Burning Wheel Combat Action Reference List


  • Change Stance: Allows character to switch between combat stances. Stance bonuses do not apply on this action unless otherwise specified.
    • Neutral Stance: No bonuses or penalties. All characters are considered to be in Neutral Stance unless they use the Change Stance action, an Instinct, or a Trait. All actions marked with an N can be performed in any stance without penalty or benefit.
    • Aggressive Stance: All martial maneuvers marked with an A are performed at 1.5 times the character’s martial skill. All martial maneuvers marked with a D are performed at 0.5 times the character’s martial skill. The character may not use the Avoid maneuver.
    • Defensive Stance: All martial maneuvers marked with a D are performed at 1.5 times the character’s martial skill. All martial maneuvers marked with an A are performed at 0.5 times the character’s martial skill. The character counts as Blocking during the Change Stance action, and the 1.5 bonus also applies to the character’s Speed stat when using the Avoid action.
  • Avoid: Attempt to get completely out of the way of an incoming attack, generally by taking a step to the side or back. Avoiders move away or to the side a number of paces equal to their dash rate. This action occurs whether the opponent Strikes or not. The player may attempt to Avoid and get closer at a +1 Obstacle penalty. If moving in fails, they are forced to retreat by a step.
  • Block/Parry: D To Block or Parry, the defender makes a skill test against the attacker’s Strike. Each Block success removes one Strike success. Any of the attacker’s successes that are not blocked hit the defender in the form of a partially blocked Strike.
  • Charge: N The attacker throws his body into the target with the intent of moving them with the force of impact. The attacker must be Sprinting for the volley they have the Charge action scripted. A Charge may be used to Get Inside; in this case, the Charge is called a Tackle.
  • Counterstrike: D Using this, the defender divides his skill dice between Block and Strike maneuvers that occur in the same action. The dice must be divided up prior to being rolled.
  • Disarming Strike: A The attacker attempts to knock something out of the defender’s grasp by striking at the object or the arm. If the attacker is succesful, he knocks the target item away. This maneuver does not deal any damage.
  • Draw Weapon: Two actions – The character unsheathes a weapon, such as a sword, club, throwing knife, or crossbow. Concealed weapons usually cost extra actions to draw.
  • Feint: N A Feint draws the target out of a Counterstrike or Block, which automatically happens. The target is faked out of position and attacker hits him with a Strike as if it had been the scripted action. The target may not defend in any way. If no Block or Counterstrike was used by the defender on the same action as the Feint, the attacker hesitates and does not act.
  • Get Inside: N This is not an attack on its own; instead, it is usually the first action in a series of attacks. This action represents the character ducking inside their target’s reach and entering grappling range. There are limits to what weapons can be used on the Inside, but the Throw and Lock actions become available and there are no penalties to called shots. The only way to get out is to use the Get Outside action or be Thrown or Pushed off.
  • Get Outside: The acting character attempts to get back into Optimal weapon range.
  • Great Strike: Certain weapons can be used to deliver extra-heavy attacks. A Great Strike takes two actions: one to Set the strike, and one to deliver it. When Setting the strike, the attacker may not do anything else besides move or speak. A Great Strike adds one pip of damage to the attack results. A Great Strike may not be blocked and it can be delivered while moving.
  • Lock: N A Lock can only be executed on the inside (i.e. after a successful Get Inside action). The attacker attempts to restrict their target’s motions, possibly by grappling or using their weapon to hold back their opponent. This restriction imposes penalties on everything the defender does until the Lock is broken. The attacker must spend actions to maintain the Lock, either by Holding or by Increasing Pressure. If the attacker Increases Pressure, the penalties and strength of the Lock increase, possibly immobilizing the defender, at which point the attacker may begin dealing damage to the defender. If a player scripts a Lock action directly after a Get Inside, and the Get Inside fails, the Lock action may be freely and immediately converted to another Get Inside action.
  • Push: N The attacker attempts to knock a target backwards or to the ground. This maneuver does not deal damage by itself. It cannot be Blocked but may be Avoided or Counterstriked. In the case of the latter, it is considered to be a Strike.
  • Strike A A basic attack. In terms of flavor, this doesn’t necessarily have to be just one weapon swing; a thief using a dagger might write that they swing wildly a few times while a giant with a hammer swings just once. Many weapons cannot be used for consecutive attacks because they are slow or unwieldy; however, many of them also bear a pommel or hilt that can be used as an attack. Thus, a script for a slow weapon that reads “Strike, Hilt Strike, Strike” is acceptable.
  • Throw: N Can only be used on the inside (i.e. after a Get Inside action). The attacker attempts to knock or toss his target to the ground. The attacker must have Brawling, Boxing, or a martial arts skill in order to use this action. Being Thrown into an obstacle or on the ground can cause damage.


