Rangers of Shadow Deep

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    I am manually porting this thread over from the old forums for a few reasons. First, the original article referenced some content on those boards which is a bit out of date or out of place, and a fresh start would be nice to have – so, I’m taking it! Next, I’m also not entirely sure how the porting of old content is going to happen, and pending feedback on the matter, I will carry on as usual…

    Rangers of Shadow Deep is a really nifty tabletop game that was actually designed as a single or cooperative-play game. Being a not-particularly-social chap, this was appealing to me (and, given the current obnoxious state of the world…). Furthermore, the game just seems to “gel” with my mind at its basic level. There is nothing really goofy or abstract – it just makes sense. It’s also simple enough that you don’t need to “waste time” doing all manner of different rolls for basic combat. Additionally, the simplicity lends itself greatly to tweaking and modification; I have actually not yet played a game, but I’ve spent a LOT of time writing and musing over alternate rules. The latter is its own form of fun – I’m sure you understand!

    It’s impossible to discuss a game without disclosing how it works. Under something like “Fair Use” or what-have-you, I am going to lay out the core mechanics of the game. If there’s ever a problem with that, I will of course retract my statements. BUT, until that day comes – if ever – here’s the basic mechanics of the game when it comes to figures and fighting:


    …Stats, all six of them, are universal to all units – or figures – in the game. There’s very little abstraction in the numbers, though some of that does exist. After all, what is more abstract than rolling dice to simulate combat? The stats themselves are very elegant and are generally linked to a single dice roll. This makes the game very hassle-free and easy to pick up and understand:

    1. MOVE: Rangers of Shadow Deep (RoSD) was designed to be used with standard 28mm miniatures, so the Move stat is given as a length in inches. Of course, those numbers could be scaled as necessary if a different size of figure was to be employed – but, I digress. A figure can nominally move a distance on the board equal to their Move stat for their first action when activated, and half of that distance if moving on their second action. More on actions and activations later… Of note, certain things like heavy armor or afflictions may reduce the amount of movement a figure can engage in, or other things like adverse terrain may reduce the amount of movement available to a figure, etc. Pretty simple so far.

    2. FIGHT: This is the fighting aptitude of a given figure in hand-to-hand combat. The default game allows a maximum of +5 Fight for a Player Character (unless absolutely INSANE levels are achieved), and the least adept fighters will have a Fight skill of 0. The Fight stat is added to a Combat Roll, which is made any time figures are in hand-to-hand combat. Fight is also used as a measure of agility when it comes to avoiding missile fire, and is added to a figure’s Defensive Roll in that situation. Still pretty simple.

    3. SHOOT: This is the shooting skill of a figure. Like Fight, the maximum attainable level for this stat is +5 in the default game. Shoot is used only with missile weapons; RoSD is by default fairly light on magic use, and the latter has its own conventions. Shoot is used just like Fight for a Combat Roll, but obviously only in a situation where a ranged attack is made. As noted above, this roll is countered by a Defensive Roll which employs the Fight skill. Slightly different, but still very simple.

    4. ARMOR: This is perhaps the only really abstract stat in the game. Most figures will have a base Armor of 10 even when not covered with anything more than skin or clothes. So, this stat is kind of a measure of base resilience, hardiness, and what-have-you that a figure has against physical harm. Armor is generally only improved by adding, well, actual armor as an item to a figure. In the game, a successful Combat Roll will also have to defeat the armor rating of a figure for any damage to occur. More on that later, but still fairly simple.

    5. WILL: This stat is perhaps slightly unusual, but it is actually not all that abstract. Will is a measure of a figure’s courage, and, well, sheer force of will! This stat used any time a figure must be tested for morale or courage, but is actually most prevalently used in terms of game combat to resist magic. I suppose the original idea of magic in the game is that some force other than one’s own is attempting to manipulate or directly cause harm; if one perceives such motives and can resist them, then the magic simply falters. Perhaps magic can be discussed later, but so far, not too bad.

