Friday, May 25, 2018

Demon City Combat (using Tarot Cards)

(For Demon City. Help out here)

Action: The Short Version

In the next section, action in Demon City is explained in detail with a note about everything you might ever have to keep track even in the most complex combat, in the order it might come up and all the "What if?s answered. Also, the tarot cards used in Demon City have a variety of things about them that matter besides just the number on them, but for now, only the number is important.

Basically Demon City action boils down to:

1. Everyone announces their actions in reverse-order of agility and resolves any uncontested actions (ie, ones nobody is trying to interfere with).

2. Everybody involved in contested actions collects the cards they’ll throw face down, then flips all at once.

3. If the players get the highest throw, they get to do their things, including the highest-throwing attack on their side. If the Host gets the highest throw, they get to do their things, including the highest-throwing attack on their side.

Action: In Detail:


1. Write everyone’s name down in Agility order

Remember how the Host was supposed to write down PC’s names in ascending order of Agility? Put in the bad guys (and anyone else involved in the Action) in that list, too. 

If there’s a tie, ties are decided randomly and usually stay in that order until the fight ends. The Host can also re-throw ties at their own discretion if some new enemy shows up, if someone is out of the action or the scene changes in some dramatic way.

2. Slowest Character Announces What They Want To Do

Look at the top: Whatever entity involved in the round has the lowest Agility announces what they plan to do.

Everyone will notice this low-Agility slowpoke getting ready to do whatever they're going to do. Higher Agility characters will have their choice of action informed by what the slower one does.

-This can't be an “if-then” and they can’t wait to see what other people are doing, they gotta decide.

-Actions can normally only target one foe at a time--exceptions will be noted when we get around to specific abilities and weapons (like grenades and Waves of Mutilation). 

-You can also try to run up to 30 feet and perform an action, or perform an all-movement action moving you up to 60 feet. Though for the purpose of deciding the weapon throw (see below) against a target who is fighting back your range is the distance you started the round at. (ie You can’t go “I charge in 30 feet while he shoots so the range is now 6 inches and stab him with +1 throw because I have a knife and a knife beats a gun at 6 inches”. You can try to attack with your knife, but you making it through the 30 feet between you and them before getting shot is part of what the the coming throw will decide.)

-If a character is Out of the Fight or in a Panic (see below) at the beginning of the round and needs to throw to regain their Toughness or Calm, they throw before announcing their action. If they fail, they might not get an action this round—or ever again.

-If you successfully used an attack or used a defensive action (see below) to dodge, or block, parry an attack in the previous round, you can be anywhere you could normally move (ie not on the ceiling, etc) within 60 feet of your last position relative to the enemy, including behind the enemy or behind cover if you want. 

3. Figure Out How Many Throws They Get And Take Cards Face Down

Once you know how many cards you get, slide those cards face down in front of you—don’t look at them yet.

As with non-Action tasks, the players throw out of the Players' Deck which sits at the middle of the table (and includes their Significator cards), the Host throws out of the specially built Horror's Deck.)

Also like non-Action tasks, you start with one throw and gain (and then maybe lose) more based on what’s going on. These extra throws are a little different in Action than in normal contests:


If a character has a situational advantage (high ground, etc) over whoever they're directly facing off against they get an extra throw.

If the character has any other distinct situational advantages on top of the first one—like their target is both tripping and is handcuffed—you can get another extra throw for each advantage.

As in non-Action tasks, extra throws do not normally represent the scale of an advantage: each distinct advantage is worth one throw , it doesn’t matter if you have 10 feet of high ground or 20 feet of high ground, it’s still one throw .

Note on the extra throw : Combat in Demon City may involve a lot of players and Hosts discussing what does and does not constitute a situational advantage. This is good. This is what the players should be doing: talking about the fictional situation as if it were real so everyone is imagining the same events as much as possible and making interesting decisions about how to use what’s going on to their advantage. 

Weird edge case: in a situation where opponents on different sides have the same kind of advantage over their targets (probably because one of them has a different target) the one with the ultimate advantage gets one more of that kind of extra throw than the inferior foe. So Hiram has high ground advantage to attack Lois but if Max is even higher up the hill attacking Hiram, Max would get two extra throws for high ground on Hiram. This is relatively rare.

