Player Facing Combat in Open Legend


This is my first time posting on a forum, so please forgive any improper behavior, I will do my best to follow protocol (as best I understand.) Also, I am not a particularly skilled writer, so some of this may be difficult to understand or cringe worthy, sorry in advance.

This post is just kind of a fun, theory crafting post, and not a complaint about Open Legend (a system I really enjoy btw.) Perhaps the idea in this post is great and could improve many peoples games, or perhaps it absolutely terrible and should be completely disregarded, probably somewhere in the middle. Whatever it is, it definitely is not what it could be, and constructive criticism would be greatly appreciated.

I was watching a youtube video covering player facing combat (in particular a video on the channel Dungeon Craft named Player Facing D&D (Episode #147)) and thought the idea was really cool. The basic idea being PCs roll to defend themselves, as opposed to the GM rolling to attack. I was trying to figure out how player facing combat would work in Open Legend, and this is what I have come up with so far. I attempted to make as few changes as possible to feats, banes, or boons to make it as easy to use and compatible as possible.

The Basic Concept: PCs no longer have static defenses. When a PC is attacked, they roll for their relevant defense against a static Attack CR that is attached to the attacking NPC. NPCs retain their static defenses.

The Defensive Roll Formulas
Guard = An Agility or Might roll + (Armour + Feats + Boons)
Toughness = A Fortitude or Will roll + (Feats + Boons)
Resolve = A Will or Presence roll + (Feats + Boons)

Gamified Description: PCs no longer have static defenses. When a PC is attacked, they are given a Defense Action, a free action allowing them to roll a defense score relevant to the incoming attack. Should a PC choose not to roll, their defense is 0. NPCs retain their static defenses, and are given an Attack CR."

Defense Action: A free action granted when targeted by an attack. The PC rolls the relevent defense vs the Attack CR.

Attributes rolled during the Defense Action action gain no bonuses, advantages, or disadvantages unless specifically stated otherwise.

Vera rolls her agility during her Guard Defense Action against a river troll, she has Defensive Reflexes I, as well as Skill Specialization II (Agility), but neither of these apply to Defense Actions, so she gains no advantage on her agility roll.

Defend Actions: Defense Actions do not replace Defend actions. Defend actions can still be taken after (or before) rolling a Defense Action, and act identically to how it would work normally.

Exceptional Success: If your defense roll is lower than the target’s Attack CR by 10 or more, it is considered an exceptional success for the attacker.

Advantage and Disadvantage: Advantage and disadvantage can be simulated by adjusting the Attack CR appropriately, increasing it for advantage, and decreasing it for disadvantage.


Vera is staring down a River Troll, before it suddenly lunges at her. The Trolls attack is against guard, so Vera must make an Guard Defense Action. Her Agility is higher than her Might so she chooses to roll Agility. Vera rolls an 8, then she adds her armor bonus of +1, and she has the Resistance boon applied at PL3, adding an additional +3 to make a total guard score of 12. The trolls’ Attack CR is 25, so Vera takes 12 points of damage and because she rolled 10 underneath the trolls Attack CR, she is inflicted with a bane, and the troll uses its overwhelming strength to knock her off her feet, choosing the Knockdown bane.

After Vera’s next turn the River Troll lunges at her again. Her Guard Defense Action roll is a 15 against the trolls Attack CR of 25, an exceptional failure, but instead of suffering the effects of the attack, she attempts to use her defend action to create a wall of force with the Protection attribute, and rolls a 27 using Protection, avoiding all damage from the troll.

NPC Attack CR Table - Prototype
(Based on “Challenge Ratings By Difficulty Table” in Chapter 2 of the Core Rules)
Weak Attack CR: 15
Medium Attack CR: 20
Powerful Attack CR: 25
Very Powerful Attack CR: 30
Extremely Poweful Attack CR: 35
Advantage: +2 to CR.
Disadvantage: -2 to CR.