    6. HEALTH: Hitpoints. If those hitpoints are reduced to 0, then things are not going well for the figure. And with that, things return to base simple!


    RoSD is meant to be a narrative game. It’s what I’d call Adventure Wargaming. Units improve and mature over time, but only the PCs are meant to really excel. In many regards, RoSD is basically a CRPG on the tabletop, and it can be treated in a fairly stark manner not at all unlike a wargame. OR, it can be given the personality of an RPG. It’s really up to the player. Because it’s easily adapted, it can definitely swing more towards the RPG side, but again, let’s keep things simple with the standard game first:

    1. GAME FORMAT: Being a narrative game, experience and equipment are meant to be gathered. Skills and stats are supposed to improve. In order to do these things, game sessions are supposed to be strung together. By default, sessions are supposed to be part of a Campaign. That Campaign consists of Missions, and the Missions themselves can be broken down into Scenarios. The Scenario is thus the basic environment in which game events occur and figures interact.

    2. TURNS IN A SCENARIO: A Scenario may be designed to last only a certain number of turns, etc. Each turn has its own number of phases in which friendly and hostile (and perhaps even neutral) forces are moved and managed. Furthermore, each turn has the provision for an event to occur, which will in turn further adapt the nature of the Scenario. Therefore, someone wanting to “program” their own adventures can easily use this system to create an “AI” for the game environment with relative ease. Because events are really items for individual Scenarios and dip into more than simple generalities for discussion, they will only be addressed if there is a specific need to do so.

    3. ACTIVATIONS IN A TURN: The default game has three classes of unit: Rangers (the PCs), Creatures, and Companions. These units are sequentially activated in the order above – Events, mentioned previously, are triggered after all of those activations have occurred. When a unit or figure activates, it normally gets TWO actions. Actions normally include moving, fighting, shooting, spellcasting, or engaging with the Scenario environment. As noted previously, two moves can normally be made per figure per activation, though the second move is half the maximum value. Otherwise, a figure normally only gets one action to move and one action to fight, shoot, cast a spell, etc. Certain conditions can allow for an additional action for the figure in one activation.

    …All said, it still seems pretty simple, right?


    …Of course, now the main focus of discussion needs to be on how Combat works. Like everything noted so far, it’s a fairly simple and elegant affair that generally gels well with the mind – at least in theory. That said, let’s note the different forms of combat and how they efficiently use a figure’s stats, and how the dice mechanics work in general:

    1. THE D20: Nothing super-unique about using a D20 for a game, but it is the standard and ONLY dice used in the game. The standard game could be played with only a single dice (so long as each roll is correctly attributed to each figure), but nominally two D20s should be used – one for the attacker, and one for the defender.

    2. OPPOSED ROLLS: I LIKE opposed rolls, at least in theory. An opposed roll stands in as a direct contest between two entities (not entirely unlike a real fight), and the best roll wins. Although there is a chance for lousy fate in the standard game with this model, it is mitigated – hopefully – by balanced stats. The basic game recognizes double hits, but because of fight bonuses – especially different fight bonuses between different figures – determining hit probabilities might be a bit iffy. BUT, if one assumes there is no bonus between figures, or the bonus is the same, then… it’s a D20. There’s a 47.5% chance for either figure to win, and a 5% chance that they will both hit each other in the case above, with no additional complications. And in general, usually someone wins and someone doesn’t, so it seems reasonable!

    3. THE COMBAT AND SHOOT/DEFENSE ROLLS: As you may have gathered, Combat Rolls and the like are opposed rolls. Each figure rolls and adds their Fight stat to the resultant number, and the highest roll is considered the winner of the combat. So, if Party A is +3 Fight with a 13, and Party B is +2 with a 15 (close one!), Party A ends up with 16 and loses to Party B with a 17. If Both Parties have light armor and a base Armor stat of 10… for a total of 11 armor each, then Party B does the following to A: [Damage done to A] = [Combat Roll of B = 17] – [Armor stat of A = 11] = 6 damage. For a Shooting attack, which has already been described, The shooter adds their Shoot stat to their roll while the defender adds their Fight stat to their roll. Pretty simple, and it all happened with some easy numbers AND ONLY ONE DICE ROLL. It should be noted that while both parties illustrated above have relatively fair chances of winning, they must deliver a combat roll high enough to damage the opponent. Just because a fight is won does not mean the opponent is harmed!

