Most settings for WIRE are dangerous places, and most heroes are bad at avoiding conflicts. This is a reason combat will be part of most Chronicles at one point.
WIRE has different approaches to combat, with a simple core system and optional modules that allow more complex fights.
There also is a Quick and Dirty option for less important fights, to handle that stuff faster and focus on a more narrative combat.
This article covers the basic combat system. Everything besides these mechanics is strictly optional and not required to run combat in WIREless.
Combat is usually a conflict between two sides, each one trying to defeat the other. These conflicts are chaotic, so this approach to combat is not as realistic as it could be with a more complex system.
To give this chaos of battle structure, WIRE breaks combat down to Combat Rounds. Each round takes 10 seconds of time, and in each round everybody acts in turns in a regular cycle. Combat usually follows this structure:
- Determine if anybody is surprised. Surprised combatants have a reduced Initiative in the first round of combat.
- Roll for Initiative. To establish the initiative order, roll 1d20 + Reaction. The character with the highest initiative goes first, then the second highest, and so on. If two characters have the same initiative, the one with higher Reaction goes first.
- Set the Scene. Your Chronist will describe the situation, including positioning of all characters. If you like, you can use a Battle Map at this stage.
- Take your Turns. Each player and all NPC will now take their turns according to the initiative order. You make take actions up to your Action Point limit in your turn.
- Repeat Steps 3 & 4. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until the fight is over.
There are some fundamental statistics you need to monitor while running combat. In this section, you’ll find an overview of these statistics. On your character sheet, these scores will be in the combat section, too.
Action Points are the currency you will need during combat. When you want to do something in combat, you will spend Action Points to achieve a specific result. For example, if you want to move 9 meters, you will spend 3 of your Action Points to do so.
Your Action Point total equals to 10 + Constitution + Resolve + Composure. This is the absolute maximum of Action Points you may have, even if your Initiative Score would allow for more.
In each combat round, you will have an amount of Action Points equal to your Initiative Score. This amount is called Action Pool and will refresh at the beginning of your turn.
Your Action Pool determines how many Action Points you will have available in each Combat Round. Your Action Pool is equal to your Initiative Score but can never exceed your Action Points.
Tipp: You can track your Action Pool with dice if you have some left. Usually 1d20 or 2d20 will be sufficient for such a tracker.
If you want to make an attack, be it a melee, ranged or spell attack, you need to perform an attack roll that your opponent will contest with their defence skill.
To perform your attack roll, roll 1d20, add your weapon, unarmed, or spellcasting-skill, and any other modifiers to your roll. You need to exceed the result of your opponent's defence check.
Once your attack succeeds, you need to determine the damage you deal. This will be the basic damage of your weapon or spell, modified by +1 for each Degree of Success from your attack roll.
In WIRE, there are three basic forms of damage, Temporary Damage, Permanent Damage and Mental Damage. Each weapon or spell will have a note on the type of damage it deals.
The amount of damage that a weapon or spell deals is not the amount of damage you take. You change that number with your damage reduction, a score that’s determined from your armour.
Your Physical Damage Reduction (PDR) is equal to your Armour.
Your Mental Damage Reduction (MDR) is equal to your Resolve.
When somebody attacks you during combat, you will defend yourself instinctively. These defence actions will not cost you any Action Points. How you will defend depends on the attack.
Defence against Physical Attacks
- You are attacked in melee range and wear a shield: 1d20 + Block
- You are attacked in melee range and wear a weapon but no shield: 1d20 + Parry
- You are attacked in melee range and are unarmed: 1d20 + Unarmed
- You are attacked from range: 1d20 + Dodge
Defence against Spell Attacks
- The spell has a physical effect: 1d20 + Dodge
- The spell has a mental effect: 1d20 + Resolve
During combat, you will need to track three health pools. While this may seem much, it makes notations easier. Instead of one Hit Point Pool, or a damage monitor, you will have three different monitors:
- Permanent Health is for damage that has lasting effects, like bleeding
- Temporary Health is for damage that you can shake off in a short amount of time, like a beat in your stomach
- Willpower is for damage that affects your mind, like specific spells or powers
For more information about your health pools, please read this article.
