Combat is an interesting facet of a Mind's Eye Theatre LARP, but there are many inconsistencies in Laws of the Night: Revised for aspects of combat. This document will attempt to clarify those aspects of combat, along with a flowchart and example combat below.
The purpose of this combat primer is to help new players to the Laws of the Night system in Bloody Athens LARP. This primer will be revised after the changeover to Mind's Eye Theatre: Vampire the Masquerade.
Combat is divided up into three types of challenge: Simple, Static and Contested. No matter what the challenge, the character must bid Traits, which are the descriptive Attributes you've used to define your character.
When biding traits in a challenge of any sort, the first trait you bid determines the type of challenge you are attempting, as well as what powers and merits you may use during the challenge. If you bid more than one trait in a challenge, only the first trait matters for these purposes. Example: A mob comprised of two people is attacking Billy. In this challenge, Billy declares that he is ‘Brawny’ enough (a Strength-related trait) to strike his first opponent. As he must continue to bid enough traits to cover every attacker in the mob, Billy is also ‘Quickly’ dodging the second attacker.
Since he bid the ‘Brawny’ trait first, Billy is relying on his strength. He will be able to retest with Might and benefit from Puissance. Billy cannot use the Celerity power ‘Fleetness’, as he did not lead with the dexterity related trait. He can still benefit from other Celerity powers, such as the extra actions from ‘Swiftness’ and ‘Legerity’, as those powers do not require you to bid a trait in order to use them.
A Simple Challenge is anything that takes very little effort, though you can fail in performing the action. When making a Simple Challenge, you don’t need to bid a trait, and your action will succeed if you win or tie – no matter how many traits you have. You may not retest if you lose a Simple Challenge. By default, you succeed in a Simple Challenge on a win or a tie; however, some specific mechanics require you to win (not tie) a Simple Challenge in order to succeed.
It is not possible to retest a Simple Challenge, though it may be attempted again as a separate challenge.
Static Challenges are used when you are trying to perform an action that isn’t targeting another character, or when you are performing an action that is not actively resisted (note that another player automatically has active resistance; you can’t sneak up and static Challenge them in the face). Static Challenges are assigned a difficulty rating in traits by the ST. A low difficulty challenge will probably have very few traits, while a more demanding challenge will have a greater number of traits.
When making a Static Challenge, bid a trait and RPS against the ST or a nearby player. If you win, you are successful in your action. If you tie, you must compare your traits to the Challenge’s difficulty. If you have more traits that the Challenge is difficult, you succeed.
The character who initiates a Static Challenge may retest with an applicable Ability Trait. Static Challenge do not receive defensive retests against you but the ST may choose to Overbid if applicable.
The meat and bones of performing combat revolves around challenges between two individuals, be that two PCs or PCs and NPCs.
Physical Contested Challenges
For a Physical Challenge, you must declare your target, bid a trait (as above), and then define the action you intend (your victory condition) For example, “Punch Joey in the face.” Your opponent, Joey, will then bid a trait of his own and name his victory condition. Once you’ve both bid, you throw RPS to see who is successful. The winner’s victory condition happens, and the loser’s victory condition does not happen. If you tie the RPS, you must compare traits. The character with the most traits wins. If you both have equal traits neither victory condition occurs (no one wins).
Mental / Social Contested Challenges
Contested mental and social challenges use the same rules as you would for a Contested Physical challenge but Mental and social challenges are resolved individually. If you use a social challenge on a character that is also targeting you with a social power you should each run your own test. Remember that a character can only be targeted with one mental and one social challenge per round.
The target of a Mental or Social challenge may spend a point of Willpower to get a retest. The character initiating the challenge may not. If you target another character with a mental or social challenge and fail you must wait at least five real-time minutes before repeating the failed challenge. If your challenge is successful but the target resists in some other way this limitation doesn't apply.
When involved in a contested challenge, either party may retest after the initial throw with an appropriate ability, power, merit, or an attempt to overbid. Each of these retests are resolved one at a time, although retests may be 'blocked' by canceling with opposing retest from the same category; in this case, no new test is thrown for the challenge.
- Example: After failing his initial attack test, Michael tries to retest with the Brawl ability. Lucian decides to cancel with one of his Dodge abilities.
In a given test you may call on one retest from each applicable category (Ability or Merit, Power, Overbid). You may not retest with two Abilities but you may retest with one Ability or Merit, and one Power. Supernatural retests, like Might and Awe, are the last retest used by the user in a challenge, not the last retest in the entire challenge. After you use one of these retests, you may not use other retests, even if you have not yet attempted ability retests or overbids.
- Example: After having his Brawl retest canceled Michael may not attempt to retest with another Ability, but he may use the ‘Might’ retest.
