|Art by Dave Sutherland|
As might be expected, combat in Empire of the Petal Throne is handled much like combat in Dungeons & Dragons. For a character to successfully strike an opponent, the player must roll a certain number or higher on a d20. The specific number is found by consulting a table that indexes the attacker's experience level against the defender's “armour class.” Non-human attackers instead consult a table that indexes hit dice against the defender's armour class.
Also like D&D, armour class in EotPT is descending; lower numbers represent a greater amount of protection. Whereas armor class in D&D ranges from 9 (no armor) to 2 (plate armor & shield), in EotPT it ranges from 9 (no armour) to 1 (plate armour and shield of iron/steel). On the world of Tékumel, iron is scarce; as a substitute, Chlén-hide is used. A Chlén is “a great, slow moving hippopotamus like animal.” The tanners' clan is able to alter Chlén-hide so that it is “harder than bronze but slightly softer than iron.” Weapons and armour made of iron are rare; also, they are heavier and more expensive than their Chlén-hide counterparts. In fact, metal items are not presented on the equipment list. So, in EotPT, armour class 2 represents “Plate armour and shield of Chlén-hide.” Armour classes 9 through 3 are the same in both systems. Other than armour class 1, all references to plate armour, chainmail, and shields on the EotPT table presumably refer to Chlén-hide. One could assume that metal items have the next 'better' armour class yet the rules do not state this. In EotPT, magic armour does not improve armour class, instead it increases the “to hit” number by an amount equal to the bonus.
The chance of a successful hit by an EotPT character is usually slightly less than that of his D&D counterpart. For example, a first level D&D character needs a result of ten or greater in order to hit an armor class 9 defender, but an EotPT character needs an eleven.
In D&D, the columns of the 'Attack Matrix' represent six 'steps' of three levels each: levels 1-3, levels 4-6, levels 7-9, levels 10-12, levels 13-15, and levels “16 & +.” The structure of the EotPT table is the same except the last column is “13-up.” In D&D, the stated levels are for Fighting-Men; Clerics have 'steps' of four levels and Magic-Users have 'steps' of five. So, for instance, a tenth level Cleric would use the “7-9” column while a tenth level Magic-User would use the “4-6” column. In EotPT, the 'steps' are the same for all three professions; a fourth level Magic User has the same “to hit” number as a fourth level Warrior and a seventh level Priest has the same chance of success as a seventh level Warrior.
Priests and Magic Users have restrictions with regard to armour and/or weapons but it is still counter-intuitive that they should fight with the same expertise as Warriors. As mentioned previously, Warriors have various weapon skills available to them. Weapon skills are not among those available to Magic Users and Priests, yet those professions are capable of using (some) weapons. This would seem to suggest that a Warrior's weapon skills allow for greater proficiency than someone without such skills; the rules, however, provide no enlightenment.
Rolling a “natural 20” when attacking means that damage is doubled. (Damage bonuses are not doubled, however.) Additionally, the d20 is rolled again. If the second roll results in 19 or 20, “the opponent is instantly dead, whatever his hit dice may be.”
Sufficiently high scores in the 'talents' of Strength, Intelligence, Constitution, and Dexterity can provide bonuses to hit and damage. Likewise, sufficiently low scores impose minuses. None of the talents affect armour class. Although Dexterity is described (in part) as “one's ability to parry blows,” the rules do not explain how this is accomplished.
Most weapons inflict 1d6 damage; however, “daggers, thrown rocks, and miscellaneous light missiles” cause 1d4 damage. Some weapons – “battleaxes, flails, morning stars, maces, halberds, poleaxes, and pikes” – inflict 1d6+1 damage, but have a Strength requirement of at least 81. “The great two-handed broadsword favoured by the barbarians of N'lýss” causes 1d6+2 damage, but it requires a Strength of at least 90 and – of course – cannot be used in conjunction with a shield.
As they advance in level, characters can inflict multiple dice of damage upon opponents (depending upon the hit dice of said opponents). For instance, a fourth level Warrior rolls two dice of damage against opponents with one hit die; a sixth level Warrior rolls three dice of damage against opponents with one hit die and two damage dice against opponents with three hit dice. The following table conveys the same information as the EotPT chart, albeit with a different presentation.
|Table shows number of d6 to be rolled for damage|
Warriors are better than the other professions in this regard; for damage increase purposes, Priests are treated as one level less and Magic Users are treated as two levels less. If a character is combating several opponents equivalent to one another, damage in excess of what was needed to kill one opponent is automatically applied to another. In this way, several opponents may be slain with one attack.
A character using a broadsword and a dagger “can strike two blows per combat round.” (Presumably, one attack per weapon.) For these attacks, the die result needed to hit is increased by one.
A character may attempt a “physical action” instead of 'attacking' a foe. Attempting to 'capture' an opponent (instead of inflicting damage) is an example of a “physical action.” Such an action requires a percentile dice roll; if the result of the roll is less than the average of the character's Strength, Dexterity, and Intelligence, the action is successful. If the result “is within 20 points of its maximum,” the victim should be allowed a saving throw against paralysis.