Biblyon the Great

This zine is dedicated to articles about the fantasy role-playing game Gods & Monsters, and other random musings.

Gods & Monsters Fantasy Role-Playing

Beyond here lie dragons

Spotlight on: Warriors

Jerry Stratton, April 17, 2004

As a warrior you have more than just more survival points and a better attack roll, although it is true that most of your benefits are combat-oriented. But what is a warrior? Who are your role-models?

What is a warrior?

The various archetypes in Gods & Monsters are just that: archetypes. They are meant to be archetypal characters of fantasy literature. The warrior’s role is physical attack and defense, as well as leading troops to attack and defend other troops.

Within swords and sorcery fantasy, the warrior holds the sword. However, any character who relies on their weapon is likely to be a warrior, whether that weapon is a quarterstaff (ala Friar Tuck) or a bow (ala Legolas).

Warriors who want to make money as warriors might be soldiers, mercenaries, or guards. Often in the literature, however, warriors spring from other professions: the farmboy leaving home for the big city, or the young adult seeking revenge for the death of someone in their family, or simply the nice bystander in the right place at the right time who stops to defend someone in trouble.

Characters fitting the warrior archetype are often thrust into their role with little previous training. Sometimes they don’t want the role, preferring to be home with friends and family at their “real job”. Fate has thrust them into their role in the story, however, and try as they might fate will not let them go. The best come to accept their role before the story ends.

Who are warriors?

Look in Excalibur. Arthur is a warrior. He is a steadfast fighter and an inspiring leader seeking to re-unite a torn land. Look in The Lord of the Rings. Aragorn is a warrior, albeit one who prefers working stealthily and is, at least at first, uncomfortable leading scores of warriors--or leading an entire kingdom. Eowen of Rohan is a warrior as well, fighting to save her people, struggling against her responsibilities as a member of the royal house.

In Robin and Marian, Robin Hood is a warrior, losing faith in the cause he has fought for for so long. In Ladyhawke, Captain Etienne Navarre is a warrior. Once a leader of men he now searches for a cure for his lost love. Skilled in sword and bow, steadfast in purpose, he creates a team--a thief and a priest--to aid him in his purpose.

Swashbuckling heroes The Three Musketeers and d’Artagnan are all warriors in the service of their king and their honor. They seek to use their fighting prowess to raise their station in life, or to support a station they already hold. Zorro is a swashbuckling warrior fighting the corruption of the Spanish overlords in California. The Seven Samurai were all warriors, who elevated a life of commercial fighitng into a task of honor when they defended a beleaguered town from bandits.

Ruthless pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Reed were warriors. Bonny was an expert fencer; both were deadly opponents, brave and bloodthirsty.

Conan is the quintessential tough warrior and mercenary wandering the primeval kingdoms of the world.

Fighting Skills

The main skill of the warrior is the ability to fight. Warriors get more weapon skills than other archetypes and they are better than other archetypes at using weapons they aren’t skilled with. (Once a warrior reaches fifth level, they’ll be more skilled with weapons they’ve never used than the other archetypes are at weapons they’ve used all their life.)

There are some weapons--those that are not considered “basic” or “simple”--that only the warrior may use.

Warriors get to use armor, such as shields, at first level that other archetypes must be higher level to use. Some armor, such as plate, cannot be used by non-warriors at all.

Warriors have far more survival points than other archetypes, reflecting their ability to last longer in mortal combat.

Combat Bonuses

The main rule-based benefit to playing a warrior--the thing that other archetypes cannot do--is the ability to convert attack bonuses into combat bonuses. A warrior, if you recall from the rules, can convert up to twice their level in attack bonuses into combat bonuses. Combat bonuses can be used to increase weapon damage, attack more quickly, and attack more often.

Imagine that you are fighting one orc, and just when you attack your enemy another one tries to sneak past you to grab the prisoner you’ve been protecting. If you were not a warrior, there isn’t much you could do: you’ve already used your attack on the first orc. The fact that you get a +4 bonus to attack someone trying to rush past you doesn’t help you, because a +4 bonus to an attack that you’ve already used is worthless.

But if you are a second level or higher warrior, you can take that +4 bonus to attack and convert it into an extra attack. You now have that extra attack (albeit without the +4 to your attack roll) and can engage your second opponent.

You can convert twice your level in attack bonuses to general “combat bonuses”. If you are first level, you can convert two attack bonuses to combat bonuses. If you are fifth level, you can convert ten attack bonuses into combat bonuses, if you can manage to acquire five attack bonuses beyond those you receive for being a fifth level warrior.

