Claustrophobia! – Combat Revisited

Claustrophobia! is a light role-playing game about gnomes on a suicidal mission to the Earth’s Core. Today I’m offering you a re-worked combat system. It’s lighter than the previous version (which was already pretty light), but this one has the benefit of actual play testing. Please have a look and let me know what you think.

A Garden Gnome ready for battle. You can tell it’s not a dwarf by the shoes, apparently.

Combat – Version 2

Design Goals: a simple combat system that emphasizes story telling and is fun to play.

Combat is worked out in a number of rounds, wherein each team of combatants take their actions at the same time. A team can be as small as one person (or gnome) and as big as the largest militia of foot-dragging zombies. Each round follows the same steps:

  1. Determine Advantage
  2. Attack
  3. Determine Hits
  4. Deal Damage

Determine Advantage

Determining which team has the greatest advantage can be done in two ways. Either by simply deciding who has the upper hand, taking into account all the factors that may affect the round. Otherwise you can add up scores as provided in the list below. Whoever has the highest score has the advantage and gets a +1 to one of their die rolls in the attack for that round. Note that the values given are only a hint for the Doom Master (DM), who should alter the values as he sees fit. For example, some defensive positions are more defensive than others.

  • High Ground: +1
  • Outnumbering Opponent: +1 for 2:1, +2 for 3:1, +3 for 4:1 etc.
  • The Element of Surprise: +3
  • Loud and Noisy: +1 (Such as with using flash-bang grenades.)
  • Defensive Position: +2
The Element of Surprise
Always helpful in a fight. That and HCl.

Making an Attack

Next choose an attribute for your attack (Physical, Mental or Social). Your opponent does the same and in secret (using small pieces of paper or cards works well for this). Mental attacks could be magical or “brain over brawn” tactics, while Social attacks could be taunting or smooth talking used to change the flow of combat in your favor. Everyone then reveals their card and describes what they’re attempting to do, ending with the DM. Now both teams roll the dice corresponding to their chosen attribute. You can use gear as explained below to modify the results. Teams pool all their dice and modifiers from gear together to make one attack, even if this roll comes from various attributes. The DM should modify his roll first, followed by the players in reaction to the DM.


Determine Hits

Whichever team gets the most successes scores the difference in hits against the enemy. The winning team describes how they succeed in their attack, moving around the table if it is the players who one the combat. Note that any ones rolled which are left unmodified are wounds taken by that team. Distribute the removal of dice equally from all those who took part in the combat on that team. This represents attrition and the dangerous nature of combat.


Deal Damage

Remove one die from your enemies dice pool for every hit you score. Monsters have a dice pool too, which is the sum of their stats. Any damage done to a monster or NPC is divided randomly between those stats that have values in them above 0. Once a monster or NPC reaches 0 on all their stats they die. If a gnome runs out of dice, she dies.


Example: Narfumble is fighting a Lava Worm. He rolls two dice to hit against the Lava Worm’s pool of three dice. He rolls a 5 and 6. The Lava Worm rolls a 1, 3 and a 6. Narfumble has scored a hit (two successes versus one success) and the Lava Worm takes one wound. Narfumble decides to go for the kill and rolls 3 dice to wound against the Worms 1 die. The Worm rolls a 4, one success, and Narfumble rolls a 2, 4 and 5. Two successes are more than enough for Narfumble to dispatch the Lava Worm. Victory for the gnomes!



Gnomes regain 1 dice for every hour of rest they take while the HMS Keeton is docked and if they are taking complete rest, which is to say you cannot heal while playing video games, but watching TV is fine.


Gear in Combat

Gear can be used in combat, giving a +1 to a single die roll per round if you can give an appropriate reason for using it.

Example: A ninja gnome is fighting against a zombiefied pink flamingo. His katana gives him a +1 that he can use each round to modify ones to twos or threes to fours.


Additional Rules

Some great rules have been suggested on the 1km1kt forum and in the original blog post comments, all of which will be in the Beta version, due for release shortly. The additional rules make combat all the more dynamic and give players more options than just counting dice, so have a look at those previous links. The plan is to release a couple of new monsters next week and then the Beta version the week after. Don’t forget that you can get your copy of the Alpha version of the rules, free, here. If you’re interested in joining the Beta test please send me your e-mail address, with your name, via the contact form. Your e-mail address won’t be sold or used for anything other than Claustrophobia! related communications and marketing.


2 thoughts on “Claustrophobia! – Combat Revisited”

  1. In reading through the rules, one thing I didn’t like was not having stats for a PC gnome. I understand your idea of using role-playing to judge how many dice to roll, but I think a simple stats system could make it easier to judge how to roll something.

    So your “Gnome Adventurer” has 7 total between his three spheres (Phys-2 Ment-3 Soc-2). You could use 7 has the base total of a gnome, and the player distributes these how they like, minimum 1 in each sphere. Keep the base of 20 dice for Insanity/Health tracking, but only allow skill rolls to use dice up to a character’s max in a particular sphere. I could see this allowing the game to stretch into a few sessions, with maybe even a few levels being rewarded in the form of an added point to a stat. It would also mean that gnomes have to work together to beat a tougher enemy, since individually they hardly stand a chance.

    Gnome Name: Talmadge
    Stats: Phys-3, Ment-3, Soc-1
    Background: “Trudging from garden to garden, Talmadge searched endlessly for his proper home. He would move-in next to a new bird-bath, only to find that he hated the neighborhood and the humans that constantly moved him around the garden. He can’t remember how long he’d been searching for his rightful place, but suffice it to say that the paint on his cap is from a time when lead-based paint was all the rage. After setting up shop in Mrs. Bettles yard though, he found her to be just as delightfully grumpy as he was. She yelled at nearly every neighborhood brat and salesman that got too close her yard, but has left Talmadge in the same spot for close to a decade. After all this time however, Talmadge feels that his sense of adventure is starting to itch at him again. He’s always been a nomad at heart, and as much as he likes it in Mrs. Bettles front yard, he’s decided to take the other gnomes up on their offer to join the maiden voyage of the HMS Keeton.”

    So Talmadge is a pretty balanced hitter and thinker, but he’d make an awful captain, and an even worse negotiator when you got to a trading port.

    Just my thoughts. I love the sounds of this game, and I look forward to a break at work so I can hammer out an encounter.

    1. Good thinking Nick. I’ve been thinking along similar lines for the Beta. I’m going to keep dice as representing Hit Points (HP) and all monsters will have an HP entry now too. I’ve also got a basic character sheet worked out for the characters. Without the character sheet the game becomes too random and unconstrained, which I had thought was a good thing. Turns out that rules are important :-).

      I was wondering if players would want to spend points to increase their HP. While it is another option during character creation, it doesn’t really translate into option during play. Sure, you can last longer, but your skills are adversely affected.

      Using a character sheet also means I can include a leveling up mechanic. Leveling has always been one of the main in-game rewards in an RPG and the first version totally ignored that. I’m thinking something simple, where you add a point to one sphere after a number of encounters or challenges have been faced.

      I’d love to hear about your encounter ideas, let me know when you’ve got something.

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