    4. DAMAGE BONUSES: The basic game offers certain weapons a damage bonus. The damage bonus is ONLY awarded if the opposed roll is successful. So, If Party A above had a two-handed weapon, they would have done 18 damage if they would have won the contest (+2 damage). Because they didn’t, the damage bonus didn’t help them at all! If Party B was armed with such a weapon, they would have done 19 damage instead.

    5. FIGHT/SHOOT BONUSES: More uncommon is a bonus (or penalty) conferred to Fight or Shoot. Such an effect is more powerful than a damage bonus, but it is uncommon in comparison. In the rules update for the first edition of RoSD, fighting unarmed confers a -2-to-Fight penalty with a -2 damage modifier. Ouch…

    6. MAGIC ATTACKS: Magic is a lesser focus in RoSD. The standard game “wizard” might get up to three spells to cast, and each of those spells (including the number of each spell) is defined when the casting unit is created. To clarify, if the caster wants to use a spell twice in a scenario, that figure must be created with two of the same spells in their repertoire. Spells “recharge” at the end of a scenario, so once a spell is used up during the scenario in play, it can’t be used again until the next… unless of course they have multiples of a single spell available! Therefore, spell spamming is not going to be a terrible issue here…

    …But, how does it work? Usually, each spell has its own bonus – equivalent to Fight or Shoot – built into the spell. So, the caster will roll against an applicable target and add the spell bonus to the roll. The target of the spell will counter-roll by adding their Will stat to their normal dice roll. If the target successfully rolls against the spell, they are unharmed. If not, the spell works the same way as a normal attack described above…

    …Alternately, some spells may cause their target to roll a Target Number (TN), which is the D20 plus their Will stat in this case. If the target fails (rolls below the TN), they are affected; if not (rolls equal to the TN or higher), the spell does nothing. It’s not as well defined in the first edition at least, but that is how it’s intended to work. All in all, very simple once understood.

    7. CRITICALS AND FUMBLES: The standard game does not have fumbles (natural 1), though criticals (natural 20) are allowed for PCs and their companions. Hostile creatures in the game are not allowed to score criticals, though some of them may be immune to them in contrast. A critical automatically wins a combat and gets +5 to their damage. If attacking a hostile creature immune to a critical attack, the critical hit still wins the combat.


    As you can see, all the principal stats in the game are very elegantly managed by the combat system. Between the single die roll, the simple, centrally located numbers, and low levels of abstraction, the game can be played easily without having to grind through each event. I’ll leave the other aspects to the standard game in the rulebook proper unless pressed. However, everything is simple enough that it just begs to be tweaked. It’s an agreeable system that could easily be molded into something else to the player or tweaker’s liking, and I’ve been enjoying the latter most of all.

    • This topic was modified 3 years, 7 months ago by Thaeris.

    “But what about the ideals of the Codex?”

    …As noted, I have some musings which I’ve been working on for this system, and perhaps you’d be interested in hearing about them. None of these items have been evaluated in play or analytics yet, but they may make for good conversation for those so inclined…


    Consider the Fight Stat as a direct stand-in for the Base Attack Bonus, or whatever it’s called in the OGL. Also consider that the maximum normal Fight Stat is +5. Under some situations – namely special items or perks, Fight can also be temporarily improved beyond its standard levels. Consider then that a figure should use its current Fight stat given those values to determine its equivalent maximum Martial Pool:

