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*Cormac, a warrior from the north of Galador and member of the King’s Hunt finally manages to corner Thaern Swifthand, a notorious highwayman, on a desolate stretch of the highland road. On most days, Thaern would not be alone, and Cormac would have to cut his way through a dozen outlaws and highland reavers to bring the brigand down. This was Lormond, however, a quiet corner of the north highlands that Thaern called home. The king had few friends here, and Thaern had dismissed his companions earlier that day; many of them likewise had homes and families in the hill-country of Lormond.*

*Thaern only became aware of Cormac’s presence after the latter bellowed his name in challenge. It was a risk Cormac had to take, as he wanted to ensure he had indeed found the famed highwayman and not some lesser man. Thaern whirled about, axe in hand, confirming his pursuer’s suspicions. After briefly eyeing the surrounding brush and thickets, wary of the unfamiliar terrain, Cormac strapped his shield over his arm, and drew his own axe.*

*Mechanics: Cormac is a veteran warrior, and possesses an 18 skill in his axe. He wears good brigandine armor (6 AR) – heavy enough for a skirmish and light enough for the rough country – and a medium shield (+5 defensive, -2 offensive skill) of the Armoghan style on his left forearm. His opponent, Thaern, wears only leathers (4 AR), has no shield and carries a fighting axe (16 skill) common to the northlands of Galador. He also possesses the Heroic Attributes Agility (1 bubble, +3 AR) and Deftness (1 bubble, +1 AR), traits that had earned him the moniker Swifthand.*

*Cormac Charges, adding the bonuses for his Size of 13 (+1) and his Strength of 14 (+1) to his Movement Rate of 3. He gains a +5 to his offensive skill, but a staggering -10 penalty to his defense. His long axe gives him a +2 to his offensive and a further -3 to his defensive skill, bringing his offensive/defensive skills on the first round of combat to a 14/1 (Offensive base 9, +2 axe, +5 charge, -2 shield = 14 total; defensive base 9, -3 axe, -10 charge, +5 shield = 1 total).*

*Thaern decides to Guard, increasing his own defenses while maintaining enough of an offensive threat to keep Cormac on his toes. The maneuver grants him a +5 to his defensive and a -5 to his offensive skill. He divides his 16 skill in half, and readies himself as best he can. His long axe grants +2 offensive/-3 defensive which combined with the Guard maneuver grants him a 5/10 (Offensive base 8, +2 axe, -5 Guard = 5 total; defensive base 8, -3 axe, +5 Guard = 10 total).*

*Cormac rolls his Offense, coming up with a 4; low, but still a success. He only has a 1 Defense, so he doesn’t bother to roll it (he doesn’t want to risk a critical failure, which with a 1 skill is just as likely as a success in this case). Thaern rolls his Defense, coming up with a 7, which defeats Cormac’s attack. He rolls his own Offense of 5, but is over with a roll of 13. This round of combat, neither opponent managed to score a hit.*

*The next round, Cormac squares up, but continues his attack, possessing a 9/11 (Offensive base 9, +2 axe, -2 shield = 9; defensive base 9, -3 axe, +5 shield = 11). Thaern decides to Parry, and will add any successful Offensive roll to his Defenses, bringing his skill to a 10/5 (Offensive base 8, +2 axe = 10; defensive base 8, -3 axe = 5).*

*Cormac rolls a 7 for his Offense, a success. He also rolls a 3 for his Defense, succeeding there as well. Thaern, hard-pressed, rolls a 4 for his Defense, not enough to stop Cormac’s blow. Using Parry, he decides to try for a defensive roll, and succeeds on a lucky roll of 1. He adds it to his Defenses, coming up with a 5, which unfortunately is still under the 7 rolled by Cormac.*

*Cormac’s axe causes 3d6 damage on a successful blow, doing 10 damage (dice roll of 3, 3, 4) to Thaern. Thaern’s 4 AR from Agility and Deftness are subtracted from this amount first, reducing it to 6. It is important to remove the AR bonus for Heroic Attributes and high Dexterity scores first, as this represents that character’s dodging and ducking in combat; only the damage left over from this actually hits Thaern. Thaern’s leather armor absorbs 4 damage, meaning he has taken a total of 2 damage – a nasty scratch but far less than what Cormac had expected to do.*

