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House Rule: Defensive Combat

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#1 JCHendee



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Posted 21 March 2009 - 02:56 PM

Defensive Combat

Talisman's standard combat rules assume all adventurers will throw themselves blindly into Attack, even in situations where they face a slim or no-win chance of success. With no other options (besides Spells or Special Abilities), lose of a life is (almost) certain. Another option exists by adding addendum rules and modifiers without changing the innate mechanics of the combat.

There are simplified factors to consider when the adventurer is focused on survival in Battle rather than defeating an opponent. Some factors are already built into the game's standard rules. These are:

  1. Evasion is already covered by the rules. But it occurs before Battle starts and depends upon and is limited to those characters who (1) have such as Special Ability on their Character Card or have obtained a Follower who allows them this ability.  Evasion, however, is not Defensive, as it occurs logically before Battle can take place. It is away to avoid Battle.
  2. Strength can be broken into three sub-defintions. "Starting Strength" (more succinct thant Strength's Starting Value) is an adverturers innate physical capability.  "Natural Strength" is Starting Strength plus any Strength Points built up, which represent skill acquired through adventuring, including skill for Battle.  "Current Strength" is the adventurer's Natural Strength plus any modifiers from Magic Objects, Followers, and Spells, etc.  All of these are factored into Battle by the standard rules and therefore will likewise already be part of Defensive Combat.

The additonal factors that affect Defensive Combat are similar for those of normal Combat. These are:

  1. Weapons have standard modifiers for Attack in battle, therefore these can with certain limitations also be applited to Defensive Combat.
  2. Shields, though classified in Talisman as Armour, are actually defensive Weapons. Classification as Armour was done to avoid complications and keep Battle simple.  Within certain limitations, they already possess implied modifiers usable in Defensive Combat.
  3. Dodging is not the same as Evasion, as it takes place during Battle. Dodging is based on natural ability and not necessarily skill. In fairness, Dodging would be a flat modifier, which would be the same for all adventurers.

Defensive Combat Rules

  • Pre-Battle: any adventurer can declare Defensive Combat as its option before or as Battle begins. They may not declare so after they have already rolled for an Attack or any attempt to kill an Enemy or take a Life from another adventurer by any means. 
  • Post-Battle: whether Defensive Combat is successful or not, no other action may be taken by the adventurer once Battle is finished. This includes Special Abilities, Spells, Follower Abilities, or other activities offered by the current space. The only action they may take is to face another Battle required in the same turn. This is the price of using Defensive Combat.
  • Dodging: all adventurers declaring Defensive Combat get a +1 on their roll.
  • Weapons: their base bonus is added just as for an Attack. No special abilities or conditional modifiers of a weapon may be used or applied. No additional modifiers for special considerations (Enemy Type, Space Type, etc.) may be used or applied.
  • Shield: the typical Shield saves a lost Life during Post-Battle on an Armour roll of 5 or 6. With two success target numbers, the Shield therefor counts as +2 in Defensive Combat. Other shield types in expansions may have different target numbers for saving a Life. Count the number of target numbers and this amount becomes the special shield's bonus for Defensive Combat.
  • Special Bonuses: Some adventurers (by their Character Card) have certain bonuses for Attack. These are often as for Weapons under certain conditions or against certain types of opponents. These do not apply to Defensive Combat, since no Attack is being made.
  • Roll & Choose: some adventures (by their Character Card) are allowed to roll more than one die in Battle and choose the best roll. This choice is usually do to exceptional skills. This ability may be used for Defensive Combat.
  • Mutliple Weapons: some adventurers (by their Character Card) are allowed to use two Weapons if neither are 2-Handed. This ability may be used for Defensive Combat, though it negates any option of Shield use. If the adventurer faces an encounter and has two weapons readied, it may not swap one out for a Shield carried in baggage, on its person as an additional item, or by a Follower.

The average unarmed adventure will have a +1 in Defensive Combat due to standard "Dodging."  All weapons, including those classified as Magic Objects, provide a basic +1 in Battle.  A typical Shield is +2.  For Defensive Combat, an unarmed adventurer would have a +1, a typically armed adventurer would have a +2, and if with a standard shield as well, +4 in Defensive Combat. (If using 2 weapons, sans a Shield, that would be a +3 instead.)

Once all modifiers are counted up, the Battle is conducted as normal. The three possibly outcomes are modified as follows for an adventurer who has declared Defensive Combat.