  • Easy to plug n play from the player end, almost all current systems appear to work with little to no changes.
  • Players rolling more dice is good.
  • More intuitive for players describe how they avoid an attack/react to situations, potentially leaving less work for the GM.
  • Less player downtime during GM turns.
  • Obvious asymmetrical combat.
  • Multi-target attacks are not dependent on a single die role (for NPCs)


  • Static modifiers stray from open legend design.
  • Confusion between defend actions and defense actions.
  • Player on Player combat might be a little wack. (I’d probably just revert back to static defenses for PvP).
  • Summon Creatures boon might need some tweaking (maybe make the defensive die the same as the Defenses Score - 10).
  • NPC creation is different.
  • No NPC explosions (no dice explosions anyway, you can still blow NPCs up).
  • Obvious asymmetrical combat.

Misc Notes:

  • While it is not necessary to use a Attack CR, and just make contested rolls for NPC attacks/actions, it would probably just give NPCs higher defenses on average, meaning players do less damage and combat will likely become slow and unnecessarily drawn out + harder on the fly math.
  • Practically no play testing has been done with this system.

1. What should the new action be named?
2. General problems with this system?
3. Is there any incompatibilities with the base system?
4. While adding static modifiers is a safe way to keep the defense scores balanced, it’s also inconsistent with how all other rolls are handled. Is there a formula for rolling defense scores that doesn’t involve static modifiers?
5. Is Attack CR a good name?

Hopefully all this was written clearly enough.

Thank you for taking the time to read my post.

Edit: Added the defense action name. Added the exceptional success block. Added advantage and disadvantage block. Crossed out question 1. Added question 5. A few other tweaks. Thanks RemixTheIdiot.

I didn’t finish reading it yet.

But if you want to do the Player Facing Combat thing Dungeon Craft did (I also watched the video so I know what you are trying to accomplish)

It’s actually really easy to do and you don’t need to do all this complicated stuff of whatever it is I’m about to read.

Just make the players do the enemy attacks.

If an enemy is going to attack, just tell the player what they dice they need to roll and how much advantage or disadvantage they have to apply. And then calculate from there.
It’s that simple in OL.

I’ll probably edit this later.

Edit: Read it fully, here’s what I have to say.

I’m not an expert at math, and probability, if we put it at the scale (forgot what it was called) I’m at the skill level where I’m incredibly confident I know everything because I still don’t know how much I don’t actually know.

So firstly… First post probably doesn’t mean you are completely new to the system but if you are new…
Please don’t tinker with the system too much until you’ve ran a couple of games…
'cuz uhh… There are a lot of problems I can see at a glance.

From what I can see with these rules the math and probability isn’t the exact same as if the enemy would attack. They are far off…!
How would these rules translate to bane attacks? Exceptional attacks? How would their advantage and disadvantage work?
You mentioned this with your 4th question and my answer really is, to just simply make the players do the enemy attack themselves. It achieves the same thing Dungeon Craft wanted to do with Player Facing.
For multi-target attacks, it might actually be a little fun as instead of 1 roll determining the fate of many, all the players get to determine their fate in a fast manner as opposed to if you the GM rolled once for everyone or rolled individually for everyone.

To answer your other questions or other more feedback I got nothing.
Or maybe I do, but I’m not experienced and confident enough myself so I’ll leave the rest to the others who I believe to be more qualified and competent than me.

Though I can give a sort of quick answer…

Defense action. Just Defense action. Not to be confused with Defend Action (which again, how will you handle that in this new system?) but Defense action. Get it? 'Cuz you’re rolling for your Defense score, which is not an attribute of sorts?

I already answered most of them sort of here somewhat but again, the other peeps will tell you in better detail than I can.

Pretty much this thing is very incompatible as it is and also completely changes the math and stuff of combat.

Thanks for reading and replying,

The Name: Defense Action, I like it, nice and simple, easy to remember. I will go through and add it into the main post.

