There are many moments in which you must take up arms to defeat adversaries or defend yourself. In a combat scenario, the narrator describes the opponents who are taking part in the encounter and their relative position to you. As characters, you are free to use the environment, and your skills and abilities to engage with your adversaries. It’s important to note that not all battles can be won and sometimes it’s better to retreat and live another day. In the section below, we’ll go over how combat works in Drifter and the various rules you need to be mindful of.

Styles of play

When starting a combat encounter there are two ways to engage with your enemies. Theatre of the Mind and the Combat Board. Which you use more will depend on you and your group’s preferences. You will likely be engaging with both, using each to provide different moments for the characters.

Combat Board

The more tactile approach, this method allows you to track the relative positioning of allies and enemies and putting it in the center of the table so everyone can see it.

The board is shaped like a diamond, which is broken into 9 smaller diamonds. The center is known as the “heat” which is where most of the melee fighters will be maneuvering within. That said, there are plenty of other tiles surrounding it which can be used to get to the backline or split the party’s attention.

Each tile represents a short distance, this means that multiple allies and enemies can occupy the same tile, which can provide both advantages and disadvantages depending on your abilities and how you use them.

When going into an encounter, assuming it’s not a surprise or ambush, the players set up on the Western side of the board, choosing their starting positions. Melee combatants tend to start in the ‘heat’ tile, while ranged allies tend to pick the Western Flanks or Edge. Once the allies set up, the narrator can fill in the Eastern side with the adversaries.

Theatre of the Mind

Instead of tactile play, this method offers the ability to go through an encounter only relying on description and narration. This method typically works best against a few enemies, where all the action takes place in the same relative area (two ‘ish’ tiles).

The best way to engage with this style of play is to tell the narrator what you intend to do, they then confirm that you can perform that action or make a modification to make that action possible.

Turn Order

When an engagement or encounter begins, it’s good to have an idea of what the turn order is going to be. The narrator, who knows where they set the difficulty of the encounter, decides which type of turn order they’re going to use for this encounter.

  • Roll for Initiative – To establish turn order, all the players make a [reflex] or [awareness] roll (at no cost or consequence), record the final result and record the characters to a list ordered by highest first, the narrator also adds the adversaries to the list, using their Adversity level to rank them in the list.
  • Order by Combat Skill – Record each of the character’s [combat] adversity level, and list them in order of lowest to highest, the narrator will also add the adversaries to the list, using their Adversity level to rank them in the list.
  • Around the table – The narrator goes around the table (or by volunteer) after every two to three players go (depending on how many players you have) be sure to throw in an enemy action.