There are some common kinds of extra throws you should check for every time:

Higher Stat Throw 

If an enemy you target is targeting you back (they will say this on their turn after an action targeting them is announced), then whoever has the higher stat gets an extra throw. You also get it if the enemy is not targeting you back but your stat is higher than the stat they’d use to resist or avoid your attack. This is usually Agility, although in some cases (which’ll be noted) it’s Toughness and in the case of paranormal or magic attacks it could be any stat—the description of the Supernatural Ability (in the Library section) will say.

It doesn’t normally matter how many points you outclass them by, you still only get one Higher Stat throw .

Close combat actions (kicking, punching, knifing) rely on the attackers’ Toughness (or Hand To Hand skill if they have it—it’ll be higher)—and target the foe's Agility or, if they have it, the foe's Hand-to-Hand combat skill. (If you want your Agility to matter in hitting people, you need to get trained in Hand To Hand, which can be Agility-derived).

Shooting relies on Agility (or Firearms or Exotic Weapons if applicable) and the target’s Agility.

Distraction Throw 

If your target’s not focused on you, you get an extra throw. This can be given if your target is attacking someone else, if they are trying to activate a garage door while you attack, or if they are in any other way not set to defend or attack you back.

It doesn’t normally matter how distracted they are, you still only get one Distraction throw in a round.

Defense Throw 

If you are only actively defending in a round (dodging, running away, etc), you get an extra throw.

Remember: if you successfully use a defensive action to dodge, or block, parry an attack in the previous round, you can be anywhere you could normally move (ie not on the ceiling) within 60 feet of your last position, including behind the enemy or behind cover if you want.

Weapon Throw 

If someone is attacking (or parrying) with a weapon that is better for the specific situation than the one their opponent is attacking back or parrying with, that is worth an extra throw. For example, if two characters are fighting under a twin bed, the combatant attacking with a knife or claws will get an extra throw against a target using a longsword (which needs more room to maneuver), but in most situations it'd be the other way around because the sword has better reach. This is the main way weapons are differentiated in Demon City (and in horror films)--by the situation in which they are most useful. An armed opponent will get a weapon throw over an unarmed one pretty much every time, unless the weapon is unusually cumbersome in that position (like a bow at a range of 3 inches).

For the purpose of deciding the weapon throw against a target who is fighting back, your range is the distance you started the round at.

If you need more details on which weapons are best in which situations, you can look in The Store section in the Library.

Supernatural Throw

If a mundane attack (a gun, a fist etc) is facing off against a supernatural ability (telekinesis, for instance, via magic or psychic ability) the supernatural weapon usually gains an extra throw. For edge cases (Do the claws of a werewolf count? What about the claws of a mutant wolf?) see the individual Horror’s entry later in the book.


If there are difficulties in the situation not otherwise accounted for (by, for example, someone directly opposed already having gained an extra throw) they can be accounted for by lost throws. The most common types of lost throw are the lost throw for a Called Shot (below) and the lost throw for Injury.

Lost throws do not normally represent the scale of a disadvantage: each distinct disadvantage is worth one throw, it doesn’t matter if you are kinda drunk or really drunk—it’s still one throw .

If you have only one throw you cannot lose any more—you always get a minimum of one throw.

Weird edge case: If you have only one throw and voluntarily choose a tricky maneuver which would lose you a throw —like shooting someone in the eye—then you throw two throws and pick the lowest. So, no, if you are bad at shooting you can’t game the system and do a called shot every round.

Lost Throw for a Called Shot

If you’re trying to hit a specific spot on a foe, that loses a throw. Exception:Trying to disarm a foe will not result in a lost card if you also elect to cause no damage or harm with the attack.

Lost Throw for Injury

If you’ve been knocked to negative Toughness during a fight and then successfully throw to recover, you’re hurt and you’ll lose a throw in action rounds until you gain at least one Toughness back.

Note this does not apply if you just get knocked from positive to 0 Toughness or if you started at 0—it only happens after you get hurt.


As in non-Action, if, in an opposed throw, a tactical asymmetry can be represented by giving extra throws to one party or taking lost throws from the other, default to giving the extra throws.

And, as in non-action, if one party in an opposed throw is at minimum throws (one throw ) and distinct disadvantages keep piling on, add extra throws to an opponent’s throw.

Again: be careful not to give and take throws to represent the same asymmetry. Like if Laura has the high ground and Bailey has a the low ground and they’re 10 feet apart, give Laura an extra throw, don’t also subtract one from Bailey.