Quick ReferenceAction Points: 10 + CON + RES + COM
Action Pool: Initiative Result
Attack Roll: 1d20 + Weapon Skill
Attack Roll (Spell): 1d20 + Magic Talent + School
Damage: Base Damage + Degrees of Success
Initiative: 1d20 + Reaction
DefenceMelee Defence (Shield): 1d20 + Block
Melee Defence (Weapon): 1d20 + Parry
Range Defence: 1d20 + Dodge
Spell Defence (Physical): 1d20 + Dodge
Spell Defence (Mental): 1d20 + Resolve
Health PoolsPermanent Health: 20 + CON + RES
Temporary Health: Permanent Health + Buffs
Willpower: 20 + RES + COM
Damage ReductionPhysical Damage Reduction: Armour
Mental Damage Reduction: Resolve
- Fencing Weapons
- Two-Handed Clubs
- Two-Handed Blades
- Unarmed Combat
- Energy Weapons
- Thrown Weapons
Whenever a combat starts, you need to determine if any of the participants are surprised. This is important, because a surprised combatant will suffer a -10 modifier on their initiative during the first combat round. They may act, but are much slower than usual.
To determine surprise, you will have two options.
The first option is the narrative approach. You will roleplay the situation and follow the narrative to determine if and which party of combat is surprised.
Pro: The narrative approach works best with the Quick & Dirty approach, and with groups that focus more on storytelling than rolling the dice.
Contra: If you prefer the number-based playstyle, this will take a lot of the randomness out of combat.
The second option is the skill-based approach. You will determine surprise by a contested check of Secrecy vs. Awareness. Each participant needs to make a check to determine if they are surprised or can act normally.
Pro: For groups who want to play with a heavy focus on the dice, the skill-based approach works great. It allows for an individual decision when it comes to surprise, instead of a possible broader narrative approach.
Contra: The surprise rolls can be quite time-consuming and disrupt the flow of storytelling if used that way.
The initiative has several tasks in WIRE. On the one hand, the initiative score decides when a character can act in combat, and it determines how large the Action Pool of the respective combat is.
To determine your initiative score, you need to make a simple check. Roll 1d20 + Reaction. If your character is surprised, subtract 10 from your result for the first round of combat.
Determine Action Pool
Your Action Pool is equal to your Initiative score, if your Action Points are equal or greater than your Initiative score. If your Initiative score is greater than your Action Points, your Action Pool equals your Action Points.
If your character is surprised, you need to adjust your Action Pool for the first round of combat. When this adjustment reduces your Action Pool to zero, you can’t act during the first round of combat.
Optional: NPC Initiative
To determine when opponents act, the Chronist may choose to assume a ten for each enemie's initiative roll. They then add the respective reaction score to the roll and gets the simplified initiative.
Option 2: Group Initiative
Another way to determine the initiative quickly is to let both parties roll the die once. Each player and NPC then adds up their own reaction.
During combat, your character will move around, will jump into cover, fire guns or swing swords, use supernatural powers or cast spells. These are the basic actions of WIREless, which are covered here. In other articles, there will be more advanced rules, like grappling and manoeuvres.
In WIRE, combat is broken down into rounds. Each round represents 10 seconds in the game world and allows each character involved in combat to take one or more actions. You may take as many actions in combat as your Action Pool allows.
Each round begins with the character with the highest initiative score. When they took their actions, the other characters follow in order of their initiative results. Once all characters took their turns, the next combat round starts.
Whenever you want to deal damage to another character engaged in combat, you need to perform an attack action. These actions cost a certain amount of Action Points that you need to subtract from your Action Pool.
Attack actions follow this pattern:
- Call your action. Tell your Chronist that you will perform an attack.
- Pay the Price. Subtract the attack cost from your Action Pool.
- Roll your attack. Roll 1d20, add your Attack Skill and Modifiers.
- Chronist rolls defence. Your Chronist will perform the defence check for an NPC.
- Compare results. Compare your attack roll with the defence roll of your opponent.
- Deal damage. If you hit, add your Degrees of Success to your Base Damage.
In this section, you will find the most common Attack Actions in WIRE.
With a melee weapon, you may attack one target in 1.5 metres range of you. To do so, you need to perform a contested check with your weapon skill vs defence skill. If your result exceeds the result of the defender, your attack hits. Divide the difference between the two results to determine your Degrees of Success.
Your weapon stat block has a section for Attack Cost. You may increase the base damage of your weapon before you attack by increasing that cost by 1 Action Points for 1 point of damage.
You may not increase your base damage by over 5 points!
As with a melee weapon, you may attack one target in 1.5 metres range of you with an unarmed attack. You need to perform a contested check with your Unarmed Combat vs defence skill. If your result exceeds the result of the defender, your attack hits. Divide the difference between the two results to determine your Degrees of Success.
Unarmed attacks cost 2 Action Points and deal 2 points of base damage. You may increase the base damage of your unarmed strike before you attack by increasing that cost by 1 Action Points for 1 point of damage.
You may not increase your base damage by over 5 points!
