How Combat Works

(Cluebook reprint, page 39)
Darklands combat logic is quite complex. Most computer fantasy games base their combat systems on paper games, which must be simple and easy for the human players. The Darklands system was designed for a computer, which can keep track of many more variables and "special rules" than humans. The explanation below is an overview, and does not cover every detail and exception.
Combat is divided into two basic types. First is missile combat, using thrown, bow or missile device weapons. Second is melee combat, using edged, impact, polearm or flail weapons. Throwing potions (and their effects) is a special form of missile combat.

Attack Speed: The speed of a missile attack is the total of two stages. The first is the reload time for the weapon, the second is the actual attack time. Attack time is fairly quick (a few seconds), and doesn't vary much between weapons. Reload time varies greatly from one weapon to another.
Characters enter battle with a missile weapon "loaded." Therefore the first shot occurs quickly, with no reload time. A common tactic with powerful but slow-loadding weapons is to fire one shot, then switch tn a different, faster, missile weapon.
Melee combat on the screen shows opponents making a series of swings or strikes. In general, the smaller the weapon speed value, the greater the chance of the swing or strike will connect with the target. Characters with very slow weapons look like they're doing something, but if you watch carefully, they connect quite infrequently.
Melee tactics affect attack speed. Depending on the tactic selected, a certain amount is added to attack speed:
+0 all-out attack
+30 normal attack
+60 parry attack
+120 vulnerable spot attack
Character encumbrance also affects attack speed:
+0 light
+30 normal
+120 laden or overloaded
Remember: the higher the speed value, the slower the attack.

Hit Probability: When a missile is fired, or a melee strike connects, the hit probability logic determines if the attack is a hit, a glancing hit, or a miss. See the "Hit Probabilities" section below for more details.
Penetration: When a missile hits or a melee attack connects, the weapon penetration is compared to the target's armor. There is a 50% chance vitals armor is hit, and 50% that limb armor is hit.
Vulnerable spot attacks add 1 to 4 points to the penetration value (selected randomly for each hit).
Glancing hits occur when a character "barely hits." This is when the hit probability result is very close to the limit. Glancing hits occur 5% of the time at least, more when the hit probability is low. Glancing hits subtract 1 to 4 points from the penetration value.

Damage Value Adjustments: The basic weapon damage value is adjusted for penetration results. If the hit's penetration is less than the armor thickness, damage is divided by 8 (dropping fractions). If the hit's penetration exactly matches the armor thickness, damage is divided by 3 (dropping fractions). If the hit penetrates, the damage value is unaffected.
Next, damage is adjusted for the user's strength. If the attacker has greater strength than the normal range for the weapon, damage increases by one, plus an additional point for every 5 points his strength exceeds the normal range. Similarly, if the attacker has less than the minimum strength required, damage decreases by 1, and an additional point for every 5 points the strength is below the range.
Finally, the damage is adjusted for quality differences. For every 10 points of difference between weapon quality and armor quality, damage is increased or decreased by 1 point.
Damage values never go above 40, or below 0.

Damage Effects: The damage value determines the amount of endurance and strength loss suffered by the character.
Endurance loss is equal to or somewhat less than the damage value, depending on random factors. The following list gives damage values followed by the actual range of endurance losses: 0 (0-1), 1 (1-2), 2 (1-3), 3 (2-3), 4 (2-4), 5 (2-5), 6 (2-6), 7 (3-7); at values of 8 to 20, endurance loss is 0 to 5 points less than the damage; at values of 21 or more, endurance loss is between -9 and +2 points of the damage value.
Strength loss depends on penetration. If penetration failed, strength loss is either 0%, 10% or 20% of the endurance loss (fractions are dropped, so most non-penetrating hits cause no strength loss, and the rest generally only cause 1 or 2 points of loss).
If penetration matched the armor thickness, strength loss is 40% to 90% of the endurance loss. These hits can be extremely damaging, since without alchemical or saintly aid, strength restores quite slowly.

Comments: The "+120" speed penalties are quite serious. The "+30" penalties are fairly mild. Note that weapon speed computation explains why some characters seem to never hit anything. They're probably using slow weapons, vulnerable spot tactics, and are overloaded with "in use" equipment. This can produce a speed value over 350, while a lightly burdened man making normal attacks with a fast weapon might have a value of 75 to 100, causing him to hit three or four times more often!
A close examination of the logic above reveals that penetration is the most important aspect of "ordinary fighting" (battles where equipment quality, strength, and skill are within normal ranges.) A penetrating Halberd hit will do 10-15 points of endurance damage and 4-14 points of strength damage. However, a non-penetrating hit will do only 1 point of endurance and none of strength.
However, for every 10 points (fractions dropped) of quality advantage, damage after penetration is increased or decreased by one. Similarly, extra strength can inflict lots of extra damage, again after penetration. Any extra strength gives +1 to damage, and you get another +1 for every 5 points (fractions dropped) of strength above the normal limit. If you combine a quality and a serength advantage, you can sometimes get 3 or 4 extra points of damage. This means even non-penetrating hits will inflict moderate endurance and some strength damage. It also means strong enemies with high-quality equipment can do the same to you!

