Combat Rules

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Fantasy worlds are full of ravenous monsters that hunger for flesh, slumbering guardians of ancient tombs, or ambitious warriors seeking wealth, fame, or power. When your characters inevitably run into them, a fight is almost certain to break out. While Legend does not have as strong an emphasis on killing things to take their stuff as some other RPGs, there are other reasons you may want to do so. The rules in this chapter explore the ins and outs of your options in battle, including how to attack, how to move, and how various actions and effects interact with one another.

The Combat Round

Combat takes place over a series of rounds, in which each creature acts on its turn (“initiative”).


Initiative determines when each character in a combat encounter is able to act. At the beginning of a combat encounter, each player rolls an initiative check for characters under their control, and the GM rolls initiative for all creatures not under the players' control. From that point onward, each creature in the encounter acts on its initiative count – the numerical result of the initiative check, ordered from highest result first.

Rolling Initiative

An initiative check is 1d20 + a creature’s Dexterity modifier + all other applicable modifiers. Ties are broken first by a creature’s total modifier, then by a creature’s Dexterity modifier, then by a reroll.

Generally, a GM rolls initiative for enemies as a group; however, if enemies have dramatically different initiative modifiers (such as a shaman directing a small horde of zombies) the GM may choose to roll initiative for different groups of enemies.

Results of Initiatve

Once there is an initiative result for all creatures in the encounter, the results are ordered from highest to lowest. Each creature may act on its initiative count every [Round] for the duration of the [Encounter], unless [Helpless] or [Dead]. Any creature who has not yet acted in the first [Round] of the [Encounter] is [Flat-footed].


A creature can delay its initiative count. Doing so means that the creature can take its turn on any subsequent initiative count, including earlier initiative counts in a following [Round]. A creature who delays its initiative count changes its initiative count to the one on which it acts next.

Surprise Round

If every creature on one side of the encounter is unaware of the other sides of the encounter, all creatures who are aware of their enemies can act in a special surprise [Round]. All participants in the surprise [Round] can take either a single standard action or a single move action, as well as a single swift or immediate action.


There are five types of actions. A creature may take one of each of the following actions on their turn:

  • a standard action
  • a move action
  • a swift action
  • up to five free actions

Additionally, a creature may take an immediate action even when it's not their turn exchanging it for a swift action from either their last most recent turn or their upcoming turn. Certain abilities and effects can grant additional actions, but regardless a creature can take no more than a total of three swift and immediate actions per [Round].

Standard Action

A standard action allows you to attack, cast a spell, or use any ability that requires a standard action to activate (such as a sage's Black Tidings).

Attack Action

As a standard action, you may make all attacks you are entitled to, including iterative attacks from having a high Base Attack Bonus and [Bonus attacks].

Critical Hits

When making an attack roll, if the result of your die roll without any modifiers is within your critical threat range (normally a natural 20) and the final result of your attack roll is a hit, you score a critical hit. A critical hit deals additional damage equal to twice your character level.

Move Action

A move action allows you to move up to your movement speed or to use an ability that requires a move action to activate.You can only use one movement mode in any given move action. Many abilities and other tasks can be performed as part of a move action.

Free Action

Free actions consume a very small amount of time and effort. You can perform one or more free actions while taking another action normally, but cannot take more than five free actions in a [Round]].

Swift Action

A swift action consumes a very small amount of time, but represents a larger expenditure of effort and energy than a free action. You can perform only a single swift action per turn, but you can perform it at any time during your turn, even during another action.

Immediate Action

Immediate actions can be taken at any time during a [Round], even when it is not your turn. Once per [Round], you may take an immediate action at any time. This immediate action cannot be taken unless you forgo taking a swift action. If you take this immediate action during your turn you forgo taking a swift action for that turn. If you take this immediate action when it is not your turn you forgo taking a swift action during your next turn. Abilities and effects that grant additional immediate actions do not require you to forgo a swift action unless otherwise stated.

Partial Action

Some skills and abilities can be used "as part of" another action, meaning that you can activate that skill or ability at the same time as using that action for another ability. You cannot activate more than one additional ability per action in this way. You can spend an action to do nothing in order to use a partial action as part of it. Using an ability or skill as part of a move action halves your movement speed for that move action.

Other Actions

A number of actions can reasonably be taken in combat, but do not fall under a specific ability description. The action costs involved are given in the attacks of opportunity table, along with how these actions interact with attacks of opportunity.

Talking is a non-action that can be performed whenever appropriate or allowed by the GM. Groups should come to a consensus on when and how much talking is allowed during combat and other time-pressured or stressful situations.


A Developer Note on Scene and Quest Durations: It is worth noting that we include two somewhat variable durations, one of which requires a particularly careful explanation.

The first and the simpler of the two is the "Quest" duration. These effects last for the duration of the current mission or adventure the players are engaged in. In general, these are buffs that are actually bought and paid for, and often take forms that are a little unusual.

