Combat Primer


Welcome! It's time for that everpresent, ever-lovingly crafted bloodbath and ragelusty filled scene: Combat! Most players decide to pop their proverbial soda with what else but a combat scene. This is good. Combat is also a great method to familiarize many unwritten skills of GMing: Player Management, Scene Pacing, Mechanics vs. Story, Worldview Clarifying, and NPC Management to name a few. This isn't limited to GMs either. Players can use this tutorial as a reference for character interactions that involve physical conflict and violent contests wherever you may have need. Excited? Good. Nervous? Don't be! That said, let's dig our claws into this!


Nd10: This game uses ten-sided dice and will be referred to with number of dice-d10. Example: 7d10 means to use seven 10-sided dice.

10-Again: When dice rolls result in 10, the player automatically re-rolls that die to see if they get extra successes to add to their original roll. If the player rolls the die and it shows 10, count another success and roll the die again. The cumulative successes continues until the dice no longer rolls 10. This is known as 10-again. Certain modifiers, such as Merits, Gifts, or other powers, can create situations where where a player rolls the dice again if they roll 8s, 9s or 10s (aka 8-again) or 9s and 10s (aka 9-again).

Modifier: A modifier changes the number of dice in a dice pool. For example, +3 Modifier means you add 3 dice to the number of dice being rolled. -3 Modifier means subtract 3 dice from the dice pool. You can have a modifier up to -/+5 depending on the situation. When determining how many dice to roll, add bonus mods first then subtract penalties.

Chance Die: If the modified dice pool drops below 1 die, the player can roll a die known as the Chance die. The chance die only counts 10 as a success. If the chance die rolls a 1, the result is a Dramatic Failure.

Turn: The period of play in which a character performs an action.

Round: The period of play which consists of multiple turns. A round ends when all players have taken their turn.

Success: Any dice that show 8, 9, or 10 are considered successes. A roll only needs one success to be considered a success.

Exceptional Success: Any dice roll resulting in 5 or more successes is an Exceptional Success. Some Merits or Gifts or other situations may create a scenario where a character only needs 3 or more successes for Exceptional Success to apply. Rolling an exceptional success results in the character getting something to benefit their success, such as a beneficial Condition, or performing a special move, or dealing additional damage on top of their original successes.

Failure: Any dice that roll 1 through 7 are not successful. Any roll that does not have one success is considered a failure.

Dramatic Failure: When the roll of a Chance Die results in 1, the character suffers a Dramatic Failure and can have other negative modifiers or unpleasant and unhelpful results against their original intention. They might take unexpected damage, or accidentally deal damage to an ally, or get a negative Condition.



When starting a scene involving conflict, the first thing to do is to have players state their intentions. What is the goal they wish to reach? Is it reachable, or is the intended goal simply not possible or invalid at the time? By working out the intentions of the players in the scene, this will bring focus to work towards the resolution of combat. Players do not have to make florid pronouncements with their motivations - you could simply say: "Dottie is going to beat the stuffing out of that Mazeling." The resolution then presents the possible questions: Will Dottie succeed or fail in her intent to beat up the Mazeling?
As a GM, it is important to distinguish the player's intentions versus the character's intentions. Keep the OOC and IC separate please, and establish consent amongst the players before engaging in shenanigans that have potential to dramatically affect their characters.


Different types of actions are performed during combat rounds. Whether or not they take up a player's turn depends on the type of action.

Instant Action: The majority of in-game actions are instant actions, meaning they lasts a few seconds to perform one thing. In combat, an instant action happens in one turn. Sample instant actions: Punch, Kick, Dodge. Some instant actions come with requirements to perform - such as a Bite attack requiring a grapple in some circumstances.

Reflexive Action: A reflexive action is, as the name implies, part of reflex. These actions take no thought to do, and in combat do not use up the player’s turn. Most often this will apply in contested actions on the resistor’s part. Sample reflexive action: Resisting a contested roll, resisting a supernatural power, such as a Gift.

Contested Action: When two characters fight over a specific goal, the action is contested. Both players (or the player and the GM) roll dice pools. The challenger subtracts the resistor’s successes from their own. If the challenger has one or more sucesses, they win the contest. A contested action takes up the turn of the challenger. The resistor does so with a reflexive action and does not use up their turn.
Exceptional Success rules apply first - if you rolled 5 successes and the other player rolled 3, you still rolled an exceptional success but the total successes count is 2.

Extended Action: Extended actions require multiple turns and dice rolls. Each turn represents a step in the process over a period of time. Dice pool is determined as normal - Attribute + Skill + Modifiers. The max number of turns you can roll is determined by Attribute + Skill + Specialty (if any). The GM determines how many successes are required to succeed; most extended actions require between 5 and 20 successes.
Number of Successes Level of Difficulty
5 Reasonable action, you got the touch, you got the power
10 Difficult action, don’t try this at home, kids
20 Very Difficult action even for skilled characters


Basic Initiative

The first thing after declarations of player intentions is determining Initiative, done in two steps:
1. Determine Initiative
Roll 1d10 + Initiative Modifier (Dexterity + Wits) - Weapon Initiative Modifier (if any)

2. Apply Weapon Initiative Penalty
Wielders of weapons will apply the item’s Initiative Modifier to their Initiative score when determining Initiative. The only change is if the character chooses to drop their weapon. This is a reflexive action. They must use their instant action if they want to pick the weapon back up.


