If your experience with RPGs comes mostly from D&D, I can imagine you might be a little confused upon reading 2400, the 24XX SRD, or any of various 24XX RPGs by others. While I hope that GMs will find what they need in the free, expanded rules supplement Emergency Rules, or in the combat-focused Battle Moon, I thought a more in-depth look might be helpful, especially for those working on their own 24XX games.
FAQ (fighting & attacking questions)
- How do you track wounds, conditions, or hit points?
- How do you “stat out” enemies?
- How do you track whose turn it is to act?
- How long do fights take?
- How do you know when to end the fight?
- How “lethal” is this game?
- How do you run a more lethal game?
- How do you specify what’s a “risk” in combat?
- How do you decide on “partial success” results?
- What happens if a character “misses” with an attack?
- Does your action “fail” when you roll a 1?
- Does being “hindered” mean you only roll a d4, no matter how skilled you are?
- What happens if the GM doesn’t specify a risk before rolling?
- Risking nothing
- Risking death
- Mitigating risk
- Facing a tough opponent
- Ganging up
- Mass combat in “steps”
- A “boss fight” with obstacles
The rules in plain language
The 24XX SRD doesn’t have explicit “combat rules”; it has rules for facing and mitigating risks. It’s the GM’s job to advise of risks, and of players’ (apparent) possible effectiveness, before players roll. Different situations have different risks, and different scope for how much can be accomplished by one roll. You establish the details as you go, as an improvised conversation.
By those rules, when you as a player try to avoid a risk, you roll a die based on your skill, and possibly more if helped by allies or circumstances. Then you consult the highest die rolled.
On a 1–2, there’s a disaster — you suffer the full consequences of the risk. (That doesn’t necessarily mean you “fail” your action, just that you don’t avoid whatever you were trying to avoid.) If you were trying to kill an enemy at the risk of being killed, you get killed.
On a 3–4, there’s a setback — you suffer a lesser risk, or achieve only part of what you meant to achieve. If you were trying to kill an enemy at the risk of being killed, either you are injured in the process (a lesser risk), or you injure them instead of killing (a partial success).
On a 5+, you achieve success — you get what you want without negative side effects. The higher the roll, the better (though the specifics of what that means are left up to your group). If you were trying to kill an enemy at the risk of being killed, they’re dead, and you’re unharmed.
(That’s a lot of killing in a game that I prefer to run less violently, but I’m using the extreme example for convenience. More nuanced examples follow later in the post.)
If you roll really poorly, you can sacrifice an appropriate item (usually armor) as defense, avoiding the consequences you would have faced, instead facing only a brief hindrance (like falling down), which might penalize rolls until it’s corrected (like by standing up).
Sometimes it doesn’t make sense for a situation to be resolved by just one roll, especially when obstacles stand in the way (like a force field generator that must be disabled before an enemy can be defeated). In these cases, you can break the scene down into steps: Each player says what they mean to do; the GM says what they each risk; each player rolls; and the GM interprets the results. After each step, the GM describes how the situation has changed. You can play out another step, or agree that the situation has been resolved, with the players’ goals achieved (or escaped, with any other goals abandoned).
FAQ (fighting & attacking questions)
This section attempts to answer some common questions about how to run fun combat, which come most often from people with expectations of mechanical support from other RPGs. If the answers below don’t entirely match how you play 2400 or other 24XX games, though, please don’t worry about whether you’re doing it “right.” This is not gospel, but advice. If you and your friends feel safe talking through things, and aren’t feeling frustrated or confused, you’re doing great. This is for the people who are feeling frustrated and confused, and could use another perspective.
How do you track wounds, conditions, or hit points?
24XX doesn’t have hit points, but characters can certainly get hurt in combat. Instead, it relies on fictional context to control the pace of combat, and to provide a buffer to forestall death.
If you’re more concerned about controlling the pace, jump down to How do you stat out enemies? and then to How do you track whose turn it is to act?
If you’re more concerned about what might take out a character or their enemies (especially if concerned about players’ characters dying too easily), jump down to How do you stat out enemies? and then to How “lethal” is this game?
If you’re wondering how to describe the specific effects of a bad roll in combat, jump down to How do you specify what’s at “risk” in combat?
