The Kai Monastery -- Kai Master's Hall
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Kai Masters' Hall

Joe Dever
Paul Barnett
Combat Skill
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Combat Skill

Keeping track of points is a main part of playing the Lone Wolf books. You only have two types of points to keep track of, COMBAT SKILL and ENDURANCE points, but it's not always an easy job.

I don't think any single part of the action chart defines a Lone Wolf character more than the COMBAT SKILL scores. A player's COMBAT SKILL determines their capabilities more than any other factor, especially in the later books. That being the case, I stopped long ago relying on one single random number choice as the determinant of my COMBAT SKILL. Given its importance, I always pick five numbers (or roll them rather, I've used a ten sided die instead of the random number table for years) and take the top two for my COMBAT SKILL and ENDURANCE points scores.

Next to its original value, the biggest factor affecting COMBAT SKILL is your choice of Kai disciplines. But there's more than just the disciplines you pick; there's also the matter of just how you apply them.

For instance, when you get Weaponmastery, do you add 3 COMBAT SKILL points on top of the 2 from Weaponskill? Or do you add just one? By following that trend all the way up to Grand Weaponmastery, you would add 2 for Weaponskill (in one particular weapon only of course) 3 for Weaponmastery, plus 1 more for the improvement at the Scion-Kai level, plus 5 more for Grand Weaponmastery, for a total possible COMBAT SKILL bonus of 11!

Personally, I never did things that way. I always just added them concurrently to a grand total of 5 at the Grand Weaponmastery level. This seemed to be what was intended. After all, the disciplines of Psi-Surge and Kai-Surge (definitely the coolest named disciplines) specifically mention their junior counterpart, Mindblast and state that the 2 point bonus for Mindblast cannot be applied at the same time as Psi-Surge or Kai-Surge. Following in that vein it would seem that the Weaponskill, Weaponmastery, Grand Weaponmastery bonuses only apply exclusive of each other, not one on top of the other.

The downside of all this conservative treatment of bonuses is that you end up in some tight spots if you have the Sommerswerd, in some later books. The hardest spot is definitely facing Zakhan Kimah in The Cauldron of Fear. The Zakhan's COMBAT SKILL is listed as 44. If you start with an initial COMBAT SKILL of 19, then your maximum possible COMBAT SKILL by the time the Darklords lay siege to Tahou is: +3 for Weaponmastery, +2 for a shield which you can pick up in a few places by book nine, +8 for the Sommerswerd, +2 for a certain silver helmet and +3 and +1 for the Lore-Circle of the Spirit and the Lore-Circle of Fire respectively for a grand total of: 38. That puts you in the unenviable position of facing an opponent with 50 ENDURANCE points on the -6 column of the Combat Results Table.

If you're playing all the books (which you have to be in order to get both Lore-Circles) and you follow the rules in a certain prior book, you will lose you backpack thus eliminating all COMBAT SKILL enhancing potions and other goodies. There is one potion of Alether which you can pick up in between losing your backpack and facing Kimah. So, that would bring your total to 40, which is still not that great. And those 40 points are only attainable if your initial COMBAT SKILL is 19! This is why I ended up making five rolls when I started a character.

There is another, unrelated point I'll make about totaling COMBAT SKILL bonuses. In passage 304 of book ten, The Dungeons of Torgar, it says:

As far as I know, that is the only place in all Lone Wolf books where any distinction between one- and two-handed weapons is made. But, the statement is clear, and it coincides with common sense: broadswords, spears and quarterstaffs (the other three weapons not on the list) were never one-handed weapons. This means that a shield may not be used with these weapons, thus decreasing your maximum COMBAT SKILL with these weapons by 2. Until I came across that passage, I had always applied shield bonuses to all weapons. I'd simply never thought about it before since there had been no explicit mention of these cases in the rules. (Hard to believe, but let me write it off on youth.)

All of these complications to your basic COMBAT SKILL score meant the COMBAT SKILL box on my Action Charts became, over the years, a grid with spots for four weapons to be listed down one side and Mindblast, Psi-Surge and later Kai-Surge written across the top. That way, I could keep simultaneous track of the three possible COMBAT SKILL scores I had with each weapon. Later, the spot for the fourth weapon on the list was replaced with the word "unarmed" to record my COMBAT SKILL scores without any weapons. I'll stop now before I go any further, since Action Charts are really a whole other story.

If you've got any comments, I'd love to hear them.

Since I published this article shortly after the Monastery first went online, many people have commented on it in favour or against. John Blair had this to add to the discussion:

That's a good point. However, in late 1999, David Davis wrote to me with some information from the Lone Wolf Club newsletters (a full set of which Dave is a proud owner!). David says: "Joe Dever explicitly states, in fact, that you upgrade the Weaponskill +2 CS bonus to a +3 Weaponmastery bonus, not combine them to give a +5 bonus."

Of interest to anyone concerned with COMBAT SKILL should be this file: an Extended Combat Results Table.

© Julian Egelstaff 1997-2000
Lone Wolf © TM Joe Dever 1984-2000