Basic Attacks

When a character declares an attack, they use an instant action. The action uses their turn in combat. All dice pools are determined by Attribute + Skill (- Target’s Defense). Below is a chart for different attack types.

Attack Type Dice Pool
Unarmed Combat Strength + Brawl - Target's Defense
Melee Combat Strength + Weaponry - Target's Defense
Ranged Combat Dexterity + Firearms
Thrown Weapons Dexterity + Athletics - Target's Defense

A Willpower point may be spent to add +3 Modifier to the player’s attack dice pool.

Advanced Attacks

General Attack Modifiers

A player might choose to modify their attack to do any number of actions such as go on an all-out attack, or focus their strike on a particular body part to inflict a Tilt. Below is a list of applicable Modifiers.

Unarmed Combat

Ranged Combat

Ranged Combat involves Firearms or Thrown Weapons. These attacks require a little bit of math, but if you're thus far dedicated, proceed! When figuring out roll modifiers, for a Firearms attack, you must consider:
1. What is the range of the weapon versus the Target's position?
2. Is the character going to focus their fire by Aiming?
3. Is the character under any cover or concealment?
4. If applicable, what firing method (Auto Fire) are they using?
5. What is the Weapons Modifier (to deal damage)?

Use this basic layout to determine your Ranged Combat dice pool:
Type Starting Dice Target’s Defense Range Mod Aiming Mod (optional) Cover Mod (optional) Auto Fire Mod (optional) Total!
Firearm Dex + Firearms 0 (Human), Variable (Supernatural) 0/-1/-2 +1/+2/+3 0/-1/-2 +1/+2(-# of Targets)/+3(-# of Targets)
Thrown Dex + Athletics -Target's Defense 0/-1/-2 +1/+2/+3 0/-1/-2 0


Basic Defense

Defense is calculated by the lower stat between Dexterity or Wits + Athletics. For Garou, Defense may increase in other forms.

Apply Defense when:
1. A character is aware of an attack. Characters who fail the Surprise roll cannot use Defense in that turn.
2. Subtract Defense from the Attacker’s dice pool in situations of Unarmed, Melee or Thrown Weapons attacks.

Firearms: Mortal, Kinfolk, Homid form Garou and Lupus form Garou do not apply Defense to attacks using Firearms. A Garou in appropriate shifted forms (Glabro, Crinos, Hispo) can apply Defense to Firearms attacks.

Willpower: Spend Willpower to increase Defense by +2, but only against one attacker.


Any time before performing an instant action, the character can choose instead to Dodge incoming attacks. This uses up the character’s action for the turn. If Defense does not apply, such as with Firearms attacks, the character cannot Dodge.
Steps for Dodging:
1. Double the character’s Defense for that turn. Do Not subtract the new Defense number from attack rolls.
2. Roll the new Defense number as a dice pool.
3. Subtract the number of successes from the attacker’s successes.
4. If the number of Dodge successes reduces Attack successes to 0, the attack does no damage. The number of Dodge successes is applied BEFORE weapon bonuses.


Determining Damage

Once the attack stage is passed, the last stage is resolution. Calculate the damage done by determining the following:

  1. How many successes were obtained?
  2. Add Weapons Bonus, if needed. All Weapons damage is Lethal. If no Weapon is involved, the damage is Bashing.
  3. Is the target wearing Armor? If so, subtract Armor rating from damage. The Armored Target always takes 1 Bashing level if the damage dealt has Lethal.
  4. Is there an applicable Tilt due to Specified Target?

Once you have determined these, add the Number of Successes and Weapons Bonus.

Types of Damage

Damage can be broken down into three types depending on the severity:
Bashing: The most common type of damage taken during unarmed combat. This type of damage knocks the character unconscious. Bashing Damage is marked in Health boxes with a backslash (\). Abbreviated to: nB (n = number of successes in attack)

Lethal: More serious than Bashing, this stuff will put you on the road to the Reaper. All Weapons do Lethal damage. Lethal Damage is marked in Health boxes with an X (X). Abbreviated to: nL (n = number of successes in attack)

Aggravated: The worst kind of damage, you're soon to be Knocking on Heaven's Door. Most don't come back from this without serious medical attention or healing. Even then, this type of damage leaves lasting scars. Aggravated Damage is marked in Health boxes with an asterisk (*). Abbreviated to: nA (n = number of successes in attack)



Wearing Armor adds a layer of protection for characters from attacks. Each armor has two ratings: General and Firearms. If an armor has a number in both ratings, subtract damage from the Firearms rating first. When an armored character takes Lethal damage, they always take 1 Bashing level due to the shock of the hit.

