Being in the Main the Mouth of Olde House Rules

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Combat in Pits & Perils (Part I)

In Pits & Perils, attacks require 9 or better on 2d6, which is difficult to achieve and may seem to slow combat.  Furthermore, hit probabilities don't improve with level (except for enemies), and some have wondered why.  The latter is easy enough; combat is difficult and enemies dangerous and/or terrifying under the best of circumstances, the way it should be, we think!

The rest is dealt with in this post, keeping in mind that P&P was always conceived as a miniatures game:       

(1) Access to armor and weaponry is a genuine measure of battle prowess, something we often forget.  The ability to employ a bow at range or use a large weapon for extra damage is an enormous help, especially for those, like magicians, who can't!

(2) Movement matters.  Not only can fast fighters outrun their enemies, they can also maneuver across the battlefield to provide timely assistance to their friends as shown:

Zen can move 50' per round, so she can 
easily outrun these heavily armored orcs and rush to the aid 
of her friend (Sir Rupert) in his distress....

Using miniatures can really make a difference here...

(3) P&P also rewards good strategy with a few easy modifiers to attack dice, like adding +1 when outflanking an opponent, and since rolling 2d6 yields an 11 point spread, this grants a substantial advantage and, equally important, players need to think about where they position themselves, making combat an authentically tactical experience, as shown in the example below:    

Otto and Rupert (left) have smartly isolated this orc, 
so they each get the outflanking/outnumbering 
bonus (+1), and since Rupert is a true fighter, he attacks 
at +2!  Zen (right) is bravely holding off the other 
orcs, a fine tactical choice since she can fight ambidextrously against both of her terrible foes!  

Of course, this applies to enemies as well, so players must be especially vigilant!  By the way, this is probably much closer to real-life combat than more "advanced" systems...

(4) Finally, the acquisition of magical weapons is a huge boon, especially given the aforementioned 11-point spread, so hit probabilities will improve over time, and magical items are a deliberate and expected part of any character's advancement, even when combat otherwise remains very difficult! 

At its very heart, Pits & Perils is a war-game, albeit one that emphasizes role-play extensively, and using miniatures is the ideal way to tap its strategic elements.  But even when they are not employed (their use is completely optional), these rules provide several ways to keep things fast, furious, and lethal! 


  1. I use miniatures in the games with my daughter. We have been playing on 1" square graph paper, but I am thinking of switching to tiles without grids and using a measuring stick. How important is facing in the rules? My ground rule is that you have a 180 degree arc of vision and combat. If something is behind you and you can't see it, the figure doesn't necessarily have to be onthe board until they actually attack.

    1. We leave these details to the individual referees so they can put their own touch on things, but what you describe makes perfect sense!