At its most basic level, combat involves sparring other players with boffer props. As you are struck, you declare "Hit," mentally deduct one from your Hits, and continue sparring until someone flees or loses all of their Hits.
Your character must have the passive ability to use a particular kind of attack (e.g., Melee, Ranged, Spell Focus, Unarmed). Each attack follows its own rules: Ranged attacks use packets, spells require incantations, heavy weapons must be wielded in two hands, etc. See the appropriate ability for more details on how to use it.
Your character can withstand a certain number of Hits before being subdued. This is a number between 3 and 10 that is determined by adding your Body, which is based on your level, and your Armor, if you have any. Every time you are attacked, you lose one Hit. Other abilities, such as Heal, can be used to restore Hits. If your Hits ever reach zero, you are subdued.
Basic attacks do not include a spoken component. Their effect is assumed to be one Hit worth of damage. Many combat abilities, however, include a tagline in quotations that must be spoken as the ability is used. To use Melee “Disarm,” for example, you would swing a melee weapon and say the word “Disarm” aloud.
Some taglines consist of a number followed by a damage type (e.g., “3 Fire” or “2 Crit”). This indicates a damage tagline. The number is the amount of Hits deducted, while the type is its nature. Some characters have special defenses or immunities to damage of a particular type, while some monsters have special vulnerabilities to it.
The easiest way to defend from an attack is to avoid it; an attack that completely misses you has no effect. If you have a weapon or shield and the passive ability to use it, you can use it to block the attack. You can block any weapon or packet with a weapon or shield unless one of the following applies:
- You do not have the ability to use the prop used to block.
- The prop used to block is Ruined.
- You use a weapon or shield to block a Disarm or Ruin or an unarmed prop to block a Ruin or Maim, in which case the prop used to block takes the effect.
- The attack calls Pierce damage or uses the Pierce modifier (e.g., "2 Pierce" or "Pierce Maim"). Projectile weapons (bows, crossbows, guns, and slings) and spell foci (rods, staves, and wands) allow the wielder to add the Pierce modifier to ranged attacks and spells, respectively.
If you avoid or block, the result of the attack is self-evident, so you don’t need to say anything. If the attack hits you, you must report the outcome as soon as you’re able. In most cases, you say "Hit" to acknowledge that you've counted or applied the attack. If the attack doesn't affect you for some other reason, however, you might say something else.
- Say "Counter" if you have a combat ability that can be used to prevent the attack. This might be an ability with the same effect (e.g., Maim counters Maim), a curative that fixes it (e.g., Repair counters Ruin), or a defensive ability intended for that purpose (e.g., Rouse counters any compulsion, including Sleep). It’s also permissible to say the name of the effect (e.g., “Deflect” instead of “Counter”). Countering an attack expends Spirit just like using the combat ability normally, but does not require you to trigger it.
- Say "Immune" if the attack does not affect you due to a passive ability or free combat ability you possess. This is an important distinction from countering because it lets the attacker know that you do not have to expend Spirit to continue defending against that attack.
- Say "No Effect" if the attack does not affect you due to its own limitations. A Disarm used against an unarmed prop, for instance, has no effect because unarmed attacks cannot be Disarmed.
- Say "Refuse" if you do not want to accept a beneficial effect. Beneficial effects cannot be used as attacks, so you need no special ability to prevent them, though it is rarely advantageous to do so.
Especially when using basic attacks, it is possible to attack much faster than a defender can respond. This is known as flooding. To discourage this, you are only required to take hits as quickly as you're able to respond. Regardless of the number of attacks or attackers, you only count the last tagline you hear, or a single Hit if no taglines are used.
For example, if one attacker floods you with a Disarm and a basic attack while another attacker floods you with two basic attacks and a Ruin, you only take the Ruin. If all five attacks had been basic attacks instead, you would only be required to respond to a single Hit.
The best way to avoid flooding is to coordinate with other attackers, land a solid hit, and back off to give the defender a moment to respond. This sort of cadence is less confusing, more effective, and more fun for everyone involved.
An attack continues affecting you until something happens to end it. Some effects end on their own under certain conditions (e.g., Soothe ends if the user attacks you, Stop ends if you are hit). Others can be remedied with a curative ability (e.g., Release ends Snare, Cure ends Weakness). Most will also end after you rest, which you can do at any time as long as you are not subdued or slain (see “Fate” for more details). The only exceptions are damage, Maim, and Ruin, which must be recovered through abilities.
Some effects, such as Disarm, Maim, and Ruin, can target different props or parts of the body. When the target of these effects is obvious, such as a weapon striking a shield, the effect is applied to the obvious target.
If the target is ambiguous, such as with a Burst, Gaze, or packet, the effect is applied to the first valid target in the following order: Dominant hand, then off hand, then feet in the same order. Ambidextrous players can choose which side to treat as dominant but should remain consistent.
Props or limbs that cannot be affected are skipped. For example, a Burst Maim will affect the off hand if the main hand is already Maimed. Likewise, a Gaze Ruin will affect an off-hand shield if the main-hand weapon has an Immune Ruin property.
Generally speaking, you are allowed to use the lesser form of an ability you have in place of the one printed on your character license. For example:
- You may omit a modifier (Burst, Gaze, Reach, or Spray) and use the ability as if the modifier were not present.
- You may use the lesser form of an ability's trigger (e.g., Spell instead of Magic, Self instead of Subdued or Touch). Only triggers that explicitly upgrade to your ability's trigger are valid downgrades.
- You may call the lesser form of an effect (e.g., Sneak instead of Vanish, Slow instead of Snare). Only effects that explicitly upgrade to your ability's effect are valid downgrades.
- You may call less than the number indicated in the effect. This applies to damage (e.g., "2 Hits" for an ability with the "3 Hits" effect) as well as other effects (e.g., Blinking or Pushing for fewer steps, Pinning for fewer attacks).
- You may omit a special damage type and call Hits instead (e.g., "3 Hits" for an ability with the "3 Pierce" effect).
- You may forego an immunity and allow a tagline to affect you normally.
While downgrading is not generally advantageous, it may be useful in order to bypass an opponent's immunity (e.g., "Ruin" instead of "Gaze Ruin" to affect an opponent with Immune Gaze), to avoid affecting unintended targets (e.g., "Heal 3" instead of "Burst Heal 3" to avoid healing nearby monsters), or merely to bluff.