Gambits

In the examples below, I’m introducing a mechanic called “Gambits”. A Gambit is a package of conditions (when the Gambit can come into play), costs (determining the Action Cost), and consequences (what the Gambit does on success).

Examples

Harm (1)

Conditions: You are facing an opponent, and are capable of doing something that injures them.

Consequences: You inflict a point of Harm on your opponent. Characters who take more Harm than their character level are dispatched (killed, knocked unconscious, whatever).

Costs:

  • Target’s level (+level).
  • Extra Harm (+3 per point of extra Harm to inflict).
  • Wounds (-number of times the target has been Harmed).

Defeat (10)

Conditions: You are facing an opponent, and are capable of doing something that takes them out of the conflict immediately.

Consequences: You decisively take the target character out of play - killing an enemy fighter, striking a vital nerve cluster to induce unconsciousness, or whatever.

Costs:

  • Target’s level (+level).
  • Wounds (-number of times the target has been Harmed).
  • Quietly (+5). You finish off the target without alerting those nearby of your action. Requires stealth or some other justification (such as a fast-acting poison, Touch of Death ki move, invasive nanotechnology, etc.) Not usable with Impressively.
  • Impressively (+10). Your move is so amazing that any nearby targets allied with the victim and under the victim’s level will break and run in retreat. Not usable with Quietly.

Whirlwind Attack (12)

This Gambit is available to members the Swordfighter class at level 3 or above.

Conditions: You are facing one or more opponents, and are equipped with a sword.

Consequences: You inflict a total of twice your level in points of Harm, distributed across targets in melee range. You can distribute these points as you wish, up to 3 Harm per target. Characters who take more Harm than their character level are dispatched (killed, knocked unconscious, whatever).

Commentary

Generic Gambits should exist for things that everyone can do, but won’t be especially awesome at doing. These would be the “Harm” and “Defeat” Gambits.

Gambits for PCs should provide flavor for the PC character class (or whatever), and nuance that’s lacking in the generic Gambits. The “Whirlwind Attack” Gambit is an example of this. It’s easily capable of dispatching low-level (1-3) targets, but won’t kill higher-level targets so easily.

If you want more nuance to your combat, you could add additional Gambits, like “Stun” or “Wound”, that have specific effects. In some games, combat might be a ritualized, formalized affair where a few hits, followed by a solid blow and then a finishing move, are the way to kill the Monster of the Week. Other games will have a single “Harm” type Gambit that just does hit point damage.