Detailed Fencing Rules for Fudge

by Robert Neumann


These rules are copyrighted. If you wish to download them, print them, or copy them in any way, please follow this link to the legal notice. Thank you.

ANOTHER DISCLAIMER: This time about the format and writing.

A SIMPLE REQUEST: As I said above, I hope you enjoy this material, or at the very least, find it interesting. If you use it, and find things you think could be improved or changed, I'd like to hear about them.

I have already gotten a suggestion to put in rules for fighting with two swords, as well as adding a quick system for "analyzing" an opponent's style, and exploiting weaknesses. These are great suggestions and I will get to them eventually!

Oh, and one more thing, if you decide to upload this somewhere, please ask me first. Chances are I will say "Go ahead!" but I'd at least like to know.

Thanks for listening to me ramble.

Robert Neumann (


Stuart Montclair's wild slash was blocked by Duke Maximilien Windham... easily. The loud clang of metal against metal only fueled Stuart's anger.

"Damn you, Maximilien! Damn you to the pits of Hell!"

He lunged, parried again by Maximilien's lightning fast blade.

"I should remind you, dear Stuart, it was you who insisted on this duel... not I!" the young Duke said, smiling coyly beneath his oily mustache.

"No, it was you who instigated this duel... at the moment you dared to dishonor Claudette's name, you should have known I would come for you!"

Stuart slashed high, aiming for Maximilien's head, but the blade was caught dead only inches from his face. Maximilien stepped in, quickly, pushing hard against his steel, locking the two rapiers between them.

"Young Stuart, you're not even my equal. Is Mademoiselle Claudette really worth your life? A simple girl?"

"To defend her honor, I would sacrifice anything!" Stuart roared. He poured all of his strength into a tremendous push, shoving Maximilien back. The Duke quickly caught his balance and the duel resumed.

"Then let us begin," Maximilien said, smirking broadly. "I've grown tired of toying with you, anyway. Let us begin... in earnest!"

For many people, the very core of the swashbuckling genre is the flashing swordplay where dashing heroes confront the vile scoundrels that oppose them. And why not? It seems that at the climax of nearly every swashbuckling adventure, whether portrayed in books or films, a fantastic duel determines the outcome. Will the heroes "dispatch" their evil nemesis, or will they all fall before his bloodstained rapier and treacherous deeds?

The following section outlines two systems for simulating the acrobatic, swift duels so common to the genre, within the Fudge system.

The first system for combat resolution, the Dueling System, is considerably more complex than standard Fudge combat, but has been designed specifically for fencing, keeping in mind both the realistic and swashbuckling aspects of the art. Since the focus of the setting is more on the unrealistic, fantastic elements of swordplay, "swashbuckling" is preferred over "realistic fencing" in the material below.

The second system presented is somewhat less complicated, and is called the Melee System. Although the Melee System is a faster, easier framework for fencing combat, it achieves this speed and ease at the expense of the flavor of swordplay. It is ideal, however, for large-scale battles, involving several combatants at one time.

Several examples of play are provided to show the practical uses of both of the rule systems discussed in this section, and to serve as a model to how combat should progress under these guidelines. These examples are presented in an on-going order, so that players and Game Masters can follow a since combat to it's conclusion.


Although the two fencing systems listed below contain different rules and guidelines, both systems contain a common framework that governs their usage.

Combat Round: Every action that takes place in a combat situation is performed in a span of time referred to as a "Combat Round." Each of these Combat Rounds (often just called a "round") is 3 seconds long.

During this 3 second Combat Round each character (both the PCs and NPCs) is allowed to perform an action, which can be a fencing maneuver, the firing of a firearm or something as simple as grabbing an apple off a table. Each character is also allowed to move (see below).

Many real-world fencers are familiar with the "two-second rule," which states that it takes approximately two seconds for a thought (usually a tactical response) to go from being a thought to being an action. Or, put another way, it takes two seconds for an idea to move from the brain to the hand. Fencers used to this "rule" might think that a 3 second long combat round is far too long, but in swashbuckling, that extra time is essential for witty banter!

Movement: For simplicity's sake, characters involved in combat are assumed to be able to move freely about the melee area. This includes running, walking, or simple maneuvering, like circling a target, looking for an opening to attack. If the melee takes place over a large area, such as a enormous dining hall in a castle, the Game Master can arbitrarily decide which opponents are within range of the various combatants, and how many combat rounds it will take to cross the distance between them, to engage other foes in combat (usually only one or two rounds).

Although many players and Game Masters prefer movement systems that involve hexes, inches or centimeters of movement, the emphasis in the Across The Dune Sea setting is on the flashing swordplay between the combatants. Players and Game Masters should feel free to implement complex movement rules, if they wish, but such rules will not be presented here.

Sometimes characters will want to attempt a fancy, swashbuckling maneuver, such as swinging on a chandelier. These kinds of maneuvers, which are usually more about movement than swordplay, are covered later, under Swashbuckling Stunts. These guidelines are also ambiguous about actual distances traveled, relating the fantastic acrobatics of the maneuvers instead.

A simple system for resolving chases (a staple of the genre represented in Across The Dune Sea) is provided, and is outlined in detail in the section titled "Role-playing Chases," discussed in the "Designing Adventures" chapter. This system is also very simple, concentrating on the chaotic action of chase scenes, rather than the mechanics of movement.


Regardless of the system used for resolving violent confrontations, whether it is the Dueling System or the Melee System, characters who wish to participate in the fury of swashbuckling combat must have the "Fencing" skill. Along with this skill, characters can learn any number possible fencing maneuvers listed below, that govern the use of fencing skill (each maneuver outlines a specific "move" made in fencing combat).

The skill, "Fencing," simulates a character's tactical knowledge of fencing and dueling. Like all skills in Fudge, the higher the character's trait level in fencing, the more skilled he is in combat. Some characters, who are not very experienced in fencing (i.e. did not study the craft for years), might have a high trait in the Fencing skill to simulate an innate "tactical sense."

Fencing is a difficult art to master, and is the mainstay skill of the swashbuckling genre, and is therefore considered to be a "Special" skill. As a "special" skill, Fencing has a default trait level (the level all character's get for free) rated at "Terrible."

The costs of increasing a character's Fencing skill is slightly more expensive than more traditional skills (covered in the Character Creation section), but can be raised with experience like any other skill (for the same costs). The table shown below lists the costs in skill levels necessary to raise a character's Fencing skill above Terrible.

Cost of Fencing (in Skill Levels)

      Fencing Skill     Cost
      -------------     ----
        Terrible          0
        Poor              1
        Mediocre          2
        Fair              4
        Good              6
        Great             8
        Superb           10
       (Legendary *       ?)

* For truly cinematic campaigns, Game Masters may allow players to purchase Legendary fencing skills, but this is rare, since Superb already represents the "cream of the crop," in fencing circles. The cost in Skill Levels for a Legendary Fencing Skill is up to the Game Master of any given campaign.

Players familiar with the Fudge system may argue that the costs for raising Fencing above it's default are too expensive, being even higher than skills rated as "Very Hard." Those players may very well be correct in their assumptions, but Fencing is one of the most important skills in the Across The Dune Sea setting, and has many benefits not normally given with other skills.

For instance, the level of a character's Fencing Skill determines the number of specific maneuvers that they have enough proficiency to use in combat situations. Each maneuver outlines a precise "move" in fencing, such as a thrust attack, a parry which deflects an incoming attack, or one of any other possible maneuvers available to fencers.

The number of maneuvers a character may learn are shown on the table below, based off of their Fencing skill.

Number of Maneuvers

      Fencing Skill   Maneuvers
      -------------   ---------
        Terrible          0
        Poor              2
        Mediocre          4
        Fair              6
        Good              8
        Great             10
        Superb            12
       (Legendary         15)

For example, the young fencer, Regenald Wilde has a Fencing Skill rated at Good. By checking the table above, Regenald's player can see that he can pick out 8 fencing maneuvers that Regenald knows well enough to use in combat. The player selects Regenald's eight maneuvers and writes them down on his character sheet.

Even the most skilled fencers will not be able to master all of the maneuvers available in fencing. There are tales of such fencers, who have mastered every aspect of swordplay, but these are merely rumors and exaggerations.

The maneuvers and their effects are listed below. Players and Game Masters unfamiliar with fencing combat in the Across The Dune Sea setting should skip ahead and read the combat steps discussed later in this chapter, before trying to understand the effects of the maneuvers. A basic understanding of the concepts explained in the combat steps will be required, before any of the maneuvers will make any sense.

