It is said that, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory.” It’s also the most boring route that can be taken. Using tactics offers a variety of strategic opportunities that gives characters advantages and can end battles quickly. Engaging in combat is more than just swinging a sword or firing a bow until something dies. There are many ways to attack, and factors such as numbers, terrain, and line of sight can affect the manner of attack.

With that in mind, this section offers mechanics for attack, defend, move, riding, and advanced tactics, each with descriptions, modifiers, and effects, with sample battle maps offering a visual explanation (battle maps and tokens may be used but are not required for combat). Combat in this system works better when characters work together, using tactics can offset modifiers and provide groups with an advantage.

My Writing Distractions logo using the initials WD.

Flanking Tactics

One of the more effective group tactics, these use multiple attackers to surround a foe making it easier for attackers to hit and harder for opponents to defend. Flanking is a siege tactic that consists of three categories: a Standard Flank has two attackers and one defender of the same size, while a Siege Flank has more than two attackers and one defender, and a Scaled Flank involves opponents of different sizes.

Depending on the number of combatants and degree of siege, attackers get a modifier to hit and the defender has a modifier to defend. Each type has a set of scenarios with a description and image example of the flank type.

Standard Flank

Two (2) characters are required and they must be on opposite sides of the defender (scenario 1). Attackers gain a +2 modifier to attack actions and the defender has a -2 modifier to defend actions. Vertical or horizontal flanks are better able to negate disengagements, but can be broken with a combat step or the use of a disengage skill, (scenario 2). A diagonal flank (scenario 3) cannot be broken without drawing an attack of opportunity from at least one attacker, without the use of a disengage skill.

Siege Flank

With a third attacker (scenario 4), the defender cannot break the flank without drawing an attack of opportunity and all attackers get a +2 bonus modifier to attack actions, while the defender has a -4 modifier to defend actions. Attacking a defender from four opposite sides is referred to as a Double Flank (scenario 5), which increases the modifier to +4 for all attackers, giving the defender a -4 to any defend actions. Six attackers encircling a single target is considered a Surrounded (scenario 6), giving all attackers a +6 modifier to any attack actions and the defender a -6 modifier to any defend actions.

Scaled Flank

Due to their reach, flanking opponents of one size scale larger (scenario 7) with two or three attackers does not offer combat modifiers beyond the normal size modifiers. With four attackers (scenario 8), all attackers gain an additional +2 modifier to attack actions while the defender has a -4 modifier to defend actions, and the defender cannot break the flank without drawing an attack of opportunity.

Surrounding a target one size scale larger with six for more combatants (scenario 9) increases the modifier to +4 for all attack actions, while the defender has a -4 to any defend actions. For a target of two size scale larger (scenario 10), six or more combatants are required to gain a flank advantage, providing attackers with a +2 modifier to attack actions, while the defender has a -2 modifier to defend actions.

Three combatants flanking a giant snake monster

Ranged Tactics

For those who used ranged attacks, there is a specific tactic for overcoming modifiers to hit combatants in melee and working with melee allies to gain a modifier to attack actions.

Scenario 1

Clear Shot

When firing a ranged weapon into melee combat, if the attacker does not have line of sight through allies, a difficult (-4) modifier is applied to the skill roll. Using this tactic, the attacker moves into a clear line of sight before firing.

It is best for the attacker to wait until the Movement phase of initiative to attack if they do not have a clear line of sight.

Scenario 2

Ranged Flank

This tactic requires an engaged melee combatant and a shooter capable of firing from a clear position. Attackers get a +2 modifier to attack actions and defenders have a -2 modifier to defend actions so long as the shooter is opposite the ally on the same plane with the opponent (per the scenario image).

A Ranged Flank can be substituted into a Standard, Double, or Surrounded type flank, however, unlike other flanks, this one does not prevent the defender from disengaging as the shooter’s threat zone isn’t factored. To be most effective, this tactic requires coordinated movements between the shooter and melee ally, often by waiting until the Movement phase of initiative to attack.

Cover Tactics

Ranged attacks can be devastating when you’re out in the open and exposed to a barrage of incoming arrows. In these situations, finding cover can be the difference between living to fight another day and becoming a pincushion.

There are four scenarios for cover: Physical Cover, Atmospheric Cover, Firing from Cover, and Diving for Cover.

Examples of cover with modifier value.

Physical Cover

Scenario 1

This tactic involves getting behind an object or structure that will protect the character from Ranged attacks. Those shooting at the character have no modifier to hit, however the defender gets an armor rating bonus, based on the percentage of cover:

¼ cover:+2 Physical
½ cover:+2 Impact
+4 Physical
¾ cover:+2 Elemental
+4 Impact
+8 Physical
Full cover:Structural Strength

The bonuses above represent the amount of damage absorbed by the cover object. On a hit, the modifier is added to the armor rating to resist damage, though, with full cover, the item or object’s Structural Strength must be defeated before damage is assessed.