  • If the adventurer loses, the cost is losing a Life or as stipulated otherwise by the current space and/or card.  Armour rolls may still be applied to save a lost Life. The opponent is unharmed and all normal rules apply.
  • If the adventurer wins, the Battle is a draw.  All normal rules for a draw are applied.
  • If the adventure rolls a tie with the opponent, the Battle is a draw. All normal rules for a draw are applied.

#2 BanthaFodder



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Posted 23 March 2009 - 03:51 AM

Sounds interesting. I think there was something similar in one of the 2nd edition characters. Swordsman (?)

Big guy in armour, 2 handed sword and a curly moustache and beard if I remember rightly - not sure about the name.

Anyway, I think he had the option to Parry of adding a modifier to his roll but if you won the result was a stand-off.

Don't remember what the modifier was, I would guess +2 to make it worth it.


The shield angle is an interesting one and makes sense. It differentiates somewhat from the other armour object but raises an

interesting question as to the price one should pay for a shield. It is more valuable than before so maybe it's price should be increased..?

#3 JCHendee



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Posted 23 March 2009 - 04:53 AM

I don't think a price variant is needed if Object limitations "in hand" (as noted) are followed to the letter.  The shield then becomes a sacrifice in a way, since you can't

  1. weild things like the wand as well as a weapon and shield,
  2. use a two handed weapon and a shield,
  3. add any "magic" bonuses for certain weapons when in Defensive mode,
  4. and in Defensive mode you forfeit any other actions other than facing an additional Battle

That's probably more than enough to mitigate the shield's new extra use.  And traditionally, most warriors using a Shield didn't wear a lot of hard armor... not like in the movies we see. They might have worn hard chest armor at most (not the same as Talisman's "Armour" card, which has a misrepresentative image).

As a point of comparison, a long chain or other type of "mail" shirt (usually worn over felt padding) would be equivalent to a Shield for protection (5 or 6). Frankly, true full hard metal armour though not as heavy as might be thought was somewhat limiting in mobility.  It made using a Shield to full effect somewhat limited.

#4 BanthaFodder



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Posted 23 March 2009 - 05:58 AM

I see your point but I would suggest that there must be a benefict in the actions of using the shield in this way (or to make the function pointless)

and so the worth of the shield is increased. Wether this enough to increase the price by a whole bag of gold is probably debatable as

there is limited room for finess in pricing of objects.


You raise another interesting and correct point about the effectiveness of armour. We must remember that the images and abilities were never meant to accurately represent a realistic model but to fit into a simple childrens game.


That said, if the armour elements are being expanded from their basic form then I would suggest that if you have chosen to wear armour when

entering battle then you get a  -1 modifier to your roll (if not Defensive) to reflect the restriction of movement. (As Strength is not really pure strength but physical combat ability, made up of Strength and Dexterity.)


Aside: That just may me think to map old D&D attributes - this is from waaaay back to apologies if I have them wrong..

Strength:  Strength, Dexterity, Constitution?

Craft: Intelligence, Wisdom

Fate: Charisma?

Lives: Hit Points, Constitution?


If we continue that thought, what about restricted die roll for movement and even force you to miss a turn in the Swamp/Marsh (sorry, not remember the correct name) - but then we get into the issue of switching objects. Ho hum. Back into my box.




#5 JCHendee



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Posted 24 March 2009 - 03:48 AM

Yeah, you've hit a lot of the problems all of us are facing in trying to find a balance.  Alternative combat systems discussed so far had two objectives in mind:

  1. Avoid so many auto win/losses by the rolls and ranges for a 1D6. (At Natural Strength 9 - disregarding modifiers for Followers and Magic Objects - the median of Monsters and Animals are almost always defeated without a roll.)
  2. Use multiple die to bring a Bell curve into the probabilities, allowing for low chance of extreme differences in rolls will still making high skill level effective and desirable. (And also make it less a certainty that bulking on Followers and Magic Objects would be enough.)

Beyond these, any other considerations of character statistics pushes too far toward RPG.  And the Defensive Combat rule is just a "2nd Level" addition ... after non-RPG players get successfully introduced to the basic 2d6 system.  But it can be used in the standard 1D6 system as well.  When used 2d6, it isn't as potent and less of a concern.  I have found that non-RPG players love it because it gives them a chance to survive against an undefeatable opponent in a way that isn't dependant on mucked up character cards with ridiculous abilities.  In our group, at least among the long timers, there are certain characters that get whacked by the collective early on.  They've become so  unbalanced... more superheroes than high fantasy adventurers.  We'll make very short work of the Assassin, Prophetess, and even the Monk, if we can.  I can already tell we'll bedoing the same with some other future characters.

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