Journey: Combat

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This will be where we talk about combat.


Combat is part of the adventuring life, and chances are good that - as an adventurer - you will take part in a combat. In Journey, combat can be rather deadly - if you have not spent your time hardening yourself to pain, a single swordswing could be the end of you.

The more things you carry, the heavier the armor you wear, the bigger the weapon you wield, all slow you down. While other humanoids suffer the same sorts of problems, creatures and monsters like gryphons or dragons do not suffer from such weight, and thus can strike and move that much faster. Monsters are dangerous adversaries in Journey, and only the best-prepared of adventurers would dare face them.

The combat rules of Journey are designed to be fluid. Rather than having discrete turns, each participant acts, then can act again later based upon what sort of action they took, how heavy their gear is, and how fast they are. A stealthy assassin, wielding a small dagger, can react much faster than a warrior armored head-to-toe and armed to the teeth... but at the same time, that assassin is much more likely to suffer grievous wounds.


Initiative (Skill)

A skill that measures your ability to react. In combat, you use this to determine when you can first act.

Initiative Scale

A scale that begins at 0 and goes as high as necessary. Your character's turn appears as a number on this scale; after a character acts, the character with the lowest initiative on the scale acts next.

Default Initiative

This is the center-point that everyone in a combat uses for calculating their initiative; when rolling for initiative, everyone subtracts their result from this number.
The default is 20, but an LM can choose to adjust this number as he sees fits. Note that adjusting this number has no real impact on how the game plays; it is simply a mathematical device used to make initiative calculation easier.

Speed (Trait)

How quick you are to recover from a physical action. Your base Speed is derived from your Dexterity.


How much equipment you are wearing, and how it affects your ability to move quickly.

Acumen (Trait)

How quick you are to recover from a mental action. Your base Acumen is derived from your Perception.


A "tick" is a single point on the initiative scale. Durations and action costs are measured in ticks.
One tick is roughly equal to about half a second.

Action Cost

The number of ticks an action adds to your initiative.

Health (Trait)

Represents how much physical punishment you can take.

Hit Points

Determined by your Health trait.

Wound Tokens

Represents general physical trauma.

Health, Wounds, and Damage

Before we can get into combat too far, we need to talk about health and wounds.


You have a number of hit points equal to your maximum Health trait.

You cannot fall below 0 hit points; if you would, you go to 0.

When you first fall to 0 hit points, you must make a Health check against the number of wound tokens you have (see below). If you fail, you fall unconscious. In addition, each time you take an action, after which you are still at 0 hit points, you must make this check again.


You begin at 0 wound tokens. If you are ever at wound tokens equal to your average Health trait, you die.

You take wound tokens in the following situations...

  • Whenever you take damage, you must make a Health check against the damage dealt to you (after subtracting DM and such). If you fail this opposed roll (with the damage-dealer being the initiator), you suffer a wound token.
  • Whenever you take damage equal to or greater than half your maximum hit points, you suffer a wound token for every multiple of one-half your hit points in damage you take (ie, if you have a max of 8 hp and take 7 damage, you suffer one wound).
  • Whenever you are dropped to 0 hit points, you suffer a wound (if you are at 0 hit points and take damage, you take a wound for dropping to 0 hit points).

Combat Basics

Combat follows a few simple steps. Included throughout the discussion will be a running example, complete with visual depictions of the initiative scale, so that you can get a better feel for the flow of a combat.


When combat is joined, the LM calls for initiative, with an initiative default of 20. This is a Skill: Initiative skill check. The LM will make the same skill check for each NPC in the combat. Once everyone has their roll, they subtract it from 20; once they have their results, the LM will ask each player in turn what their result is.

Once the results are all gathered, the LM puts each character who is involved in the combat on the initiative scale corresponding to their result. Note that the first person to act may not necessarily be at 0, where the scale starts, but that this is alright: this doesn't mean that everyone stands around for the first eight ticks doing nothing, it's simply that no one rolled close to the initiative default, which is a purely mechanical construct intended to make starting combats easier (otherwise, there would be a lot more math involved). You can feel free to move everyone down the initiative scale until the first person to act would act on 0, but make sure to move everyone an equal distance.