How do you “stat out” enemies?
Enemies in 2400 don’t have “stats,” skills, hit points, or the like. Instead, the GM defines them based on fictional elements (just like the GM defines every risk based on fictional context). There’s more than one way to do this, but here are the fictional elements I find most useful to consider.
Behavior: What do they do to get what they want? This helps gauge when combat might be triggered, avoided, or ended before anybody dies. A hungry beast may try to quietly hunt and drag away enemies someplace safe to eat them. A practical robber may try to avoid combat by issuing threats first. And anybody with self-preservation instinct might flee, cower, or try to bargain in the face of inevitable defeat.
Risks: What might the enemy do to endanger a character in a conflict? Or, in game mechanics terms, when rolling in a conflict with them, what happens on a roll of 1–2? Enemies you expect to face players in combat likely have weapons (like guns, knives, teeth, claws, telekinesis) that put characters at risk of death or injury (like broken bones, blood loss, burns, concussion). Some enemies might present other, less common risks, though (like a petrifying gaze, an alien infection, or harm coming to hostages.)
Obstacles: What items, tactics, or innate capabilities does the enemy have to protect them from harm? Or, in game mechanics terms, what might make it impossible for players to end combat by just saying “I attack” and rolling once? These are akin to hit points, or a “wound” system, except that each hit has a narrative explanation (e.g., “broke their armor“; “whittled down their superior numbers“; “found a way around their fortifications“).
Every character and creature played by the GM should have a defined behavior with implied goals. Characters and creatures one might reasonably expect players to fight should also have items or capabilities that present obvious risks. Enemies may or may not present obstacles, though, depending on how long you want combat to take, and how much you like combat to feel like a puzzle to be solved.
How do you track whose turn it is to act?
The GM focuses on managing “spotlight” to try to give everybody roughly equal screen time (or the option to opt out of it). The GM and players “take turns” talking (because that’s the polite thing to do in conversation), but the characters don’t necessarily “take turns” in a mechanical sense — we might imagine them acting all at once or coordinating actions one after another depending on whatever makes sense in context.
When do enemies act? To simulate everyone acting simultaneously, enemies’ actions are described in terms of the risks characters face while players are rolling. Players only roll dice to try to avoid risks: You don’t roll to see if your attack hits; you roll to see if you get attacked back (or some other fitting risk).
What if you want a blow-by-blow fight? 2400 has a procedure akin to rounds, called steps, for when you want to zoom in on the action, like in a blow-by-blow fight scene. This happens most frequently when the GM points out obstacles (as described above) to the players; characters can’t achieve their goal until they remove the obstacles. So, players describe what they do; the GM notes what each character risks (which means describing what enemies are doing); anybody who needs to roll does so; and then the GM (or the table) interprets the results. Then, everybody declares what they want to do next, in this newly changed situation.
How long do fights take?
You can modulate the length and pacing of combat to your liking by the scope of the risks and obstacles you set.
A “zoomed-in” fight scene specifies more obstacles to clear (and thus more steps before the ultimate goal of the scene can be achieved). It might also have easier, more immediate risks to avoid, and more defenses at the players’ disposal. Actions look like: roll to break the enemy’s force field, at risk of your own force field being broken. It looks like a D&D combat scene, or we might imagine it like a fight scene in a superhero or martial arts movie.
A “zoomed-out” fight scene specifies few or no obstacles, but — unless the characters are meant to be extremely impressive — has a higher risk of injury or death. Actions look like: roll to rout the enemy force, at risk of your own death. It’s handled much like a simple roll to jump over a pit in D&D — roll once, and you’re done — even if the scope is broader and the stakes are higher. We might imagine it like a brief montage in a war movie, cutting abruptly to the grisly aftermath.
Keep in mind, too, that combat scenes don’t have to be fights to the death. When either side takes losses or senses it is outmatched, that is a good opportunity to consider surrendering or fleeing.
How do you know when to end the fight?
If you’ve played a lot of D&D, you might see the end state of combat as one side killing everybody on the other side (or maybe triggering a morale roll to make the enemies flee). Combat scenes in most entertainment media don’t usually end with one side outright slaying every member of the other side, though.
