Combat 101

Types Of Combat

There are two types of combat, each involving the same basic system with minor differences:

Close Combat: This covers unarmed combat (Dexterity + Brawl) and melee combat (Dexterity + Melee). Unarmed combat can involve a down-and-dirty Pier Six brawl or an honorable test of skill. Opponents must be within touching distance (one meter) to engage in unarmed combat. Melee involves hand-held weapons, from broken bottles to swords. Opponents must be within one or two meters of each other to engage in melee.

Ranged Combat: Armed combat using projectile weapons — pistols, rifles, shotguns, bows and arrows, etc. Opponents must normally be within sight (and weapon range) of each other to engage in a firefight.

Quick Combat Summary Chart

Initiative Roll Initiative.

Roll a single die. Add the number to your Dexterity + Wits. This is your Initiative rating.

Attack For unarmed close-combat attacks, roll Dexterity + Brawl.

  • For armed close-combat attacks, roll Dexterity + Melee.
  • For ranged firearms combat, roll Dexterity + Firearms.
  • For ranged bow and crossbow combat, roll Dexterity + Archery.
  • For ranged thrown weapons combat, roll Dexterity + Athletics.

A character can abort to a defensive action (block, dodge, parry) at any time before her action is performed, as long as you make a successful Willpower roll (or a Willpower point is spent).

Dodge Roll Dodge if applicable (Dexterity + Dodge).

Successes on dodge rolls cancel out successes on attack.

Damage Roll damage dice to determine total damage effect.

If the attack roll succeeded with more than one success, each additional success beyond the first adds +1 die to the damage roll for certain attacks.

Remove any successes canceled out due to dodging before rolling damage.

  • Brawl attack = Roll (Strength) damage + (# of dice above first success on attack roll)
  • Melee attack = Roll weapon damage + (# of dice above first success on attack roll)
  • Ranged Bow/Crossbow attack = Roll (Strength) damage + (# of dice above first success on attack roll)
  • Firearms/Explosives attack = apply damage rating for the weapon as total health levels of damage done.

Soak Roll Dodge if applicable; successes on dodge cancel out successes on attack. to soak damage (if able to do so).

Roll Stamina to soak damage (if able to do so).

Combat Breakdown

Stage One: Initiative

This stage organizes the turns and is when you declare your character's actions.

Everyone, player and storyteller, rolls one die and adds to it their Initiative Rating (Dexterity + Wits); the character with the highest result acts first, with the remaining characters acting in decreasing order of result. If two characters get the same result, the one with the higher initiative rating goes first. If initiative ratings are also the same, the two characters act simultaneously. Wound penalties subtract directly from a character's initiative rating.

Finding Initiative Example: Ross and Angela need to determine their initiative before they begin their fight against one another. Ross has Dexterity 4 and a Wits 2, which makes his Initiative Rating a 6 (4 + 2 = 6). Angela has a Dexterity 3 and a Wits 4, which makes her Initiative Rating a 7 (3 + 4 = 7). With their Initiative Ratings determined, each player rolls a single die. Ross rolls a 9 and Angela rolls a 5. Each player will add the number of their die roll to their Initiative Rating to receive their Initiative for the scene. So, for this scene Ross's initiative is a 15 (9 + Initiative Rating of 6) and Angela has an initiative of 12 (5 + Initiative Rating of 7). Because Ross has the higher initiative, he is the first to go in combat and Angela will go second.

Although you declare your action now, including stating that your character delays her action to see what someone else does, you wait until the attack stage to implement that action. At this time, you must also state if any multiple actions will be performed, if Disciplines will be activated, and/or if Willpower points will be spent. Characters declare in reverse order of initiative, thus giving faster characters the opportunity to react to slower characters' actions.

All of your characters' actions are staged at her rank in the order of initiative. There are three exceptions to this rule. The first is if your character delays her action, in which case her maneuvers happen when she finally takes action. Your character may act at any time after her desired order in the initiative, even to interrupt another, slower character's action. If two characters both delay their actions, and both finally act at the same time, the one with the higher initiative score for the turn acts first.

The second breach of the initiative order occurs in the case of a defensive action, which your character may perform at any time as long as she has an action left.

Finally, all multiple actions (including actions gained through activating the Discipline of Celerity) occur at the ed of the turn. If two or more characters take multiple actions, the actions occur in order of initiative rating. An exemption is made for defensive multiple actions, such as multiple dodges, which happen when they need to happen in order to avert attack.

