Character Development

The first experience system of MYFAROG was similar to that of RuneQuest, with skill ranks awarded to the skills used successfully. I saw this as the most realistic system, and stuck to it for a long time.

Eventually I realised that this experience system was very complex, hard to keep track of and also didn’t work very well in all contexts. Like how to learn a language? A new script? It just got too clunky. It also took away some of the role-playing aspect of the game, and forced the players to ‘skill grind’ in order to improve this or that skill. I recalled how I locked the W-key on my keyboard in Morrowind, and had my character run into a wall, whilst I did other things, for many hours some times – only to have my character improve his Athletics skill. My character became faster, sure, but what a bore.

An Entrance to the Realm of Death:

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So I did something I never thought I would, and tried a level based system. It worked well, but there are no ‘classes’ or ‘professions’ in MYFAROG (only ‘character roles’, similar to ‘achievements’ in computer games, only the character roles actually matter), and the level system was only ever used to gain new skill and spell ranks, new attribute ranks and new talents. Although it worked well, it also took a lot of freedom away from the players. Instead of developing their characters as they saw fit, it forced them to whenever they leveled up award this or that many skill ranks to skills, gain one talent or one attribute rank, and then wait for the next time the character leveled up before anything could be done in this context again.

The level based system encourages more role-playing than the ‘skill grind’ system does, sure, but it is horribly unrealistic, and it just takes away so much freedom from the player in relation to how his character advances.

So I did what I should have done to start with, and made a system where experience points are used to buy skill ranks, new spells, new spell ranks, new talents and new attribute ranks, similar to that of most modern games, really (but I think I saw it first in GURPS). The player can buy whatever he can afford, and if he can not afford what he wants he can save the experience points until he does. If he wishes to play a character who only develop his skills, then fine, he can. Or a character who just buys new talents all the time. Or a character with very good attributes.

The MYFAROG player can do pretty much whatever he wants to with his character, and as I see it: that is the main attraction with role-playing games in general. Being forced to follow a path others have set up for you is no fun. I want to play however and whatever I like to, and then when I learn to like my character with time, the immersion comes naturally, willfully and with great joy.

Some limitations in MYFAROG:

Max 2 new ranks to each attribute (base = 3 to 18; max = 20)

Max 15 ranks to most skills (max 5 or 10 to some)

Max Int * 3 spells known

Max 15 ranks to each spell

Max 65 (= all) talents

Male characters can not gain the ‘Valkyrja’ or the ‘Maenad’ character roles

Female characters can not gain the ‘Einheri’ or ‘Bacchante’ character roles

Limitations to characters of most all races

Alignment limitations; certain character roles have a pre-requisite in this context

Even if you survive all else, time will eventually kill your character….

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PS. MYFAROG has been completed now, but I wait for the regional maps to be drawn before I can print and publish it. 

The Player Characters

Many gamers prefer a fast character creation, in order to quickly have a character and be ready to play. Personally I prefer a more thorough character generation, with lots of opportunity for customization. In MYFAROG the basic character generation is however still rather fast and easy, amongst other things because there are no «classes» or «professions» to chose from when you start; instead there are different character roles available for characters who after some time of playing will qualify for at least some of them. So more than in most other games the character generation is an ongoing process that never really ends, and your opportunity to «customize» your character is great. You can gain new talents, new character roles, you might (if your character has the traditional life stance) learn to cast spells, you improve your skill and spell proficiencies, and so forth. You can however also lose character roles, when or if you no longer qualify for such a role. Only Nobles e. g. can gain a Priest or a Warrior-Priest role, so if they lose their status as Nobles they will also lose their Priest or Warrior-Priest role, and all bonuses and abilities linked to the role.

There will be different roles available to the characters depending on their social class, their race, their life stance, their alignment, their gender, their attributes and so forth, and a few of them have certain talents as a pre-requisite as well. Naturally all characters can potentially gain several different roles. There is no good reason why a character cannot become both e. g. a warrior, a scout and a sorcerer.

The role characters begin with is either a hunter-gatherer role, Veiðimaðr (default for characters with a Veiðr [«hunter-gatherer»] background) or a peasant/townsman role, Bûandi (default for those with an Byggjandi [«inhabitant», «house-dweller»] background). This role is a background role, so it cannot be lost.