*The next round, Cormac decides to use the Bash maneuver, flipping his shield’s offensive and defensive modifiers in an attempt to batter the lightly-wounded Thaern. Thaern decides to go Defensive, recognizing Cormac’s superior skill as a serious threat.*

*Cormac’s skill is now a 16/4 (Offensive base 9, +2 axe, +5 Shield Bash = 16 total; defensive base 9, -3 axe, -2 Shield Bash = 4 total), while Thaern’s is a 0/15 (Offensive base 8, +2 axe, -10 Defensive = 0 total; defensive base 8, -3 axe, +10 Defensive = 15 total). Cormac moves in, rolling a 9 for his Offense (success) and a 14 for his Defense (failure). Thaern rolls a 13 for his Defense (success) and forgoes his Offensive roll entirely (0 skill). Cormac learns again why men called this rogue Swifthand.*

*On the following round, Cormac, enraged by his wily foe’s defenses, decides to go all in, using Berserk Attack. Thaern, who is no Master with his axe, does not know this, and decides to use Improvised Attack, intent on knocking his assailant down. Cormac’s skill this round is a lopsided 24/-5 (Offensive base 9, +2 axe, +15 Berserk Attack, -2 shield = 24 total; defensive base 9, -3 axe, -15 Berserk Attack, +5 shield = -5 total). Berserk Attack comes AFTER the opponent has rolled his own Offensive skill, and is one of the few attacks that is not considered simultaneous in FORGED; it is high-risk, but also high-reward. Thaern’s skill this round is a 5/5 (Offensive base 8, -5 Improvised attack, +2 axe = 5 total; defensive base 8, -3 axe = 5 total).*

*Thaern rolls his strike, coming up with a 5, a Critical Success! Due to his critical success, he will add 1d6 to the overall damage done by his axe. Since he used Improvised Attack this round, he is only causing Knockdown Damage (not counted against the Health score of his foe), but an additional +1d6 due to the maneuver, for a total of 5d6 damage (3d6 base, +1d6 Improvised Attack, +1d6 Critical Success). The damage total comes up to a 23 (6, 5, 4, 4, 2, 2). Cormac’s armor does nothing to stop the knockdown damage, and 23 is 10 points over Cormac’s Size of 13. He is forced to roll a Dexterity at -10, and fails miserably. He is knocked from his feet, landing hard on the turf, and losing his chance to complete his Berserk Attack this round.*

*In the following rounds, the ever-cunning (and lucky) Thaern could follow up his successes, taking advantage of Cormac’s precarious position (being knocked down halves your base weapon skill pool, in this case bringing Cormac’s base axe skill down to a 9), or he could take the opportunity to run, utilizing his knowledge of the terrain and the local people to evade his pursuer for another day. Had Thaern not succeeded in his strike, Cormac’s blow would almost certainly have done massive damage (he, too, would have been rolling 5d6 with his axe had he hit).*

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As you can see from the above, combat in FORGED hinges on the decisions made by the players; their weapon choices, Combat Maneuvers, and cunning. Obvious advantages on one side do not guarantee victory, and can be turned into opportunities by a patient, well-prepared foe. The entire melee above, from the initial Charge to Cormac’s untimely fall, lasted FOUR rounds – 24 seconds in total. Neither combatant was a Master of his chosen weapon, nor were they both entirely prepared for the fight that ensued, although Cormac possessed a slight advantage in both skill and armament. Had one or both combatants been Masters, they could have Read the other’s intended Combat Maneuvers, gaining a key competitive advantage that could have made the fight that much shorter or at least one-sided.

Had Thaern started the fight, his bow (which never had a chance to enter the fight) would likely have made short work of Cormac, assuming the well-known brigand could have struck him before the Galadorn managed to raise his shield. Had Cormac decided to forgo his shield for the fight, the ratio of his Offensive and Defensive skills would have changed drastically, perhaps allowing him to keep the initiative for longer. Finally, if Thaern had not been alone, Cormac would have been forced to decide whether he could face two men on his own – a daunting proposition for even a veteran warrior.

I hope this sample melee has been informative; more will follow as we explore other types of combat; group melees, missile duels, mounted combat and ambushes to name just a few.

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