Combat Rules

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Jan 3, 2019
(Work in progress -- expect frequent updates over the next few days as I tweak things)
(Changelog 7 August: Re-worked stats and combat dice formula, added character creation and training sections)
(Changelog 8 August: Adjusted backgrounds, added the 'Rugged' trait)
(Changelog 9 August: Added special note on helmets. Damage threshold calculation for crits and insta-kills is tweaked slightly)
(Changelog 10 August: Added a note on stamina and injury, expanded training options to include traits and specials)

Basic Stats
They're nothing SPECIAL

To start, there are three important attributes for each character: Strength, Intelligence, and Stamina. Strength is the primary factor that determines what kind of dice you roll--especially when fighting aggressively--while Intelligence comes into play in certain other situations--such as when fighting defensively--and often as a limiting factor for other things, such as how fast you can train new skills. Stamina is a measure of your ability to keep fighting. It is reduced when you are wounded, and when you wear heavy equipment, and it is a determining factor in how easily you can be defeated. Stamina points can be spent during a fight, in accordance with your chosen fighting style, in order to give you some particular advantage, and it can be recovered to some degree during a fight when experiencing a second wind.

There is also an attribute specific to each weapon group, called Proficiency. This directly improves your combat dice for whichever weapon you're using, and can be increased with training (Strength and Stamina can also be trained, but it is a much slower process).

At character creation, your chosen body type determines Strength and max Stamina, as a trade-off. The bigger you are, the more energy it takes to move around, and the more easily you get tired in a fight. You can then choose a background, which determines your Intelligence, starting Proficiency in certain weapons, and some special traits and abilities unique to that background.

To give context to the score numbers:

0 - a child
1 - a waif
2 - a soy-drinking man or average woman
3 - a typical farm boy or strong athletic woman
4 - a typical soldier or amazon warrior
5 - a dedicated gym bro or amazon elite
6 - an elite warrior like Achilles or Odysseus
7 - a mountain of muscle, like Conan the Cimmerian
8 - a legendary figure like Heracles

0 - (IQ <70) clinically retarded
1 - (IQ ~80) mouth-breather
2 - (IQ ~90) knucklehead
3 - (IQ ~100) average joe
4 - (IQ ~110) educated professional
5 - (IQ ~125) savvy entrepreneur
6 - (IQ ~145) intellectual
7 - (IQ ~170) stable genius, like Aristotle
8 - (IQ ~200) mad genius, like Tesla

0 - untrained, acting on instinct
1 - understanding of the basics
2 - moderate experience
3 - very experienced
4 - master, able to give instruction
5 - local champion
6 - world class

Typical male PCs will start with Strength in the 3 to 6 range; Intelligence in the 2 to 5 range; Stamina in the 8 to 14 range; and Proficiency in the 0 to 2 range for various weapon groups.

Amazon warriors will typically have Strength in the 2 to 5 range; Intelligence in the 2 to 6 range; Stamina in the 10 to 16 range; and Proficiency in the 1 to 4 range.

Combat Dice
The RNG you rail against is the RNG you depend on!

A match is fought by rolling dice round after round. Each fighter rolls a single die, with the size of that die depending on a bunch of factors. If the results are close, then no consequences result. If they are very far apart (like one fighter rolls a 20, and the other rolls a 1), it can result in an instant kill, depending on the size of the difference, and other specific circumstances. The ranges in between have results of different severity, going from a critical wound that ends the fight; to a flesh wound that saps stamina but can be otherwise ignored; to a close call that forces the loser to spend stamina defending it.

The basic formula for the dice roll is to have a single die, where the size of that die is derived from a base value dependent on the weapon system you're using, and then you add some fraction of your strength and skill to the die size:

When fighting aggressively, roll: 1d( (base die size by weapon) + strength + 1/2 proficiency )
When fighting defensively, roll: 1d( (base die size by weapon) + 1/2 strength + 1/2 intelligence + 1/2 proficiency )
When attempting a special maneuver, roll: 1d( (base die size by weapon) + 1/2 strength + full proficiency )

Fractions are added together and then the total is rounded down. So for example someone with 5 strength, 3 intelligence, and 1 proficiency who fights defensively with a sword and shield (1d10) will roll: 1d( 10 + 5 x 0.5 + 3 x 0.5 + 1 x 0.5 ) = 1d( 14.5 ) = 1d14. If the same character fought aggressively, he would roll: 1d( 10 + 5 + 1 x 0.5 ) = 1d( 15.5 ) = 1d15. And if he was making a special maneuver, he would roll: 1d( 10 + 5 x 0.5 + 1 ) = 1d ( 13.5 ) = 1d13

The results of a combat roll are as follows:
- If the roll results are equal: round was a draw, nothing interesting happened
- If they are not equal, the one who rolled higher got the best of that exchange. The results depend on the size of the difference.
- If the difference between the rolled numbers is less than the loser's defence value (based on shield or armour or defensive fighting), he was not hurt by the attack.
- Otherwise the attack was successful, and there was damage equal to the remaining difference after the defence value is subtracted away.
- If the loser was using a defensive fighting style, he can reduce the damage further by spending stamina points, at the rate of 1 stamina per 2 points of damage, up to a maximum damage reduced equal to his Intelligence score plus one (eg. someone with 4 Intelligence can block up to 5 points of damage, at the cost of 3 stamina; or 3-4 damage at stamina cost 2; or 1-2 damage at stamina cost 1).