There is no need to re-invent the wheel in this context either, so the roles characters can gain are pretty much all traditional fantasy RPG roles, such as warrior (fighter), rural scout (stalker), urban scout (agent), berserk/valkyrja (barbarian), ranger, scald (priest/cleric/bard) and sorcerer (wizard/magician), but there is also the Bacchante/Maenad (a different type of berserk, basically). The scalds have their favourite deities and the sorcerers can specialize in the manipulation of a certain type of spirits, so the opportunity for characters to gain and develop very different and unique roles are very much present.

Save the Greek name (Bacchante/Maenad) listed above all the character roles have been given Norse names (such as Strîðsmaðr for Warrior), but an English translation is to be found not only in the rule book, but also on the character sheet itself, so this should not be a problem even for those not at all familiar with Scandinavian languages.

The different character roles open up new opportunities for the players, who will have their characters be able to learn spells, brew potions, ask for more powerful Favours, attract dedicated followers, gain self-confidence, gain new abilities and so forth, all in a concise way and in accordance with the religion and traditions of Þulê and the world of MYFAROG.

There are six races available for the players to chose from, but by default two of them (the Myrklingar and the Fjarlingar) are only meant as races available for the GM to be able to generate colourful and credible villains in home made adventures (though you can perfectly well make player characters of these races too if you want to). The remaining four races are the very rare and mystic Þulir, the common Hâlogar, Þulêans with a divine father or mother (the Âssfeðra/Âsynjuborinar, alias Heros), and finally Þulêans born by elven mothers (the Alfaborinar) (Yes, there are elves in MYFAROG, both light elves and dark elves [dwarves]). Compared to the common Þulêan race the other races all have advantages and disadvantages, special abilities and also special limitations. E. g. all men with a divine father must always be religious (i. e. believe in gods), and all men born by elven mothers must always be traditional (i. e. believe in spirits).

MYFAROG is not designed to be «balanced», in the sense that a character who is only a warrior does not necessarily need to be as big an asset to the group as the one being only a sorcerer. Sorcerers are more powerful than warriors (not least because most of them are probably warriors as well). Likewise, some of the races are generally speaking better (more super-human) than the others. E. g. having a divine father (i. e. being a Heros) will necessarily make you a bit more heroic than one with two human parents. This is, I can add, fully in accordance with our mythology, and should not at all be a problem in an RPG like MYFAROG. Whether your characters is a little Þulêan teenage girl or a brutal Heros doesn’t really matter when some villain aims his arrow at you though; it can still potentially kill any character, no matter his race, weight, strength, talents or constitution. You better hide behind that large shield regardless.

The players can also have their characters join different bands, cults and organisations in Þulê if they want them to, and they actually have to as well, if they want to gain some of the available characters roles, and they all are members of a tribe by birth, and if male by default to the army of their tribe too (so they can potentially be summoned to war by their king or queen).

The opportunity for political intrigue, adventure and action, interesting encounters and good role-playing with MYFAROG should be very good. 

The World of Þulê

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Rather than build a world from ground and up I have used and build upon an existing area in Northern Norway (Lofoten, Vesterålen og Lofoten) as the geographical location of Þulê (“the land of the sages”). Naturally I have exaggerated some of the features, added new features (like proper forests) and also changed the scale, but other than that the land of Þulê is pretty much identical to this real world area in Northern Norway. I have also kept the real world roads as either cart tracks or pathways (and the real paths could well be animal trails), the settlements of Þulê are to be found where there is real settlement today and names have been translated into English (like «Tjukkeskogen» is in MYFAROG named «Densewood». This will make the world very logical and realistic, and thus believable, and I think that is very important for an RPG focusing on atmosphere.