Stage Two: Attack

An action's success or failure and potential impact on the target are determined at this stage. You use a certain Attribute/Ability combination depending on the type of combat in which your character is engaged:

Close Combat: Use Dexterity + Brawl (unarmed) or Dexterity + Melee (armed).

Ranged Combat: Use Dexterity + Firearms (guns), Dexterity + Archery (bows and crossbows), or Dexterity + Athletics (thrown weapons).

If your character doesn't have points in the necessary Ability, simply default to the Attribute on which it's based (in most cases, Dexterity).

In ranged combat, your weapon may modify your dice pool or difficulty (due to rate of fire, a targeting scope, etc.); check the weapon's statistics for details.

Most attacks are made versus difficulty 6. This can be adjusted for situational modifiers (long range, cramped quarters). If you get no successes, the character fails her attack and inflicts no damage. If you botch, not only does the attack fail, but something nasty happens. The weapon jams or explodes, the blade breaks, an ally is hit, etc.

Damage Application

During this stage, you determine the damage inflicted by an attack, and the Storyteller describes what occurs in the turn.

Normally, additional successes beyond the first one gained on a Trait roll simply means that you do exceptionally well. In combat, each success above the first you get on an attack roll equals an additional die you add automatically to your damage dice pool.

All attacks have specific damage ratings, indicating the number of dice that you roll for the attack's damage (called the damage dice pool). Some damage dice pools are based on the attacker's Strength, while others are based on the weapon used. Damage dice rolls are made versus difficulty 6. Each success on the damage roll inflicts one health level of damage on the target. However, the damage applied may be one of three types:

Bashing Damage: Bashing damage comprises punches and other blunt trauma that are less likely to kill a victim instantly. All characters use their full Stamina ratings to resist bashing effects, and the damage heals fairly quickly. Bashing damage is applied to the Health boxes on your character sheet with a "/".

Lethal Damage: Attacks meant to cause immediate and fatal injury to the target. Mortals may not use Stamina to resist lethal effects, and the damage takes quite a while to heal. Vampires may resist lethal damage with their Stamina (roll Stamina, difficulty 6). Lethal damage is applied to the boxes on you character sheet with a "/".

Aggravated Damage: Certain types of attacks are deadly even to the undead. Fire, sunlight, and the teeth and claws of vampires, werewolves, and other supernatural beings are considered aggravated damage. This damage type cannot be soaked except with Fortitude, and it takes quite a while to heal. Aggravated damage is applied to the Health boxes on the character sheet with an "X". Mortals do not receive aggravated damage, as lethal damage is considered aggravated to them.

Damage dice pools can never be reduced to lower than one die; any attack that strikes its target has at least a small chance of inflicting damage, at least before a soak roll is made. Moreover, damage effect rolls cannot botch; a botched roll simply means the attack glances harmlessly off the target.

Damage Soak

Characters can resist a certain degree of physical punishment; this is called soaking damage. Your character's soak dice pool is equal to her Stamina rating. A normal human can soak only against bashing damage (this reflects the body's natural resilience to such attacks). A vampire (or other supernatural creature) is tougher, and can use this soak against lethal damage. Aggravated damage may be soaked only with the Discipline of Fortitude. Against bashing or lethal damage, Fortitude adds to the defender's soak rating (so a character with Stamina 3 and Fortitude 2 has five soak dice against bashing and lethal damage, two soak dice against aggravated damage).

After an attack hits and inflicts damage, the defender may make a soak roll to resist. This is considered a reflexive action; characters need not take an action or split a dice pool to soak. Unless otherwise stated, rolls are made versus difficulty 6. Each soak success subtracts one die from the total damage inflicted. As with damage rolls, soak rolls may not botch, only fail.

Example: Lisa the Gangrel has Stamina 3 and Fortitude 1. She is attacked with a knife, and the attacker scores three levels of lethal damage. Lisa may soak this attack with four dice (Stamina 3 + Fortitude 1). She rolls 1, 9, 9, 7. The "1" cancels out one of the successes, leaving Lisa with two. She thus ignores two of the three health levels inflicted by the knife, taking only one level of damage. Had Lisa been human, she would not have been able to soak the lethal knife wound at all and would have taken three full health levels of damage.


Simply put, armor adds to your character's soak. The armor's rating combined with your base soak for purposes of reducing damage. Light armor offers a small amount of protection, but doesn't greatly hinder mobility. heavy armor provides a lot of protection, but can resist flexibility.

