When you are confronted with the horrors of the Cthulhu Mythos, it is generally a better idea to run away, or avoid confrontation altogether, as such entities are very powerful and often resistant to bullets! However, sometimes there is no other choice than to go in, guns blazing, and make the best of it.
When a combat occurs, all investigators, as well as characters and monsters controlled by the Keeper, act in order of their DEX values. The investigator, character, or monster with the highest DEX acts first and then the others go in descending order from there.
Example: Billy is facing a cultist who has summoned a monster. Things are about to turn ugly. Billy has DEX 50, the cultist DEX 45, and the monster DEX 70. Thus, the monster has the highest DEX and will act first in the combat round, followed by Billy and then the cultist.
The duration of a combat round in Call of Cthulhu is best described as “long enough for everyone to take one significant action.” The Keeper controls the flow of the round. On each character’s DEX turn, the Keeper decides or asks (if an investigator) what action is being taken; usually this is something as simple as, “I attack the monster,” “I pull out my revolver,” or “I run away!” The Keeper should give everyone a chance to do something quickly, while being aware of the narrative flow of the events taking place.
Investigators have three combat skills: Fighting, Dodge, and Firearms. Two of these skills are made up of multiple specializations, such as Fighting (Brawl) or Firearms (Rifle/Shotgun)—each player will have decided which specializations their investigator has (if any) during character creation, when skill points were allocated for occupation and personal interest skills. Note that the Fighting (Brawl) skill includes unarmed combat and the use of simple weapons like knives and clubs; however, wielding a sword requires the Fighting (Sword) specialization.
You make a combat roll using the appropriate skill, just like any other skill roll; however, you don’t get to “push” combat rolls—you simply make another attack next round.
# Close Combat
On a character’s turn in the DEX order, they may choose to initiate an attack against an opponent. In addition, each time a character is attacked, they get to choose how they will respond, be it by dodging (attempting to avoid the attack completely) or fighting back (attempting to avoid, block, or parry an attack while also making one of their own).
Both attacker and defender roll percentage dice (1D100) and compare their levels of success:
- If you are fighting back, use your Fighting skill. You need to achieve a higher level of success than your attacker.
- If you are dodging, use your Dodge skill. Your attacker needs to achieve a higher level of success than you.
It’s a simple matter: the winning side avoids receiving any damage and will inflict damage (unless dodging) on their opponent.
When fighting back, the best a person can achieve is “regular” damage, whereas the character initiating the attack (if successful) could achieve “extreme damage”.
Example: a ghoul swings a clawed hand at Susan, who elects to dodge. The Keeper rolls 03—an Extreme success (below one-fifth of the ghoul’s skill). Susan rolls 20 for her Dodge roll—a Hard success. The attacker has achieved a better level of success than the dodger, so Susan is hit, automatically taking the maximum of 10 damage (1D6+1D4) because the attack was an Extreme success.
The ghoul is a monster with 3 attacks per round (all of its attacks take place simultaneously on its DEX). On its second attack it tries to bite Susan, who fights back. Susan achieves a Hard success; the ghoul achieves a Regular success. Susan has a better level of success than the ghoul, so she successfully fights back—not only does she avoid injury, but she also inflicts 1D3 points of damage on the ghoul.
Remember, if the person dodging equals the level of success of their attacker, they succeed in avoiding the attack (as the attacker must achieve a higher level of success than the dodger). Whereas, if fighting back, equal levels of success mean the initiating attacker wins the combat.
# Extreme Damage
Attacks that achieve an Extreme level of success deliver increased damage:
- Blunt weapons deal maximum damage plus maximum damage bonus (if any).
- Impaling weapons (blades and bullets) deal maximum weapon damage plus damage bonus (if any) plus an additional dice roll for the weapon’s damage (1D10 + 10 points of damage in the case of a handgun, for example).