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This area in Northern Norway is historically an old Viking Kingdom with age old roots, but the main reason why I have used this area is that even during the Ice Ages this area was believed to be ice-free and actually inhabitable, because of the Gulf Stream and the warm winds from the south along the coast of Norway. So in theory anyone could have survived there for tens of thousands of years, while the rest of Northern Europe was submerged under thick glaciers. In MYFAROG what we would identify as mainland Norway is submerged under glaciers (and populated by ettins), but the Ice Age has long been ending so the climate is very much temperate (although located in the Arctic). This area, Northern Norway, is in real life known as Hålogaland (translated as «the holy land»), so I took this information and combined it with our myths about a lost continent, and I created this sacred «continent» up there in the North, where the deities in secret created the Þulêan race of men (i. e. the Europeans). However, Þulê has been discovered by other races of men, and even worse, by the ettins, and naturally they all have arrived in Þulê, and in their wake comes all sorts of troubles, challenges – and great opportunities for adventure!

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There are all sorts of creatures in Þulê, all of them based on real world creatures or mythological creatures, and I have also included some now extinct animals that used to live in Europe alongside man, like the cave hyena, the cave lion, the giant hyena, etc. Animals in Þulê are assumed to behave like real animals would though (i. e. usually run as fast as they can by the mere scent of humans [unless they are e. g. polar bears, of course...]), but there are other types of creatures to fear too, like trolls, spirits and not least ettins – and the possibly most dangerous of all creatures; human beings…

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Now, as I might have expressed a few times already, my perception of mythology and the ancient world is not like the common one. I don’t base anything on Christian misinterpretations of old European «ideas», «creatures» or «spirits», so there are no goblins, hobgoblins, orcs or other creatures based on the perverse Christian demonisation of the Pagan ancestral cult. There are no ogres or trolls either, for the same reason. Well, there are trolls, but just not trolls like we usually think of when we hear the word troll. A troll was originally a name for malevolent spirits; the word itself means «song» (as seen in no. tralle), originally «spell» or «sorcerous song», as these spirits were assumed to have been summoned by a (failed?) spell. So in MYFAROG a troll is a malevolent spirit, and they take many forms, some corporeal and some incorporeal. Most of you will identify the MYFAROG trolls as simply different types of undead creatures; sea wraiths, wraiths, wights, ghosts, náir (sg. nár), spectres, shadows et cetera.

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The modern troll is really just a stone ettin, and naturally there are stone ettins in Þulê, and a wide variety of other ettins too, in different shapes and sizes. None of them particularly pleasant; different types of water ettins, stone ettins, fire ettins and of course worms (≈wingless dragons). All these terrible creatures have an ettin stone heart, that can be used by craftsmen for sorcerous purposes.

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The Land of Þulê chapter provides the GM with random encounter tables, random events tables, weather and wind tables (if he cares to use such things), a brief description of the 9 different native realms of Þulê (each one with a cultural expression most similar to the one of a real ancient European people), all the native tribes are named and their seats are listed, units of measurement, trade and rules regarding travel, dehydration, justice (i. e. laws, outlawing, duels and such), hunger and so forth, naturally all available for the GM to use as he sees fit, if at all. The creatures themselves, both those mentioned here and others too, will be described in The Creatures & Phenomena of Þulê chapter, as will the ettin phenomena.

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The ettin phenomena are strange phenomena that occur in Etunakaimas (“the world of the ettins”), and are inspired both by science fiction, not least the Cthulu Mythos, and European mythology. Etunakaimas is made up of the parts of the world dominated by the ettin powers; the deepest forests, largest bogs, the not inhabitable places of the Earth and the tallest mountains, where man has very little influence. Everything is different in Etunakaimas, the trees are twisted and grotesque, some animals grow larger and both animals and men more aggressive, the temperature is lower, the wind stronger, the clouds darker, the sky blacker and then you have these phenomena to deal with as well. It is a highly dangerous place, and naturally this place is said to be growing and consuming the rest of the world, threatening the human settlements. What or even who is responsible for this? I let the GM decide.

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The land of Þulê is of course heavily influenced by the natives’ sense of honour, and the natives are very religious or traditional as well, so much care is given by them to the high festivals and temples, customs and traditions. But – alas! (or for gamers: rejoice!) – it is also torn by conflict, as new human races arrive from distant lands, as refugees fleeing the growing ettin power, as invaders or as merchants.

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When I manage to produce a map of MYFAROG’s Þulê I will publish it here on this blog, naturally as a free and downloadable PDF.

