Put 'em up! Mastering Melee Combat

There you stand, blasters drawn, trained on one another. Sweat beads down your temple, his hand clenches in anticipation. You measure each other up from across the cantina. What was this even over? Something about an unpaid debt, or some smuggled spice. Or was it a familial fued? At any rate, how were you supposed to know that doctor really did have a death sentence in twelve systems?

Melee damage in FFG's Star Wars system isn't that complicated, but is something I feel isn't very clearly explained in the Core Rulebook and is something I didn't really get for a while. Our group is made up of predominantly ranged characters, and, not being very familiar with melee, I shyed away from up close and personal combat. Now that I have a number of sessions under by belt, I figured it was well past time I dive in and get my hands dirty with some hand-to-hand encounters.

Your sweaty palm grips your pistol, and you wish you understood more than six words of Aqualish. Now you hope your padded armor is tougher than it looks (it isn't), and wonder if your time spent shooting empty cans back on Corellia will be your saving grace.

Grasping the Basics

Not surprisingly, melee attacks use the Melee skill if wielding a weapon, or Brawl if you're striking unarmed. Both of these are based off your character's Brawn, so the beefier you are, the harder you'll hit. It's not all about brute strength, though. Proper training can add up to the right talents and allow you to compensate for sheer strength by knowing your enemy and striking with precision.

A blurred shape bounds into your peripheral vision. Before either of you can react, a very drunk Sullustan - a regular patron of these parts - stumbles over a chair to land a triumphant right hook between two of the Aqualish's big bug eyes.

Unless circumstances dictate otherwise (you're drunk and just tripped over a chair, for example), the difficulty for both Brawl and Melee combat checks is Average (two purple difficulty dice). So when your gun-wielding opponent will be fumbling to get his blaster pointed at you while you're engaged, you can slip your knife under his armor plating designed to deflect blaster bolts and put a quick end to the fight, but don't forget to take into account their Melee Defense and Soak ratings.

Calculating the Pain

Much like ranged attacks, each net success adds one damage to your strike, but you'll notice most melee weapons don't have a fixed rating. Instead, the weapon might have a damage of +3, but what is it +3 to?

As outline on page 211 of the Core Rulebook, a successful unarmed melee attack deals damage equal to your Brawn rating plus however many net successes you rolled. It also has a Critical Rating of 5 and the Disorient 1 and Knockdown qualities. If striking with a weapon in hand, you can then add that weapon's damage modifier to your Brawn + net success total, as well as optionally use its Critical Rating instead of your base of 5.

For example: a character with a Brawn of 2 rolls 1 net success while attacking with a vibrosword having +2 damage. This attack would deal 5 damage, less their opponent's soak (2 for their Brawn rating, 1 for their total net success, and 2 from their vibrosword).

A notable exception is the lightsaber, which has a fixed damage of 10 and relies on its energy for dealing the hurt instead of the wielder's Brawn.

The Ebb and Flow of Battle

Melee adds a very different dynamic that opens up a slew of possibilities for unique encounters. How about a brawl in a turbo lift, or a fight in the back of a speeder? Striking out with a knife in hand is a lot easier than pulling your pistol and taking aim when your enemy is right on top of you. Not to mention, melee weapons tend to be a lot easier to conceal and can be paramount to the success of a stealth operation if you get pinched.

So strap a knife or two to your leg and go forth with the confidence that you won't be a sitting womp rat the next time your blaster runs out and find yourself in the middle of a cantina surrounded by overconfident drunks thinking you owe everyone a round.

Mike Branski

A first-time GM diving into FFG's Star Wars RPG, Dungeon World, Fiasco, and more, sharing his experiences and helping you get the most out of the systems you love - even if you don't know it yet.