Armor protects against bashing, lethal, and aggravated damage from teeth and claws; it does not protect against fire or sunlight. Armor is not indestructible. if the damage rolled in a single attack equals twice the armor's rating, the armor is destroyed.

Damage Explained (in depth)

The Health Chart on the character sheet helps you track your character's current physical condition. It also lists the penalty imposed on your dice pool for each level of injury that your character sustains. As your character suffers more injuries, her health declines until she becomes incapacitated — or dead.

Every character has seven health levels, ranging from Bruised to Incapacitated. Characters can also be in full health (with no health levels checked off), in torpor, or dead. When an attacker scores a success on a damage roll, your character takes one level of damage (if it is not soaked; more on that later). This is marked on your character sheet in the appropriate box, although the mark you make depends on the type of damage inflicted (see below).

The number to the left of the lowest marked box indicates your current dice penalty. As your character gets more and more battered, it's increasingly difficult for him to perform even the simplest of tasks. The dice penalty is subtracted from your dice pool for every action (not reflexives such as soak) until the wound heals.

Health Level Dice Pool Penalty Movement Penalty
Bruised 0 Character is only bruised a bit and suffers no dice pool penalties due to damage.
Hurt -1 Character is superficially hurt and suffers no movement hindrance.
Injured -1 Character suffers minor injuries and movement is mildly inhibited (halve maximum running speed).
Wounded -2 Character suffers significant damage and may not run (though he may still walk). At this level, a character may not move, then attack; he always loses dice when moving and attacking in the same turn.
Mauled -2 Character is badly injured and may only hobble about (three yards/turn).
Crippled -5 Character is catastrophically injured and may only crawl (one yard/turn).
Incapacitated Character is incapable of movement and is likely unconscious. Incapacitated vampires with no blood in their bodies enter torpor.


Characters with zero blood points in their blood pools begin to lose health levels each time the rules call for them to spend blood. When a vampire falls below the Incapacitated health level, she enters torpor. There she will remain unless someone feeds her at least one blood point. If this happens, she may rise, regardless of Humanity rating. This sort of revivification works only for vampires who enter torpor from blood loss rather than damage.

Vampires who enter torpor due to wounds must rest for a period depending on their Humanity/Path rating:

Note: Dice pool penalties from health level loss apply only to actions. They don't apply to purely reflexive dice pools, such as soak dice, most Virtue checks, or Willpower rolls to abort to another action. If a character is Wounded and suffers more non-aggravated damage, he may still soak with his full Stamina (+ Fortitude, if he has it). The health level penalties do apply to damage rolls for Strength-based attacks, but not for mechanical weapons like firearms. Ultimately, this rule must be adjudicated by the Storyteller and common sense.

Humanity / Path Length Of Torpor
10 One Day.
9 Three Days.
8 One Week.
7 Two Weeks.
6 One Month.
5 One Year.
4 One Decade.
3 Five Decades.
2 One Century.
1 Five Centuries.
0 Millennium +.

Following this period of rest, the player may spend a Blood Point and make an Awakening roll for her character to rise. If the vampire has no blood in her body, she may not rise until she's fed; if the player fails the Awakening roll, she may spend another Blood Point and make an Awakening roll the following night. If the vampire rises successfully, she's considered Crippled and should either spend blood or hunt immediately.

A character may enter torpor voluntarily. This state resembles the character's normal daily rest, but is a deeper form of slumber and shouldn't be entered into lightly. A vampire in voluntary torpor may rise after half the mandatory time period for involuntary torpor, but must make an Awakening roll to do so. A torpid vampire may ignore the nightly need for blood; she's effectively in hibernation.

Mortals have no torpor rating; if reduced below Incapacitated, they simply die.

Final Death

If a vampire is at the Incapacitated health level or in torpor and takes one more level of aggravated damage, he dies permanently and finally. A player's character who meets Final Death is out of the game; the player must create a new character if she wishes to continue play.

An incapacitated or torpid vampire may also be sent to Final Death through massive amounts of bashing or lethal trauma (decapitated, trapped under a 10-ton rock, fed into a wood chipper, caught at ground zero of an explosion, crushed by deep-sea pressure, etc.). Typically, this damage must be enough to destroy or dismember the corpse beyond repair.