Disarm/Froissement: The character attempts to ensnare, and then dislodge, and opponent's sword, disarming him/her. To retrieve a sword after having it disarmed, the opponent must forfeit his/her action on the next round, using a standard, unmodified Initiative roll to determine when the weapon can be retrieved. Or, if the character has not yet moved in the combat round he/she has been disarmed, that character can "react" to retrieve the lost weapon during that round.

   Init. Mod:           -1 Trait Level
   Muscle Mod:          None
   Effect:      Roll a standard attack, basing your Offensive Roll on
                        Reflexes.  Then roll your Muscle against your
                        opponent's Muscle to disarm them.
Dodge: The character tries to jump out of the way of an attack, or tried to avoid the attack in some other manner. This is often an acrobatic, or humorous, maneuver due to the cinematic feel of the setting. As an added option, the player may declare that his character's dodge is accidental, just for comic effect ("I charge after the enemy, but my feet catch on some wine that had been spilled during the melee, throwing me to the ground and out of harm's way!").

   Init. Mod:           Special
   Muscle Mod:          N.A.
   Effect:      Roll a "dodge," basing your Defensive Roll on
                        Reflexes.  Your character receives a bonus of +1 Trait
                        Level.  Your character cannot perform an "Automatic
                        Parry" unless being attacked by two or more opponents.
Feint: The character performs a false or diversionary maneuver in an attempt to get an opponent to react, setting him/her up for a real attack. Feints are very difficult to master and are only effective if performed by the most skilled fencers.

During the Maneuver Selection step of combat, a Feint must be defined as "leading to" another maneuver. For example, a fencer with the Feint maneuver could choose to "Feint to a Parry," meaning that the character would "Feint" to get an opponent to commit to an attack, then the character would Parry the attack. Or the character could "Feint to a Lunge," to lure an opponent to react to a false maneuver, setting them up for an attack they will be helpless against.

In addition to cancelling a foe's chance at performing a Reaction Roll, a successful Feint also makes the True Maneuver more difficult to parry. Characters affected by a Feint are at an additional -1 Level to Parry and Automatic Parry attempts (Parry maneuvers will be at the character's Fencing skill, and Automatic Parries will be at -2 levels to Fencing skill).

Since the Feint maneuver is so difficult to master, the Feint maneuver counts as *two* maneuvers when selected during character creation.

   Init. Mod:           +1 Trait Level to Feint/
                        -1 Trait Level for "True Maneuver"
   Muscle Mod:          None
   Effect:      Roll your Fencing skill against your opponent's
                        Fencing skill.  A successful roll means your opponent
                        "reacts" at the time of the feint.  When your true
                        maneuver is performed, later in the combat round, your
                        opponent does not have the option to "React" to your
                        maneuver, having reacted instead to your feint.
Fleche: The character performs a running strike against the their opponent, stabbing him/her after closing the range between them. This maneuver is somewhat clumsy, since the opponent has time to prepare for the attack, but it can be quite lethal.

   Init. Mod:           -2 Trait Levels
   Muscle Mod:          +3 Trait Levels
   Effect:      Roll a standard attack, basing your Offensive Roll on
                        Reflexes.  Any successful "Riposte" maneuvers used
                        against the character performing the Fleche are at an
                        automatic +2 Trait Levels to Muscle by the target!
Lock/Prise de Fer: The character performs a parry, then steps into his/her opponent, in an attempt to lock swords with him/her. This maneuver is typically used to just prolong combat, allowing time to trade insults or to set up a surprise attack (such as a standard punch with an "off-hand," or something equally unexpected in a fencing duel).

   Init. Mod:           Special
   Muscle Mod:          None
   Effect:      Roll a "Parry," basing your Defensive Roll on Fencing
                        skill, to negate an incoming attack.  No penalty or
                        bonus.  Then roll your Muscle against your opponent's
                        Muscle to lock swords.  Success means you have locked
                        swords with your opponent, while a failure means your
                        lock attempt failed, and the duel will continue
                                The attacker or target may "unlock" swords
                        whenever he/she wishes, after the combat round
                        expires, but usually the lock is maintained until a
                        push maneuver is attempted.  Swords that are "locked"
                        may not be used in other maneuvers during that round.
Lunge: One of the most basic fencing maneuvers, the character thrusts forward, while stepping into his/her opponent, to impale their foe. This maneuver can be dangerous when performed against someone who uses a Riposte maneuver, since you basically "walk" into their blade, after having your own blade harmlessly parried.

   Init. Mod:           -1 Trait Level
   Muscle Mod:          +2 Trait Level
   Effect:      Roll a standard attack, basing your Offensive Roll on
                        Reflexes.  Any successful "Riposte" maneuvers used
                        against the character performing the lunge are at an
                        automatic +1 Trait Level to Muscle by the target!
Parry: The character opts to take a more defensive stance and concentrates all of his/her efforts on parrying an incoming attack, basically using his/her blade to block the attack of an opponent.

   Init. Mod:           Special
   Muscle Mod:          N.A.
   Effect:      Roll a "parry," basing your Defensive Roll on your
                        character's Fencing skill to negate an incoming
                        attack.  Your character receives a bonus of +1 Trait
                        Level with his/her parry, but cannot perform an
                        additional "Automatic Parry" unless being attacked by
                        two or more opponents.
Punch/Using Hilt: The character punches his/her foe, using the hilt of his/her blade. The first value listed is the effect when using a sword's pommel, while the second listed effect is for when using a basket hilt (this depends primarily on the type of sword being used). Lighter swords, such as rapiers, will have pommels (small, ball like ends on the hilt of a sword's handle). Heavier swords, like the cutlass, have basket hilts.

   Init. Mod:           +1 Trait Level/None
   Muscle Mod:          None/+1 Trait Level
   Effect:      Roll a standard attack, basing your Offensive Roll on
                        Reflexes.  All parry attempts are at -2 Trait Levels,
                        due to the rather unconventional nature of the attack,
                        unless a basket hilt is used (in which case parry
                        attempts are at -1 Trait Levels).
Push: The character uses brute strength in an attempt to throw an opponent off balance. Since the desired effect is not to harm the opponent, no damage is done, however, the character pushed (if the roll was successful) will be at a temporary combat disadvantage.

If the characters have "locked" their blades in the previous combat round, the pushing character gets a +1 Trait Level bonus to his/her Initiative during the round in which the push is performed. If the characters are not "locked" (i.e. engaged in standard combat), the pushing character is at a -1 Trait Level to Initiative. This loss of Initiative simulates the need to rush the opponent, and push with an "off-hand."

   Init. Mod:           +1 Trait Level if "locked"/
                        -1 Trait Level standard
   Muscle Mod:          None
   Effect:      Roll your Muscle against your opponent's Muscle.  A
                        success pushes the opponent back and forfeits their
                        action for that round, as they attempt to catch their
                        balance.  If a foe has already moved, he/she is at -2
                        Trait Levels to Initiative for the next combat round.
Riposte: The character waits for an opponent's attack, parries it, and then counter-strikes in one fluid motion. This is a very effective maneuver, and therefore counts as *two* maneuvers when selected during character creation.

   Init. Mod:           Special
   Muscle Mod:          N.A./None
   Effect:      Roll a "parry," based on your character's Fencing
                        skill, to negate an incoming attack.  Then roll a
                        standard attack, also based on Reflexes, with a -1
                        Trait Level penalty.  Your character cannot perform an
                        additional "Automatic Parry" unless being attacked by
                        two or more opponents.
Root: The character braces him/herself to resist any attempts made by his/her opponent to Push them. This maneuver is usually only used as a "Reaction" due to its limited effect, unless it is certain that an opponent will push (perhaps after "locking" blades).

   Init. Mod:           Special
   Muscle Mod:          None (see Effect)
   Effect:      Add +2 Trait Levels to your Muscle to resist Push
                        attacks.  If this maneuver is selected during the
                        Maneuver Selection step, you automatically get +1
                        Level to Fencing skill for the purposes of "Reaction"
                        rolls later in the combat round.  This bonus is
                        negated in the next round, whether it was used or not.
Slash: Another very basic, common maneuver, the slash allows the character to swing into his/her opponent, using their blade to cut deeply into their foe.

   Init. Mod:           None
   Muscle Mod:          None
   Effect:      Roll a standard attack, basing your Offensive Roll on
Thrust: The character thrusts forward with his/her sword in an attempt to stab his/her opponent. This is perhaps the most common fencing maneuver performed in combat.

   Init. Mod:           +1 Trait Level
   Muscle Mod:          -1 Trait Level
   Effect:      Roll a standard attack, basing your Offensive Roll on
                        Reflexes, with a bonus of +1 Trait Level.
NOTE: Maneuvers listed with a "Special" Initiative Modifier will automatically work when your opponent attempts his/her attack.

