Combat uses the core dice pool mechanic for attack rolls.

Combat Sequence

  1. Make attribute checks – if appropriate – for access to the ambush turn. Those who succeed take one action; all actions in the ambush turn occur simultaneously.

  2. Everyone rolls INITIATIVE. This is simply an INTUITION check, although some characters may get bonuses from skills such as tactics. On a tie, compare AGILITY, and if still tied, simply have each roll 1d6 and the highest wins.

  3. All combatants then act in order from highest INITIATIVE to lowest. Each character may take TWO actions unless otherwise noted; larger creatures may have more actions. An action is a move, an attack, or a regular action. You can move twice, or attack twice, or move and attack, or any other combination.  Creatures with 3 actions take two actions on their turn and one action on their INITIATIVE count -10. Those with 4 or more actions take two actions on their turn and one action every 5 INITIATVE counts later up to their total number of actions.

  4. Once everybody has acted, return to step 3 and repeat until the combat ends.

Actions & Turns

A turn represents a short but unspecified length of time measured in seconds. Most characters have two actions to use each turn, unless they have an ability which says otherwise, and some creatures have more. These actions can be spent to move, fight, or perform other tasks, and can be performed in any order. For example, a character might move and then fire his longbow, or vice versa.

Activity Actions

Move your speed

1 action

Fire a ranged weapon or make a melee attack

1 action

Perform emergency healing

2 actions

Reload or recharge a weapon or item

2 actions

Aim or feint

1 action

Cast a spell

2 actions

Draw or sheathe a weapon


Pick a lock (inc. opening the door) or disarm a trap

2 actions

Drop to prone or crouch


Stand from prone 1 action
Go into overwatch 1 action
Open an unlocked door or chest 1 action
Drop an item Free
Pick up an item 1 action
Perform a scan 1 action
Shake off a condition 1 action

Each character (unless otherwise noted gets) 2 actions, 1 free action, and 1 reaction per turn.

The Ambush Turn

Before a fight starts, individual combatants can attempt to get the jump on each other. In practical terms, that commonly involves one of two things: unexpectedly initiating combat, or ambushing an enemy from hiding. However, it can involve any participant-initiated strategy.

If nobody is attempting to ambush the other, or if all combatants encounter each other simultaneously and launch straight into combat, the ambush turn is skipped. Only use the ambush turn if one or more participants are deliberately trying to get the jump on the others. From a PC point of view, the ambush turn can only be accessed if the character in question specifically attempts to do so before combat begins; once everybody realises a fight is breaking out, the ambush turn is long past.

Anybody trying to gain access to the ambush turn needs to win an opposed attribute check against his intended target. This is usually an AGI (stealth) or CHA (bluff) combination, but the GM should allow any reasonable plan from a player. Situational factors are also important – if one side is aware of the other, but not vice versa, then only that side has opportunity to access the ambush turn.

When attempting to access the ambush turn, participants must declare their intended target and action. It is possible that various combatants in one encounter can ambush other combatants who are in turn ambushing still further participants – the ambush turn is a relative concept between the (hopeful) ambusher and the intended target only. Groups don't ambush each other; individual combatants ambush specific other individual combatants. However, if two combatants successfully ambush each other, neither gets access to the ambush turn.

In the ambush turn, all actions take place simultaneously. Those with access to the turn may take one single action.

Important Combat Actions

The actions in this section are available to all player characters and NPCs. You do not need to have access to any particular ability to use them (other than the aim and feint actions, which are exploits which every character gets one of for free).


A character can move up to her SPEED in squares. A diagonal square counts as 1 square but you cannot move diagonally round a 90-degree corner.

A character can also climb and jump to navigate scenery.

  • Climbing takes place at HALF SPEED; only one AGI check is needed per turn, at the most difficult part of the climb. A character's CLIMB SPEED is noted on his character sheet.

  • Jumping is “free” as part of the distance moved in a move action up as far as a character's horizontal and vertical jump scores, which are noted on his character sheet.

  • Difficult terrain halves ground movement rates.

  • If a character moves and takes an action, the action can take place at any point during that movement.

  • Falling causes 1d6 damage for every 10' fallen; this is not SOAKed. A fall results in the character falling prone unless they make an AGI check with a difficulty value equal to the number of feet fallen.

  • Using a non-primary movement mode such as climbing, swimming, or flying always requires an attribute check.  A non-primary movement mode is one which is not designated as natural or primary. A creature with a primary movement mode does not need to make attribute checks to do so, and simply moves its SPEED in the desgnated manner.