Applying Damage

There are three damage types. Bashing damage includes all forms of temporary injury — from punches, clubs, and other blunt trauma. Vampires, and only vampires, consider firearms attacks to be bashing damage as well — unless the bullets are aimed at the head (difficulty 8), in which case they're considered lethal. Vampires can suffer bashing damage, but consider it more of an annoyance than anything else. Lethal damage covers permanent, killing wounds. Humans die easily from lethal injury, and even the undead can be traumatized by massive amounts of lethal damage. Finally, aggravated damage includes those forces even other vampires fear — fire, sunlight, and the teeth and claws of their own kind.

All types of injuries are cumulative, and the combined injury determines your character's current health level. Specifics on each type of damage are provided below.

Bashing and lethal damage differ in their effects, but, for vampires, both types of damage are considered normal. Normal damage is recorded as a slash ("/") in the appropriate Health chart box. Aggravated damage is marked with an "X" for each level inflicted. Aggravated damage always gets marked above normal (whether bashing or lethal). So if you mark a level of normal damage in the Bruised box, and take one aggravated health level later on, "move down" the bashing level to the Hurt box by marking that box with a "/". The aggravated level is then noted by simply drawing another slash through the Bruised box, turning it into "X." Normal levels taken after aggravated levels are simply drawn in on the next open box. Normal damage isn't as severe as aggravated, so it's always marked last and healed first.

Types of Damage

Bashing Damage

Bashing damage covers all forms of injury that aren't likely to kill instantly and that fade relatively quickly. Most forms of hand-to-hand combat — punches, clinches, kicks, tackles, and the like — inflict bashing damage. Bashing damage generally impairs less than lethal damage does, and heals faster.

Vampires are relatively unaffected by bashing damage — a punch to the gut has little effect on the undead. However, massive concussive trauma can send a vampire into torpor.

Mortals may soak bashing damage with their Stamina, while vampires may also soak bashing damage with their Stamina (+ Fortitude, if they have that Discipline). However, any bashing damage applied to a vampire after the soak roll is halved (round fractions down) — the Kindred's corpse-like bodies simply don't bruise and break like the kine's.

If your character falls to Incapacitated due to bashing (or lethal) damage, then takes another level of bashing (or lethal) damage, she enters torpor. If your character falls to incapacitated due to bashing damage but then takes a level of aggravated damage, she meets Final Death.

Lethal Damage

Lethal damage is just that — lethal, at least to mortals. Even vampires take a sword-wielder seriously — a vampire who I hacked to bits or decapitated will die the Final Death, though not as readily as a mortal. Knives, bullets, swords, and the like all cause lethal wounds. At the Storyteller's option, blunt attacks aimed at a vital body part (difficulty 8 or 9 to target) can cause lethal damage, particularly versus mortals.

Lethal damage is intended to cause immediate and grievous injury. For the kine, lethal injuries take a long time to heal and usually require medical attention for any hope of recovery. For well-fed vampires, knife wounds, shotgun blasts, and the like are simply…annoying.

Mortal characters may not soak lethal damage at all — all such damage is applied directly to their health levels. Kindred characters may soak lethal damage normally with Stamina (+ Fortitude, if they have it). Lethal damage that penetrates the soak roll is applied normally to their health levels. However, lethal damage is considered normal for the purpose of healing, so vampires may easily nullify lethal damage by spending Blood Points.

When your character's Health boxes fill to Incapacitated, and she takes a further level of lethal damage, she enters torpor. If your character is reduced to Incapacitated via lethal damage, and she takes a further level of aggravated damage, she meets Final Death.

Aggravated Damage

Certain attacks are anathema to the undead. Fire and rays of the sun inflict terrible wounds on the undead, as can the teeth and claws of other vampires (as well as the attacks of werewolves or other supernatural creatures).

As mentioned, each level of aggravated damage should be marked with an "X" on the Health chart. Aggravated damage may not be soaked except with the Discipline of Fortitude. Moreover, aggravated damage is far more difficult to deal. A level of aggravated damage may be healed only with a full day of rest and the expenditure of five Blood Points and one Willpower Point per extra aggravated health level to be healed). Worse of all, a vampire who loses his last health level due to aggravated damage meets Final Death — his eternal life ends at last, and he goes to whatever reward awaits him beyond the grave.

Mortals may ignore sunlight, but obviously take damage from fire, fangs, and claws. If a mortal is susceptible to a type of aggravated damage (fire, for example), that damage is treated as lethal.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License