Resolving Damage:
- If there is still damage left over after applying all defence bonuses, the loser has received an injury. If the damage is less than or equal to half the loser's remaining stamina points, the injury is only a flesh wound. He loses stamina equal to the damage done**, and can keep fighting.
- If the remaining damage is greater than half the loser's remaining stamina*, but less than the threshold for an instant kill, then the injury is a critical one, and he is defeated. This ends the fight, and it is up to the crowd and the games editor whether or not the defeated fighter should be spared or killed.
- If the damage is greater than a certain threshold, the result is an instant kill. The threshold for an instant kill is the fighters total remaining stamina, plus his strength*. So for example, a fighter with 4 strength and 12 stamina must take 17 damage in order to be killed outright (1-6 damage would be a flesh wound; 7-16 damage would be a critical wound; 17+ is a kill), but if later in the fight he has been reduced to just 3 stamina, then he can be killed if he takes 8 damage (1 damage is a flesh wound; 2-7 damage is a critical wound; 8+ is a kill). Thus, a fighter is usually safe at the beginning of a fight, but as his stamina wears down he becomes more and more vulnerable.

* Special note on defensive equipment: If a fighter is wearing a combination of helmet and shield, or helmet and body armour, then the damage thresholds for critical wound and instant kill are made higher. The threshold for a critical wound is the fighter's total remaining stamina, and the threshold for an instant kill is the total remaining stamina plus double strength. So the previous example of a fighter with 4 strength and 12 stamina would suffer a critical wound at 13 damage, and an instant kill at 21 damage (1-12 is a flesh wound; 13-20 is a critical wound; 21 is a kill). At 3 Stamina, the calculation is: 1-3 damage is a flesh wound; 4-11 is a critical wound; 12+ is an instant kill).

** Special note on stamina loss from injury: Stamina lost in this way cannot be recovered through the second wind action. Thus, the fighter's max stamina is effectively reduced when a flesh wound is received. These types of injuries take a few days to recover from, and thus the reduced max stamina that results from one fight is carried over to any other fights that the same fighter engages in within a short time period (eg. when fighting multiple rounds in a tournament). Max stamina is restored by natural healing at a rate of 1 point per full day of rest (or 5 points for every 3 uninterrupted days of rest). For someone who is only fighting once every six weeks, or even less frequently, this will never be a problem, and it will not prevent him from training during his downtime, the way a critical injury would.

Fighting Styles
You cannot block my stoyle!

Each fighting style has special perks that can be activated by spending stamina points.

Aggressive Style:

When fighting in the aggressive style, a fighter can spend stamina points at the beginning of the round to increase the size of the combat die. A fighter can spend a number of stamina points up to half his strength (rounding down).
- The first point of stamina spent adds 50% your strength score to the die size
- The second point of stamina spend adds an additional 40% of your strength (for a total 90% bonus from spending 2 stamina)
- The third point adds another 30% (total 120%)
- The fourth point (available only if you have a strength of 8) adds another 20% (total 140%)

Defensive Style:

When fighting in the defensive style, a fighter does not need to spend stamina up front, but if he loses the roll by a small enough margin, he can spend stamina points to avoid injury. The size of the margin of protection is the fighter's Intelligence score plus one, and the stamina cost is half of the result. If the fighter is equipped with certain weapons suitable for parrying, this protection margin is increased by one point, with no change in stamina cost.

One other special feature of the defensive style is that once per match, while fighting defensively, a fighter can take a second wind to recover half of his stamina (excluding any stamina that was lost as the result of previous flesh wounds). There is no cost to this action, but he must make this decision before the dice are rolled, and he only gains the benefit if he does not suffer injury in that round. So there is a potential for an unlucky gladiator to be struck while he is trying to recover his energy, and end up losing that opportunity (and probably the fight, as well).

Special Maneuvers:

When attempting a special maneuver, there are no ways to spend stamina, and no special perks. So effectively, it's like fighting at a slight disadvantage, because you don't have the opportunity to save yourself from small-margin losses, or to increase your die size. The tradeoff is that if you win the roll by enough of a margin to cause injury, then you successfully complete the maneuver, instead of causing injury. Most of the time it is probably better to just fight normally and try to wound your opponent, however there are some situations when it might be advantageous to attempt a maneuver.

