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1.7.9 Combat Mechanics

NOTE: The combat system is undergoing revision. This page is outdated.

Every attempt has been made to make Argo as easy to use as possible, given the complexity of the system. The rolls required in combat are numerous and sometimes complex, but the system makes them for you. For the most part, you can simply design your character in a reasonable way and use the commands normally; you should get good results. In other words, a detailed understanding of combat mechanics is not required.

On the other hand, many players, quite reasonably, will want to know the in's and out's of combat mechanics, in order to allocate their character points to best advantage. The following details are provided to that end.

Base Rolls:

All combat rolls are based on your Physical skill, which is equal to the average of your current STR, CON, and DEX, rounded down. The word `current' is somewhat important because these stats are not fixed quantities. Objects, spells, and psionic abilities can all modify a character's current stats.

This base roll against your Physical skill is modified by appropriate skill levels. An example: If your Physical skill is 9, you are using a sword, and your Swords skill is 2, then your attack rolls would succeed on a roll of 11 or less with 3d6.

An attack roll of 3 or 4 is a critical success. Damage is immediately applied, and an additional `critical effect' is then applied to your target. Critical effects include additional damage, being stunned, dropping weapons or shields, or breaking weapons or shields. An attack roll of 17 or 18 is a critical failure. In this case, the critical effects are applied to you.

The Combat Sequence

Although special circumstances may create exceptions, combat usually follows a standard sequence.

First, characters ready weapons, shields, and armor. They may also declare a defence mode. These actions may be taken at any time. They remain in effect until changed. At this point, the characters are not in combat.

Next, one or more characters takes an offensive action, such as +attack or +fire. This starts a combat event loop for that character, with an appropriate action set. An event loop is not automatically started for the target player, but he will be able to defend normally (as a protection against getting ambushed while you're away from your computer, the combat system will not target a player who has been idle for more than five minutes).

Rolls are made for any offensive actions, such as attacks. The results of critical successes and critical failures are immediately applied. If an attack fails normally, fatigue (see below) is applied to the acting character, and the event ends. If the attack roll is successful, the target player gets a chance to defend (see below). If the defender makes his or her roll by more than the attacker, the attack is avoided, and the event ends. If the attacker makes his or her roll by more than the defender, the attack succeeds and normal damage (again, see below) is applied to the target.

The combat system then returns to the event manager. It pauses for one turn, and then applies any recoveries needed (see below). Then, the acting player's action is checked. If the player has an action, it is executed, and the process begins again. If the player has no action, but is fatigued, his action is set to `wait'. He will continue to wait until the player enters a different action.

Turn Length

Turn length is figured for each character with a running event loop. Turn length is a number of seconds equal to the turn_length system parameter (default 30), as modified by DEX, armor, and skills.

A high DEX causes characters to act more quickly; a low DEX slows them down:

  DEX   Turn Length Modfier
  1-4   +4 seconds
  5   +3 seconds
  6   +2 seconds
  7   +1 second
  8   +0 seconds
  9-10   -1 second
  11-12   -2 seconds
  13-14   -3 seconds
  15-16   -4 seconds
  17+   -5 seconds

Normal (that is, low tech) armor can slow a characters actions somewhat... from 1 to 8 seconds per turn. A high STR, however, can offset this penalty:

  STR   Armor Modfier Offset
  8-9   -1 second
  10-11   -2 seconds
  12-13   -4 seconds
  14-15   -6 seconds
  16+   -8 seconds

If the result of the Armor Modification minus the STR offset is less than zero, then turn length is unmodified by armor. That is, a high STR does not make you faster; it only cancels or partially cancels the slowing effect of armor.

Fencers and martial artists also get a speed bonus. Fencers who are attacking or feinting, using a fencing weapon, have their turn length reduced by a number seconds equal to half their Fencing skill, plus 1. Martial Artists who are not using a weapon and not wearing armor have their turn length reduced by a number of seconds equal to half their Martial Arts skill, plus 1. (Administrators, NB: Reducing the turn_length system parameter gives an edge to fencers and martial artists, because their bonus then represents a greater proportion of a normal turn. With the default turn length of 30 seconds, a starting, well-designed conventional figher and a starting, well-designed martial arts character are roughly equivalent, with the conventional fighter having a slight edge. Reducing turn length below the default changes this balance.)


Your Fatigue is equal to your STR plus your CON, plus any modifiers for the Endurance advantages. If the amount of fatigue you have spent exceeds your Fatigue, the difference between them is applied as a negative modifier to all your combat rolls. Example: A character with a STR of 10 and a CON of 11 has a Fatigue of 21. As long as he has spent 21 points of fatigue or less, he acts normally. If he has spent 24 points of fatigue, he is tired, and his actions will be at -3. It is possible to continue combat until you are so exhausted that you can only succeed with critical successes.

Any time you take a combat action — such as an attack or active defense — you expend one point of fatigue. Some armor and shields may impose a fatigue penalty, causing you to expend extra fatigue each time normal fatigue is applied. You recover one point of fatigue each turn. If you are resting, you recover an additional point of fatigue. As a result, if you are attacking, and are not being attacked, you will recover fatigue as fast as you expend it. If you are attacking, and you are being attacked by a character of comparable speed, and are using an active defense, then you will lose about 1 point of fatigue per turn. If you are being attacked by multiple characers, or are using heavy armor and shields, or are facing an exceptionally fast opponent, you will lose fatigue more quickly.

