Hello everyone. New guy here, been narrating HotB for a little while.
While there are many aspects of the system that I absolutely love, the combat mechanics, for various reasons, are not one of those. So I changed them. And, well, since I've been seeing a lot of threads by confused players about the combat system around here (some of which gave me a few ideas as well), I thought I might as well share it with you guys. Here goes.
DUELS, STEP BY STEP
Like all other risks, the first thing to do is announce your intention. This is when you first choose your stance. If your opponent has been taken by surprise, he has no intention and may not roll dice or choose a stance.
Engaging in a duel requires an opposed Courage risk, with the intention of gaining a mental/psychological advantage over your opponent. Rolling under 10 means you need to spend a style point not to run away/cower out of the duel. If you're forced to participate (fleeing is impossible), your opponent will simply do his courage roll unnoposed. Privilege means you keep all wagers, loser keeps half, under 10 keeps none. Each wager from that Courage roll is banked and can be used to activate a maneuver at any time on your turn during the fight, even when you normally have no more wagers left. It's also possible to convert a Courage wager into a temporary Style point at any time during the duel.
Opposed Prowess roll. Standard rule, whoever gains Privilege keeps all his wagers and gets to decide who goes on the first turn. Loser keeps half, under 10 keeps none.
Whoever gets the first turn can then use one or more of his wagers to activate one maneuver. Then it's the other duelist's turn, and he can use his own wagers to activate his maneuvers.
We go back and forth with the turns until both duelists have exhausted their wagers. Then the beat ends and we roll opposed Prowess again for the new beat (Don't reroll Courage, there's only one of those rolls per combat). Keep going until one of the duelists gives up or dies.
Now, make sure you understand that beats and turns are two different things. Each turn, a duelist can use one maneuver. The duelists always go back and forth with their turn, First Duelist's turn, then Second Duelist's turn, then First Duelist's turn... (with the exception of defensive maneuvers and a few maneuvers like Bash or Riposte).
A beat is a series of turns. It's initiated by a opposed Prowess risk, and ends when all the wagers from that risk are gone on both sides.
All Ven start with every maneuver at Rank 0. That means they can use them all, but with no particular bonuses. Unless otherwise indicated, the maximum Rank of a maneuver is 3.
Defensive indicates that this maneuver can negate or attenuate a negative effect (an Injury or something else). Defensive maneuvers can be declared out of turn immediately after your opponent successfully uses a maneuver against you. You effectively "use up" your next turn, and thus your opponent can immediately attack again if he has any wagers left. Defensive maneuvers must be used immediately after this negative effect happens, you can't cancel an Injury 3 turns later.
Weapon indicates that this maneuver cannot be used when unarmed. Whether or not it can be employed with a tool depends on the tool and the narrator's appreciation.
This means a character with this virtue as a weakness cannot initiate the maneuver.
Basic maneuvers always succeed. They don't need opposed rolls, they are reliable, but not always as powerful as advanced maneuvers.
Injure (1+ wagers, weapon) : Causes Injury equal to the maneuver's Rank+the number of wagers invested (minimum 1).
Defend (0 wagers, defensive) : Reduces the Injury caused by the maneuver you're defending against by a number of Ranks equal to the Rank of the Defend maneuver. While Defend uses no wagers, it still uses up a turn.
Dodge (5 wagers, defensive) : Dodge cancels any non-defensive Maneuver. It cannot be cancelled by any other Maneuver. Each rank in Dodge lowers the cost by 1 wager, down to 2 wagers at rank 3.
Punch (1+ wagers, Strength) : Causes Injury equal to the maneuver's Rank+the number of wagers invested (minimum 1). The maximum Rank of this maneuver is 1. The maximum rank of Injury you can inflict with this maneuver is equal to your Strength.
Focus (1+ wagers) : Allows you to convert your wagers into a number of temporary style points equal to this maneuver's rank+the number of wagers invested (minimum 1).
Switch stances (1 wager) : Switch from one stance to another, or get into stance in case you were surprised. Rankless.
Advanced maneuvers generally don't succeed automatically and need an opposed risk, sometimes with no wagers. You may of course use any appropriate Aspects or bonuses. Additionnal ranks in an advanced maneuver give bonuses as such -
Rank 1 : Reduce cost by 1 wager, Rank 2 : 1 more die on the opposed risk, Rank 3 : Reduce cost by 1 more wager.
Bash (3 wagers, Strength) : Make an opposed strength risk (no wagers). Privilege throws your opponent off balance and gives you the ability to act two turns in a row after the Bash (yes, this means your opponent can't defend against your next maneuver, since he doesn't get a turn immediately afterwards). It does not mitigate the wager costs (so you'll have to pay for the Bash and for the two maneuvers that follow, as normal). In addition, if either you or your opponent roll under 10 in the opposed strength risk, you fall to the ground, which can be tagged by your opponent for two bonus dice and prevents you from using any maneuver until you spend a wager (and a turn) to get up.
Disarm (3 wagers) : Roll an opposed Strength or Prowess risk, no wagers (Each duelist rolls under the highest virtue). If gain Privilege, your attack removes your opponent's weapon from his hands. Disarm can also destroy an opponent's weapon. In this case, you still roll an opposed Strength or Prowess risk, but with wagers. You use the wagers from this Strength or Prowess risk to destroy your opponent's weapon, and the number needed depends on the type of that weapon. As an indication, a small, fragile or improvised weapon will need 1 wager, a normal sword will require 3 wagers. A bloodsword reduces the number of wagers needed to break your opponent's weapon by 2 (min 0). Breaking a bloodsword requires another bloodsword and 3 wagers (that wager cost is not lowered because you have a bloodsword, that's already taken into account).