Example: Eric, Lisa, Jon, and Tom are attempting to negotiate with a bandit on the road when the talks break down, with three of the bandit leader's minions drawing their blades. Thinking that gunboat diplomacy might work better, the three ready themselves for combat. Eric rolls a 7, Lisa rolls a 9, Jon rolls a 3, and Tom rolls a 5; the bandits and their leader roll a 1, a 3, a 12, and a 6. The LM doesn't feel it necessary to move everyone down the initiative scale, so the resulting scale looks like this:
Combat example init scale-1-1.jpg
The LM immediately notices a problem: both Jon and Bandit B go at the same time. He determines that he'll deal with it when it comes up.

Having two or more participants on the same tick means that their actions are simultaneous, which can be problematic, depending on their actions.

Action Costs Table

This is a table for general action costs!

Action Costs
  Physical Mental
Action Type Base Cost Speed Weight Acumen Feature Rank
Long 16 SPD × 4/5 WT × 4/5 ACU × 4/5 RNK × 4/5
Medium 12 SPD × 3/5 WT × 3/5 ACU × 3/5 RNK × 3/5
Short 8 SPD × 2/5 WT × 2/5 ACU × 2/5 RNK × 2/5
Quick 4 SPD × 1/5 WT × 1/5 ACU × 1/5 RNK × 1/5
Instant 2 SPD × 1/10 WT × 1/10 ACU × 1/10 RNK × 1/10
Free 0 (none) (none) (none) (none)
Action Type: The kind of action being taken.
Base Cost: The base action cost of the action. With rare exception, the final action cost of an action cannot be lower than half
   of the base cost.
Speed: The impact your Speed has on the action cost. Perform the calculation, round down, then subtract the result from the action's
   base cost.
Weight: The impact your Weight has on the action cost. Perform the calculation, round down, then add the result to the action's base

The following are general descriptions of the action types.

  • Full actions are actions that take a long time to complete. Some spellcasting takes full actions, as do some normal attacks. Many non-combat skills also require full actions.
  • Long actions are actions that take slightly longer than most normal actions. Some more difficult spells, aimed ranged shots, and far movement fall into this category.
  • Medium actions are the vast majority of actions you can take. Most spells, attacks, and combat-related skill tasks fall into this category.
  • Short actions are actions that don't consume too much time. Most movement-related actions fall into this category.
  • Quick actions tend to be reactionary in nature, though some feats or traits allow you to reduce the action costs of some actions into this category.
  • Instant actions are all reactionary or instinctive in nature.
  • Free actions include things that don't have a direct impact on the combat, such as speaking.

There are then a few modifiers that can be attributed to any kind of action.

  • Reaction: A reactive action can be taken at any time, even when its not your turn. If you take a reaction, add its action cost to your initiative, as normal. You cannot make reactions if you are surprised.
  • Ongoing: An ongoing action is one that you are considered to be performing until your next turn to act. If you cast a spell with an action of "Short (Ongoing)", then you cast that spell until your next turn, when you will then apply the effects of the spell. While taking an ongoing action, and a situation arises in which you may want to take a reaction action, you may; if you do, you interrupt the ongoing action, and your initiative is set to the current tick + the action cost of the reaction.

All of these actions then fall into one of two categories.

  • Physical actions are those that involve actual movement of some kind, wherein your physical mobility comes into play.
  • Mental actions are those that simply involve thinking, focusing energy, or some kind of casting.


All characters have Trait: Movement, and if you wish to move, that is the trait you call upon. Your Movement trait tells you how much you can move in a single movement action, depending upon the kind of action you want to take.

