WCRPG is unique in that there is no one "right" way to conduct combat; the system has been designed to be as flexible as possible in order to accommodate as many different types of gamers as possible. Combat therefore is based on a set of "combat methods". The differences in combat methods involve how a particular function is utilized (e.g. a gaming group that utilizes miniatures may or may not also utilize an orthogonal grid; if they don't, range is determined by direct measurement). There are also a few key differences between the three major scales of combat: Character-scale, Vehicle-scale and Capital Ship-scale; these are mainly differences in degrees of damage potential, defensive capabilities, time passage and distance covered in movement. There are also a few Skills that are used on one scale that are not used on others. Though there are several different potential methods for conducting combat in WCRPG, they all utilize a single set of general combat rules; it's these rules that will be discussed in this sub-Chapter.
All combat follows this general pattern:
- Determine if there is a surprise combat round.
- Roll Initiative checks.
- Determine initial ranges.
- Declare actions for the surprise round (if applicable).
- Resolve any surprise round actions (if applicable).
- Declare general combat actions.
- Resolve general combat actions.
- Resolve combat.
It is possible that a GM will have to go through some of the steps in this procedure several times before combat is finally resolved. Specifically, if it is determined that combat has not be concluded in step Eight of the procedure, steps Six through Eight will have to be repeated. Each step applies to all combatants; the more participants in a combat action, the longer it will take to reach its final resolution.
A Word on the Different Combat Methods
As previously mentioned, there are several different "combat methods" in WCRPG. During an adventure's planning phase, it is very important for a GM to select the combination of methods they will use and to inform their players of those methods. This is important largely from the standpoint of the meta-game; simply put, some players are looking for different role-playing experiences from others (see Chapter 10.3). It is important for the GM to cater to as many of the players in their group as possible in order to help make the whole experience more enjoyable for them. There are two key combat methods upon which a GM needs to decide: "grid" and "timing".
Combat in WCRPG may or may not be conducted on a combat grid. A "grid" in this case means any method of conducting combat wherein there is a visual means of determining the range between combatants. The presence of an actual grid is not a requirement of gridded combat though there is one in the strictest sense of the term's usage. A GM may elect to use a Physical Grid, an Abstract Grid or No Grid. Note that WCRPG handles all combat in no more than two dimensions; while combat in three dimensions would be more realistic, in terms of game-play all a third dimension would do would be to add an additional range modifier and make the game much more complex. GMs are welcome to play with house rules that account for a third-dimension if they so choose.
A physical grid is exactly what it sounds like: an orthogonal grid of whatever size the GM needs for the current action. Each square on the grid equals one range increment. A combatant may have up to eight different facings inside a given square oriented either orthogonally or diagonally. The physical grid best matches the type of combat seen in other pencil-and-paper role-playing game systems such as D&D™and Traveller™. A range and bearing calculator for physical grids is included in these rules in Chapter 6.2.3.
An abstract grid does not utilize an actual grid but does include physical objects that can be seen, moved and have their positions measured in relation to each other. Miniatures games such as Wings of War™ and Battlefleet Gothic™ work along this concept and it is this form of combat that probably relates most closely to the original Wing Commander games. In order to determine ranges along an abstract grid, a measuring stick will be required; a good scale to use is one inch per range increment for players who are familiar with imperial units and three centimeters per range increment for those familiar with metric units. Combatants on an abstract grid are not confined to a defined number of facings. This method lends itself to a good deal of realism though the GM and players will likely need a great deal of available space.
Combat can also be played with no grid. Most early video RPGs such as Dragon Warrior™ and Final Fantasy I™ use this type of system; the player simply picks an option to exercise when their turn comes up. A 2d10 roll is made every turn with the result indicating the range to the selected target. Move actions, facings and combat arcs in this method are essentially non-existent, allowing players to conduct more in terms of other actions if they desire. Combat without a grid has the benefit of not requiring any additional equipment or space to play out and has a tendency to move a little bit faster than other methods as a result; on the downside, it is far more abstract. It is recommended when playing with no grid that only a single set of HP counts be utilized and only those weapons capable of firing into the combatant's forward narrow firing arc be allowed (for more on firing arcs, see Chapter 6.2.3).
