THE MELEE ROUND
The basic time measure for single or small-group combat is the melee round. This is a short, elastic unit of time — basically, the time required to conceive and perform one action in melee. Melee rounds continue in succession until everyone is done fighting, either through incapacitation, death, surrender, or flight.
MELEE ROUND PROCEDURE
Each time personal combat is joined, the following procedure should be followed during each melee round:
1. Determination Phase
2. Resolution Phase
3. Winner’s Phase
4. Loser’s Phase
5. Movement Phase
In this initial phase, all combatants state what they intend to do this round, including the weapon they wield. Targets and opponents are named. Enemies within 1 yard of each other are automatically considered “engaged,” and need not move to fight. Otherwise, movement must take place (during the Movement Phase) before combat can be resolved in subsequent rounds.
Any non-movement action declared in the previous phase is now resolved. If the character did not intend to move this round, then his action now takes place. If a skill or combat skill roll is required for the action, it is made now. Generally, characters can either fight (during this phase) or move (during the Movement Phase), but not both. Lance charges are an exception to this rule: Knights must both move and fight during the charge, and that resolution takes place now.
If combat occurs, both combatants roll their respective modified weapon skills, using opposed resolution (see "Rolling Dice"). The results leave a winner and a loser, a tie, or two losers. In addition, critical successes and fumbles have special meaning in combat.
If one character succeeds and the other fails, proceed to the Winner’s Phase.
If both fighters fail their weapon rolls, then both missed that round. The fight is inconclusive this round, and no damage is dealt on either side. They can try again (or try something else) next round. Proceed to the Movement Phase.
If both fighters roll the same number and both are successful, then a tie occurs. This is essentially the same as if both had failed, but if one combatant’s weapon is a sword and the other’s is not, the sword breaks the other weapon. Proceed to the Movement Phase.
A fumble means one of two things: Either that the fumbling fighter dropped his weapon (if it was a sword), or that his weapon broke (if it was any other type of weapon). Either way, the character must re-arm himself before he can attack again, or else he must resort to some other type of action.
A critical success on a weapon roll means that the player who rolled the critical deals double damage for his weapon during the Winner’s Phase (so if his normal damage is 4d6, he would roll 8d6) — unless both fighters rolled criticals, in which case their attacks are resolved as a tie.
The winner rolls his damage against the loser. If the winner achieved a notable success (a critical, for example, or a success against a noteworthy foe or that moves the story forward significantly), he may also, with Gamemaster approval, receive an experience check for the weapon used. A critical success deals double damage.
The loser checks for special results and takes damage.
First, the loser should check immediately, based on the damage his opponent rolled in the previous phase, for Knockdown results. (See "Attributes and Derived Statistics".)
Next, if the loser is using a shield and made a successful weapon roll, then he adds his shield’s armor reduction value to his armor’s reduction value for this round.
He now takes damage, subtracting any protection gained from his armor and shield (if applicable).
Any damage beyond that absorbed by the character’s reduction points is recorded under Wounds on the character sheet, and this number is then subtracted from the character’s current hit points. This is the actual damage (as opposed to the "Knockdown damage") taken this round.
Compare the actual damage with the character’s Major Wounds statistic to determine whether he suffers any grievous effects from his enemy’s blow. (See "Attributes and Derived Statistics".)
Also, compare the character’s current hit points with his Unconscious statistic to see if the character has taken too much punishment and thus collapsed. (See "Attributes and Derived Statistics".)
A character who falls unconscious during combat, whether due to a Major Wound or the accumulation of many small wounds, may still attempt a DEX roll if on horseback or balancing on a wall. Success indicates a gentle fall that does little or no damage, at the Gamemaster’s discretion.
Characters who declared movement this round now move up to a number of yards equal to their Movement Rate. Participants in the combat who intended to move this round take their first yard of movement all at once; likewise, their second yard of movement occurs simultaneously; then their third; and so on until all combatants have taken their full allotment of movement. Riders can move up to their mount’s Movement Rate this way (a horse givesa great advantage in melee movement).
A character is not required to move his full Movement Rate. However, once a combatant chooses to stop moving along with the other combatants, he cannot move any further during this phase. When a character moves to within 1 yard of an enemy, evasion may be necessary for movement to continue.