Melee Hit Probabilities

(p42)
The basic equation for hit attacks is:
Hit probability = 50 + ((AS-TS) * 2/3) + Msit
Where AS is the attacker's weapon skill, TS is the target's weapon skill, and Msit is the sum of all situational modifiers. If there are no modifiers and the opponents' skills are equal, there is a 50% chance of hitting. Note that adjustments to skills are factored down to 2/3rds their value, while Msit adjustments are not.
Skill Adjustments: Attack and target skills are adjusted for special strength and skill values. If the character has strength above the normal value for the weapon used, there is a skill bonus of 2 points for each excess strength point. Similarly, for each point of strength below the minimum, 3 points are deducted. If the necessary weapon skill is below the minimum, an additional 2 points are deducted for each point of skill below the minimum.
Target skill is also adjusted for shields. If the target has no shield, its skill is reduced 5 points. Small shields gain a bonus of 2/7ths of the shield's quality value, medium shields gain a 2/5th bonus, and large shields gain a 2/4ths bonus (fractions rounded down).
Situational Adjustments (Msit): Subtractions make the attack more difficult, additions make it easier.
The striking character suffers -5 if making a vulnerable spot attack, or subtracts (2 plus 25% of his weapon skill) if making an all-out attack (however, this penalty cannot exceed -10).
The striking character suffers -10 for each additional enemy striking back at him in melee.
If the target is parrying, the striking charactdr subtracts (five plus 25% of the target's weapon skill). If the target is making an all-out attack, the striker adds 25% of the target's weapon skill (but this bonus cannot exceed +10). Thus high-skill all-out attacks are more damaging to the user than low-skill, all-out attacks.
The striking character adds +10 for each additional friend also striking the same target.
Comments: When comparing skills, assuming all other things are equal, a 75 point skill advantage means the enemy cannot hit you, while you always hit him. Furthermore, skill comparisons "cut both ways." For example, if you have a 30 point skill advantage, not only do you increase your hit chance (from 50% to 70%), but the enemy is reduced equivalently (from 50% to 30%). Remember that a 2/3rds factor applies to all skill comparisons.
Another powerful effect is the presence of other men in the battle. For example, in a three-against-one battle, each of thd three gets a 20 point "to hit" bonus, while the single one suffers a 20 "to hit" penalty. If each character started with a 50% chance to hit, the numerous side now has 70% each, while the outnumbered character only has a 30% chance. This means the numerous side will probably hit seven times more often, instead of the three times more often you'd expect! In short, it really pays to "gang up" on an enemy.

Missile Hit Probabilities

(p43)
The basic equation for missile attacks is:
Hit probability = 50 + (2*(FS-TV)/3)
Where FS is the firer's weapon skill, and TV is the target's value (see below). The basic format of this equation is similar to melee.
Line of Fir: Friendly or enemy characters, and/or terrain, can block the life of fire. In the case of friendly or enemy characters, the firer's skill determines just how closely the firer can shoot past someone to a target beyond. For example, a low skill firer might be unable to shoot past a friend in front, while a higher skill firer could make the shot with ease. Therefore, characters who plan to hide behind friends and fire or throw need good firing skill. Otherwise, those friends will frequently block the shots!
FS and TV Adjustments: If the firer has strength below the normal range for the weapon, 1 point is deducted for each point of strength below the minimum. If the weapon skill is below the minimum, 2 additional points are deducted for each skill point below the minimum. There is no corresponding bonus for attacker skill or strength above the normal range.
Target value (TV) is agility, first modified for encumbrance, then doubled. To this is added a constant and the shield bonus. Shield bonuses are:
-No Shield: -5
-Small Shield: 1 + (Shield Quality * 2/7)
-Medium Shield: 4 + (Shield Quality *2/4)
-Large Shield: 8 + (Shield Quality *2/3)
All fractions are dropped. For example, after accounting for the 2/3 factor for all FS and TV values, not having a shield increases enemy accuracy 3%, a quality 25 small shield reduces it 4%, a medium shield 10%, and a large shield 16%.
Comments: In missile combat, the firer compares his or her skill to the target's agility and shield. Shields are much more valuable against missiles than in a melee. In missile fire, the attacker has no special bonus for exceptionally high skill or strength. However, don't underestimate the usefulness of high skill in providing better "lines of fire" so you can shoot past friends or enemies.