The Math: I suspected the math would be off, as I am not any good at probabilities myself. The math in this post is somewhat of a simplified prototype. However, the Defense Action math is purposely as similar to how you would normally calculate your defenses as possible. The only difference being instead of having a flat 10 + stuff, its an [ability score roll] + stuff.
So you are basically calculating your defenses whenever you get attacked.

How would these rules translate to bane attacks? Exceptional attacks? How would their advantage and disadvantage work?

Exceptional attacks are somewhat covered in the example (although not very clearly), instead of an exceptional success, it is an exceptional failure when a PC roles 10 or lower (or 5 or lower if the enemy has Bane Focus) below an Attack CR.

Bob the Necromancer wants to drain Jerry the Rogues life force (typical entropy attack). Bob’s Attack CR is 20, so if Jerry roles 10 or under with his Toughness Defense Action, then that would be considered an exceptional failure, and he would be subject the same effect as an exceptional success.

Bane attacks work as they would normally.

Bob the Necromancer wants to cast a fear spell on to Jerry the Rogue. Bob’s Attack CR is 20, so Jerry must role over a 20 or over with his resolve defense action to resist being inflicted with the Fear bane.

Advantage and disadvantage can be simulated by changing the Attack CR according to the situation.

An Ogres’ typical Attack CR is 25, as a result of being forced into an enclosed space, it gives the Ogre disadvantage, lowering his Attack CR to 23. (Keep in mind, this math is just for example, not necessarily what it should be.)

As for your idea of making the players roll the enemies attacks, I never thought of that, I like its simplicity and minimal work to implement. I’m not completely convinced my system is bust yet, but having players roll enemies attacks is definitely an enticing alternative.

Thanks for the feedback!

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I’ve been making players roll for enemy attacks from the very beginning.
It was intuitive for me. They deal with the calculations while I’m busy handling all the paper work and book keeping needed during combat.
Unless the enemy has higher agility than them, I usually just let the players go before the enemies instead of rolling initiative.

One thing I realized about your defense thing would be that for Defense Actions (As I have proudly named it) might require the creation of a new seperate attribute that must be rolled entirely anyway.

And finally, the fact that enemies now have to roll low against the party to hit…
That means the probability is actually REALLY heavily screwed in favor of the party. Which might be good, or it might be bad depending on how you view things.

Here’s the reason why: Dice Explosions.

Dice Explosions always add that factor in combat. One good roll could determine the outcome of a fight.
If the players are still using the usual roll high to hit, then dice explosions allow them to do this.
But because enemies have to roll low, they don’t have this opportunity.
Actually, If you keep the dice explosion mechanic for Defense Actions, that means they might actually have more chances of missing than hitting.
Not to mention rolling low means they have a maximum damage output while the players don’t.

Here’s an example
Imagine we have Jim the Knight, and Gobble the Goblin, attacks Jim the Knight
Jim rolls for the Defense Action using his Might score of 5. Gobble’s CR is 20 or something.
This means the maximum damage Gobble can deal to Jim is 19! But actually, since a score of 5 lets you roll 3 dice, the maximum damage Gobble can deal is only 17!
So even in the worst case scenario of Jim rolling all 1’s on his dice, 17 is the highest damage Gobble can inflict!
It’s still exceptional Success sure but if Jim is a good knight, he’d have Hit Points in the 20’s!
Having a Lower attack CR means some enemies won’t even be able to do exceptional success!
And also they don’t have the same factor players have. The same ability to 1 hit KO them that makes Combat in OL so exciting in my opinion…

So I don’t know man…
Go playtest this rule and adjust it, I think it has potential, but as it is, it can definitely be improved upon. If it’s fun then that’s good! But I personally don’t see myself ever using this. I’ll stick to just letting players roll for enemy attacks themselves.

