he basic challenge system used in Oblivion has already been presented earlier in the chapter. This section contains a few basic modifications to the combat system and elaboration on it.
Combat is the usual intent behind Physical Challenges. Essentially, combat involves two characters in physical conflict. The players agree what the outcome of a Physical Challenge will be, each player bids an appropriate Trait, and a test is resolved to determine the victor. The following rules allow for variations on those basic rules, such as situations using surprise or weapons.
The agreed outcome of a Physical Challenge usually involves the loser being injured. This is not, however, the only possible result. Wraiths can attempt to disarm, immobilize, pin, trip, or arm wrestle each other without causing actual Corpus damage. The only necessity is that both participants agree what the outcome of the challenge will be, depending upon who wins it. Bear in mind that the desired results of a combat challenge can be different for both participants, particularly if only one party is actually interested in fighting. For example, a hungry Spectre may wish to attack a lot wraith who has no clue as to his whereabouts and who simply wishes to escape. The two do a Physical Challenge, and in doing so set the stakes: The Spectre wishes to claw at the wraith, while the wraith wants to flee as quickly as possible. If the Spectre wins, the wraith’s flight has been checked by the Shadow-Eaten’s assault. If the wraith wins, the Spectre’s strike misses and the wraith escapes.
It falls to players to police themselves so that the outcomes of challenges are in keeping with the rest of the game. Initiating a challenge with “I Brutally attempt to rip the head off your Corpus, sending the rest of you down into a Harrowing while I keep your wraithly skull as a souvenir,” is excessive, and any player who does so should be called on his overenthusiasm immediately.
Just because what’s going on is devious doesn’t mean that you should be. It is considered highly improper to sneak around whispering challenges under your breath, just to try to get an element of surprise. Deliberately skulking around until your target is at a water fountain or doing something else that will hamper the player’s ability to respond to your challenge is also against the spirit of the rules. Remember, if you use these dirty tricks on someone, someone else is probably going to turn around and use them on you.
If a player does not respond within three seconds of the declaration of a Physical Challenge, the player is considered surprised. By not responding, he is demonstrating that he is not fully prepared for what’s coming. Sometimes a player is busy with another activity, doesn’t hear a challenge, or is just playing a character who isn’t prepared for the attack (a victim of a sneak attack, or perhaps just an exceedingly clueless wraith). Responding to an attack is defined by answering the attacker’s Challenge in kind; saying, “Wait a minute, I’ll be with you as soon as I’m done over here,” doesn’t qualify, unfortunately. On the other hand, any challenge issued must be both coherent and audible, and cannot be made from excessive distance or in such a way that the environment of the game itself prevents the challenge from being heard clearly.
Surprise means that only a surprised defender can be harmed by the outcome of the first challenge in a fight. The challenger, fully aware of what’s going on, cannot be harmed during a challenge when she has surprise. In other words, even if the defender wins a challenge when she is surprised, all she does is prevent herself from taking damage. The attacker merely has her assault stymied and does not take any Corpus damage. Furthermore, if the challenger loses the test, by risking another Trait she can call for a second challenge. With this second challenge, however, play reverts to the usual mode, and winners and losers are determined as normal.
Surprise is only in effect for the first challenge of a conflict; all further challenges are resolved normally.
No real weapons are ever allowed in Mind’s Eye Theatre games, for obvious reasons. Even nonfunctional props are forbidden with no ifs, ands, or buts. The Mind’s Eye Theatre system does not use props of any kind, nor are players required (or allowed) even to touch one another. Weapons are purely an abstraction in this game. Weapon cards, which display the facts and statistics of a particular weapon, should be used instead of any props that even vaguely resemble the real thing. All of the weapon’s in-game statistics should be written on the card. As for the rest, imagination will have to suffice. If you can imagine yourself to be an avenging wraith, you certainly should have no trouble imagining a soulsteel dagger or a relic pistol in your hand.
A weapon gives its wielder extra Traits. Sometimes this advantage is offset by a disadvantage in terms of a Negative Trait. Each weapon has one to three extra Traits; these may be used in any challenge in which the weapon is employed. These Traits cannot be used in place of your Traits when placing your initial bid. Instead, they add to your total when comparing Traits, such as in case of a tie during a test or an overbid. In addition, some weapons have special abilities that can be employed. The damage a weapon inflicts is limited only by mutual agreement, although it is generally assumed that an injury incurred from a blow reduces the target’s Temporary Corpus by a single level.
If the defender relents, she automatically loses the challenge. For example, if she were being attacked, she would suffer a wound. If she matches the challenger’s bid, the two immediately go to a test (described below). Those Traits bid are put at risk, as the loser of the test not only loses the challenge, but the Trait she bid as well.