Often after actually throwing and playing out a round, you’ll likely end up in a situation somewhat similar to the one you were just in—you were trying to burn a grimoire of unholy knowledge while dodging acid last round and you’re trying to do it again this round—so remember how many throws you’re throwing even after they hit the table. Leave the cards there so its clear how many you threw until it’s time to throw again. The next round, if you want to try the same action again you can re-throw the same number of throws without recalculating, or easily add or subtract one to represent a slightly changed situation.

4. Resolved Any Uncontested Actions

If nobody wants to stop a character from doing what they announced and nothing they’ll announce can interfere with anyone else directly, assume it is happening during the round—flip over and evaluate any throws necessary then, as in the Basic Task Resolution section.

This takes place outside the coming Clash. So, for instance, if Alfred and Bebe are trying to stab one another while Ceelo is desperately trying to find the switch that opens the garage door so he can get away, he can throw a Perception throw to search right after announcing his action—his action’s not part of the Clash because nobody’s doing anything that would interfere with that.

Remember throwing your Significator and winning is a critical success and The Fool as your highest card is a critical failure (unless it's your Significator).

Some Horrors get to do special things if they win with a specific card.

5. Other Characters Announce, Collect Throws, Resolve Uncontested Actions

Second-least Agile creature goes through steps 2-4 above, then the third-least Agile, etc. until all characters have announced and any uncontested actions (including just moving) are resolved. 

6. Throw For A Clash

Everyone performing a contested or overlapping action in the same Clash now flips over their cards. The Host can be like “Ready…throw” and make it dramatic.

If there are multiple confrontations that don’t overlap: it’s possible for a fight with characters squaring off against multiple opponents to be actually made up of multiple clashes, so long as none of the personnel could interfere with each other. So Alfred and Bebe could be kicking Ceelo and Didi and Eve could be punching Fifi and that would be two clashes you’d resolve separately. If, however, Fifi was trying to pickpocket Alfred it would then all be one big Clash because only one of these things will happen first. This is unusual but it can happen—either way you still throw all at once, just handle one Clash at a time.

If there are competing drivers/pilots in a chase there’s an exception— drivers always count as being in a separate Clash with each other, even though each driver's actions could theoretically influence everyone in either car/boat/plane etc. So: each round, unless there's a tie, one or the other driver gets to pull a maneuver each round. This is because your vehicle keeps moving forward even if a character in it acts first.

7. Whichever Side Has The Highest Throw Wins

All tarot cards have a number on them. The winning side is whichever one flips over a card of the highest value.

If a tie for first occurs, then one of two things happens:

-If it's a tie between two characters on the same side (ie, two PCs who are getting along or two hostile NPCs with the same goal at the moment) then the players (if its PCs) or Host (if its NPCs) can decide who will act.

-If it's a tie between characters on opposing sides the situation stays mostly the same as it was before the Clash and the contest stays undecided, but the Host changes something in the situation that affects everyone in the Clash, like: the floor could begin to collapse from the weight of the combatants. Then move to the next Action Round.

8. Highest-Throwing Successful Attack on the Winning Side Happens

The attack doesn’t have to be the highest throw on their side—their side just has to win. If Ann threw highest of all to dodge Bill and Cassie (on Ann’s team) wanted to shoot Bill, she could do that in the same Action Round if she threw higher than Bill’s Agility (her target).

“Successful” means they threw higher than a foe trying to avoid or attack them first.

Attacks include punches, kicks, shots, grabs, disarming attempts, psychic abilities, spells targeted at hostiles, etc.

If the highest-throwing attack on the winning side didn’t throw higher than their foe or target number, then it doesn’t happen—that’s a stalemate for now. They’re trading blocks or in pursuit still, etc.

If the successful attack involves damaging another character the attacker then throws damage (See DAMAGE below).

If something disturbing happens one or more characters may have to throw Calm checks (See CALM CHECKS below).

Only one attack can succeed per Clash—the highest-throwing attack on the winning side. This is true even if the allied attacks aren’t directly conflicting with each other. Demon City combat is chaotic and tense—the dominoes don’t all fall at once.

If, say, Ann successfully kicks Bill (her kick was the highest-throwing action in the clash) and Cassie just wants to dive out of the way of a cannibal ghoul and get her gun she can do that. However, if Cassie wanted to shoot Bill and didn’t throw higher than her friend Ann, she has to wait for the next Clash and try again even if she also threw higher than Bill’s Agility. 

