Terrain, or the ground that you're fighting on, has an immense effect during any melee encounter, whether it's a battle or a duel. Each terrain carries a TN, against which any number or CP dice may be allotted and rolled. This TN varies with how quickly one wishes to move.

All characters engaged in combat are assumed to be “hurried” or even “sprinting” when attacking, and “normal” when defending. Characters not in combat may set their own pace, and make the rolls with AG instead of CP dice. Successful terrain rolls mean that the character's actions may go on unhindered. Failed rolls lead to disaster-a slip, a fall, a stuck weapon, resulting in the loss of half of one's CP for the duration of the round. Fumbled rolls mean a nasty fall or other disaster, removing all CP dice and leaving one prone or otherwise momentarily disabled.

Visibility effects combat as well. In near-darkness (dusk) reduce all Combat Pools by 1. At night (just moonlight) reduce all Combat Pools by 1/4 total. In pitch darkness reduce all Combat Pools by half.

Higher Footing (such as stairs or horses) adds 2 CP at the beginning of the Round. This also effects availability of targets for all involved combatants according to common sense.

Terrain Stand/Crawl Cautious Normal Hurried Sprinting
Solid, flat 0 0 0 0 0
Narrow (ledges, walls, roofs) 1 2 3 5 7
Swampy or rocky 2 3 4 6 8
Ice/Slippery 2 4 6 8 10
Tight spaces (to get stuck) 2 3 4 5 6
2 opponents N/A N/A N/A 6 5
3-5 opponents N/A N/A N/A 8 6
5-10 Opponents N/A N/A N/A 9 7
10+ opponents N/A N/A N/A 10 8

One of the most fundamental mechanics in any Riddle of Steel combat is the terrain roll. This articles fleshes out terrain rolls, clarifies what they can and cannot do, and provides plenty of examples of how they may be used to enhance your combats, make them more cinematic (if that’s your thing), and keep your character alive.

The following rules by no means cover every possible use of terrain rolls, but should provide wily players and Seneschals with enough ideas and examples to be able to work out additional uses.

Basic Terrain Rolls

Reduced to its most basic form, a terrain roll is this: The player declares that his character wants to do something other than attack, defend or parry that is not otherwise covered by a combat maneuver. The Seneschal assigns a TN for the attempt, and the player removes as many dice as he likes from his CP, rolling them against that TN. As long as he achieves at least one success, he succeeds.

Movement in Combat

A character may move up to his Move attribute number of yards in a combat round. In a single exchange he may move this number in feet. Moving this much in one exchange is considered Charging, and grants a +2 CP bonus to offensive action on that whole round, as though the character had adopted an aggressive stance. Charging incurs a -2 CP penalty to defensive maneuvers for the whole round.

Successful use of movement during a bout can often involve a terrain roll, at the Seneschal's discretion.

Difficult Fighting Conditions

The other main use of terrain rolls is to counter the debilitating effects of difficult fighting conditions. Battling on the narrow top of a castle wall or fi ghting on ice (for example) requires a measure of concentration by the fi ghter, which is concentration that he’s not focusing on his foe. As described in The Riddle of Steel rulebook, the Seneschal assigns the TN of the terrain roll and the potential consequences for failure. The player takes as many dice from his CP as he deems appropriate and rolls them, looking for at least one success.

Contested Terrain Rolls

Contested terrain rolls are made to prevent your opponent making a successful terrain roll. They work in exactly the same way as terrain rolls – the character nominates as many CP from his pool as he likes and rolls them against the same TN as the terrain roll TN. The character with the highest number of successes wins, although in the case of a tie the victory goes to the character making the terrain roll, rather than to the opposing character.

Multiple Opponents

One of the most useful uses of the Terrain Roll is that used to confuse multiple opponents in battle – causing them to get in each other’s way so that the character has to face only one per round. Target numbers are listed in Table 4.3 above, but what happens if the opponents notice this and want to attempt to counter it?

Using the procedure noted above, allow the opponents to make opposed terrain rolls. Each opponent rolls as many dice from his CP as he likes (those who choose not to roll are considered to have rolled but received zero successes).

Note that only exceptional opponents are likely to make opposed terrain rolls in this manner. The Seneschal must use his discretion as to how likely or how often this occurs. These kinds of rolls are extremely useful for several PC’s trying to outmaneuver a single highly skilled opponent, however.