A character who is partially protected by a substantial protective covering (other than armor or a shield) imposes a –5 modifier to attacker’s weapon rolls.
In general, combat in Pendragon is over fast enough that fatigue does not have a chance to overcome adrenaline and valor. However, if a character fights for a number of consecutive melee rounds greater than his CON value, then fatigue should set in; normally, this modifier should not exceed a –5 penalty.
Any time a character fights with the advantage of height, such as a horseman versus a foot soldier or a knight on a rampart attacking a man scaling the wall, a +5/–5 reflexive modifier applies in favor of the character with the height advantage. Note that this modifier applies when one character has fallen to the ground and the other remains standing.
Characters who are grappled, partially entangled, stuck in quicksand, or otherwise unable to move properly suffer a –10/+10 reflexive modifier in combat or to skills involving movement.
A surprised foe includes one attacked from behind or without due warning. The attacker’s weapon roll is always unopposed by the surprised victim, and also gains a +5 modifier. It is very dishonorable to attack an enemy from surprise.
Knights not wearing armor and otherwise only lightly encumbered gain a +5 modifier to all weapon rolls in combat. Characters such as peasants, bandits, or Picts, who are not trained to wear armor, do not gain this modifier. Note that fighting without protection is extremely dangerous, and should never be done on purpose.
In darkness, fog, smoke, or similar conditions, a character suffers a –10 modifier to all weapon skills.
Whenever a character takes a blow, the damage dealt before the victim’s armor, if any, reduces it — is compared to his SIZ value. If the damage received is equal to or greater than the SIZ value but less than twice that value, then the character has received a blow that sends him reeling for balance. He must now make a DEX roll, if on foot, or a Horsemanship roll if mounted. If the roll is successful, then the character recovers handily and can continue fighting as normal. If the roll fails, the knight falls down. If he was mounted, he takes 1d6 damage from the fall; if he was on a wall or some other high place and fumbles the DEX roll, he plummets over the edge, taking falling damage as appropriate.
Whenever a character receives damage equal to twice the value of his SIZ attribute or more, he is knocked down automatically, without the chance to recover his balance.
When knocked down, an armored knight may struggle back to his feet during the Movement Phase next round (i.e., not the one yet to come this round). If the character is attacked before getting up, then he and his opponent(s) receive –5/+5 reflexive modifiers to their weapon rolls. Unless knocked down again, he regains his footing at the beginning of the next Movement Phase, and may take a move normally at that time.
ARMOR AND SHIELDS
At the beginning of the campaign, your knight will be equipped with chainmail, which provides 10 armor points and also causes a -10 DEX penalty. Reinforced chainmail (which provides 12 armor points) exists, but is extremely rare and costly, and is usually available only as a gift from wealthy lords. Better armors will appear later in the campaign.
A shield grants 6 additional points of armor reduction to the loser of an opposed combat resolution with a partial success. (see "Rolling Dice")
Up to three enemies may attack a single character on foot; only two may attack a single foe if all are mounted.
When a knight is opposed by multiple opponents, he can divide his weapon value among them as he wishes. Once your weapon value has been divided, make a separate weapon roll against each opponent, using the assigned portion of your weapon skill as your effective skill for that opponent. When fighting more than one foe, damage may be dealt to all opponents against whom you won the roll.
Moving out of a melee engagement requires the evasion tactic if two characters are fighting afoot or if both are mounted. The evading character must make an opposed DEX roll (if the combatants are on foot) or Horsemanship roll (if they are mounted) opposed to the opponent’s modified weapon skill roll. This tactic imposes +5/–5 reflexive modifiers to the attacker and the dodging character, respectively. If the evading character wins the opposed roll, he dodges the enemy’s attack and may still move normally this turn. If the attacking character wins the roll, he deals damage normally and the evading character cannot move this round. If the characters tie, both are considered to have lost the roll for the round: In this case, the evading character fails to move but is not hit. If the evading character fumbles, he falls down; if he was on horseback, he takes 1d6 damage from the fall. If multiple opponents are involved, this tactic cannot be used at all unless the Gamemaster approves.
If the evasion option is not used, a character cannot disengage from melee combat unless he is mounted and his opponent is afoot. Otherwise, combat goes on until both opponents agree to stop fighting willingly.
