Archives of Nethys

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All Rules in Combat

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Mastering Combat

Source Ultimate Combat pg. 124
Combat is more than just knowing how to swing a sword without cutting yourself. To some, it is a means to an end, a regrettable necessity when all other options have failed, and a tool that is to be set down the moment it’s not absolutely needed. To others, it is a panacea and a way of life—a means of solving any problem, and of proving one’s worth by standing tall against one’s fellows and the harsh denizens of an uncaring universe. In the hands of a skilled warrior, a sword is no longer simply a sharpened length of steel, and even a club is more than just a broken branch. These objects become instruments of a serious and sometimes brutal art, one whose practitioners are every bit as skilled in their artistry as the greatest bards. Many such acolytes of battle might say that theirs is the only art worth pursuing, as it’s the sole one by which the artist not only inspires respect, but commands it. Combat is civilization’s oldest trade and form of expression, and no matter how far we’ve come since the first days of stones and sticks, it continues to shape the events that define us. A civilized society may claim to abhor bloodshed, but it’s that same bloodshed—or its threat—that watches over us and gives us the freedom to maintain such ideals.

While the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook presents a robust system capable of simulating most combat, as well as a wide selection of weapons and armor types common to most European-influenced fantasy settings, this chapter provides new options for GMs and players alike to add depth to the standard combat rules, as well as introduces a wealth of new weapons with historical ties to those lands that would have seemed strange and exotic to residents of Medieval Europe.

Firearms

Source Ultimate Combat pg. 135
Guns are not strangers to fantasy. The earliest authors of fantasy and weird fiction often included guns in their stories. Heroes like Burroughs’s John Carter or Howard’s Solomon Kane carried pistols alongside their swords, and it’s hard to imagine a pirate ship without cannons blazing. These authors likely included guns because they are exciting, but also because the guns they chose were primitive ones— relatively unpredictable weapons, prone to misfire and malfunction. This made firearms excellent storytelling devices. Such weapons could cause hero or villain to falter or triumph, changing the action within the tale in a flash or a fizzle. Still, a firearm remains an ominous and terrible weapon in the hands of a skilled gunman.

This section presents an anachronistic collection of hand-held black powder weapons. Most of them are singleshot muzzle-loaders with highly inefficient triggering mechanisms—traditional sword and sorcery firearms. More advanced firearms are also presented for those brave enough to mix their fantasy with a technology much closer to that of the Old West than the slow and unstable weapons that gave musketeers their name. If you are interested in letting such weapons in your game, do so with the following warning: Advanced guns can substantially change the assumptions of your game world, in the same way that they changed the face of warfare in the real world. If you like your fantasy to be of the more traditional variety, stand clear. Or, better yet, run for cover.

Duels

Source Ultimate Combat pg. 150
There is no form of combat more civilized than the duel. Be it with steel or spells, duels are used to settle disputes in situations where a chaotic melee would be disruptive or even illegal. Although duels are often considered honorable, this does not necessarily make them any less deadly. Duels often permit combatants to engage in more even fights than the fracas of the battlefield, allowing the true skill, power, and wit of each to determine the victor.

Performance Combat

Source Ultimate Combat pg. 153
Not every fight is for survival. Combatants sometimes find themselves in contests where the crowd’s reaction is at least as important as the outcome of the fight itself. Whether a bar brawl with the goal of rousing the local populace to rise up against a band of bullies or a sun-drenched and bloody gladiatorial contest where life and death actually hinge on the favor of the crowd, performance combats are fights in which showmanship and flair can be more important than ruthless fighting efficiency.

The following rules for performance combat allow you as the GM to run an encounter, or even a series of combat encounters, in which the combatants must not only win the battle, but also win over the crowd.

Siege Engines

Source Ultimate Combat pg. 158
A classic trope of fantasy warfare is the storming of a castle or other large fortification. Whether the PCs are leading a brave and desperate defense of a lonely bastion against an overwhelming army of darkness, or overseeing the fight to overthrow an evil ruler and cast down his mighty fortress, a fight along the battlements can fire the imagination of a jaded player who has grown bored with one-on-one hacking. While historical sieges often depended more on disease and starvation for victory than anything else, the thrill for players is likely to come more from bombardment and assault with an array of siege engines, and countering the massive engines of their enemies with their own.

The basic rules for siege engines from the Core Rulebook are found here. The following new options for siege engines both supplement and expand upon those rules. If the rules ever appear to be in conflict, use the rules below.