Any attack bonus counts, and attack penalties do not affect what you can convert; they are applied only after you have converted your bonuses.

For example, if you can gain higher ground, that +1 attack bonus can be converted to a combat bonus. If you’re at third level, that extra one attack bonus, combined with your warrior attack bonus, is enough to gain an extra attack every round.

You can use that attack bonus even if you have some other penalty. Let’s say you have a penalty of one to attack due to unstable ground. For any other archetype your bonus (due to higher ground) and your penalty (due to unstable ground) would cancel out. As a warrior, you can use that attack bonus as a combat bonus anyway. (Of course, you have to accept the penalty of one to attack since it was not canceled out.)

If you have enough combat bonuses to both increase your number of attacks and increase your attack and damage, those attack and damage bonuses apply to each attack. For example, let’s say you have a fourth level warrior with a +1 weapon attacking from high ground. As a fourth level warrior you can convert up to eight attack bonuses into combat bonuses. You’ve got six attack bonuses (four for your level, one for your sword, and one for high ground). If you were to convert five of those attack bonuses into combat bonuses, leaving one as an attack bonus, you could then use those five points to (a) gain an extra attack, and (b) gain a bonus of one to damage. This means you would have two attacks that round and each attack would have a bonus of one to attack and a bonus of one to damage.

Remember that you are allowed to “save” combat bonuses across rounds. If you really want to get that extra attack at second level, you can save your +2 for level, and every other round you will have your four bonus points required to gain an extra attack. Your only limit is the maximum number of combat bonuses you can have in a round: twice your archetype level.


Don’t forget about your combat bonus when your character is surprised: you can apply your combat bonus to your rolls to throw off surprise. As a seasoned warrior, you don’t have to stay surprised for long. A fifth level warrior should not be surprised for more than two rounds, and an eighth level warrior should not be surprised for more than one round.


Your role in the story is to fight and defend, but within that role there are many kinds of warriors.

Officers lead troops into battle. An effective officer will need a high charisma, so as to be able to command obedience and be able to perceive the true battlefield. War lore skills will be useful. A particularly effective officer might also be a charismatic (specialty).

Mercenaries or soldiers who work in small teams will require endurance and team skills, such as Team Attack. Having had a tough upbringing (specialty) also often results in a warrior being a mercenary or soldier.

Commandos are usually extremely skilled with a small number of weapons. Their style--moving quickly and leaving before the enemy can react--requires agility and weapon specialization. They often work in small teams where team attack (specialty and skill) will also be useful.

Guards are defenders--bodyguards, bouncers, enforcers. They need an imposing presence (charisma) and the strength to back it up. They will need contacts (skill or specialty) in every area where they ply their trade so as to know who they are defending against. Perception matters: guards will need to react before trouble begins in order to keep trouble from ever happening.

Those are just examples; many more roles are open to the warrior archetype. Many warriors are simply friends of someone else who often gets into trouble. Will Stratford, while he works as a caravan guard has his role as the less adventurous friend of Gralen Noslen and Charlotte Kordé. Luke Skywalker somewhat bumbles into the rebellion. (Luke, of course, has a few levels in the monk archetype as well as warrior.) Such characters are likely to have “unrelated” skills that “just happen” to help them within the story.

Behind the Scenes: the Statistics of Combat Bonuses

When are combat bonuses a good idea, and when are they a bad idea? It depends a lot on what you mean by “good” and “bad”. When determining the costs for the things warriors can do with combat bonuses, I used “average damage” and ran the numbers through a spreadsheet to ensure that the costs were balanced. Average damage is not always what you care about, however: sometimes you care only whether or not you can lay a hand on your opponent.

In general, as long as the required attack roll (without any bonuses) is high (that is, as long as you hit often), converting to an extra attack or extra damage is a “good idea”. That is, it will increase the amount of damage your warrior does in a round.

Once the chance of hitting gets really low, you need those attack bonuses to remain as attack bonuses. But if you are trying to delay more than one attacker you may still want to get that extra attack even if it means you’ll be less effective at killing them. It’s all strategy, which is what being a warrior is about.

Against the same opponent, an extra attack or four extra damage points usually results in about the same increase in average damage. The “break even point” is about five: if a five is required without an attack bonus, converting the attack bonuses to damage or to extra attacks increases average damage against an opponent.

And of course don’t forget that you can use your combat bonus to increase your defense also.

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