Remember: if you throw your Significator and the card is high enough that it would've succeeded anyway, it is now a critical success. Likewise certain horrors get to do special things if they win with a specific card.

9. Other Nonconflicting, Non-Attack Actions On The Same Side Happen If They Beat Their Targets/Intensities

For example: an escape from a grapple on the winning side succeeds if it threw higher than the enemy.

Resolve any damage or Calm Checks as above.

Remember: if you throw your Significator and the card is high enough that it would've succeeded anyway, it is now a critical success—and some horrors get to do special things if they throw a certain card and are successful.

Unless The Fool is your significator, throwing The Fool as your highest card still means you critically failed--even if your side won.

10. Other Clashes Resolved

If the round involved multiple Clashes, resolve them as in 6-9

11. Start Over

Often only one thing happens per round. If characters are still involved in Action after all that, start over at 2 above.

Once nobody is desperately trying to do anything before anyone else present, Action Rounds are over.



1. Write everyone’s name down in Agility order
2. Slowest Character Announces What They Want To Do
3. Figure Out How Many Throws They Get
4. Resolved Any Uncontested Actions
5. Other Characters Announce, Collect Throws, Resolve Uncontested Actions
6. Throw For A Clash
7. Whichever Side Has The Highest Throw Wins
8. Highest-Throwing Successful Attack on the Winning Side Happens
9. Other Nonconflicting, Non-Attack Actions On The Same Side Happen If They Beat Their Targets/Intensities
10. Other Clashes Resolved
11. Repeat 2-13 Until It’s Over

Extra Throws
1 Throw to start

Extra Throws, including:

-Higher Stat Throw 
-Distraction Throw 
-Defense Throw 
-Weapon Throw 
-Supernatural Throw

Lost Throws including:

-Lost Throw for a Called Shot
-Lost Throw for Injury

…if you can act at all, you always get a minimum of 1 Throw.

If you’re an experienced game master you’ll notice some quirks of this system that make it different than other systems:

-Ties are common: this gives the Host a ready-made opportunity to hike up the tension and add atmosphere.

-Only one big thing happens at a time: this makes action work more like a horror movie or thriller—rather than a flurry of blows, we see one move, then some tension, then another.

-Teaming up is good: If the PCs all use weak attacks that get one card each while the monster has three cards, there’s still a good chance the PCs win the round and one of them get their attack in—the game is meant to make cooperation a pretty good idea—although getting in a monster’s face is always risky.

-Weak attacks can interfere with strong ones: If you’re trying to kick a monster (standard damage) and an ally is trying to drop a vat of lava on them (massive damage), you risk the kick throwing higher than the lava and being the only attack that succeeds that round. Again this is on purpose: if you’re ally is doing something big—get out of the way!…

-…or, better, throw to dodge. Dodging or blocking an enemy’s attack gives you a throw (a chance to throw higher than the bad guy) but doesn’t get in the way of a friend attacking. So distracting an enemy sets them up for your friends’ attack.

-Most attacks do the same initial damage: The tough guy’s punch is more likely to land than the skinny guy’s, but both are equally likely to put you out of the fight they land—as likely as a gunshot. If there’s action in Demon City, it’s always high stakes. However…

-People get knocked down a lot, but when we get to damage you'll see the intensity of the attack has an impact on whether they get up again and how fast. So the tough guy’s punch may keep you down longer. If you’ll notice, in horror movies people are constantly getting put out of the fight, crawling off, getting themselves together, and getting up again.

-Some things don’t matter sometimes, you have to make them matter: If I’m 10 feet away and have a sword and all you have is a knife I get an extra throw. If, at the same distance, I have a sword and all you have is your bare hands, I still only get one extra throw. At least for that round, it doesn’t matter if you have a knife or not—but, in the next round if you block me and you get in close with the knife, it suddenly will—successful blocks allow you to move in wherever you want the next round. Demon City rewards you for thinking of ways to make the assets you have count.

-It’s kinda realistic and it kind of isn’t: Demon City is organized so that tactical decisions and creative thinking matter, but also so that things are frenzied and chaotic. The rules are the way they are so that both of these priorities can be met while not being too hard to learn or run. If that’s how it feels once you’ve tried it a few times, then it’s working the way it’s supposed to.

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