Think about your favorite movie fight scenes and ask yourself what they were fighting over. (Shang-chi and The Matrix have some great examples.) That should give you a sense of some interesting goals and potential fail states for your own combat scenes.
The protagonists might be trying to escape, catch someone before they escape, prevent something from being stolen, protect innocents from danger, or any number of other goals. If they achieve their goal, the fight might end right then, with their victory.
Meanwhile, the protagonists might risk being caught, eluded, robbed, knocked off a bridge (and so out of the enemies’ way), handcuffed to a radiator, captured and sold off to fight on Battle Moon, or any number of other fail states.
If the fight is just a matter of endurance, holding out until the danger passes, pick an arbitrary number of steps (say, three), and see where you are after that many sequences of rolls around the table.
How “lethal” is this game?
2400 looks deadly because you can technically lose a character in one roll. You can certainly play that way — but the following rules make it literally impossible to kill a character without players’ buy-in.
Risk-setting: If the GM doesn’t warn before rolling that a player’s character risks death, that roll cannot kill that character. The only way a character can die is if the GM says something as clear as “you’d be risking death” — before the player rolls — and the player then rolls anyway. If you want to be especially careful to minimize the likelihood of characters dying, the GM should phrase it more like, “you’d be risking death — do you want to try something else instead?” And if you want it to be impossible for characters to die, all the GM has to do is never say the risk is death.
Defense: Even if a character does risk death, a bad roll still might not kill them. Players can destroy their own items (especially armor) as “defense,” turning a roll that would kill their character into a “momentary hindrance” (e.g., they fall down, and so have to roll a d4 to do anything that’d be hard to do from the ground … until they stand back up).
Lines: The GM is instructed to “lead the group in setting lines not to cross in play.” This phrasing is meant to be clear that the GM is not the final arbiter of these lines, just the one starting the conversation. Anyone at the table is empowered to say, “Losing my character would be crossing a line.” When a player wants to do something that would necessarily risk death, the GM instead describes another, comparable risk (e.g., endangering other characters), or prompts the player to do something else (“There’s no way to do that without risking death — but you might try this, and risk this instead…”).
Rewinding: Along similar lines, the GM is told to “fast-forward, pause, or rewind/redo for pacing and safety; invite players to do likewise.” If anybody loses their character and feels like this was unacceptable, it’s entirely within their power to say, “It looked like they were dead — but in fact…”
As always, if your players love living dangerously, your group is welcome to change any of the above rules. But by default, unless you agree otherwise as a group, the players’ characters are functionally immortal.
How do you run a more lethal game?
If everyone in your group agrees they want to face high-stakes, potentially lethal scenarios, address this explicitly when setting risks, handing out defenses, and setting lines, including rules for rewinding.
Risk-setting: If there’s any risk of physical injury whatsoever, the GM should consider whether death is a possible worst-case scenario — and if it is, the GM needs to advise of that before players roll. Alternatively, your group may agree on a ruling to speed things up: When a player rolls in the face of what we can all agree in retrospect was an obvious risk of physical injury, they implicitly accept that the action risked death. This makes combat much faster, and much scarier.
Defense: Rule as a group that only certain kinds of items (e.g., just armor, force fields, and riot shields) can be broken as defense. Establish that broken items can’t be repaired in the field.
Lines: Be amply clear before play starts that this is going to be a lethal game. If anybody wants to set a line against their character dying, would it still work if they’re okay with other people’s characters dying? Brutally challenging games aren’t necessarily fun for everybody, so you may need to play something else, or play with other people.
Rewinding: If the narrative flexibility built into the game troubles you, your group may want to establish that “retroactively altering events we can agree just happened” is a line you don’t want to cross. (I suspect this is an implicit line for a lot of groups, just based on their experience with other RPGs. But maybe it’d be handy to make it explicit.)
In sum, to make an enemies feel dangerous, set high-stakes risks and difficult — or even insurmountable — obstacles. And if you’re running a horror game, in particular, don’t hold back — player rolls trend toward setback and success more often than disasters, and players often have defenses to use up.
In short: 2400 is exactly as lethal or as non-lethal as you and your friends agree it should be. If you’re uncomfortable about the level of lethality, talk to each other until you’re all on the same page.
How do you specify what’s a “risk” in combat?