An example could be when you are fighting someone with a longer-reaching weapon, such as a spear, you need to win a roll first to get close enough to use your sword, but if you attempt a maneuver like disarming her, then you can use that win to pull the spear out of her hands (if you have a free hand) instead of trying to advance past the point. Another situation may be that you have your opponent outmatched but you don't want to seriously hurt her, so you can attempt a maneuver to knock her off her feet, in hopes she'll surrender. Another use of special maneuver might be to make a flourish with your weapon to impress the crowd, which will boost your reputation if you are successful (but be careful, if you fail the crowd will laugh at you!). Also, throwing a weapon counts as a special maneuver, so this will be a common thing for someone equipped like a hoplomachus, with a spear for throwing and a sword as backup.

Weapons and Armour
And shields too!

The base combat die for a fighter depends on the weapon system he is using. This means that fighting with a sword and shield has different dice compared to fighting with just the sword, for example. The die size is a representation of how effective that weapon system is in a duel.

Each weapon system also has an ideal reach, and if you are fighting an opponent whose reach exceeds yours, it means that if you win the combat roll by a margin that would normally cause injury, you do not actually wound your opponent but instead you only manage to close into your range, from which you can start doing damage. The same applies in reverse if you have the longer reach but your opponent is too close for your weapon to be effective. The most common example of this is sword vs. spear. In that case the spear-user would have to win a combat roll by injury margin in order to escape his opponent and return to ideal spear range.

Some weapons also have special features, such as being optimized for certain special maneuvers like tripping or disarming or breaking shields (eg. nets, whips, axes); reducing the effective defence value of an opponent's armour or shield because the weapon is designed for bypassing defences (eg. daggers and clubs); and increasing the effectiveness of the defensive fighting style because the weapon is optimal for parrying (eg. swords).

Commonly used weapons in the fighting pits are:
- Long spear (10 feet): 1d11 -- ideal range 6 to 8 feet
- Short spear (8 feet): 1d10 -- ideal range 5 to 7 feet
- Spear and shield: 1d9 -- ideal range 4 to 6 feet
- Thrown spear: 1d8 -- ideal range 15 to 30 feet
- Basic Sword (24-28 inches): 1d8 -- ideal range 2 to 5 feet -- parrying
- Sword and shield: 1d10 -- ideal range 2 to 5 feet -- parrying
- Sword and dagger: 1d9 -- ideal range 0 to 5 feet -- parrying
- Khopesh (20-24 inches): 1d7 -- ideal range 2 to 4 feet -- can break a shield; can hook a spear for disarming
- Akenakes (14-18 inches): 1d6 -- ideal range 1 to 4 feet -- parrying
- Sica (12-16 inches): 1d6 -- ideal range 0 to 3 feet (plus grapple) -- reduce opponent's shield defence by half
- Dagger (6-9 inches): 1d5 -- ideal range 0 to 2 feet (plus grapple) -- reduce opponent's armour defence by half
- Brawling gloves: 1d5 -- ideal range 0 to 2 feet
- Unarmed fighting: 1d4 -- ideal range 0 to 2 feet (plus grapple)
- Staff: 1d8 -- ideal range 3 to 6 feet -- parrying
- Two swords: 1d12 -- ideal range 2 to 5 feet -- parrying
- Sword and sica: 1d11 -- ideal range 0 to 5 feet -- parrying; reduce opponent's shield defence by half
- Throwing a net: 1d8 -- ideal range 10 to 15 feet -- entangle opponent if successful
- Spear and net: 1d10 -- ideal range 4 to 6 feet -- net can be used to disarm, trip, or blind an opponent
- Dagger and net: 1d8 -- ideal range 0 to 6 feet -- net uses as above
- Spear-club: 1d9 -- ideal range 4 to 6 feet -- reduce opponent's armour defence by half

Defensive equipment impacts the fight by changing the margin by which your opponent needs to beat your roll in order to hit you. If you are naked or only wearing light clothing, the base is 0, which means your opponent can wound you if she beats your roll by 1 point or more.

Each significant item of defensive equipment provides a defence bonus, but the heavier items also reduce your maximum stamina. There are two values for reduced stamina, depending on your strength. Fighters with at least 5 strength get the smaller penalty. The stamina penalty takes into account both the item's weight, and the degree to which it reduces heat dissipation, which is why helmet and cuirass have the same penalty regardless of strength.

- Off-hand arm guard, but no shield: +1 def, -1 sta/no penalty
- Small shield (12-18 inches diameter): +2 def, -1 sta/no penalty
- Mid-size shield (24-30 inches diameter): +4 def, -2 sta/-1 sta
- Big shield (36-48 inches diameter): +6 def, -3 sta/-2 sta
- Partial body armour (eg. covering only the shoulders and collarbone): +1 def, no stamina penalty
- Thick cloth tunic: +2 def, no stamina penalty
- Leather cuirass: +3 def, -1 sta/-1 sta
- Bronze-scale vest: +4 def, -2 sta/-1 sta
- Helmet: +1 def, -1 sta/-1 sta

Typically, a gladiator will either fight with a helmet and shield and no armour, or with a helmet and vest armour and no shield. Either of these configurations will provide the best protection against critical wounds and instant kills, as stated in the section on combat dice. If a fighter has only one of these three items, or none at all, then the damage thresholds for critical wounds and instant kills are reduced, to reflect the fact that so much of his body is exposed to his opponent. Thus, wearing a helmet may not seem like a good tradeoff in terms of defence vs stamina loss (and tunnel vision and everything else), but it may actually save your life!