    [Maximum RoSD Martial Pool] = 1 + [Fight / 2], Rounding Down (integer values only)

    …So, if a +5 Fight figure somehow ends up with +7 Fight for the scenario, that figure at most can have 4x D20s for their Combat Roll, and will of course choose the highest. But, the figure does not need to use all of the available dice. There’s a reason for that…

    This is an opposed roll system! There is no need to divvy out different D20s for different martial considerations. How should one balance out this system? Prior to any actual testing, this is my proposal:

    [Effective Fight] = [Fight] – [4 * ([Current RoSD Martial Pool] – 1)]

    …What this is saying is that for every extra Martial Die which is used (not counting some abilities which allow for a re-roll), a figure is going to subtract 4 from their current effective Fight Stat. SO, if a +2 Fight figure decides it must roll two dice for a given combat, that figure will subtract 2 from their Combat Roll.

    The idea with this version of the Martial Pool is one of diminishing returns. By rolling more dice for a better probability of landing a better hit, you actively choose to sacrifice something in return. In the example above, the +2 Fight figure rolls a 17 and a 12. The 17 turns into a 15, which is still not a terrible roll, but by making multiple rolls, you of course increase your chances of scoring a Critical, and if Fumbles are implemented, you have a VERY good chance of avoiding those as well. If you don’t use the extra dice, you get a shot at letting the fixed numbers give you a respectable boost.

    It would be very easy to tabulate this information if you didn’t want to do the simple math (and it is simple, but if you find equations troubling: again, -4 to Fight for every extra D20 used). Nothing is final here, so I won’t make a formal table, but this listing should give you a general idea of what happens to the Fight Stat when using multiple D20s:

    1 Die, +0, +1 Fight; Fight Levels 0 & 1
    2 Dice, -2, -1 Fight; Fight Levels 2 & 3
    3 Dice, -4, -3 Fight; Fight Levels 4 & 5
    4 Dice, -6, -5 Fight; Fight Levels 6 & 7

    …You again might take a rather substantial risk with 4 dice if you figured a better chance of getting a critical would be worth it – the natural 20 always wins (though there are double-hits in RoSD, so a critical won’t necessarily save you!) and usually does +5 damage, so a 19 doesn’t seem like such a shabby result.

    Also note (if you’ve not done so already) that not all the dice need to be used just because they can be used. If a +5 Fight figure uses only one extra die per roll, they get an effective +1 Fight every time along with the option of choosing the higher roll: a 6 and an 18 turns into an easy 19… Otherwise, you’d be left with an 11, which might beat an opponent, but it probably wouldn’t leave them with a scratch. Likewise… keeping the +5 and landing the critical would yield an effective Combat Roll of 30 under these conditions, which is absolutely brutal!


    There is one last primary consideration for this simplified Martial Pool system – is overuse possible? If the answer is “yes,” then the following rule could be the answer – THE POOL LIMIT:

    The “Pool Limit” or “Limiting Pool” is a simple system based on the nominal Fight Stat of a figure. Weapons modifiers should not be counted in this figure, though perhaps certain other effects should. Thus, you can formulate this number as:


    …Every time an additional dice is used, it is subtracted from the Pool, and every turn, the Pool recharges by one point. So, a +2 Fight figure could attack and potentially have to defend (or, rather, counter-attack) with two two-dice rolls. If a third instance were to occur, only one dice could be used. And, during the next turn, only a single extra dice could be used.

    In a different scenario, if three dice were used in total for a roll, the Pool would be drained by two points, and then recharged by one the following turn. Etc., etc.

    The Pool Limit is probably the weakest chain in the link so far, but I do not believe the idea is bad. To me, it kind of represents the expenditure of energy. And of course, all of this would have to be tested, both in play and in theory, for a really good assessment of it – or anything else here – to be made. However, even if anything needed to be tweaked, all of the bones are there at this point. ­čÖé

    Hans Hellinger

    I seem to have missed this somehow. Let me go through it and comment…

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