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Breaking Guard & Exploit action

Would you allow a PC (or Nemesis/Toughened opponent) to automatically use the Exploit talent if they’ve already used 2 momentum (or doom) to Break Guard? Or would that be considered too powerful as it implies that a) you’ve moved into close range (D1 attack), b) deny the opponent the opportunity to parry (since no guard), and c) automatically activate a weapon quality? … Just curious what the community thinks…

Sure, why not? But the order would have to be the following:

  1. The character performs the Exploit Action AND they have a Talent which reduces the Exploit’s skill test to D0 (so its a Free Action)
  2. Use 2 Momentum to Break Guard
  3. Use your Standard Action to attack normally

This combination is actually something you can build your character towards. If you like to play a roguish character that is not particularly strong in melee combat, this would be something where you can contribute significant damage.

For NPCs this would be fine as well if it only occurs occasionally. You would have to describe the NPCs accordingly so that the players know what to expect. So for example fast moving Ninjas or maybe guys with large hammers.

I think it’s fun to sometimes throw enemies at the players that completely mess with their expectations on how the combat is going to go.

Wait, what is the talent which reduces the Exploit action to D0?

The Exploit action can be performed with any skill, not just Observation (GM’s discretion). So if the GM allows it, you could e.g. use the Acrobatics skill if you describe your Exploit as flipping and jumping around. Combined with the Nimble as a Cat Talent, your Exploit action would be D0. There are various Talents and tools that reduce Difficulties of skill tests, so you just have to find a creative way to Exploit your enemy with it.

Personally as a GM, I tend to be very lenient if players describe a way to Exploit using a skill. I find that this gives characters who do not focus on combat a nice way to participate.

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You can also do it as a Swift Action

Standard Action Exploit

  • 2 Momentum Break Guard
  • 2 Momentum to Swift Action (+1D) / 1 Fortune Point

2nd Standard Action Melee Attack.

Do remember that Exploits within Reach can proc Retaliate Reactions though (I’d recommend resolving that as a FTF).

This probably means that you’re often going to be better off using 2 Weapons and use your first Attack to Break Guard and your second to follow up.

This is a 3 Momentum cost, so significant but not unreasonable.

(Also, remember that fists are Reach 1. So using your Reach 3 Spear to Break Guard vs their Reach 3 Spear and then following up with a punch to the face is just as much an option as using a Main Gauche to slash your opponent when you knock their Duelling Sword off-line).

Also did I miss that you can’t take a Parry reaction if you have no Guard?

Hi, I’m not sure about this:

" 1. The character performs the Exploit Action AND they have a Talent which reduces the Exploit’s skill test to D0 (so its a Free Action)"

Core book:

p111 “Under no circumstances can a skill test be attempted as a Free Action.”

p113 “A Free Action is a simple action that can be **performed either **
instantaneously, or within a split second, and requires
almost no thought or coordination to accomplish. A Free
Action can never include a skill test where dice are rolled.
If an action requires a skill test, it is not a Free Action.”

p115 “Standard actions, Exploit:
The character takes additional time and concentration
readying the next attack, seeking to find vulnerabilities in a
single target’s defenses. The player nominates a target the
character is able to perceive, and attempts an Average (D1)
Observation test (modified for Observation tests by distance,
lighting, etc.).”

p56 “Nimble as a cat
When making an Acrobatics test to jump or leap, reduce
the Difficulty by one step for every rank of Nimble as a Cat.
This may eliminate the need for the skill test if the result is
reduced to Simple (D0).”

Acrobatics is definitely a good way to do exploit in action, how ever its not a simple jump or leap, rather a series of feints with the body, changing tempo, twisting ect., so personally, I think this talent is not applicable here, also, a standard action won’t become a free action by reducing it to D0 imagine that you want to climb a wall, let say its D1, then the player says he has climbing tools ect, now its D0…its still a standard action in my opinion.


By RAW, Break Guard can only be done as part of an Attack or a Defend Reaction so you can’t do so as part of the Exploit. So if you’re doing this yourself then you’d either need to break their guard when they attack you be defending or you’d need to set it up.

Ideally though you get another party member to attack and break their guard (Threaten Attacks are great for this if you have a social party member) and then you Exploit, move and wreck them with a swift action spend.

I would have to completely agree. Reducing the difficulty to D0 does not mean an action becomes a free action. It just means it is an automatic success.

Core book, p116 - Exploit Action

In situations where the skill test’s Difficulty is Simple (D0), Exploit may be used as a Free Action.

Core book, p114 - Regain Guard

If the character has no enemies within Reach, then the Difficulty of this test is Simple (D0), and Regain Guard may be used as a Free Action.

