Splatter-Elf Week Day 3: Combat! - KILL 'EM ALL!!

Splatter-Elf week continues! On Monday we introduced you to the genre, yesterday we showed you how to make a character and today we get to the most important part of the Splatter-Elf RPG: How to kill stuff! Killing stuff is very important in a dark fantasy world where your merit is judged on how many buckets of blood you spill on a daily basis. "Heroes" (and I use that word veeeeery loosely) are expected to fight and kill at the drop of a hat for any slight, perceived or genuine.

Of course, Splatter-Elf as a sub-genre of Grimdark would not be possible without Philip Overby, so be sure to show him some love. You can even follow him on Twitter!


Combat in Splatter-Elf works much the same as most fantasy role-playing games, except there should be LOTS of it, and the game master and players are encouraged to describe it as bloodily and gorily as possible. Use lots of adverbs.

“She slices out your liver expertly, your hot life blood spraying gushingly onto the dirty even as she licks the ichor off her blade lustily.”

It’s basically the same thing as saying “she hits your for 7 damage,” but slightly more interesting.


Action is broken down into rounds. A round is roughly 6-10 seconds of game time – the exact amount doesn't matter; it may vary slightly from round to round as required for dramatic effect. Just assume it’s enough time for each character (player or monster) involved in the battle to get at least one useful action in.


At the start of the battle, each character involved rolls d12, modified by their Dexterity bonus. The highest roll acts first, and play proceeds in descending order of rolls. Once everyone has acted, the character with the highest roll (assuming he’s still alive) acts again and play continues in order until one side is defeated (either killed or run away/surrender like a pussy).


The two main things a character does on their turn are attack and move, and each character may do one of each (ie, make one attack and move once up to their movement rate).

Instead of attacking, the character may do another fiddly thing like try to pick a lock, snatch an item from an opponent's hand, kick down a door, etc, but let's be serious: usually if a player has the option to attack something, that's what they're going to do. Many monsters can attack more than once on their turn.

A character may also choose to use their attack action to move again, this basically means the character is running and can move up to double their movement rate.

Doing things like yelling instructions, threats or dropping an item in your hand does not count as an action. Drawing a new weapon, readying a light shield that's not already in your hand or standing up from a prone position counts as a move action.

Casting a sanguine sorcery spell also counts as an attack action.

Attack Resolution

If you attack an opponent with a weapon, you roll d12 and add your Attack bonus. You also add relative attributes modifiers (Strength for hand-to-hand attacks, Dexterity for ranged attacks). The target rolls d12 and adds his AC bonus. If the defender ties or beats the attacker's roll, it's a miss - the blow goes wide or the defender parries, blocks, etc.

If the attacker rolls higher than the defender the attack hits and does damage equal to the difference on the rolls, plus the weapon's damage. The weapon damage various tremendously depending on the weapon, and is often less important than a really good hit (a high roll) by the attacker or a really poor parry (a low roll) by the defender.

If the defender is wearing armor, the damage is reduced by a few points according to the armor's Damage Reduction rating. No matter what the DR however, an attack that successfully hits always does at least 1 damage.

Example: Cletus Veinslicer attacks Moebius Flip with a longsword. Cletus’ attack bonus is +4 (including all bonuses) and Moebius’s AC bonus is +5 (he’s using a light shield), and he’s also wearing chainmail armor (DR of 2). Cletus rolls an 11 (7 on the die +4) and Moebius rolls a 9 (4 on the die +5), for a difference of 2, which is a hit.  Adding the longsword’s weapon damage of +4, that’s 6 damage to Moebius, minus 2 for his armor’s DR, for a final total damage of 4. Not a serious wound, just enough to make Moebius angry…

Certain special attacks and magic spells may attack other defenses besides AC. If so, the specific description will detail the effects but the resolution is the same. Attacker rolls d12 + applicable modifiers, defender rolls d12 + Fort, Ref or Will, whichever is appropriate. Poisons and heavy physical trauma that can't be blocked or dodged usually attack Fortitude. Area attacks like a dragon’s breath or certain magical bursts usually target Reflex, and enchantments and charming spells target Willpower.

