Today we talk about one of the most important aspects of Dark Souls – Combat. Maybe the hardest aspect to translate from the electronic game to a tabletop rpg, the combat in Dark souls is skill based. The better the player, the better the chances of the character surviving. So much in fact that there are players able to finish Dark Souls almost without leveling up their characters stats or equipment. But an rpg is made – normally – with random numbers and, if your character stats are bad, no matter how 'good' you understand one system, you will probably still die.
Although it is possible to try emulating skill through a game (for example, Chess is a game based entirely on a person's skill), the main objective here will be trying to translate the 'feel' of Dark Souls. In Dark Souls, you always feel like your way of playing and reacting affect the game – how could we do something similar in a tabletop rpg?
Thus I introduce the 'Defense Rolls'. There are 6 types of defense rolls, one for each main attribute:
. Strength defense: Pushing, Trampling, Smashing.
. Dexterity defense: Dodging, rolling, evading.
. Constitution defense: Resisting, interposing, absorbing attacks.
. Inteligence defense: Foretelling, Feinting, fe
. Wisdom defense: Perceiving, acting on instincts.
. Charisma defense: Intimidating, Luck.
Besides the Saving Throws values, a character would have also Defense values. If you are playing with a classic OSR class, every one of their defense rolls will start at 15 at first level and receive +1 after each even level (so, +1 at level 2, +2 at level 4 etc), and will also receive +1 if the attribute is 13-15, +2 if it is 16 or 17, and +3 if 18. If you are playing with the 'Chosen Undead' special class, then your Defense starts at 20+ and depends entirely on your improved attribute modifiers.
In a manner similar to Saving Throws, defense rolls are defensive maneuvers a character may use wherever it seems plausible for him do to so. Wherever a player receives damage, he may narrate how he would defend from it and roll against the appropriate defense value. If successful, the damage is halved and; if it is a failure, the damage received is doubled. If the damage source already needed a saving throw, then either it is not possible to make a defense roll, or the damage will be nullified if both actions are successful – the GM must decide.
For example, let's suppose your 2 nd level fighter is attacked by a giant rat that hits for 20 damage – enough to kill him at that moment. You then say that the fighter will push the rat back using strength in order to defend from it, but the GM that is not possible – the rat is too big for that. So, instead, the player says that he will try absorbing the attack and Defense roll with constitution. He has Con 14, which gives him a Constitution Defense of 13 (+1 being level 2, +1 constitution modifier). He rolls a 11 – a failure – so the damage is doubled and the character dies, reviving later in the bonfire.
In another time, the same fighter is attacked by a pyromancer's fireball, receiving 30 damage. The attack naturally allows for a saving throw, which the character succeeds, halving the damage to 15. However, he wants to negate the damage – so, he tries rolling. Sadly, the fighter fails and the damage goes back to 30 – killing him again.
And that is the idea with Defense Rolls: the characters are able to narrate how they would defend against an attack and may have some control over what happen to their character. And many different monsters will have different modifiers for each kind of defense, which will give some tactical density for the players to know what kind of monsters they are attacking. But I will explain that in future parts.