Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Round and Round We Go

I plan on getting back to the Karameikos subject this week; this is just an interlude.

Over the last ten years I've been posting to this blog, there are some subjects that I've spent an inordinate amount of time on. One of my main areas of speculation/musing has been combat rules, specifically as they relate to the B/X system, and my various ideas, proposals, and thoughts on how best to tinker them to better model what I'd like to see.

Mm. Mm-mm-mm.

This post is a "placeholder" of sorts, so that when I am (once-again-sometime-in-the-future) wondering about my past thoughts on the subject and going through this blog by "tag," this particular post will come up FIRST and save me a bit of time. Here goes:

I like the B/X encounter ("combat") rules as written. For the most part, they model exactly what I want.

Variable combat damage by weapon? Yes, exactly as written. Two-handed weapons losing initiative? Yes (though among the missile weapons this only applying to crossbows, not bows). Armor class and ability score adjustments? Yes. Shields? Yeah, with some liberal interpretation of the "cover rules" when it applies to shield walls. Initiative and surprise? Yep. Hit dice and hit points and healing? Yes, though I reserve the right to change the way monsters heal damage, should the issue ever arise in play.

After all the "thought experiments," "practice runs," and actual table play, I am fine and dandy with the way the rules model the basics of combat. Every variation or adjustment I've made has all ended up being for naught....the simple, abstract system as it exists perfectly replicates the way I want my combats to run, right down to ten second beats (rounds).

Now this doesn't mean there aren't some existing "holes" in the system; there are, and they could sure stand to be plugged. Here are things that will (probably, eventually) need to be worked out and adjudicated in the long run, as they aren't found in the B/X system:

  • Disarming
  • Grappling
  • Long-term injuries, maiming, scarring
  • Partial or piecemeal armor
  • Required space for maneuvering (long weapons)
  • Stunning, knockouts
  • Take-downs (overbearing, tripping, etc.)
  • Weapon breakages

I'd also like to add some simple rules for multiple attacks (for fighters only) as B/X proper does not include any of the other editions' options. I can also see limiting the damage of a "normal sword" to 1d6 unless it is used with two hands...but probably not. Much more likely is simply giving a +1 bonus to attack rolls when using any melee weapon two-handed but...again...probably not (I don't want to be giving a low-strength character an advantage for using a heavy, two-handed weapon).

But other than "plugging holes," I have come to terms with all aspects of the Encounter rules (Chapter 5) of the B/X rulebooks. Other aspects of the game (evil clerics, alignment language, equipment costs) still need some adjustment, and I will almost certainly fiddle with monsters and magic items (if only to make the game a bit more interesting and campaign specific). But as far as combat goes, I'm just going to consider the matter SETTLED. It functions...both practically speaking and as a model. And after nearly a decade of tuning it, I am satisfied. Finally.

The ultimate justification for 18 strength receiving
a damage bonus is B/X...


  1. My favorite grappling rule is for each person involved in the struggle to role their total HD add STR bonuses; highest score wins.

  2. These are all things you can adjudicate at the table though. You don’t neee to write down the for so many things.

    Hey what is your shield wall rule?

  3. Just some thoughts...

    If you have access to Ruins and Ronin you can look there for inspiration regarding the piecemeal armor. I don't have it here, but it works reasonable in an AC setup. I assume you don't want hit locations and damage reduction.

    Disarming someone could be a penealised attack roll. Maybe have DEX add a bonus/penalty - if that makes sense. Of cause AC doesn't make a lot of sense affecting weather or not you disarm someone, to as great a degree as weather or not you "harm" them.

    Two-handed weapons might make mechanical and gaming sense to add plus one to hit. The desision being between +1 to hit opponant, or -1 to the opponants roll to hit you.

    I like your idea about somehow making a shield wall cover. Interesting idea.

    Oh, and for weapon damage only one change is nessesary. Add:
    Dane axe(2-h*): d12.
    *may be used one-handed for d8.

    Better get back to work, now...

  4. wow!!! beautiful cards!!! I loooove them!! hope your little one is feeling much better, take care :) x
    clipping path

  5. Every time I read a post like this here, I feel like I need to go back and read both books again. I’ve read those books a lot.

    1. @ Aos:

      That actually makes me happy. I try to learn something new every day, myself, and it's nice when I can fire up some ideas in others.
      : )

  6. So the Mountain has 18 strength and Martel has 14-15 Strength?

    1. @ Sean:

      Something like that. I'd probably give Martel a 13 or 14 (which is how I think of wiry, athletic guys) and a Dexterity of at least 17. Clegane might get some additional bonus as a "giant human NPC"...or not. But the ability to absolutely flatten someone with an off-hand swipe from a meaty paw, is enough for me to say "yeah, damage bonuses from strength are appropriate." That was probably the last B/X melee rule I was really struggling with.

      The B/X system actually makes 18 strength a very common phenomenon: the odds of rolling 18 is 1 in 216 and PCs can, of course, boost their roll if STR is their class's Prime Requisite. AD&D decreases the odds of truly mammoth humans with the addition of "exceptional" strength: only 1 in 21,600 would have 18/00 strength (as I'd assign the Mountain). Perhaps a house rule for B/X chargen would be appropriate to insure sufficient rarity in the game.

  7. Pretty sure that a primitive weapon mastery article in a dragon magazine issue before B/X D&D offers the choice of two attacks per round with the same weapon, or one attack with a weapon in each hand from 5th level. They loot specific Ideas from Dragon Magazine to turn BX into BECMI/Rules Cyclopedia so I consider it 'canon' to do so when further developing B/X with the additional Companion that never was.