Swancon 17 – progress report November 1991 – Lace & Steel part 2

This is part 2 of the rules summary for the Lace & Steel RPG on pages 16-18 of the progress report. It covers most of the combat related rules summaries. All typos are faithfully reproduced.


Lace & Steel uses a card system to resolve all combat. The deck is made up of 52 cards in two suits, Rapiers and Roses. They are also marked with an attack line (upper, middle or lower) and a number. The procedure for combat is not really complex, but the combat itself can take quite some time and can be lethal (this isn’t D&D!). At the start of combat, each player is dealt cards equal to the Maximum Hand number on the character sheet. The deck is then cut to determine which character has the initiative. The highest card wins, with ties being broken by reference to the attack lines (upper beats middle, middle beats lower). The draws are modified for the INT of the characters and the reach and heft of their weapons. The winner of the initiative contest is the attacker. The attacker plays a card, calling the line (e.g. “middle”), but playing the card face down. The defender must respond by playing a defensive card. The cards are turned and compared. If the defender’s card is in the same line and equal to or greater than the attacker’s card, the attack is successfully parried. If not, the attack is successful and the defender takes damage (see below). The players then determine the draw of new cards. If the suits of the attack and defence cards match, the defender draws a new card. If they are mismatched, the attacker draws. If one of the cards played indicates a “Draw” or “Rip-off”, its player then draws from the deck, or rips-off his opponent by adding cards selected at random from his opponent’s hand to his own. In all cases, the attacker draws/rips-off first. Cards may only be drawn by players whose characters are not wounded in the current pass. Initiative is then determined for the next pass. The attacker retains initiative unless the parry exceeded the attack by one or more points. (There are, however, special cards which will affect the gaining or retaining of initiative.) The pass is then over and the combat returns to the playing of the attack card.

Certain cards will be marked with effects as well as with the normal information:

Stop-hit: When a stop-hit card is played as a defence, the defender attacks her opponent before the original attack is played. The defender must announce the stop-hit and the line (upper, middle or lower), whereupon the attacker must defend against this hit. If the attacker is killed by the stop-hit, the defender does not need to deal with the original blow, otherwise she must defend as normal.
Feint: A feint allows the attacker to play a low-value card to draw out his opponent’s high defence cards. The feint will not lose initiative if parried, unless the defender plays a riposte card.
Riposte: A riposte card will automatically win the initiative for the defender if played as a defence card, as long as the attack is successfully parried.
Disarm: Disarm may be played by either the attack or the defender. If the value of the disarm card exceeds that of the other card by 2 or more points, the opponent is disarmed, and may not pick up his weapon until he can manage to win initiative. Note, of course that the disarmed character may not play any cards other than dodge or intuition cards until the weapon is retrieved. Neither side is damaged by a disarm unless it has been played to parry a stop-hit.
Draw Allows the player to draw the number of cards indicated, provided he or she was not wounded in the current pass.
Rip-off Allows the player to rip-off the number of cards indicated, unless wounded in the current pass. This occurs before drawing of new cards.
Lock Hilts: Playable as a parry, lock hilts stops the combat while the characters match each other in a Contest of Strength. The winner gains initiative and rips-off the opponent for 2 cards.
Dodge: There is no line printed on a dodge, and it may be used to defend against any attack. If the suits on attack and dodge cards match, the defender gains initiative, otherwise it is retained by the attacker.
Intuition: Also not marked as an attack card, this card must be played before an attack is made in the current pass. The player of the card is allowed to inspect the opponent’s cards before play continues.
Disengage: Played instead of an attack by the attacker, this allows the character to flee without allowing the opponent a strike against his back, or to re-engage and redraw for starting initiative. A re-engaging player will regain one point of Max Hand lost through fatigue.


Every character has a fatigue rating. A player keeps all the combat cards she plays in a separate pile, and when the number of cards in that pile reaches her character’s fatigue rating, her Max Hand drops by one. Points lost in this way can be regained by rest, or by passing the initiative to the other player. The fatigue rating can be lowered by the wearing of armour.


When an attack is successful, the defender is wounded. The damage rating of the attack is determined by subtracting the value of the defence card from that of the attack card if both are in the same line, or by simply applying the number on the attack card if the cards are in different lines. If the damage rating is higher than one, there is a possibility of follow-up damage. If the suits are mismatched, the attacker draws one card from the deck and adds it to the attack. The card is reduced by one if the strength rating of the attacker is lower than that of the defender. Brawling weapons such as fists, feet, rocks and such, cause only temporary damage. This damage stuns and knocks out rather than killing.
Multiple attackers against a lone defender combine their hands (of cards) into one and play as one single entity. Max hands are added together, but all other factored stats are averaged throughout the group.


Armour offers some protection against damage. When a hit is scored against an armoured location, a card is drawn from the deck and compared to the protection value of the armour. The damage will only take effect if the number on the card is greater than the armour protection. If follow-up damage is scored, two cards are drawn and penetration is checked against the higher of the two.

Other Combat Rules

Drawing new hands: There are few circumstances under which a player may draw a new hand. For those occasions, each character has a “new draw” rating, which indicates the number of cards to be drawn.
Desperate Defence: If a character is attacked, the player discard his current hand and draw three cards in a desperate defence. This may only be done once per round. This is useful when the defender has no cards matching the current line of the attack, and no dodge cards.
Lack of Attack Cards: If the attacking player runs out of attack cards, she must discard and draw a number of cards equal to her character’s draw rating.
Lack of All Cards: If a player runs out of cards completely, she may draw a new hand next time she is attacked or wins initiative.
Higher skill on one side is a distinct advantage. The more highly skilled player draws, in all cases, additional cards equal to the difference in skill ratings. They player may not, of course, exceed Maximum Hand rating, and must discard extra cards from these draws. A skill rating of 2 or more above an opponent forces the less skilled player to play all cards face up rather than face down.
Missile combat takes a similar form to melee. The players determine initiative by adding their New Draw rating to the handiness for their weapons. Highest score goes first; ties indicate simultaneous fire. Missile combat takes ten seconds, i.e. ten melee turns. Success in missile combat is determined as a task, using the DEX of the character against the difficulty rating of the target, with the firer’s missile skill as a DRM. Damage is determined by drawing a card from the deck at random, a card in Rapiers allowing the player to draw a second card and add this to the first. Armour protects against some missile fire, but unproved armour (i.e. non-metal armour and armour that has not been checked by the armourer) can be automatically penetrated at closer ranges.

This entry was posted in Conventions, Fan production, Progress reports, SwanCon and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *