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You can’t always evade the maniacs, malefactors, and monstrosities that lurk in the Twisted Tunnels. In this game, combat is a fast, furious, and fatal contest.

The Clash is the basic element of combat: Each side rolls dice, and some of the dice are totaled to determine who wins, and who suffers damage. A fight may be resolved after a single Clash, or a battle may involve multiple Clashes and other wild antics—anything the players and referee can contrive!

These activities may take place either simultaneously, or over a series of rounds. The round isn’t a fixed length of time; it just represents everyone trying to do one main thing: Casting a spell, firing a missile, or skewering an enemy are all examples. If exact timing is needed, assume that a round is about one minute.

How to host a combat

Each round, go around the table and let everyone describe what they want to do. The referee will describe what they can see the monsters doing. The actions, tactics, spells, and stunts that players narrate will have a huge impact on how the events play out, so it’s worth getting the situation clear for everyone before any dice hit the table. “What do you want to do?” is a powerful question.

After that, the referee takes the role of director, choosing one action after another to resolve in whatever order makes sense. Resolving each action might involve anything from an exchange of narration, one or more Saving Rolls, or rolling a Clash against an enemy. Tactical movement, stunts, spells, or damage from ranged attacks might take some enemies out of the action before they even have a chance to fight.

At the end of the round, everyone takes stock of the results. Get everyone involved in picturing and describing the action. If there are survivors, then it’s time to go around the table again to find out what everyone wants to do next.

Some common shenanigans

Using armor
Armor has a rating, showing how much damage it can absorb before it becomes useless. Given time, a skilled warrior can repair armor.
When you take damage on your armor, every hit reduces your armor rating by 1, until it offers no further protection.
When you block an attack with your shield, you can completely ignore it. Make a Saving Roll. On a miss, the shield is destroyed.
Ranged attacks
When you fire into a crowd, including melee, roll your Combat dice. If your Dexterity is higher than the number of people in the bunch, your can choose which enemy is hit. Otherwise, the referee will determine the target randomly.
When you and your allies fire at the same target, roll your Combat dice together as a single Clash.
If your Dexterity is higher than 1, a bow lets you fire more arrows quickly, up to your Dexterity rating. When you let fly a volley of missiles, add 1 die to your Combat dice for each extra arrow.
Melee
When two groups of enemies swarm together in battle, it’s melee. Roll all the dice for each side together as a single Clash.
If you are surrounded by enemies, you can use a buster weapon mow them down. When you wade into melee using a buster weapon, add 1 die to your roll for each enemy. Remove the same number of dice after you roll, before counting your score or hits.

Vying for the upper hand

It’s up to the referee whether someone gets +1 to their Combat dice for having the upper hand. You might have the upper hand when…

  • …you use light weapons in a face-to-face duel with a single opponent.
  • …you and an ally flank an enemy to attack from 2 or more sides.
  • …you are using two light weapons, one in each hand. You can equip two light weapons if your Dexterity is 2 or higher.

Sometimes the situation suggests you will be nearly defenseless, but you describe a daring maneuver and the referee gives you a Saving Roll.

If you make it, you can roll your Combat dice to mount a counterattack. On a miss, only dumb luck can save you. You are probably flat-footed if…

  • …you are under fire from someone using a ranged attack.
  • …you are facing an enemy with a weapon, and you have nothing but your bare hands.
  • …your enemy is using a reach weapon to keep you at bay, and your weapon can’t strike.
  • …someone strikes you with a surprise attack.

Players will come up with all kinds of crazy stunts when the pressure is on. Use your imagination. Depending on the situation, some schemes will just succeed, while others might require a Saving Roll, a Clash, or a feat that drains Power from the delver.

It’s up to the referee to hear the players out with an open mind, and adjudicate the situation fairly. If you want to encourage lively and creative tactics, take what the players offer and build on it!

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You know how to play a role-playing game: The referee preps a dungeon, and the other players make characters. Play begins with the referee describing a scene, usually the entrance to a dungeon or some other adventure site. Players take turns narrating what their delvers say and do, and the referee narrates the world around them and the results of their actions.

Conversation like this is the medium of play, and it’s the first method of resolving events in the shared fiction: players and the referee narrate situations and build on those situations through common assent.

But adventures in the Twisted Tunnels are rife with deadly dangers. As the referee introduces hazards, and the delvers face peril, there will be times when the outcome depends on dice. The most common trials are usually settled by Saving Rolls or Clashes, as follows.

Saving Rolls

When you suffer Sudden Death or some other indignity, the referee may call for a Saving Roll. Saving Rolls are usually the province of Luck, but the referee might let you test another ability if you describe a daring maneuver. If you make your Saving Roll, the danger is averted, at least in part. If you fail, you suffer your fate. Resolve a Saving Roll by rolling two dice to hit a difficulty number, like so:

  1. Roll two six-sided dice (2d6), and add them together.
    • The flop: If the result is a 3 (rolling a 1 and 2), the Saving Roll fails, no matter how high your ability rating.
    • Doubles Add and Roll Over (DARO): If you roll doubles, take the sum and roll both dice again. Keep rolling and adding the result until you roll something other than doubles.
  2. If the result is 4 or higher, add the rating of the ability being tested—usually Luck.
  3. Compare your total to the dungeon’s difficulty number on the table below.
    • If your total meets or beats the difficulty number, you succeed!
    • If you roll a flop, or if your total is less than the difficulty number, the Saving Roll fails: The tension escalates, or the calamity strikes. The referee will tell you what happens. Whatever it is, missing a Saving Roll is bad news!

As you delve deeper into the Twisted Tunnels, the threats grow more dangerous and depraved. Use the table below to find the difficulty number for Saving Rolls based on the current dungeon level:

Saving Rolls
Dungeon Level Difficulty #
1 9
2 12
3 15
4 18
5 21
Difficulty = Level × 3 + 6

Sometimes dungeon delvers think they are performing a Shakespearean drama or plotting Machiavellian intrigue. A missed Saving Roll is a good time to remind them that they are merely balloons filled with blood, just one sharp poke away from spray-painting the tunnel walls—and all their companions—with a shower of red.

Clashes

When you get into a ruckus with some enemies, the contest is settled in one or more Clashes. A Clash includes all the positioning, feints, dodges, parries, flurries of blows, and locked swords until opponents pause, panting, to regroup.

To resolve a Clash, each side will roll all their dice for attack or defense, add up some of the dice, and compare scores. The side who gets the lower score loses the Clash, and they suffer damage. Here’s how it works:

  1. Each side rolls all their Combat dice, plus any bonus dice that apply to this Clash.
  2. Select the highest single die or the sum of any dice showing the same number (whichever is higher). This is your score.
  3. Count the dice not included in your score—these are your hits. The numbers showing on hit dice don’t matter, just the number of dice.
  4. Whoever gets the highest score wins.
    If that’s a tie, whoever has more hits wins. If it’s still a tie, whoever rolled fewer dice wins. Do you still have a tie? The Clash is indecisive.
  5. Count wounds.
    Subtract the loser’s hits from the winner’s hits. If the winner has any hits left, those represent wounds suffered by the losing side, but the losing side will always suffer at least one hit. Unless the loser uses armor to deflect the blows, subtract the hits 1 for 1 from the loser’s Constitution or Monster Rating.

Combat has it’s own section further on where we delve into further details, but Clashes are the central idea.

Better tools or tactics

Using the right tools and tactics for the situation makes it easier for you to smite your foes and avoid getting smote.

