Friday, October 18, 2019

Fatigue - An Example

So there's this fairly memorable scene in the first Game of Thrones season (also in the first novel) where Tyrion ("the Imp") is captured and taken to the Eyrie (one of the "seven kingdoms") where, in order to escape execution, demands a trial by combat. The sellsword, Bronn, offers to champion him against the knight, Vardis Egen. Despite wearing only ringmail armor (disdaining even a shield), Bronn manages to best the plate-and-shield armored knight by dint of being younger (about fifteen years) and faster and fighting in a craven-like fashion that tires out Ser Vardis. Finally wearied by chasing the spry mercenary around the battle chamber in his encumbering armor, the knight slips to one knee and is wounded by Bronn...after which the end (from weariness and blood loss) is all but inevitable. In the eyes of the attending nobility, the sellsword fights without honor; and yet, it is his canny choice of tactics that allows him to prevail with ease where he might otherwise been hard-pressed to achieve victory. Bronn was never interested in a "fair" or "honorable" fight, only in winning and being rewarded with Tyrion's gold.

I find it difficult to model this with AD&D. And it bugs me.

Unless I am completely missing something (entirely possible since I'm semi-new to this "AD&D thang"), there aren't any specific rules regarding fatigue; Gygax explicitly writes in the DMG:

"No rules for exhaustion and fatigue are given here because of the tremendous number of variables, including the stamina of the characters and creatures involved...Fatigue merely slows movement and reduces combat effectiveness. Exhaustion will generally require a day of complete rest to restore exhausted creatures. Always bear in mind that humans inured to continuous running, for example, can do so for hours without noticeable fatigue, i.e. those such as Apache Indians, Zulu warriors, etc. Do not base your judgment on the typical modern specimen."

This is written with regard to pursuit and evasion and is incredibly frustrating, as what I am most interested in is fatigue with regard to minutes (i.e. one minute rounds) of hand-to-hand incredibly stressful and tiring exercise even for the most hardened warrior.

B/X doesn't hand wave fatigue; it has specific rules (including penalties to "combat effectiveness") in two different places (page B19 and B24). These are an adaptation of the rules found in OD&D (page 8 of Book 3) requiring a ten minute rest break in every hour of activity, and a "double rest period" after any bout of flight/pursuit (B/X changes this to ten minutes after three turns, with a double penalty the consequence for failing to rest). Still, this doesn't address combat fatigue per se...though this is mitigated somewhat by B/X shrinking combat rounds to ten seconds with any encounter being considered "to have lasted one full [ten minute] turn. The additional time, if any is spent resting sore muscles, recovering one's breath, cleaning weapons, and binding wounds." (Moldvay, page B23).

Yes, yes...I'm aware that hit points are (in part) a model of fatigue and the ability to withstand fatigue in combat. And that makes perfect sense in the abstract: a trained fighter should be more resistant to the rigors of melee than a spindly thief or wizard, and an experienced one even more so. But hit points don't take into account encumbrance...nor movement/activity that has occurred before. And hit points are famous for not diminishing character effectiveness even as they're depleted: a character may be down to half or a quarter of her stamina (hit points) but that doesn't slow her sword arm (there's no penalty to attack rolls).

What's particularly maddening here is that CHAINMAIL actually had the most comprehensive rules for fatigue. Under the Chainmail rules, a model becomes fatigued after any one of the following:

1. Five consecutive turns of movement.
2. Two consecutive turns of movement, followed by a charge, and a round of melee.
3. One turn of movement, followed by a charge, and two rounds of melee.
4. Three rounds of melee.

A fatigued combatant faced the following stiff penalties:

- Attacking and defending as "the next lower value."
- Morale dropping by one point (using a 2d6 roll, much like B/X).
- Slowed (to one-half) "uphill movement"

"Next lower value" is a pretty beefy penalty in Chainmail, but modeling it to AD&D it works out to about a -2 penalty to AC and (probably) attack rolls.

[why -2? Because an "armored" represents a figure in plate-and-mail, a "heavy" represents a figure in chain armor...which in D&D is only a 2 point difference in armor class]

All penalties are removed after the character has had a chance to rest one full turn...the turn in the Chainmail game being one minute long. A "round" of melee in Chainmail is an exchange of blows (one side attacks, then the other side attacks) and is contained within the standard "turn" but, as no more than one such round may be fought in a turn, it can be presumed to approximate an OD&D (or AD&D) round with regard to engaged figures.

