First Round, First Blood...[The Vault #24]

The Vault Icon - Beige.png

Click Here for a Master Index of “The Forge” and “Vault”!

We know there are some tactically oriented players out their that have been itching for some realism and movement dynamics. We're not going to throw miniatures your way, but what we can offer you and Authors this week are some ideas for how to spice up your encounters by introducing some strategic mechanics for the first round of combat, before everything would naturally devolve into chaos and the fog of war.

You might use these (or introduce them to quests) in the following ways:

  • By adding a skill roll to determine if the party can pull one of these off.

  • By presenting a few as tactical options the party can choose at the beginning of a combat encounter.

  • Have the enemy use one. Or maybe adventurers and foes can use one each, so long as no one suffered from surprise on a Spot or Notice check.

  • Use them for unit based army skirmishes or battles (ideas for how to do this will be forthcoming in a future Vault and/or Quest).

  • Introduce them into Player vs. Player battle.

Whatever you do, for the sake of play balance we urge you to think of them as a once per encounter, first round Surge (they'd also be ideal for small party play).  Only one should be chosen by the party (even if not all party members participate in the maneuver), to avoid bogging down play.

  1. _Ambush!_ (#Ambush) Someone is getting taken by surprise! > Each participant may choose one foe. The ambushed individuals does not get to resolve Abilities or damage during the first round.

  2. _Shield Wall_ (#Shield Wall) The ultimate in defensive tactics. > For each participant in the wall, reduce damage taken by 2. Each player may discard a :melee: card to add +1 damage to enemies this round.

  3. _Diversion_ (#Diversion) Draw their attention. > Designate one or more individual as the diversion. They are the only individuals that suffer a Surge or Ability effect this round. (Can be used on the first Surge round only).

  4. _Pincer Attack_ (#Pincer) Two attack the target from its flanks. > Gain a +2 to each roll. If the final total of the roll would be 20 or above, apply the critical effect.

  5. _Encirclement_ (#Encirclement) Strike from all sides! > For each individual that attacks the same target, apply +1 to :roll:s and damage. Any failed :roll: results in an ally taking the effect of the failed ability.

  6. _Sword and Shield_ (#SS) The measured application of offense and defense at once. > Must discard a :melee: ability to use. Reduce damage you suffer this round from all sources by 1. Deal 2 damage to one foe.

  7. _Break Formation_ (#Break) By scattering, the group disrupts a coordinated attack. > Lower the Tier Value (against Encounter cards) by 1 per participant or subtract -1 from rolls per participant (against Adventurers) until the next Surge event, then reset all to normal.

  8. _Charge!_ (#Charge) Bold ferocity may carry the day... > Negate any passive damage reduction of one targeted foe and deal 2 damage for each participant. Discard a :melee: ability to target a second foe.

  9. _Brace_ (#Brace) Brace to absorb a blow. > Suffer 1 less point of damage this round. Discard an :Influence: card to negate all damage that would be done to one other party member.

  10. _Running Retreat_ (#RunRet) Flee! > For each participant, remove 1 Tier worth of Encounter cards from combat. Each participant may discard one :ranged: or :magic: card to increase the Tier level removed by +1.

  11. _Holding Action_ (#Hold) Jam up the enemy advance by holding your ground. > Increase the damage each participant suffers by 1 this round, but reduce the damage of all other party members by 2. Participants may discard an ability to deal 1 damage to one foe.

  12. _Sword and Sorcery_ (#SSorc) Shock and awe, sorcery and steel. >

  13. _High Ground_ (#HGround) Better leverage, better vantage point. >

  14. _Narrow Pass_ (#NPass) Champions square off in the gap. > Choose one adventurer and one Enounter card. Only those participants can use any offensive abilities/attacks this round.

  15. _Pit Trap_ (#Pit Trap) Spiked, deep, and cleverly concealed. > Make a Notice (:ranged:) check of 10 or above. On a failure, one falls into the pit for 3 damage OR the loss of ability play this round.

  16. _Flanking Action_ (#Flank) Come at em sideways! > Gain a +2 to the next ability :roll:. Discard a :ranged: card to deal +2 damage as well.

  17. _Spider Hole_ (#Hole) The ultimate jump scare. > Make a Craft (:magic:) or Survival (:ranged:) check of 10 or above. On success, each participant gains +2 on the first roll and +1 to damage.

  18. _Cavalry Charge_ (#CavCharge) Ride them down! > Make a Ride (:melee:) check of 10 or above. On success, each participant may deal one foe damage equal to half the roll, but takes damage equal to the Tier Value of the foe.

  19. _Disarm_ (#Disarm) Take from them the means to fight. > Discard an ability card to reduce all damage done this round by 1. Gain a +2 to :roll: against the targeted foe next round.

  20. _Trip_ (#Trip) Taken em down! > Choose an opponent (only one per adventurer). That Encounter card's first Surge doesn't occur until the 4th round, not the third. The participant may also discard a :music: ability to increase damage dealt by other adventurers to that tripped foe by +1.

Like this? Consider sharing or Tweeting it, or joining the weekly Quest Crafter mailing list for more writing inspiration.

Have an idea for the next Quest Crafter or feedback on how we can make it more useful to you? Email us at or leave a comment below.

* Confused by the formatting of the list? The _underscores_ (#hashtags) :icons: and > Special instruction scripts are provided for the ease of Quest Authors, who can copy and paste these directly into the Quest Creator to save time. 

Surviving the Quest (The Forge #4)

The Forge Icon - Beige.png

Click Here for a Master Index of “The Forge” and “Vault”!

This is a post geared more towards players than authors, but authors will get something from this too.  Recently we've gotten several quest reviews lamenting the difficulty of a quest. We also published our first player survey and discovered 46.5% of the current respondents have tried solo play. 