  • Having the upper hand gives you +1 to your Combat dice before you roll. You get the upper hand when your weapons or position give you an advantage, but your enemy can still counter your attack.
  • Having an overwhelming advantage doesn’t give you any bonus dice but your enemy is flat-footed. A flat-footed fighter gets no Combat dice to defend or counterattack. This might happen when your enemy is pretty much defenseless.
  • When you are caught in a Clash flat-footed, count your Luck rating as your score, plus 7 if you could block the attack with a shield. If you win, you suffer no harm, but you don’t have any hits to hurt your enemy.

Injury and death

  • When you suffer a hit while your Constitution is zero, subtract all the damage from your Combat dice. You are reeling, and your defenses suffer until you do nothing but catch your breath for an entire combat round.
  • When you suffer a hit while you are reeling, make a Saving Roll, adding any remaining armor to your rating. If you succeed, you are disabled: You can do nothing but wimper or grit your teeth, fading in and out of consciousness, until someone revives you. If you miss, you have perished.

Clashes offer a very flexible way to resolve any conflict where two sides are competing and exchanging knocks until one side is exhausted or gives up. When there’s something important at stake, a Clash might involve any ability rating in place of Combat dice, and the hits might be counted against ratings other than Constitution or MR.

The following examples offer some possibilities, without being dictates:

  • A wizardly duel might pit warlocks against eachother in a Clash of Intelligence, with hits coming off the loser’s Strength. It’s up to you to imagine the fireworks and time-space distortions and random mutations of local wildlife that may ensue. And that’s not to discard the possibility that the warlocks may cast other spells in their store to tip the odds!
  • During a fencing bout, one duelist might attempt to disarm her opponent, rolling her Combat dice against her enemy’s. If she wins, she can count her hits against the rival’s Dexterity instead of Constitution—perhaps forcing the foe to drop his rapier.
  • A mesmerist commanding a simpleton might roll dice for his Charisma against the simpleton’s raw Intelligence, with hits coming off the former’s CHA or the latter’s INT. If the mesmerist loses, the blow to his Charisma would represent his shaken confidence.
  • Bravely running away after a bad Clash? If your enemies pursue you and you are evenly matched in speed, the referee may simply call for a Saving Roll, or require each pursuer to roll their Combat dice versus your Luck score, flat-footed! Anyone who hits caught up with you, and anyone who misses was left behind.

We leave it up to the referee whether and when to indulge these whims. Officially, these rules set out Clashes for the sole purpose of goring your enemies or being gored; making your enemies beg as you spill their guts, or fading out of consciosness while howling evils tear your limbs apart.

Any time dice hit the table, there should be something just as crucial at stake. If you wish to use Clashes to model abstract social or mental contests, that is your right. But please, don’t tell anyone. ;)

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A rogue is the classic jack-of-all-trades and master of none. The rogue is skilled with weapons, but never reaches the warrior’s mastery over armed struggle. Likewise, the rogue has the untrained talent for working magic, but never attains the warlock’s supremacy over spellcraft.

The Cabal shuns rogues, and will not sell them magic or teach them the art of channeling power through a device. Thus, the rogue is forced to obtain spells by scouring the Twisted Tunnels for ancient scrolls, wizards’ bones, and tomes of lore. The rogue may also learn magic from an warlock in her party, but the warlock’s player may demand any price. If the Cabal finds out that an warlock has taught its secrets to a rogue, the warlock may be expelled or worse.

The rogue is versatile, but limited: Rogues may not advance beyond level 7. At that point, a rogue may continue adventuring without further improvement, or retire from play. Instead, the rogue may become a level 5 warrior, or as a level 3 warlock.

The rogue’s edges

Combat dice
You get Combat dice equal to the median of your DEX, LCK, and STR ratings. To get the median, first arrange the ratings from lowest to highest. The median is the middle number.
Knack for trickery
When you gain a new apprentice or elder spell and spend a few days practicing it, you can cast it at-will.
Cast a spell
When you unleash a spell that you know, subtract it’s cost from your Power rating. The spell takes effect according to its description.