The risk of any given action is based on the GM’s interpretation of what’s happening in the fiction (though players are free to suggest risks for themselves, and one another, too). Death is the most obvious risk for any action in lethal combat, but here are some other options, organized by how long they’d last.
Permanent: Some of your actions may be hindered or prevented entirely forever, or until you’re able to replace whatever you lost, if you get…
- An arm cut off
- An eye removed
- An item irreparably broken
Days or weeks: Some of your actions may be hindered or prevented entirely for the rest of this session, perhaps even longer, if you get…
- A bleeding wound that needs stitches
- A broken bone
- One of your items broken (but not irreparably)
Minutes or hours: You’ll only be hindered until you’re able to catch your breath, or maybe grab a bite to eat or a nap, if you get…
Brief: You’ll only be hindered for one roll (if at all), until you take appropriate action, if you get…
- Knocked down
How do you decide on “partial success” results?
Before a player rolls, the GM advises of “the risk” of the roll — specifically, what’s the worst thing that could happen if they roll a 1 or a 2? This sets the boundaries for what happens on a roll of 3 or 4, which could be either “a lesser risk or partial success.” The GM might pick one, or ask the player whether they’d rather suffer some risk (but achieve their goal) or suffer no risk (but only make progress toward their goal).
Lesser risks can be improvised by starting at the aforementioned 1–2 result, and downgrading its severity or permanence in whatever way the GM can improvise on the spot. This kind of improvisation can be challenging, and looking up results on a table can be time-consuming, so there’s no hard-and-fast rule; just do your best.
By way of example, check out the short, bulleted lists above, under How do you specify what’s a “risk” in combat? If the original risk was something “permanent,” step it down to something lasting but impermanent. If it would’ve been lasting but impermanent, step it down to something only momentary. It’s okay if whatever occurs to you “skips a level,” or uses some other metric for severity.
Partial successes can be improvised by starting with whatever goal the player stated, and describing how there has been progress made toward that goal, but it’s not complete yet. If the character was trying to inflict harm upon an enemy in combat, you might use the same metric as above, delivering a less long-lasting injury to the target — wounding instead of injuring, or only briefly hindering instead of wounding.
An important note: The partial success MUST change the situation to make achieving the goal, or a related goal, more likely. If the only way an enemy can be defeated is to roll a full “success” on a 5+, it will look like the Black Knight scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Instead, the GM must consider (and signal to players) how the situation changes after each partial success. The enemy’s circumstances might prevent them from attacking (reducing risk to players), or hamper their movement (helping the next attack against them). But it must do something.
What happens if a character “misses” with an attack?
The GM could technically specify that the “risk” of an attack is “not hitting,” but this both terribly boring and not entirely accurate. The real risk is what’s implied by missing, like…
- Running out of ammo, immediately or after 1 more shot
- Facing a counterattack, immediately or imminently
- Overextending yourself, being off balance
- Giving away your position, drawing attention
- Hitting whatever (or whomever) is just past the target instead
After every roll, the situation should change. This is what keeps combat interesting and exciting in 2400. Nothing changes if the only thing risked is a “miss.” If the player could make the exact same roll again after a 1–2, then skip the roll and just say they did it.
Does your action “fail” when you roll a 1?
Rolling a 1–2 means the player suffers the risk described by the GM — but they only fail at what they were trying to do if, in the GM’s estimation, their goal was mutually exclusive with the risk.
If you’re jumping between rooftops, and the risk is “falling,” then on a 1–2, you fail at your goal of reaching the other rooftop. (On a 3–4, you might be hanging from the neighboring rooftop’s ledge.)
If you’re in a showdown with an enemy, and the risk is “getting shot to death,” then on a 1–2, your character dies — but it’s up to the GM whether you get a shot off first. (If the GM’s following the principles in Emergency Rules, and trying to “be a fan of the characters,” then you’ll probably get to mutter “I’ll see you in hell” as your last words.)
Does being “hindered” mean you only roll a d4, no matter how skilled you are?
Yes — by the rules as written, if something hinders a character, they replace the die they’d normally roll with a d4, regardless of whether they’d normally roll a d6 or a d12.
