Chapter 37: Non-Lethal Combat

Non-lethal combat is punch puffing, shin kicking, chair swinging, brawling. The primary goal of nonlethal combat is not to kill the opponent, but to subdue her. The attack still inflicts damage, but the primary goal of each attack is to knock the opponent unconscious. Only a fraction of the rolled damage is actually subtracted from the target’s HPS, while the total damage challenges her ability to keep conscious. The result can be long drawn out, TV-like brawls, with occasional one-punch haymakers thrown in for effect. Non-lethal combat is an optional chapter. The system works well with the tactical combat system. It is assumed that the reader is very familiar with Chapter 27: Tactical Combat; Chapter 29: Armour Rating; and the mechanism of Damage System Shock (DSS), found under Constitution in Chapter 3: Attributes.

Steel and carbon fiber sensei.
Steel and carbon fiber sensei.

Non-Lethal Combat Restrictions

Non-lethal combat can only be engaged in with fists or blunt type A weapons. Only anthropomorphs, and intelligent aliens, can be affected by non-lethal combat simply because they can grasp the idea of surrender. Indigenous aliens only fight to protect their own life, and always fight to the death. Such aliens cannot be knocked unconscious and they are usually impossible to subdue. Robots cannot be knocked unconscious, and have no concept of pain (except possibly androids). Therefore robots are unaffected by nonlethal combat.

To Hit Rolls

Non-lethal combat is similar to regular lethal combat. Armour rating works the same, to hit rolls work the same, but damage works differently. If the attacker has no hand to hand combat skill (brawling, martial arts), she must use her Bonus Non-Proficient (BNP) to attack. The key difference is in how the damage is delivered. Attackers using non-lethal combat are not going to eye gouge, throat punch, or break limbs. They attack non-lethal, but painful, body locations. Because non-lethal combat only differs from lethal personal combat in how the damage is delivered, both systems can be easily integrated into the same fight.


The main difference between lethal personal combat and non-lethal combat is that the attacker will be pulling her punch at the last millisecond, using the flat side of a weapon, or not following through with a kick. The goal of non-lethal combat is to subdue the target not kill the target. In non-lethal combat only 10% of the rolled HPS damage is subtracted from the target’s HPS total. However the total HPS damage rolled is used against the target’s HPS total to check for a damage system shock roll. Success in non-lethal combat is when the attacker hits the target with enough damage to make her fail the Damage System Shock roll, but subtract minimal HPS from her HPS Total.

The purpose of non-lethal combat may seem senseless, but isn’t all violence? Situations will arise where lethal combat isn’t appropriate. Fights can arise amongst expedition members, and a slug out would definitely be better than a shoot out. Prisoners are no good dead, and non-lethal combat allows them to be taken alive. Fights in taverns, and school yards, are usually only lethal by accident. Non-lethal combat can easily become lethal. 

Only type A attack types (thrusting and striking) can be used in non-lethal combat. Only a persona with special skills can use type B attacks (non-powered missile weapons), and there is no such thing as non-lethal shoot or grenade attacks.

Example Non-Lethal Combat

For example, a persona with a 10 PSTR punches a target that has 23  HPS Total. The swing lands a hit, and the attacker rolls 2 point of damage (d4-2) plus her Damage Adjustment (DA) of 5 generating 7 HPS of damage. If this were a lethal attack, her target would take 7 HPS of damage, leaving the target with 16 HPS Total. Since this is a non-lethal attack the target will only take 1 HPS damage (10% of 7 is 1), reducing the target’s HPS Total to 22. The 7 HPS of non-lethal damage is then compared to the persona’s HPS Total is if it were actually 7 HPS of damage. If the damage is greater than half the target’s remaining HPS total the target must make a Damage System Shock roll or be stunned. In this case HPS damage is not greater than half the target’s remaining HPS, and thus she does not have to check for being stunned.

