Combat is based on a series of Tests, used to determine the outcome of violent conflict between one or more characters. Combat in FTS is very lethal, and players and STs alike are encouraged to be extremely cautious with allowing themselves to get involved in violent conflict.
When it is apparent that combat is going to happen, players and the ST are encouraged to work together to clearly and concisely describe the environment, conditions of the fight, and all of the combatants involved, so that everyone can make the best tactical decisions. There is no “hard” system to determine right-of-way with actions—more often than not, characters will fall into a natural rhythm where everyone performs their actions at the time they want to. If, however, such rules are required, a simple Physical Power (for speed) or Mental Control (for reaction time) can help assure a clear and practical working order for things.
At its core, combat is merely a competitive Test between the character making the attack (the attacker), and their intended target (the defender). More often than not, attacks will be made with either a Physical Power or Physical Control Test that utilizes the Weaponry Skill, but Storytellers are encouraged to keep the players actively involved in the scene, to help determine what the most appropriate Test would be. Likewise, most defensive Tests will be Physical Power, Physical Control, or Physical Endurance (which likewise uses the Weaponry Skill), but this is by no means a concrete rule.
In situations where the attack and defense are clear, the rule is simple: If the defender has the higher Final Result, the attack is prevented, and no Wound is inflicted. If, however, the attacker has the higher Final Result, the attack inflicts a Wound. To determine the Wound’s Severity, simply determine the difference between the two Final Results. The total is the Severity of the inflicted Wound, which the Defender immediately takes.
In situations where the attacker is targeting a character that does not suspect an attack, the most appropriate Test will likely be Physical Control (Stealth: Ambush)—though this is by no means a concrete rule. The most common defense against such an attack would be Physical Presence (Awareness: Notice), but STs are encouraged to evaluate each situation to determine what is most appropriate.
In the case of the attacker getting a Critical Success, double their weapon’s Lethality for the purpose of determining the Severity of any Wounds they inflict with that attack (if you are not using the Lethality & Wound Reduction rules, instead increase the Wound’s Severity by 3). In the case of the defender getting a Critical Success, the difference between the two Final Successes is instead applied as a Wound on the attacker (weapon Lethality is not used in this case, if your game is using those rules). In the case of both the attacker and defender getting a Critical Success, resolve the attack normally. It is worth pointing out that in the case of either the attacker or defender getting a Critical Success, they must still actually get a higher Final Result than their opponent in order for these effects to take place.
Harton and Kalla are fighting. Harton attacks with his hammer (getting an 8 on his Test), which Kalla attempts to block (getting a 6 on her Test). This results in a Severity 2 Wound being inflicted (8-7=2), and Kalla spits out a broken tooth as she swears to end her foe.
Optional: Wound Reduction & Lethality
Many (though not all) characters will likely choose to use some kind of weapon or armor in combat. In such cases, the ST may choose to use the Lethality and Wound Reduction mechanics, to give the various weapons and armor of the world more significance. Please note that this ruleset should only be used if the campaign also includes the rules for The Builder.
Wound Reduction is a mechanic unique to armor (see The Builder for more information) that helps protect the wearer from injury while in combat. When determining the Severity of an inflicted Wound, after determining the base Severity (the offensive Test’s Final Result minus the defensive Test’s Final Result), subtract the armor’s Wound Reduction from that. If, after doing this, the Severity is 0 or lower, the process is halted and no Wound is inflicted.
Lethality is a mechanic unique to weapons and unarmed attacks (see The Builder for more information) that makes them… you guessed it… lethal. When determining the Severity of an inflicted Wound, after applying Wound Reduction, add the weapon or attack’s Lethality to reach the final Severity.
Here is a flowchart for ease of understanding:
Potential Wound inflicted.
Determine base Severity (offensive Final Result minus defensive Final Result).
Apply Wound Reduction from armor, if any. If this number reaches 0 or lower, no Wound is inflicted.
Apply Lethality from weapon or attack, if any, to determine final Severity.
Harton and Kalla are fighting. Harton swings with his hammer (getting a 13 on his Test), which Kalla attempts to block (getting an 11 on her test). This results in a potential Wound being inflicted. The base Severity of the Wound is 2 (13-11=2), but Kalla’s armor has a Wound Reduction of 2, reducing the Wound’s Severity to 0. The process halts, and no Wound is inflicted as Harton’s hammer harmlessly glances off Kalla’s armor. Kalla then stabs with her sword (getting an 18 on her Test), which Harton attempts to dodge (getting a 9 on his Test). This results in a potential Wound being inflicted. The base Severity of the Wound is 9 (19-9=9), but Harton’s armor has a Wound Reduction of 3, reducing the Wound’s Severity to 6. Kalla’s sword has a Lethality of 2, making the Wound’s final Severity 8. Harton is in a lot of trouble!
