Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Combat in the Entropic Gaming System

Combat Example in the Entropic Gaming System

Last post we walked through a sample of character generation, creating the generic fantasy wizard Aston Kormak, as follows:

Aston Kormak
Background: human male
Archetype: Sorcerer; Weird Concept: Sorcerer
CHA D6, DEX D6, INT D10, PER D8, PSY D10, SPT D6, STR D8, VIT D6
CA: 3, Defense 7, Health 14, Hero Pts 3, Init 14, Speed 30
Language: common
Skills: Awareness D8, Husbandry D4, Melee D6, Performing (scribe) D8, Resist D8, Streetwise D4, Arcana D10
Skill Combinations: Insight, Parry, Questioning, Willpower
Enemy-he’s got someone he pissed off in his life. I’m going to say it’s his mother, from whom he is estranged; she’s a sort of Maleficent type and he ran away from her to avoid being sucked into her dark cult to the Old Ones. When the enemy rears its ugly head he could get a hero point.
Geomancer-Aston can apply this when he uses elemental magic in arcane mastery. His aptitude for geomancy is why he fled his mother’s control to avoid becoming a necromancer.
Weird Quality-Sorcerer Concept
Horse Whisperer-Aston gets along well with horses, and has a knack for calming them down, although he’s never learned how to ride well.
Devilish Rogue-Aston has a natural way with women and tends to pursue attractive ladies although he has little social prowess due to the years his mother kept him locked away.

Weird Talent: Sorcery; INT based, Arcana; 30 WPs
Spell Talents: Abjure, Animate, Burst, Elemental Manipulation, Earth

Equipment: shortsword (4 dmg), leather armor (2 pts), adventurer’s kit, 200 gold

Aston’s basically marginally competent with a shortsword, but his real talent is in emitting murderous elemental blasts. He needs a buddy, methinks…enter Atanadyr, an elven blademaster whom accompanies Aston on his journeys:

Background: elven male
Archetype: Scout
CA: 3, Defense 10, Health 10, Hero Pts 3, Init 28, Speed 35
Language: common, elven
Skills: Acrobatics D8, Athletics D6, Awareness D6, Fighting D10, Ranged D8, Stealth D8, Tracking D6
Elven Traits: Athletic (D6 base), quick (35 feet movement), low light vision
Qualities: Ambidextrous, Lightning Quick Reflexes

Equipment: scimitar (4 dmg; parry +2), leather armor (2 pts), bow (4 damage), adventurer’s kit, quiver with 40 arrows, 30 gold

Atanadyr is an elf, so he only gets 2 qualities but he receives Athletics at D6, a movement of 35 feet and low light vision to off-set the difference. He’s trained to be a ferocious dexterity fighter….and here’s why: in EGS single-handed melee weapons go off of dexterity, and two-handed weapons rely on strength. You’re damage totals are static, unless you crit, in which case you can add a D4 to damage. Atanadyr, in short, doesn’t need a high strength to be an effective fighter in EGS.

Combat in EGS gets even weirder in some areas, and takes on a distinct simulationist feel apart from typical D&D games or even other systems like Savage Worlds. For one thing, armor can lose effectiveness during combat….when you get hit armor value goes down and stays down until the character can fix his armor after battle. There are some optional rules in EGS Core on how to handle this to suit to taste, but for this combat example we’re using the default rules in the book as presented.

In any case, armor doesn’t matter so much if you can dodge quickly, parry well, and get the initiative. I’ve added dodge and parry totals as well as attack values for reference on both characters here:

Aston Kormak:
Defensive: passive Defense 7, health 14, torso armor 2 AV, active Dodge D6 (due to lack of training), Parry D8+D6 (he can use STR plus melee for parrying). His initiative is 14.
Offensive: Short sword (Attack Roll is 2D6, one for DEX and one for melee skill), damage 4; Burst (basically he can spew an elemental cone; this does 1 point of damage per magnitude to a 15 foot cone area, and each point of magnitude costs 1 WP; additional magnitude increases cost but can affect the area of the spell).

Defensive: passive Defense 10, health 10, torso armor 2 AV, active Dodge D12+D8, Parry D12+D10 (he’s damned good; and gets a  +2 with the scimitar as well). His initiative is 28!!!
Offensive: scimitar (Attack Roll is D12+D10), Damage 4, and Parry is at +2. He’s got a bow too (D12+D8 attack, 4 damage, 1 fire per action).

