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Fist Fighting

If you've spent any amount of time in the pubs of Tamriel, you know that old fashioned fist fights are a great way to prove your strength, solve disagreements, or make new friends. It's only a matter of time before a character is going to come across an NPC that is ready to put up their dukes. The question is, how do you make an entertaining mechanic to determine the outcome. It can't take too long, or you risk the players who aren't involved getting bored, and if it isn't challenging enough, the players will avoid fist fighting and take a more interesting approach.

There's many reasons why a character is going to get into a fist fight. The players might need help from a sell sword who's only willing to assist if one of the party members can prove their might. Or perhaps a guildmate wants to settle a disagreement, or maybe they're just looking to make some quick gold on a bet.

When you start the fist fight, it is assumed that both fighters are on equal ground. If the fist fight becomes a full on brawl, the mechanics are going to have to change to suit a more organized battle. I'm making the assumption that there are just two participants and the fight is organized in the style of a duel.

First up, we need a resource to look after. Something that can indicate when a fight is over and a victor, or more likely, a loser, is determined. The first thing that comes to mind for the Elder Scrolls is Stamina. Now, this stamina would be different from a Monk or a Barbarians stamina, which might make it a little bit confusing, but it's a term that's familiar. This would be a unique type of stamina. A fist-fighting stamina. So how much fist-fighting stamina should a character have? My gut tells me 2 is a good starting point, with an addition of your Endurance modifier, minimum of 0. More than that might make a fight take too long, and any less will make the fight seem potentially non-existent. For example, a Ranger with 13 Endurance would have 3 Stamina for this fight.

Next, we need a way to determine who attacks when. Obviously, this is solved with initiative. Since it's a duel, surprise is most likely not a consideration, so each character involved will roll for initiative, adding their Agility modifier, as normal. On your turn, you get two choices of actions: Attack and Defend. If a character chooses to defend, they don't attack this round, but instead get advantage on the next attack against them. This probably doesn't make sense, as a defender could never do any damage, which means they could never win, which means there's no point to defending, which means a character should only ever attack - and having 1 choice doesn't seem like much of a choice. So let's fix that.

Unlike normal combat encounters, during a fist fight, initiative is re-rolled at the start of each round. As it's a duel, both fighters are ready to make attack at any time, carefully watching and calculating any opportunities. The high roller gets to take an action, and the other tries to avoid being hit.

When an attack makes contact, the recipient loses 1 stamina. When a character runs out of stamina, the fight is over. Either the character is knocked unconscious or submits. The DM or the player can decide the final outcome, usually based on the circumstance of the fight. If you're trying to get information. a knocked out traitor isn't going to do you much good.


Putting it all together

When the fight begins, start by determining the Stamina for each character involved.

Determining Stamina. Your stamina points are equal to 2 + your Endurance modifier (minimum of 0).

At the start of the fight, each character involved rolls initiative. The character who wins the initiative roll gets to choose an action, either Attack or Defend.

Attack. When choosing the attack action, the character finds an opportunity to strike their foe. Roll a d20, adding your Agility or Strength modifier to the roll (player choice), and add your proficiency bonus if you are skilled in Hand-to-Hand. Instead of measuring against the targets AC, the attack is contested against the targets ability to dodge. The target also rolls a d20 to defend, adding their Agility modifier. If the attack roll is higher, the fist connects, otherwise the attack misses and the round is over.

Defend. When a character chooses the Defend action, the player changes their strategy to a more defensive stance, allowing them to get advantage on their defend roll the next time they are attacked, and ending the round.

At the beginning of each round, each player rolls again for initiative.

Determining Damage. On a successful hit, the target loses 1 stamina point. If the successful hit's roll is at least 10 higher than the defenders defence roll, the target loses 2 points of stamina.

When 1 character's stamina reaches 0, the fight is over. A character can choose to end a fight at any time.

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