Injury and Death

Art by lamlok
Wounds, blood and death are an ever-present danger in Splatter-Elf, because of course they are (that’s kind of the point). Damage inflicted upon a character up to 50% of his maximum hit point total is usually not considered to have drawn blood. This damage are merely bruises, sprains, strains, etc that wear the character down but not put him in mortal danger. When a character is reduced to 50% of their hit point total or less however, then they are considered wounded. They are bleeding, bloodied and battered, and though they can keep fighting (only cowards would give up because of a mere flesh-wound) they do suffer a -1 penalty to all of their rolls until they have a chance to rest and/or heal. Certain other game effects may have specific rules when used on or against a wounded character, so keep that in mind.

If a character is reduced to 0 hit points, they are out of the fight. Non-player characters and monsters are usually considered dead. The player inflicting the killing blow may choose to simply knock out the foe instead of kill him – as long as they declare this action BEFORE making the attack. It may sometimes be advantageous to keep an enemy alive for ransom or torture (for information or for pleasure).

If a player character is reduced to 0 hit points, they have (in most cases) 2 choices. If they believe that their character has suffered a worthy demise, or that his story has come to an end, they can turn over their character sheet and the character is dead. If, however, it was a shitty death, or the player needs to keep fighting for some reason, or the player is whiny and they don’t want to make a new character, they can choose to have the character live. The character is reduced to 1 hit point instead, is knocked unconscious, and is maimed instead of killed. The game master or player rolls d12 and decides which part of the character’s body is destroyed:

Note that after the crippling injuries start to pile up, the player may choose the death option the next time they hit 0 hit points, or may simply retire the character. A warrior without legs or an archer without eyes is not going to be very helpful in a fight.

There may also be times when it is appropriate to the story (such as during particularly dramatic and epic scenes) that the game master may remove the maiming rule to increase the tension. He should warn the players in advance in this case. Unless he’s a dick.

Character Class: Nefarious Cutthroat

Thieves kill for money. Assassins kill for the art. Cutthroats kill because they can. The lowest of gutter trash, cutthroats are the dregs of society that even other criminals loath to deal with, but keep around because they need their skills. Cutthroats know how to stab people and really make it hurt, able to inflict crippling wounds that can take an opponent out of battle quickly and painfully.

Cutthroats tend to be jacks-of-all-trades, dabbling if not mastering a variety of skills to help them track, trick and sneak up on their victims. Their skills make them a considerable addition to any group of mercenaries or treasure hunters if their comrades can get past their generally sick and twisted behaviour.

Cutthroats can be found across the world in many roles. The majority act as special enforcers for gangs and criminal organizations. Some are mass murderers who prowl the alleys of major cities picking off whatever victims their code or whimsy tells them to. A few live as brigands, prowling country roads for unwary travellers (whether for money or the sheer pleasure varies between individuals). Those who can work within a group for an extended period of time are rare indeed, as while they are handy to have around few people with even half a brain in their head can sleep comfortably with a cutthroat in their camp.

Attribute Modifiers: Dexterity +1
Movement Rate: 30' (6 squares)
Weapons Allowed: Any
Armor Allowed:  Any, but they prefer leather armor and light shields. Anything heavier interferes with their Skullduggery skill.
Skills Allowed at First Level:  Calisthenics (STR), Skullduggery (DEX), Tinker (DEX), History (INT), Acuity (WIS), Beast Mastery (WIS), Carnality (CHA), Guile (CHA)
Skill Bonuses: Skullduggery +1
Open the Vein: When a cutthroat catches a living opponent with a discernable anatomy unawares (usually through careful application of the Skullduggery skill), or an opponent unable to fully defend himself (either bound or slowed by magic or normal means), he may pin-point a deadly attack that severs a vein or artery and creates a gushing, potentially rapidly fatal wound.
The cutthroat makes an attack with a melee weapon, targeting the victim’s Fortitude instead of AC (the cutthroat gets a +2 to his attack roll for attacking a surprised target). If the attack is successful, it inflicts damage normally (bypassing any DR from armor), however at the end of the victim’s next turn (and every round thereafter) the victim takes damage equal to double the Cutthroat’s level. This additional damage cannot be reduced by any sort of damage reduction under normal circumstances.
In order to stop the bleeding and hit point loss, the victim or one of his allies must successfully use the Sawbones skill to staunch the bleeding. At the very least he can do nothing but hold the wound and move at ½ speed to stop the blood loss for that round. Otherwise the blood loss continues until the character dies.

The Nefarious Cutthroat


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