  • If the lone character beats (or ties) all opponents, he may choose which one he will face for the round.
  • If a single opponent gets more successes than the character, that opponent is the only one to face the lone character this round OR can choose to NOT engage the character and the character must select one to face from the remaining opponents (this allows a wounded opponent to back out of the fight).
  • If two or more opponents get more successes than the lone character, the character must face two of them (the opponents choose which two out of those who beat the characters number of successes). If there is only one opponent left who wants to face the character and who rolled more successes than he did, then the character faces only that opponent this round. If there are no opponents with more successes than the character who wish to face him, the character chooses a single opponent out of the remaining ones who rolled fewer successes than the character or chose not to roll.
  • If the character botches his terrain roll, he must face three opponents of the opponents’ choice (or four in the case of smaller opponents, such as dogs or wolves).

Note that Table 4.3 does not provide TNs for multiple opponents at 'normal' speed, which is the speed moved by a defending combatant. This means that if you wish to initiate this sort of terrain roll, you need to take the offensive. Get wrong-footed when you're outnumbered and you're in a bad spot.

Pressing Opponents

Melee combats rage back and forth as opposing fighters thrust and swing at each other, stepping into gaps and falling back before ferocity. One very good tactic to throw off your opponent is to push him back or otherwise lead him to a position where his fighting conditions become hampered, giving you the advantage. Terrain rolls may be used for this purpose.

Unless the characters specify otherwise, fights are assumed to range roughly back-and-forth, with the attacker always pressing forward and the defender falling back slightly, and the gain being reversed when the defender becomes the attacker and vice versa. It is possible for either character to press his opponent, however, to attempt to gain the upper hand.

Any character, while defending or attacking, may declare that he is pressing his opponent. This will often be an opposed terrain roll, if the opponent attempts to push back. Terrain dice are rolled against a TN of 3 (while attacking) or 4 (while defending). The attack/defense Margin of Success is used to determine how far in feet the combatants move during the exchange (toward the defender if the attacker has the higher Margin of Success, or toward the attacker if the defender does). Successes on the pressing terrain roll then add to whichever side rolled them. The Seneschal will adjudicate the results of the press. Success in the press does not necessarily imply that initiative has been won or lost – this is still determined by the winner of the exchange. It’s quite possible to fail miserably in trying to hit your opponent, but push him back anyway.

Cinematic Terrain Rolls

Another very cool (and optional) use for terrain rolls is being cinematic in combat. Want to leap up and swing across the room on a chandelier while slashing at foes below you? Make a terrain roll. Want to slide beneath your opponent’s legs and come up behind him, while slashing at his pelvis on the way? Make a terrain roll. Want to… well, you get the idea.

Why? Because it makes the fight more cool. Let's face it - the duel between Inigo and The Man in Black on the top of the cliff of insanity in The Princess Bride wouldn’t have been nearly as good if they weren’t flipping over each other, throwing their swords around and catching them, and so on. Such things make the game more fun, and may well be awarded with bonus style dice by your Seneschal. This style of play isn’t for everybody of course – some groups like their Riddle of Steel games to be more realistic while some like them to be more cinematic. It’s up to you.

Another good option to encourage flashy and interesting play in cinematic games is to give each character bonus CP dice that may only be used for cinematic terrain rolls. These may be in the forum of 2-3 extra dice per round, or perhaps a pool of dice per session that get slowly used up. We like the refreshing 2-3 dice per round idea, as this means that the characters won’t run out of cinematic terrain dice at any point, but the idea of a stable pool has possibilities as well – perhaps every time the character pulls off a particularly nifty move he gains bonus dice in his “cinematic terrain die pool”. Of course, either way there’s nothing stopping the characters from using dice from their normal CP to supplement these moves!

Cinematic Rolls

Cinematic rolls should have their TN’s determined by using a base, and adding a variable number due to the diffi culty. The base is determined by the Seneschal depending on the circumstances. Outwitting opponents might use their average (or highest) Wit as a base (such as in the rooftop example above), while darting between two figures might use their average Reflex attribute, and so on. If an obvious number cannot be determined, the Seneschal should use a default base of 4-5. To this base number is added a difficulty modifier as listed below:

Relatively straightforward (e.g. Sliding down a rope) +0
Tricky (e.g. Sliding down a rope in a heavy breeze) +1
Difficult (e.g. Sliding down a rope in a heavy breeze, holding a weapon in one hand) +2
Very difficult (e.g. Sliding down a rope in a heavy breeze with one hand while parrying an attack with the weapon in the other hand) +3
Heroic (e.g. Sliding down a rope in a heavy wind with one hand while fending off multiple attacks with the weapon in the other hand) +4 or more

These modifiers may be added to other forms of terrain rolls, as the Seneschal deems fit.

rules/terrain.txt · Last modified: 2014/01/03 23:30 (external edit)
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