Stepping down die sizes might be a more accurate simulation of how a skilled person would be less hampered by unfavorable conditions than a novice, but it is also more time consuming to track at the table. The rule is designed this way to minimize mental arithmetic and bookkeeping, and to make it possible to suffer from the effects of a hindrance and benefit from the effects of help on the same roll. If a player feels like their character is so skilled at something that an injury or poor positioning (or whatever) shouldn’t hinder them, they should voice this. It’s up to the GM to weigh these things alongside other factors in the fictional context.
In other words: I know this rule bugs some people, but I wrote it this way on purpose. You are, of course, welcome to change this rule at your table, like any other.
What happens if the GM doesn’t specify a risk before rolling?
This is remarkably common, and not a big deal. Sometimes the GM forgets to set a risk; sometimes players just get so excited to roll that the GM doesn’t even have a chance. The GM just interprets the roll as they normally would, with one major caveat: The GM can’t say a player’s character is dead or permanently injured if it wasn’t specified before rolling.
The spirit of this rule is only to keep clear lines of communication and avoid unpleasant surprises. If a roll goes badly and it’s obvious to everyone at the table, including (especially) the person who rolled, that a character should be dead, then don’t sweat the rule, follow the spirit. RIP, character.
Sometimes, though, the GM describes the consequences of a bad roll in a way that reveals a mismatch between your understanding of the situation. In such a case, make whatever quick edits you need to make to get everyone on the same page and keep moving, favoring the players’ perspective if you’re unsure how to lean. In other words, if somebody says, “I wouldn’t have done that if I’d known I was risking that,” then either replay the scene with what they would have done, or say, “It looked like this, but…” and quickly retcon whatever just happened to something better matching the players’ expectations.
All of the following examples are valid “combat encounters” by 24XX rules. Again, these are not the only way to run any of these scenarios — just illustrations to give a sense of how it looks when I run it.
PLAYER: I shoot him with a tranquilizer dart!
GM: Okay. Well, he can’t see or hear you, your dart gun is totally silent, and you have plenty of time to line up a shot, so you don’t even need to roll. He grabs where the dart stung him, reels a moment, and slumps over, unconscious. What do you do next?
PLAYER: I shoot him!
GM: Okay, but he could shoot you back. You’d be risking death.
PLAYER: Whatever, I have d10 in Shooting.
If the player rolls a 3–4 when risking death, the character will be grievously injured — possibly even maimed, depending on how brutal the group has agreed the game will be.
In this case, though, the player rolls a 2 — the character is going to die. The GM could say this this means the character is killed before getting a shot off, but that feels a little anticlimactic, so the GM offers the chance to go out with a bang.
GM: The bullet catches you in the chest, but not before you pull the trigger. Your opponent clutches his neck and his eyes widen. And as for you — any last words?
PLAYER: I chuckle and say, “Well, dang,” then slump over, still wearing a smirk.
GM: Nice. Make a new character — the rest of the characters will meet them in the next room.
PLAYER: I shoot him!
GM: Okay, but he could shoot you back. You’d be risking death.
PLAYER: Can I shoot from behind cover?
GM: Yeah, the risk would be less that way—maybe hitting your hand or grazing your head, but let’s say there’s no risk of death. You’re probably not going to be able to get any precise shots off this way, though.
PLAYER: That’s okay—I just want to lay down some cover fire so they don’t rush us.
The player rolls a 9 — higher than needed — so the GM decides to throw in a bonus effect.
GM: Nice roll! You hear someone shout out in pain — sounds like you actually hit somebody. You can’t make out exactly what they’re saying, but the others are staying put, probably administering first aid.
Facing a tough opponent
PLAYER: I punch the alien.
GM: Ooookay. It’s 3 meters tall, with massive claws. If you get that close to it, it’ll probably kill you. What do you hope to accomplish?
PLAYER: I wanna knock it out!
GM: It’s too big to knock out. The most you could hope to do is buy some time for your friends to run away.
PLAYER: That’ll do!
The player rolls a 3 — a setback, not a full success or full disaster.
GM: Okay, you punch it and feel its claws tearing at you. You’re bleeding bad, but you might live if someone can administer first aid quickly. The alien is off balance enough that your friends could run away — but if they do that, they can’t save you.
PLAYER: But wait — I have armor!