For example, if you've elected to Dodge an attack, your Initiative level becomes "Special," allowing you to Dodge at the moment your opponent tries his/her attack.


As explained above, the first system presented for simulating fencing combat is the Dueling System. This system is fairly complicated, in comparison to standard Fudge combat (and in comparison to the Melee System, presented later in this chapter), but every effort has been made to explain the mechanics of the system in a clear, easy to understand manner.

In addition to the examples provided (which accompany each new rule, showing its practical application), a combat chart is also provided to serve as a step-by-step guide through the combat process.

Some players or Game Masters may find this emphasis on ease of understanding to be a bit unnerving. Don't worry. The system really isn't that complicated. It will just take some time to get used to the procedures explained below.


Each character involved in the melee selects a maneuver for that round, from the list of combat maneuvers the character has studied, and then secretly records that maneuver. It is essential that the player keeps this maneuver secret until later in the round, when his maneuver is revealed.

The suggested method for handling this step is for each player to use a set of combat cards containing the maneuvers studied by the character. The player selects the maneuver the character will perform, and places the selected maneuver card on the table, face down.

Players who do not have a set of combat cars can make their own by writing each of the character's combat maneuvers on an index card. Taking the time to fully write out each maneuver (with all of the information present) will be well worth the trouble, since detailed cards will make it unnecessary to check the book during combat, and therefore slowing down the game.

Example #1: Regenald Wilde is about to enter into combat with a member of the Cardinal's Guard, a NPC being run by the Game Master. The player controlling Regenald decides that he will immediately jump into the fray, sword flashing, and so he chooses a Slash maneuver. The player looks through his cards and finds the Slash card. He places the card, face down, on the tabletop.

If Regenald's player doesn't have access to cards, he could just write the maneuver on a piece of scrap paper and place it face down on the table, or slip it under his character sheet.

The Game Master selects a maneuver for the Guard, and smiling coyly, she places the card face down on the table as well.

Not all maneuvers that a character selects during this step will be fencing related. Characters may decide to perform a stunt (see the section outline Swashbuckling Stunts, for details), use a firearm, or a character may even decide to make a hasty retreat. These "maneuvers" should be selected just like any other actions, and recorded as such.

Example #2: Regenald's duel against the Guard goes poorly, and he is quickly cornered. Fearing he might be slain, Regenald's eyes dart around the room, and he spies a chandelier just above him. Regenald's player selects the "Swashbuckling Stunt" card and places it on the table, face down, just as if it were a fencing maneuver.

This example is not a part of the ongoing combat that progresses throughout the fencing rules explained here.


Each player figures his character's Initiative, so that an order of actions can be determined. The Game Master will do the same for each of the Non-player Characters she controls.

A character's Initiative is based on his Reflexes (meaning a character's base Initiative is equal to his Reflexes), which is modified by the maneuver selected during the first step. Some maneuvers will increase a character's Initiative while other maneuvers will decrease a character's Initiative. Other maneuvers will not modify a character's Initiative at all.

Example #3: Regenald Wilde is facing off against the Guard from Examples 1 and 2. Regenald's Reflexes are rated as Great. During the Maneuver Selection step, Regenald decided to perform a Slash, which doesn't modify his Initiative. His final Initiative is Great.

If Regenald decided to perform a Disarm instead, which lowers a character's Initiative by 1 level, his final Initiative would be Good (one level less than his Reflexes/base Initiative trait level of Great).

The higher a character's Initiative is, the faster he/she will act, with "Superb" being the fastest, and "Terrible" being the slowest. Ties are just that... ties... the characters will move simultaneously.

It is important to note that the players (or the Game Master, when running several NPCs) are not required to announce the final Initiatives of their characters, until the combat step begins, and their Initiative Trait Level is called. In the case of most defensive maneuvers, such as a Parry or Dodge, where a character's Initiative becomes "Special," such an announcement could signal which maneuver has been chosen for the character.

Characters have the option of lowering their base Initiatives, before the Maneuver Selection step, to act later in the round. This voluntary decrease in Initiative does not inversely affect the character in any way. The character's Reflexes, which determine the character's base Initiative, are not lowered, for example.

OPTIONAL RULE: Game Masters may allow characters to "trade" in some, or all, of their Fencing skill each round, to temporarily increase their base Initiative. For each level the character drops his Fencing skill, he may increase his base Initiative by one level.

This temporary reduction is held over until the next combat round, so a character's "Reaction" roll (see Step Three for details) would be modified by this augmentation method. Fencing maneuvers which use Fencing skill as a basis for Defensive Traits, such as the Parry maneuver, are also modified.

For example, the Guard facing Regenald in examples 1 through 3, figures she is outclassed. Regenald is too quick! In desperation, she trades two of her Fencing skill levels for two extra levels of speed.

Her Fencing skill is Good, so it drops to Mediocre for the remainder of the round. Her base Initiative is also Good, so it temporarily raises to Superb. This new base Initiative is then modified by the maneuver selected in Step One. Her Fencing skill, for the purposes of both "Reactions" and Automatic Parries, will be at Mediocre.

Customizing Notes -- Alternate Initiative Systems

Game Masters can choose to further complicate combat, or to simplify it, to suit the needs of their particular campaign and the needs of their players. Listed below are two examples of ways that combat could be modified to suit an individual's preferences.

1. More Complicated: A character's base Initiative is modified by an Unopposed Action Check, before applying the changes caused by specific maneuvers.

Example: Regenald rolls for Initiative, receiving a -1 result. Since his base Initiative is Great (equal to his Reflexes trait level), his Initiative drops to Good. This new trait level will be further modified by the maneuver selected in Step One.

Some players and Game Masters may appreciate this rule addition because it makes the combat sequence more random and unpredictable.

2. More Simplistic: Rather than messing with changing Initiatives, a Game Master may decide that characters will perform their actions in a clockwise direction, moving around the table from player to player. Each player rolls one die, and the player who rolls the highest, goes first. NPCs can alternate their actions in-between each player, or can all go when the GM's "turn" comes around.

Some players may cry "foul," based on the fact that different maneuvers are faster than others, but it will all even out in the end.


Combat will begin, in the order determined during the Initiative step. The Game Master calls off each Initiative level, running backwards from Superb to Terrible. As each character's final Initiative is declared by the GM, the players whose Initiatives match the current level announces their maneuver selected in Step One, and then performs the maneuver.

If Combat Cards are being used, the players may "announce" their selected maneuver by overturning their card, displaying its printed side to everyone at the table.

Example #4: The combat step has begun, from examples 1 and 3, as Regenald and the Guard face off. The GM says, out loud, "Superb..." then "Great...."

Regenald's player stops the GM there, because Regenald's final Initiative was Great (as seen in Example #3).

"I perform a lightning fast slash!" Regenald's player says, as he turns over his Combat Card (or displays his notes), which confirms his announced maneuver.

Each attack is handled as an Opposed Action. The attacker's chosen maneuver will determine the Offensive Trait (usually Reflexes), as well as any possible modifiers caused by the effects of the maneuver. This is rolled against the defender's Defensive Trait (usually determined by a defensive maneuver or as an Automatic Parry; see below). Success results in a hit (which usually causes damage, which is figured according to the guidelines explained in Step Four: Resolution), while a failure by the attacker results in either a miss or a parry.

Example #5: Regenald's player is feeling fairly confident at this point, thinking the duel will be over quickly. The Game Master, controlling the Guard, surprises him by turning over her card, revealing a "Parry" maneuver.

Both sides roll.

Regenald's Offensive Roll is based on his Reflexes, making his base Trait Level Great (remember, Regenald's Reflexes are Great!). He rolls a +0 result, which means his level stays at Great.

The Game Master rolls for the Guard, who's Defensive Roll is based on Fencing skill, plus 1 level. Since the Guard's Fencing skill is Good, the additional level gained with the Parry maneuver gives her a base Trait Level of Great, as well. She rolls and gets a +2 result, meaning her final Trait Level is Superb (it would be even higher, but the highest possible rank is Superb).

The Cardinal's Guard parries Regenald's slash!

"If that is all you've got, boy, then you will meet the God you've so brashly scorned, very soon now!" the Guard sneers.

"Your threats don't frighten me," Regenald retorts. "It takes far more than idle words to sway the heart of a Musketeer!"

Since no one else is involved in the combat, and both sides have performed their maneuvers (Regenald performed a slash, which the Guard parried), Step Three: Combat, is over.