In the next unit the attacker scores a hit with a nearby chair, and she delivers 15 HPS of non-lethal damage. Since 15 HPS damage is more than half the target’s remaining HPS Total of 22, the target must win a Damage System Shock (DSS) roll or be stunned. Even though the target only takes 2 HPS of damage (10% of 15 is 2), she may be knocked unconscious if she fails her DSS roll. If the target keeps making her DSS rolls she will remain conscious until all her HPS are exhausted. If the target were to continuously win all her Damage System Shock (DSS) rolls she could sustain 23 non-lethal punches before she went unconscious from having a 0 HPs total.

Accidental Lethal Attacks

Non-lethal attacks are not as easy as they seem. If the persona is unskilled at non-lethal combat, the attacker may accidentally deliver lethal blows. The persona is certainly capable of landing a punch, but she may not be skilled enough to hold back full damage. Personas such as this may be required to make a DEX roll on each attack to ensure that it is non-lethal. Even hardened mercenaries may accidentally use overkill if they are intoxicated, or particularly enraged. If the attacker fails the DEX roll or the referee decides that the attack should be lethal there is a 1% chance per hit point of damage that the attack will be lethal. Thus an attack that inflicts 15 HPS of non-lethal damage will have a 15% chance of being a lethal attack delivering full HPS damage. Occasionally a persona may wish to make a lethal attack followed up with nonlethal attacks, this procedure softens up a target, and makes her easier to subdue.

Grapples, Pins and Tackles

Grappling is any non-lethal hand to hand attack that is designed to hold the target in one place. Tackles, head locks, full nelsons, pins, and wrap arounds are all considered grapples. Like any attack, a grapple requires a to hit roll against the target’s armour rating. The attacking player can add what ever adjustments are appropriate to her to hit roll. If she scores a hit the target is grappled. Things to consider when making rulings about grappling are size differences, risk to attacker, PSTR differences, experience levels, and movement rates.

A grappled target can try to break free, or try to attack while grappled. Weapons like daggers and pistols can be used while grappled if the grappled persona wins a DEX attribute roll. The difficulty of the Dexterity attribute roll would be determined by the skill of the grappler. The grappled persona can break free if she wins a PSTR challenge roll. Challenge rolls and attribute rolls are discussed in Chapter 16: Special RollsIf the grappled persona manages to damage her grappler then she automatically breaks free. The advantage of grappling is that other personas in the expedition can get a bonus to hit the immobilized target. Grappling personas cannot attack, but may use mental or physical mutations. 

Weapon Snatching

Weapons snatching is the classic tv trick to turn the tables on dastardly pikers! Weapon snatching is considered non-lethal personal combat Often personas will attempt to snatch an opponent’s weapon, either to avoid a dangerous situation, or to use it themselves. Grappling someone’s weapon is impossible in most situations, and extremely difficult in those situations where it is possible. The initial grab is considered a type A attack. There is no proficiency in weapon grabbing (although it could exist), so the attacker must use her Bonus Non-Proficient (BNP) to grab the weapon. If she makes a successful to hit roll against the target’s Armour Rating (AR) then she has grabbed the weapon. To wrestle the weapon free she must win a PSTR challenge against the target. If the persona has scored a successful to hit roll the weapon but cannot wrestle it free then the two personas are considered struggling for the weapon. Depending on the weapon type, and the situation the persona holding the weapon may still be able to attack.

If the attacker fails with the to hit roll to grab the weapon she has exposed herself to a +242 to hit bonus against herself. Oops. If the target clearly wins the PSTR challenge they will gain a +141 to hit bonus against their attacker.


Tripping up a target before they get to the giant red activation switch is more commonly done than one would expect. Tripping is another non-lethal attack. It requires a to hit roll, using BNP, against the target’s Armour Rating (AR). The attacker (in this case tripper) must win a PSTR attribute roll before making a successful trip. Too bad the target is not an Italian soccer player. If the to hit roll and PSTR attribute roll are successful the target still gets a chance to avoid being tripped by winning a DEX challenge with the attacker.  As always these rules are just guidelines, and the referee must be prepared to have common sense invade the rules of EXP. Other things to consider when making rulings about tripping are size differences, risk to attacker, PSTR differences, experience levels, and movement rates.