Bracing against charges

My players and I have been reviewing the rules for bracing against charging fairly closely, as their entirely level 1 cohort of PCs, Henchmen, and mercenaries are facing down a 6 strong pack of goblin dire wolf riders, and they’re looking for every advantage they can get.

The goblins started off several hundred feet away, requiring multiple rounds of running to close into charging distance. This has brought up a few questions

  1. can you brace against a charge and hold it for multiple rounds? (thereby negating the requirement to beat the target on initiative if they’re far enough away)

  2. can you brace against a charge from the 2nd rank?

  3. if someone charges into a line of braced spears, does everyone within reach get to attack for double, or only the one who was charged?

based on the rules and the scene from braveheart, my inkling for number 1 is that you have to beat them on initiative on the round of impact to do double damage, but reach weapons and ranged weapons get to deal at least 1x damage on the initiative that the rider charges (based on the paragraph at the top of pg 101), but I could be wrong and they can brace no matter what. I have no inkling on number 2 though. it seems like if you can attack from the 2nd rank you COULD brace, but maybe you have to be actually getting charged. This brings up number 3. Any insight into the general purpose/balancing of bracing that might help adjucate future situations is appreciated as well :slight_smile:

Because this sounds a little more like a ‘War’ skirmish than a ‘One on One Melee’, I’m taking a leaf out of Domains At War (or at least the version of it I have on my USB key):

A unit of Phalanx Foot (e.g. heavy infantry equipped with spears or pole-arms) that is not in base-to-base contact with the enemy may set for charge by remaining stationary during the current battle turn’s movement sequence. Phalanx Foot that is set for charge should be marked with a special token. If the unit is then the target of a charge or swoop attack (see Creature Powers), it deals an additional point of damage on every successful attack against that unit during that battle turn’s melee phase. A unit may not both set for charge and form a shield wall; if eligible to do both, it must pick one or the other.”

Aside from the slightly confusing language (I’m not 100% clear on who is dealing damage to whom, but assuming it’s the defender inflicting damage on the charging attacker), the above paragraph outlines what I think would be your answer. Namely:

  1. Yes you can brace over multiple rounds so long as you don’t move.
  2. That’s not clear, but I’d say yes.
  3. Assuming you win initiative, I’d say that anyone in direct line of the charge would get to attack for double. Depending on GM perspective, the size of the charging beasts, etc… this might be only the guy at the front, the guy at the front and the guy behind him, 2 people on the front rank, 3 people on the front rank plus 2 people behind, etc… etc… I’d just make it a judgement call.

For example, a group of goblins (unmounted) charges a braced spearwall. Goblins are pretty small (narrow) and light so each defender would only get to do double damage to a goblin directly in front of them.

Alternatively, a group of goblins mounted on Wargs charges the same. The Wargs are big and broad, so could be attacked by 2 front rank defenders plus 1 second rank defender at once, all for double damage.

I guess for simplicity purposes, any charging targets could be struck by a number of attacks up to the total number of spears available. i.e. A defender can only make 1 attack against a single target, not 1 attack against each one.

I definitely think I’ll be using DaW when I finally get a chance to get my hands on it, but for now this is just a very large skirmish. 4 PCs, 4 Henchmen, 11 mercenaries (3 Light infantry, 2 Heavy Infantry, 4 Bowmen, a Longbowman, and a Crossbowman).

I intend to limit them to one attack per round (since we’re still doing round-based combat), but with 3 I’m sort of trying to figure out, if a warg charges a line of 4 spearmen backed by 3 spearmen in the 2nd rank, could potentially all 7 of them pile on to try and finish off that beastly 4+1HD monster?

Here are the relevant rules:

  1. "Each round, 1d6 is rolled for initiative for each adventurer, monster, and group of identical monsters." [Initiatve]
  2. "A combatant using a weapon with a long reach (spears, for instance) may choose to attack a closing opponent on the closing opponent's number and thus attack simultaneously with the opponent, even if the combatant rolled lower for initiative." [Initiative]
  3. "Once two opposing combatants are within 5' of each other, they are engaged" [Movement]
  4. An "attack made after a running move... is called a Charge." [Charging]
  5. "Spears, pole arms, and certain other piercing weapons deal double damage when “set” (braced against the ground or floor) and used against a charging combatant. To set against charge, the combatant being charged must have equal or better initiative; this counts as holding an action. Both charging and charged combatant act on the charging combatant's initiative number and are therefore simultaneous." [Set for Charge]
  6. "Whenever a combatant kills or incapacitates an opponent with a melee or missile attack, he may immediately make another attack throw against another opponent within 5’ of the target he has just dropped." [Cleaving]
  7. "Characters armed with spears can attack from the second rank in melee and inflict double damage when used in or against a charge." [Spears]

Therefore to answer your question:


1) can you brace against a charge and hold it for multiple rounds? (thereby negating the requirement to beat the target on initiative if they're far enough away)
No. You can be assured that you will at least attack simultaneously with the opponent due to the Initiative rule, but you have equal or better Initiative to the enemy to deal double damage.

2) can you brace against a charge from the 2nd rank?
The intent is that "setting for charge" is a way of attacking with spears, and spears allow you to attack from the second rank. Therefore, yes.

3) if someone charges into a line of braced spears, does everyone within reach get to attack for double, or only the one who was charged?
Yes, everyone within reach can attack. Yes, anyone set for charge deals double damage.

That said, the rules are admittedly susceptible to multiple interpretations in number 3, because of the language "the combatant being charged" and "the charging combatant" suggests that only the target being charged can deal double damage. In this light, remember that if you're within 5' of an opponent, you are considered "engaged" by the opponent, even if he's attacking someone else; moreover, should the opponent kill his target, you are at risk of being attacked by the opponent on that initiative number (because of cleaving). Therefore in a practical sense you are a "charged combatant" if you are a combatant engaged by a charge. So while this is a slightly tortured reading of the rules, I'd say it's the correct one.

EXAMPLE: A party of 7 spearmen, with 4 in the front rank and 3 in the second rank, are charged by a pack of 4 goblin riders on dire wolves. The front rank spearmen are each adventurers (named A, B, C, and D), while the second rank are a group of hired light infantry.  The goblin riders begin 300' away (two rounds of movement).

Round 1. Initiative rolls are: A 6, B 5, C 3, D 2, Light Infantry 4, Goblin Riders 4. 
On 6, A sets for charge. 
On 5, B sets for charge.
On 4, Light Infantry set for charge. Goblin Rider's advance 150'.
On 3, C sets for charge.
On 2, D sets for charge.

Round 2. Initiative rolls are A 1, B 2, C 4, D 5, Light Infantry 4, Goblin Riders 3. 
On 5, D sets for charge.
On 4, C sets for charge. Light Infantry set for charge.
On 3, Goblin Riders charge. Goblin Rider 1 charges A, Goblin Rider 2 charges B, Goblin Rider 3 charges C, Goblin Rider 4 charges D. The fight plays out as follows:
A attacks Goblin Rider 1 simultaneously with 1's attack on A
B attacks Goblin Rider 2 simultaneously with 2's attack on B
C attacks Goblin Rider 3 simultaneously with 3's attack on C, and deals double damage if he hits
D attacks Goblin Rider 4 simultaneously with 4's attack on D, and deals double damage if he hits
The Light Infantry could attack any of the Goblin Riders simultaneous with their attacks on A-D, and deal double damage if they hit.





thanks, as always, for an informative and detailed response alex. hopefully the party make it out of this scuffle alive!