Automatic Parry

Characters who do not select a defensive maneuver are not completely defenseless. Each character is allowed one Automatic Parry against incoming attacks as a "default" defense. This defense will usually be less effective than a standard Parry, but it gives characters a chance against attacks made against them.

Automatic Parry: If a character did not select a defensive maneuver during Step One, such as a Dodge or Parry, they can perform a desperate, last ditch "Automatic Parry." The Automatic Parry will be equal to a character's Fencing skill, minus one trait level.

If a character elects to perform a Dodge, Lock, Parry or Riposte maneuver, he/she loses the option for an automatic Parry, unless attacked by more than one opponent. If a character is attacked by more than one opponent, the character gets one Automatic Parry per extra incoming attacks, at a cumulative penalty of 1 level with each attack made against him/her (so a character who is attacked by three opponents automatically parries at the normal Automatic Parry level, then at -1 level, and finally at -2 levels for the last attack).

Example #6: In the next turn, Regenald's player elects to continue the offensive, performing a Thrust maneuver. Regenald hopes the speed of the Thrust maneuver will allow him to catch the Guard before she has a chance to act, ending it quickly.

The Guard also plans to attack during this combat round. The Game Master chooses a bold maneuver for the Guard, the Fleche, to impale the young Musketeer.

Regenald's Initiative becomes Superb (his Reflexes plus one level for the Thrust maneuver). The Guard's Initiative is Mediocre (her Reflexes are rated at Good, minus two levels because of the penalty for the Fleche maneuver).

Regenald wins the Initiative, and gets to act first.

Regenald's player flips over his card, and the Guard's eyes widen in fear. She didn't plan on performing a defensive maneuver, so she'll have to depend on her Automatic Parry to save her. Unfortunately, the Automatic Parry isn't a sure-fire defense, and her skill will only be Fair (her Fencing skill of Good, minus one level).

Regenald's trait level is Great (based on Reflexes). He rolls, coming up with a -1 effect, giving him a final trait level of Good.

The Guard (controlled by the Game Master) rolls a +0 result, giving her a final trait level of Fair. Not enough... Regenald strikes true!

Characters can also perform an Automatic Dodge, but only against ranged attacks, since the first instinct of fencers is to parry an attack. When performing an Automatic Dodge, the character's defensive trait level is equal to Reflexes, minus one level.

It is only possible to Automatic Dodge against attacks that the character is aware of, making it impossible to Automatic Dodge against surprise attacks. See Ranged Attacks, for further details.

Reaction Rolls

Although characters involved in fencing duels commit themselves to maneuvers during the Maneuver Selection step, they have the opportunity to alter their planned tactics, provided they are skilled enough combatants. This change of tactics is called a "Reaction."

Outlined below are rules covering "Reactions," which allow fencers to adapt to changing circumstances during an ongoing melee.

Reaction Rolls: Modifying a character's present tactics (the maneuver selected during Step One: Maneuver Selection) requires a successful Unopposed Action roll based on the current level of Fencing skill. The target trait level is equal to the current Initiative of the character attacking him/her.

A successful roll allows the character to "re-chose" their maneuver, during the current combat round, without suffering any additional penalties to the newly chosen maneuver, or without needing to wait until their Initiative is announced. This is an especially useful option if a character suddenly needs to perform a Parry, or to perform some other maneuver to save their lives.

Although this rule causes a "loop-hole" in the Initiative step, its inherent difficulty makes it improbably that anyone, except for the most skilled fencers, can beat out lightning fast speeds. This balance between skill and speed has always been a factor in real fencing situations, and should be maintained in the swashbuckling style of the Across The Dune Sea campaign setting.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that like the character's Initiative, a character's Fencing skill changes, depending on other actions taken during that round. Improving your Initiative by trading in Fencing skill will alter the chances your character will have to later "React" to a foe's maneuver.

A character cannot "React" to a maneuver performed by an opponent after he or she has already performed their chosen maneuver for that round. Therefore, it is not possible for a character to Lunge at their foe, then "React" to parry their attack later in the same round.

Characters cannot usually "React" to ranged attacks, but some Game Masters may allow Reactions if the character is aware of the attack, or made aware by another character (an ally shouting "Look out!" to alert a target of an attack, for example).

Example #7: The action in Example #6 didn't have to turn out the way it was described. Faced with Regenald's Thrust, the Guard (controlled by the Game Master) knows her Automatic Parry won't be enough to protect her. She reasons that unless she changes her planned maneuver, she'll be run through by Regenald's blade. She decides to "React" to Regenald's attack, to parry, instead of perform a fleche.

To determine if she can alter her selected maneuver, the Guard (Game Master) must roll her current Fencing skill (still at Good, since she didn't trade any to raise her Initiative) against Regenald's Initiative for that round (Superb). She needs to roll a +2 or she won't be able to "React" in time.

The Guard rolls a +1, failing her roll. She can't react to Regenald's attack, and must rely on her Automatic Parry to save her. If she had rolled a +2 result (or higher), she would be able to look through her maneuvers and choose a new maneuver (in this case, either a dodge or parry!).


At this point, the results of the combat round are determined, and applied to the characters or to the environment. The kinds of results typical of combat include characters being hurt, chairs being smashed, candles being cut in half, etc. etc.

If none of the characters involved in the combat are injured, or the environment is not harmed in some way, this step is easily resolved. The Game Master and the players re-evaluate the situation, deciding whether or not combat should continue. If it is determined that combat should proceed, then a new round begins, starting again at Step One: Maneuver Selection.

If, on the other hand, a character is injured, or the environment surrounding the combatants is impacted by the actions of the round, those effects must be determined and applied appropriately.

Injured Characters

As could be guessed, a character who is struck by another character, either from a blade, empty hand, or firearm, will incur some sort of injury.

Damage is calculated from four separate factors:

A) The first is "Basic Damage," which is a measure of how well the attacker managed to hit the defender. This is determined by counting how many levels the attacker "hit by" from the level needed to hit the opponent (the final Defensive Trait Level).

For example, if a Fair result is needed to hit an opponent, and the attacker rolled a Great hit, he struck the opponent for 2 points of basic damage (Great is 2 levels "above" Fair).

B) The second factor involved in determining a wound's severity is the "Offensive Damage Modifier." This is based on two different items, the weapon used in the attack and the character's Muscle attribute. A character's scale also figures into this, but is rarely an issue (except when the attack is made by a beast, like a sand dragon).

The tables listed below will help determine the Offensive Damage Modifier for an attack. To speed combat up, characters should figure the Offensive Damage Modifier for each weapon they use, and record that figure on their character sheet, so that the figure is readily available (be sure to update this figure when that character's Muscle attribute changes).

        Muscle-Powered Weapons:
        -1      no weapon, practice weapon (epee, foil)
        +0      small weapon (dagger, knife, main-gauche, rock)
        +1      below average-sized weapon (club, whip)
        +2      average-sized weapon (cutlass, rapier, saber, large club)
        +3      large weapon (halberd, pike, pole arm)
        +1      for sharpness (add to other weapon damage)

        Character's Muscle Trait Level:
        +3      Superb
        +2      Great
        +1      Good
        +0      Fair
        -1      Mediocre
        -2      Poor
        -3      Terrible

Example of Offensive Damage Modifier: Regenald is attacking a unruly ruffian in a bar, who is resisting arrest for his disorderly conduct. Regenald's weapon is a rapier, which gives him +2. His Muscle is Fair, giving him an additional +0, making the final Offensive Damage Modifier +2. Knowing that this is his primary attack, Regenald's player writes "Rapier, +2 Damage (+2 Total Offensive Damage Modifier)" on his character sheet.
C) The third figure used in determining damage severity is the Defensive Damage Modifier. This figure is usually based on the character's Damage Capacity and the armor a character wears. Since armor provides little defense against firearms, and it can be uncomfortable (at best) on the desert seas of the world, armor is rarely worn on Ankrinn, so the figure is usually based solely off the character's Damage Capacity.

Listed below are the values used to determine a character's Defensive Damage Modifier, based on Damage Capacity. Also listed are some sample values for the armor that is sometimes worn, but these values will be used infrequently, due to the rarity of armor in the Across The Dune Sea campaign setting.

        Damage Capacity:
        +3      Superb
        +2      Great
        +1      Good
        +0      Fair
        -1      Mediocre
        -2      Poor
        -3      Terrible

        +1      Heavy cloak
        +2      Buff Coat (rigid-leather)
        +3      Plate Cuirass (plate mail breast plate)
Some especially sharp players or Game Masters may notice that a character with a Superb Damage Capacity is just as resilient as a Plate Cuirass. This observation is essentially correct, and seems realistic, but the fact that armor isn't normally worn should be kept in mind at all times. In a world where black-powder technology is in its infancy, and nimble swords are common weapons, this somewhat unrealistic game mechanic is important in keeping characters alive.