Spending attack dice is an important part of combat, and without it a character may find it difficult to do much damage. It is fundamental to the way that powerful or accurate attacks do a lot of damage or achieve special effects. The larger your dice pool, the more you have to spend on damage and effects.  Follow this process:

  1. Form your dice pool from attribute + skill + equipment up to your maximum dice pool.
  2. Adjust the dice pool for positional factors (cover, range, etc.)
  3. Choose how much of the final dice pool to spend on damage and effects. Add any bonuses or costs from exploits.
  4. You may add LUCK dice, which enables you to exceed your maximum dice pool.

Spending on damage.  Everybody can spend attack dice on damage; this allows you to choose between easier, less damaging attacks or more difficult, more damaging attacks. Before making an attack roll, spend two dice for each extra die of damage you wish to do. A base attack, with no dice spent on extra damage, will often be easy but have little effect.

Spending on effects. Your exploits tell you what effects you can spend attack dice on.

Remember, the maximum dice pool limit applies to the initial attribute + skills + equipment dice pool. Positions, exploits, and LUC can all exceed that limit once it has been formed.

Attacks take the form of ranged attacks or melee attacks. A ranged attack uses a bow, gun, thrown weapon, or other form of ranged weapon. A melee attack is either unarmed (punches, kicks, claws, bites, and the like) or uses a melee weapon such as a sword or club.

When you make an attack, choose one of the following options as long as (a) it makes sense, and (b) the target is not immune to that condition or action. You cannot, for example, disarm a tiger, trip a snake, or grab a hologram.

  • Make any attack normally and if you hit you inflict your normal damage.
  • Make an unarmed melee attack normally and if you hit you grab your target, giving it the Restrained condition. You must pay an additional 1d6 for each size category that the target is larger than you, and also if the target has more than two legs or has no legs. You can apply this condition twice to increase the level of the Restrained condition.
  • Make an unarmed melee attack or an attack with a small melee weapon normally and if you hit you escape a grab and remove the Restrained condition.

Additionally, you may pay 2d6 and spend two actions to make a Called Shot vs. VITAL DEFENSE and choose one of the following options:

  • Make a Called Shot with a melee or ranged attack and if you hit you move your target one square (plus up to one square for each size category by which you exceed the target in melee, or by which your weapon exceeds the target at range). You must pay an additional 1d6 for each size category that the target is larger than you, and also if the target has more than two legs or has no legs. The movement must be one which makes sense, and if it is a result of a blow or ranged attack, will always be a push away from you.
  • Make a Called Shot and if you hit you knock or trip your target prone. You must pay an additional 1d6 for each size category that the target is larger than you, and also if the target has more than two legs or has no legs.
  • Make a Called Shot and if you hit you disarm your opponent, giving it the Disarmed condition. This only applies to an oponent wielding a weapon.
  • Make a Called Shot and if you hit you disable your target, giving it the Slowed condition.
  • Make a Called Shot specific to that target as outlined in its stat-block.

Attack rolls are made as follows:

  • A melee attack is performed by rolling a STR or AGI check (attacker's choice unless otherwise noted) against the target's melee DEFENSE.

  • A ranged attack is performed by rolling an AGI or INT check (attacker's choice unless otherwise noted) against the target's RANGED DEFENSE. Longer ranges can reduce the number of dice rolled.

  • On a successful hit, the attacker rolls damage (in d6s) according to the weapon. Armor reduces this damage by its SOAK value. The resulting damage is deducted from the target's HEALTH.

  • Magical attacks work like other attacks (typically a MAG check against the target's DEFENSE or MENTAL DEFENSE) and do damage or have effects according to the spell's description.

  • Psionic attacks use a PSI check vs the target's DEFENSE or MENTAL DEFENSE.

  • Called shots, area attacks, poisons, and other attacks vs. a target's consitition are made vs the target's VITAL DEFENSE.


Damage is indicated as a dice range, and is deducted from the target's HEALTH.  SOAK reduces damage before it is applied to HEALTH.

  • Even if all damage is SOAKED, each 6 rolled for damage does 1 point of damage anyway.
  • If triple-sixes are rolled on the attack roll, a critical hit occurs.  Three sixes is always a hit, even if the roll would normally have missed. Creatures immune to a specific damage type do not suffer critical hits from that damage type.
Pay Exploits
Achilles heel
Arm lock
Blinding attack
Blind shot
Crippling strike
Death from on high
Double tap
Spinning kick
Whirlwind frenzy


Aiming or feinting, both of which are universal exploits cost one action, and grant +1d6 bonus to an attack roll taken in the same turn. The attack action must come immediately after the aiming or feinting action. All characters get either aim or feint for free.


