Long-term readers may remember the epic duel between John Red and Bill Blue I fought out as a proof-of-concept for GCp2020BS: FE. I've recently been thinking about how to handle combat between multiple opponents when combatants are armed with shields - my initial thoughts being that there needed to be a complicated system for establishing who could defend against who. Actually, though, it doesn't need to be that complicated: the rule for shields can just be that you can automatically block against the front and shield side, and not behind or to the weapon side. Flank or rear attacks only allow you to use your REF in defence, with no roll permitted.
Let's demonstrate. Yan the Yellow takes on Gary the Green and Malcolm the Mauve. To make things a bit equal, we'll make Yan the Yellow a hard knock:
Yan the Yellow: REF 10, BODY 8 (BTM-2), Combat Sense +5, Swords +5, Brawling +4, Dodging+3. He wears steel leg greaves and arm greaves (SP 14), a steel cap (SP 12) and a breast plate (SP 16), and carries a wooden shield (SP 14). His weapon is a long sword (2d6).
Gary the Green: REF 8, BODY 6 (BTM 0), Combat Sense +3, Bludgeoning Weapons +4, Brawling +3, Dodging +2. He wears heavy leather leg and arm greaves (SP 6), a steel helmet (SP 16) and a chain mail shirt (SP 12). He carries a wooden buckler (SP8). His weapon is a warhammer (1d6+2).
Malcolm the Mauve: REF 8, BODY 6 (BTM 0), Combat Sense +4, Spears and polearms +5, Brawling +3, Dodging +2. He wears the same armour as Gary the Green, and carries a wooden shield (SP 14) and a spear (1d6).
The combat begins with Yan facing off against Gary and Malcolm, who are both in front of him.
First Round, Initiative: YY 20, GG 17, MM 15.
Yan acts first. Realising that if he is outflanked he's in serious trouble, he decides to strike quickly and hit the spear-wielding Malcolm. He springs forward with his sword, going for the left leg, rolling a 8[-4 for a called shot, -3 for wielding a shield]+REF+Swords for 16 total. Malcolm's defence roll is 5+REF+Dodging, for 15. Yan gets a hit, doing 8 damage. Because he is using a sword, Malcolm's heavy leather leg greaves are at half SP, so they only diminish the damage by 3. Malcolm takes 5 points of damage to the left leg. A vicious cut that slices into his thigh. He has to roll a stun save at -1, and rolls a 5, just making it. But he is at -2 to REF from the wound. His leg greave is now SP 5.
Now it is Gary the Green and Malcolm the Mauve's turns. Gary charges forward swinging his warhammer. He's just aiming to occupy Yan while Malcolm maneuvers round. But he rolls a 10[No penalty for using a buckler]+REF+Bludgeoning Weapons, for a total of 22, to which he can add another 1d10 thanks to the critical success. His final score is 28. This is more than enough for Yan's defence roll of 3+REF+Dodging. Gary'swarhammer slams into Yan's shield for 8 damage. This is armour piercing against his shield, which is effectively SP 7. Yan suffers 1 point of damage to his left arm from the powerful blow (his BTM does not affect this: you always take at least 1 point of damage from a penetrating hit). He makes the stun save easily. Yan's shield is now SP 13.
Malcolm attempts to perform two actions this turn, in order to move around to Yan's right and attack his unprotected flank. He skirts around the two combatants and then jabs at Yan with his spear. He has a hefty negative modifier: -3 from shield use, -3 from this being a successive action, and -2 to his REF from his wound. To top this off he rolls a 1, for a grand total of 1[-6]+[REF-2]+Spears and polarms=4. Ylan does not have a defence roll, using only his REF score, as he is being attacked from the side, but this is 10. Malcolm misses.
Second Round, Initiative: YY 21, GG 14, MM 14.
Yan knows he's in trouble and decides there is only one thing for it: to turn to face Malcolm and try to maintain the attack on his weakened left leg. He rolls a 7[-4 for called shot, -3 for wielding a shield]+REF+Swords, making 15. Malcolm's defence roll is 3+[REF-2]+Dodging, making 9. Yan hits him again in the leg, this time for a whopping 10 damage. Malcolm's greave reduces this by 3, but it's still a critical injury. He has now taken 15 points of damage in total and rolls a 9 for his stun save, failing spectacularly. He slumps to his knees, seeping blood all over the earth.
But Yan has turned his right flank to Gary. This means that Gary can, in this turn, move around and attack from the rear if he is willing to take a -3 modifier to his attack. He does this, stepping around Yan as his comrade falls, and delivering another blow with his warhammer to Yan's unprotected rear. He rolls 7[-3 from a successive action]+REF+Bludgeoning Weapons=16. This beats Yan's REF of 10. Gary did not specify a hit location, and rolls an 8, for right leg. He does 6 damage. Yan's greaves are half SP against a warhammer, but still, the hit does not penetrate. His right leg SP drops to 15.
Third Round, Initiative: YY 16, GG 16. In a roll-off, GG wins.
Gary wins initiative and decides that before Yan can react he's going to whack him in the head. He rolls 10[-4 for a called shot]+REF+Bludgeoning Weapons=18. Yan, who still has his back to Gary, can only use his REF in defence. Gary wins easily and does 8 damage. Yan's steel cap is half SP against this, so Yan suffers 2 points of damage, which doubles to 4 for a head shot. This then reduces to 2 from Yan's BTM. He makes his stun save.
Now it is Yan's turn. He turns around and makes an attack, again going for the left leg since it served him so well last time. He rolls 1[-4 from a called shot, -3 for a successive action, -3 from using a shield)+REF+Swords, making 6. There is no point rolling for Gary's defence, as the attack will miss whichever way you construe it. Yan is clearly taking a wild swing after spinning round to face his attacker.
Meanwhile, Malcolm is staggering to his feet (or foot) having successfully made a further stun save. He is critically hurt and all his main stats are halved, but he can move...
Fourth Round, Initiative: YY 21, GG 14, MM 15
Yan attacks Gary's legs again. He scores 15. Gary's defence is 14 and Yan hits for 9 damage, which reduces to 6. Yan foins his sword tip into Gary's knee. Gary staggers but does not go down; his REF is now at -2.
Malcolm has managed to crawl clear, trailing blood as he does so. Gary, still full of fight, takes another mighty swing at Yan. He rolls a 20. Yan's defence is 17. Gary hits the right leg again for 5 damage, denting Yan's armour there and taking it down to 14.
Fifth Round, Initiative: YY 18, GG 17.
Yan is determined to finish the fight. He scores a 23 against Gary's defence of 14 and again jabs his sword into Gary's leg, for 3 more points of damage. This time, Gary goes down, bleeding heavily, failing his stun save.
It is then a simple matter for Yan to finish off Gary and then stalk down Malcolm as he sees fit.
Thoughts: It's quite fun, but needs tweaking. Warhammers need to do more than 1d6+2 damage. Maybe 1d6+4. And I think I might make it a rule that all bludgeoning weapons do 1 point of cumulative damage irrespective of whether they penetrate armour, to represent the bone-jarring impact of a massive hammer hitting your steel-encased flesh.
Also: probably way more fun and bloody with a Dune-esque nude knife-fight.