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Lionheart SPECIAL System, Installment 5: Combat


Lionheart is a computer role playing game that is being developed by Reflexive Entertainment in conjunction with Black Isle Studios. The game is an original title which uses an updated version of the SPECIAL character development system (from Fallouts 1 and 2) in a quasi-historical medieval Europe. Lionheart diverges from traditional high fantasy by placing the player on Earth in the 16th century in which history has taken a different path and magic has been released upon the world. Using a mix of historical and fictional locations and characters, the player progresses through a deep story while advancing through the classless character system.

In this series of articles, designers of the game will discuss various changes that have been made to the SPECIAL rules system from how it appeared in the Fallout series.

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Combat in the SPECIAL system and Lionheart

Author's Note: I'd just like to point out that essentially every aspect of combat is currently being tweaked as we test the game, while all of the options included in this installment are planned to be in the release version of the game, they could see some changes between now and then.

Lionheart offers many options with how to deal with a lot of situations. In most situations it's possible to Sneak past opponents, use Dialogue based skills and perks to avoid combat, and even avoid all out confrontation just based on your character's Race or special abilities. But eventually your character will find themselves up against some foes that were too watchful for your stealthy maneuvers, who didn't fall for your witty responses, or who you just plain can't avoid. When that happens, you're going to have to fight.

This installment covers more detailed combat. Lionheart takes care of all the details of math that you'll see below, but understanding how all the numbers fit together can make a difference when you are fighting.

Weapon Speed, Attack Frequency, and Targeting

As explained in a previous installment, your character has four different combat skills for attacking physically: one-handed melee, two-handed melee, ranged combat, and unarmed combat. If your character is magically inclined, there are twelve different spell skills that offer everything from straight fire damage to protective magics. On top of that, your character has two primary defensive statistics, his or her Evasion skill and Armor Class. Armor Class is derived primarily from worn armor and a characters AG (agility).

Melee combat is the simplest situation and is the easiest to describe combat for. In the Skills installment we listed the following equation as the basic rule for determining a hit:

d100+ Attack Value* >= Defender's Armor Class + Defender's Evasion

(I renamed Attackers Combat Skill which was listed in the previous installment with Attack Value...just work with me, it will make more sense in a bit).

At the time the * simply indicated that number can be modified by attack frequency which is set by the player. It's a little bit more complex than that. This number can also be modified by targeting specific body locations on the defender. Finally, although it doesn't factor into this equation, the character's penchant for speed and the speed of the weapon they are using, and the attack frequency.

By targeting a specific body part, you increase your chance to perform a critical but pay with your accuracy:

TargetRanged PenaltyMelee Penalty
Arms 30% 15%
Head 50% 25%

The attack frequency modifies your relevant combat skills by the following

Selected Attack
Skill ModifierAttack Frequency
Hectic -50% +50%
Quick -25% +25%
Normal 0 0
Planned +25% -25%
Calculated +50% -50%

So to find the Attack Value used in an attack, we take the Attackers Combat Skill multiplied by the aggregate skill modifiers added together. As an example, imagine a character with a 50 Skill in One-Handed Melee. They have their attack frequency set to Planned and are targeting opponents' legs. Their Attack Value is then

50 (their skill) * ( 100% +25% (frequency modifier) - 10 (targeting modifier) ) = 50 * 1.15 = 57.5

Because they have chosen Planned attacks, they are actually more likely to hit their opponent and cause those critical hits.

But the character isn't attacking as quickly, so how fast are they attacking? A character's Action Points is a derived statistic equal to five + half the character's AG (agility). The character's Action Points is used only to determine how quickly the move and perform actions (they are not actually 'spent' as they were in the Fallout games). The exact equation has changed so many times during development that there's no point in explaining the current value - just know that as AP goes up, your character does "stuff" faster.

In addition to targeting modifiers and frequency modifier, Weapons have an attack speed that also influences how quickly a character attacks. Weapon attack speeds can also be positive or negative modifiers. There is also a designed correlation between the damage a weapon does and its speed. Big weapons do big damage but are slow. Higher quality weapons are quicker and do more damage, but are never as fast as a character's hands. Of course, getting clubbed with a hard piece of forged steel typically hurts more than getting clubbed with a fist...

A hammer is a fairly average weapon that has only a slight speed penalty of 10% (hands are the only beginning weapon with a "positive" speed modifier). If the character has a base attack rate of 2 seconds based on their AP, and if we take the attack illustrated above, that attack rate is modified to:

2s * (100% +10% (weapon) +25% (frequency modifier)) = Attack Rate * 1.35 = 2.7s

So the character is actually attacking 35% slower for an increased 7.5% chance to hit, right? While that is technically correct, the actual in game effect of all this depends on the enemy. Now that we have a sample attack, let's see what it does against two different enemies:

Example 1 - Cheesy goblin with AC 40 and Evasion 25:

d100 +50 >= 40 (AC) +25 (Evasion) - you hit 85% of the time.

d100 +57.5 >= 40 (AC) + 25 (Evasion) - you hit 92.5% of the time.

Example 2 - Buff goblin leader with AC 100 and Evasion 40:

d100 +50 >= 100 (AC) + 40 (Evasion) - you hit 10% of the time.

d100 +57.5 >= 100(AC) + 40 (Evasion) - you hit 17.5% of the time.

And right now you're thinking... so? In example 1, by making the adjustments to the attack, the character is actually increasing their chance to hit by roughly 9% compared to making no adjustments. But in example 2 they increase their chance to hit by 75% compared to making no adjustments - this far outweighs the speed penalty of attacking 35% slower (not to mention they've boosted their chance at performing a critical when they hit). Which really just means that when you are fighting weaklings, changing around the way you attack doesn't make much difference. However it can be really important to maximize your method of attack when you are fighting tough creatures.


Every time a character scores a successful hit, there is a chance that hit is especially damaging - these are called critical hits. Your chance to land a critical is increased if you've targeted a specific body part. So while you have a lessened chance to hit, your chance to get a critical hit is increased. The chance to land a critical is fairly complicated but it basically boils down to the simplified equation:

d100 <= + Combat Skill - (Targeting Modifier) - Defender AC + modifications

When you do land a critical, at the minimum you do increased damage based on the following equation:

Critical Damage = Damage + Damage * ( 25% + ( d100 + modifiers) / 20)

But that's just the increased damage. The real fun in critical hits comes from the following table which lists the different types of possible additional critical effects:

Critical Torso Arms Legs Head
Ignore Armor X X X X
Knock Down X   X X
Knock Back X   X X
Drop Item   X    
Crippled   X X  
Stunned       X
Unconscious       X
Instant Death      X

Most of these are pretty self explanatory. Ignore armor means that damage resistances are ignored and Crippled Limbs either can't use items (arms) or slow movement (legs).

How you choose to fight in Lionheart will potentially have large consequences to your survival in the game. Hopefully this has helped to explain some of the intricacies and complexities of the system so that you understand a little better how to best create the character that you want to make.

Previous installments

  • 2002-07-29: Installment 1: Races & Attributes
  • 2002-08-12: Installment 2: Skills
  • 2002-08-26: Installment 3: Perks
  • 2002-09-09: Installment 4: Traits

    Average Reader Ratings: 6.15 (59 votes)
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