With a ranged weapon, you may attack an opponent over a larger range. Your weapon stat block will show the range increments of your weapon with Short/Medium/Long range. If you attack in short range, you will deal the base damage noted in the weapon stat block. On medium range, you suffer a damage decrease of 1, on long range the damage decreases by 2.
To make your ranged attack, you need to perform a contested check on weapon skill vs dodge. If your result exceeds the result of the defender, your attack hits. Divide the difference between the two results to determine your Degrees of Success.
As each other weapon, ranged weapons have a section for the attack cost. You may increase the base damage of your weapon by increasing that cost by 1 Action Points for 1 point of damage.
You may not increase your base damage by over 5 points!
In WIRE, you may move as much as you have action points to spend on the action in a turn. Every 3 metres you want to move costs you 2 Action Points.
You don’t need to move the entire distance you want to cover in one turn. It is also possible to move 6 metres, make an attack and then run another 12 metres.
If you are using a vehicle to move, you find the cost of movement in the stat block of the vehicle and the values above are obsolete.
Injury & Death
Each character in WIRE has three different Health Pools. Whenever you deal damage or suffer from damage, this is permanent, temporary, or mental damage. Powers, spells, and weapons have a notation of the damage type they deal.
Permanent damage describes damage that doesn’t heal without medical treatment of any kind. Therefore, permanent damage has no natural healing rate, but needs treatment through medical skills, potions, or healing spells.
Your permanent health pool is equal to 20 + CON + RES.
Most weapons, especially firearms, deal permanent damage.
You will go unconscious when your permanent health reaches 0 and die if it drops to -10.
Temporary damage is damage that you can heal or shake off without treatment. It has a natural healing rate of 1d20 per hour, which means you can heal 1d20 temporary hit points every 20 minutes, even with no professional treatment or healing.
Your temporary health pool is equal to 20 + CON + RES.
Unarmed attacks and shock weapons usually deal temporary damage.
You will go unconscious when your temporary health reaches 0 and die if it drops to -20.
Mental damage affects your willpower and takes longer to shake off without treatment. It has a natural healing rate of 1d20 per week. With this healing rate, you can’t shake off derangements without professional treatment or magical help.
Your willpower pool is equal to 20 + RES + COM.
Many spells, mental stress and horror deal mental damage.
You will go unconscious when your willpower reaches 0 and die if it drops to -20.
Modifiers in WIRE are circumstances that influence your ability to perform actions during combat. For example, a slippery road will double the Action Point cost for movement but will also apply a -2 modifier to defence actions, because you’ll not have such a secure stand.
You may also buy modifiers that provide you with an attack or defence bonus with Action Points. For example, you may spend 2 Action Points on the Aim-Modifier, that will grant you a +2 bonus on your first ranged attack in your next turn.
Powers & Spells
Powers & Spells are actions that not every character has. While every character can learn powers without limitation, you need Magic Talent to use spells or physical magic powers.
Use Powers in Combat
Powers usually have ranks from 1 to 5. You may use every rank that you possess. If you bought three ranks of Sneak Attack, you may use rank 1, 2 or 3. To activate a power, you pay the Action Point cost assigned to the rank you want to use. You may then use the power as described in the power block.
Alec bought Sneak Attack at rank 4. He wants to use it during his turn on an enemy that is not yet aware of his presence. He pays 6 Action Points to deal 6 points of additional damage during his first attack.
The power block states he needs to be behind his target, to use this power, so he carefully sneaks up to the enemy, using the bookcases in the room as a cover.
Use Pre-made Spells in Combat
Pre-made Spells have ranks, ranging from Minor Tricks to Rank 10. You may only cast pre-made spells you have learned, according to the Magic Rules. Casting that spell follows a specific pattern:
- Select the spell you want to cast
- Pay the Action Points you need to pay
- Make your spellcasting check
- Deal damage or apply the effect
Quick & Dirty
Combat usually runs until the enemy is dead, flees from the battlefield or any other circumstances declare one side as the clear winner. But not all fights are equally important, and you may resolve the unimportant ones faster.
To do so, you may use the Quick and Dirty approach. It solves combat in one round. To use it, follow this approach:
Determine your initiative order as described in the rules. These rules apply in the Quick and Dirty approach, as they do in the usual combat system.
Take your Turns
Each participant in combat will have one full turn. They can use it as if it were a standard combat round, and spend the amount of Action Points they have available.
Determine the Winner
When everybody took his turn, determine which side did the most damage. They will win the fight.
Narrate the Fight
Now that you know the outcome, narrate the fight however you like to reflect that outcome.