For example, if you are infiltrating an enemy capital to rescue your employer's daughter, you might buy Limited Diplomatic Immunity from a friendly embassy for the duration of that quest, but only that quest. If you wander off to hunt a dragon, discover that it's a mayor of a nearby town, and murder it brutally in the night, your Diplomatic Immunity isn't going to apply, or at least won't be useful in protecting you from the angry mob.

Quest-long buffs let Game Masters offer substantial non-repeatable aid as part and parcel of the economy, allow you to perform crazed shamanic rituals or even give us a way of talking about what it means to wrest the reins from Mother Nature and control the weather over aforementioned capital city. More importantly, it gives a clear and natural mechanic for delineating when these powerful effects expire.

The other mechanic is somewhat less cut-and-dry. It’s no less important, but it hinges on a deep agreement between players and GM, which is something we expect but try not to trade on where we can avoid it. So that we can avoid some of the book-keeping found in other d20-based systems, we developed the Scene duration, which is roughly comparable to the hours/level duration in the SRD rules.

Scene-long effects last  for roughly 3 to 5 encounters, or until the GM feels the narrative has shifted gears from one "scene" to another. This has the distinct advantage of giving magic a much more dynamic feeling, by adding a sense that in the same way that armor must be maintained regularly based on the amount of wear, protective magic likewise degrades based on the way it is used. While we could codify this as amounts, one big movement in the Legend system was a decrease in book-keeping without a decrease in the reliability of the rules. Scene duration forms a compromise here, and we must again emphasize the intended minimum durations for Scene-long effects.

Duration in Legend applies to measuring the duration and cooldown of any given effect. An effect can have any of the following durations and any of the following cooldowns.


A turn is a small subset of a [Round], when a given character gets to spend their actions. Aside from immediate actions, you usually cannot act when it is not your turn.


A duration of [Round] measures from the initiative count when that effect was activated to the same initiative count in the following round. A [Round] lasts 6 seconds.

An effect may last multiple [Rounds]. If so, measure from initiative count to initiative count in the same way, and continue until the correct number of [Rounds] has passed.


A duration of [Encounter] lasts until the specific challenge or threat that the player characters are facing has been overcome, neutralized, or escaped.


A duration of [Scene] generally lasts at least three encounters, or until the party takes a two- to four-hour break, whichever is more convenient and reasonable.

Between [Scenes], characters can change the magic items they are presently using, if they have extra magic items beyond the maximum number of items they can use (see Items and Characters).

Since per-[Scene] abilities, such as spell slots, refresh between [Scenes], a series of encounters that rely on resource attrition should generally all occur in the same [Scene]. For example, if the players characters' camp is harassed all through the night, the [Scene] of the previous day’s battles should end, with the player characters able to momentarily eat, relax, and refresh their abilities, with the new [Scene] being the midnight ambush that hurls them back into life-or-death combat. Of course, as noted in the sidebar, a single [Scene] should not last more than five encounters.


An effect that lasts throughout one entire arc of the plot, but is in effect primarily while that arc is being pursued directly. Any variation on this will be described in the text that explains the effect or bonus in question.


Legend expresses distance in terms of feet and squares. Each square is 5 ft long. When measuring distances on a diagonal angle across a square grid, count distances diagonally across as 1.5 squares.


When expressing the range of abilities, Legend uses increments that scale based on the creature using any given ability. Thus, point-blank range for a hand crossbow is different for an experienced ranger (a dead-eye shot if there ever was one) than it is for a first-level rogue who is still learning to put bolts on target – and a high-level paladin dominates a large section of a battlefield with only his melee attacks.

There are 5 range categories in Legend by default. It is possible to use an ability that requires an attack roll and has a range category higher than [Melee] at a range category one higher than normal, but doing so imposes a -4 penalty on that attack roll. Some feats and items also allow characters to make attacks at one or more range categories higher than normal. Any effect that reaches a range category automatically reaches any lower range category, so an effect with [Long] range also is capable of targeting within [Medium], [Close], and [Melee] range.

Range categories are expressed using feet, but can be converted to meters in the same way that distance is.

Melee range

[Melee] range defaults to 5 ft + 5 ft per 5 levels (up to 25 ft at level 20). Weapons with the [Reach] property add 5 ft to the wielder’s [Melee] range, and [Melee] range increases by 5 ft for every size category above [Average] (so a [Large] [Giant] with 4 levels would have a [Melee] range of 10 ft).

Close range

[Close] range covers attacks with short-ranged weapons, such as hand crossbows, pistols, and many ray spells. [Close] range reaches up to 25 ft + 5 ft per 2 levels (up to 75 ft at level 20).