GM: Ah, good! That’s a “defense”—you can say that it’s broken and that the alien just knocks you off balance for a moment.
PLAYER: Yes please — I want that!
GM: Okay! The claws ripped through your clothes so badly you thought you must be bleeding to death, but thankfully, instead you see your armored vest fall apart in tatters. Phew! Your friends are escaping already, and you can try to get away too, but the alien will be hot on your heels….
PLAYER ALPHA: I push him over!
PLAYER BETA: I’ll crouch behind him!
GM: Okay. Sounds like a Hand-to-hand roll, helped by … I dunno, do you have any skills that seem relevant to quickly crouching behind someone unnoticed?
PLAYER BETA: Stealth?
GM: Sure, why not. The risk here is that he keeps his balance and starts attacking. Roll when ready.
Alpha rolls poorly, but Beta rolls very well. Since they’re ganging up, this counts as “helping.” Rather than each rolling to avoid separate risks, they take the highest die, knocking the target over. If they had both rolled poorly, the target might’ve whacked either or both of them, and/or not fallen down at all.
Mass combat in “steps”
GM: You’ve got an army at your back and another bearing down on you. Describe what you’ll be doing during this battle.
PLAYER ALPHA: I man a gun turret to defend against aerial attackers.
GM: Okay. Get ready to roll Shooting, and take a d6 help die for superior firepower. The risk is death — either yours, or those of allied forces.
PLAYER BETA: I’m in the medical tent, getting ready to treat the wounded.
GM: Okay. You don’t have to roll anything just yet, but spending time doing prep will give you a help die for any medical treatment you need to do. We’ll come back to you.
PLAYER GAMMA: I’m at the front line, rallying the troops.
GM: Great. Get ready to roll Inspiration. The risk is death or desertion among the troops. Everybody roll.
There are no formal mass combat rules, so GM is kind of making it up as they go, using the “steps” procedure from Emergency Rules for situations that feel like they need more than one roll to resolve: Establish everyone’s intended actions and risks, have everyone roll who needs to roll, interpret the results, and repeat as needed.
The group wants this to feel like a climactic battle, so they’ve decided it won’t end after just one step; they’ll do three steps, and see how things look after each.
On this first step, Gamma rolls a 4 — the GM describes the ground troops shouting a battle cry, but some clearly still look terrified.
Alpha rolls a 7 — the GM describes an enemy fighter craft crashing onto its own side’s troops.
Beta, in the medical tent, hears the sounds of battle not far off, and sees some deserters fleeing already, before being interrupted by a pair of medics carrying in someone with bad burns.
The GM asks again what everyone plans to do.
A “boss fight” with obstacles
I use the concept of “boss fights” (as in Data Loss) to model combat as a puzzle: a series of obstacles that must be overcome through logical steps, like the “Dragon God” boss fight in Demon’s Souls. Here’s how that exact battle might play out in a game of 2400: Legends.
GM: The dragon is gargantuan, with fists the size of hay carts and fire flickering through its teeth with each breath. Its scales look heavy enough to deflect any weapon you could wield.
PLAYER: Can I get close enough to climb up it — maybe reach its eyes?
GM: The thing looks fast and alert enough that even moving where it can see you, within its reach, risks instant death by smashing or scorching.
PLAYER: Hmm. Can I get close enough to look around the space without provoking an attack? I’m hoping to find something I can use. Maybe a stalactite I can knock down on it or something?
GM: Yeah, you see a spot behind a wall thick enough to shield you. From there, you can see that this whole, vast chamber has been set up as some kind of prison, with a couple giant, loaded ballistae on either side of the room, just beyond its reach.
PLAYER: Ooh. How hard would it be to run to one of those?
GM: You see a path, but it’s blocked by rubble.
PLAYER: Could I run that way, quickly scramble over the blockage?
GM: Honestly, it’s hard to imagine surviving that. You’re just not big enough to quickly climb or move those rocks.
PLAYER: Ugh, I know somebody who is big enough. Okay, I’d like to run over to those rocks and try to draw the dragon’s attention, hoping it’ll smash the blockage out of the way.
GM: You’d be risking death.
PLAYER: I don’t see any other path to the ballista, right?
GM: Not really.
PLAYER: Risking death it is, then!