Rules for Utilization of Hex Grids
GMs who prefer to use a hexagonal grid over an orthogonal grid may do so; it should be noted, however, that the game's rules have been written assuming the use of an orthogonal grid and so use of a hex grid therefore requires some alterations. First, combatants may only have six different facings inside each hex; these are aligned with the edges of the hex, not the corners. Combatants that utilize combat arcs (see Chapters 9.3 and 9.4) will have six such arcs instead of four, one for each possible facing. Any reference of changes in heading by 45 and 90° increments should be changed to 60° (i.e. one facing), and 135° to 120° (two facings). Finally, any shots that would travel directly to port or starboard in an orthogonal map (target bearing 90° or 270°) may either "zigzag" along the off-hexes or may affect both corresponding hexes at half damage at the GM's discretion. In all cases, an individual hex represents one range increment just like a square in an orthogonal grid. A range and bearing calculator for hexagonal grids is included in these rules in Chapter 6.2.3.
An Alternative System for Non-Gridded Combat
GMs who utilize the standard range roll for non-gridded combat may find that they don't like it due to too much variation in range between rounds and an inconvenient "clumping" of ranges between nine and eleven. This occurs due to the laws of probability for any multi-die roll. For those who find this system to be too unrealistic or inconvenient but still don't want to use a grid, an alternative system may be utilized instead; this system is dependent upon the range between two combatants during prior rounds of combat and will require additional bookkeeping on the part of the GM.
The following sets of conditions are utilized in the alternative system:
- 2d10 is rolled for range any time a combatant has selected a new target. This includes the initial combat round (when "previous" ranges have not been determined) and also occurs when a combatant neutralizes its previous target.
- If 2d10 was rolled for a craft's range to its target in the previous round:
- Use 1d10 for the range to its target during the next round if the result was ten or less.
- Use 1d5 for the range to its target during the next round if the result was five or less.
- If 1d10 was rolled for a craft's range to its target in the previous round:
- Use 2d10 for the range to its target during the next round if the result was eight or nine.
- Use 1d5 for the range to its target during the next round if the result was zero or one.
- If 1d5 was rolled for a craft's range to its target in the previous round:
- Use 1d10 for the range to its target during the next round if the result was two or higher.
While this system may be a little more convoluted to implement, the end result is that combatants that close to within weapons range of their targets and will stay relatively close to them in most cases; the end result is generally more realistic.
The GM also must make a decision about the timing of actions. All actions have two phases: declaration and resolution (also referred to as Action and Reaction); timing is in reference to the resolution phase. The GM may elect to have Turn-Based or Simultaneous timing.
In Turn-based combat, all actions are resolved immediately after they are declared, before any other combatant gets an opportunity to declare their actions. This is the traditional RPG timing format and strongly favors combatants that go first in the order of battle (details on the order of battle are listed later in this sub-Chapter. The GM follows the order of battle, allowing the present combatant to declare and resolve their actions one at a time. As a result of a combatant's actions, an opposing combatant further down in the order of battle may be neutralized before they get a chance to declare any actions.
In Simultaneous combat, all actions are resolved simultaneously. This form of timing is utilized in Wing Commander: Tactical Operations. Following the order of battle, each combatant makes their declarations; instead of resolving them immediately, the GM will wait until all combatants have declared all of their actions before resolving any of them. This timing removes any advantages of the order of battle and allows a combatant that is about to be neutralized to make a final set of actions. In simultaneous combat, any damage inflicted upon a given combatant does not count until the end of the current combat round. Simultaneous combat is not recommended for the inexperienced GM.
A complicating factor of the timing combat method is that it need not be universal for all parts of a combat round; GMs may apply different timing methods for various types of actions. For example, a GM might set movement and end-round actions to a simultaneous method while applying turn-based attacking and damage resolution, or perhaps set their movement to turn-based timing while allowing all other aspects to be simultaneous. It is generally recommended that inexperienced GMs keep the same mode of timing for all aspects of a combat action or at least have some experienced players in their group before tinkering with various timing modes.