While traveling through the countryside Aston and Atanadyr are accosted by four goblins. The goblins are Brig, Snig, Flurd and Dogbeater…Dogbeater is a goblin champion, while the other three are goblin warriors (minions). In EGS, minions have half the health of a normal monster. Their stats are derived from the goblins in the core rules, but here’s a summar of their combat stats:

Goblin Champion Dogbeater:
Defensive: passive Defense 8, health 16, Init 18, torso armor AV 4, Active Dodge 2D8, active Parry 2D8
Offensive: he fights with two weapons, and gets a free off-hand attack or parry because of it. He’s got a shamshir (2D8 to attack, 5 damage) and a flanged mace (2D8 attack and 4 damage). Ouch!

Goblin Warrior Minions Brig, Snig, and Flurd:
Defensive: passive Defense 8, health 5 (quite a contrast), Init 20, torso armor AV 2, Active Dodge 1D8+1D6, active Parry 1D8+1D6
Offensive: they have short swords with gut hooks (attack is 1D8+1D6; 4 damage).

Three goblin warriors and one goblin champion are actually a brutally unfair fight for two brand-spanking new adventurers in EGS. However, I really like seeing how unfair fights go in new systems, so we’ll just assume that the GM for this session is a wanton drunkard who is randomly throwing deadly stuff at his poor newb adventurers for the hell of it.

Dogbeater and his buddies emerge from the underbrush about 20 feet in front of the two travelers demanding coin. “Give us all your money, elf and human. And we’ll leave you alone.”

Atanadyr is incensed and goes for his weapons. Aston’s never actually fought something other than his mother’s minions before, but fortunately those were all goblins so he’s got no issue reaching for his weapon, either…..!

Combat in EGS like most game systems made since 2000 works in 6 second increments (plus or minus). Initiative is static, so we have the order of combat already:

Atanadyr (28)
Goblin Warriors (20)
Dodgbeater (16)
Aston (14)

…sucks to be Aston.

Since everyone has 3 combat actions each round, Atanadyr goes first, spending one action to draw his bow, then two to fire off quick shots (1 arrow per action). Ranged attacks with the bow are really good for Atanadyr: he rolls 1D12+1D8 for his attacks thanks to his dexterity and Ranged shooting skill. Rolling he gets a 10 and a 3, for a 13. That will hit any passive Defense on the goblins, easily. As it happens, each goblin expends an action to dodge, so they roll active defenses each (1D8+1D6) for a 8+2 (10) and 1+3 (4) respectively….abysmal! Both are hit.

The arrows each do 4 points of damage. The goblin warriors each have 2 points of protection for leather armor, which defaults to the torso since no called shots were made. Here’s where it gets interesting: the armor is damaged/reduced by 2 for the remainder of the combat in that area, and 2 additional points go to the health of each goblin. So Brig and Snig are now at 3 health each. However….Atanadyr’s player is concerned that they are still tough enough to do harm in numbers, so he asks the GM if the dodging goblins popped his lighting quick reflexes. The GM says sure, why not as he swills down another shot og gin and so Atanadyr burns a hero point to add 1D4 damage to one total total. He rolls a 4! One of the goblins took an extra 4 and so Snig is down and dying.

As a free action Snig grabs Brig by the pant cuff and reminds him to feed his cats back at the cave before passing out.

Next up is the goblin warriors. Dogbeater yells a charge (free action to speak) so the warriors charge at the obvious threat: Atanadyr! They have no idea what Aston is capable of.

Each goblin can close 30 feet and attack on a charge (2 actions).  Brig has no third action having used it to dodge last round, but Flurd does. A charge grants +2 to attacks and +2 to damage, so this could be ugly. They both roll to hit (1D8+1D6): 4+1+2 for the charge (7) and 7+3+2 (12). Atanadyr burned his CAs this round so no active dodge is possible, but his passive dodge (10) means he avoids the first blow but the second connects. Flurd deals 6 damage (4 plus charge bonus) against Atanadyr, who has 2 points of armor to absorb the blow, now reducing his active armor defense to zero. He takes 2 wounds, reducing his health to 6. When he hits 5 or lower he is at -2 to on actions due to the wound.

