Fight! Mechanics Outline

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Page numbers refer to the Revised Edition.


Fight! is scripted one exchange at a time. Each exchange consists of three volleys. If the combat has not reached a conclusion at the end of an exchange, another exchange is scripted.
Each volley consists of actions. The result of each volley is determined before advancing to the next volley. The duration of a volley is about one heartbeat.
Individual physical or mental tasks in Fight! The number of actions in an exchange is equal to the character's Reflexes attribute, evenly spread across the three volleys.

Overall Flow

Be sure to check out the page explaining fights with multiple combatants. This outline includes those rules.

  1. Initial positioning for combat.
    • Winner specifies fighting distance for first volley but cannot start Inside.
  2. Players script actions for the exchange, dividing actions between three volleys. See action costs, below.
    • Include positioning intents regarding all other combatants.
    • Pay attention to weapon speed restrictions (p. 173).
  3. Optional: Bid for initiative using actions for the current exchange (p. 164).
  4. Resolve volley:
    1. Players announce actions for volley.
    2. GM calls out for forfeiting actions (p. 163). (Second and third volleys only.)
    3. Roll positioning tests.
      1. Speed plus effects of weapon length, attributes, and traits. See positioning modifiers and positioning results, below.
      2. Highest gets his way:
        • Sees his intent realized with regard to any other characters he beat.
        • Adjusts fighting distance one rank or keeps same. Can change by two ranks if wins by two. Ties keeps distance the same.
        • Maintains position regarding any character not addressed in his intent.
      3. Go from highest roll down to lowest and resolve positioning changes as appropriate.
    4. Resolve first action in the volley:
      1. Compare the simultaneous actions of each combatant and determine outcome. See attack modifiers, below.
      2. Apply results of actions.
      3. For any hits:
        1. Determine location, hit quality and damage. See hit characteristics, below.
        2. Determine hit penetration. See penetration, below.
        3. Determine wound level. See wounding, below.
    5. Resolve next action in the volley until no actions remain.
  5. Resolve next volley until no volleys remain in the exchange.
  6. If combat has not ended, script new exchange (Step 2).

Detailed Resolution Steps

Location, Hit Quality, and Damage Determination

(pp. 173 – 177)

  1. Determine hit location
    1. Targets of melee attacks declare vulnerable area (missile always targets chest).
    2. Attacker may spend successes to hit particular target:
      • Torso to another area costs one extra success (missiles must pay two for head)
      • Head to legs: two successes
      • Legs to head: two successes
      • Arms to torso or head: one success
    3. Target may use Block, Counterstrike, Avoid successes to move aim.
  2. Determine hit quality
    1. Melee: Spend weapon's Add successes to improve hit to the next rating (I → M → S)
    2. Missile: Roll DoF, apply:
      • +1 if one extra success
      • +2 if obstacle doubled
      • +3 if obstacle tripled
      • then, compare to chart (p. 175)
  3. Determine wound color and exponent
    1. Melee or thrown (these can be pre-calculated)
      • Incidental: ½ × (Power + weapon power), rounded up
      • Mark: Power + weapon power
      • Superb: 1.5 × (Power + weapon power), rounded down
      • (Great Strike can, at attacker's option, affect Power)
    2. Crossbow/Bow/Gun
      • Fixed damage based on IMS DoF roll result


  1. Roll armor dice to avoid hit, Ob 1 plus,
    • +1D if chest being targetted
    • +1 Ob per weapon VA rating
    • +1 Ob if wielder has Power 7+ (melee or thrown weapon)
    • +1 Ob if Great Strike used (attacker’s option, p. 184)
  2. Apply armor damage (p. 184)


In Burning Wheel, we don’t actually roll damage. Instead the damage color and exponent are marked on the Physical Tolerances Greyscale (PTGS) and compared to the character's wound tolerances.

  1. Mark PTGS, determine wound severity: Superficial, Light, Midi, Severe, Traumatic, or Mortal
    • Severity is greater than or equal to the character's tolerance rating, but below the next tolerance
  2. Determine wound effect (p. 193)
    • Three superficials → light
    • Penalties equal lowest stat → incapacitation
  3. Steel tests (p. 122) if -1D injury or greater taken
  4. Apply optional hit location effects (p. 196)

Charts and Such

Positioning Roll Modifiers

(p. 148)

Determine weapon length:

  • Using spell:
    • Spell has presence origin or presence AoE: counts as a longest weapon length except vs. ranges weapons
    • Spell has line-of-sight origin or natural AoE: counts as longest weapon length in all cases.
  • Using missile weapon:
    • Weapon is thrown: count as longest weapon length (positioning bonus capped at +1D)
    • Weapon is a crossbow, or bow, and loaded: count as longest and always gives +2D
  • Using melee weapon:
    • See weapon charts