In this case, the risks are the dragon’s fists and fire breath; the first obstacle to clear is the rubble, and following that, each of the dragon’s arms is another obstacle that must be overcome before the dragon can be killed.
Note, though, that “combat puzzles” in a tabletop RPG might not always be resolved in a single way, like boss fights in a video game. If this player had suggested using explosives to bring down the ceiling, that might have been an option, too. There’s more than one way to skin a dragon.
My design goals for the 24XX rules did not include making an excellent tactical combat game — but it’s quite good at quick combat scenes with a lot of variety, that don’t get bogged down back-and-forth attacks and misses. Everything comes back to how you describe things. Weapons, for instance, don’t have “damage” ratings, but are generally self-evidently different in function: The examples above would have each been totally different if you swapped out whatever weapon had been described for a different weapon.
Given all that, the above scenarios are examples of how I might run combat, but they’re not gospel. It’s not an accident that multiple examples specify there aren’t specific rules for this, so the GM made it up. That, after all, is actually written into the rules. 24XX demands a lot of improvisation from GMs and players, so we have to expect that different groups will play the game pretty differently. But if you were approaching the game and scratching your head in confusion before, I hope this helps clarify what life without hit points looks like.
Featured image by Beeple (Mike Winkelmann)
14 responses to “Combat in 24XX”
[…] Read this too from Jason Tocci over at Pretendo Games while you’re at it. Same principles […]
As I continue to gain experience running 24XX, the disaster / tough choice / success/ extra thing gets easier and easier to figure out. The key thing for me is that 24XX combat is _scary every time_ and there are no guarantees that a player character can survive even the first touch. Make sure your players get that well before they decide to keep forward into a brawl.
It can be scary! But it can also be not very scary at all, depending on how you define the risk before rolling. If characters are careful, the risk might only be “superficial wounds” on a disaster and “losing your footing” on a setback. I try to use “you risk death” only for things that are pretty darn likely to kill you if you are reckless.
Really inspiring! Thank you very much, sir.
Just one question about rolls… If a character is hindered (situation, pain, horror…), does they roll a d4 or a worse die (from d12 to d10, for example)? Thank you!
Thanks! Being hindered means they roll a d4 instead of their skill die. I don’t like fiddling with modifiers or changing dice sizes one step at a time, so I made the rule to just jump right to the lowest die (much like the “impaired” attack roll in Into the Odd). This makes a full success impossible unless they have help. (You CAN be helped AND hindered, so you’re rolling a d4 hindered skill die from a disadvantage, and a d6 help die from an advantage.)
You’re free to run it however you like, of course! But I hope going over the intent helps clarify why it’s designed the way it is.
[…] 24XX, you can’t lean on hit points as a pacing mechanism. I gave some examples in a post on combat in 24XX awhile back, but thought it might also be useful to consider how the examples from Shang-chi might […]
[…] XotStress rules from Orbital DecayCombat rules guidance from Battle Moon, Emergency Rules, and the Combat in 24XX blog post, plus “boss fight” examples in Data […]
[…] be a fight, check out the expanded combat explanations in Battle Moon and Emergency Rules, and the Combat in 24XX examples here on the blog. And finally, if psychics are the threat Ikaros seems to fear they are, […]
[…] a fuller explanation of 2400-style combat, check out Battle Moon, Emergency Rules, examples in the Combat in 24XX post, and sample “boss fights” in Data […]
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Hi i got a Question, how to Create a Charakter. I meen is there a list of Skills?
You can get the whole 2400 series on DriveThruRPG (https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/339650/2400-BUNDLE) and Itch.io (https://jasontocci.itch.io/2400); each game has a different set of character options. There are many more games by others using the same rules, too (https://itch.io/c/1204990/24xx).
This is a great post! I wasn’t sure how to handle exactly all this Q&A, but now after reading this, it became all crystal clear.
I was playing it in a very “unforgiving way” to the characters and it wasn’t fun, but deep down I knew that I just wasn’t doing it right.
Funny that sometimes you need a long post to explain a micro FKR trpg…
It’s like needing a long explanation for a short joke.
I’m sorry to hear it wasn’t fun the first time through, but I’m glad this helps! And I am absolutely the king of turning short jokes into overly long stories, so that analogy tracks.