Medium range

[Medium] range covers attacks with bows, short-ranged firearms, and many spells that affect small areas. [Medium] range reaches up to 100 ft + 10 ft per level (up to 300 ft at level 20).

Long range

[Long] range covers attacks with advanced firearms, magically enhanced bows, and short-range magical artillery. [Long] range reaches up to 400 ft + 40 ft per level (up to 1200 ft at level 20).

Extreme range

[Extreme] range covers attacks with highly advanced ranged weapons and magitech artillery. [Extreme] range reaches up to 1,000 ft + 100 ft per level (up to 3000 ft at level 20). Due to the relatively low levels of technology (comparatively speaking) in Legend, the game does not (by default) assume engagement ranges longer than [Extreme] range.

Engagements at [Extreme] range are relatively rare due to the difficulty of targeting at such ranges. Specifically, whenever an attack or ability targets at [Extreme] range, it has a one-[Round] travel time before it takes effect. Whenever an attack or ability targets something other than a square at [Extreme] range, note the square that thing occupies. When that attack or ability takes effect, if the thing it targeted does not occupy that space anymore, the action taken and resources used (such as spell slots) for that attack or ability are used with no effect. Longer ranges can be implemented at a GM’s discretion.

Tactical Movement

Difficult Terrain

Some terrain (such as a drawbridge littered with bodies, or an overgrown forest floor) is more difficult to move through. Moving out of a square of difficult terrain costs you twice as much movement as normal. (Moving diagonally out of difficult terrain when using a grid costs 15ft of movement for every square).

5 ft Step

A 5 ft step allows you to adjust your position by a single square without provoking an attack of opportunity, and does not cost an action. So long as you do not spend a move action on moving during your turn, you can take a single 5 ft step anytime you would normally be able to take a move action. If you gain additional 5 ft steps from another source, you can make them regardless of how you use your move actions.

Occupying and Sharing Squares

A square is occupied if it contains a creature, a mount, or an impassable obstacle. A creature normally occupies one square at a time. You may not share a square occupied by an impassable obstacle (such as a thick castle wall). If you would move or be moved into an obstacle or square occupied by an impassable obstacle, you remain in your last unoccupied square(s) instead. If that still somehow ends with you in a square occupied by an impassable obstacle, you appear in a square of the GM’s choice. Players beware.

You may enter or end movement in a square occupied by a mount with no occupants. However, you may not enter an opponent's square or end movement in any square occupied by another creature. If you somehow start your turn in another creature’s occupied square, then you are immediately displaced to your choice of an adjacent unoccupied square that is not blocked by an obstacle, if such a square is available. This does not provoke attacks of opportunity. If there are no such available squares, or if you somehow find yourself in a creature’s occupied square during your turn, you may move through, and end movement in, squares occupied by that creature until you are no longer sharing that creature's occupied squares. This movement provokes attacks of opportunity as normal.

Special Movement Modes

Some creatures possess one or more special movement modes, detailed below. The creature's movement speed is unchanged, but in many cases the creature may avoid or ignore some obstacles to movement. Special movement modes obviously cannot be used in the absence of their relevant medium (solid ground for Burrow or liquid for Swim, for example).

If a creature who already has a movement mode would gain the same movement mode from an ability or effect, the creature gains a +10 ft bonus to its movement speed instead for as long as the creature would possess that movement mode from that ability or effect. Once per [Round], a creature may do one of the following, which provokes attacks of opportunity:

  • As a free action, gain or lose one of the following conditions if the creature possesses the corresponding movement mode:
    • [Flying] if it possesses the Fly movement mode;
    • [Swimming] if it possesses the Swim movement mode;
    • or [Burrowing] if it possesses the Burrow movement mode.
  • Gain or lose the [Soaring] condition as an action specified by an item or effect granting the creature the Soar movement mode. A creature that loses the [Soaring] condition this way may choose to gain the [Flying] condition if it possesses the Fly movement mode.

A creature that gains one of the following conditions loses each other of the following conditions: [Burrowing], [Flying], [Soaring], [Swimming].


Creatures that have the Fly movement mode are not always considered [Flying]. As long as a non-[Burrowing] creature has the Fly movement mode, it has [Immunity] to [Ground] effects. As long as a non-[Burrowing] rider of a mount has the Fly movement mode, the mount's occupants have [Immunity] to [Ground] effects.


While most creatures swim using the Athletics skill, creatures with the Swim movement mode can move through liquid at their full movement speed without requiring skill checks. Creatures with the Swim movement mode are not at risk of suffocation while [Swimming]. The occupants of a mount whose rider has the Swim movement mode are not at risk of suffocation while [Swimming].


Creatures with the Burrow movement mode can rapidly dig shallow tunnels from earth, sediment and weak stone that collapse behind them.


A small number of items and effects allow creatures to ascend to, and independently maintain flight at, the sorts of extremely high altitudes that prevent one creature from interacting with another.

See Also