Flurd saves his last CA in case he needs to dodge or parry, but in the meantime Dogbeater charges and decides to finish the elf off. Dogbeater is a real bastard, so this doesn’t look great for the elf: he attacks twice, with a talent granting him an off attack. He rolls twice (2D8 each):  getting a 1+3+2 (7) and a 6+3+2 (11)…remember, he’s also charging. One of the blows will connect! Flurd does 4+2 (6) with the flanged mace…..the elf’s armor has been reduced already by the first attack. Atanadyr is at 0 at the end of this assault, meaning he is dying; Atanadyr drops….or does he? His player burns a hero point to roll his Vitality and use the roll to soak that much damage! He rolls a D6 and gets a 3…meaning he took only 3 damage instead of 6; he’s at 3 health, a wounded state.

Aston is horrified…and unsure what his best course of action is. He can hit both goblins with his burst cone attack (icy cold or fire) but he’ll catch his ally in the area of effect. He can catch one or two goblins in a side strike, avoiding his ally, but the third will surely cut him down…Aston decides to hit them hard, and hope Atanadyr doesn’t die. He also asks if his familiarity with Geomancy will give him an immediate hero point….the GM says what the hell, knocking down another one. Great!

Aston spends 4 WP (weird points) to boost his Icy Burst up, and hits a 15 foot area catching all three goblins plus Atanadyr. He has to roll to succeed (INT plus Arcana of 2D10) rolling 3+1 (4). Ooooh not good.  Luckily the GM allowed the hero point for geomancy, so he rolls a bonus D6 (taking that option) and gets a 6….yay! So his total is 10. The goblins have to dodge, but Brig is out of actions so it goes against his passive Defense of 8, so Flurd gets a 6+3 (9) and Dogbeater gets a 8+5 (13). Not good…Aston will not hit all three. He remembers he has 3 hero points, his normal pool. You can spend these as often as you like or even all at once….so he decides that the drunkard GM is out to get him, but he’ll show who’s boss! He burns one, this time for a +3 to his attack making it 13, which means he even hits Dogbeater. Then he burns a second for a +1D4 damage and rolls 2...not good enough! He burns his final hero point for another damage bonus, rolling 3 this time….close enough. His effect deals 9 damage total.

Brig is toast (dropping from 3 to -6), while Flurd loses his armor first (2 pts) then drops to -1 health. Dogbeater has 4 armor so he takes 5 damage from his full health, reducing him to 11. Atanadyr would be lying otherwise dead on the ground (too much damage for him to survive) but his player burns a second hero point to roll Vitality again and gets a 3 again, reducing the blast effect from 9 to 6 for him; he is dying at -3 instead. Atanadyr’s character also decides, what the hell, and burns his last hero point for one more effect to stabilize himself, which also brings him to -2 health.

The next round starts. Three goblins are dead, Atanadyr’s lying unconscious on the ground, and its Dogbeater vs. Aston Kormak.

Dogbeater goes first: he closes on Aston and takes two wacks. He rolls 2D8 for each attack, getting 1+1 (2) on the first roll….a critical fumble by the rules….! In EGS a critical fumble is when you roll the same number on the dice and it still fails (so 2+2 would have failed as well, as would 3+3, at least in this case). A critical success happens when you hit and roll doubles…or roll max on all dice. No one’s got that sort of luck here. The GM decides to grant a free her point to Aston to use on his round against Dogbeater and declades Dogeater’s second attack was interrupted when he lodged his cleaver in the ground.

Aston goes. He asks if Dogbeater closing on him meant he can target the goblin without hitting Atanadyr, and the GM shrugs nonchalantly, spilling some rum on the map. Great!

Aston fuels his Burst with as much as he dares: 15 WP to power up a major blast. He spends the free hero point to get a +1D6 on the attack roll. He rolls his INT+Arcana and gets 6+3 (9) and then adds 4 for the hero point die (13). Dogbeater tries to dodge and rolls 2D8, getting 5 and 3 (8). He didn’t let go of his weapon quickly enough, apparently….15 points of icy cone of cold hit him dead on. His armor is depleted, and he had 11 health left…..Dogbeater is a goblin popsicle.