D) The last figure used to determine damage is the Realism Modifier. This factor determines the level of lethality and realism that a campaign is set to emulate, with 0 being the most realistic, counting up as the setting becomes less and less realistic and lethal. The standard Realism Modifier for the Across The Dune Sea campaign setting is 1, meaning it is slightly less lethal than "reality."

Taking into account all of these factors, the final damage of a wound is determined by the following formula:

Total Damage = Basic Damage + Offensive Damage Modifier - Defensive Damage Modifier - Realism Modifier (+/- damage roll)

Example #8: In example #6, Regenald hit the Guard with a Thrust. At this point in the combat, Step Four, Regenald's player needs to calculate the damage Regenald inflicted with his swift attack.

The first factor in determining damage is the Basic Damage. Regenald rolled a Good attack, beating the Guard's Automatic Parry by 1 trait level (the Guard rolled a Fair). Therefore, the Basic Damage is 1 point.

The next factor is the Offensive Damage Modifier, which depends on Regenald's Muscle and the weapon being used. Regenald's Muscle of Fair gives him a +0 Offensive Damage Modifier. His player then adds the bonus for Regenald's rapier, which is +2, resulting in a total Offensive Damage Modifier of +2. Usually this figure is determined before hand, and written on the character sheet for later use.

The third step is to determine the opponent's Defensive Damage Modifier. The Guard's Damage Capacity is rated at Fair, making the base Defensive Damage Modifier equal to +0. She isn't wearing any armor, not even a thick tunic, so the final Defensive Damage Modifier equals +0.

Totaling all of these figures together (1 point of Basic Damage, plus 2 points from the Offensive Damage Modifier, minus 0 points for the Defensive Damage Modifier), Regenald's player ends up with +3. He then subtracts the Realism Modifier, which is set at 1 for a standard campaign, resulting in a final value of +2 damage.

The Guard, wincing from the pain, curses Regenald and levels her sword once more at the youthful fencer.

"You'll pay dearly for that!" she spits.

"Surrender," Regenald bellows. "I don't want to hurt you any further!"

"I'll gladly die, before I surrender to you!"

OPTIONAL RULE -- DAMAGE ROLL: Although this method is more complicated, requiring additional die rolls and calculations, it is recommended for use in most campaigns. It adds an element of chance to damaging opponents, making it possible to merely graze a foe, regardless of the amount of Offensive Damage Modifier an attacker may have against a foe. It also allows for weaker fencers to do "substantial" damage foes who are physically tough and resistant.

To use this rule, all of the calculations shown above must be completed, as normally done. This first figure is considered the "calculated" damage. The attacker then makes a roll, not based on any particular trait, to determine a range from -4 to +4. This roll is then applied to the calculated damage to produce the final damage. Negative final damage is treated as zero damage (basically, just a slash made into the opponent's clothing, not deep enough to cause any real damage).

There are three rules that must be followed when using the optional damage roll:

1) If the calculated damage is positive, the damage roll cannot exceed the calculated damage. For example, if the calculated damage is two, any damage roll of +3 or +4 will be reduced to +2.

2) If the calculated damage is positive, the final damage roll cannot be less than one.

3) If the calculated damage is negative or zero, the final damage may be raised to a maximum of one point by a damage roll.

Example: The calculated damage is +2. A damage roll of +2 to +4 will result in a final damage of four points, since damage cannot be more than doubled by a damage roll. A damage roll of +1 results in a final damage of three points, while a damage roll of 0 results in two points of final damage. Any negative die roll results in one point of final damage, since a positive calculated damage cannot be reduced below one by a damage roll.

For simplicity, of course, the GM can simply ignore the limitations, and allow the damage roll to be anywhere from -4 to +4. Let the chips fall where they may....

Recording Wounds

Once the final damage is determined, it is recorded on the wounded fencer's character sheet. This damage will affect a character in any of several stages, or levels, of severity.

These stages are as follows:

Scratch: The lightest possible damage a character can suffer. Although this level has no real game effects, it is the first stage towards being hurt, if hit again.

Hurt: The character has suffered a light wound, but it is enough to cause him/her to slow down a bit. The character's physical traits, Reflexes, Muscle and Stamina, are lowered by 1 level.

Very Hurt: The character is severely wounded, doubled over in the agony of the damage inflicted. The character's physical traits, Reflexes, Muscle and Stamina, are lowered by 2 levels. The character's Willpower is also lowered by 1 level.

Incapacitated: The character has suffered horrible wounds, so bad in fact, that he is incapable of acting, except for dragging himself a few feet every now and then, or gasping out a few important words. The character must roll against their Stamina at a Fair difficult level to stay conscious. A character who spends 1 Fudge Point (see the section regarding Fudge Points) can manage one, tremendous action, before falling from his wounds (possibly even a fencing maneuver!).

Near Death: The character has lost consciousness and is slowly dying from the horrible wounds he has suffered. Unless he is seen by a doctor, he will die within the hour, or perhaps even sooner....

Dead: Although valiant and steadfast, the character's heart and spirit cannot overcome this great of an obstacle....

A character who is Hurt, or even Very Hurt, can negate the penalties incurred by his wounds if he can make a Willpower attribute roll at Good difficulty level. Making this roll will reduce the penalties by 1, making it possible to be Hurt without suffering any reductions from his attributes, and being at only-1 when Very Hurt.

Each point of damage is not equal to an injury stage, however, nor are the stages cumulative. A character could be only "scratched" by one attack, then "Very Hurt" by another, bypassing the "Hurt" stage altogether.

To record any wounds a character sustains, and to determine the severity of a wound, each player will be using the area on their character sheet that looks like the following table (or they will need to create such a table, if they are not using the existing character sheet):

        Scratch         1,2*

        Hurt            3,4*

        Very Hurt       5,6

        Incapac.        7,8

        Near Death      9+
* Characters may add the Realism Modifier, set by the Game Master during campaign set-up, to their Scratch and Hurt hits total (the standard value is 1). Therefore, a Scratch hit level would become 1, 2, and 3, and a Hurt hit level of would become 4, 5 and 6, rather than the listed 1, 2 for Scratched, and the 3, 4 for Hurt. This would also increase the wound numbers for Very Hurt, Incapacitated and Near Death, so that a Wound table in a campaign that has a Realism Modifier of 1 would look like the following:

        Scratch        1,2,3

        Hurt            4,5,6

        Very Hurt       7,8

        Incapac.        9,10

        Near Death      11+
Note that on the character sheet provided, the numbers for the corresponding wound levels are not listed. This is because the numbers can be changed from campaign to campaign, based on the Realism Modifier. Instead, a space is provided for writing in the numbers relating to the wound levels of a particular campaign.

Because these numbers can change from game to game, all further tables are listed unmodified by any Realism Modifiers.

The numbers listed after the wound severity is the Total Damage determined in the steps outlined above. This number is the damage done from one attack, not a cumulative number. For instance, as determined in Example #8, a final damage of +2 would cause a wound severity of "Scratched," since 2 is listed next to the Wound level "Scratched."

If the Total Damage of an attack was 5, the character would have suffered a wound of "Very Hurt" intensity, at the time of that attack. It is not necessary to first be "Scratched," and then "Hurt," to reach the point of being "Very Hurt."

According to the Wound table, used to determine and record wounds, it is not possible to kill a character outright, with one blow. This is not an oversight, but is intended to prevent accidental deaths, and to reinforce the less lethal aspect of the genre. GMs who wish to incorporate a wound level for Death, may if they wish, but that decision and its damage number, are left up the individual Game Master.

To record the wound, the player would cross out one of the "squares" listed under "Scratched," so that the Wound table would look like this:

        Scratch        1,2

        Hurt            3,4

        Very Hurt       5,6

        Incapac.        7,8

        Near Death      9+
Since the wound is only a Scratch, the character does not suffer any penalties. If the character received a Hurt, later in combat, he would check the wound as follows:

        Scratch         1,2

        Hurt            3,4

        Very Hurt       5,6

        Incapac.        7,8

        Near Death      9+
Now that the character has been "Hurt," he is at -1 level to Reflexes, Muscle and Stamina.

If there is no open box for a given wound result, the character takes the next highest wound for which there is an open box. For example, if the character shown above suffers a wound that scores a "Hurt" severity, he cannot take another Hurt wound (since the box is already checked off). Instead, the character would take a Very Hurt wound, which is the next highest wound that has an open box. Now, the table would look like:

        Scratch         1,2

        Hurt            3,4

        Very Hurt       5,6

        Incapac.        7,8

        Near Death      9+
If this character were to take another Hurt result, he would look up to the next open wound level, which is Incapacitated, since Hurt and Very Hurt are already checked off.

