I’ve read the Vampire the Masquerade 5th Edition rules, and even begun typing a cheat sheet, but I’m still confused about the combat system. Mainly because they have no examples of how a whole combat plays out, just snippets of different rules in several different conflicts. So below is how my brother and I think it works, and the bits which still puzzle us. (It doesn’t help that ‘difficulty’ has a new meaning in VTM5e than it did in earlier versions of WoD). Could you please read the example below and say what is correct or is just plain wrong? Subsidiary questions are in italics below. (Let me know if this question covers too many things and should be broken up into chunks).

Side 1 are PCs: The vampires Juana and Aileen from the quickstart pregen characters. Juana has a Potence power which lets her do aggravated damage to humans. Aileen has a Celerity power which lets her add 1 dice to a Dex + Athletics defence roll, once per turn. (Note: Celerity does not give you extra actions like it did in earlier editions of VTM).

Side 2 are NPCs (SPCs): Thug 1, Thug 2, Thug 3. They are humans. I used the gangster template on p371 of the Core Rules.

Initiative order is the simple version from page 125 of the core rules.

  1. The side who have surprise.
  2. Close combat between already engaged parties.
  3. Ranged combat.
  4. Newly initiated physical combat.
  5. Everything else.

TURN ONE Situation… 3 thugs leap out of a darkened alleyway in an attempt to mug Juana and Aileen. The thugs have surprised the ladies.

Question 1: Is Turn 1 supposed to be a surprise round where the Thugs deal out damage and there is no opposed defence/attack roll by the PCs? Basically are the Thugs calculating damage on number of successes rolled minus the 1 success required for Difficulty 1 and the PCs don’t get to react until Turn 2? OR is it calculated on number of successes minus the 1 for Difficulty 1 surprise attack then also minus the successes rolled by the PCs?

GM asks what the PCs are doing… Juana will fight back. Aileen will defend and use a minor action to draw a knife. GM then says Thug 1 targets Juana, Thug 2 targets Aileen and Thug 3 moves to block the ladies’ escape route, waving a baseball bat threateningly.

Question 2: Is that right? The rules say the surprisers go first, but it also says the PCs declare who they are attacking before the NPCs do.

Assuming there is NO surprise round where the Thugs get a free attack… then the order of rolling dice is… pretty much everyone at once!

Thug 1’s attack and Juana’s attack resolve simultaneously. Juana’s action gets propelled up the initiative because her attacker goes in the surprise phase, and she is attacking back. The Thug (dice pool 5, difficulty 1 for surprise) rolls more successes than Juana (dice pool 6, difficulty 2 ???), so she gets punched and takes a tiny bit of superficial damage. She has lots of Health and doesn’t care!

Thug 2’s attack and Aileen’s defence resolve simultaneously. Reason as above. Aileen is dice pool 4 +1 for celerity – 2 for the minor action = 3 dice. Thug 2 (dice pool 5) gets more successes than Aileen and thumps her for some superficial damage. She doesn’t have as many Health as Juana, and does care!

Thug 3’s blocking move is not opposed by anyone and causes no damage.

So the advantage for the Surprisers side (the thugs), is not that they go first, but that they get to roll at Difficulty 1 (they only need 1 success to hit). Possibly?

Question 3: Are combat actions difficulty 2 (straightforward)? I can’t find anything that says yes or no. Hitting a stationary target is Difficulty 1 in the example table on p119. Or is the difficulty irrelevant and it just a straight comparison of who gets the most successes vs the Target Number? In which case what is that Difficulty 1 for surprise referring to?

TURN TWO GM asks what the PCs will do. Juana will boost her Strength with a Rouse The Blood check and will continue hand to hand combat with Thug 1 (she gets a Hunger die). Aileen will try to stab Thug 2.

The GM agrees Thug 1 & 2 continue to fight the ladies. Thug 3 joins in the fight as he’s seen Aileen’s knife and comes to his comrades’ assistance.

The order of rolling dice is… Thug 1 and Juana attack simultaneously again (with each other and also with Aileen vs Thug 2) as everyone is now in the ‘Close combat between already engaged parties’ category. Applying the tie breaker rules, then Juana’s Dex + Wits is higher than Aileen’s, so the fight she’s involved in will be resolved before Aileen’s scrap.

Thug 1 (dice pool 5) doesn’t get enough successes to beat Juana (now at dice pool 7). She doles out some aggravated damage to him.

Aileen is doing a knife attack this round so her Dex + Melee dice pool is 5 vs Thug 2’s dice pool 5. They both get the same number of successes (a tie). They both deal out damage based on a margin of success of 1. But Thug 2 does superficial damage (baseball bat vs vampire) and Aileen does aggravated damage (knife vs human).