So, I’ve just finished watching the video you’ve mentioned and there are a couple of points I’ve wanted to address from the video and your post. I’ll start with the premises that the video creator lays out that I have issues with (I’ll paraphrase):

  • It’s more active for the players and involves players more
  • Eliminates adversarial relationship between players and GM

If active means more rolling than ok, but the other systems mentioned in the beginning of the video, are much more elaborate and offer the players much more agency on these rolls. For example, the Cypher system lets a player spend resources and calls for decisions from the player whenever their character is attacked, so I find it a bit of a stretch to say that players are more involved and active just because they get to roll a dice.

Also, saying that that eliminates or mitigates the adversarial nature between the GM and players is slightly laughable to me. This is achieved by the behaviour at the table, not by the system. I’ve run OL in a very adversarial manner, to challenge players and their characters, and I’ve run games helping the players out all the time, by giving advice etc. And I’ve made the same experience as a player in the Cypher system. So, this boils mostly down to the GM and what kind of game they want to run.

Now let’s get into the real meat; the changes you’ve proposed to OL. I’ll start by saying that overall execution ain’t bad but I think it starts to falter when you get to the fine print. OL is a system for which it’s easy to design and add content on top of what already exists but anytime you start changing the fundamentals, it gets tricky as there are so many interlocking parts. So, I’ll just outline a couple of problems I see and assessments I disagree with:

  • Easy to plug n play from the player end, almost all current systems appear to work with little to no changes.
    At first glance, yes but then questions start cropping up like “does the Skill Specialisation feat apply to Defensive Rolls?”, “Do I get disadvantage on them from Level 1 Fatigued?”, “Do I get advantage from Bolster?”, and so on. So it’s not as simple as appears it first.

  • Players rolling more dice is good.
    If that’s the case then you could just tell them to let them roll your NPCs’ attacks, so I disagree with that premise. Rolling without agency is rather pointless to me.

  • Obvious asymmetrical combat.
    If it’s in both categories than I’d say it’s not worth mentioning in either.

  • 2. General problems with this system?
    The biggest flaw I see is that it introduces a new progression to NPCs and how the math is applied to them compared to PCs. For example, disadvantage/advantage becoming a flat + or - 2 does not reflect OL’s math since dis/advantage has diminishing returns. At first, this might not matter much but once you reach higher levels it will, as you can get easily up to 10 advantage at times.

  • 3. Is there any incompatibilities with the base system?
    Plenty, and I outlined a few.

  • 4. While adding static modifiers is a safe way to keep the defense scores balanced, it’s also inconsistent with how all other rolls are handled. Is there a formula for rolling defense scores that doesn’t involve static modifiers?
    I’m not sure I understand this one completely but I guess the answer is no.

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Thanks for taking the time to read and respond!

I mostly agree with you on your analysis of the video, the thing that I primarily cared about was the idea of players rolling to defend, instead of NPCs rolling to attack.

At this point, while I enjoyed thinking up the system, I don’t really see how it actually improves Open Legend (with one exception), and therefore see no real reason to continue working on it.

Multi Targeting Attacks from NPCs
The one thing that is (subjectively) improved.

Lets have your big bad dragon target the entire party with its legendary flame breath… a 12, not a single party member gets meaningfully effected. On the flip side, a 93, instant TPK. With this system, every character can be effected radically differently based on there roll, one person ducks behind cover in time, while the other takes the full force the attack. Although there is a chance for all the players to avoid the legendary breath attack (or whatever, its just an example), they do so because they are awesome, not because the dragon sucks.

While good narration/gming and role play can help mitigate those “problems”, this system doesn’t really have those issues to begin with (it has a bunch of other issues though.)

Edit: An easy way to handle this situation as a gm would be to say, “The dragon rolled a 12, how do you not get burnt to ashes?” Honestly that idea (and I’m sure many more) can fix this “problem.” This section was not very well thought out, but deleting it feels dishonest.

Playing devils advocate…
(Please Ignore if Busy)

This is somewhat covered by the following excerpt:

Attributes rolled during the Defense Action gain no bonuses, advantages, or disadvantages unless specifically stated otherwise.

