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Each combat is carried out in seven steps, as follows.

STEP 1: flAT-fOOTEdnESS

Unless a character intentionally enters a combat after it begins, he begins the fight flat-footed (see page 342).

STEP 2: BASE EnCOunTER dISTAnCE

The base distance between two or more groups is determined by their location and the current visibility, as shown on Table: Base Encounter Distance.

STEP 3: InITIATIvE CHECkS

Each time a character enters any combat for the first time (whether he entered the combat intentionally or not), he makes an Initiative check by rolling 1d20 and adding his Initiative bonus (see page 60). The result is the character’s Initiative Count. A character cannot score a threat or error with an Initiative check. The GC may either make one Initiative check for all opponents, or separate the opponents into two or more groups and make an Initiative check for each. The first option makes things Run faster, but it can unbalance combat — especially if the opponents’ Initiative Count is particularly high or low.

Special Note: Action Dice may only be spent to boost an Initiative check; a character’s Initiative Count may not be boosted with Action Dice once combat begins.

STEP 4: SuRPRISE ROund

Each combat begins either with no involved groups aware of each other, or some groups aware of each other, or all groups aware of each other, with the following effects.

 Table: Base Encounter Distance
CircumstanceBase Encounter Distance*
Location
Indoors Line of sight
Aquatic, plains, or desert 6d6 × 20 ft.
Arctic, forest, or outdoor urban 4d6 × 10 ft.
Jungle or swamp 2d6 × 10 ft.
Mountains or underwater 6d6 × 5 ft.
* The base encounter distance may not exceed the highest visual and hearing ranges in all groups. If it does, then the base encounter distance is automatically reduced to the highest visual or hearing range of any character in any group

nO GROuPS AwARE Of EACH OTHER

In this type of encounter, two or more opponent groups happen upon one another unexpectedly, offering the group that reacts first a chance to get the drop on everyone else. Each group makes an opposed team Blend/Stealth or Sneak/Hide check, as appropriate, applying all modifiers listed in the relevant skill check description. Each member of the group with the highest result may take 1 free action, 1 half action, or 1 full action during a surprise round.

SOME GROuPS AwARE Of EACH OTHER

In this type of encounter, one or more groups have prepared an ambush for their opponents, or happened into a situation that might be manipulated to their advantage. Any group trying to conceal its presence or a sudden action is referred to as an acting group.

Each group makes an opposed team Blend/Stealth or Sneak/Hide check, as appropriate, applying all modifiers listed in the relevant skill check description. If the acting group wins this opposed skill check, each of its members may take 1 free action, 1 half action, or 1 full action during a surprise round; otherwise, no surprise round occurs.

All GROuPS AwARE Of EACH OTHER

In this type of encounter, all groups begin in full view or with full knowledge of their opponents’ locations or intentions, and may react accordingly. No surprise round is possible.

PARTIAl GROuP AwAREnESS

In some cases, the GC may determine that only some characters may participate in their groups’ surprise round skill check. Any characters who do not make the check may not benefit from surprise round actions.

RunnInG A SuRPRISE ROund

Surprise round actions occur in Initiative order (beginning from the eligible character with the highest Initiative Count and ending with the eligible character with the lowest Initiative Count). A full action gained during a surprise round may not be split into 2 half actions, nor any character take more than 1 free action during a surprise round.

STEP 5: COMBAT ROund

During each 6-second combat round, each character may take either 1 full action or 2 half actions. These actions occur in Initiative order, beginning with the character who has the highest Initiative Count and ending with the character who has the lowest Initiative Count. When two or more characters’ Initiative Counts are equal, the character with the highest Initiative bonus acts first. If both characters’ Initiative bonuses are the same as well, the characters each roll 1d20 and the character with the highest result acts first (re-rolling ties).

Additionally, each character who doesn’t take any other move action during the round may take 1 bonus 5-ft. step during his Initiative Count.