Tripping, Disarming, etc.
When a character has been successfully tripped, she needs to win her next combat roll in order to get back on her feet, much like with changing the range of the engagement. As long as she's on the ground, her combat die size is cut in half.

When a character has been disarmed, she simply doesn't have that weapon available, until she can make a special maneuver to pick it back up, which may first require a successful evasion maneuver to get to where the weapon landed. She could also just draw another weapon, if she has one, or continue the fight with just her bare hands. If a fighter is left with only a shield and no other weapon, the shield can still be used to bash opponents. The resulting weapon stats for a shield used by itself are: 1d6 base damage, ideal range 1 to 2 feet.

Working The Crowd
To be literally a slave to your audience...

In the initial execution fight, the way I see it working is that you have a stat called Crowd Appeal, which starts at zero, because nobody knows you (convicted criminals would start at a negative, while known gladiators and champions start positive). The way each round plays out can influence Crowd Appeal, increasing it if you do something cool or respectable, and decreasing it if you embarrass yourself, show cowardice, fight dirty, or just put on a boring contest. At the end of the fight, if you lose, we'll roll some dice (probably 1d6 for the executions), and if the dice result is higher than your Crowd Appeal score, the crowd will call to have you killed. Equal or lower, and the crowd will call to spare your life. The final decision, of course, is in the hands of the editor, which is usually the queen, so she can always choose to ignore the crowd if she has some vested interest in your life or death. But in the case of the execution fights, she will just go by what the crowd wants.

I don't have a complete list of crowd influence events yet, but it'll be something like:
- Roll 10 or higher in a round: +1 crowd appeal
- Roll a 1: -1 crowd appeal
- Roll max for your dice: +2 crowd appeal (replaces the bonus for rolling 10)
- Wound your opponent: +2 crowd appeal
- Complete a successful maneuver: +1 crowd appeal (+2 if it's a flourish)
- Fail at a flourish: -1 crowd appeal
- Recover from a disadvantaged position (such as being tripped, disarmed, or entangled): +2 crowd appeal
- Fail to engage (ie. constantly evading your opponent): -1 crowd appeal per round
- Do something shitty like throwing sand or spitting on your opponent: -1 crowd appeal
- Show disrespect to the crowd or the queen or the city: -2 crowd appeal

Crowd appeal can also carry over between fights, based on word of mouth, but it drifts back towards zero if too much time goes by between fights. Crowd appeal can also come into play outside the fighting pits, in terms of how your reputation influences NPCs.

Character Creation
"Good writing is all about the characters" - George R.R. Martin (I'm paraphrasing)

At least when it comes to characters who were captured from among the crew of the stranded merchant ship, these men are created as the combination of a body type and a background. Body types are a trade-off between Strength and max Stamina, with some extra perks related to agility for lower-strength characters. Backgrounds are a package of Intelligence, weapon Proficiency, and special traits and skills, suitable to certain types of men one might find among a ship's crew.

When creating amazon characters, or other types, these creation rules need not apply, and things can be much more freeform, pending the approval of myself the other players, with respect to balance and suspension of disbelief.

For the purpose of assigning starting weapon Proficiencies, I have categorized weapons into simple, martial, and exotic categories. All backgrounds can select a number of simple weapons to have a starting Proficiency score in. Backgrounds that have been trained for war will have a Proficiency score in all martial weapons. Proficiency with exotic weapons is limited to certain backgrounds, and otherwise have to be learned through training (from a qualified teacher) during the course of the RP.

Simple weapons: unarmed striking (including cesti), wrestling, clubs (including maces), axes, daggers, staves, slings
Martial weapons: spears (including javelins), swords, shields, bows
Exotic weapons: dual-wielding, nets, whips/lassos, specialty swords (like khopesh and harpe), fighting from horseback

Note: All amazon characters should have at least 1 Proficiency in all martial weapons, and in fighting from horseback, as the result of the standard training given to all amazon girls and boys by their parents.

Body types:
Heavyweight (heavy hitters): 6 Strength, 8 max Stamina, Crowd appeal score begins a point higher, because these guys are physically impressive
Middleweight (tough guys): 5 Strength, 10 max Stamina
Welterweight (male average): 4 Strength, 12 max Stamina, Evasive trait
Lightweight (small and speedy): 3 Strength, 14 max Stamina, Evasive and Nimble traits

Characters with the Evasive trait gain a +2 bonus to die size when trying to escape from an opponent or stand up after being tripped.
Characters with the Nimble trait gain a +2 bonus to die size when trying to close the distance with an opponent who has a longer reaching weapon, and when trying to pick up a dropped weapon.

Note that characters with 5 strength or higher take reduced stamina penalties from wearing heavy equipment.