Feats, banes, or boons could be created or modified to affect Defense Action, but I thought it would be more important to get a core system working first.

Agreed, players rolling more dice being good is completely subjective, and not a good argument. Yeah, there is no really point of putting the same point as a Pro and Con.

Yeah, I thought the math would definitely be the weakest part of the system, and I completely forgot about diminishing returns. However, I do believe that the math could be corrected. Having an Attack CR is pretty much the same as rolling against a CR outside of combat, except low rolls matter more than high rolls, which is a significant difference. It uses the same basic system, so the math could theoretically be fixed. If someone was crazy enough to invest the time to do so.

This is probably just bad wording on my part. In Open Legend, you never add/subtract a modifier to your roll (that I can think of), if you are better at something, your simply get better dice (through higher attribute scores) and/or more dice (through advantage.) In my system, you would add a modifier to your attribute role, which diverges from than the rest of the system.

Normal Action Roll: 1d20+2d6ADV2
Defense Action Role: 1d20+2d6+5 <- Nothing else has a modifier.

The question was “Is there a formula for Defense Action that don’t involve a modifier?”
This isn’t actually that important, but having one thing that is different can be counter-intuitive.

Ultimately, why fix what ain’t broke.

If you read this far, thanks for taking the time.

Sorry if it’s rude to keep replying to a topic, but I think I figured out how to solve the biggest issue with my new, unnecessary system!

Pretty much replace my first post with this.

New Houserule: Active Defenses

Defense Action: A free action granted whenever a conscious PC is targeted by an attack (intentionally or unintentionally.) The PC makes a defense roll relative to the defense being targeted.
Attributes rolled during the Defense Action action gain no bonuses, advantages, or disadvantages unless explicitly stated.
Optional: Should a PC refuse to roll, their defense is 0 (or determined by the GM.)

Guard Defense Roll= Agility or Might roll + (Guard-10)
Toughness Defense Roll = Fortitude or Will roll + (Toughness-10)
Resolve Defense Roll = Will or Presence roll + (Resolve-10)

The only thing to keep in mind is that the PCs defenses will be higher on average, so NPCs need to be buffed accordingly.

That’s it! Way simpler, no weird math stuffs, NPCs still explode, and it has a better name.

A hopefully better fix to what isn’t broken in the first place.

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Isn’t this just an Interrupt Defend Action but with a few extra steps and removes a few other things?
It’s a free action with no penalty so they’re just gonna do it all the time!

This part of the rule is also very vague and confusing… What does that mean by explicitly stated? By who?

If the GM has to adjust accordingly for a minor rule change is required then I don’t see how this is any simple.
Technically simpler than the previous Defense Action rules but still requires a bit of adaptation.

I dunno, having them roll for their defense all the time rather than just using a flat defense score…
There’s also a chance that the enemy can deal more damage than usual if they roll low on their Defense Roll, even if it is not as likely. The Defend Action at least doesn’t lower your targeted Defense if you rolled lower than your Defense Score.
If the enemy’s also rolling for attacks anyway… It means more dice is gonna be rolled.
There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Too much dice rolls can slow down the game.

Maybe I can see this working if it is used only sometimes, as a saving throw style mechanic similar to D&D that applies only to Players when multiple PC’s are targeted by a multi target attack.
Otherwise, changing attacks completely to a Contested roll rather than the usual roll will only slow the game down. But if that won’t be a problem then I guess there is no problem with it, you do you.

Ah sorry, I’ve missed that part.

Yeah, that’s the main issue I see. This idea is much easier to adapt to systems with linear, but the high variance of Open Legend due to dis/advantage and explosions makes it much more difficult.

I agree with this part, even if the example you have chosen isn’t illustrating it well but I get what you meant. There are some wonky parts when multi-targeting, so your idea would solve most of those but the hassle to balance this system would be considerable, only to improve a small part of the system in the end.

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