Sky Beyond the Darkness: Opposed Tasks, Combat and Injury Rules

Sky Beyond the Darkness (available here) is a cool solo RPG set in a post apocalyptic world where there is no electricity and survivors are scraping by to stay alive amid the ruins of Cathedral City.

It’s a fun and immersive game with a focus on narrative, however after playing a few adventures, I found the lack of a combat system tended to make for less of a “game” experience than I was hoping for, and having all challenges be based on my own stats vs a single set difficulty rather than against NPCs of various skill levels felt a bit bland, so I came up with the following simple homebrew opposed task and combat system rules. Hopefully they are minimal enough that they fit the spirit of the game! I’d love to hear what other players thought.

Opposed Challenges

When you attempt to do something opposing an NPC (for example, lying convincingly or sneak past someone), roll D20 equal to your relevant attribute. Also roll the NPC’s relevant attribute. Whoever rolls the highest on a single die “wins”.

Example #1: You try to sneak past an NPC sniper. You roll your Vigor (physical/dexterity task). They roll their Trauma (mental/perceptual task). If you roll the highest roll, you sneak past successfully. If they roll higher, you are spotted.

Example #2: You try to charm a hostile NPC into trusting you. You both roll your Cunning (intellect/charisma task). If you roll higher, they trust you. If they roll higher, they don’t.


Combat is divided into simple Rounds. In each Round, you and your opponent(s) perform an action such as attacking, reloading, retreating, attempting to negotiate, etc.

Initiative – the order in which combatants take action in a Round – is based on the Vigor attribute; highest to lowest determines action order. The exception is if combat is a surprise ambush, in which case the ambusher always gets to act first.

To perform an attack or defend against one, characters simply roll a Combat Challenge – an Opposed Challenge, as explained above – using the relevant Attributes.

Close combat uses Vigor to both attack and defend. Ranged combat uses Trauma to attack and Vigor to defend (dodge/take cover).

If the attacker wins the Combat Challenge (rolls highest), they hit the defender. If the defender wins (rolls highest), they are not hit.

Anyone hit by an attack rolls on the Injury Table below:

    1-6 = crippling or mortal wound
    7-12 = severe wound
    13-17 = moderate wound
    18-20 = light wound.

You may spend Resilience as normal when rolling on the Failure table to determine injury.

Whenever an opponent is wounded, they must pass a Trauma Challenge. If they fail, they panic and try to flee or surrender.

If someone needs to reload a weapon, they cannot attack that Round while doing so (but defend normally).

Combat Modifiers

In an ambush where the  defenders are caught unaware, all ambushing characters get +2 to their Combat Challenge rolls for their first attack, while ambushed defenders are -1 to all Combat Challenge rolls in that same Round.

When fighting multiple opponents at once, reduce the outnumbered party’s Combat Challenge rolls by 1 for every opponent you are outnumbered by.

Using Weapons

Weapons typically have modifiers to hit (add or subtract this to Combat Challenge rolls when attacking).

Weapons also sometimes have modifiers to damage (add or subtract from Injury Table rolls when hit with this weapon).

Example #1: a Knife is HIT 0 and INJ 0. You add nothing when using this weapon to attack and roll normally for Failure when hit with this weapon.

Example #2: a Revolver is Hit 0 and INJ -1 You add nothing when using this weapon to shoot but subtract 1 from Failure rolls when hit by this weapon.

Example #3: a Shotgun is HIT +1 and INJ -2. You add +2 to your rolls to shoot someone with this weapon, and subtract 2 from Failure rolls when hit by this weapon.

See here for some common example weapons.

Character Injury

All characters (player and NPCs) have six Injury States: 0 = Unhurt, 1 = Lightly Wounded, 2 = Moderately Wounded, 3 = Severely Wounded, 4 = Mortally Wounded, 5 = Dead.

Injury levels are cumulative; i.e. if you are Moderately Wounded (2) and get Moderately Wounded (2) again, you are now Mortally Wounded.

 For each Injury State, reduce all Challenge rolls by 1 die, with a minimum of 1 die.

Example #1: You are Severely Wounded (3). If you need to roll for a Vigor Challenge and your Vigor is 3, you roll just 1 die.

Example #2: You are Lightly Wounded (1). If you need to roll for a Cunning Challenge and your Cunning is 4, you roll 3 dice.

Crippling Injuries

Whenever a character becomes Morally Wounded, roll 1D6; on a 6, the wound is also Crippling. This might be a lost eye, partial deafness, lung damage, a lost finger, a damaged limb, etc. Regardless of the specific injury, the result is a permanent reduction in one of the character’s Attributes. Roll 1D6 again: 1-2 means Vigor is reduced by 1, 3-4 means Trauma is reduced by 1, 5-6 means Cunning is reduced by 1. Even if wounds are completely healed, a Crippling Injury effect can never be removed.

Healing Injuries

In between encounters, you can spend Resilience equal to your current Injury State to decrease it by 1.

Healing items can be used in lieu of Resilience points to heal if you pass a successful Cunning Challenge.  Attempting to use a healing item and failing the Challenge uses up the item without effect, but you may still spend Resilience to heal if you wish.

Remember that Injury State reduces your dice rolls, including when rolling a Cunning Challenge to use healing items!

Example #1: You are Moderately Wounded; it would cost 2 Resilience to reduce that to Lightly Wounded, or 1 Resilience plus Dressing/Painkillers, or no Resilience if you use a First Aid Kit or Field Medic Kit.

Example #2: You are Lightly Wounded; it would cost 1 Resilience or any healing item to reduce that to Unhurt.

See here for some basic healing items and their Resilience values.

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