Note that three boxes are provided under Scratch. By using this system, a fencer would have to sustain four wounds of the Scratch severity, before he is Hurt. Since the range of damage is increased by the Realism Modifier of the campaign, it becomes far more likely that a character will be Scratched by slight wounds, than it is likely a character will be instantly be Incapacitated from one hit. This will lengthen combat, and make it far less likely that the characters will be killed outright by a single, lucky roll.

Game Masters may wish to disallow the range increase for Realism Modifiers for their "lackey" characters (sometimes referred to as "cannon fodder"). This will allow player-characters to fight through legions of lesser fencers, quickly, as is common in movies and books simulating the genre. NPCs that are more central to the story, such as a character's arch-rival, should be allowed to have the increases, however, since they are meant to be on par with the skills of the PCs.

Another option is for the Game Master to reduce lackey NPC wounds to three levels of severity: Undamaged, Hurt and Out of Combat. This would further reduce the "staying power" of the cannon fodder-type character, and make it easier for player-characters to display their phenomenal fencing talents.

"Classic Bits" Notes -- Impromptu Weapons

Swashbuckling heroes are often experts at improvisation, and can use any number of every day items as weapons. Brooms, fireplace pokers, chairs and canes are perfect weapons when you manage to loose your rapier, and are still required to fight for Queen and country.

Whenever a character uses a "non-traditional" fencing weapon, he/she will suffer minor penalties because of its unusual form.

Items that are similar in size and shape to typical fencing weapons, such as pokers, canes or brooms, will cause the character to fight at -1 level to Reflexes and Fencing skill.

Items that are larger and generally dissimilar to fencing weapons, such as chairs or elaborate candelabras, will fight with a penalty of -2 levels to Reflexes and Fencing skill.

Combat should proceed normally, but care should be exercised to permit only maneuvers that are appropriate to the item being used.

Most impromptu weapons will have an Offensive Damage Modifier of +1 or +2 (like a club). It should also be noted that some weapons will only survive one or two uses before breaking, due to the punishing nature of combat (common sense will help the GM determine an item's durability).

In campaigns that closer resemble cinematic levels of realism (which isn't really all that realistic!), impromptu weapons can be used without any penalties, and will often last until no longer needed, at which point they break or fall apart, once put down.

Automatic Death

There will be times when it would be silly to roll dice to determine the outcome of an action. For example, if a character is holding a gun to another character's head, set to fire, there is very little that could be done to avoid the inevitable. No roll is needed to kill a character in such a hopeless position, but player-characters will seldom use such a rule... the code of the swashbuckler demands a foe be given a chance at a honorable death!

Pulling Punches

There are times when a character doesn't really want to cause his opponent any harm. This could be if the opponent is simply an enraged, brash youth, who doesn't understand the seriousness of their attack on the PC. Or, characters involved in a duel might only be fighting to first blood, where a Scratch result will be sufficient to win. This voluntary "reduction" of force is called pulling your punch.

To pull your punch, simply announce the maximum wound level that you will deal with a successful attack. For example, in a duel to first blood, a fencer may state that he is going for a Scratch result. In this case, even an extremely lucky roll, with a razor sharp sword, will only nick an opponent (even though the figured damage may add up to something as deadly as +6 or higher).

Environmental Effects

Characters are not the only things that are harmed in combat. In the wild fury of armed conflict, the environment around the swashbucklers often suffers as harshly as the combatants themselves. Fires spread, engulfing even more of dying dune ships, as bitter enemies circle each other, looking for the opportunity to deliver the killing blow. Ropes continue to fray, threatening to drop fair maidens, hundred of feet to rocks below. Powder kegs, set ablaze, shudder and burst, raining splinters and death onto the unfortunate few too close to run.

It would be impossible to outline rules or effects for every possible situation that may arise in combat, but some guidelines are provided to give Game Masters an idea of what can happen in the chaos of swordplay, castle sieges, and dune ship combat.

The first and most important rule to follow, for Game Masters, is strive to make combats interesting. There is danger in a duel, but that danger is often doubled or tripled, when that duel spills over into the surroundings where the characters face one another.

For example:

Two bitter rivals decide that they will end their rivalry, once and for all, in a duel to the death. The gloves are thrown down, and they draw their swords, in the middle of a formal dinner, given by a count. They battle, to a stand stall, and then lock swords.

"I'll be serving up your gizzard, this evening, for desert!" shouts one of the fencers, then pushes his opponent back.

His opponent flies back, smashing into a heavy dining table. Tall candles, positioned elegantly on the table, fall over, catching fire to spilled wine. A fire ripples across the table, catching on the fallen fencer's shirt, but he rolls to the ground, extinguishing the flames on his arm.

"You'll die," he growls, "be sure of that!"

The two trade wild slashes, their parries clanging like bells. The noblemen and ladies in waiting, dining with the count, scream and rush towards the exits. The fire spreads, creeping onto the heavy tapestries covering the walls, as the duel continues....

Isn't that much more exciting than a straight duel, where the only dangers posed are the ones carrying steel?

The GM should keep in mind that during the Resolution step, the environment gets its chance to move. The timing of this "move" is critical, and must take place during the fourth step, since it will often have a direct result on the character's next maneuver selection.

And, the heightened drama of the characters finishing their actions, then turning to realize the other forces at work around them, is classic to swashbuckling adventure.

A few of the possible effects the environment may have are listed below, with some quick suggestions for how best to handle a situation in game play.

BROKEN GLASS: Sometimes, a fencing battle can cause a lot of collateral damage, especially to glass! Windows are often shattered, as characters are pushed or thrown through them, goblets are broken as fencers accidentally knock over tables, and chandeliers shatter as they fall to the floor.

This glass is often just an annoyance to be cleaned up later, but villains might find a large piece quite useful when they're disarmed (treat as a "one-shot" weapon that does +1 damage).

Or, a character might be threatened with a unflattering scar, by being thrown on a pile of broken glass (or being slowly pushed onto the glass, face first, by a particularly despicable villain).

FIRE: The most common environmental effect in fencing duels is the fire. Expensive liquors, held in clumsy goblets, are often spilled in the fury of combat, then lit by the flames of candles used to light the area.

These flames are often more painful than lethal, doing 2 to 4 points of Basic Damage, but they spread quickly. A small fire, caused by spilt wine, can quickly engulf an entire table, spring over to wall coverings, and quickly spread throughout the rest of the room. A good rule of thumb is that the fire will spread by half as much as its current size, every round (this is based not on scientific study of fires and their growth rates, but more the drama of such a fire during a duel).

It is important to describe where the fire is, in relation to the characters, during combat. This may lead to innovative use of various maneuvers, such as using a Push maneuver to throw a foe into the flames raging behind him.

FRAYING ROPE: Characters sometimes find themselves suspended high above a dune craft's deck, or dangling off a unraveling tapestry in a cold, stone castle, facing a blunt deadline... the diminishing strength of their safety. A rope, or tapestry, is often not strong enough to hold the character's weight, and will begin to unravel from the strain, threatening to snap. When the line breaks, of course, the character will fall a great height, either causing them to be seriously harmed, or possibly causing them to lose their lives.

The Game Master should determine the number of combat rounds that will pass before the rope with break. This number should be long enough to give the characters a chance to reach safety (either on their own or with help from their allies), but not too long, to take away the drama of the moment. Failure to reach safety in time will result in the rope breaking, sending the characters downward. Damage is set by the Game Master, based on the distance a character falls (1 point for every 5 feet or so seems reasonable).

Typically, as soon as the character reaches safety (regardless of the amount of time the GM set for the rope to break), the rope goes limp, and starts to fall. The character escaped just in time!

Especially benevolent Game Masters can give the characters a chance at safety, even if the rope they are dangling from breaks, in the form of broad tarps stretched out beneath them, or a well timed passing cart, filled with hay. Or, the characters may be able to break their fall by grabbing a hold of something on their way down (requiring a Good result, based on a Reflexes check).

EXPLOSIONS: Like the fragile goblets containing wine, kegs of black powder are often stored in a dangerous or clumsy manner. Inevitably, these powder kegs are set ablaze, usually in conjunction with a fire (see above), during a melee, leaving a few scant seconds for everyone nearby to find cover. Once the fire burns it way through the wood, the powder keg will explode, doing from Good to Superb damage to anyone unfortunately enough to be caught in the blast.

