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Combat Stunts

by Jacob Skytte

Which do you find most exciting: "I strike the goblin with my sword" or "With my left hand I grab the edge of the goblin's shield, slamming it into its jaw, and, while it's distracted, I stab it in the stomach with my sword" or how about "I stab the goblin through the foot and, while it is immobilised, I backhand it, sending it sprawling to the ground. Then I retrieve my sword and run it through"?

I like the latter choices, and I have always strived to use that kind of descriptions of the result of hit rolls. Eventually, though, you run out of steam and ideas, so I came up with this: Why not let the players think up some moves? To encourage this I started giving flat out bonuses to hit and damage if the player came up with something that sounded really cool. That left me with just figuring what would happen if the player missed. Naturally, the more outrageous the stunt, the worse the consequences would be if it failed, but on the other hand a really cool stunt would give more bonuses. Naturally, some stunts were so crazy that I didn't know if I felt comfortable allowing them, but I didn't want to lose the exciting battles that we had now developed.

What I have come up with is a stunt system for running battles in OD&D, where each character is assigned a Stunt Rating that is used to check if a given stunt is possible or succeeds.

While this system makes combat an even deadlier affair, I felt that it was necessary to give bonuses the players could relate to, in order to encourage them to come up with really cool moves during combat.


A character's Stunt Rating (SR) is determined by a number of factors:

-Add together the character's modifiers for Strength and Dexterity.

-Add a bonus for character class:
+1 for Clerics
+1 for Elves
+2 for Fighters
+2 for Dwarves
+3 for Halflings
+3 for Thieves
+4 for Mystics

-Add a bonus for Weapon Mastery with the weapon used: -5 for Unskilled
+1 for Skilled
+3 for Expert
+5 for Master
+8 for Grand Master

-Add bonuses for the following Skills:
+1 for Acting
+1 for Bravery
+1 for Intimidation
+2 for Alertness
+2 for Danger Sense
+2 for Muscle
+4 for Acrobatics

The final tally gives the Character's Stunt Rating. Note that level doesn't figure into the SR, except where it means that the character has achieved greater Weapon Mastery or more Skills. This allows even low-level characters to be fairly proficient at stunts.

For intelligent monsters the SR can be easiest worked out as being equal to the monster's HD, with the following bonuses for size: +3 for small (this is mainly to give the small, weak, humanoids - like Kobolds - a respectable SR) +2 for medium +1 for large (the bigger they are, the less likely they are to do anything but clobber the opponent)


Stunts are sorted into five difficulties, depending on Stunt Difficulty (SD):



Max + to hit

Max + to damage





















Examples of stunts:

Simple stuff that sounds cool. Striking the opponent's weapons aside, kicking/headbutting the opponent to distract him, leaping from higher ground to strike, etc.

Moves that push the character's limits. Swinging on chandeliers, throwing yourself at an opponent's legs to topple him, carving your signature in an opponent, etc.

Stunts that require perfection to be executed properly. Doing cartwheels across broken glass, jumping your own height to bring your weapon down on the opponent's head, picking up opponents larger than you to skewer them, etc.

Actions that seem beyond the character's possible limits, but aren't directly impossible. Splitting an armoured man in two with a short sword, stabbing an opponent while jumping off his shoulders to land on another, fighting while doing handstands, etc.

Anything involving super-human (or monstrous) actions. Running up/along walls in a plate mail for a distance before striking, shaving your opponent with your bare hands, wrapping your opponent's two-handed sword around his throat, etc.

Coming up with a cool-sounding stunt that fits in the proper category is a large part of the fun. Describe your stunt and assign the number of pluses to hit and damage you would like.

A character may only attempt stunts that have a SD lower than their SR. SD is calculated as double the total hit and damage bonuses, but is automatically equal to the lowest SD of the proper difficulty, if pushing the max +. Fx, if you want +4 to damage, your SD would be 8, but since +4 to damage pushes the max + to damage of the medium difficulty, the SD becomes 11 and thus hard. You could only attempt it if your SR is at least 12. This naturally means that you're better off taking +1 to hit and +4 to damage, for a total SD of 10, modified to 11 for pushing the max + to damage.

You can take a penalty as well, each -1 to hit or damage reduces SD by 1, and may reduce SD to a lower difficulty, though it isn't calculated before assigning difficulty, and you still can't attempt the stunt unless your SR is at least equal to SD before taking the penalty. You can't take a bonus to the same stat that is taking a penalty. Fx, taking +4 to damage puts you at SD 11, to reduce SD you could take penalties to hit, -3 to hit would lower the SD to 8. You still couldn't attempt the stunt unless your SR was at least 12, though, and you couldn't take any pluses to hit while also taking a penalty.

Note that if you accidentally modify your hit roll to the point where you won't be able to hit your opponent, you will not even hit on a natural hit roll of 20!

When you have found the final SD, you make a Stunt Check to see if the stunt succeeds. Roll 1d10 and add it to the SD. If the result is less than or equal to the character's SR, the stunt succeeds, netting the character the hit and damage bonuses. The check will always fail if a natural 10 is rolled. If the stunt fails, it may have consequences, depending on the difficulty of the stunt:
Easy: No consequence
Medium: Opponent's next attack gains a +2 bonus to hit
Hard: Opponent's next attack gains a +4 bonus to hit and damage
Extreme: Loses the attack, opponent gains +4 bonus to hit and damage with next attack
Impossible: Loses the attack, opponent's next attack automatically hits for +6 damage

If you succeed at the Stunt Check, but fail to hit your opponent, your stunt is executed, but does no damage. If the stunt involved crazy stuff, like tearing body parts off your opponent or what have you, anything that would negatively affect an opponent doesn't occur.

If you fail at the stunt, but still manage to hit your opponent, part of the stunt may have been executed properly. Use common sense.

If you fail at the stunt and also miss your opponent, the stunt simply fails.

If you fail at the stunt and lose your attack completely, something disastrous has happened while executing the stunt. Use your imagination.