Eaxmple of atmospheric cover using smoke between opponents.

Atmospheric Cover

Scenario 2

A condition that conceals or obscures a character’s presence, this type of cover typically affects the actions of all combatants, however, it can be used to gain a tactical advantage. The types of cover are:


Type of CoverModifier
Heavy Rain-2
Light Fog-2
Flash of Light-4
Moonless Night/Gloomy Area-4
Gloom Shadows-6
Heavy Fog-6
Thick Black Smoke-6
Blinding Light-8
Complete Darkness-8


In situations where the attacker is unaffected by the condition or can use it to their advantage without being affected by it, the modifier applies only to the affected combatant.

Firing from Cover

Scenario 3

Shooting a ranged weapon from cover requires the character to use a standard action to emerge from cover and a second standard action to duck back into cover. Because this is a move based action, it must be done on the Movement phase of the initiative turn and requires no skill checks.

However, utilizing the Cover skill these may be taken as Free Actions with successful skill checks, during the Ranged phase of the initiative turn. A failed emergence skill check requires an action, while a failed return skill check requires an action (if available) and must wait for the Movement phase.

Diving for Cover

Scenario 4

While getting to cover typically requires one or more move actions on the movement phase, if the character is 2-3 yards from cover, they can choose to make a desperate pitch to get there during any initiative phase in which they can react. Requiring one (2 yards away) or two (3 yards away) Free Actions, the character can literally dive behind cover, ending up in a prone position. A character with the Cover skill can attempt to roll into a squatted position after Diving for Cover with a successful skill check – while prone, this position requires only a free action to stand from prone.

While this is technically a move action, it may be used during other initiative phases because it is being used with free actions and the character is ending in a prone state. No skill rolls are required to make this attempt, the character must stand from prone before taking any actions from the covered position.

Avoidance Tactics

When there is no available cover, there are still options for those who want to get out of the way. These tactics combine the Dodge skill with a degree of movement.

There are two Avoidance scenarios: On-Guard and Move and Escaping Area Attacks.

Cover on-guard and move example using opponents.

On-Guard and Move

Scenario 1

A tactic used to avoid ranged attacks and move in some direction, often towards the shooter. This is a full round action that must be announced before the the shooter attacks, but otherwise may be used in any phase of initiative in which the character can act.

The mechanics are simple, the defender takes a Defensive Stance, in initiative and goes On-Guard, allowing for multiple defend actions. Whether or not the defend actions are successful, the defender may move up to half of their per action move rate in any direction, up to a distance equal to half of their per round move rate.

When closing on a shooter or other foe, they may use move actions (if available) to retreat away before the character arrives.

Escaping Area Attacks

Scenario 2

When caught in an area attack, two (2) actions are required to escape it. First, the defender must make a Dodge skill check – this allows the character to recognize the attack and gives them the ability to move. After a successful Dodge skill check, the character can move out of the area of effect.

Those on the edge of the effect, can use a Free Action combat step to escape. For those further in or who wish to put a greater distance between themselves and the effect, a move action is required. The move action does not require any type of skill check.

Combat Step Tactics

A one-yard step or shift that can be made in combat during the character’s attack actions. While these steps can be used anywhere on the battlefield, typically for positional reasons, their tactical usefulness is most noteworthy in melee.

A Combat Step requires an available free action and can be used to Reposition, Overstep, or Disengage.


Scenario 1

On their attack action, the character can take a one-yard move as a free action to reposition in combat. This can be done to set up another tactic, break an existing tactic, or move to a specific location without exiting the threat zone and drawing an attack of opportunity.


Scenario 2

During the character’s attack action, they can take a one-yard step to engage with another target. A free action is required to make the move. The character may move within an existing threat zone to enter the new threat zone, but may not leave a threat zone without drawing an attack of opportunity.


Scenario 3

Combining a combat step (free action) with two standard actions, the character can move back one yard, out of a single threat zone, without drawing an attack of opportunity. Once the character has disengaged, they can take additional actions in the round to move, cast, make a ranged attack, etc.

This tactic cannot be used to disengage from multiple threat zones without drawing an attack of opportunity.

Advancing Tactics

When it comes to combat, some character like to keep their distance, but these tactics are for those who can’t wait to engage.


Scenario 1

This is an aggressive tactic used to unbalance a foe with a swift, bold assault. It requires a minimum of one move action to invade the opponents threat range. For the remainder of the round the attacking character gets a +2 modifier to attack actions against that foe, and suffers a -2 modifier to all defend skill actions against that foe.


Scenario 2

This tactic is used to drive the defender in a specific direction, one yard at a time. Requiring a combat step and one action, the attacker steps forward into the defender, forcing them to move one yard back as directed by the attacker. The defender can choose to allow themselves to be moved one yard back, hold their ground by spending an action, or take an attack of opportunity at a difficult (-4) modifier – the latter requires a Reaction save to avoid falling prone as they are being pushed back.