Overwatch is a special type of action. When you choose to overwatch, you wait ready with a ranged weapon to fire on any targets which make themselves available. Usually this means targets which break cover and enter your line of sight.

You may only fire on a given target once during a turn when on overwatch, and may only fire when the target has zero cover. Your shot interrupts his turn at the earliest point possible.

The maximum number of targets you can fire upon during a turn when in overwatch is equal to your INTUITION attribute. Each subsequent target beyond the first takes a -1d6 penalty to hit.


Suppressive fire is the antidote to overwatch. It allows you to lay down fire in a particular area in order to “cover” an ally's exposed movement or action which would normally attract overwatch attacks.

Unlike most attack types, suppressive fire is not target-dependent. It depends on your ally. You designate a specific ally as the beneficiary of your suppressive fire; this benefit last until your ally's next turn has ended. During that turn, you ally's actions gain the benefit of COVER (see below), even when he or she is exposed. This means that your ally will automatically be immune to overwatch, and gains some protection from regular fire.

Some weapons, noted as “auto” in the equipment lists, are especially efficient at suppressive fire. These weapons gain your ally an additional 1d6 of cover.

Weapons with the Single trait cannot provide suppressive fire.


Combat in What's O.L.D. is N.E.W. is a highly positional, tactical affair. Using crossfires and avoiding getting pinned down or falling into the enemy’s crossfires, combatants move about the battlemap in an attempt to gain an advantage over their foes.

The five important positional effects are range, higher ground, cover, getting pinned down, and crossfires/flanks.


In ranged combat, every weapon has a range increment. Any ranged attack which exceeds that range increment suffers a -1d6 die penalty for each range increment beyond the first. Unless otherwise noted, weapons can only fire out to five range increments.


Combatants on higher ground than their targets gain a +1d6 bonus to attack them. Higher ground is defined as at least 5' for melee attacks or at least 10' for ranged attacks.


Cover is very important. Targets without cover are very vulnerable to enemy bowshots and spellcasting. A target in cover inflicts a -2d6 penalty to attack rolls made against him (although this can be alleviated by the “pinned down” rule, below).

It's important to distinguish between cover and a blocked line-of sight. A character cannot be completely immune to fire and simultaneously able to fire himself, and cannot be in a position where line of sight is completely blocked except for when he pops up to fire.

There are three positions which require a move action to switch between:

OPEN A character without the benefit of any cover is considered in the OPEN.

COVER If a character can fire on an enemy without expending a move action, he is IN COVER; line of sight is not blocked.

BLOCKED If a character must expend a move action in order to fire upon an enemy, line of sight is BLOCKED. The move action need not involve leaving the square, but it is important that the move action is needed to move to a firing position, and another one is needed to move back to the fully blocked position.


For every turn that you remain in the same square, opponents gain an additional die to ranged attacks against you. When you move, this gets reset back to zero again. However, you must move to a location at least 10' away from your original location, and returning to that location does not count as a “move” when determining whether you are pinned down. Some traditions, such as the sniper, are harder to pin down. You can also negate pinning with a successful AGI vs. INT check to hide from your aggressor.


In an exchange of ranged bowshot and spellfire, every soldier dreads being caught in a crossfire. Avoiding missiles from multiple directions is extremely difficult. A crossfire is also known as interlocking fire, as each bowman's arcs of fire mutually support one another.

A crossfire exists if two attackers are positioned at 90-degree or greater angles to each other with respect to the target. Each of the attackers beyond the first grants a cumulative +1d6 bonus to ranged attacks against that target (making a maximum bonus of +3d6 for four attackers).

A flank is the melee equivalent of a crossfire.  It requires two diametrically opposite attackers, and grants a maximum of +1d6 to melee attacks against the target.


Other things can affect an attack roll.

  • It is harder to shoot someone engaged in melee combat without endangering your ally. Such attacks take a -2d6 cover penalty, although some exploits can reduce this.
  • Similarly, in darkness or under cover of obscuring fog or smoke, a -2d6 cover penalty is inflicted.
  • A prone target is harder to hit at range (a penalty of -1d6) but easier to hit in melee (+2d6).

Called Shots

A Called Shot is a type of attack that any character can attempt. Any given combatant can only make one Called Shot in a turn.

A called shot is used to hit a particular location on a target - one of a hydra's many heads, the vampire's heart with the wooden stake, or the industrial robot's access port. The attacker must declare the called shot before making an attack roll.  The attempt costs 2d6 out of the attack pool.  If the attack hits, and does 25% or more of the target's HEALTH in damage, the target suffers an effect described in the creature's stat block.

Not all creatures have Called Shot locations available.  Those that do have an entry in their stat block explaining what the Called Shot does.