[Let’s Study: Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition] Part 2b: Opposed Rolls and Hand to Hand Combat

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Welcome back and Happy Valentine’s Day!!

This is where we get a bit more involved as we tackle Call of Cthulhu’s resolution system for Opposed Rolls and Combat. Hope you guys have some coffee or tea with you, because we’re going to hit the ground running.

Opposed Rolls

Call of Cthulhu uses Opposed Rolls mostly for Player vs Player situation, or in Close Combat.

Opposed Rolls are straightforward: The participants have a mutually agreed goal where one wins and the other loses. They both choose a skill to use (with approval of the Keeper) and roll off and compare results.

Opposed Rolls have six possible outcomes: from a Fumble to a Critical Success.

Both rolls are compared to each other, with higher rolls beating lower ones. (Extreme Successes beats Hard Successes, etc.)

Bonus Dice and Penalty Dice

Opposed Rolls also have a sub-mechanic for accounting for bonuses and penalties to rolls in the form of Bonus and Penalty Dice. Both of these function by adding an additional 10’s die which is rolled alongside the d100 for a Skill Roll.

Bonus Dice allow the player to choose the lower of the 10’s dice to count for the roll, while Penalty Dice force the player to choose the higher of the 10’s dice to count for the roll.

Given the math behind this, it’s important for the Bonus and Penalty dice to represent a significant advantage or disadvantage before they come into play.

Combat

Alright, now that we’ve got Opposed Rolls squared away, we can move onto the Combat Rules.

Declaration of Intent

I find myself really liking this particular “rule” in combat: declare intent first. On each player’s turn, the player is prompted to describe what it is that their character is doing in a narrative fashion rather than a mechanical one.

This sounds pretty obvious, and many groups already do this, but it does help the Keeper come up with the Skill Roll required for the action, and helps keep everyone in the story rather than devolving to just looking at numbers.

For a horror game like Call of Cthulhu, this is key.

Fist Fights

The first(!) combat iteration we’ll be tackling is a standard unarmed hand-to-hand combat situation.

These attacks are resolved as an Opposed Roll, where the character being attacked has a choice to try and fight back, or to dodge the attack. This distinction is important as it changes the skills used in the Opposed Roll: Fighting vs. Fighting, or Fighting vs. Dodge

Fighting Back

When fighting back in Call of Cthulhu is that the winner of the Opposed Roll deals damage to the loser. Ties go to the attacker.

Dodging the Attack

If the target chooses to Dodge instead, then the game resolves more like traditional systems, where if the attack rolls better, they deal damage. If the dodging character rolls better, then they avoid damage. Ties go to the defender.

In both cases, if both combatants fail, then no damage takes place.

Damage and Weaponry

Damage for standard unarmed fighting is 1d3 plus any damage bonus from the character’s attributes. Melee Weapons have their own damage stat and are further modified by the character’s damage bonus.

Extreme Damage and Impales

On a successful hit with an Extreme Success, the attacker deals maximum damage and maximum damage bonus (if applicable). However, if the weapon used in the attack can “Impale” such as a knife or a bullet fired from a gun, then the attack deals maximum damage, and an additional damage roll for the weapon (without a damage bonus.)

Fighting Maneuvers

Any action that involves a goal other than simply dealing hand-to-hand damage is categorized as a Fighting Maneuver. This can be anything from disarming an opponent to throwing them out a window.

That was quite the handful. There are some rules bits here that I liked, such as the option to fight back and deal damage on a successful defense, as opposed to waiting for your turn to come around. If anything it shortens combat and raises the stakes and the tension of combat scenes, even for hand-to-hand combat.

Next up, we’ll be taking a look at Ranged Combat in Call of Cthulhu, which, unlike Hand-to-Hand, is not treated as an Opposed Skill Roll.

If you’d like to read along, you can pick up a PDF copy of the Call of Cthulhu Keeper’s Rulebook from DriveThruRPG for only $27.95

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