Unlike other categories of retests, you may use any number of miscellaneous retests as long as they’re applicable. For example, a single challenge may benefit from both an Overbid and a Willpower retest.
- Overbid: To use the Overbid retest you must bid an additional trait and ask your opponent if you may overbid. If you have twice as many traits as your opponent (or more) you may retest. If you don’t, your attempt to Overbid fails and you lose the trait you bid (even if you later win the challenge). You may also attempt to overbid the Static Test’s difficulty rating (as it is given in traits). You may not overbid a Simple test.
- Willpower: You may spend a point of Willpower to retest any time you’re targeted with a Mental or Social action. Only the defender may use Willpower to retest. You may not use Willpower to retest a Static or Simple test.
Combat Explanation and Example
All combat can be done as two forms: Mediation or Challenges. Mediation combat simply is based on the players and Storyteller or Narrator about the outcome of a conflict, with the appropriate changes being handled (loss of Traits, damage, etc.). If no Mediation can be come to, combat begins as follows:
The ST, Narrator or combat running player calls for a halt where everyone is. The ST will do a count of ‘One. Two. Three. GO!’ and on GO!, everyone points to the target they wish to affect in some manner during combat. This is important, as it is used for determining Mobs for Physical combat.
From here, the ST will begin a countdown from 15, with each player acting on the total number of Traits for the type of action they wish to perform. Actions such as healing and certain powers, such as Celerity, can be activated even outside the players’ initiative.
Example: Player A acts on 11 with her 11 Physical traits, points at Player B; Player B acts on 9 with her 9 Social Traits, points at Player A; and Players C, D, and E act on 8 as a Mob with their Physical traits, all three pointing at Player A.
Acting on each turn, the character can move up to 3 steps; moving more than 1 makes a character down 1 trait for challenges for the purposes of Ties and Overbids. When taking an action, the player ‘bids’ a Trait in a narrative manner based on the action they are performing and the outcome they want; for Disciplines, this tends to be Willpower or a specific Trait to each Discipline. For using weapons with Negative Traits, an additional Trait from that category must be bid. For some powers, certain types of Traits must be bid as the first Trait in a challenge, determining the type of Challenge to be usable (such as a Dexterity-related Trait for the Celerity power Fleetness.) This is further touched on in House Rules.
Each character can only be affected once per Round with each type of Challenge: Social, Mental and Physical. Social and Mental Challenges can only have single participants; for Physical challenges, Mob Combat rules come into effect when 2 or more individuals are targeting one single opponent.
- Example: Player A plans to use her Feral Claws on an opponent, and takes two of her three steps, then bids ‘With a Ferocious slash of my claws, I strike with a slash to the stomach and attempt to deal damage!’ against Player B.
- Player B, already planning on using the power of Presence on Player A, bids ‘Snarling a hissing challenge, I try to make a Quick sidestep!’ If Player B had responded with a counter-attack, it would have used up her ‘Everyman’ Round; in the example above, as she is only passively defending herself, she can later use her Presence power on Player B. The two Challenge, throwing Rock-Paper-Scissors, with Player A winning the Challenge. Player B can choose to retest by using a Dodge Ability Trait, and Challenge again; further retests are based on different factors such as trait totals, powers and Willpower. Player B fails, and takes two Aggravated Damage (1 from the base damage, 1 from Potence).
- At 9, Player B announces ‘The snarling hiss becomes a Dread Gaze upon Player A, trying to keep her at bay!’ The player makes a Social Challenge, needing no specific Social Trait, against Player A. Player A succeeds in resisting both the initial Challenge and the retest.
- At 8, Players C, D and E are all considered a Mob. Player C, with the highest Physical Traits of 8, is declared the Champion and moves all 3 of his allowed steps. Then Player C performs a Physical Challenge against Player A, “Drawing out my bowie knife, I lunge forward and attempt a Brutal stab to the stomach for damage!’ Players D and E each bid a trait, giving Player C an extra two, and each declare a victory condition; D declares ‘knock Player A back two steps’ and E declares ‘damage from the Knife and one damage from myself’. Player A must bid an extra two Traits, due to the extra two in the Mob, in his ‘I’ll attempt to make an Agile leap to the side!’ defensive bid. The Champion throws the challenge, and is successful... in order to prevent Player A from constantly staying in melee range of B, Player C chooses ‘knock back’ as the victory condition.
- If anyone has extra action powers, resolve those now. Only Physical actions can be taken during extra action rounds, and they are resolved in ‘power level’ order. So after the Everyman round, there would be a potential 2 extra rounds (Swiftness, then all others). Otherwise, they are resolve as normal Physical actions (appropriate Trait bids, Mobs, etc.)
- Go back to the start of another ‘Everyman’ round and continue.
This is repeated until the combat is over, through whatever methods the combat end. At any point players can choose to Mediate the combat and return to roleplaying.