Now, if this had been a fair scenario (arguably four goblin warrior minions could have been an equal match for two heroes) it might have been possible for our intrepid duo to survive without burning all of their hero points (and then some). He who goes first in this system can often be very effective….if Aston, with his ability to do up to 28 damage with a single icy blast if he so desired, had a high initiative he could have toasted all of the goblins in one shot. There are many optional rules in EGS, and one of them includes rolled initiative….instead of defaulting to your die maximums, you actually roll the stats that determine initiative. Likewise there are optional rules for rolling for damage, but the game itself defaults to static values to speed play. One’s appreciation for static totals can vary…..I kind of like it, but can safely say whenever I run EGS my players will probably far prefer to roll initiative.

EGS also locks in Combat Actions, and lets you burn them on your turn. This may sound odd, but the reason I point this out  is because the action economy as presented is a bit like Legend and D&D, as done. Combat Actions in Legend cycle through a sequence, though (you call our CAs in sequence by Dexterity order essentially). EGS simplifies this process and locks in how many CAs everyone has….more or less. That extra free attack the goblin champion gets is the top reason he’s so formidable: he’s dealing out twice the damage a regular goblin can each round. He alone was worth 2 PCs in this fight.

Like Savage Worlds, the hero point mechanic proves to be as useful as bennies for saving one’s butt, but more diverse in what you can spend them on. It’s a good mechanic…and I imagine in a fair fight the PCs would have been able to hold on to more hero points over time.

Completely random is the critical hits and fumbles element of combat, too. No critical hit popped in this sample battle, but if it had that would have been useful, since a critical success grants you a hero point to use immediately. If you’ve just hit, the logical place to stick it is in a damage bonus (+1D4 or +2, your choice).

Another thought about the combat system is that this is a game which actively discourages combat. Anyone who's played BRP/CoC knows what I'm talking about...combat is avoided, because if you get into it, you better be faster than the other guy or you could die, quickly. EGS seems to work in that also labels itself as a strategic combat system, and that is definitely true; if the elf PC in the example had left at least one CA open for dodging, for example, he might have fared better in the first round and not had to call on hero points to stay standing. Either way....I'd have to play it a bit more to see if the tactical elements in EGS stand out from, say, Runequest 6 or Legend, which have definitely influenced EGS a bit, but also operate with somewhat larger numbers.

The weirdest thing about the combat system is how armor depletes. Armor is presumed to be something that gets in the way of a strike, until it actually does, and then its not really useful anymore. The description of why this is so is the armor gets cut/holes punched in it or otherwise is knocked out of place. The default rules assume armor values reset when combat ends, as PCs fix their armor, readjust, and what-not, but optional rules for armor slow down degradation and also make it require some skill and money investment to fix as well. It’s a weird way of dealing with armor, and something I don’t think I've ever seen before….I suspect because the AVs, if they remained static, would lend to longer “war of attrition” battles as sometimes is known to happen in Savage Worlds.  I’m not entirely sold on it as a concept just yet….the principle is sound, but exploding armor pieces that fall apart after one or two hits seem a bit unrealistic to me.

Anyway, I’m interested in seeing how well EGS’s combat mechanics handle SF-styled high power armor and weaponry now. Will have to check that out next…. 


  1. I believe you cycle through one CA at a time, then repeat so long as anyone has CA left as you would in Runequest aside from those actions that cost 2CA at once.

    1. Ah, interesting....and that does make sense. It helps avoid blowing all your CAs at once before you find you need them later.

  2. I suspect it also would minimize the impact of static initiative as the one at the top of the order can't 'nova' everyone right off the bat.
    The more I examine the system the more I like it it, but like you the armor handling strikes me as a tad odd, and I also completely missed criticals/fumbles until I read your overview.
    A combat 'cheat sheet' will be in order whenever I manage to get this game in front of my group.

  3. It is true; Combat Actions cycle through one at a time (unless performing an action which utilizes multiple CAs). That when you reach the end of the Combat Round, those with CAs left get to act again.

    As for the variant armor method, you don't need a skill or monetary investment to bring the armor back to its maximum. As stated in the rules for the Armor Track Variant - "The Armor Track still refreshes to its maximum value at the end of the encounter." The repairing of armor is simply another optional mechanic that can be incorporated. For epic fantasy games, I suggest using the Armor Track Variant for PCs where the armor degrades with each attack instead of just ticking off the entire armor track in a single hit. However, it still resets to its maximum value at the end of the encounter.

    Thanks again for his great write-up!