Sometimes, the explosion will so be large that the Game Master will declare anyone engulfed in the blast will be killed outright, with no chance for survival. Explosions of this size are usually the result of large quantities of powder being ignited, such as a ship's store of gunpowder, and can level entire fortresses or warships.

When a Game Master wants to use this environmental effect in a game, she should give the player characters a warning of a turn or two. This will give them a chance to flee, or it will give them the opportunity to stay, holding tight to their nemesis, insuring that they will both parish, but the evil of their enemy will be forever destroyed.

An alternative to the "burning powder kegs" option for causing explosions can be battling in an area that is under siege, and is being heavily bombarded by enemy troops. The characters battle it out, as cannonballs drop from the sky, hoping to end their duel before the cannonfire's accuracy increases, getting ever closer....

RUNAWAY VEHICLES: Characters will often find themselves fighting in a vehicle, such as a dune ship, which suddenly becomes uncontrolled, because the pilot is injured in the combat (or jumps into the fight him/herself). The runaway ship careens out of control, towards certain destruction by crashing into a rocky mountain. Or, the ship could be speeding straight towards another damaged ship, destined to ram the burning craft.

The end result isn't necessarily violent and bloody, as could be expected by dropping off the edge of a steep cliff. Often, the ship just will become too damaged to be usable, and the characters will find themselves stranded in unknown, dangerous territory.

Like almost all of the other environmental effects, the characters should be given a number of turns (kept secret by the GM) to either alter the vehicles course (often requiring a Muscle roll) or to jump off the vehicle, to safety. Failure to do so could result in sever bodily harm, but will rarely cause a character to be killed automatically, as is sometimes the case with Powder keg explosions.

Although runaway vehicles are usually ships, characters can sometimes find themselves involved in a spirited contest of "fisticuffs" in a runaway coach. Perhaps the driver has fallen off, or has been killed by a stray bullet, but the horses are spooked at this point, and are running as fast as they can!

If the characters involved in the combat are still able to continue the fight, and seem willing to do so, the GM begins a new round, starting again with Step One: Maneuver Selection.

Performing Non-Fencing Maneuvers

Some players might read these combat rules, and then say to themselves, "What if I don't want to run someone through with my sword? Can't I just punch them in the nose?" The answer is yes, that's very possible! Fencing is just the most common form of combat on Ankrinn, and therefore, the combat rules presented within the Across The Dune Sea campaign book center on that particular form of conflict.

Performing maneuvers that are not fencing-based is handled in the same way as the fencing maneuvers. Players chose the action for their characters during Step One: Maneuver Selection, just as they would a fencing maneuver. That action is recorded, and kept hidden until the character's Initiative allows them to act.

The player then determines their character's Initiative for the combat round, as they normally would, but they do not receive any Initiative bonuses or penalties for performing non-fencing related maneuvers. Usually the character will act on his/her base Initiatives (which is equal to their Reflexes), because their Initiatives are rarely, if ever, modified. There are a few exceptions to this rule (characters especially skilled in Fisticuffs, for example, will get Initiative bonuses).

During the Combat Step, the character will perform their maneuver normally, just as he/she would have done with a fencing maneuver. If a character chose to punch a target in Step One, he/she would perform that punch at this time.

Usually, with any offensive action taken by a character, a Reflexes roll will need to be made against the opponent's Reflexes roll (minus one level, for an "Automatic Dodge" -treat like an Automatic Parry). The character then does damage based on his/her Muscle (remember the Offensive Damage Modifier for not having a weapon is -1, plus whatever bonuses or penalties a character may have to their Muscle trait level).

Stuart Montclair has fallen. Duke Windham stands over him, laughing, gloating about his victory before he delivers the killing blow, but Stuart isn't totally helpless. He grabbed a small, fist-sized rock when he fell to the ground. It is not the same as his rapier, but it will have to do.

During Step One: Maneuver Selection, Stuart's player decides Stuart will throw the rock at Duke Windham's head, then roll away from him, to escape.

During the Initiative step, the player controlling Stuart determines that his base Initiative with the rock is Good (equal to his Reflexes).

Duke Windham's player has chosen to perform Thrust, after doing some additional gloating (he is opting to lower his base Initiative to Terrible, to give Montclair time to squirm!). Windham's final Initiative is Poor (he gets a bonus of 1 level for the Thrust maneuver).

The Game Master moves on to Step Three: Combat, and goes through the Initiative levels.

Stuart wins Initiative for this round, so the player controlling Stuart will make his attack before Windham has a chance to act. He rolls his Reflexes to see if he hits. Windham's Defensive Roll will be a Automatic Dodge (he can't parry a thrown rock!).

If Stuart hits, he'll figure damage normally (during Step Four), using the rock and his Muscle to figure the Offensive Damage Modifier.

Ranged Attacks

Not all attacks will be performed at hand-to-hand range, with swords or chairs or candlesticks. There will be many times when characters use ranged weapons, such as bows or firearms, to attack foes from afar.

Attacks performed at range can be either an Opposed action or an Unopposed action, depending on the circumstances of the attack and the position of the target.

If the target is unaware of the ranged attack, the attacker can perform the action as an Unopposed action to determine whether or not the attack hits. The target trait level will be determined by the Game Master, who will set the difficulty based on several factors, such as the distance to the target, the visibility between the two characters, and the activity level of the target. All of the factors involved in the ranged attack should be considered when setting the trait level of the Unopposed action, rather than resulting in modifications to the attacker's given skill.

Example: The pirate captain, Armand DeWinter, aims his pistol at the young dune sailor, Tristan Gould. Tristan is unaware that Armand is behind him, and so the attack made by Armand will be handled as an Unopposed action.

The Game Master figures the attack will be fairly easy, since Armand is only about ten feet behind Tristan. The two characters are on a burning ship, however, so visibility is poor, making the shot a little more difficult.

The GM assigns a difficulty trait level of Mediocre, based on range and visibility. Tristan is just standing still, so the Game Master doesn't figure in any difficulty modifiers for the targets activity. If Tristan were running, the GM might set the difficulty as high as Good.

When the target of the attack is aware of the danger, the attack should be handled as an Opposed action, with the skill of the attacker being rolled against the target's defensive trait. The skill of the attacker is dependent on the kind of attack being used, and whether or not they have trained with that weapon. The defender's defensive trait will usually be based on a dodge, since most characters faced with a ranged attack will "react" to declare a Dodge maneuver.

If the character has decided not to Dodge, or cannot dodge, due to a failed Reaction Roll or having already performed a maneuver for the round, the attack will be handled as a Unopposed action. This is also the case if the target decides to return fire, instead of dodge, "reacting" to a Firearm maneuver.

The Game Master can still modify the attack, based on the variables listed above, such as range and lighting. In the case of an Opposed action, however, the GM sets a minimum value necessary to hit. If the attack beats the defender's roll, but doesn't reach the trait level set by the Game Master due to the difficulty of the shot, the attack will miss.

It is important to note, however, that most ranged attacks are difficult to dodge, due to the fact that they are harder to see. A character cannot really dodge a bullet, since he can't see the bullet coming towards him, but he can try to get out of the way of where he feels the bullet will hit. This added difficulty reduces the defender's defensive trait by -2 levels. Thrown weapons, such as knives, which are easier to see, do not modify defensive traits.

Example: Tessa Depruit is being "courted" by a local scoundrel, who isn't taking no for an answer. Unwilling to fall prey to his less than persuasive charms, she pulls out the Pocket Pistol she carries in her purse and takes aim.

"Let this be a lesson to you," she purrs, and she squeezes the trigger. "Not all women find you irresistible!"

The scoundrel, eyes wide open from surprise, elects to dodge the attack.

Tessa's pistol skill is rated as Good. The scoundrel, who has been in situations like this before, has trained to Dodge, making his trait level Good (his base Reflexes of Fair, plus one level with Dodge). Since the attack is a firearm, however, his defensive trait drops to Mediocre.

The Game Master doesn't assign a minimum value to hit, since the two are so close.

The two roll the die and check their trait levels... and Tessa does, in fact, teach the scoundrel a thing or two about women!

Ranged attacks base their damage on either Muscle for thrown weapons, with minor adjustments, or have a base damage level, for firearms. The figures listed for Muscle-based Range Weapons are in addition to the modifiers listed for the character's Muscle. Listed below are the values that should be used for ranged attacks common to the Across The Dune Sea setting.