Finally, each character may take any number of free actions during his Initiative Count, until the GC determines that he’s reached his free action limit. A free action is any activity that doesn’t affect the character’s ability to take 2 half actions or 1 full action during the same round. A typical free action can easily be performed simultaneously with another action (e.g. talking), or may be accomplished nearly by reflex (e.g. waving a hand at a motion sensor to open an automatic door). Each character’s free action limit is arbitrary and entirely subject to the GC’s view of the current round. For a list of standard combat actions, see page 352. Most characters may also take a variety of other actions using skills, class and feat abilities, and other character options and rules. Unless otherwise specified, a character may divide 1 full action skill check into 2 half actions, taking one as his last action during a round and the other as his first action during the following round. All skill check and associated rolls are made when the check is resolved. This option is not available with attack checks, which must be completed during the round they begin.

Likewise, unless otherwise specified, a character may combine 2 half actions gained from different sources to take 1 full action. All restrictions placed on either or both half actions apply to the resulting full action (e.g. if Surge of Speed is combined with another half action to take a full action, that full action may not be an attack). Special Note: Occasionally, an option or rule allows a character to take an action at a time other than his Initiative Count. In these cases, the character may only take the action specifically prompted — he may not take any other action at the same time.

Another Special Note: Many character options and other game effects reduce the time it takes to perform an action. Unless otherwise specified, no action’s required time may be reduced by more than 1 character option or game effect at a time.

STEP 6: fluId InITIATIvE MOdIfIERS

Some actions modify a character’s Initiative Count, allowing him to act before or after other characters during later rounds. This adds an extra layer of strategy to each combat, giving each character greater control over the timing of his actions. At the end of each combat round, each character’s Initiative Count is modified as shown on Table: Fluid Initiative Modifiers, to a maximum increase of +10 or a maximum decrease of –10 during any single combat round (including the effects of all abilities, feats, and other applicable effects, as well as actions taken during the current round). The single exception to this rule is the Press action.

If a character’s Initiative Count ever rises to 50 or more, his first action during the following combat round must be a Press action. If a character’s Initiative Count ever drops to 0 or less, three things happen, in the following order.

  1. The character is sent reeling (see page 342).
  2. The character becomes flat-footed (see page 342).
  3. The character’s Initiative Count increases by 20, or to 1 (whichever is higher).

Unless otherwise specified, each fluid initiative modifier may be applied more than once per combat round.

A character may not refuse a fluid initiative modifier, even if it forces him to take a Press action or sends him reeling.

Index Cards: Some people find it frustrating that fluid initiative changes the order of combat from round to round, but this is its primary Strength, a way for tacticians to benefit from personal strategy. We recommend the use of index cards to track fluid initiative — simply track each combatant’s Initiative Count on a separate card and reorder them at the start of each round.

 Table: Fluid Initiative Modifiers
EventCount Modifier
Actions
Aim +1
Brace +1
Regroup +5 (+ Int modifier)

Attacks and Movement
Moving character’s Speed is reduced by terrain (see page XX) –2  
Character fires a tactical weapon –2
Character uses a weapon for which he does not possess the appropriate proficiency –4*
Character takes 1 or more final attacks –2 per attack
Character suffers 1 or more critical misses or failures –2 per Action Die spent
Character scores a Triumph +10

Conditions†
Character bleeding –1 per round
Character fatigued during the current round –3
Character exhausted during the current round –10
Character suffers a critical injury –10

Injuries
Character loses 1 or more wounds –2**
Character suffers a critical hit (and loses 1 or more wounds) –5**
Character suffers 1 or more points of electrical damage Special (see page XX)

Saving Throws
Character fails any saving throw –2
Character fails a saving throw to avoid gaining a stress condition –5
Character fails a saving throw to reduce blast damage –5
* This modifier is applied only once for each applicable weapon the character uses during each combat round, regardless of how many times he uses the weapon.
** These modifiers do not stack when they apply to the same injury (i.e. a critical hit that inflicts 1 or more wounds reduces the character’s Initiative Count by only 5, not 7).
† These modifiers apply even if the triggering combat condition ends during the same round. Each condition modifier may apply only once during each round, however

STEP 7: REPEAT STEPS 5 And 6

The second and subsequent combat rounds operate just like the first, except that the combatants act in revised Initiative order, after applying all fluid initiative modifiers from the previous round. Combat continues until the GC is satisfied that the current conflict is resolved.