There are three different types of combat that can happen in Ask Again Later, and each of them is handled a little differently by the STs. The first type is Combat against the Environment and NPCs. This means times when you character might fight against the weather, animals, or random townspeople. This does not include large creatures, powerful monsters, or important characters. Those things are referred to as Set Pieces, and fighting them is the second kind of combat. Set Pieces are things that are designed to be fought–usually as encounters specifically crafted by the STs as part of an overarching story. They exist as a challenge for players who want to flex their character’s aggressive and harmless abilities. Combat against other Players can also happen, and that is the third type of combat that can arise in Ask in Again later.
Against the Environment and NPCs
The first step is to do a Declaration of Intent for all of the players involved. Then, the Storyteller determines if this combat can just be Narratively Arbitrated. If not, the Storyteller runs a quick Down and Dirty combat.
Against Set Pieces
The first step is to do a Declaration of Intent for all of the players involved, and for the Set Piece itself. Then. the combat is run using the Rounds system.
All of the members of the scene do a Declaration of Intent. Then, the Storyteller checks with all the players involved if they would like to move to Narrative Arbitration or Down and Dirty combat. If they cannot come to a quick consensus, the combat is run using the Rounds system. The Storyteller will be checking in often (at least every 2 or 3 rounds) to see if the players involved would like to transition to Narrative Arbitration or Down and Dirty combat.
Declaration Of Intent
No matter what kind of combat or which system is being used to resolve it, all combats have the same first step—the Declaration of Intent. In this step, each of the parties involved declares to the Storyteller and the room at large what they wish to get out of this combat. Each party uses a single sentence or short phrase to describe this. It might be something as simple as “Kill Steve” or “Run away,” but it could be as complicated as “Get to the lever before Steve does and pull it” or “Make sure I live, but make sure my son lives if I can only save one of us.” Declaration of Intent is meant to help smooth out combat, and is what the Storyteller uses to determine how a combat should be run. If you feel your character’s Intent should be declared secretly, just discuss it with the Storyteller running the scene and they will announce the Intent as they see fit.
In Narrative Arbitration, the Storyteller and players craft and possibly act out the results of the combat. If there is no opposition to your character walking up and robbing a gas station attendant, then they just do so. The Storyteller talks the players through the scene, and everyone roleplays the actions and their consequences as appropriate.
Down and Dirty Combat
The Storyteller might decide that a player character can get what she wants without focusing on the details of the fight. Maybe she’s picking on people weaker than her. Maybe she’s internalized the mechanics of violence to a degree that far surpasses the average Joe. Maybe the fight’s not the most important thing going on with regard to the character’s Intent. In these cases, the Storyteller can opt to use Down and Dirty Combat.
This system resolves the entire fight in a single roll. If multiple player characters are involved and have separate intents, such as one character trying to fight past a guard while another beats information out of a flunky, each intent is resolved as a separate Down and Dirty Combat action. If the group only has one intent but multiple player characters are participating, they can use teamwork on the roll. Players can call for Down and Dirty Combat, with the Storyteller’s approval.
Each group’s pool is determined by the Storyteller. Often this is an explicitly combative pool (Dexterity + Guns, Strength + Fight), but it might also be a different pool (Dexterity + Stealth to hide from a monster). Each group that is directly, or indirectly, contesting one another compares the results of their draws. The Storyteller then talks the players through the scene, weaving the results of the draws into the story. Everyone roleplays the actions and their consequences as appropriate.
Dramatic Failure: The character’s opponent gets the upper hand in addition to dealing damage, as with failure. This usually includes the opposite of the character’s intent — if she wanted to disable the guards so she could escape, she is stunned instead.
Failure: The opponent wins the contest. If the opponent used a combat pool, he deals damage equal to the difference in successes plus weapon modifier. Also, the opponent escapes unless he wants to press the combat.
Success: The character wins the contest, achieving her intent. She might deal damage equal to the difference in successes plus her weapon modifier. If her intent includes killing her opponents, then she does so.
Exceptional Success: As a success, and the character also gains the upper hand. This usually includes the opposite of the opponent’s intent — if he wanted to disable the character so he could escape, he is stunned instead.
If a Combat needs to be run step by step, then the combat is run using the Rounds system. In the rounds system, each of the characters is ordered using their Initiative. Then combat progresses in turns, with each character acting once in the turn at their Initiative, starting with the highest Initiative and moving down. On each of their turns, a character can do an action and move up to their Speed (in either order).
This is the main action most people do in combat. The character declares who they are attacking, and then draws an appropriate combat pool, usually Strength + Fight or Dex + Guns, penalized by their opponent’s defense. If they are making a ranged attack, then the target’s Defense is halved (rounded down). Then for each success they receive, they deal one damage to their opponent. See Damage and Healing for more specifics. Weapons and Armor can also interact with this, with weapons dealing extra damage and armor reducing your damage.
Other Types of Combat Actions
There are a number of other things you can do in a combat round. You can use an Advantage, retrieve a stashed item, or interact with the environment. Anything that says you have to do it “as an action” means it takes up this space of your turn. There are also a number of things a character can do for free on their turn, anything that can be done without devoting an entire action to it. For instance they can say a short phrase, around 3 words, or take a quick glance at the environment around them.
Each turn a character can move an amount based on their Speed. For the pace of most combats, this will be a number of yards or paces. Characters can forgo their action in order to move faster, making an Athletics draw as appropriate to move an extra amount based on the circumstances and how successful they were in their draw.
Characters can also forgo their movement for a turn in order to retrieve an object. This is often used to draw a weapon or pull a gun.
