Saturday, September 15, 2018

Lost in Translation - the Fighting-Man

I've been pondering a lot lately about the LBB fighting-man. No shock there. I have several posts in draft form that I'm working on addressing this. Hopefully they'll see the light of day. In the event that they do, I wanted to sort of frame them with an introductory type post. So, here we go . . .

Say what you want about LBB art, this has been my image of a fighter since 1976
In transitioning the fantasy game from Chainmail to a "complete" game, I think that Mr. Gygax and Mr. Arneson did yoeman's work. However, there were certain strings that they tugged on without really thinking about where the other end was tied. This is extremely evident in the fighting-man. The things that made him special were (in no particular order):


  • As a Hero or Superhero, he could engage fantastic foes on the "Fantasy Combat Table" (FCT from here on);
  • As a Hero or Superhero, he could ONLY be engaged by foes on the FCT (Heroes may be ganged up on by at least 4 lesser foes, Superheroes require 8);
  • Heroes never check morale, which I would translate as immune to non-magical fear and a saving throw bonus against magical fear;
  • Heroes grant a +1 to the morale check of friendly troops. I would include followers in this, but not fellow PCs;
  • Superheroes enjoy all of the above benefits, plus they cause all 1HD foes to check morale (save vs Fear) when the superhero approaches to within his charge distance.


That is actually a pretty impressive array of abilities. The problem lies in translating their implementation into LBB D&D.


  • There's no FCT, so points the first two points just go by the boards;
  • Naturally occurring fear isn't much of a thing, so being immune to it isn't either;

Those two points alone, if left unaddressed, strip away almost all of the fighting-man's niche protection. The cleric is the fighting-man's main competitor in this department, which I'll address in an upcoming post. Let's just say that the cleric stays close in combat ability per the "Alternative Combat Table" (ACT from here on), His HD and hp are almost identical, he can wear the same armor, his weapons do the same damage. All for a greatly reduced xp cost.

I do want to say this: morale can play a part in LBB gaming. What I'm driving at is that morale was one of the things that was assumed in the LBBs. As with many things, they were written with the assumption that they were being played by people that either already played Chainmail or at least played some form of wargame.

For many years, and through lots of posts, I have struggled with this. Now, it has finally hit me that the genesis of the "problems" with the LBB fighting-man lie in not enough of the Chainmail subsystems being properly expressed in the LBBs. Implementing the above immunities and bonuses vis a vis fear above is a good start to bringing the LBB fighting-man to where he needs to be.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

A Quick Thought on Magic-Users

A la "vintage" D&D. A thought I've had over time, and I've seen expressed my many others, is that magic-users should dominate world affairs at higher levels. I find it to be a valid point. Many rules and house rules have sought to mitigate this. Some are mechanical, the so-called nerfing of the class. Some are setting-based, with magical colleges dedicated to keeping rogue wizards in check.

I submit to you that a possible answer to this conundrum lies at the point of character creation: the HP roll. We've all played in vintage games where characters start 1st level with maximum hit points. Sometimes there's even a "kicker" of 10 to 25 points. Survivability at low level, we say.

Now, bear with me down a brief tangent. Stat requirements for classes were implemented by Mr Gygax as a way to simulate the relative rarity of certain classes. If only 1 person in 1000 was a paladin, that needed to be reflected in the rules somehow. Lest every Tom-Dick-and-Harry would play one.  Stat requirements keep the occurrence of certain classes within norms.

Now, back to the magic-user. With a d4 hit die, and likely no CON bonus (3d6 and all), it would be a rare magic-user that makes it to 2nd level, let alone to empire-controlling majesty. So, I propose that the "control" on runaway magic-users is baked right into the class at inception.

That brings me to a larger thought about tinkering and house rules, but that will be another time.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

A Quick Thought on Thieves

I was thinking about BECMI yesterday. I love those rules. Of course, I was well "advanced" when they came out, so they weren't my introduction. In point of fact, I've never played or ran a single session under these rules. I owned all the sets, though, and I longed to use them. My group, however, wasn't having it.

See, even in the mid/late 80's I was feeling drawn to a simpler D&D. It seemed to me that we could have a rousing good time with these sets, most especially the BEC components. From time to time I would drift back to them, but more for my own edification.

Anyway, one of the knocks against them is the thief progression. It was recalibrated from Moldvay/Cook to allow for (ultimately) a 36-level progression. Consequently the numbers were lowered. I've not taken an in-depth look to see how egregious the offense actually is, but it does get talked about a lot.

Here's an interesting thing, though. A 1st level fighter needs a 19 to hit an AC0 target, strength bonus not withstanding. That equates to a 10% chance. A 1st level thief can Find/Remove Traps and Hide in Shadows at 10%. A common thought would be "Yeah, but 1st level fighters don't usually tangle with AC0 opponents!" and you'd be right. Somewhere around AC4 is more of a "suitable" encounter. Better than that and it may be time for a retreat strategy.