  • You can move (5 × your minimum Movement) feet with a Quick Action.
  • You can move (5 × your average Movement) feet with a Short Action.
  • You can move (5 × your maximum Movement) feet with a Medium Action.
  • You can move (10 × your maximum Movement) feet with a Long Action.

As an important note, you may want to have the standard action costs written down on your character sheet; that way, when you take an action, you can immediately tell your LM how many ticks it takes for you to complete the action.

Example: Bandit C goes first, and he has a Movement trait of 1d6, meaning that he can move 5 feet with a Quick, 15 feet with a Short, 30 feet with a Medium, and 60 feet with a Long. He opts to use a Short action, and moves up to Jon, since it seems that Jon is a spellcaster, and most people know that spellcasters are dangerous. With a Speed of 4 and a Weight of 8, the bandit's total action cost for this movement is (8 - 1 + 3 = 10) 10 ticks, meaning that the bandit will go again in 18. Our revised initiative chart looks like this...
Combat example init scale-2-a.jpg

You'll note that, in the example, all of the scale below the lowest person's initiative are removed. This is done because those ticks don't matter anymore; however, with certain kinds of magic (ie, temporal manipulation) running amok, it may be helpful to have the entire scale available.


When you attempt to attack someone, you use one of the following skills: Melee, Ranged, or Firearm.

Your attack roll - which also includes a relevant Attribute, as determined by the skill used - is then compared to the defenses of your target.

If your target is facing you, they may opt to Block, Parry, or Dodge; if you are flanking your target, they may Dodge, and possibly Block or Parry; if you are behind your target, they can only Dodge, and do so at a penalty. A character cannot normally Parry a Ranged or Firearm attack, nor Dodge a Firearm attack.

If your attack roll is higher than the target's defense roll, you then compare your attack roll to their Armor Rating. If your attack roll is higher, you have hit your target. You deal damage with a check using the relevant combat skill (ie, if you are using a sword, it would be Skill: Swords); however, assuming your target is wearing at least clothing, their armor will absorb some of the damage from the blow.

If your attack roll is not higher than the target's defense roll, and your target opted to Parry or Block, your attack deals some amount of damage to the item used to block or parry; the amount of damage dealt is dependent on how "well" your attack was parried or blocked. For this reason, you should always roll damage when you attack, even if the target dodges - because chances are good that something, somewhere, will take damage.

If you deal damage, your target must make a damage save using their Trait: Health to see if they accrue a wound; this roll is opposed to the damage roll (so the damage-dealer is considered the initiator of the opposed roll). Failure indicates that your target also takes a wound token. Note that it is possible to deal more than one wound to a creature with a single attack, and that it is also possible to inflict trauma tokens on a creature; these concepts are explored in more detail in a later section.

An attack action is usually a Medium Action, though some feats or traits may reduce or increase this.

Again, always round down; also, remember that worn equipment is treated differently than carried equipment, for your Weight - wearing plate is much different than carrying it in your pack.

Example: Lisa is up next, and she is irked! She draws her dagger (which she has talented into a free action), and proceeds to stab Bandit D. Her attack roll is an 8, and the bandit opts to dodge, rolling a 6 - and since the bandit's armor rating is only 4, Lisa has struck! She rolls damage, and turns up a 6; the bandit is wearing leather plate, though, which absorbs 3 of the damage. Lisa's attack action cost her (12 - 2 + 3 = 13) 13 ticks. Also, the bandit opted to dodge, which is a quick action, and costs him 5 ticks. The initiative now looks like this...
Combat example init scale-3.jpg

Finding an Item

You might not always have the right item on-hand; perhaps it's in your backpack somewhere, or tucked elsewhere.

To determine the action required to find an item in a container, first determine the size of the container in slots. Find the action type with the lowest base action cost that is equal to or higher than the number of slots the container has; that is the type of action for finding a single item in the container.

Finding an item is considered an ongoing action; on your next turn, you have the item in hand, presuming you have a free hand. If you don't, then picking up the item is an instant action for you, as soon as you are able to retrieve the item.

