When a PC is up against multiple foes in Vampire: the Masquerade 5e they have the option to switch between their attack dice pool and their defence dice pool, this allows them to attack and/or defend against multiple opponents. So what about a single foe? If they can do it against multiple enemies provided they take a -1 penalty to their defence pool for each extra foe they are up against it would make sense to allow the PC to attack and defend themselves simultaneously (in the space of a turn) against one foe. Here's an example of what I mean:

Alex (the PC) engages in combat with Foe (an SPC), her intent is to punch Foe in the face. Her initiative Dexterity + Wits is higher and allows her to go first in the attack.

Using her attack pool she rolls Brawl + Strength against Foe's defence pool Dexterity + Athletics.

After taking a hit to the face regardless of whether it was successful or not, and provided Foe still has health left, he then decides to uppercut Alex using his attack pool Strength + Brawl against Alex's defence pool Dexterity + Athletics - and this constitutes a full turn as both attack and defence pools have been depleted.

This is how I interpreted the rules in 5e; simultaneously using both attack and defence during a turn to fight an opponent. This also resonates with All-Out-Attack and All-Out-Defence. Otherwise:

If we're not using both attack and defence pools simultaneously during a conflict turn with a single opponent wouldn't PC's use the All-Out-Attack or All-Out-Defence mechanics every turn?! Doesn't that seem a little bit overpowered to be adding +1 damage to an opponent because you are attacking not defending, or a +1 dice because you are defending not attacking...?

This is perhaps the single most frustrating mechanic in V:tM combat and I haven't found anything which clarifies it anywhere, not in the combat primer, not in the official rulebook or companion...

The combat primer does not go into detail about attacking a single foe as it states: "One on one combat is pretty straightforward and we are not going to reiterate it here" - perhaps I'm reading too much into it and I should just play the way I interpret it as in the rulebook on p.289 it states: "Storyteller should, and will undoubtedly have to, invent their own dramatic systems" and "If you come up with a resolution system you like better, by all means, use it!"

It would help me a lot if someone could explain combat and specifically how the all-out-attack / defence systems work. or at least clarify with me that my interpretation is 'close enough' and 'usable' during play. I haven't had to ST many combat scenes yet but when I do I'd like to be certain how the mechanics are going to work. thanks!


2 Answers 2


"All Out" means all-in.

The text on page 298 describing these two maneuvers is explicit about what each prohibits:

All Out Attack: "In this case, afford the attacker a +1 damage bonus, but do not let them defend against any attacks."

All-Out Defence: "A character concentrating solely on their protection and nothing else (save for perhaps a minor action, see p. 298) gets a bonus die to all defense rolls for the turn."

By choosing these Additional Conflict Action, a player proscribes what their character will do that turn. So, if you're attacking all-out, you won't be defending, so you won't be making defense rolls, so the bonus dice to those rolls would be moot. Similarly, if you're on full defense, you are doing "nothing else," so extra damage on attacks you haven't made is similarly useless.

Specificity helps allay confusion

As for the rest, it's unclear which of the rules for Conflict you're using. Under the simplest set, on page 124, you're mistaken about how many rolls each character makes. Alex wouldn't roll once for attack and once for defence; they and the foe would roll once for the conflict and compare their totals, with the loser taking the difference as damage. (That is, unless one goes all out, as described on page 298.) If you're using the Advanced Rules for Physical Combat on page 301, both characters would roll their relevant pools — but, again, choosing to go all-out on attack or defense would change what options were available.


Overanalyzing the rulebook I found an answer (see quote below), it's not in the explanation of the text but the example below the text makes it clear. In an All-Out-Attack you roll ONCE but none of your successes negate your opponents successes, you take ALL damage dealt by your opponent as you are not being careful to avoid any hits from your opponent in order to do the most damage you can to them. This guarantees you at least 1 hit on your opponent plus any weapon damage provided you win the roll.

Even if Nahum’s player scores more successes than Clara’s, he still takes their entire roll in damage. Clara takes damage if Nahum wins, including one additional damage for the all-out tactic. (p.298)

The example above and other snippets I found in the rulebook suggest your defense is incorporated in the attack role and represents the amount of successes you make to 'negate' your opponents successes. In this context there is no need for a separate defense roll each turn.

Where this became so confusing in the rulebook was the part which says 'you make no defense "rolls" this turn' ("rolls" being a plural suggested multiple rolls during a turn...), 'no defense "rolls" only come's into effect against multiple enemies as you make multiple rolls when you split your dice pool. - this leads to more complex questions such as 'does the +1 damage when you all-out-attack apply to multiple enemies when you split your dice pool' etc. I would say yes it does provided you win against each successive enemy - but taking ALL the damage they dish out sounds like a death sentence. I'm inclined to just 'not' use the all-out mechanics in my games.


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