Somewhere out there is someone who had loving parents, watched clouds on a summer’s day, fell in love, lost a friend, is kind to small animals, and knows how to say “please” and “thank you,” and yet somehow the two of you are going to end up in a dirty little room with one knife between you and you are going to have to kill that human being.
It’s a terrible thing. Not just because he’s come to the same realization and wants to survive just as much as you do, meaning he’s going to try and puncture your internal organs to set off a cascading trauma effect that ends with you voiding your bowels, dying alone and removed from everything you’ve ever loved.
No, it’s a terrible thing because somewhere along the way you could have made a different choice. You could have avoided that knife, that room, and maybe even found some kind of common ground between the two of you. Or at least, you might have divvied up some turf and left each other alone. That would have been a lot smarter, wouldn’t it? Even dogs are smart enough to do that. Now you’re staring into the eyes of a fellow human and in a couple minutes one of you is going to be vomiting blood to the rhythm of a fading heartbeat. The survivor is going to remember this night for the rest of his or her life.
So before you make a grab for that knife, you should maybe think about a few things. This moment is frozen in time. You can still make a better choice.
Still determined? Backed into a corner with no way out? Have to fight for the greater good? Up against someone too stupid to know this is a bad idea? Or maybe just itching for some action? So be it. Here are the rules for simulating the murder of human beings. Have fun.
Combat consists of a few main concepts: who goes first (Initiative), how do you hurt someone (Attacking), how do you avoid getting hurt (Dodging), what else you can do besides fight (Non-Combat Actions), and what to do after the fight (Wounds and Healing).
Fighting is unpredictable and often unexpectedly dangerous. You aren’t a bulletproof hero who can swagger through gunfire with a wicked grin, bowling over scads of inferior opponents. Even punks can get lucky and even leathery street fighters can take hard falls onto broken bottles.
Your combat skills are calibrated on the assumption that they’re being used in chaotic, confusing circumstances. Your Firearms skill of 40% doesn’t mean you have a 40% chance to hit a paper target down at the shooting range. It means you have a 40% chance of hitting a moving, screaming, dodging enemy in a dark, rainy alley while she does her damnedest to fire the steel back at you.
Furthermore, your combat skills measure your ability to do something effective. A single Struggle attack may be one haymaker, or it could be a series of slaps, gouges, bites and hair grabs. Mechanics-wise, there’s no difference between a single elegant kick and the aggregate damage of several hasty rabbit punches, but for storytelling style, it helps to really visualize your personal technique.