Armor Piercing
Weapons that have an Armor Piercing quality subtract from the Firearms armor rating, then General armor rating. If a fight involving Armor Piercing weapons is in close combat (such as a sword duel or Control Weapon/Damage move in a Grapple), subtract only from General armor.

Health and Consciousness

Basic Health

A character's Health rating determines how many levels of damage they can sustain before suffer from losing consciousness or in the extreme case, death. A character may have temporary Health boxes such as in the case of Garou forms. When marking damage, the levels are marked left to right with the most severe damage on the left. When healing damage, the levels are erased from right to left, healed from the least severe to most severe.

Staying Conscious and Death
When a character's Health boxes are filled with Bashing damage, they must make a reflexive Stamina roll at the beginning of each round to stay conscious. If they fail, they lose consciousness and cannot act in that round and subsequent turns until awakened.
If a character's Health boxes are filled with Lethal damage, they must receive medical attention or else suffer 1 level of damage per minute (GM's discretion how long said minute lasts in # of turns). Each level of damage taken upgrades the damage from Lethal to Aggravated.
If a character's Health boxes are filled with Aggravated damage, they are dead. :(

Advanced Health

Below are extra conditions pertaining to characters' Health and penalties suffered when they are injured.

Tilts and Conditions


Tilts are specialized effects applied only during Combat. A character does not take a Beat if affected by a Tilt, but a Tilt can turn into a Condition after the combat ends. If a Condition isn't resolved before combat begins again, a similar Tilt may apply.

Tilts come in two forms: Personal and Environmental. Personal Tilts affect only the character and can be resolved. Environmental Tilts affect all characters in the scene and its effects can be mitigated depending on the actions and abilities of the characters.
Tilts List


Conditions are applicable outside of combat and could become Tilts during combat. In addition, Exceptional Successes can add a beneficial Condition (most commonly the Inspired Condition).
Conditions List

Get Down and Get Dirty

Sometimes, initiating combat might be detrimental to the pacing of the scene or it is an incidental moment in the overall action. The GM may want to get through the fight as quickly as possible to move to the next goal. For this, there is the option of Down and Dirty Combat. This system shortcut resolves the fight in a single round of contested action rolls.

For the purposes of this roll, the GM decides what the dice pool will be. Each side rolls the determined dice pool. No Defense needs to be calculated when determining successes.

Combat Dice Pool Examples Typical Roll Results
Bar Brawl: Strength + Brawl Dramatic Failure: The opponent gets the upper hand.
Shootout: Dexterity + Firearms Failure: The opponent wins the contest. Deal damage equal to the difference in successes plus weapon modifier. The opponent also escapes unless they wish to continue combat.
Sword Duel: Strength + Weaponry Success: The character wins the contest. Deal damage equal to difference in successes plus weapon modifier. Character achieves their intent.
Harrowing Escape: Strength or Dexterity + Athletics Exceptional Success: The character gains a point of Willpower from the rush of inflicting violence on an inferior opponent.

Set the Stage

A GM's Guide to Combat Scene Management

As noted above, there is listed three stages of combat:
1. Initiative
2. Attack/Defense
3. Resolution

While you can keep that in mind, the chart should probably look more like this:

Now don't be intimidated. There are ways for a GM to streamline the process of running a combat scene. It comes down to some hard decision making, sacrifices, compromises, willingness to go with the story flow and most of all the driving need to do just One Thing: HAVE FUN. In order to do this, first the GM must get a pair.

Of dice, silly.

No matter what kind of dice you have, the best kind are the ones you feel most comfortable using. You could use d10s like the system was designed to do. Or could you use d6s for an element of chance when freeform GMing that doesn't adhere to the system mechanics. What you're looking for is a system you're comfortable with, and as the Golden Rule states: Do whatever you want, just have fun.

Dice: Rolling In Your Grave

To roll dice or not to roll dice, that is the biggest question. For were we to suffer the slowness of combat rounds, and slog through pages and packposes, could we not as GMs simply freeform and end them… Ok enough of that. We're running a combat scene, not trying to be the next Bill Shakespeare.

In regards to whether or not to use dice, let's weigh our options here.

The Dice God is a Honey Badger (It Don't Care)

So that all said and done, it is up to you, GM, to decide which system is most comfortable for you. However. As a GM, you must recognize your responsibility to yourself, the players, and the game, in acknowledging that no system is absolutely foolproof. The human element must come in to play when you're running a combat scene, and in the end the players trust You to make the right decision. If you find yourself too biased in a scene, you might want to turn to dice. If you find yourself bogged down by the dice and want the players to be able to do something the dice say failure for, then go ahead, forget the dice and freeform it out. What you want to find is your comfort zone, where you can all settle in and enjoy the cathartic release of RPed combat.

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