Thus, it would not be a great stretch (if relying on Chainmail, the basis of OD&D and, thus, the basis of AD&D) to give characters an AC and attack penalty after three rounds of continuous fighting (or after two rounds for characters that charged), perhaps mitigated by a high Constitution score, and perhaps adjusted by encumbrance. If one wanted to add an extra level of complexity to their game.

OR...we could just ignore the issue altogether and simply allow tireless combatants to beat each other senseless for hours, perhaps fueled by adrenaline alone. In which case, why would you never carry a shield and the strongest armor available when offered? Right?

Pop goes the weasel.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Full Monty

I am sorry. I mean, I really really AM sorry. I keep searching around Ye Old Interwebs for decent content, and find myself constantly scraping the bottom of the barrel and I realize that I am as much a part of the problem/solution myself: after all, it's not like I've posted anything for the last several weeks.

And that's the tough thing. Oh, I've had thoughts, sure: stuff about fatigue (as it appears in Chainmail) and segments (as they appear in Eldritch Wizardry and how they might be applied...rather B/X) and deities and cosmology and magic. Heck, I've even had some Blood Bowl/NFL thoughts for the half dozen readers of mine who are into that kind of thing. But while I've started a few draft posts here and there, I just haven't got up the gumption to really blog anything that's A) worthwhile, B) entertaining, or C) both. And why should I waste my time scribbling (and your time reading) dreck?


SO, here's where I'm at:

There are some things, concept-wise that I really, really like about AD&D (and here I'm speaking of the 1st edition version...sorry to all you 2E fans). Many of those things, however, I have quibbles with in execution. For example, a lot of headaches could have been prevented (perhaps) by dividing the one minute combat round into six ten-second segments (as per Eldritch Wizardry) rather than ten six-second segments (as per AD&D). Works better both with regard to movement/segment AND the use of a D6 initiative die roll. The only way you lose out is with high level spells that require more than six segments to cast...and squinting at it one way, I can see how many of those spells should be more than one round of casting time anyway. But the stupid ten segment round is what led my old AD&D group (back in the day) to adopt a D10 for initiative instead of a D6 (which I wouldn't recommend unless you're choosing to forgo tactical movement - i.e. on a battle map - in your game).

Then there's stuff like weapon type versus Armor Class which really could use a once-over...I just flat disagree with some of the adjustments presented. Then again, I take umbrage with many of the weapons on the AD&D list itself (a long sword and a bastard sword are pretty much the same thing, for instance).

And, of course, there is ridiculousness in many of the magical spells, probably my biggest headache. From low-level illusions that kill to charms that "befriend" to examples of mummies being polymorphed into puppies (undead aren't alive so they can't really be considered animals, right? Can a magic-user "cure" a vampire by polymorphing it into a human? Garbage)...I mean, there's just a bunch of shite in there, you know? A lot of shite. By which I mean "shit." As in bullshit.

BUT...but, it's still better than pretty much all the alternatives. And while it's NOT a perfect system, it's still a darn good one, once you take the time to parse it all out, as some folks have bothered to do. And while I could spend my life going through it with a fine-tooth and re-writing all the stuff that absolutely drives me bonkers (as other, smarter folks than me, have done) I find that that this requires far more effort than the actual payout I'd get from the effort. That's time and energy that could be going into the design of settings, adventures, and campaigns instead instead of worrying about why a battle axe (properly wielded) doesn't gain a bonus against an AC that uses a shield, or whether or not there's even a chance that ANY blow will strike the head of a character wearing a great helm, or blah-blah, etc.

So I'm in...I'm all in. The full monty.  It occurs to me that my MAIN reason for choosing B/X the last many years was my aversion to strict encumbrance accounting, and that other than that (and some philosophical differences with regard to demi humans) the simpler, streamlined BASIC system of B/X just doesn't pack enough juice for me anymore. Now that I finally, finally have a good handle on just what makes D&D special as a game, and what makes it a game worth playing, I can't see any reason NOT to use the Advanced system of the game unless I'm introducing rank newbies to the whole concept of "dungeons" and "dragons." And despite the glaring issues with the system As Is, I'm going to go ahead and use it RAW for the time being. Perhaps over the course of a decade or so I'll feel inclined to house rule various aspects, but I'm not going to start with that. I'm going to START with the books as written, and go from there.

Yep. That's it.

Now, having written all that, and being really, really, really intentional of following through, I do have two specific caveats:

1) I will only be using the first five AD&D books to start (the PHB, DMG, MM, DDG, and FF).
2) I reserve my right to change my mind about any and all of this.

All right; that really IS "it," for now. Let the games begin!
: )