      Muscle-based Ranged Weapons
        +0      Small Bow
        +1      Medium Bow
        +2      Heavy Bow, Long Bow

        +2      Dueling Pistol, Pocket Pistol, Light Crossbow
        +3      Pistol, Heavy Crossbow
        +4      Carbine, Arbalest
        +6      Musket, Harquebus, Blunderbuss
The technology for black-powder weapons is still very limited, so a Firearm will only be able to be used once in any given combat. The time it takes to reload is too great for a character to reload his weapon. This limitation has made Muscle-based Weapons, such as bows, viable options that should not be overlooked or under-estimated. It has also made fencing weapons necessary, since characters need some kind of combat ability after firing their initial volleys.


An easier, faster alternative to the Dueling System is also provided, called the Melee System. This system has been designed, keeping ease of play and speed, in mind. As stated before, this simplicity is offered at the expense of detail and the feel of fencing tactics.

The Melee System mirrors some of the aspects presented in the Dueling System, so a good understanding of that system would be helpful, but it is not required (except the Resolution step is identical in both fencing systems).

The similarities between the two systems is intentional, and make it possible to flip-flop between the systems, dependent on the circumstances. For instance, a fight between a player-character and several, faceless lackeys, might not require the complexity or detail of the Dueling System. The Melee System would be perfect for this type of conflict. While a climactic battle between a player-character and his arch-nemesis, would call for the tactical aspects of the Dueling System. It is not necessary to alter characters in any way, in order to make them conform to either system.

The following steps outline the procedures that should be followed for the Melee System, complete with examples, to better illustrate the intended usage of the rules provided.


The first step necessary for combat in the Melee System is to determine your character's Initiative. Presented below are two options for determining Initiative in a combat round, when using the Melee System.

1) The first option is the most simplistic of the three presented, and the most similar to the Initiative system detailed in the Dueling System. All characters act on their Reflexes, going in reverse from Superb to Terrible. To make things even faster, the Game Master could keep a master list of all of the characters' Initiatives/Reflexes, using it to reference during play, from adventure to adventure.

2) The second option is more random, but still utilizes the Reflexes attribute of each character. Each character rolls a d6, and adds a bonus to the roll, based on his/her Reflexes.

The bonuses are listed below:

      Reflexes Trait    Init. Bonus
      --------------    -----------
        Terrible        +0
        Poor            +0
        Mediocre        +0
        Fair            +1
        Good            +2
        Great           +3
        Superb  +4
Characters perform their actions in order, from highest to lowest. If the characters involved in the combat score a tie, the tie can either be resolved, or remain a tie. If the characters who achieve a tie result are allies, they should go at the same time, since their actions will not harm, or otherwise adversely affect, each other. If the two character who tie are adversaries, the character with the highest unmodified Reflexes attribute should go first.

If the tie persists (the characters have identical Reflexes), the two characters involved should resolve the tie by rolling again, using that roll to break the tie. This tie breaking roll doesn't alter the first Initiative roll. In other words, rolling to break a tie result doesn't alter the character's place in the sequence of events.

Example #9: Regenald's Reflexes are rated at Great, which gives him a bonus of +3 to determine Initiative. In combat with the Cardinal's Guard, he rolls a d6, then adds his +3 bonus. Rolling a 4, gives him a final Initiative of 7.

The Cardinal's Guard (who is being controlled by the Game Master) has a Reflexes trait of Good. This gives her a bonus of +2. The Game Master rolls a d6, rolling a 3. Adding the bonus for Reflexes, the Guard's final Initiative is 5, lower than Regenald.

If the roll was a 5 instead, the final Initiative would be 7, causing a tie. Since Regenald's unmodified Reflexes score is higher than the Guard, he would go first.

If neither system seems appealing to the Game Master or players, the option listed in the Customizing Notes, on page ??, for simplifying Initiative can be used instead. This method (which consists of going around the table, clockwise, acting in the order determined by the seating arrangement) is the least realistic in reflecting the abilities of the characters, but may be sufficient for some players and Game Masters, especially if the campaign doesn't focus as strongly on fencing.


Once the character's turn comes up, based on their Initiative, he/she determines their action for that combat round and then performs it, all in one step. This effectively shortcuts the additional Maneuver Selection step in the Dueling System, making it possible to quickly, and easily, adapt to changing circumstances.

If a character needs to perform a defensive maneuver during a round, he/she may act out of turn. Therefore, a character who loses his Initiative to a foe, he can still elect to Parry a foe's attack, at no penalty, and without needing to "React" to the attack (as done in the Dueling System). Again, while not an accurate depiction of true fencing combat, this makes combat faster and easier for all involved.

Example #10: Regenald and the Guard, from Examples # through #, are still at it! Regenald manages to win Initiative for the round, and when his turn comes up, Regenald's player looks over his character's list of studied maneuvers. He decides to perform a Slash maneuver, so he looks up the maneuver's effects (or checks his combat cards), and then performs the maneuver at that moment. It wasn't necessary for Regenald to chose the maneuver ahead of time.

If the Guard were to attack Regenald before he got a chance to act, Regenald could chose to perform a Dodge, without needing to "React" to the maneuver to change his tactics for that round. He is simply allowed to perform the maneuver, because it's in his best interests.


This step is identical to the Resolution step detailed in the Dueling System. Please see above for details.

Customizing Notes -- Cinematic Fencing

Game Masters who want a truly cinematic campaign, where characters have fantastic fencing skills, could allow characters to perform more than one maneuver per round.

The following table allows for extra maneuvers, dependent on a fencer's skill level, but is only one example of the many ways this sort of rule could be implemented.

      Fencing Skill    # of Maneuvers (per turn)
      -------------    -------------------------
        Terrible        1
        Poor            1
        Mediocre        1
        Fair            2
        Good            2
        Great           2
        Superb          3
Players would then select two maneuvers during the Maneuver Selection step. They are not allowed to select the same maneuver twice, unless it is a defensive maneuver. For instance, a character could not perform two Lunge maneuvers, but could chose to perform two Parry maneuvers (since a Parry is defensive in nature).

Often, characters will get two different Initiative traits, from the different effects the maneuvers have on the character's base Initiative. This is fine. The character will act on two separate occasions in the round, performing each maneuver at its designated time.


Wounds sustained in combat, or wounds that are caused by accident, can be healed through medical skill. This skill can either be Doctor or it can be due to Field Medicine.

A Scratch is too insignificant to require a roll on a medical skill. Usually, all scratch results are just erased off the character sheet, once combat has ended, provided the characters have a few minutes to tend to the wounds. Usually, these "scratches" don't simply vanish, but say on the character for a day or two, possibly causing some embarrassing moments in court, or leading the character to become the subject of a bit of gossip, which isn't always accurate ("Did you hear how he got that cut? I hear he was dueling with the prince, himself!").

A Good result on Doctor will heal all wounds by one level, which means that a Very Hurt result will be diminished to a Hurt result. A Hurt wound will result in a Scratch, so it will be effectively healed, since Scratches really don't count. A Great result with the Doctor skill will result in healing all wounds two levels, so that a Very Hurt result will be healed (remember, dropping to a Scratch result effectively means the wound has been healed). A Superb result with the Doctor skill will result in a healing of three levels (effectively healing a person who has been Incapacitated).

This effect is not instantaneous; it simply means that the wounds will heal. It still requires that the character rest, avoid strenuous activity, etc. etc. Although very unrealistic, especially for the relative technological level of Ankrinn, characters will heal one treated wound per day (pretty fast!). If the character doesn't rest, however, the wound may tear and reopen, but ultimately, this decision is left up to the Game Master, dependent on the circumstances and the wound.

Example: A character who has sustained three wounds (one Scratch, one Hurt, and one Very Hurt) is healed by a doctor, who rolls a Good result. The Scratch wound is healed immediately after the combat, so it is erased even before the doctor sees the character. The Hurt result, because of the Good roll made by the doctor, drops to Scratched (again, effectively being healed). The Very Hurt result drops to Hurt. All in all, the character is in decent shape, but must stay bedridden for two days (two wounds where healed), under the supervision of a doctor.

If a character doesn't receive medical help, wounds will heal on their own at a rate of one wound level per week, which is quite a bit longer, considering the speedy recovery rate when seeing a doctor. For example, a character who has been Incapacitated will become Very Hurt, after a week of rest.

Someone who is Near Death, however, will probably take quite a bit longer to "heal" to the Incapacitated level, regardless of the level of medical attention. The wounds, at that point, are just too severe to recover from so quickly.

Some characters may wish to seek out magical powers to aid in healing their wounds, which is very common for typical fantasy settings. On Ankrinn, this can be a very risky and dangerous idea, however, since the only known form of magic the black power of witchcraft. Not only will it be difficult to find someone who practices this arcane art (it would be suicide to admit to knowledge of such insidious secrets), witchcraft is a demanding and tainted form of magic. You might be healed, but there will be grave costs for your new vitality.

End of article.

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