Example: It's Eric's turn, but he forgot to draw his weapon - and it's tucked away in his pack! He frantically begins looking for his weapon in his bag, which is a 16 slot backpack. The lowest base action cost action that is equal to or higher than 16 is a Long action, with a base action cost of exactly 16. Eric finds his hammer, but the action costs him (16 - 4 + 6 = 18) 18 ticks. If he had kept the hammer on one of his beltloops, a 3 slot container, the action would have been a Quick action, and only cost him (4 - (4 / 4) + (6 / 6) = 4) 4 ticks. The initiative now looks like this...
	C  B  D  A           L                       E
	      1  1  1  1  1  1  1  1  1  1  2  2  2  2  2  2
INIT  8  9  0  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  0  1  2  3  4  5
Example: It's Bandit C's turn again, and he plans on stabbing Jon before he can cast any spells. He makes an attack roll with his shortsword, and gets an 8. Jon has no kind of defensive ability, and wants to go before any other bandits can stab him, so he takes it - and with his armor rating of 1 (clothing), the bandit definitely hits him. The bandit rolls a 7 for damage, but Jon's clothing takes 1 point of it. Jon only has 9 hit points, though, meaning that the bandit's rather solid hit has resulted in a serious wound! The bandit's attack action cost him (12 - ([2 * 2] / 2) + (5 / 2) = 12) 12 ticks. The initiative now looks like this...
	B  D  A     L                    C        E
	   1  1  1  1  1  1  1  1  1  1  2  2  2  2  2  2
INIT  9  0  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  0  1  2  3  4  5
Example: The LM now faces a bit of a conundrum - both Bandit B and Jon go at the same time. B still has to move up to the group in order to act, though, so chances are good that Jon and B can both go in harmony, without any funny stuff.
The LM decides to call on Jon to act first.
Jon decides to cast arcane bolt on Bandit C, hoping to end him. Jon rolls an 11 for his attack roll with his spell, and the bandit only manages to roll a 3 for his Reflex trait - not enough to save him. Jon manages to deal 7 points of damage with his spell, and the blast of arcane energy sends Bandit C to the ground. Casting arcane bolt is a Medium action, so Jon's action cost him (12 - [(2 * 3) / 3] + (0 / 2) = 10) 10 ticks.
Jon's action done, the LM decides that Bandit B is going to move up to Lisa, since she stabbed one of the other bandits. He needs to take a Short action to reach her, so his initiative increases by (8 - [4 / 2] + [8 / 4] = 8) 8 ticks. The initiative order now looks like this...
	D  A     L           B     J  C        E
	1  1  1  1  1  1  1  1  1  1  2  2  2  2  2  2
INIT  0  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  0  1  2  3  4  5

Using Skills in Combat

You can also use skills in combat, though some are more suited to that task than others.

A skill that lists a combat-related action as its action cost (Full, Long, Short, etc) requires that kind of action to perform. Some skills, however, require time measured in other increments (such as minutes or even hours).

A skill that uses minutes takes 120 ticks per minute of action time. A skill that uses hours requires 7200 ticks per hour of action time; such a skill is rather unreasonable to use in combat.

Skills that have a combat-related action cost will list whether or not they are ongoing; if the action cost is listed in minutes or hours, it is assumed that it is ongoing.

Example: Bandit D decides that he wants to get behind Lisa, to set up a flank for bandit A when he comes in on his turn. He attempts a Skill: Tumble check to do so; in this case, getting behind Lisa requires him to overcome her opposed Trait: Reflex check. The bandit gets a 3, while Lisa gets a 5 - the bandit fails! The bandit manages to get behind Lisa, but she can make an attack on him as a Quick reaction, which she opts to do. She rolls an 8 for her attack, and the bandit is unable to roll any kind of defense, because the attack is a reaction; her 8 beats his 4 armor rating, and she rolls a 9 for damage! Even though the bandit's armor absorbs 3 points of it, the remaining 6 is enough to take bandit D out. Bandit D's action was a Short action, and so costs him (8 - (4 / 2) + (3 / 4) = 6) 6 ticks; Lisa's action was a Quick action, and so costs her (4 - (3 / 4) + (6 / 6) = 5) 5 ticks. The initiative order is now...
	A             (D) B  L  J (C)       E
	1  1  1  1  1  1  1  1  1  2  2  2  2  2  2
INIT  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  0  1  2  3  4  5

