Saturday, January 6, 2024

AD&D 1e DMG: Combat

I've been thinking about initiative and combat maneuvers and decided to see what Gary had to say about them.

But first:

Are crippling disabilities and yet more ways to meet instant death desirable in an open-ended, episodic game where participants seek to identify with lovingly detailed and developed player-character personae? Not likely! Certain death is as undesirable as a give-away campaign. Combat is a common pursuit in the vast majority of adventures, and the participants in the campaign deserve a chance to exercise intelligent choice during such confrontations. As hit points dwindle they can opt to break off the encounter and attempt to flee. With complex combat systems which stress so-called realism and feature hit location, special damage, and so on, either this option is severely limited or the rules are highly slanted towards favoring the player characters at the expense of their opponents. (Such rules as double damage and critical hits must cut both ways — in which case the life expectancy of player characters will be shortened considerably — or the monsters are being grossly misrepresented and unfairly treated by the system. I am certain you can think of many other such rules.)

Emphasis mine.  Nobody escapes un-chastised - the mudcore misery-porn wing of the OSR, the ADHD gamers who never run sustained campaigns, the Monty Haulers, the "combat is a failure state" folks, the railroaders and agency-deniers, the WotC-era players for whom retreat is unthinkable, and the hardcore simulationists who want hit location tables.  And then a pleasant surprise to see that even this early in the history of the game, the disproportionate impact of crits on PCs was already understood.

Aaaand then we proceed to get a combat system with 6-second segments within rounds, fiddly initiative modifiers based on weapon speed (and sometimes multiple attacks if your weapon speed is faster enough than the other guy's?  But what if you take your first attack and then the guy dies?  Can you use your second attack on the guy next to him who had a faster weapon, against which you wouldn't've gotten an extra attack?), and pummel/grapple on percentile charts with lots of tiny modifiers that could've come from Boot Hill.


There were a couple of interesting bits though.

Surprise uses the best modifier in the party, rather than ACKS' "well the barbarian isn't surprised but the rest of you are."  Except for Dexterity modifiers, which apply to surprise but only for individuals.  So you do still get situations where the party loses surprise but the thief gets to act in the surprise rounds I guess?

This reaction roll table is quite interesting.  It's on a d%, and the middle band which would usually be "Uncertain, Ambivalent" on 2d6 is split into three bands, of uncertain leaning negative, neutral / uninterested, and uncertain leaning positive.  The middle band, truly uncertain, is half the size / probability of either of the two "leaning" bands.  This seems like a pretty good change really - nothing stalls an encounter like a Neutral reaction roll and the DM trying to figure out what that means in context.  (Tangentially, this also means that the reaction roll modifier from Charisma is percentile 

Dex modifier also applies to initiative but only when attacking with ranged weapons.

Damage is applied simultaneously for individuals acting in the same segment, much like ACKS 1e.  Except in ACKS 1e, the individual initiative roll basically determines which "segment" you act in, rather than an initiative roll per side modified by individual factors like weapon speed to determine when each individual on that side acts.

Spellcasters have to stand so still while casting that they lose their Dex bonus to AC.  A strict reading of "cannot use his or her dexterity bonus to avoid being hit" does not suggest that this also negates Dex penalties to AC, if any.

A clear explanation of what happens if you try to turn a mixed group of multiple types of undead: "you [the DM] may opt to disallow any turning or other effect if the most powerful member [of a group of undead] — in the example above, the vampire — is not affected by the cleric."

"Paladins, lammasu, shedu, ki-rin, and similar creatures of good alignment (or from the upper planes) are affected by UNHOLY WATER."  Cue Grandpa Simpson: Burned by unholy water?  That's a paladin'.

The rules for charging are interesting.  "There is no dexterity bonus allowed for charging creatures. Creatures with no dexterity bonus become 1 armor class lower, i.e. easier to hit. Thus an AC 3 creature becomes AC 4. There is no penalty to AC 10 creatures for charging, however."  The duration of the AC penalty isn't specified.  It still gives +2 to hit, but also "Only one charge move can be made each turn; thus an interval of 9 rounds must take place before a second charge movement can be made."  So that's an interesting take on limiting the power of charging, especially if it were applied to a system where you could get bonus damage with spears, lances, on the charge.

Clear rules on the probability for pursuing monsters to be distracted by food or treasure.