Combat & Warfare

Combat in TIS is designed to work like much of the rest of the game - a conversation between the players and GM. The group discuss what they’d like to do, and then the GM interprets their instructions and tells the story of how the battle goes. Rolls are called for as they come up in the narrative.

This is designed to create a smoother, more flowing and fluid way of telling the story of a battle, rather than a simulationist method of combat.

Combat Forms

There are three forms of combat, and one for defence in the game. These are:

  • Unarmed: hand to hand combat, and use of non-traditional weapons (think bar brawls)
  • Armed: swords, axes, knives, daggers... Your level of skill with anything with a blade or which can be used as a bludgeon
  • Ranged: bows to firearms
  • Defending: dodges, blocks and parrying

All players and NPCs can start with any training they want, as long as they're willing to spend from their starting pool to get it. Similar to Skills, there are levels of competency involved which grant a bonus to rolls, rather than a 1 to 12 scale. The levels attainable and the bonuses given are:

  • Novice: 1
  • Apprentice: 3
  • Adept: 5
  • Expert: 6
  • Master: 7
  • Grand Master: 8

All rolls for attacking and defending are resolved via Narrative rolls. As such, if you're a Grand Master in Armed combat, you can never directly fail a roll to attack an opponent when using a bladed weapon. However, if you're very unlucky and roll a 1, you could end up with only a partial success as your total would only be 11. So no matter how good you are, you're never guaranteed for things to go entirely your way.

The rules governing the specifics of what weapons can do is given later.

Damage Output

Different sized weapons have advantages and disadvantages. Smaller weapons do less damage, but parry more easily, whilst massive weapons do more damage, but are harder to wield. Weapons two sizes larger than their wielder require two hands.

A pebble or dart, or a paring knife would be tiny, whilst the biggest swords, exotic heavy guns or huge maces would be listed as massive. A normal sword is medium.

The quality of a weapon is determined by its craftsmanship and type. Mundane weapons are something made for use by a normal soldier or person. Legendary weapons are created by a master smith and will thus be superior in construction. Exotic weapons range from ceramic blades and lightweight, super-tough swords to plasma cutters and stun-sticks.

Bows, crossbows and other similar weapons are considered normal. For firearms, mundane and legendary are pistols, muskets and early rifles, whilst exotics covers flamethrowers, plasma weapons, high-powered rifles and so on.

Size / Damage

  • Tiny - 1
  • Small - 2
  • Medium - 3
  • Large - 4
  • Massive - 5
Quality Normal Firearms
Mundane 2 6
Legendary 4 8
Exotic 6 12

When creating a character, you'll always start with mundane weapons. Legendary and exotic pieces come as reward for completing objectives, or as a result of taking them from opponents overcome along the way.

Firearms in particular may require upkeep and custom ammunition. This could be anything from batteries, specific liquids or projectiles, to simply time to recharge.

Combat Types

Unarmed Combat

Unarmed attacks count as all count as Mundane quality, deliver Blunt damage and can only occur close-up. The size value is given relative to that of the creature - small, medium and large creatures respectively use Tiny, Small, Medium values.

Armed and Ranged Combat

These cover combat using weapons, whether swords and axes or bows to rifles. Anything which you'd likely train in to use competently.


It's generally a good idea not to be hit when being attacked by someone else. Defence competency covers your ability to get out of the way of things which would otherwise injure or kill you.


When moving near enemies, you may want to travel stealthily. This imposes a penalty on your speed, reducing it to half. However, it also requires anything that might have otherwise seen you to fail to notice your movement, unless you're particularly conspicuous.

As a rule of thumb, if there's a reasonable way the player can move without being seen, and no-one's looking for them, they succeed automatically. If however there are lookouts, the player rolls a Fitness check based on how hard it'd be to avoid detection. This can be made easier by the Stealth skill, or certain armours.