Scoundrel (barbarians, bandits, and simple-minded mooks): 2 Intelligence, Tough trait, Opportunist trait, Die-hard trait, Start with 1 Proficiency in any four simple weapons
Provincial (farm boys, fishermen, goat herders): 3 Intelligence, Tough trait, Rugged trait, Start with 2 Proficiency in any one simple weapon, and 1 Proficiency in two other simple weapons.
Citizen Soldier (the middle class, educated and trained for war): 4 Intelligence, Tactics special, Start with 2 Proficiency in all martial weapons, and 1 Proficiency in any two simple weapons.
Warrior Poet (seekers of adventure and wisdom): 5 Intelligence, Linguist trait, Divine Favour special. Start with 1 Proficiency in all martial weapons, 1 Proficiency in any two simple weapons, and 2 Proficiency in any one exotic weapon.
Savvy Trader (shrewd businessmen and wise patriarchs): 6 Intelligence, Linguist trait, Soft trait, Start with 1 Proficiency in all martial weapons, and 1 Proficiency in any two simple weapons.

Characters with the Tough trait have a higher tolerance to pain. The damage threshold for turning a flesh wound into a critical wound is one point higher.
Characters with the Opportunist trait have an instinct for pressing advantages. If you injure your opponent or force them to spend stamina to defend against injury, you gain a +2 bonus to die size in the following round, if you fight in the aggressive style.
Characters with the Die-hard trait are difficult to kill. If such a character is subject to an insta-kill during a match, he will miraculously survive, if given medical attention within a few hours. He will be unconscious for a few days, and then he will need to rest for the next 6 weeks to recover his strength before he can do any training or fighting.
Characters with the Rugged trait get an extra 2 points of max Stamina, and when they take a second wind action they can recover all of their lost Stamina instead of just half.
Characters with the Linguist trait are good at learning new languages. Such a character can become functional in a new language after 6 weeks of practice conversing with a fluent speaker.
Characters with the Soft trait have a stronger instinct to live, and therefore will submit more readily if their lives are in danger. This is the opposite of the Tough trait. The damage threshold for turning a flesh wound into a critical wound is one point lower (to a minimum of zero). This character will also automatically surrender if his stamina reaches zero.

Characters with the Divine Favour special have somehow gained the favour of one or more gods, allowing them to perform at a higher level in a crisis situation. You gain a +4 bonus to your dice roll when taking a second wind action. This bonus is applied after the roll, meaning it increases the minimum as well as the maximum possible result. If you are not injured during your second wind, you gains a similar +2 bonus to the next combat roll in the following round.
Characters with the Tactics special have a wealth of experience of battlefield conditions, and the various tricks that warriors can pull to overcome stronger opponents. When performing a special maneuver, you roll twice and average the results, rounding fractions up (this is the only case where fractions round up). In addition, any '1' that was rolled can be re-rolled at the cost of 1 Stamina point. You can make a number of such re-rolls per round equal to half your Intelligence score.

Gladiator Training
{Yes mistress} - {No mistress} - {No excuse mistress}

Eight major festivals and tournaments are spaced evenly throughout the year, such that there is always at least 6 weeks between events, during which a fighter can train to improve his skills or his athleticism. Fighters may, of course, engage in matches or other activities during this time, but the effects of any training program will not accrue until after 6 weeks have passed.

The number of things a fighter can train simultaneously is equal to half his Intelligence score. In addition, if a fighter is seriously wounded during a fight (ie. a critical wound), he cannot do any training for 6 weeks until his wounds have healed (the one exception is language training, since it does not require any physical activity).

The following training options are available:
- Improve Strength
- Improve conditioning (ie. max Stamina)
- Improve Proficiency in a given weapon group
- Practice a special maneuver
- Learn a language
- Learn/Improve a trait or special ability (eg. Tactics special)

Strength increases are very slow and difficult, and no matter how much one trains, Strength cannot be improved more than 2 points beyond one's starting score. To increase your Strength score by one point takes a number of (6 week) training periods equal to your existing strength. So, for example, a fighter with 4 Strength needs to spend half a year doing weight training before he can improve to 5 Strength.

Stamina increases are much quicker than Strength. Each 6-week training period spent training for Stamina will raise your max Stamina by one point if you have 5 Strength or higher, or by 2 points if you have 4 Strength or lower, up to a maximum conditioning level of (30 minus Strength).

Strength and Stamina cannot be trained simultaneously, so if you want to improve both, the training regimes need to be alternated.

Training with a weapon type increases Proficiency for that group of weapons, at a diminishing rate that depends on your existing Proficiency score. To increase your Proficiency by 1 point, it takes a number of training periods equal to your existing score plus one (ie. it takes 6 weeks to go from 0 to 1, 12 weeks to go from 1 to 2, 18 weeks from 2 to 3, 24 weeks from 3 to 4, and so on). You cannot improve your Proficiency beyond the level of your instructor (technically you can self-teach, but that takes years).
Note: In cases where two different weapon groups might simultaneously apply, such as with sword and shield, you would use whichever score is lower when you are fighting with that combination.