The rogue’s limits

  • You cannot purchase spells from the Cabal, only from warlocks in your party, who may charge whatever price they wish.
  • You cannot use a device or perform rituals.
  • You can only attain level 7 as a rogue. After that, you can choose to continue advancing as a warrior or warlock. Either way, reset your XP to zero.
    • If you forsake your spells, you become a 5th-level warrior, gaining the warrior’s edges and limits. You must earn 15,000 XP before advancing to the next level.
    • If you join the Cabal, you become a 3rd-level warlock, with all that entails. You must earn 6,000 XP to advance to the next level.

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The warlock is a rare individual who has both raw ability and rigorous training in magic. The far-reaching and mysterious Cabal chooses only those who possess adequate Intelligence (2 or higher) as candidates for instruction, but those who become warlocks master all the apprentice spells. Warlocks may purchase loftier magic from the Cabal or discover spells in their adventures.

The warlock can also use a magical device—a dagger, an hourglass, an orb, a staff, or a wand—to channel and conserve spellpower when casting magic. If no device is at hand, warlocks can create a makeshift staff using an ordinary walking stick or branch.

When the warlock reaches level 5, she can carry out fell rituals to commune with the Unseen Awful Powers.

Requirements

INT ≥ 2

The warlock’s edges

Arcane apprenticeship
You start out with all with all 9 apprentice spells
Occult scholar
When you gain a new elder-level spell and spend a few days practicing it, you can cast it at-will.
Cast a spell
When you unleash a spell that you know, subtract it’s cost from your Power rating. The spell takes effect according to its description.
Cabal member
When you meet with agents of the Cabal with gold on hand, you may purchase new spells.
Focused casting
When you hold a device while casting a spell, subtract your current level number from the Power cost. If this would mean the Power cost is less than 1, roll a die: the spell costs you nothing unless you roll a 1.
When you spend a few minutes inscribing a mundane staff with your unique sigil, the staff becomes a temporary magical device. Make a Saving Roll on INT when you use the staff: On a miss, the staff is destroyed by the surge of occult power.
Now We’re Cooking with Evil Gas!
Within the Twisted Tunnels lie nodes of magical power that warlocks can draw upon to cast mighty spells.
When you take at least a turn lighting candles and invoking an elder spell at a magical node, subtract double the dungeon level from your casting cost.
The Pit of Ultimate Darkness
When you perform an elaborate ritual somewhere deep in the Twisted Tunnels, make your petition to the Unseen Awful Powers, and make a Saving Roll on CHA. If you succeed, the Unseen Powers grant your request, but the referee will determine a cost.

The warlock’s limit

Combat dice
You get Combat dice equal to the lowest rating of DEX, LCK, or STR.

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The warrior is trained in using weapons of all kinds. A warrior’s attacks and defenses may always benefit from their martial training, whether charging with a spear, firing a volley of arrows, or swinging a broadsword in melee. The warrior can also get more mileage out of her armor by making minor adjustments and repairs during down-time in the dungeon.

It’s not that they are merely incompetent when it comes to magic: Like blindness, the warrior simply lacks the capacity for occult intuition. A warrior can usually benefit from magical artifacts and elixirs, but they can never cast spells.

The warrior’s edges

Combat dice
You get Combat dice equal to the median of your DEX, LCK, and STR ratings. To get the median, first arrange the ratings from lowest to highest. The median is the middle number.
Martial techniques
You can spend Power to perform heroic feats of focus, speed, and strength. Describe what you want to do, and the referee will tell you the cost, using the Dungeon level as a guide. These secret moves are very situational, so be creative and awesome. Don’t repeat yourself.
Man-at-arms
You can repair your armor while resting in the dungeon. When you make camp, choose one suit of armor you can fidget with, and restore it’s original rating. Then make a Saving Roll. On a miss, the armor is on its last legs and you won’t be able to fix it again.

The warrior’s limit

You cannot learn magic or cast spells.

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