Roll Speed dice, plus:

  • Range is Outside, Lunging, or Optimal (or a spell is being used):
    • Weapon is one step longer: +1D
    • Weapon is two steps longer: +2D (unless a thrown weapon: only +1D, bows/crossbows always +2D)
  • Range is Inside:
    • Weapon is short, or shortest: +1D
  • Stance effects:
    • Character redirects defensive or aggressive stance bonus to positioning: +2D
  • Spells:
    • Used against another spell caster, and spell takes fewer actions: +1D
  • Higher speed multiplier:
    • Two multiplers among combatants, has highest multiplier: +1D
    • More than two multipliers:
      • has highest: +2D
      • has second highest: +1D
  • Higher Reflexes: +1D

Positioning Results

  • Tie: no change in range band
  • Change by one range band: 1 success
  • Change by two range bands: 2 successes
Winner’s chosen
distance is…
…and defender’s relative
weapon size is…
…then defender’s
distance is…
Inside n/a Inside
Optimal Longer Optimal
Same Optimal
Shorter by one Lunge
Shorter by two Out of range
Lunge Shorter Out of range
Longer Optimal

Action Cost of Various Tasks

(p. 143)

Task Actions
Get up to crouch from prone 1
Get up from crouch to standing 1
Atomic Ranged Actions
Acquire target (crossbows, thrown, guns) 1
Acquire target and draw (hunting bow) 2
Acquire target and draw (long or great bow) 4
Aim 1
Release bow, crossbow, gun 1
Combined Ranged Actions
Snapshot with hunting bow 1
Snapshot with great or long bow 3
Draw and fire hunting bow 3
Draw and fire long or great bow 5
Fire loaded gun or crossbow 2
Snapshot with loaded crossbow or gun 1
Reload crossbow 16
Reload heavy crossbow 32
Reload pistol 40
Reload (nock) bow 3
Incant spell spell actions rating
Drop spell 1
Command spirit (6-8 syllables) 1
Most martial actions 1
Change stance 1

Attack Roll Modifiers

(p. 148) Start with Ob 1 task, plus:

Fighting Distance

  • Lunging: +1 Ob
  • Lock at Optimal: +2 Ob
  • Lock at Lunge: +4 Ob
  • On inside, and using:
    • Hilt, butt, shield +1Ob
    • Club, small sword: +2 Ob
    • Sword, axe: +3 Ob
    • Polearm, two-handed axe: +4 Ob


  • Knocked Down: +4 Ob
  • One Knee: +1 Ob
  • Off Balance: +1 Ob

Missile Weapons

  • Aim: +1 per action used (up to ½ Perception, rounded up)
  • Snapshot: +2 Ob
  • Any missile weapon beside pistol: not allowed
  • Fire crossbow or gun one-handed: +2 Ob
  • Wearing leather or plated leather on arms: +1 Ob
  • Wearing chain or heavier on arms: +2 Ob
  • Defender movement
    • Defender Closes or Withdraws and attacking with bow, gun, or crossbow: +1 Ob
    • Defender using Avoid action: +1 Ob
  • Target Size (missile)
    • Smaller than man-sized: +1 Ob
    • Smaller than a loaf of bread: +2 Ob
    • Mouse or bird-size: +3 Ob

Beat/Bound previous volley with two+ successes: +1 Ob

Advantageous weight or position: +1D to Locks or overpowering on Inside

Unarmed Block or Counterstrike against armed opponent: +1 Ob

Attacker movement/positioning (p. 147)

  • Moving Quickly (Close or Withdraw positioning): +1 Ob
  • Ranged attack and scripting any positioning other than "let 'em come" (cumulative with above): +1 Ob
  • Avoid in same volley: +1 Ob
  • Above opponent: +1D


  • Defender under cover: +2 Ob
  • Defender completely obscured: +3 Ob


  • Driving rain or snow: +1 Ob
  • Heavy rain: +2 Ob
  • Hazy or smoky (missiles): +2 Ob
  • Thick smoke (missiles): +3 Ob
  • Muddy or icy ground: +1 Ob
  • Unstable ground: +1 Ob
  • Standing in water: +1 Ob
  • Restricted/cramped quarters: +1 Ob


  • Lantern light: +1 Ob
  • Candlelight: +2 Ob
  • Near darkness: +3 Ob

Shields and missiles: +1 Ob per shield roll successes over 1 Ob


  • Defensive: +2D to Avoid, Block, Counterstrike, +2 Ob to Strike or Great Strike
  • Aggressive: +2D to Strike, Great Strike, +2 Ob to Block, Counterstrike

Natural Defenses Roll Modifiers

Based on some skill or attribute roll, plus…

Knocked down: +2 Ob
On the knees: +1 Ob
Aggressive stance and Speed-based test: +2 Ob