A character may spend the melee round simply dodging attacks rather than fighting normally. Treat a dodge as an unopposed DEX roll, with the attacking character making an unopposed weapon skill roll at the same time.
A successful dodge means the character avoided the blow entirely, taking no damage and avoiding any knockdown effects. A critical success while dodging has no additional effect. A failed or fumbled dodge, however, means that the character fell to the ground as a result of his awkward movement, and was hit by the enemy as usual if the latter was successful in his unopposed weapon roll. Damage is inflicted normally, although knockdown need not be tested since the character has already fallen.
A character fighting multiple foes may try dodging, but must divide his DEX value among his foes.
A lance charge is the only attack that must be made while moving. The horse must move at least 6 yards in a roughly straight line to build up enough speed for lance charge damage. If a lance charge is made against anything other than a character also making a lance charge, the charging knight gets a +5 modifier to his Lance skill. Further, because the horse’s weight and momentum is behind the attack, the damage from a lance charge uses the horse’s Damage statistic rather than the rider’s, as shown below:
The lance charge can thus be particularly devastating against opponents using ordinary melee weapons. A lance breaks more easily than some weapons: If the total damage dealt by the lance is an odd number, then the lance breaks. Also, a fumble indicates that the lance broke before doing any damage.
Note that charging with a spear works the exact same way, but because of the movement it is still labelled a "lance charge" and you still use your Lance skill for the charge, even though you are wielding a spear. Once you use your spear in anything else than a charge, though, you use your Spear skill.
NO TWO-HANDED WEAPONS
Two-handed weapons may not be used from horseback.
As mentioned above ("Higher ground"), a mounted character fighting an enemy who is afoot gains a +5 modifier to his weapon skill and his enemy gets a -5 modifier to his, unless the footman is armed with a great spear or halberd. This modifier stacks with that gained from a lance charge (for a total of +10), if applicable.
Brawling is a most unchivalrous manner of fighting. Occasionally, however, a player knight will want to hit another character with his fist, a chair, or whatever is handy. There is no special skill defined for such attacks, nor are knights trained in such banal forms of combat: This uncouth kind of violence is more appropriate to commoners than members of the nobility. In fact, engaging in a brawl will probably lose a knight 1 point of Honor. Glory cannot be gained from brawling.
To make a brawling attack, each character involved makes an opposed roll using either STR, DEX, or his Grapple skill, whichever is highest, as his “brawling” value. A critical success deals double damage, as with any attack, while a fumble indicates that the brawler fell down clumsily. Damage for brawling is equal to the character’s normal Damage statistic minus 2d6, to a minimum of 1d6 damage.
Knights disdain to use missile weapons in combat, except for the short-ranged javelin once common in Rome: Only cowards fight from a distance, and personal honor requires men to confront each other body to body. Hunting is different; missile weapons may be used by knights in this pursuit.
Three ranged weapon skills are defined in Pendragon: Bow, Crossbow, and Javelin. As well, a DEX roll can be used to hurl a stone or heave a boulder at an enemy, but there is no “throw” skill per se. All ranged attacks are made as unopposed rolls. If the target has a shield, he does not get an opposed roll, but the shield acts as “cover,” imposing a –5 modifier to the attacker’s skill.
There is no penalty to Honor for using missile weapons, but the Glory gained from defeating an opponent or creature using ranged attacks is always 1/10th of normal.
During a tournament or in a joust or otherwise "friendly" fight, a knight might use blunted (or rebated) weapons, or else voluntarily hold back the full force of his blows. The knight strikes with force, seeking merely to knock his foe to the ground, but without the damage a normal attack would confer. Weapon skill rolls and the chance for a knockdown are calculated normally.
However, rebated weapons and pulled blows deal no actual damage at all except on a critical success: In this case, the attack does normal damage, but not the double damage of a real weapon on a critical. This damage is treated as normal in every way - it may actually wound the opponent, possibly fatally if the knight is truly puissant.
LARGE SCALE BATTLES
Large battles involving thousands of fighters are an important part of Pendragon. The specific rules for them are quite complex but it is not necessary for you to know them, as (at least at first) none of your characters will be important enough to be battle leaders, so you will simply be asked to follow the lead of your lord, and the instructions of your Gamemaster which will be given then.