The above combat methods make the general assumption that the players in a group want a somewhat moderate amount of realism in combat. There may be player groups that don't really care for mucking about with combat action, preferring to get it over with as quickly as possible so they can get back to the story they're weaving. There may also be times wherein a combat action is central to a story but does not actually involve any of the player character's themselves; such actions may only serve as a distraction to what's going on with them. In these cases, a GM may decide to employ Simple Combat.
As the name implies, simple combat doesn't take a whole lot to execute. For each combatant group, the GM rolls 2d10; the highest result beats the next lowest hostile result, that roll beats the next lowest hostile result and so on down to the lowest result; that combatant group just loses. Any ties should be broken with successive throws of 1d10 until there is a clear list of results. If the action is between two groups of NPCs, the difference in the results indicates the number of combatants in the losing group that have been "incapacitated". Losses are accumulative over successive combat groups based on the highest overall result (e.g. if three NPC combatant groups are in combat and roll 16, 13 and 9, the second group loses three (16-3) and the third group loses a total of thirteen (six from the difference between it and the previous group and seven from the difference between it and the highest group). If the action involves PC combatants, any NPCs that have joined them are incapacitated first. After all the NPCs in a group have been incapacitated, all PCs in the group roll 1d10; the character with the lowest result takes damage, with any ties resolved by successive 1d10 rolls. PCs taking damage in Simple Combat take one point of Lethal Damage for each combatant group that rolled higher than they did regardless of the number of combatants in them.
In situations wherein the successful conclusion of combat is not dependent upon completely wiping out the opposing force, the GM may assign goals under Simple Combat. If the result of a group's combat roll is 18, they may immediately roll again; if the second result is higher than the number of combatant groups remaining, that group achieves its primary goal. If not, they may either achieve a secondary goal or gain a +1 bonus to all future rolls in the current combat action. A group that rolls zero must roll again; if the second result is less than the number of combatant groups remaining, that group can no longer complete its primary goal without completely incapacitating all other combatant groups.
If a player group feels that this system is a bit too simplistic, their GM may decide to add modifiers to the result of the 2d10 roll based on the relative sizes of the combatant groups; the largest group in combat gets a +1 modifier and another +1 modifier is given to all combatant groups for each additional whole multiple of forces they have over other combatant groups (for example, a group three times larger than another group would receive a +3 modifier, one that is five times larger gets a +5 modifier, etc.). Should multiple groups be involved in combat, comparisons should be made against the smallest group only. The GM may also decide to add die modifiers for unit experience; a group receives a +1 die bonus for every 100 hero points earned by the character with the highest overall number of skill points in the combatant group.
STEP ONE: Determine if there is a surprise combat round.
When a combat situation is initiated, the GM must determine whether or not there is a surprise round. Surprise rounds occur when one combatant group has been caught off-guard by the sudden appearance of their adversaries. If there is a surprise round, parties who have not been surprised have one bonus round of combat wherein they may conduct actions; surprised parties may not act during this round. Surprised parties may be the targets of actions in a surprise round; if they are fired upon, they may only use their FHD rating for their defense (since they’ve been caught "flat-footed").
The need for a surprise round is determined at the discretion of the GM; they should think logically about what happened just before combat began. If the characters were making noise and their opponents weren’t, it is possible that the characters are not aware of their opponents while the opponents were alerted to the presence of the characters and have had sufficient time to set up an ambush; in this case the characters will be surprised and so a surprise round against them is necessary. On the other hand, maybe the characters have successfully snuck up on a group of sleeping adversaries; not only will they get a surprise round in their favor in this case but it's likely that they will get to deliver coup-de-grâce attacks before their opponents can even respond (since the targets are asleep and therefore Helpless; see Chapter 9.2). Perhaps the two groups happen to run into each other on accident (as what might happen when a capital ship runs into an opposing fleet); both groups "surprise" one another in this case and so the need for surprise rounds cancel each other out; there is no need for a surprise round. Finally, perhaps the characters have been alerted to the presence of a group of opponents but a locked door separates the two groups and in their efforts to get the door open, the opponents are alerted to the presence of the characters. In this case, neither group is surprised by the other and no surprise round occurs.