Not many RPGs are built for solo play. If you've spent any time playing the big traditional games (D&D, White Wolf/Onyx path's WoD, etc.) you've found that even 2 person play can be a challenge. This post of The Forge aims to give you some ways you can, on the fly, increase the survivability and completion rate of single and two player play. 

The Expedition Style guide has suggested authors begin with combats of Tier sum 2-4, with the final boss battle being a 5-8 Tier confrontation. The problem for small party size is the cumulative number of enemy hp that must be cleared to lower Tier Sum (which determines damage) and the Surges that result.  The highest damage output will occur on the front end of combat, when Tier Sum is greatest. Abilities or Loot that can cancel that opening round of damage can be good (the Loot III Elder Sign from "The Horror" Expansion, for instance). 

Here are some other things you can do:

  1. Allow surges only every other normal surge round (6th, 12th, 18th, etc. instead of 3rd, 6th, 12th).

  2. Apportion Loot items at the beginning of the Quest, particularly those that heal or prevent damage. See the recent Vault post on Skills and Skill Checks to see how adventurers may "craft" loot (#3).

  3. Drop the lowest Tier Encounter card from the combat and update the Tier Count.

  4. Give your adventurer a "familiar"/"animal companion"/"minion" from the Encounter deck of Tier 2 or 3. Apply the following rules to your minion: Can absorb damage that would normally be suffered by the adventurer, but is destroyed when it reaches 0 hp; it also deals damage equal to 1/it's Tier Value each round and surges like normal (against your opponents).

Below we've collected modifications from the many Vaults that can make combat more manageable. You could theoretically print this post of The Forge and apply them during your playthrough. Inserting some Skills and Skill Checks in the midst of combat or at it's beginning can also help.

  • _Intimidation_ (#Intimidation)The threat of your anger and power may be enough to cow the foe. > An intimidation :influence: :roll: of 10+Tier value of your foe forces them to flee (can be scripted in the combat simulator).

  • _Disengage_ (#Disengage) This battle is not going well. It's best to live to fight another day. > A :roll: of 7+Tier Value of foes allows you to flee the fight. Failure increases damage you suffer this round by 1. (We'll show you how to script this in a future Advanced Combat Forge post).

  • _Notice_ (#Notice) They thought to creep up on you. They will be the ones surprised. > A :ranged: :roll: of 15 minus the # of foes affords you an advantage. Deal +1 damage this round. Failure results in you suffering +1 damage this round.

  • _Sneak_ (#Sneak) It's time to avoid notice. > A :melee: or :music: :roll: of 7+Tier Value of enemies allows you to bypass this fight. Failure lands you in melee.

  • _Discern Intentions_ (#Discern) Through wisdom and experience you discern the next move of your opponent. > A :music: or :influence: :roll: above 7+Tier Value of opponents allows you to avoid some of their assault. Reduce damage by 1 this round. Failure increases damage by 1.

  • _Tactics_ (#Tactics) You've fought their kind before, or studied how to do so. > A :roll: above 10+Tier Value of opponent let's you cancel one enemy's next Surge.

In the "Titles" episodes of "The Vault" we've been creating for each Encounter type, we've included a few Titles that actually weaken Encounter cards. Here are the existing debuffs:

  • _The Craven_ Blusters when things go well, turns tail when they don't. > Flees when reduced to half hp. Update the Tier count.

  • _Halfhand_ In this kingdom they take fingers every time a thief is caught. He's lost more than a few. > Deals -1 damage each round.

  • _Stumpfoot_ His foot was cut off as punishment for crimes. > This opponent surges every 4th round, not every 3rd.

  • _The Fallen_ Disgraced and disowned, even by fellow criminals. > On an Intimidation :influence: :roll: of 10+Tier Value, you can shame them, gaining a +2 to your next ability :roll:.

  • _The Mad_ One mushroom was too many. > When encountered or on each round :roll:. On 11 or above, attacks another enemy for 1 hp/Tier. On 10 or below, attacks the adventurers as normal.

  • _Banbound_ You have its kryptonite. > One of the Loot items possessed by the party can be expended to deal an additional 2 points of damage (in addition to its normal effect) against this Fae.

  • _Bondtaker_ It can't hurt all of you. > Choose one adventurer [or highest roll]. All of its attacks deal 1 less damage against that adventurer.

  • _the Mercurial (Maiden)_ Emotion is a powderkeg in a thunderstorm. > When encountered or on each round :roll:. On 10 or above, heals adventurers for 1 hp/Tier. On 9 or below, attacks the adventurers.

  • _The Rotting_ Scraps of necrotic flesh dangle and drop off as it moves. > This foe takes 1 extra damage from Melee abilities.

  • _The Husk_ It's not quite what it used to be...> Has 2 fewer starting hp.

  • _Of Dead Eyes_ The rot of the grave has taken some of it's eyesight. It sees not at a distance. > :ranged: abilities deal +1 damage to this foe. Sneak checks gain +2.

You might also want to give your adventurer some custom items. Please note that while these may be necessary to survive some quests on solo or 2 person play, they stand a very real chance of breaking the game with more players, and taking all difficulty out of combat. 

  1. _Armor_ It doesn't gleam like the nobles', but it's made better. > This suit of well-crafted chain, scale, or plate mail reduces damage suffered each round by -1, -2, or -3.

  2. _Ring of Regeneration_ They're technically illegal...and over time cause cancer. > The magic from the ring heals 3 damage each round an enemy surges.

We hope this helps you enjoy solo and duo questing more!

Like this? Consider sharing or Tweeting it, or joining the weekly Quest Crafter mailing list for more writing inspiration.

Have an idea for the next Quest Crafter or feedback on how we can make it more useful to you? Email us at or leave a comment below.