Attackers using at least a medium-sized shield are not subject to the attack of opportunity. Defenders in a fatigue state must make a modified Strength save to hold their ground.

Because this is a move based tactic, there are no attack or defend rolls with the exception of those listed above, requiring only for the character to spend the requisite actions.

Charging Tactics

While the skills in the Mounted Combat tree are used to make attacks, getting into a position to attack is dependent on the ability to maneuver the mount. Rather than just repeatedly riding back and forth, these tactics allow for multiple attacking options.

Charging tactics require a Riding skill check and one or more actions and can be used to make a Melee Pass, Override, Snappy Turn, or Break the Line.

Mount speed at the time of attack determines the hit modifier and damage calculation:

SpeedHit ModDam Calculation
Walk (up to ¼ move)+2STR+BH+WD
Trot (up to ½ move)-0-STR+Move+WD
Canter (up to ¾ move)-2STR+Move+WD
Gallop (up to full move)-4STR+Move+WD

Melee Pass

Scenario 1

The most basic of maneuvers, it is used to guide the mount close enough to a combatant – whether they are mounted or on foot – to make a melee attack. A Riding (-0-) skill check free action is required to get the mount into position to attack. On a pass, combatants are allowed a single attack action and defend action per opponent (weapon speed factor rules apply). With reach weapons, an aggressive initiative attitude allows for a first attack on a footman and a defend action regardless of the defenders initiative attitude. A failure results in poor positioning, negating the pass attack or applying a difficult (-4) modifier to the attack roll.


Scenario 2

This tactic is used to overtake an opponent moving away from the mounted combatant and get into position for further attack. A Riding (-2) skill check action is required to complete the maneuver, allowing for a melee attack on the pass and cutting off the target’s move with the mount to make additional attacks. It can be used at a trot or canter, but requires a Sliding Stop at a gallop and may be used with reach weapons to allow for the aggressive Melee Pass initiative bonus.

This tactic can be used with the Trample skill or the mount’s attack abilities (if available). A failure results in poor positioning negating additional attacks and/or potentially unseating the rider.

Snappy Turn

Scenario 3

Beginning as a Melee Pass, this tactic adds a Barrel turn to snap around the combatant and allow for a second Melee Pass on the same opponent. It requires a Riding skill check free action to properly position the initial pass and a Riding skill action to complete the Barrel turn. This maneuver can be performed at a walk (+2) or trot (-0-) at a tight turn, or a canter (-2) or gallop (-4) at a wider turn, and may be used with reach weapons to allow for the aggressive Melee Pass initiative bonus.

A Riding skill check failure results in a poor turn that negates the second Melee Pass.

Break the Line

Scenario 4

An aggressive tactic where the rider aims for a particular defender, allowing the mount to use attack actions and forcing them to make an Evade skill check and take a combat step to avoid being knocked prone. The rider can then make a Melee Pass attack. If the defender has been knocked prone, a reach weapon allows for an attack on a prone target. A Riding skill check action is required to ram the target, with the mount making any available attack actions.

A defender who chooses to stand their ground can choose to attack the steed or set a reach weapon to attack either the steed or the rider. In this instance, the steed’s move rate is applied to the defenders weapon damage in place of BH. Regardless of the attack results, the defender takes attack or trample damage.

Reigning Tactics

While riding, there are a series of maneuvers that characters can perform on their mount. These require Riding skill check actions, which can be reduced to free actions with the use of the Control Mount skill. They are most effective when used in conjunction with the Charging Tactics to get into position to attack.


Scenario 1

A more challenging maneuver than it seems, riders are required to control and direct the mount to maintain a circular track, with the speed determining the length of the track. It can be performed at a trot (-2) in a tight 3-yard turn and a canter (-4) in a wider 4 yard turn, requiring a new Riding skill check action each round. A failure breaks the track, requiring additional actions to correct.

When used to circle a defender, the rider can establish a track that allows for up to 2 melee attacks on a medium sized opponent, and 3 attacks on a large sized or greater opponent (weapon speed factor rules apply).

Sliding Stop

Scenario 2

A quick change maneuver that is typically used with other reigning tactics to rapidly change direction. It can be performed from a canter (-0-) or gallop (-2), with the mount moving in a straight line before coming to a sudden stop. A successful Riding skill check action is required to perform the maneuver, with a failure potentially unseating the rider.


Scenario 3

From a stopped position, the rider can immediately reverse the mount’s direction with this maneuver. A successful Riding (-2) skill action is required to perform the maneuver, with a failure leaving the mount in a pivoted position, requiring an additional action to complete the positional reversal.