The Skill Rules

In the history of RPGs we have seen a development from characters having just about no skills (e. g. early D&D) to having so many skills that you pretty much needed to be autistic to remember even half of them (e. g. early-to-mid Rolemaster), and then finally to the pretty well-balanced skill system (e. g. the highly recommendable Stalker the SciFi Roleplaying Game). In MYFAROG there are some 51 skills, and this is probably close to becoming a bit too much for some, but they are all neccessary and they will all be used by the characters, and they (I think) cover everything the players might want their characters to do in Þulê. Now, one of the skills in particular, the «Crafts» skill, might sound a bit too general to some, but I have done it this way for the sake of playability and also out of experience; the very specialised craft skills such as «Fletching», «Pottery» and «Masonry» (to give a few examples) might be more realistic, but they are hardly ever used by the majority of players and end up just taking up space on the character sheet. If a GM still wants to include them he can simply exchange the «Crafts» skill with all the different crafts skills he may want. No problem. (On popular demand I’ll even make a separate character skills sheet where this is easily implemented, and make it a downloadable PDF here on the MYFAROG blog). In MYFAROG the «Crafts» skill will be used by characters mainly to repair broken weapons and armour.

Yet again I don’t try to re-invent the wheel, so I use a skill system that you will be familiar with from other games. You test skills against a DD (Degree of Difficulty) by casting 3D6, adding skill proficiency and any mods and then if this is equal to or higher than the DD it is a success. If not it is a failure. You can also achieve critical successes or critical failures with very poor or very good results, and you can fumble and also achieve lucky successes (meaning that if you cast three natural sixes on the dice you generally speaking automatically succeed no matter the DD). I use 3D6 because this not only allows for a more predictable result (in contrast to the total randomness of the D20 and the higher randomness of the D%), but also makes the actual skill proficiency of the character more important. It further makes any fumbles (three natural 1s) and automatic successes more rare. Finally, I think the use of only the D6 is a good choice for the simple reason that we all have these dice. If you – like most do – have a set of Monopoly, Ludo or something like that you don’t need additional purchases to be able to play MYFAROG.

In the Skills chapter of MYFAROG I include some general rules that apply to all skills, or just to one of the categories of skills (like only to MS [Movement Skills]), and then under the description of each skill I include all the information you need to know about that skill, including all relevant tables and lists. So if you want your character to e. g. Forage you have all the information you need under the description of the Forage skill.

Yes, MYFAROG is going to be an AIO book. I prefer to release the game in just one high quality book rather than charge gamers for three (or even more) separate books. Like I have said already; additional character sheets, GM’s screens and other useful accessories will be available as free and downloadable PDFs here on the MYFAROG blog. GMs who want to preserve their rule book as much as possible can easily scan and print out or Xerox e. g. the entire Skills chapter or the entire Creatures & Phenomena in Þulê chapter, tack it all together and keep it as a supplement for easy access and use. All the most commonly used tables will in any case be found in the GM’s screen.

Skills can generally speaking be improved by up to 15 ranks, and is then modified by one of the character attributes, and potentially also a racial modification and perhaps also a special modification. The «Absurd» DD would then be 33 (or more), meaning you (if you have no bonus from the relevant attribute and no mods) have to cast 18 on the dice and have 15 ranks to achieve a success.

Your character generally speaking gains XP (experience points) when you at least succeed with a skill test.

Like with the other rules of MYFAROG it is very easy to simplify, come up with good ad hoc solutions and make the skill system work very fast, or you can use all the mods and twists and make it highly realistic. It is all up to you, the gamer. The same can be said about XP. You can follow the rules slavishly, or you can as a GM simply award XP as you see fit.

A very – to my knowledge – new concept in MYFAROG is the “Power of Will” rule, that allows players to have their characters occasionally perform better by effort alone. Some times the most incompetent person can achieve great results from his efforts alone. And this is included as a factor in MYFAROG. So yet again the Willpower attribute will be of great value…. and the strong and powerful might fall to the power of the will of the weaker ones.