Cover and Concealment
Hiding behind something is a good way to avoid getting shot. How effective it is depends how much the cover hides. The following concealment penalties apply to a shooter’s Guns draw.
- Barely Concealed: –1 (hiding behind an office chair)
- Partially Concealed: –2 (hiding behind the hood of a car, with upper body exposed)
- Substantially Concealed: -3, See Below (crouching behind a car).
A character who is concealed and wants to fire at someone else takes a penalty to his Guns attack that’s one less than the penalty afforded by the character’s protection — so if he’s substantially concealed, he can fire back with a –2 penalty.
If a target’s entirely hidden by something, he’s in Substantial Cover and the attacker is shooting through the cover to get to him. If the cover’s Durability is greater than the Weapon’s Damage modifier, the bullets can’t penetrate the cover. Otherwise, subtract the cover’s Durability from the attacker’s Damage like it was Armor. If the cover is transparent (bulletproof glass, for example), the shooter doesn’t take the usual -3 penalty to the attack as well. Both the object and the target take any remaining damage.
Sometimes, the only available cover is another person — be they a terrified member of the public or a life-long friend. Characters who use human shields treat them as cover, with Durability equal to the victim’s Stamina + any armor. Unlike normal cover, the victim takes all of the damage from the attack. Using a human shield is almost certainly a Breaking Point to Stability.
Any character has access to the following maneuvers. Some of them, and some Advantages, require a character to sacrifice their Defense. Defense cannot be sacrificed multiple times in a turn; this prevents certain maneuvers from being used together.
Your character can choose to Dodge. They add their Dexterity to their Defense against all attacks this round. They can declare that they are Dodging during an opponent’s action before they make an attack, but not after the opponent has drawn. If they have already acted this round, they cannot declare that they are now Dodging.
To disarm an opponent, your character draws Dexterity + Fight – Defense as an action. On a success, the opponent drops the weapon. On an exceptional success, the opponent drops his weapon and takes two points of bruising damage. On a failure, nothing happens. On a dramatic failure, your character takes two point of Bruising damage.
To grab an opponent, your character draws Strength + Fight – Defense. On a success, both of the characters are grappling. If your character draws an exceptional success additionally pick a move from the list below.
Each round, both grappling characters sacrifice their regular turns and instead make a contested Strength + Fight versus Strength + Fight draw on the lower of the two characters’ Initiatives. The winner picks a move from the list below, or two moves on an exceptional success. They do nothing when it reaches the higher Initiative character’s turn. If either of the characters wishes to, they may instead draw Dexterity + Athletics instead of Strength + Fight. If they succeed, they can only pick the Break Free or Take Cover moves.
- Break Free from the grapple. You throw off your opponent; you’re both no longer grappling. Succeeding at this move is a reflexive action; you can take another action immediately afterwards.
- Control Weapon, either by drawing a weapon that you have holstered or turning your opponent’s weapon against him. You keep control until your opponent makes a Control Weapon move.
- Damage your opponent by dealing bruising damage equal to your drawn successes. If you previously succeeded at a Control Weapon action, add the weapon bonus to your successes and it becomes lethal damage.
- Disarm your opponent, removing a weapon from the grapple entirely. You must first have succeeded at a Control Weapon move.
- Drop Prone, throwing both of you to the ground (see Going Prone below). You must Break Free before rising.
- Clench your opponent in place. Both of you sacrifice your Defense against incoming attacks.
- Restrain your opponent with duct tape, zip ties, or a painful joint lock. Your opponent is immobilized. You can only use this move if you’ve already succeeded in a Hold move. If you use equipment to Restrain your opponent, you can leave the grapple.
- Shift you and your opponent up to your Speed. The path must be relatively clear of obstructions. At the end of the movement you may optionally Drop Prone as well.
- Take Cover using your opponent’s body. Any ranged attacks made until the end of the turn automatically hit him (see Human Shields above).
Your character can look off or move her weapon in an odd direction and prompt her opponent to do the same, or she might step on his toes to distract him. Make a Dexterity + Subterfuge draw as a action. The opponent’s player contests with Wits + Composure. If you score more successes, the opponent loses his Defense for the next turn. Each time a character uses this maneuver in a scene, it levies a cumulative -2 penalty to further uses since the opposition gets used to the tricks.
The character states the general area he’s firing at, draws Dexterity + Guns – 3, and sacrifices his Defense for the duration. If the draw succeeds, characters in the affected area must make a choice on their next turns. They can avoid the attack, either running to any cover that’s within their Speed or dropping prone. Or, they can take an action as normal but suffer damage equal to the Weapon.
A Killing Blow is an execution, simple as that. When performing a killing blow, your character deals damage equal to their full pool plus their weapon modifier. They’ve also time enough to line up your attack so it avoids the victim’s armor. A character can only perform this maneuver on someone who is completely restrained, and they sacrifice their Defense for the duration. For most people, going through with a killing blow is a breaking point whether the victim survives or not. While people who kill in combat can justify their actions based on the heat of the moment, performing a killing blow is a premeditated attempt to end a sentient life without the target having a chance to do anything about it.
When a character can’t find cover, the next best thing when bullets are flying is to drop flat to the ground. Ranged attacks against him suffer a –2 penalty. A standing attacker using Fight to attack instead gains a +2 bonus. A character can drop prone at any point before his action. Dropping to the ground costs his action for the turn. Getting up from being prone also takes your character’s action.
Your character can choose to do nothing on their turn, forfeiting their action. After another character’s turn, your character can choose to act and take their turn as normal. They cannot interrupt another character’s turn. At the end of the round, after all other characters have acted, any character that has Held is asked again if they wish to take their turn.
Your character returns to their regular place in the Initiative for the next round, regardless of whether they acted or not.