Unconscious Characters: Characters that are unconscious, but not dead, should stay listed on the initiative scale. When their
   turn comes up, they have a chance to bleed or recover from their wounds. An unconscious character always adds 20 to their
   initiative when their turn comes up. Here, unconscious characters are noted in parentheses.

Dropping a Held Item

Dropping a held item is always a Free action, meaning that you can do it even when it's not your turn.

Example: Seeing Bandit D get cut down, A has no interest in doing the same. He drops his shortsword - a Free action - and draws his crossbow, a Quick action. This costs him (4 - (4 / 4) + (4 / 6) = 3) 3 ticks, meaning the initiative now looks like this...
	A    (D) B  L  J (C)       E
	1  1  1  1  1  1  2  2  2  2  2  2  2  2  2  2  3
INIT  4  5  6  7  8  9  0  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  0
Example: Now armed with a more appropriate weapon, A shoots at Lisa. He rolls a 5 to attack, but Lisa attempts to dodge - and rolls a 7, success! Making an attack is a Medium action, so bandit A's initiative increases by (12 - [(2 * 4) / 3] + (4 / 2) = 12) 12 ticks; Lisa took a Quick action ("Again?" Ponders the LM, "If she keeps that up, she'll never go again..."), so her inititiative increases by (4 - (3 / 4) + (6 / 6) = 5) 5 ticks. The initiative now looks like this...
           (D) B     J (C)       E        A
      1  1  1  1  1  1  2  2  2  2  2  2  2  2  2  2  3
INIT  4  5  6  7  8  9  0  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  0
Example: Bandit D goes, but he's down. The LM checks to see if he bleeds (he does), then continues on.
        B     J (C)       E        A                            (D)
	1  1  1  2  2  2  2  2  2  2  2  2  2  3  3  3  3  3  3  3  3  3  3  4
INIT  7  8  9  0  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  0  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  0
Example: Bandit B goes, having finally reached Lisa, and he attempts to stab her; Lisa, noticing that she hasn't gone in awhile, decides to try to take it. Bandit B rolls a 9, which solidly hits Lisa's armor rating of 2. He rolls a 2 for damage, though, which isn't enough to get through Lisa's leather coat. B took a Medium action, which costs him (12 - [(2 * 4) / 3] + (8 / 2) = 14) 14 ticks. The initiative order now looks like this...
        J (C)       E        A              B             (D)
	1  2  2  2  2  2  2  2  2  2  2  3  3  3  3  3  3  3  3  3  3  4
INIT  9  0  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  0  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  0


When your turn comes up, you can opt to wait. If you do, you lose your place in the initiative scale; at any point, you can say to your LM something along the lines of, "I want to go now," or "I want to go after this action." The LM will then insert you into the initiative scale at the tick after the current action, or at the tick before the next character.

Example: Jon isn't sure what to do, so he opts to wait.
Bandit C is down, so he bleeds, and adds 20 to his initiative. The initiative scale now looks like this...
        E        A              B             (D)         (C)
	2  2  2  2  2  2  2  3  3  3  3  3  3  3  3  3  3  4  4  4  4  4  4
INIT  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  0  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  0  1  2  3  4  5
The LM notices that two players go at once - this will be an interesting tick! Lisa and Eric's actions will be simultaneous, regardless of who goes first, so the DM calls on Eric to act first, since he hasn't acted for quite some time.