Thug 3 goes last as he’s in the ‘newly initiated physical combat’ category. Aileen can have a defence roll against him. Her Dex + Athletics defence pool is 4 +1 for celerity, but -1 because this is her 2nd opponent this round. Total 4 dice vs his 5 dice pool. He gets a rubbish roll and does no damage.

Question 4: Is Aileen’s defence at -1 die correct? The rule book example quotes someone defending twice to be at -1 to their dice pool. But if Aileen’s earlier action was an attack, not a defence, does that mean she can wriggle out of the penalty?

TURN THREE GM asks what the PCs will do. Juana decides to split her dice pool and attack Thug 1 and Thug 2. Aileen switches her attack to Thug 3.

The GM says Thug 2 has shifted to All Out Defence because he’s been stabbed. Thug 1 continues to attack Juana. Thug 3 continues to attack Aileen.

Everyone is still in the ‘Close combat between already engaged parties’ category, with Juana going before Aileen.

Question 5: Does Juana go first for both of her attacks now that she has split her dice pool? Or should I use the Dex + Wits of the thugs Juana is fighting to determine the initiative order of the 2nd attack compared to when Aileen gets her go?

Question 6: Juana has 1 Hunger dice. She wants to split her dice pool of 7 into 4 dice and 3 dice. Does she roll a Hunger die in BOTH of the smaller dice pools? Or just in one of them?

Juana (rolling 4 dice from her dice pool of 7, one of them a Hunger die) vs Thug 1. The Thug gets more successes and Juana takes a tiny bit of superficial damage.

Juana (rolling 3 dice from her dice pool of 7) vs Thug 2 (defence pool 5 +1). The thug gets a couple of successes. Juana doesn’t roll any successes and so she opts to spend a Willpower to reroll her 3 dice (this assumes none of the 3 are a Hunger die). She gets 3 successes, including a pair of 10s for a critical win – total of 5 successes. Since this is combat against a mortal, the critical win result means she’s incapacitated Thug 2.

Aileen vs Thug 3. She fumbles, he hits. Thug 3 knocks the knife out of her hand. He also deals out enough superficial damage to Aileen to fill her Health track with superficial damage and convert some to aggravated. So from now on she is at -2 dice to all physical pools.

AFTER TURN THREE At the end of turn 3, the GM decides if the “three turns and out” thing applies to this combat and asks the PCs if they wish to break off the conflict…

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Hi, @DrBob! This is, to be sure, an awful lot of queries packed into a single question. You might get better results from splitting it up into a couple different entries. I'll give it a shot, though. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jadasc
    Dec 29, 2018 at 19:15
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Jadasc is correct. I think you've some valid concerns here about both surprise and splitting a dice pool that each deserve standalone questions. After those are answered, it may make asking the remaining questions easier. (Although, hey, if Jadasc is gonna give the whole thing a go, never mind me!) \$\endgroup\$ Dec 29, 2018 at 20:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I gave it a start, but the more broad answer below is probably better. I can answer for simple conflict or advanced combat, but the querent should be the one to decide which. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jadasc
    Dec 29, 2018 at 20:33
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ There's a rule: One question per question. This isn't following that, even with the edit it is far too much than one question and its related issues. While the edit did increase readability, it did not make it neither answerable in the format (too many questions) nor did it maintain the OP's wording of the query, which makes it not a good edit, hence the rollback. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Dec 20, 2021 at 10:15
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ This is one question focused on a combat sequence, and we should be able to answer it and the misconceptions within it - Jadasc answer aptly shows that we can do so. Just because there are multiple steps to the issue at hand doesn't make this too broad. We handle questions like it with several components all the time. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Dec 21, 2021 at 12:34

1 Answer 1


No, your interpretation is not correct.

You're confused because you've mixed rules from the simplified conflict system on page 125 and the advanced system that starts on page 295. The former uses direct, character-to-character roll-offs to determine the outcomes of fights/arguments/posedowns and apply damage to Willpower or Health accordingly; the second is a more traditional combat system with initiative order, types of actions, difficulty modifiers, and other complications that make for a more detailed and tactical combat experience. Rules from one system will not apply to the other, and you've twisted yourself 'round trying to reconcile the two, when they serve different purposes.

Once you've decided which of the two systems you're using, your questions become answerable.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Okay that's very useful to know, and explains a lot. But is it NOT what it says in the rulebook. Page 295 says "This section expands on Basic Conflict (pp123-130). The Storyteller can use any of the rules systems or modules in Advanced Conflict without having to use all of them in their game, in addition to to Basic Conflict rules". The word "expands" and phrase "in addition" led me to believe they were compatible! \$\endgroup\$
    – DrBob
    Dec 30, 2018 at 12:01

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