roll. Full damage is done by either weapon. See the earlier “Two Weapon Fighting” section of this work for normal penalties that apply when making attacks with an off-hand.

Note: This replaces the standard rules for Two-Weapon Fighting.

Competitive Combat


Jousting is a form of friendly, (usually) non-lethal combat, most often played out between knights and nobles. A joust consists of two combatants, armed with lance and shield, riding upon horses or other mounts. The combatants charge at each other, typically with a boundary between them, known as a tilt. The jousters attempt to unhorse their opponent, knock helms off and break lances to score points in the competition. Often this competition would be the center piece of a larger tournament alongside other combat based games.

Running a Joust

A joust consists of three passes, or charges between the two combatants. During each pass each combatant selects an Aiming Point (AP) and Defensive Position (DP) in her saddle. If two players are jousting each should write down their choice. If one player jousts an NPC, the player and referee write down their choices. Certain defensive positions cannot be taken in conjunction with certain aiming points, per the Defensive Position Allowed table. These are secretly chosen and both combatants reveal their choices at the same time. The attacking and defending positions are checked against each other on the Jousting Table to determine the result of the pass. Contradicting results must be interpreted by the referee.

When looking at the aiming points on a shield we can see that the bearer’s right side is referred to as the “dexter,” center is “pale” and the left side is “sinister.” Meanwhile the upper portion is “chief” and the mid-section is “fess.” Then entire bottom is referred to as the “base.”

At this point the combatants charge each other, each taking aim and taking their respective stances. Choices are revealed. Now the Jousting Table is consulted.

Table: Aiming Points


Helm (H)


Dexter Chief (DC)


Chief Pale (CP)


Sinister Chief (SC)


Dexter Fess (DF)


Fess Pale (FP)


Sinister Fess (SF)


Base (B)

Table: Defensive Positions


Lower Helm (LH)


Lean Right (LR)


Lean Left (LL)


Steady Seat (SS)


Shield High (SH)


Shield Low (SL)

Table: Defensive Positions Allowed


Positions Allowed

Helm (H)

4 – 6

Dexter Chief (DC)

3 – 6

Chief Pale (CF)


Sinister Chief (SC)

2, 4 – 6

Dexter Fess (DF)

4 – 6

Fess Pale (FP)


Sinister Fess (SF)

4 – 6

Base (B)

1, 4 – 6

Table: Jousting Matrix


Defensive Position

Aiming Point







1 Helm







2 DC







3 CP







4 SC







5 DF







6 FP







7 SF







8 Base







B = Break Lance
G = Glances Off
H = Knock Off Helm
I = Injury (damage is dealt as normal with mount modifiers factored in per the Mount Modifier Table)
M = Miss
U = Unhorsed

In the case of an Unhorsing the defender is allowed to make a DEX check or Saving Throw, at the Referee's discretion, to remain in the saddle. If riding a warhorse (or equivalently trained mount) the defender will gain a bonus of 2 to this check. If a riding horse (or other mount not accustomed to riding in battle) a penalty of 2 is applied.

In the result of an Injury, damage is rolled according to the attacker's lance. If riding upon a warhorse the attacker deals and additional 2 points of damage.

Any combatant that breaks her lance or has her helm removed must must take a Steady Seat for the next pass.

The goal of a joust is to score the most points, not only in each joust, but to gain more points than any other participant for the duration of the tourney. The following Scoring Table can be used as a bases for the awarding of points.

Table: Jousting Scores



Opponent loses helmet


Break your lance


Injure opponent


You are injured


Unhorse opponent


A rider that is unhorsed automatically loses the joust. If a loss is achieved in this way the rider must pay her opponent a ransom. A typical ransom is the sum of the armor and mount of the rider. If the rider cannot pay she must forfeit her armor and mount to the winner. In some tournaments a set ransom may be applied by the host of the tournament.


Tournaments may be held for many reasons in a fantasy campaign. If jousts are held as part of a tourney, they should be the centerpiece and the most points for the whole of the tournament should come from them. As a guideline, all points scored during a joust should retain their normal value when tallying points in the tournament, while other events may award 3 points total to the winner and 2 points for second place and 1 point for third. The participant with the most points at the end will be the tournament champion. Often, a good jouster need only compete in the joust itself to win the entire tourney. Below are other competitions that might be found at such a tournament.