Example: Billy wins a combat round with an Extreme success; he is wielding a club (blunt weapon), and has damage bonus of 1D4. The attack inflicts 6 + 4 = 10 damage. If he had used a knife (impaling weapon) instead, the damage would be 4 + 4 + 1D4.
# Firearms Rules
The person firing the gun makes a percentile roll and compares the result with their Firearms skill.
Readied firearms act at DEX +50 for the purpose of determining the DEX turn order.
If firing 2 or 3 shots from a handgun in one round, apply one penalty die to each shot.
If at point-blank range (within one-fifth of DEX in feet), the shooter gains one bonus die on the skill roll.
The target of the shot cannot fight back (you can’t dodge a bullet) but may “dive for cover,” by rolling against their Dodge skill. If the Dodge roll is successful, the attacker’s rolls to hit are made with one penalty die. A character that opts to dive for cover forfeits their next attack (regardless of whether they were successful or not). If they have already used their attack this round, they forfeit their attack in the following round.
Example: Billy has his revolver ready in his hand when he spots a sword-wielding cultist running towards him. Billy’s DEX is 50, but his readied firearm grants +50 DEX, making his DEX 100 for determining when he acts in the round; the cultist’s DEX is 45, so Billy is firing first.
The cultist sees the gun and dives for cover (making a Dodge roll) and is successful. Billy rolls to hit but applies a penalty die to the roll, failing to hit the cultist. As the cultist has lost his next action due to diving for cover, the round ends. A new round starts, giving Billy another chance to hit before the cultist attacks him.
# Weapons and Damage
|Unarmed attacks (human)||1D3 + damage bonus|
|Small knife||1D4 + damage bonus|
|Machete||1D8 + damage bonus|
|Small club||1D6 + damage bonus|
|Baseball bat||1D8 + damage bonus|
|Shotgun||4D6 (at close range*, otherwise 2D6; does not impale)|
* Close range: within DEX in feet (i.e. if DEX is 60, close range is 60 feet).
# Fighting Maneuvers
If a player describes a goal in combat that is something other than simply inflicting physical harm then it can be resolved with a “Fighting Maneuver.” A successful maneuver allows the character to achieve one thing, such as:
- Disarm an opponent.
- Knock an opponent to the floor.
- Seize and hold an opponent, whereupon the opponent must apply one penalty die to their actions until they can break free.
A maneuver is treated the same way as a regular Fighting attack, using the Fighting (Brawl) skill. The opponent may dodge or fight back as usual. Compare the Build of the two combatants. If the character performing the maneuver has a smaller Build than their opponent then they take a penalty die for each point of difference (to a maximum of two penalty dice). If an opponent exceeds the attacker’s Build by three or more points, any fighting maneuvers are ineffective; the attacker may be able to lay hands on their opponent, but lacks the strength and size required to take advantage of their grip.
Example: Susan attempts to push a ghoul out of a nearby window (a Fighting Maneuver). Susan’s Build is zero and the ghoul’s Build is 1, so Susan suffers 1 penalty die on her attack roll. Susan rolls 02 and 22; she had a penalty die so must take the higher result—a Hard success (under half Susan’s Fighting skill). The ghoul is fighting back, and it rolls a Regular success on its Fighting skill. Susan has achieved a better level of success and so her maneuver is successful—she shoves the ghoul through the window.
A character outnumbered by the opposition is at a disadvantage. Once a character has either fought back or dodged in the present combat round, all subsequent melee attacks on them (in the same round) are made with one bonus die. This does not apply to attacks made using firearms.
Example: the ghoul has 3 attacks, whereas Susan has just 1. On the ghoul’s first attack roll, Susan gets to fight back or dodge and the combat is normal. But, on the ghoul’s second and third attacks, it gets a bonus die to each of these attacks, as Susan is effectively outnumbered.
In another situation, Billy is facing two cultists alone, so he is outnumbered. The first cultist’s attack against Billy is normal, but the second cultist receives a bonus die when attacking.