Injury & Recovery
As characters adventure and explore, they are bound to get hurt at some point. This is where the Wound system comes into play. Wounds are measured in Severity, which is graded on a scale of 1 (cosmetic) to 10 (lethal). Occasionally, there will be times when Wounds may be greater than 10 in Severity; in such cases, after Lethality and Wound Reduction has been applied, decrease the Wound’s Severity to 10.
Any time a character suffers a Wound, that Wound’s Severity immediately becomes a penalty that they must apply to all of their Final Results until the end of that scene. The only exception to this is Severity 10 Wounds, which are instantly Lethal. The penalties gained from Wounds are not cumulative, and only the largest one is applied at a time; as soon as a greater Wound is suffered, its penalty replaces the current one.
Characters may attempt to tough it out, and fight through the pain of a wound, with the ST’s permission (Wounds greater than Severity 6 are usually so damaging to the body that it is not physically possible to ignore their ill effects—such as a broken leg, or a missing hand). Instead of taking an action, they may instead make a Physical Endurance or Mental Endurance (Mettle: Grit) Test, and their Final Result must triple their current Wound’s Severity. If they are successful, the Wound’s penalty is halved until the next Wound. If your game is using the Emblem rules, characters may spend an Emblem to make this Test without losing their action.
Obviously, due to the debilitating nature of Wounds and their penalties, combat is very dangerous, and is not to be taken lightly! Especially in the beginning of their adventuring careers (but really just in general), characters should be extremely cautious, and only resort to violence when they have truly exhausted all other options. To help players and STs understand how to imagine or describe a particular Wound’s Severity (as well as determine what Severity to apply to injuries sustained from the non-combat situations), we have included the following chart:
Black eye, broken nose
Broken tooth, small laceration
Broken jaw, large laceration
Internal bleeding, dislocated joint
Broken ribs, broken finger
Crushed hand, ruptured kidney
Severed hand, punctured lung
Severed arm, ruptured liver
Disemboweled, pierced stomach
But it’s not all gloom and bad news! Once the combat Scene has passed, characters may attempt to patch themselves or their allies up with the Medicine Skill. With a Mental Control or Mental Presence (Medicine) Test, it is possible to reduce the Severity of a character’s suffered Wound by 1. In order to be successful, the physician’s Final Result must double the Severity of the Wound. For Wounds of Severity 6 or greater, Surgery is the relevant Specialization; for Wounds of Severity 5 or lesser, First Aid is the relevant Specialization. This Test may be performed up to three times on a character (regardless of whether or not they are successful)—after that, there is nothing left for the physician to do but let the recovery process take its course.
Physicians have a very small window of opportunity to get these first three Tests in before the body will no longer respond to their care. They must attempt to treat the Wound within two Scenes, or it will become untreatable. In cases where the Wound’s Severity was 7 or higher, the Wound immediately increases in Severity by 1 upon the passage of two full Scenes. If this increase results in the Wound reaching Severity 10, the character immediately dies. Regardless of whether or not a physician is able to address the Wound, however, after two full Scenes, the recovery process begins (if it has not already).
After the first three Medicine Tests, the character must rest and allow their body to recover on its own. It takes one month to recover by 1 (if, at the beginning of recovery, the Severity was 6 or greater), or one week to recover by 1 (if beginning Severity was 5 or lesser). If the physician has the Recovery Specialization, their patients recover much faster: monthly recovery becomes weekly; weekly recovery becomes daily. Once the character’s Wound reaches 0 in Severity, they are considered fully healed!
Optional: Crippling Injuries
Sometimes, injuries just don’t heal right, and the character must go through the rest of their life with a disability. In such situations, ST’s may consider implementing the Crippling Injuries rules. Please be aware that these rules will have a very negative impact on the players and their characters, and should only be implemented in games where everyone involved is interested in gritty, realistic stories over high fantasy.
When the first three Medicine Tests are being performed on an injured character, the physician must take great care to do everything right, as these first moments are the most crucial to the character’s future recovery. If any of the first three Tests are unsuccessful (or if the physician chooses to not perform all three), the character’s Wound becomes a Crippling Injury. For each unsuccessful Test, the lowest the Severity can ever go increases by one.
Over time, the character can learn to cope with their disability, and once they are fully healed (as much as they can be, now), the penalty only applies to Tests made that explicitly include the part of the body that was damaged.
Harton’s leg has been broken in two places, and he’s hurt badly. His physician attempts to patch him up, but fails two of the first three Tests. Though the medical attention does improve his condition, his leg never fully recovers, and he is left with a dramatic and painful limp that forces him to walk with a cane at all times. Because his physician failed two of the first three Tests, he now subtracts 2 Successes from the Final Result of any Test that involves the use of his crippled leg.
Because of the obvious potential for ruined fun, STs should be very careful before including Crippling Injuries in their game. While they can certainly make characters more interesting, players tend to not enjoy penalties that they can’t mitigate or get rid of.