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Oracle Combat in Maze Rats

I had a question come up on DTRPG yesterday about how can a character survive combat.

It is a valid point, with two answers.

a) you are not really supposed to fight, if you do have to fight, don’t fight fair.

b) don’t die.

If you would like to try Maze Rat, my solo rules for this game, read down for a discount code.

I will look at the a) first:

Don’t Fight Fair

The base combat system in Maze Rats requires 10+ on 2d6 to score a hit. You could get up to +2 for using the right stat or some other advantages. Those are not good odds. In fact they are so bad that any fight where you are out numbered is going to kill you.

If you are alone then the best odds you can hope for is 1:1.

What you need to do is get into a position where you can apply a bonus but your foe cannot. The difference between you needing 8+ and them needing 10+ is significant. When I had no choice but to go through an enemy I found that backing up to a longish range and using missiles against monsters was a decent tactic. I much preferred being able to hit without being hit back, to trying to slug it out. Hand to hand fights are high risk.

I don’t have a problem with this as the game says up front that it is not a hack and slash game, in as many words.

Not Dying

This is good advice whether you are gaming or in real life.

When you are defeated in battle, no one says you have to die. You could be knocked unconscious, tied and bound, stripped of your gear and thrown in a holding pen as tomorrows lunch. So yes, there were consequences to your defeat but you are not dead.

You could have been mistaken for dead, looted and tossed on the midden heap along with other rotting corpses.

This option can give you a few variations, captured for ransom is another one. You cannot over play it or it grows thin pretty quickly but it does get you out of a jam once in a while.

Oracle Combat

As Maze Rats demands 10+ to get a hit, for low level encounters you can do a lot of rolling with no one landing a blow. For me at least, that is not that exciting. I like to condense minor skirmishes down to two oracle rolls.

If we ignore the more subtle answers and just focus on the Yes-No of the result there are four vanilla possibilities

Yes – Yes
Yes – No
No – Yes
No – No

Taking the situation at the start of a fight, your question could be “Can I ambush and scatter the goblins?” This gives us two options, either yes, you fell upon the goblins and you have the advantage at least initially. The other option was that no, your ambush didn’t scatter them. Their moral and discipline held and you are facing an angry gang. Making the second oracle roll you base the question on the first result. If you have the advantage you could ask “Can I break their moral and make them flee?”, if you are up against it, “Can I turn and flee?” A yes result for either question ends the fight and you live to fight another day.

If you had come up as a no for the second result you are now in a standoff in the first instance and trapped in the second.

What have you gained?

Well, the original fight could have taken dozens of dice rolls if you just ground out the battle. In this version, it turned the start of the battle into a more narrative encounter. You were proactive, describing your intent and hopefully playing to your strengths. A double yes got you exactly what you wanted, defeated goblins running in fear while others lay dead at your feet. A yes-no would suggest that several fell during your ambush and I would play out the fight against the last goblin standing. The no-yes has you fleeing for your lift, but at least you are alive. Finally, the no-no result has you captured by the goblins after your bungled attack on them.

This time around you have a 3 out of 4 chance of winning the fight.

Complications

Oracles, or the ones I make, often throw up complications, they also have shades of grey in the yes-no results. This can turn a roll-fest battle into just that one roll. If you gave yourself advantage on the roll because you were the one springing the ambush and you got a Yes, and… I would say that several fell to your sword and the rest fled in terror. Battle over in a single roll.

There is a chance as well that you are going to get a No, and… the goblins were ready for you and you leaped straight into a net they were concealing.

Complications can be even more fun. As you prepare your attack the shadow of a dragon sweeps over the landscape and the goblins turn and fear as the shadow hovers over them…

Using Oracle combat means you can cut down on tons of rolls, and narrative combat is much more descriptive than losing points of health or hit points or whatever the terminology is. Your battles are only as limited as your imagination.

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