Scenario 4

From a stopped position, the rider can rotate the mount’s direction by ¼, ½, or ¾, either to move off in a new direction or to put the rider in position to attack. A successful Riding (-0-) skill action is required to perform the maneuver, with a failure leaving the mount in a different pivoted position position, requiring an additional action to complete the pivot.


Scenario 5

From a stopped position, the rider can rotate the mount in a complete circle, either on the ground or while rearing. This can be done for show, to bring a mount’s attacks to bear or for the rider to attack surrounding foes. A successful Riding (-0-) skill action is required to perform the maneuver, with a failure leaving the mount in a pivoted position position, requiring an additional action to complete the circle, and potentially unseating the rider.

Positional Tactics

A good strategy requires combatants to be in the right places, that’s where the Positional Tactics come into play. For those who think tactically, these provide options to gain an advantage or minimize disadvantages, with the ability to adapt to the number of allies or adversaries.

Move actions and combat steps are typically required to maintain these tactics, which can be used to Counter Flank, get the High Ground, or form a Fighting Box.

Counter Flank

Scenario 1

When two combatants can get back-to-back, they can’t be flanked from oppositional positions. Although this might seem like a simple tactic, maintaining a Counter Flank in the face of multiple enemies requires significant coordination between allies to avoid Attacks of Opportunity. The use of combat steps and combining attacks on a single foe are key to this tactic.

High Ground

Scenario 2

When it comes to Positional Tactics, there are few as advantageous as gaining the High Ground. Regardless of whether it is in melee or ranged combat, this requires the combatant to have a height advantage over the the opponent, whether atop a wall, on a mound, at the top of the steps, in a tree, or whatever.

The combatant with the High Ground gets a +2 modifier to attack and a +2 modifier to defend against those with whom they are in direct melee combat. Those attempting to advance on combatants with the high ground are unable to use Charge or Rush type attacks, and double the fatigue rate, with two rounds counting towards fatigue for every round fighting up.

In ranged combat, those with the High Ground get a +2 modifier to hit and a degree of cover, depending upon the terrain, height, barriers, etc. Combatants trying to advance on those with the High Ground have the same limitations as above, and ranged combatants have a -2 modifier to attack.

Fighting Box

Scenario 3

In combat there are typically those allies who can take damage and those who can’t – whether it is because they aren’t wearing armor, are badly injured, or have no fighting prowess. A Fighting Box is a defensive starting stance where the most heavily armored and healthiest are on the front line, with the most vulnerable directly behind, and an armored ranged combatant lined up behind.

The goal is to allow the most vulnerable the ability to use Combat Steps to stay out of trouble, and the ranged combatant the ability to use Combat Steps to get a Clear Shot. Being mobile without having to spend full actions on movement, leaves those in the back the ability to attack or defend, while giving ranged opponents modifiers to hit when firing through melee.

Canny Tactics

Some people want to use a hammer to fix everything, but for the rest of us, there are more judicious options. These Canny Tactics offer shrewd combat choices, both offensive and defensive, to those looking to do more than swing a sword at it until it dies.

Using these tactics requires a degree of situational awareness and skills that may not be available to everyone, and include Ambush and Blindsiding attacks, and the chance to Roll With It when you’re out of defensive options.


Scenario 1

There are two parts to setting up a good Ambush, concealment and an abrupt attack. Whether it’s hiding behind an obstacle, blending into the surroundings, or sitting still in cover, the key is that the opponent isn’t aware of the concealed character. Any concealment can be foiled with an Observation, Search, Listening, or other such skill check, so those with Stealth or Camouflage type skills have the best chance of success.

In order to make an abrupt attack, the concealed character must first use a Free Action to hold until the target moves to a specific location. For melee combatants, that location must be within a Combat Step, and for ranged combatants, observational line of sight and a Clear Shot are required.

Targets of the ambush are allowed a base Perception check (or applicable skill check). If successful, they can take defend actions during the Ambush phase and move actions during the Movement phase, otherwise they are considered prone for the round.


Scenario 2

This is a melee tactic that requires the use of Stealth type skills to move into position to make an abrupt attack without being seen. So long as the defender is unaware of the Blindsiding character’s presence, and assuming they are within a Combat Step before attacking, all attacks made by the Blindsiding combatant in that round are considered Attacks of Opportunity.

Any awareness of the Blindsiding combatant’s attack location prior to or during the move actions negates this tactic.

Roll With It

Scenario 3

This tactic may be used in hand-to-hand or ranged combat as a last-ditch effort to minimize the impact damage suffered from a hit. When the combatant is out of actions, or after a failed defend skill check, they can attempt to roll with the impact. In order to Roll With It, they must be able to take a Combat Step and make a base Constitution attribute check.

If successful, the character rolls with the momentum of the attack reducing the amount of damage by half, but whether it is successful or not, the character is stunned for the remainder of the round and the following round.