  • Snapshot: The attacker shoots or throws without taking the time to carefully aim. A Snapshot is made at a +3 Obstacle penalty. Unless the attacker specifically uses Aim or Acquire Target, they are considered to be performing a Snapshot.
  • Acquire Target: The attacker focuses on their target. This action negates the -3 Obstacle penalty for making a Snapshot. If using a longbow or shortbow, the Acquire Target action is considered a free part of the Draw action, but the attacker must have a target. It is not necessary to specify an exact person; the character may script something like “Acquire the first Orc to come through the door” or “The nearest enemy”. When a target is Acquired they remain so until they disappear from sight or the attacker changes targets.
  • Aim: Any attacker using a ranged weapon may spend actions Aiming in order to reduce the obstacle for the attack. The first Aim action is considered an Acquire Target, if the character has not yet done so.
  • Draw Bow: This maneuver requires 2 actions if using a hunting or shortbow and 4 actions if using a longbow or greatbow. As the attacker draws the bow they receive a free Acquire Target action. The action does not include nocking the arrow. A bow may be drawn for a number of actions equal to the attacker’s Power. If firing a snapshot, the Draw Bow action cost can be reduced by 1.
  • Lob/Throw/Hurl: The attacker tosses an object. A Lob is one action, a Throw is two, and a Hurl is three actions. This is only the time it takes to throw the object, not the time the object spends in the air or how long it takes to take out the object.
  • Nock Arrow: 3 actions – The character pulls an arrow from their quiver and nocks it. This does not include drawing or releasing the bow. A player may choose to prep a shot using this action: nocking an arrow but not drawing the bow.
  • Reload Crossbow: 16 actions – The character nocks a bolt and winds the crossbow. A heavy crossbow requires 32 actions to reload.
  • Shoot/Release: One action is required to release, trigger or launch a bow or other projectile weapon.


  • Assess: The character spends an action to stop and look around. A Glance is only one action but only happens in a particular direction: ahead, behind, to the left, etc. A Look is two actions and assumes the character is examining something a little closer. A Search is three actions and indicates that the character is dedicating their time to examine something thoroughly.
  • Get Up: The character stands up from being knocked flat. This requires two actions, but the character may begin to move on the second action.
  • Incant Spell: The spellcaster incants two syllables of the chosen spell. If a spell is more than two syllables, the spellcaster must use multiple Incant Spell actions.
  • Movement: See the table:
    These numbers are all for one volley each. They also do not cover other sorts of movement: climbing a tree, moving across a ledge, exiting via a window, et cetera. For those, ask your DM.
  • Physical Action: The character performs a physical action of some sort: opening a window, overturning a table, stepping over a gate. Most of these will cost 2 actions.
  • Set (Condition): The character readies an action to be performed on a specific condition or event, then waits for it to happen. While waiting, a character may not do anything else. The wait can be maintained for a number of actions equal to the character’s Will. If the wait runs out, the character spends the next action hesistating. An example Set might be something like “Shoot the first Orc to come through the door” or “Wait for an enemy to get to Optimal range and then Strike.” The Set action occurs immediately after the condition is fulfilled.
  • Speech: Only two syllables of Speech may be spoken per action.

Burning Wheel Combat Action Reference List

In The River Country Xazak