Practicing a special maneuver works the same way as training a weapon Proficiency. The level of your training is applied as a separate Proficiency bonus to your combat roll with that specific maneuver, which stacks with your existing weapon Proficiency. As with training in a weapon, your instructor needs to already have a level of expertise in that maneuver that is greater than or equal to the level you want to attain.

Learning a language is straight-forward, and can come naturally from mere exposure, given enough time. Someone with the Linguist trait can get a functional understanding in 6 weeks, if he has a fluent partner to converse with on a daily basis. With another 18 weeks of practice, he can then go from functional to fluent. A character without this trait will only be able to speak in broken sentences, will need 18 weeks of practice to become functional, and will take a full year to become fluent. A Linguist who becomes fluent can spend another 6 months to practice oratory in that language, allowing him to compose poetry and deliver public speeches that can turn him into a minor celebrity in the city, which will boost his reputation and make it harder to justify any decision to kill him off later (unless of course he dabbles in wrong-think, like Socrates did).

Learning a special ability involves acquiring or upgrading a particular trait or special ability. Only certain traits/specials can be trained in this way, as it has to be something that a character has conscious control over (eg. Die-hard and Divine Favour can't be trained because they exist outside the character's own will). Options so far for training special abilities are:

Toughness: Make yourself more resilient to pain through a regimen of being whipped, beaten, and otherwise physically abused
- Characters with the Soft trait can remove this trait after spending 6 weeks on the Pain Train
- Characters can spend 12 weeks to gain the Tough trait, once they have lost the Soft trait (or never had it)
- Characters with the Tough trait can spend 24 weeks to upgrade it to the Stoneskin trait. This trait reduces the Stamina cost of a flesh wound to 0.75 Stamina per damage point (fractions on remaining Stamina are cumulative, but round down for the purpose of assessing critical/kill thresholds, etc).

Endurance Training: Similar to training for conditioning, but involves much more distance running and pushing one's physical limits
- Characters without the Rugged trait can gain the benefits of it related to taking a Second Wind action, where they recover full stamina instead of just half. This takes 12 weeks of training.
- Characters with the Rugged trait, or who have already trained as above, can spend another 24 weeks to gain the Bloody Rage special. This special allows a fighter to recover stamina that was lost from injury when taking a Second Wind. This recovery is only temporary, and the fighter's max stamina will drop back down to normal after the fight is over.

Hone Your Killer Instinct: Subject yourself to stressful situations and excessive gore to desensitize yourself and eliminate all hesitation to kill
- Characters without the Opportunist trait can acquire it after 6 weeks of training.
- Characters with the Opportunist trait can spend 18 weeks of training to upgrade it to the Cutthroat trait. This trait increases the die size bonus granted by the Opportunist trait from +2 to +4.
- Characters with the Assassin trait can spend 36 weeks of training to upgrade it to the Bloodthirsty trait. This trait reduces the Stamina cost of using the aggressive fighting style by 1 point, as long as your opponent has been wounded at some point during the match.

Tactics: Improve your control over randomness when executing special maneuvers
- Characters without the Tactics special can acquire it from an instructor who already has it, with 24 weeks of training
- Characters with the Tactics special can upgrade it to Advanced Tactics with 36 weeks of training. Advanced Tactics allows any die to be re-rolled, not just '1's. The new value has to be accepted, better or worse, unless another Stamina point is spent to re-roll it again.

These time values are just off the top of my head and might change later as I re-balance things.
Last edited:


Jan 3, 2019
Extended Ruleset

These are special rules for situations that will not normally come up during a typical match in the fighting pits, but might occur in the course of the larger story. This includes special types of arena events with unusual rules, and it also includes some aspects of non-arena combat, like archery, or facing multiple opponents.

Special Arena Events
Putting the "Special" in Special Olympics

These are some special types of events that can take place in the fighting pits or other venues; to some degree inspired by American Gladiators.

Amazonian Speed-Dating:

I'll have to think of a better name for this later. This is the event during the Festival of Choosing, where a young amazon challenges a group of male slaves to try to claim her virginity. She enters the ring naked and armed only with a staff. A number of men enter the ring, also naked but unarmed. Any of the men who can wrestle the amazon to the ground can have their way with her. The match ends when all of the men in the arena are no longer willing to keep fighting, either because they have been beaten unconscious, or so bloody they don't dare stand back up, or because they've already had their fun with the amazon.

Executing this event requires rules for group combat, detailed further down in the extended ruleset.

Essentially, in this event, the amazon will face a group of attackers at the same time. Each attacker will first have to win a combat roll to get close enough to grab the amazon. After having done this, the attacker will need to win a second combat roll to execute a takedown maneuver, where if he is successful, he will have grabbed onto the amazon and dragged her to the ground. Once he has done this, a third combat roll win is needed to pin the amazon down, and a fourth win is needed to maintain the pin long enough to penetrate her.