Disadvantages are weaknesses inherent to the weapon. These can be used by the wielder’s opponent in precisely the same way as Negative Traits are used against an individual. The weapon’s Negative Traits can only be used against the wielder of that weapon, even in the middle of a mob scene. Furthermore, Negative Traits for a weapon must be appropriate to the situation. Trying to use a relic pistol’s Negative Trait of Loud won’t work if your assailant has acquired a relic silencer.
If a Negative Trait of your weapon is named by your opponent, and that Trait applies to the situation, you suffer a one Trait penalty (i.e., you are required to risk an additional Trait). If your opponent calls out a Negative Trait of your weapon that doesn’t apply to the situation, he takes a one Trait penalty instead.
Statistics for weapons are written on cards and carried along with your character sheet. Weapon cards specify the capacities of each weapon. Weapon cards allow other players to see that you actually possess a weapon – when you have a weapon card in your hand, you are considered to be holding the weapon. Each weapon has a conceivability rating. If the weapon is not concealable, you must display that card at all times. Plus, weapons cards must be carried in a manner consistent with the weapon they represent. Soulforged claymores can’t be pulled out of pockets, and relic submachine guns don’t fit up a sleeve. Instead, cards for non-concealable weapons must be kept in hand at all times or, optionally, pinned to your shirt (which indicates that the weapon is slung over your shoulder).
Some weapons have special abilities, such as causing extra levels of damage or affecting more than one target. If a weapon has this sort of ability, the exact details of how it functions will be written on the weapon card.
Bidding Traits with Weapons
During a normal hand-to-hand fight, you bid your Physical Traits against your opponent’s. However, if you are using the Firearms Ability, you use Mental Traits instead. If your opponent is also using a firearm, he will bid Mental Traits as well. If your opponent is not using a firearm and is merely trying to dodge, then you use Mental Traits to attack, while she uses her Physical Traits to dodge. This is one of the few instances when Traits from different Attributes will be used against one another.
Many weapons allow you to stand at a distance from a target and engage him in combat. In such situations, you still go over to the target player (after shouting “Bang!”) and engage in a challenge.
If you have surprised your opponent, even if you lose the first test, you have the option of calling for a second test. Once the second challenge is called, play resumes as normal. Your target is considered surprised for the first attack, and if he has no ranged weapon with which to return fire, he is considered “surprised” for as long as you can attack him without facing resistance. In other words, until you can close the distance to your assailant and attack hand-to-hand, if you win a challenge, your attacker will take no damage. If he’s blazing away with a semi-automatic from a rooftop across the way, odds are your sword isn’t going to help you much.
If your target is aware of you before you make your initial ranged attack and has a ranged weapon of his own, he is not considered surprised for your first attack. He may shoot back right away, and your challenges are resolved as stated below.
After your first shot is fired (the first challenge is resolved), your target may attempt to return fire (assuming he is armed). The loser of a firefight challenge loses a Health Level.
If the defender is unarmed, he may declare his victory condition as escape (providing he is not cornered). If the defender wins the challenge, the attacker is still unharmed, but his target has hidden from view and must be searched out before the attack can be pressed. In instances such as this, a new challenge cannot be made for at least five minutes.
Fighting with hand-to-hand weapons – clubs, knives, or swords – requires that combatants be within reach of each other. Fighting with ranged weapons allows combatants to stand apart; participants can therefore “dive for cover.” When you resolve each ranged combat challenge, if it is applicable you can present one Trait of cover to add to your total number of Traits. These cover Traits may not be used for bidding, but they do add to your total if Traits are compared. This cover can take the form of whatever obstacles are around and within reach of you (you shouldn’t actually dive for them – remember the No Running rule). A Narrator might be required to decide what cover can be found in the vicinity, but if the combatants know the area, they can agree upon what cover is available. In some instances, there may be no cover around, leaving a combatant in the open with only his own defensive Traits.
If cover is extensive, such as the brick wall of a relic warehouse, perhaps it may be worth more than one Trait’s worth of cover. The number of Traits available for cover is left for challengers to agree, or for a Narrator to decree. Hiding behind a car, for example, might be worth two cover Traits, while hiding behind a thin wall might only count as one. If one combatant goes completely to ground – he cannot be seen at all and is thoroughly protected – he is considered impossible to hit. The attacker must change his position in order to get another clear shot.
Wraiths also have the ability to go Incorporeal, which can greatly change the way a firefight is played out. If there is Skinlands cover around for a wraith to hide behind, she can use that to her advantage. If she is willing to lose a Corpus Level and go Incorporeal, she can poke her head and weapon hand through the wall while keeping most of her Corpus in relative safety. This sort of cover adds another Trait for comparison purposes, though that Trait cannot be used for bidding.