FS3.3 - Running Combats

This help file is aimed at people who are organizing FS3 Combat scenarios. Typically this will be staff, but with FS3 anyone can run a combat.

Joining People to Combat

The organizer can force other people (PCs or NPCs) to join the combat. For example: combat/join Marine1 Marine2=123. Often this is faster/simpler than paging a bunch of people with the combat number and expecting them to do it.

A game can define some custom combatant types to use when joining combat. This is handy for games with robots, bug-eyed monsters, space marines in full body armor, or other non-human combatants. A custom combatant type will automatically set weapons, armor and vehicle type when you join someone to the combat. For example: combat/join Cylon1 Cylon2=123/Centurion.

Ignoring Combat Results

The most important rule when running combats is to know when to ignore the rules. Code is no substitute for common sense.

Code cannot possibly accommodate every possible scenario. If a bound prisoner has a gun to their head and is being shot execution-style, just remove them from combat. Don’t force an attack roll, or a damage roll. Just get rid of them. If the combat results say that you’re hit in the leg but you’re buried hip-deep in sand, just ignore it and pretend it hit somewhere else.


The second most important rule when running combat is to keep thing moving. Players get bored quickly.

A hallmark of FS3 combat is that the system spits out all the results at once, so everyone is reacting to the same thing. This allows players to pose in parallel rather than enforcing pose order.

As the organizer, the combat system will notify you when everyone has posed and entered their actions into the system. You can check the combat/slackers command to see who’s snoozing. You can then choose to poke them, enter an action on their behalf, or simply skip over them.

NPCs in Combat

Combat is designed to handle PCs and NPC opponents. NPCs exist only as long as they are in combat, and their damage is wiped as soon as they leave. For important/permanent NPCs, it is suggested that you actually create a player for them like a PC and give them some skills.

NPCs are assigned a broad ability level that gives them a pack of skills. The skill levels vary, but here are some rough guides:

NPC Level Abilities
Goon 4
Henchman 6
Boss 8

Someone must be responsible for posing for the NPC and entering their actions into the combat system. This could be the organizer, another player who’s PC is involved in the combat, or just someone who’s there solely to run that particular NPC.

NPCs and PCs are treated fundamentally the same in combat. You target a NPC just by using his name, and there are versions of every combat command that allow you to specify a NPC as the actor.

All combat commands can take a NPC name and equal sign in front to control a NPC. For instance, combat/pass MyNPC= or combat/attack MyNPC=Target. Most of them also support multiple names, e.g. combat/attack A B=C.

KO’d NPCs are immediately removed from the combat. They cannot be treated, rallied, or revived with a hero roll.

Teams and Targets

Teams are a convenient way of organizing combatants into smaller groups when they split up. PCs are automatically assigned to Team 1 and NPCs to Team 2. Use combat/team <name>=<team> to switch teams.

PCs pick their targets when they aim or attack. NPCs do so automatically. By default, NPCs on Team 1 will aim at Team 2, Team 2 will aim at Team 1, and NPCs on other teams will aim at anyone not on their team. You can assign specific team targets with the combat/target command. For example, you could use this to make Team 3 only select targets from Team 4.


Organizers may apply situational modifiers to characters based on things like darkness, rain, or what-have-you. A modifier is just like a skill roll modifier - a +/- number of dice. Damage modifiers are factored in automatically. Use combat/attackmod <char>=<modifier>. There’s also a defensemod and lethalmod command to apply damage or defense mods.

Special Combat Situations

Mock Combat

Combat can be designated as ‘mock’ or ‘real’. Mock combat represents training, sparring, paintball wars, etc. Damage from a mock combat is erased as soon as the combat is over. Use combat/start mock to start a mock combat.


If a character is caught unawares, they shouldn’t get an attack and should have a negative modifier to defense. You can simulate this by making them take the pass action and taking the reckless stance.

Booby Traps and Unmanned Vehicles

You may have a situation where there is an “unmanned” attacker or defender, be it a booby trapped grenade or an empty vehicle. The combat system doesn’t handle these situations, so you have two choices:

  1. Just RP it. Have folks make some appropriate rolls and wing it. You can even manually inflict the damage using damage/inflict if it’s important that it be in the combat system.
  2. Put in a dummy NPC to reflect the thing… like a dummy soldier with a grenade to represent a booby trap.


FS3 assumes that everything is happening at sort of close-ish range where there are no special modifiers for distance. It will usually be obvious from the context of the scene whether someone is close enough to engage in melee combat.

Organizers can also use teams to group combatants according to location if they need help keeping track of who’s where. For example: Team 1 is on the hill, Team 2 is at the edge of the village, etc.

Balancing Combat

Lopsided combats are generally not much fun for either side, and sometimes may be downright detrimental to the theme/plot. As an organizer, it is important for you to balance the skills of PCs and NPCs to ensure a reasonably fair fight. You should also check to make sure everyone has the proper gear and stance setup. You can use the NPC command to adjust NPC skill levels.

Another way to balance combat is to simply apply a modifier. Badguys kicking your players’ butts and you don’t want them to? Give a few of them a -3 modifier and watch the tables turn.

You can also give someone a lethality modifier, which applies to weapon damage taken. This is a percentage, just like the weapon’s lethality rating. So if you really want to take someone out, set them up with a huge lethality modifier.

Just as a gamemaster in a tabletop game sometimes rolls behind a screen and ignores the results to further the plot, MUSH Storytellers should be allowed the same flexibility. These commands let you “stack the deck” for dramatic effect. It is up to you to use them responsibly.