Should a GM award a combatant group with a surprise round, combat proceeds directly to Step Four after initial ranges have been determined; otherwise combat skips over Steps Four and Five and goes directly to Step Six.
STEP TWO: Roll Initiative checks.
After determining if there is a surprise round, the GM should total up the strength indices of all combatants in a given group; this amount is the group’s initial composite strength index. The composite strength index is used as a way of gauging the current strength of one group over another and helps to determine the behavior of NPCs.
The GM's next priority is determining the order of battle, which is done by conducting an Initiative Check. 2d10 is rolled for each combatant. The result is added to the combatant's Initiative rating; the final sum is the combatant's Initiative Check Value. The GM will find the combatant with the highest Initiative Check Value next; this combatant goes first in the order of battle. Combatants with subsequently lower scores should be placed next in the order of battle; the combatant with the lowest Initiative Check Value will be placed last. Should two combatants have the same Initiative Check Value (i.e. a tie occurs), a few methods any be used to determine who will be placed next. PCs may be placed before NPCs. For groups of NPCs that are of the same class or type, both may perform their actions simultaneously if the GM so chooses. Finally, if neither of these conditions apply, 1d10 may be rolled for each combatant with the next spot on the order of battle going to the combatant with the higher result; this can be repeated much as is necessary.
Order of battle determines a number of things. First and foremost, it determines the order in which combatants will declare their actions. In an "automatic targeting schema" (largely used by for NPCs), the order of battle can also be used to select targets; a combatant with no higher priority target in the area will either target the enemy combatant with the next lowest Initiative Check Value or the enemy combatant with the highest Initiative Check Value if no lower values exist.
STEP THREE: Determine initial ranges.
Once the order of battle has been determined, it is necessary to determine the initial "range to target" for each combatant. Ranges are an important part of combat: the availability of many combat actions is solely dependent upon whether or not a combatant is close enough to use a particular weapon or perform a given action on an opponent. Of somewhat lesser importance in combat is the range and distance of a combat group's members relative to each other (what's known as a marching order in RPG parlance). A group's marching order can be established at any point during the course of an adventure and it can change depending upon who does what. It can be very important to know where adventurers are in relation to each other because a few actions rely upon line of sight. Note that the term "marching order" can also apply to vehicular and capital ship combatants, though it's more common to call them "in formation."
Determining range is accomplished either randomly or through the GM’s description of the situation. A GM's description is probably the best way of determining ranges; a phrase such as "You’ve spotted a group of Kilrathi infantryman about 150 meters away" sets a range without requiring a range roll (the distance given - 150 meters - can be converted directly into a combat range). A discussion of appropriate ranges for the various scales of combat will be supplied in each of their respective sub-Chapters.
Sometimes the GM will either forget to give a range or won’t know it (such as what may happen in a random encounter); in this case, the GM will need to roll an initial range to target. The specifics of how this roll is applied depend on whether the GM has decided to use a grid in combat or not. If combat is being conducted without a grid, a combatant's range to their target will need to be re-rolled every round. Each combatant is treated as if their initial location in the course of the round is at the indicated number of range increments away from its target. If a combatant targets an opposing combatant and they later wish to target the original combatant in the same round, they have the option of either using the range originally rolled for them for the round or using the final location of the original combatant.