During this sequence, anyone failing the first roll to get into range will be struck by the amazon's staff and kept away. Failing the takedown roll means the amazon slips out of the attacker's grasp. If she eludes all such attackers, she can retreat out of everyone's range in the same action. If an amazon is grappled, she can escape if she wins all of her rolls against everyone who is grappling her. If she is pinned, a win by the amazon will break the pin but not the grapple.

Only one male can attempt to penetrate a pinned amazon on any given round, while up to two males can work together to pin her, up to three males can grapple her at the same time (or attempt a takedown), and up to six males can encroach on her at once, if they have her surrounded, or only three at a time if they do not have her surrounded.

An amazon with a staff can make combat rolls against two attackers at once without any penalty, but penalties add up if there are more than two attackers.

The Assault:

This event is played out in a part of the city that is normally used as an archery range. It's a long rectangular enclosure surrounded by high stone walls. An amazon with a bow stands atop a dirt mound at one end of the range. At the other end, 50 metres down, a male slave is released into the range, equipped only with a shield and a loincloth. There are five points of cover scattered along the length of the range in a zig-zag pattern, each with some weapons lying there. The slave's objective is to run from cover to cover and try to use these weapons to defeat the amazon without getting shot in the process. The amazon is not allowed to move outside of a 15'-diameter circle at the top of the mound, and so her objective is to shoot her opponent before he can get shoot her back or advance close enough to charge the mound and tackle her.

The first station is 40 metres from the amazon's mound, and it contains a sling and a pile of four stones.
The second station is 30 metres from the amazon's mound, and it contains a hunting bow and three arrows stuck into the dirt.
The third station is 20 metres from the amazon's mound, and it has a pair of javelins.
The fourth station is 10 metres from the amazon's mound, and it has a pair of softball-sized stones for throwing.
The fifth station is 5 metres from the amazon's mound, and it has a big net that the contestant can use to try to ensnare the amazon.

The Joust:

Two amazons battle each other with staves while each stands atop a raised platform. Below them, a cluster of male slaves are waiting for one of them to fall off her platform so that they can gang-rape her. Their legs are bound so that they can't jump up to disrupt the platforms, but they can easily crawl about the pit by the strength of their arms, to swarm around whoever falls.


A male slave, naked and unarmed, is released into a large open space. Then, an amazon on horseback rides after him, armed only with a lasso and a club. Her objective is to rope the slave with her lasso, wrestle him to the ground (or club him down), and then hogtie him with his wrists and ankles all tied behind his back. The slave's objective is to avoid this fate, either by eluding his pursuer for a minimum amount of time, or by out-fighting her, for example by pulling her off her horse and wrestling her into submission.

The Scramble:

This is like a larger-scale and less structured version of slave-roping, where a large group of male slaves (at least six, and at most forty) are released outside the city walls and given a short head-start to run as far away from the city as they can. Then, a group of amazons on horseback, equipped with lassos and nets, ride out to try to capture all of the slaves and bring them back. The game ends at sundown, and any slaves who have not been captured by this point are free and clear.

This event takes place in mid-fall, during the Festival of Love. It's a chance for weak slaves to try to escape the city before the Tournament of Blood where they will likely be killed. Slaves don't have to attempt The Scramble (especially if they have been chosen to participate in the temple orgy instead), but anyone who attempts the Scramble and gets recaptured will be forced to fight in the Tournament of Blood.

Multiple combatants
In Arabic, it's called "Taharrush"

When two groups of people fight, the fighters usually pair off, each fighter picking whoever's closest to trade attacks with. When the numbers line up equally, it's no different from the core rules. But often there will be a mismatch where someone has to fight two or more opponents.

When fighting more than one opponent, you roll against all opponents, and on each roll you take a penalty to the size of your die equal to twice the number of extra combatants that you're facing simultaneously. So if you are facing three guys at once, you will take a -4 penalty on each of those three rolls.

Dice results are resolved in the order of worst outcome to best. So if you're fighting three guys and one of them lands a critical wound, you'll be dropped before you can do anything to the other two.

If you are using the aggressive fighting style, you can select a specific opponent to focus on, and the dice roll with that opponent will have no penalty and be resolved first. This means you're going all out on someone to try to take him out before his friends can stop you. The dice rolls against the other combatants will have twice the normal penalty.

If you are fighting with two weapons, or with a weapon and shield, or with a double-ended weapon like a staff, then you can handle up to two enemies at once with no penalty, as long as you are not targeting an individual as above. The penalty for three enemies is then only -2, and so on from there.

At standard close combat range, up to six people can gang up on a single opponent, but they first have to surround him. A fighter can use the evasive fighting style (see below) to avoid being surrounded, or to escape from being surrounded.

If a fighter is not being surrounded, then only three people can attack him at once, and they all have to be synchronizing their attacks by using the same fighting style. If they are using different fighting styles, the aggressive ones will resolve their dice rolls first, then the special maneuvers, then the defensive ones. This will cause those of each style to be treated as a separate group, thus altering the dice penalties (or removing them entirely). Thus, an uncoordinated group of enemies is much easier to deal with than a group that communicates and fights in unison.

