Nightmare – A Sample Combat

I have had various requests to explain combat in The Dee Sanction. I have outlined a fight below, and I might return and add detail if what I’ve written doesn’t quite have the level of useful information needed.

A ‘Mare Scenario

Agents Julian Dunham and Isabel le Bone arrive at The Gorgon in the shadow of the southern gate of London Bridge — laden with spikes surmounted by the mouldering heads of choice traitors — to meet their contact, a Clerk by the name of Thomas Strelley. He isn’t amongst the revellers, so they ask the patron of the inn and find Strelley has rented a room.

The agents ascend and can hear strangled gasping behind the door, so Isabel aims a kick at the centre of the door, busting it open. Inside, Strelley is asleep on his bed, foam bubbling around the corners of his lips. On Strelley’s chest, the grinning weight of a Mare, dark opalescent eyes wide at the intrusion.

A coin toss for initiative, each Moment — heads for the Agents, tails for the Mare. The GM states that the Mare inflicts 1 Hit per Moment on Strelley until the Mare moves.

Both Agents have 3 Hits, a Physicall of D6, swords, no armour. The Mare has 5 Hits and D8 Armour.

As player’s make all rolls, both their attack and defences mean they roll their Physicall to determine the outcome. The GM rolls for Hit Resolution by the enemy and can also roll for their Armour if any. An enemy’s Armour protects them if the roll is a 1 or 2.

Moment 1 – Agent’s win initiative

Julian’s immediate reaction is to draw and swipe with his sword. Physicall Challenge to hit, he rolls a 4. However, the Mare’s hide (Armour D8, rolls 1) deflects the blow.

Isabel’s tries to drag Strelley from the bed and topple the Mare. (Phy D6) rolls a 2. The Mare reaches for her arm (0 hits), and Isabel feels waves of fatigue wash over her (GM rolled a 3 on D8 for Hit Resolution; Isabel makes a Phy Challenge to resist — and rolls a 4). She pulls away sharply and slaps herself across the cheek, trying to snap herself back.

The Mare swipes back with sharp fingertips at Isabel (Isabel’s Defence — is a success), but her keen awareness means it misses.

Moment 2 – Agent’s win initiative

Realising the threat posed upon their contact, both Julian and Isabel press their attack — and both succeed in landing a strike without the hide of the Mare protecting it (Armour rolls 5 and 7, so -2 Hits total).

The Mare’s response is ineffectual (Defence — success), so the GM decides to take another approach.

Moment 3 – the Mare wins initiative

The Mare dissipates (the GM uses the Moment to activate the Mare’s Dream Stuff ability), and Strelley lets out a gasp as air streams back into his lungs. He rolls over and falls from the bed, coughing up a puddle of vomit.

Julian kneels to assist him while Isabel shifts about, casting her gaze around to locate any telltale sign of the nightmare spirit.

Moment 4 – the Mare wins initiative

Offended by the interference, the Mare leaps at Isabel but clearly misjudges (Isabel’s Defence is a — success).

Isabel swings back at the creature in response, but her weapon seems to glide through the dream stuff (Armour rolls 2, no harm).

A moment later, Julian is better timed — perhaps the Mare took time to coalesce — and lands a blow (Armour rolls 8, -1 Hit).

Moment 5 – Agent’s win initiative

Sensing that they have the entity on the back foot, Julian’s overconfidence leaves him vulnerable. As he swipes (Falter), the Mare bunches up and barrels into him. Julian tumbles into the bed and cracks something hard against the unforgiving frame.

(GM rolled a 7 on D8 for Hit Resolution, for a Flying Rush attack; Julian makes a Phy Challenge at a Step Down to resist and rolls a 3; instead of -2 Hits and a Consequence of Fallen, Julian only suffers -1 Hit)

Isabel and the Mare trade blows, but the Agent’s blade yet again slides off the creatures hide, but in turn, the Mare misses.

Moment 6 – the Mare wins initiative

… and fades once more (Dream Stuff). The Agents gather their breath — and Julian rights himself from his reclining position across the bed.

