Melee combat with mismatched weapons

In Melee combat, if the defender wins the Opposed Task, they could choose to Strike the attacker. However, the number of challenge dice they roll will depend, in part, on the weapon used, so they obviously need to choose a weapon to do damage. In fact, it seems reasonable that the target of a Melee attack should have to declare what weapon they are using to defend against the attack (though I don’t see that detail in the CRB). If they win and decide to do damage, that will be the weapon used.

So, how do you handle melee attacks where one of the Characters uses a weapon that should generally outmatch the weapon used by the other character?

For example, what if one character is wielding a bat’leth and the other is unarmed? According to the rules, that’s supposed to be an Opposed Task where each participant has a Difficulty 1 Task. If you follow that rule to the letter, then the probability of a win would not change at all if the unarmed character instead had a bat’leth of their own with which to defend themselves. Doesn’t that seem a little unreasonable?

I’d suggest that when one Character’s weapon is clearly outmatched by the other, the GM should consider making the Task for at outmatched Character at least a Difficulty 2 in the Opposed Task.


Personally, I don’t like the opposed task mechanic at all when making melee attacks, but that’s for another day…

Actually, what you propose is already within the rules. Weapons (like all equipment) are Traits, and Traits can increase or decrease the difficulty of Tasks as per the core rules. So I think it is entirely reasonable that a bat’leth modifies the difficulty if the opponent has no suitable melee weapon.

Whether it should affect the character’s own task or the opponent’s is largely a matter of preference and should not have a huge mechanical impact.


In addition to what @Shran already put (and correctly so!): STA is designed to be a narrative and especially dramatic system. An unarmed attacker dodging a bat’leth and then boxing with his fist (or better: the classic two-fisted punch with crossed/linked fingers) would definetly be something we would see on screen. :smiley:

Thanks for the reply!

I realize that what I’m suggesting is within the rules and that the GM can modify a Task as they see fit for a given situation. However, since it’s not explicitly stated that the defensive weapon used might affect the Opposed Task, I thought it would be interesting to make the suggestion and see what others thought.

On a side note, while I like the way STA provides the Trait concept as a flexible method of applying effects, modify Tasks, etc., I’ve never really thought of objects like weapons as Traits themselves. I don’t think the CRB talks about them that way, but please correct me if I’m wrong. However, I might say that difference between mismatched weapons in melee combat could add a Trait to the defender (or attacker), causing the two Tasks in the Opposed Tasks to have different difficulties.

Roger that. I can appreciate how you might add a narrative to a win by the defender as you noted.

Still, let’s say the defender is then able to pick up their own bat’leth. Doesn’t it seem odd that they still have the same probability of winning in an attack as when they had to rely on dodging and throwing punches? That’s the way I see things, at least.

My post was simply suggesting that, in the spirit of STA, the GM might want to modify the relative difficulties depending on the weapons each character is using.


Core rules on page 183 say that most ordinary items of equipment take the form of an Advantage. So not exactly Traits I mentioned, but pretty much the same thing in this context.

Also, the “Standard Issue” box mentions that the GM has to decide whether to not an item is already included in the difficulty of a task, or if its absence makes the task more difficult.

I’d day attacking a weaponless opponent with a melee weapon is definitely an edge for the attacker, unless the defender has like a phaser rifle or an appropriate martial arts focus.


This is exactly what traits are for. Two characters square off in melee. They’re both D1 tasks. One of the characters has the trait “Klingon” and the GM can say that simply being raised as Klingon makes the melee easier for them (or harder for their opponent) and modifies the difficulty accordingly. The Klingon also has a bat’leth, which functions as a trait as well (an Advantage is simply a trait that is always positive) which also makes things easier for them or harder for the opponent.

So the end result is you could have the roll be D0 for the Klingon and D2 for the opponent or D1 for the Klingon and D3 for the opponent. If the opponent wins and generates enough Momentum they could spend to create a Complication for the Klingon (let’s call it disarmed) which nullifies the Advantage of the weapon.

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Good points. I had forgotten about that note on 183, but it makes complete sense. As Grendel points out, Advantages are just Traits that are positive in nature, so your original statement was correct.

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All of this makes sense but I’d point out that the bat’leth isn’t inherently an advantage. Reach is advantageous but the dynamics switch in a crowded room or narrow corridor etc where there isn’t as much room to swing it. While a fist or d’ktahg could more easily be brought to force. Though really “cramped quarters” or w/e could be traits of the scene so I’m kinda just splitting hairs.

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Just a thought on the opposed mechanic: it may not fit the more general RPG style of combat, but it reflects what we see in Trek TV quite well. Look at any of the combats where the Klingons or Jem’hadar take on unarmed Starfleet officers hand-to-hand: you generally get a struggle where the two combatants both have hold of the weapon and are lurching back and forth. Either one can get the advantage as a result.

I do get what you’re saying about weapons and advantages, but it could be assumed that Starfleet unarmed combat training includes ways to negate those advantages. It might not be real-world realistic, but it is very cinematic.

For the record, I haven’t really worried about this level of detail and it’s generally worked out ok. I’m never trying to actually defeat the players, just give them an entertaining obstacle. It seems to be balanced enough for that!

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This is why the flexibility of Advantages and Complications is so… advantageous. The GM can decide whether to apply and advantage (and change the Opposed Task accordingly) based on the situation, the game play, or even just for story telling aspects of the game. It can be as complex or simple as you like, and there’s no need to fill the rule book with all the different possibilities. I just think it’s good to keep these things in mind when GMing a Melee attack.