I can add that some of the skills that to my experience are often very much worthless in at least most other RPGs are very useful in MYFAROG, such as “Lyre Playing”, “Flute Playing”, “Singing”, “Dancing” and “Poetry”, which are instrumental for religious characters who wish to gain favour from the deities; by playing music, singing, reciting poetry and dancing for them in their temples. And they do need favour from the deities if they want to ask for Favours when in need, or if they want to ask for Divine Aid when using their skills. Sorcerers too need proficiency in the “Poetry” and “Singing” skills if they want to learn and cast powerful spells. 

The Sorcery Rules

The term «sorcerer» and «sorcery» is used consequently in MYFAROG, when talking about what many would instead refer to as «magician» or «wizard» and «magic». Sorcery as a term originally means “lot”, “fate” or “oracular response”, from the proto-Indo European root *ser-, but is today most often understood as simply the art of casting spells or to exercise supernatural powers through the aid of spirits. Sorcery can be benevolent or malevolent but it is inherently neither “good” nor “evil”, like nature is neither “good” nor “evil”.

Sorcery in MYFAROG is a very “fairy tale” like thing, and it is heavily based on European customs and traditions, but although it has a special European feel to it, it is still not very different from the sorcery of other fantasy games. So again I don’t try to re-invent the wheel.

Sorcery in MYFAROG is real, powerful and very much a factor in society. The world is actually still on a technologically rather primitive level (at least from our modern point of view) because of sorcery! Why would you e. g. need planes when you can ride through their air on your sorcerer’s staff, or summon a giant bird to carry you wherever you want to go, or make a hamr («shape») of a flying creature and fly yourself? Why would you need fast land transportation when you can cast a «Seven-Miles-Boots» spell on your boots and run like the wind? If you have sorcery you really don’t need technology…

There are no «Spell Points», «Mana», «Powerpoints» or anything of that sort in MYFAROG. Instead the sorcerer simply grows tired from casting spell – meaning he will spend the same SP (Stamina Points) he would have spent if he performed some other physically exhausting activity (like fighting with a sword). To regain them he needs to rest. As simple as that. His Willpower determines for how long he can continue to cast spells (or perform other physically exhausting activities) when he grows tired (and he grows tired sooner or later, based on his Constitution) before potentially even passing out from exhaustion.

The sorcerer can learn spells rather freely, but he can only ever learn and remember a certain number of spells (based on his Intelligence). He improves his spell proficiency just like he does with his skills, and in relation to each and every spell. Fumbling when casting spells can lead to interesting results, and he can achieve not only a success or a failure when he casts a spell, but also a critical success or a critical failure. Casting a spell on another sorcerer is often a very risky business indeed, and especially so if he knows the spell you are casting on him (it can even backfire!).

A character can – when he after some time manages to gain the role of sorcerer – chose a speciality, meaning he will be better at some things at the expense of other things, or he can chose not to have a speciality.

A sorcerer can only cast spells using his sorcerer’s staff, and if you manage to catch a sorcerer all you need to make him forget all his spells is to cut his hair, beard and nails. If you do he will need some time to “re-remember” them.

Sorcery is not realistic, from our point of view, but I have tried to make sorcery realistic from the Þulêan point of view. If sorcery is real in Þulê, then sorcery is indeed realistic… in Þulê. So basically I have instead simply tried to make it believable, and to make it resonate with what we know from our European fairy tales, myths and traditional legends.

The Combat Rules

MYFAROG is not made to be (what at least I call) a «hack’n slash» fantasy RPG, focusing (close to) everything on combat, but I still think the combat rules of any RPG is the most important feature of the game. Gamers are going to want their characters to engage in combat, so if the combat rules don’t work, like if they are too slow, too unrealistic or in any way unbelievable, then the whole game is as I see it broken and basically unplayable.

The difficult part in this context is of course to find a balance between what is realistic and what is playable, but I think the problem is to a large degree solved by making a system where the players can easily adjust the system according to their style of play and preferences.

In MYFAROG combat can be made less complex and less time consuming by simply ignoring some of the rules, without this influencing the rest of the rules, and also by adding optional rules to make it more complex and realistic (at the expense of playability, or course). So the game can be complex or simple depending solely on the player’s wishes. My thought is that novice players will keep it simple, and then include more and more of the rules and optional rules as they play and learn and master it all properly.