Moment 7 – Agent’s win initiative

Poised, the Agents scan the room, standing back to back with Thomas on the floor between them.

When the Mare reappears, it tumbles from above straight down onto Julian’s head. But, unfortunately, Julian fails to react in time.

(Julian’s Defence roll falters, with a 1 on D4 — due to the Step Down forced by the Mare’s surprise attack. GM rolls 1D6+2 — as this is an Attack by the creature rather than a response to an Agent’s falter — and rolls a 4, which means a 6 for the Hit Resolution — Pulverize; Julian takes another wound, -1 Hit).

Moment 8 – the Mare wins initiative

But, the Agents seem to have done enough. The Mare swipes at Julian once more but fails to connect. It glances toward the window of the room, and as the Agent swings (falter), it Makes Distance, crashing through the frame and out into Bull’s Court. Julian rushes to look, but there is nothing to see, just the darkness beneath and the faint silver of starlight reflecting off the Thames, visible between the buildings on the river edge.

Isabel stoops to help Thomas up and worries that this might not be the last time they encounter the Mare — or its master.

‘Mare Averted

In the aftermath, the Agents survived, and the entity escaped. Much of the detail comes from a to-and-fro of Theatre of the Mind storytelling for those at the table. The colour of the moment is important; otherwise, combat becomes a series of soulless dice rolls.

Julian is hurt, losing 2 Hits of 3 to the Mare. Isabel walks away unhurt. Their contact took a Hit from the Mare, but the dice favoured the Agents and saved Thomas from further harm.

The Mare suffered 4 Hits, bringing it close to absolute defeat, but few opponents will ever fight to the death—even supernatural ones. If it hadn’t won initiative and Julian faltered, the Agents might have chalked up a complete victory.

That’s quite straightforward. With multiple foes, the challenge increases and the need to be clear about the situation and the environment might lead you to draw a sketch map. I don’t think you need a full-on battle map; a sketch is enough to place counters down for the Agents and enemy to keep track of their rough locations and engagement.

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2 Replies to “Nightmare – A Sample Combat”

  1. Brad J. says:

    Thank you for doing this Paul, I really appreciate your help and responsiveness! I hope you won’t mind a lengthy follow-up question/comment:

    To summarize, my understanding is this:

    1) PCs generally get 1 chance to act on their own every Moment, plus they essentially get a free roll of their own defense for every attack that comes at them.

    2) When PCs attack, if they succeed (anything but a 1-2) they generally inflict 1 Hit, plus any special effects that may apply for weaponry, and if they falter (1-2) GM rolls on the target’s Hit Resolution table (1d8) to see what happens to the PC.

    3) When PCs defend, if they succeed (anything but a 1-2) they generally just avoid taking any effect, but if they falter (1-2) GM rolls on the attacker’s Hit Resolution table (1d6+2) to see what happens to the PC.

    Is that all correct?

    If so, my one remaining point of confusion[?] is that many of the Hit Resolution tables seem to have a rather bad result for the opponent (run away, etc.), but it seems odd that that result is only possible when the PC *fails*. Am I missing something?

    Re: the specifics of your example combat, it really did clear things up almost completely in my eyes. I had just a couple points that could use a small clarification:

    Moment 4 – I assume Isabel’s attack succeeded here, but it was the Armor roll of 1-2 that prevented a hit to the Mare? Otherwise, Isabel would have gotten a Hit Resolution against her, right?

    Moment 5 – I assume Julian faltered on his attack (1-2) which allowed the Mare’s Hit Resolution to be rolled?

    1. Paul B says:

      On the often defensive result of 1 or 2 for Hit Resolution, it’s a chance for a clean break/evade without harm. The opponent might not flee, but this is an opportunity. Or, they might choose to focus elsewhere. You should keep the narrative in mind. The Mare, for example, had good reason to retreat.

      Your other two notes are correct; I have annotated the text in Moments 4 and 5 to clear this up.


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