In hand-to-hand range (ie. punching, grappling, and daggers), only four fighters can simultaneously attack the same target, because of how much space their bodies take up. Other attackers must stand farther back, only able to use longer-reaching weapons.

When engaged in a wrestling match, the limit is three attackers trying to wrestle a single person.

Evasive Fighting Style
The dodgiest fighting style ever

This is a variant of the defensive fighting style. I didn't include it in the core rules because it's so similar and it's not very useful unless you're being shot at or trying to escape from a mob.

In the evasive fighting style, you are focusing entirely on defense and not making any effort to attack. The main reason you might do this is because you're being attacked from range and you don't have any means of fighting back. The other reason would be that you're trying to escape from someone and get into a more advantageous position, and this is more useful than trying to fight where you currently stand. An example of where this comes into play is in the Assault event. Each sprint between points of cover is resolved as using the evasive fighting style against the amazon's archery attack.

The combat roll for the evasive style is: 1d10 + intelligence

If you have the Evasive trait, you can add the bonus from that onto this roll.

If the roll result is higher than your opponent's roll, then you are successful at evading whatever it was you were trying to evade. Note that no matter how high you roll, you can never do damage to your opponent with this style, since you are not attacking. If your roll result is lower than your opponent's roll, then the consequences apply the same as if you were using the defensive style.

And other ranged weapons

Making a ranged attack is treated as a special maneuver. The weapon's die roll is affected by range based on the type of weapon, and in most cases the user's strength score as well. Within 30 feet (~10 metres), the die roll is always the same as is listed in the core rules for that weapon, but at longer ranges the die size degrades down to 1d0 at max range (where you are relying entirely on proficiency and strength bonuses to have a chance at doing damage).

Every bow is made with a particular draw weight, which is the amount of force needed to pull the string back, (such that drawing the bow takes the equivalent strength of lifting that much weight off the ground with one hand while you're lying face down on a bench). For each strength score, there is an optimal draw weight, and so practically speaking you can categorize bows by the strength score that they were made for:

1 - 10 lbs draw / 50m range - the kind of bow that school kids use for target practice
2 - 30 lbs draw / 100m range - a weak hunting bow, good for killing rabbits and birds
3 - 50 lbs draw / 150m range - a strong hunting bow, good for shooting deer
4 - 70 lbs draw / 200m range - a war bow, good for shooting men in light armour
5 - 90 lbs draw / 225m range - a strong war bow, good for piercing thicker armour
6 - 110 lbs draw / 250m range - a very strong bow, equivalent power to a crossbow or an English longbow
7 - 130 lbs draw / 275m range - something like The Rock's bow in that Scorpion King movie
8 - 150 lbs draw / 300m range - reserved for mythical bows used by gods like Apollo or Rama

You cannot draw back a bow if it was made for a higher strength score than your own. If you use a bow that was made for a lower strength score, you can use it just fine, but the combat die is calculated based on that lower strength score that the bow was made for, not your own strength. So it is always better to use the strongest type of bow that you are capable of drawing (although this is not always an option, since bows, especially composite bows, can take a long time to make, and are usually customized to the intended user, in terms of his height as well as strength).

The die size of a bow depends on its range and the strength score that the bow is made for, using the following table:


A special exception for bows exists when the target is within 10 metres / 30 feet (i.e. something like the Point-Blank Shot feat in D&D). When inside that range, an archer can use the aggressive fighting style instead of treating it as a special maneuver. This represents pulling the bowstring a little farther back than normal, at great physical exertion, to deliver a more powerful close-range shot (doing this at longer ranges would throw off the shot's accuracy too much). When applying the die size bonus as the result of spending stamina on the aggressive style, the strength score used for calculation must be the strength score that the bow is made to, not the archer's actual strength. However, the archer's strength is still used to determine how many stamina points can be spent.

Other ranged weapons like slings and javelins are TBD. Generally they will have a faster drop-off of die size with range, and the max range will vary based on the user's strength.

I looked up the olympic world records for javelin throws and saw that they started at ~62 metres for men and ~25 metres for women, going up to ~98 for men and ~72 for women in the 21st century. More recent records have the problem of being achieved using modern equipment, training methods, and nutritional science (and in some cases, steroids, especially the records from East Germany in the 80s). So I am going to base my system around the 25 metre figure as representing somewhere around 4-5 strength, and the 62 metre figure as representing 7 strength. The more recent records I will discount as not being possible with bronze age equipment.

Strength - Max Range:
0 - 5m / ~16 feet
1 - 7.5m / ~25 feet
2 - 10m / ~33 feet
3 - 15m / ~50 feet
4 - 20m / ~66 feet
5 - 30m / ~100 feet
6 - 40m / ~132 feet
7 - 60m / ~200 feet
8 - 80m / ~264 feet
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