Naturally I don’t aim to “re-invent the wheel”, so experienced players will quickly recognise most of the concepts in MYFAROG from other games they have played, but there are a few new ideas and the system is indeed different from other games (or at least from the games I know).

Some of the combat features of MYFAROG:
– A damage system influenced not just by the weapon used, but also by how well you hit your foe.

- An armour system not (or possibly negatively) influencing how hard it is to hit you, but instead how much damage you can take before you suffer an injury. So the armours simply absorb damage, and if you are not strong they might make you easier to hit too, because they will then slow you down.

- No HP (Hit Points), but instead damage is measured against the target’s Toughness (and if hit you will suffer either just a scratch, a light injury, a medium injury, a serious injury, a severe injury, an incapacitation or a fatal injury). Using the idea that “A pinch between two fingers can be fatal for some (like for bugs…), and even a massive blow from a heavy battle axe can be just a scratch for some (like for a mountain ettin)”. Toughness is mainly based on the creature’s weight, but also its strength and constitution.

-Fumbling. In particular slingers will get used to this. (Let us just say that when shooting with my own sling or staff sling, doing “practical research” for MYFAROG, I always made sure there were nobody else around and I parked my car far away from me, way behind me… and I wore a thick leather cap too.)

-Toughness in relation to different types of damage. Physical. Heat. Cold. Electricity.

-The ability to inflict bleeding wounds, to stun, knock down and knock out (and of course kill) even with blows that are mere scratches. You can sever an artery without actually causing much injury to a creature, and you can knock out a person without actually injuring him too.

-The weapon used influences the chance to inflict bleeding wounds, to stun, etc. You can knock out a person when attacking him with a dagger (you can hit him with the hilt), or cause a bleeding wound with a stick (ripping his skin open), you are just more or less likely to do so depending on the type of weapon you are wielding.

-A wide variety of shields with different qualities. The shields are also really, really valuable in combat, compared to the shields in the other RPGs I know of. Especially as protection against missile weapons.

-A wide variety of armour, including bronze and aurichalcum armour, with different qualities, and with realistic weight and real value (=cost). A mail (which takes a lot of effort to make) for instance costs a lot more than a laminated metal armour do, even though the latter might actually provide better protection (but also much less manoeuvrability). No attempts to “balance” this has been made by me. Instead I did my best to copy the realities of Ancient Europe.

-No warhammers, full suits of plate armour, halberds, claymores, rapiers or other anachronisms (for a setting based on the early Medieval or Ancient Europe) present in the game. Only historically accurate weapons – often tested and tried by me in real life. Most (if not all) weapons have unique qualities, and some have very special features too (like the shield-cleaving battle axes, the bouncing throwing axes, the shield piercing angons [heavy throwing spears], the light javelin that can be used in combination with a spear sling, and so forth)

-No instant healing, and healing sorcery can only be used in combination with the first aid skill. Healing potions works slowly.

-Taking into account e. g. that animals, trolls and ettins don’t block attacks, that they tend to fight very aggressively if they decide to stay and fight, and also taking into account that animals are all afraid of fire and also creatures walking on two legs.

-Morale rules. Your character can even become so scared he suffers traumas and go insane. You can naturally also scare away your foes rather than fight them (try wearing a helmet with three HagalaR runes carved into it, for example…).

-Stamina. You would be surprised by just how many fights have been won for no other reason than the fact that one of the fighters lost his wind and had to put down his guard and rest in the middle of the fight. In fights between two equals this might often be the decisive factor. (Fights between “un-equals” tend to be over very quickly.)

-Willpower dictates your character’s ability to keep on fighting if he grows tired.

-Different ammunition types for missile weapons. Like clay, stone and lead bullets for slings. All with different qualities.

-Optional rules for formations, influencing morale as well as movement and the defensive values of the others in the formation as well. E. g. your large shield will also offer some protection to the guy next to you in the formation.

-Optional rules for random movement during a mêlée. Two fighters in a mêlée don’t just stand there, taking turns trying to hit each other with a weapon. They move about, advance, retreat, move sideways – and sometimes fall as well. The player with a not too strong character might soon regret equipping his character with heavy armour when the fighting takes place on a narrow ledge over a chasm or on a rooftop…

-Charges and surprise attacks, initiative rules and much more.