Sword World 2.5: An Overview, Part Three

Sword World 2.5

(Third in my idiotic series of Sword World 2.5 articles based on the English version churned out by the Sword World Translation Project, of which I am only a humble fanboy. Download their translationjoin their Discord, or peruse their sub-Reddit. Or don’t, I ain’t ya mama.)


I shall smite him roundly

The most succinct explanation of how SW2.5 combat works comes straight out of Book I:

It’s all pretty straightforward. The two sides are identified, characters pop off any feats or non-attack actions that may give their side an advantage, Sages roll to identify the weak points of the enemies, then players roll for Initiative. You’ll notice that SW2.5 uses side initiative instead of individual initiative; everyone from the winning side acts, in any order, then the other side does the same. Once everyone knows who goes first, combatants line up and away you go.

To hit an opponent with a weapon, roll 2d6 + your Dexterity modifier + your Warrior-type Class Level + the weapon’s Accuracy versus the enemy’s 2d6 + Evasion. (Monsters have an optional fixed Evasion value if the GM doesn’t want to roll so much.) If you beat the enemy’s Evasion or roll double 6’s, you hit!

Every weapon has a Power score. To determine the damage done, roll 2d6 on the corresponding line of the Power Table. If you roll equal to or higher than the weapon’s Crit Value, roll again and add. Keep rolling until you stop critting. Then add your weapon’s Extra Damage score + your Strength modifier + your Warrior-Type Class Level to find the total damage done. Subtract the enemy’s Defense, and voila!

I’ve got the power

In practice, this isn’t as complicated as it sounds. Your weapons’ total Accuracy and Extra Damage can be added up beforehand, and only change when you raise your stats or class level. There’s a spot on the character sheet for the full Power Table entry of every weapon you own.

Right there.

After a few rolls, once you know where to look, the process feels surprisingly quick and smooth. It is a bit roll-y if the GM wants to roll attacks and Evasion checks for players and enemies both. With the optional fixed scores for monsters, you can get through almost any attack with one to two rolls, plus crits.

Weirdly enough, most monsters don’t use the Power Table; their attacks all do 2d + (some number) damage. PCs have a somewhat larger pool of HP to compensate.

After combat ends, all that’s left is to go through your enemies’ pockets. Most all monsters have loot tables to simplify this process. If the GM enhanced any of the boss monsters with sword shards, those will also emerge from their bodies for the players to grab.

A brief and indulgent Power Table rant: The full Power Table, which appears in a Book III appendix, is 100 rows long and tops out at 30 damage (Power 100, roll 12). The increase between each level is so gradual as to be almost subliminal; going up 10 full levels is usually between +1 and +3 damage, depending on your roll. A lot of the time, the character’s own Extra Damage will be a bigger factor than their weapon’s Power score. Most bizarrely, power levels don’t progress by a formula; apparently the designer created the entire table by what feels right. IMHO, this table could be a fifth its length and readjusted for consistency and I doubt anyone would notice. It’s a cute bit of legacy design that kinda drags things down.

Marching Orders

The front lines are no place for a rabbit

SW2.5 has three different methods of managing battles, from “You’re either in melee or you’re not” all the way up to maps. Gosh.

Simplified Combat reduces every battle to three zones: the allied rearguard, the frontline, and the enemy rearguard. You start combat in your choice of the allied rearguard or the frontline. It takes one full action to move to an adjacent zone. Characters can’t move into their enemy’s rearguard as long as there are active enemy combatants on the frontline, unless they overwhelm the enemy’s numbers by at least double. Ranged characters (Marksmen, Sorcerers, etc.) can shoot from their zone to an adjacent zone, but can’t shoot from their rearguard through to the enemy rearguard unless they have the Hawk Eye combat feat.

Standard Combat puts all the characters on a single line and uses their movement scores to determine their distances from one another. If a party member enters the combat range of an enemy, a “skirmish” breaks out, and nobody can move freely through the skirmish zone. Skirmishes block line of sight for ranged characters unless, again, they have the Hawk Eye feat.

Gonna be honest, Standard Combat is a pain to manage. In a way it reminds me of “range bands” from old-school Traveller, but granular down to the meter. The GM would need a whiteboard or a ruler or something to keep everyone’s relative location straight, especially when you have skirmishes and areas of effect and blocking movement and ugh. If you want to try this, consider at least breaking the battlefield into 3-meter strips rather than nickel-and-diming every meter.

Do you see this shit Applejack

Advanced Combat … doesn’t appear in the core rulebooks. For that, you’ll need to pick up the Epic Treasury supplement. Advanced Combat is essentially a 2D version of Standard Combat with new rules about blocking and line-of-sight. For something called “Advanced,” it still feels simplified and abstract compared to the tactical rules of most RPGs these days. The rules even say straight out that vertical distance doesn’t matter “unless the GM thinks it should.” Well I think it should!

These abstracted battlefields may have cultural origins. Japanese living spaces are famously … let’s say “efficient,” and sitting with a bunch of friends around what is essentially an end table tends to limit your gaming options. A big surface with enough space for miniatures and a map is often a luxury for poor college-age people. SW2.5 came out right before the proliferation of VTTs, so it’ll be interesting to see if they take advantage of that in future supplements.

I will say that Simplified Combat provides more than enough detail when you have a small party mixing it up with goblins in a cave somewhere. But the more combatants you add, the more your players may long for some tactical variety. I’d skip right to Advanced Combat in that case.

Next time: Gods and ends

Part 1: Intro to Sword World/Thumbnail History of Raxia
Part 2: Races and Classes
Part 3: Combat
Part 4: Gods and Spells
Part 5: Fellows
Part 6: Guilds and Monsters
Part 7: Conclusion

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