Parry (3 wagers, Prowess, defensive, weapon) : Cancels Injure, Punch, Riposte, Lunge. Opposed Prowess risk, no wagers. If you gain Privilege, you succeed in parrying the blow.
Feint (3 wagers, Cunning) : Opposed Cunning risk, with wagers (but no incentive for your opponent to make any). If you get Privilege, you get a number of temporary style points equal to your Cunning+your number of wagers.
Lunge (3+ wagers, Strength, Courage, weapon) : Opposed Prowess risk, no wagers. If successful, add your Strength to the Injury Rank. You can also invest more wagers than necessary in the lunge to add to the Injury Rank, one Rank for each additionnal wager. You may not use a defensive maneuver in your next turn after the Lunge.
Recover (3 wagers, defensive) : Knowing your enemy's ways, you can cancel his advantage. Opposed Prowess risk. The Recover Maneuver cancels the Bash, Disarm, Feint and Grab Maneuvers.
Riposte (2 wagers) : This maneuver can be used immediately after a Parry, and only after a Parry. You gain the ability to act again immediately. While there is no opposed risk involved in the Riposte itself, the second Rank of Riposte gives you a bonus to any opposed risk you may need to roll during your next attack.
Grab (3 wagers, Strength) : Opposed Strength risk, no wagers. If you gain Privilege, you grab your opponent and immobilize him. The only risk he can take at this point is trying to break the grab, which is another opposed Strength risk, no wagers. The only maneuvers YOU can use while your opponent is grabbed are punch, squeeze and throw. You can also release the grab at any time without it costing you any wagers or turns.
Squeeze (3 wagers, Strength) : Squeeze may only be used if your opponent is grabbed. Opposed Strength risk, with wagers. The victor causes an Injury equal to the wagers he made minus the wagers the defeated made. In addition, if the grabbed (your opponent) is victor, he is now considered the grabber while you are now the grabbed.
Throw (3 wagers) : Throw may only be used if your opponent is grabbed. Opposed strength risk, no wagers. If you gain Privilege, you can throw your opponent, causing no Injury itself, but perhaps putting your opponent in greater risk of Injury. You know, like throwing them off a cliff.
Move (2 wager, Strength) : To move away from a duel, opposed Strength roll, with wagers. The victor can move a number of "units" (the exact distance or direction is irrelevant) equal to the wagers he made minus the wagers the defeated made. Alternatively, he can automatically move a distance equal to his Strength/2 (round up) in units, but moving away from an opponent in such a way allows the opponent to use one of his wagers (only one) to Injure or Punch without using up his turn. While this maneuver costs 0 wagers at Rank 3, it still uses up a turn.
When a Ven learns a new maneuver, he must register it under a specific Stance. Any Ven can have a number of stances equal to his Prowess. Each stance can contain a number of maneuver ranks equal to his Prowess x2. You decide your stance at the start of combat, and can only use the maneuvers at the ranks they have within that stance. Switching stances takes a wager. New characters start with one complete stance (with the full Prowess x2 maneuver points). For example, Bernadette, a starting character with a prowess of 5, starts with one stance, which contains 10 maneuver ranks. She calls this style the Split Rose, a stance based on absolute defense, and takes (Parry 3, Riposte 1, Recover 3, Defense 3). When she gets a little more training, she can learn her more offensive Burning Fury stance (Lunge 3, Bash 3, Defend 3, Recover 1), but she won't be able to use the maneuvers of both stances at the same time. She'll have to switch with the Switch Stances maneuver.
Training for new stances : Takes 1 season action to add any number of maneuver ranks you already have in other stances to this one. Takes one season action to add a maneuver rank you don't already have.
TEMPORARY STYLE POINTS
If there's one activity that sucks up your style points, it's combat. This is especially true under this system. With more risks, you need to invoke and tag more, and thus you need more style. The Focus and Feint maneuvers give temporary style points. As well, you may cash in your Courage wagers for temporary style points. We also use a system similar to the Exalted stunt system : 1 temporary style point for a description beyond "I hit him with my sword". 2 temporary style point to use the surroundings (that style point is pretty useful to tag scene aspects). And 3 temporary style points for something that's simply fucking awesome.
No matter what the source, those temporary style points can only be used during the fight and are lost at the end of combat.
Okay, I'm done. A few notes :
-With those rules, Prowess, Courage and Strength all become very important to a Duelist, with Prowess still clearly being the most important and Courage/Strength being of about equal value. Depends on your concept/combat style.
-Free maneuvers at character creation make duels interesting from the start. Also, because there's no prerequisites and each maneuver is equally valuable there is more of a variety of fighting styles (Of course, all maneuvers are not equally valuable for one given character. A low strength&prowess character will have to rely more on basic maneuvers or he'll get trounced in the opposed risks, a high strength character will use Lunges, Grabs or whatever...)
-Maneuvers can now be used any number of times. Ranks are useful in other ways now.
-A few maneuvers got removed : Sap (There's no reason to make surprise any more lethal. Just get an Injure 3, pump in 2 wagers, and you're done. If you can't do that, you shouldn't be able to knock people out in one blow anyway.), Press (was made sort of redundant with this version of Bash), Bind (Beat-ending maneuvers were waaay too powerful in the old system. It ended up as a contest of who has the most of them. I didn't find a way to make it work under this system yet, so I removed it. We've got enough ways to get style anyway).
-The move maneuver needs some work. If you guys have ideas to streamline it, I'm all ears.
-You may have noticed that the terms attacker and defender are gone. Yeah, you use whatever maneuver you like on your turn. Of course, if your opponent is on the offensive, you either take your turn defending or you must take the hit to try attacking. Or you could try exhausting his wagers, or wait until he fails a risk, or use Riposte, or...
I'm open to any suggestions/additions. Also, if you guys need an example to figure the system out, I'll gladly make one.