Characters who are resting may not use their active defences. For example, if your defence is set to `parry', and you are wearing armor, and you are resting, then the armor (which is a passive defence) would apply when attacks are made against you, but you would not parry. Parry would still be your defence mode, however, and you would resume parrying as soon as you stopped resting.

Offensive Rolls

Your chance to successfully attack is equal to your Physical skill, plus any skill level modifiers, minus any penalties for fatigue or damage, minus any penalties to hit due to your target's armor or shield, plus any `general modifiers' (such as the positive modifier applied to a ranged attack after the +aim command has been used for one or more turns). If you do not have an active defence mode (your defence mode is set to `none'), your attack rolls receive a +2 bonus.

Defensive Rolls

If your roll to attack an opponent succeeds, he gets a chance to defend before the results of the attack are applied.

A `dodge' defence is made as a roll of 3d6 versus the character's STR + DEX, divided by 2, plus 1. A `block' defence is made as 3d6 versus your current DEX, plus your Shield skill. A `parry' defence is made as 3d6 versus your current DEX, plus your best weapon skill that can be used with your current weapon, minus 4, plus your Fencing skill if applicable. In addition, any penalties for fatigue or damage are also applied to defence rolls.

If an attack roll succeeds, and the defence roll against it fails, then the attack succeeds and damage is applied. If both succeed, then whichever player succeeds by more `wins'... If the attacker makes his roll by more than the defender, the attack succeeds; if the defender makes his roll by more than the attack, the attack fails. A tie goes to the attacker: if both succeed by the same amount, the attack succeeds.


The amount of damage applied is equal to the base amount for the weapon being used (see Weapons) or — if you do not have a weapon — using the rules for unarmed combat (see Unarmed Combat).

This base can be modified in three ways:

1) Armor and shields may have a `damage reduction' effect. If you are using a shield or wearing armor that reduceds damage, its damage reduction level is subtracted from the amount of damage applied. All weapons do a specific type of damage; for all weapons supplied with a base installation of Argo, the damage type is `conventional'. All standard forms of armor are effective against conventional damage. So, with the standard, low tech weapons, all armor is effective against all weapons. However, the RP staff is free to create weapons and spells that do other types of damage (an SF world might have a special class of weapons that do `subcelluar damage', for example, which could only be prevented by armor that protects against this form of damage.)

2) If you are using a melee weapon, a high STR can add to the amount of damage you do.

  STR   Damage Modifier
  10-12   +1d2
  13-15   +1d3
  16+   +1d4

3) Martial Artists have a chance (a roll against their Martial Arts skill) to `move with the blow', and reduce the damage done. If the roll is successful, the damage applied will be reduced by 1dX, where X is equal to their Martial Arts skill level.

The result, after all modifcations are applied, is applied to your damage level. When you are perfectly healthy, your damage level is equal to your CON, plus any modifiers for the Toughness advantages. Damage applied to you reduces your damage level. When your damage level goes below zero, you are seriously wounded and your damage level is applied as a negative modifier to all your combat rolls. When your damage level goes below zero minus your CON, you die. Example: If your CON is 10, your damage level is 10 when you are completely healthy. If you take 6 points of combat damage, your damage level goes to 4. You are injured, but can still act normally. If you take an additional 6 points of damage, your damage level would go to -2... you are now seriously injured, and all your combat actions would be at -2. If you take another 8 points of damage, your damage level would go to -10, which is equal to zero minus your CON. You would be at death's door. If you took one more point of damage, you would die.


Each character's turn begins with a recovery phase. During recovery, the system first checks to see if you are stunned (critical effects may cause you to be stunned for up to 10 turns; usually, however, the number of turns for which you are stunned will be less than this, in the range of 1 to 4 turns; you might also be stunned by spells or psionic abilities). If you are stunned, you recover stun only... No other recoveries are applied; you take no other actions; you cannot use active defences.

If you are not stunned, additional recoveries are applied. Usually, the only relavent additional recovery is fatigue: you recover one point of fatigue. However, spells and psionic abilities may have affected your stats. (If your stats have been modified in this way, your +sheet will indicate it: the entry for the stat will be the normal level followed by a slash mark and the current, `effective' level.) During the recovery phase, your stats decrement or increment as appropriate, 1 point, toward their norm. An example: If a spell had caused your DEX to be reduced by 4, this amount would decrement by one during your recovery phase... your DEX would now be reduced by 3.

Note that the system cannot apply recoveries if you do not have an event loop running... that is, if you are not doing anything so far as the combat system is concerned. Usually the system will start an event loop for you when needed, but if you know you don't have an event loop running (because you did a a +stop, for example), or are not sure, you should probably execute a +wait command to ensure that you are getting all recoveries that you are entitled to.

Physical damage is recovered much more slowly. If you are injured, the system makes a CON roll for you once per heal_interval; the default setting for this paramter is `1 day', real time. If the roll succeeds, you will recover one point of damage. Typically injured players will need to seek out additional means of healing. (Note: this is controlled by the system scanner (asys-sysscan). The +sysscan command, typed without arguments, will show whether or not the scanner is running. If it is not, you should page a staff member and ask them to restart it.)

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