Whenever you take an action that calls for a die roll, it is possible that some of the dice will show the same number - in this event, you have gotten a critical. When you "crit," you add half the value of the largest die with the same number to the end result of the roll. So, if you roll a d8 and a d4, and both come up a 3, you add them together, then add 4, since that's half the size of the largest die involved.

Example: Eric opts to smash Bandit B in the face, to try to help out Lisa. He makes an attack roll, using 1d6 for his Strength and 1d6 for his Attack skill, and rolls a pair of 4's - a crit! His total attack roll is an 11. The bandit attempts to dodge, but only manages a 6, and Eric's 11 is more than enough to hit the bandit's armor rating of 6. Eric rolls damage, and deals 8 points to B - 3 of which is absorbed by his armor. The five points is enough to bring down Bandit B, though. Eric took a Medium action to attack, so he adds (12 - [(2 * 4) / 3] + (6 / 2) = 13) 13 ticks to his initiative. The scale now looks like this...
        L        A             (B)            (D)         (C)
	2  2  2  2  2  2  2  3  3  3  3  3  3  3  3  3  3  4  4  4  4  4  4
INIT  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  0  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  0  1  2  3  4  5
Example: Lisa still has to go, yet, and she opts to move to Bandit A. Getting to Bandit A requires a Short action, so her initiative increases by (8 - (3 / 2) + (6 / 4) = 8) 8 ticks. The initiative scale now looks like this...
	               L              E
        A             (B)            (D)         (C)
	2  2  2  2  3  3  3  3  3  3  3  3  3  3  4  4  4  4  4  4  4  4  4  4  5
INIT  6  7  8  9  0  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  0  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  0

Critical Hits / Trauma

Stop.jpeg This page is deprecated, meaning that it is no longer relevant to anything going on whatsoever, and is probably going to be ignored forever. Information on this page is not usable nor viable for playtesting, so kindly ignore it.

...yeah, this is a subsystem I'm really looking forward to writing.

The term "critical hits" might be used to refer to trauma.

How Do You Get Traumatized?

Trauma occurs whenever you take a significant amount of damage, reach a certain point of health, or when someone specifically goes out of their way to try to inflict a grievous wound upon you (a "called shot").

For the vast majority of creatures, there are six points of trauma: head, chest, right arm, left arm, right leg, and left leg. For four-legged creatures (that do not also have arms), the "arms" are understood to mean front legs, while the "legs" are understood to be back legs.

For unusual creatures, there are additional points of contact for major areas, such as wings, additional arms, etc. Depending upon how this system gets written, special attention may be paid to unusual body parts that standard humanoids do not possess.

Called Shots

You may attempt a called shot whenever you make an attack; if you do, you must specify what body part you are attacking. Your attack is then resolved against that hit location. Called shots are resolved somewhat differently from most attacks; the key differences are outlined here.

  • Targets are Smaller: When attempting to hit a specific location, your target is much smaller than it normally would be. As such, any combat skills you use to make the attack are considered one rank lower.

Standard armor is understood to protect your chest. You must wear gloves if you want to protect your arms; footwear to protect your legs; and a helmet to protect your head. These additional armor pieces do not contribute to your overall armor value, but have an independent armor value used against called shots.

If you hit with a called shot, roll the damage dice pool; however, the attack does not (usually) deal damage - instead, you will usually inflict a status effect or outright incapacitate your target.

Suffering Trauma

You gain a trauma token in one of several ways.

  • Called Shot: A called shot inflicts a trauma token.
  • Excessive Damage: If you take damage from a single attack that deals damage equal to or greater than half your health, you suffer a trauma token.
  • Bloodied: When you take damage that reduces you to less than half your health, you suffer a trauma token.
  • Swooned: When you swoon (fall unconscious), you suffer a trauma token.

For anything other than a called shot, determine the hit location randomly.

d12	Location
1-2	Right Leg
3-4	Left Leg
5-6	Right Arm
7-8	Left Arm
9-11	Torso
12	Head
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...begins beneath your feet...
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