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Combat Round

by Blacky the Blackball

I had to go through this in detail when I was writing the combat chapter for Dark Dungeons.

As well as looking at the book and looking at various unofficial "errata", I also looked back at the various threads in which Frank Mentzer has answered questions (particularly about there being supposed to be a "statement of intent" before initiative is rolled, and about the timing of spellcasting and activating magic items).

Based on what those sources said, I came up with the following (this is a very simplified version, I go into more detail in the write-up that I put in the Dark Dungeons book). The three-part "statement of intent" phase with initiative bonuses/penalties is my own invention designed to get around the problem whereby whoever gives a statement of intent first is disadvantaged because the other "side" hears what they're planning to do before making their own statement of intent. The rest is from Mr Mentzer's clarifications and from the book(s).

A round has three phases, which go in order - with everyone performing one phase before the next phase starts:

  1. Statement of Intent
  2. Initiative Roll
  3. Actions

Phase 1: Statement Of Intent
  1. Players may declare their characters' action and target (if any). If they do so at this stage they gain a +1 initiative bonus but the enemy will be able to see what they are doing and react accordingly.
  2. The DM declares enemy actions.
  3. Players who have not yet declared an action must now declare. They take a -1 initiative penalty but can react to enemy actions.

Phase 2: Initiative
Everyone rolls initiative with whatever modifiers they have. If there is more than one combatant who "automatically wins" or "automatically loses" initiative then they must roll between themselves to determine their order.

Phase 3: Actions

In initiative order (with ties meaning simultaneous resolution), each character performs the action they declared, from the following list:

  1. Activate a Magic Item (e.g. wand or scroll) - Takes the whole round and is disrupted if you take damage before your initiative.
  2. Attack - Make one or more melee/missile attacks; you may also move up to your movement score before attacking.
  3. Cast Spell - Takes the whole round and is disrupted if you take damage before your initiative.
  4. Charge - Only for mounted combatants with certain weapons - move up to your mount's movement score before attacking, then make a single attack that does double damage.
  5. Concentrate - When concentrating to maintain a spell, you can move half your movement score and do nothing else; may be disrupted if you take damage at any time during the round.
  6. Fighting Withdrawal - Move your normal movement score away from your opponent; getting an attack on them if they follow you.
  7. Parry - Make no attacks but give all incoming attacks a -4 penalty to hit; you may also move up to your movement score.
  8. Run - Move three times your normal movement score, but get no shield bonus to your armour class.
  9. Set Spear vs Charge - Interrupt any charge attacks made against you with an attack that does double damage.
  10. Smash - Make a single melee attack adding your strength score to the damage done.
  11. Use Non-activatable Item (e.g. ring or potion) - you can also move up to your movement score.

The full version runs into four pages of text and goes into details about exactly which actions can be combined with "deflect" abilities from Weapon Mastery, and which actions can be aborted half way through (and what the effects of that are), and other minor details like that...