If a grid is being used, the GM must take the combatant at the top of the order of battle and place it as near to the center of the combat grid as possible. They should then select a direction on the grid to be "ahead" and make two d10 rolls, one to indicate a direction and the other range. Depending on the result, the GM should set the opposing combatant with the highest Initiative Check Value the number of indicated range increments away along a straight line in the indicated direction; a result of one is straight ahead, rotating clockwise 45 degrees for each increasing number. On a result of 9, the GM may pick a random direction and on a zero the GM should just roll the dice again. This should be done for each of the combatant groups in the current combat action, using the individual combatant with the highest Initiative Check value for that group's "origin point". Rolls of 1d5 should be made for the range from that origin point for other members of the same combatant group, with these other members either placed "in-formation" or also utilizing a direction roll from the origin point. All members of all groups should be oriented so that they face an opposing group at the GM's discretion. Any combatant can occupy the same spot on the grid as any other combatant (including opposing combatants; if using miniatures, just put the involved combatants as close as possible to the indicated spot with their bases touching). The whole procedure of grid-combat placement by die is more complicated to explain than to perform; it can be circumvented altogether as long as the GM remembers to describe an initial range to target.
STEP FOUR: Declare actions for the surprise round (if applicable).
Once the positions of all the combatants have been set, a surprise round will be conducted if one is indicated. The surprise round is conducted as a normal combat round (discussed shortly) with only a few exceptions. First, only the group that was awarded the surprise round is allowed to conduct any actions; each combatant participating in the surprise round may make two standard actions or one full-round action along with any number of free actions as normal. Secondly, all targets use their Flat-foot hit difficulty (FHD) instead of their normal hit difficulty (HD) for that round. If any blast weapons are used during the surprise round, either the Blast hit difficulty (BHD) or Touch hit difficulty (THD) may be used instead depending on which value is higher. Targets have an effective Dodge and Evasive Maneuvers Skill score of zero during a surprise round. Finally, any combatant that suffers damage in the surprise round may not regenerate shields or conduct any other type of repairs/healing that round.
STEP FIVE: Resolve surprise round actions (if applicable).
The resolution of combat actions from the surprise round (involving the application of damage to a target, making Skill Checks, moving, etc.) may take place immediately after they are declared or after all other combatants have declared their actions depending upon the timing method selected by the GM. The GM must check to see if there are any more surprise round combatants that have not yet declared their actions once the current combatant has had their actions resolved. If there are any, the GM must go back to step 4 and have them declare and conduct their actions; if not, the GM may proceed to general combat.
STEP SIX: Declare general combat actions.
Once the surprise round (if any) has been completed, combat proceeds to general rounds. All combatants may declare two standard actions or one full-round action under normal circumstances; there are some occasions (such as when a character is near death) when they may only perform one standard action; full-round actions may not be performed in these instances. There are even a few situations (such as when a character has been knocked Unconscious) where they may not perform any actions at all. The availability of actions depends upon the combatant’s range to their target and what scale of combat is involved. The combatant with the highest Initiative Check Value declares their actions first each round, with each combatant proceeding in turn from highest to lowest Initiative Check Value on the order of battle.
STEP SEVEN: Resolve general combat actions.
The resolution of combat actions from the surprise round (involving the application of damage to a target, making Skill Checks, moving, etc.) may take place immediately after they are declared or after all other combatants have declared their actions depending upon the timing method selected by the GM. The GM must check to see if there are any more surprise round combatants that have not yet declared their actions once the current combatant has had their actions resolved. If there are any, the GM must go back to step 6 and have them declare and conduct their actions; if not, the GM may proceed to the final phase of combat.
STEP EIGHT: Resolve Combat.
Once all combatants have resolved their actions in a combat round, the GM should check the status of all combatant groups. If for any reason all groups except one are completely knocked out of the fighting, the remaining group is automatically victorious and receives any rewards due to them; combat is concluded at that point. If, however, there are still active members of multiple combatant groups, combat may or may not be resolved; the GM will need to see if one of the remaining groups has fulfilled their criteria for victory; if the GM determines that a group has satisfied their victory conditions, that group triumphs over the other groups and the GM may decide whether or not to allow combat continues. If there is more than one group remaining and no group has achieved victory, the GM must return to step Six of the procedure to conduct another round of combat. Combat continues until there is either a clear cut victor or something unusual occurs that forces the suspension of combat.