So there are cases, where reducing the Difficulty to D0 makes an Action a Free Action.

There are some circumstances, besides a possible Talent that reduces Difficulties for certain Skill tests, that reduce the Difficulty of an Exploit Action.

Grappling Quality

Against an ensnared target, the Difficulty of the Exploit Action is reduced by one step.


If the group attempting surprise succeeds at the Struggle, each character on that side reduces the Difficulty of the Exploit action by one step […] and acts immediately at the start of combat […]

In the case of Suprise and Grappling, having to perform the Exploit Action as a Standard Action to activate the Unforgiving Quality would make A LOT of attack options of creatures unapplicable.
An example:
The Giant Constrictor Snake has the attack of Envelop with the Grappling Quality. On enveloped targets it may use its Constrict attack with Unforgiving 2 Quality.
If it successfully envelops a target, activating the Grappling Quality by rolling at least 1 Effect, then it gets the Exploit Action at reduced Difficulty (D0) due to the Grappling Quality.
The issue here is, if the Constrictor Snake now has to spend the next turn to perform the Exploit Action - albeit at D0 - this wastes a full round for this snake, until it can actually start trying to crush an enveloped target. That makes no sense at all.
For those attack types, the Exploit Action being at D0 a FREE Action is a must to activate the Unforgiving Quality the snake has.

And, on the other hand, performing an Exploit Action is neither an Attack nor a Defense Reaction, that means even a grappled target may make a Retaliate Reaction to the Exploit Action as the Standard Action as per p117 - Retaliate Reaction

This reaction may be used when an enemy attempts to make a non-attack skill test when within Reach of the character or when an enemy attempts to move out of Reach of the character without using the Withdraw action. The character may immediately attempt a Melee attack.

If the Exploit Action with reduced Difficulty D0 were not a Free Action, then any creature or character trying to use an attack with the Grappling Quality and then an attack mode with Unforgiving X quality would be “suicidal”, as it would always prompt a Retaliate Reaction (which is still possible while grappled, as Grappling only prevents other Actions except to free yourself, but not Reactions - at least not as it is written).

Here some of the clarifications from the Google+ Conan Rules FAQ:

The total benefits of Surprise are:
The ambushing side goes first, and this can’t be changed.
They gain the benefit of an Exploit action at -1 Difficulty. This means if it’s a D0 Exploit action they get the benefits for free, but obviously have no Momentum to spend.
The D0 (free) Exploit action gives Piercing 2 Quality on the first attack for that character before the end of their next turn.
This D0 Exploit also activates any other thing that activates off of Exploits, such as a weapons Unforgiving Quality.
This D0 Exploit can instead be rolled by a character if they so choose. This spends their Standard Action, just like a regular Exploit, but every success rolled is Momentum which may then be spent on the special Exploit spend which adds not only +1d20, but also +1[CD] to the attack. (to a max of +3d20 as per usual).

If you find it desirable to allow Grappling creatures with an attack mode including the Unforgiving Quality to use it only after spending a full Standard Action on the D0 Exploit Action, that is fine. That makes activating the Unforgiving Quality very dangerous for those creatures - expecially as you cannot defend against a Retaliate Reaction (you may only use Reactions when it is NOT your character’s turn, but in this case it definitely is your character’s turn, as you perform the Exploit Action as a Standard Action). That means the target that is grappled gets a free unavoidable attack on the grappler.

Requiring a D0 Exploit Action to be performed as a Standard Action decidedly weakens all those Grappling plus Unforgiving creature attacks, makes them suicidal.
I cannot imagine that to be the intent - and it is not the wording - of this rule.


It also makes grabbing an opponent and then knifing them a few times very enticing :slight_smile:

Follow up questions.

  1. I’m saying that if the Exploit becomes a D0 test then you’re not using the “Skill Test” Action unless you choose to roll, which then makes it a standard action. Using the D0 Exploit without a roll? Sure. Go ahead. It’s free.

  2. Retaliate says “This reaction may be used when an enemy attempts to make a non-attack skill test”. If there is no Test due to D0, then it wouldn’t trigger the Retaliate reaction.

At least that’s the way my thinking is going. If you’re just Exploiting at D0, it’s not an action and not subject to triggering Retaliate. If you’re taking the time to size up the shot (i.e. rolling) to gain momentum then it is an action and subject to Retaliate.

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That is exactly how I interpret the rules. And I did so for now quite a while, so I am sure it works very well that way.

Good catch.

Just one note, exploit becoming a free action is a result of the circumstances not the result of being D0 due to a talent, and yes, if its a free action, you can’t roll a test for it but it still triggers the base effect like piercing 2 and unforgiven is the weapon has it.