Whilst you might wish for a quiet life, there will be times when the need for combat arises, and then you'll be glad of your armour. Different materials absorb different amounts of damage, conferring different levels of protection damage. It comes in Standard and Exotic forms, although the former is far more common in most settings.

Armour also has its own HP. This indicates the armour helping absorb or deflect blows. For base stats, see the links above.

Taking Damage

Assuming you've rolled to avoid damage and failed, your armour can absorb the blow. Armour loses one HP for every point of damage the attacking weapon does.

If your armour and shield HP hits 0, any further damage happens to you directly.

You may avoid any damage to your armour, shield or yourself, by using points from your Luck pool.

War is not violence and killing, pure and simple; war is controlled violence, for a purpose. The purpose of war is to support your government's decisions by force. The purpose is never to kill the enemy just to be killing him...but to make him do what you want to do. Not killing...but controlled and purposeful violence.

Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers


Exotic weapons can do more interesting things than simply knocking someone over. Almost any weapon that can be thought in modern day or sci-fi arsenals exists in the exotic category, from flame throwers and plasma rifles to electrical stun weapons, railguns, sniper rifles and acid cannons.

These will have special rules attached which may be simple or complex, such as "Causes 1d6 damage from burns" to "nullifies gravity for 12' around the target for 3d6 seconds".


The target is knocked 1d12' straight backwards. On rolling a 10 or higher, target suffers 1d6 blunt damage.


The target is knocked 1d12’ in a direction specified by the GM, and 1d12’ into the air, suffering the height value in blunt damage. On rolling a 12 on either dice, causes the target to be stunned.


Any Fitness related rolls suffer disadvantage for the next turn.

Acids & Burning

The target is set on fire. Suffers 1d6 damage each turn. Doesn't ignore armour, unless specified by the GM that the target itself is set on fire.


The target is frozen by a blast of extreme cold. Suffers 3 + 1d6 damage for two turns. On rolling a 6, causes frostbite, making any Fitness rolls suffer disadvantage for the rest of the day.


The target is zapped by a damaging electrical discharge. Suffers 8 + 1d6 damage. On rolling a 6, the target's muscles spasm, halving speed for 1d6 turns.

Crippling Blow

A limb is seriously harmed by the force of the blow. Fitness checks suffer disadvantage until the target is healed.

Inhibited Movement

Forces the target to make a dexterity check to attack on the next round.

Deep Cut

Causes 1d4 damage at the start of the next turn, unless the wound is bandaged (takes one action round).

Plasma Burn

The target is hit by a high energy plasma bolt. Does 1d12 damage to metal armour, or 1d6 to unprotected targets.


Knowledge and utilisation of the land is key in battle. Whilst combat in TIS is designed to be run entirely using theatre of mind, we'd strongly suggest that for large battles you have a map.

This will let you guide players as to the various areas of terrain and topology of the landscape, so they can plan their strategy around it.


Normal terrain is something like grassland, which offers no challenges or benefits. It can be moved through easily, and may contain some elements of cover, or be entirely open.

Roads, Tracks & Paths

Roads, tracks and paths allow for faster movement. Assume that people can travel roughly twice as fast when travelling on a decent road.


Fighting in a forest gives a bonus cover save against ranged attacks. When attacking, take a -2 penalty to hit, and when defending, gain a +2 bonus to your roll to avoid enemy fire.

If it's a thick forest or jungle, flying units must pass a Fitness test each turn they wish to fly or glide. On a failed roll, they impact trees, and take 4 blunt damage. These denser terrains also count as Difficult Terrain.

Difficult Terrain

Water, soft sand, rocky ground and similar count as difficult terrain, as does a particularly thickly wooded forest or jungle. All ground-based units travel at half their normal speed when moving through difficult terrain.

High Ground

Attacking from ground more than 12' higher than the opposing unit gives a +2 to rolls to attack or defend. Conversely, having the lower ground imposes a -2 penalty to both.