Tilting at The Rings

This is another mounted competition. In this competition a set number of rings are hung a various heights or tossed in the air while a rider attempts to charge forth and get as many as possible on his lance or spear. In game terms, using a standard 5” ring the rider will be aiming at an AC of 3[16.] The penalties form the Mounted Missile Fire table might be applied in this competition, at the Referee's discretion. Occasionally rings could vary in size from 5” to 3” with each step lower than five improving the target AC by as many steps. Scoring a hit of 2 points worse than the target AC (5[14] for a 5” ring) means that the rider has touched the ring, but did not capture it on his weapon. As a general scoring rule, a touch is worth 1 point, while the capture of a ring is worth 2. If using rings of varying size, smaller rings may be worth more.

One-On-One Competitions

One-on-one combat in a tournament typically consists of various competitions, all with different weapons. A single combatant may then enter into any number of these. Meaning a tournament might boast a Longsword Competition, an Axe and Shield Competition and a Flail Competition. Each competition would consist of warriors, each armed with the particular weapon called for, battling to see who the best fighter with that given weapon is.

These competitions would be conducted using sub-dual damage, as the goal would be to subdue, and not kill, an opponent. A subdued combatant is eliminated from the competition until only one remains. Scoring should use the guidelines suggested at the beginning of the “Tournaments” section of this work

Melee Competitions

Melee competitions come in two varieties, Mounted and on foot. Both variations consist of two groups (typically equal in number) fighting against each other with blunted weapon, doing sub-dual damage. The goal of this competition is to subdue as many of the opposing combatants as possible. This form of competition may use scoring as in the above mentioned weapons competitions.

More often Melees are held outside of the tournament setting as a way of training soldiers and knights. In these instances the subdued opponents are often held for ransom, similar to the ransom that is paid in a joust.

Ranged Competitions

Just as competitions for melee exist, so to do those celebrating missile weapons. Missile fire and archery competitions may be held during a larger tourney as events, but they may also be held far more frequently. In a pseudo-medieval setting these sorts of competitions may even be held locally on a regular or even weekly basis as a form of entertainment among the lower and middle classes. Just as there are many forms of melee competition, so are there multiple varieties of missile fire competition.

Target Shooting

This form of competition is a standard archery competition featuring a standard target. Competitors line up at a set distance from the target. A standard distance is 30 yards. This may mean that, depending upon the rules used, penalties could be incurred for the range. Each competitor fires at the target, attempting to score the most points. Target diagram can be used as a basis for this, though far simpler targets may exist. Each ring on the target has a Target AC that can be used to compare the the Targeting Table. If aiming rules are used, they may or may not be permitted during a particular competition.

Table: Competition Targeting

Ring Target AC
1 point 5[14]
2 points 4[15]
3 points 3[16]
4 points 2[17]
5 points 1[18]
6 points 0[19]
7 points -1[20]
8 points -2[21]
9 points -3[22]
10 points -4[23]

Scoring in this event is simple, awarding the appropriate points for the ring hit. Most often three shots are fired by each archer, but this may vary by tournament. The competition itself could consist of multiple rounds in which only the X highest scoring archers move on to the following round. In a multiple round competition, the line from which competitors fire may move back, making the target increasingly harder to-hit. If the system played already has range increments in play, these would be used. If not the penalties would be applied by the referee. If an archery competition of this sort were used in a larger tournament, the standard scoring system for the tournament would be used to award the victors.

Wand Shoot

The Wand Shoot is a variant archery competition. It is also a far easier competition to set up on the fly. All that is required as a target is a shaft of wood stripped of its bark (the wand.) The wand should be approximately 2” in diameter and be 5 – 6 feet in height. This is stuck in the ground. Each archer fires at this, from a specified distance, a total of three times. Each hit counts as 1 point scored. The target AC of the wand is -4.

Spear Throwing from Horseback

In this competition riders, armed with a spear ride at a full gallop while attempting to-hit a straw target, placed on to the side of the “track.” Two attempts are made, running once then back again. The target is to be 4 ft with a 1 ft diameter target in the center. The target is AC 9[10] and central target is AC 4[15.] Typical riding penalties for missile fire should be applied. The spears must stick for points to be awarded (damage is to be rolled and must deal a minimum of 5 points.) Sticking the target is 1 point while sticking the central target is worth 3 points. Variants may exist in which there are multiple circles on the target, allowing for a greater variance in the points awarded. The competitor with the most points wins the event. Additional passes are made by any competitors that tie for first place.


Goldenrod Guide to Combat, Copyright 2015 Open Gaming LLC. Author Ryan J. Thompson

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