Here's my question: Why not give the thief similar easement? Look at the percentages as serious tests of their skill. AC0 opponents for a 1st level fighter are likely to be life-or-death situations. Treat rolls at the base percentages the same for thieves. Otherwise give them bonuses, reasonable bonuses, based on circumstances. Say the party is held hostage in an orc outpost. Orc locks are likely to be clunky, unsophisticated affairs, so give the thief a bonus to picking one. To me is stands to reason that if an orc is easier for the fighter to defeat then so to should an orc lock be easier for the thief. There's a certain symmetry there.

Anyway, I know that for the most part my groups have rarely modified the thief tables, aside from Dex ands race. I know there are many of you that do it without a thought and all this is old news to you. Juxtaposing it with the fighter, though, really opened my eyes to the possibility.


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Warning: Post May Offend Some Readers





I'm not kidding. This is the post wherein I will likely hurt some feelings. I may even loose some of the readership I have left. I hope not, but there's something I'm tired of, so here we go.

In this country we have gone so far in our collective desire to not offend fringe groups that we (almost) de facto vilify any opposing views. I want to address two specific cases in point, where this intersects with gaming.

Point #1 - The Objectification/Exploitation of Women

There are some fairly vocal folks in this hobby, curiously enough, mostly men, who decry women in fantasy game art being displayed in provocative ways. I have read reviews where the reviewer wouldn't recommend an otherwise good product simply because there was a bare female midriff on page 132 and a glimpse of cleavage on page 243. Bared and oily skin is a traditional trope of much of the imagery associated with fantasy gaming. It isn't strictly necessary, look at Lord of the Rings. But sometimes it does add to the experience. There's a reason they tapped Arnold to play Conan and Sandal Bergman to play Valeria. It wouldn't have been the same with Mike and Molly.

A quick glance to the right will show you where my gaming head is most of the time (ADD not withstanding). There's plenty of cheesecake AND beefcake in C&C. I love all of it. It's funny to me that the same people that rail against the cheesecake don't seem to have a problem with the beefcake. They'll sometimes  comment about it, but will rarely, if ever, allow beefcake to factor into their review.

Here's a couple of examples from C&C that I like:





















Finally, I want to say to anyone who is offended by the objectification of women in fantasy roleplay art: They're drawings and paintings. They are not real women. No one was objectified in the making of this post.


Point #2 - Traditional Values

I'm a Southern Conservative, in case that wasn't already obvious. I'm not a narrow-minded bigot, but I do have my opinions, views, and values. I was having another ADD dalliance with D&D5 recently, when I discovered this little nugget:

You don ’t need to be confined to binary notions of sex and gender. The elf god Corellon Larethian is often seen as androgynous or hermaphroditic, for example, and some elves in the multiverse are made in Corellon’s image. You could also play a female character who presents herself as a man, a man who feels trapped in a female body, or a bearded female dwarf who hates being mistaken for a male. Likewise, your character’s sexual orientation is for you to decide.

PHB pg 121

Firstly, I'm fairly certain that anybody with enough imagination to play D&D in the first place could figure this out. Even if they were a little unsure of things going in, by the time they get to page 121 in the character creation process, they should have a handle on the notion that they can imagine pretty much any character they want to.

It just pisses me off that we are nearly constantly exposed to the notion that these fringe groups (population-wise) get so much damn play in our society. "Call Bruce Jenner a hero" "Use whichever bathroom you want to" "Make me a cake or I'll sue." Of course, if you're more about traditional values, or even the concept of liberty that grants you the right to your own opinions, you're a narrow-minded bigot.

Why do these things get exclusive coverage anyway? Why are there no lines about settling down and starting a family the old-fashioned way? And that crap about Corellon Larethian is MADE UP. And, by the way, what kind of game are the designers expecting people to run where sexual orientation even matters?

Bottom line: Our youth are constantly exposed to "alternative lifestyles" without any counterpoint for traditional lifestyles. Bruce Jenner is not a hero. He's a guy that ingested large doses of estrogen and put on a dress. He didn't save a life or help found this country. This country was founded by men who weren't afraid to be men and do man shit. George Washington didn't have a sex change and Thomas Jefferson didn't have two mommies. If somebody wants to transgender or be gay, then go for it. Just don't vilify me when I don't want to be assaulted with it morning, noon, and night.

Monday, January 8, 2018

An Old School Critical Hit Table

I have become rather enamored of Swords and Wizardry Continual Light. I've always had a soft spot for S&W, it being my first retro clone. Anyway, I totted up what I think (hope) is a suitable system for critical hits for SWCL, or any other suitably old school iteration of our favorite game.

If damage roll is a natural “6”, roll on critical hit table. If you have no damage bonus, roll d6. If damage bonus (from any/all sources) is +1, roll d8. If +2, roll d10, and if +3 or greater roll d12. If damage bonus is -1, roll d4. If -2, roll d3, and if -3, roll d2.

1    Gain initiative on THIS opponent next round.
2    This opponent is -1 “to-hit” vs you next round.
3    +1 damage from this attack.
4    +1 “to-hit” on this opponent next round.
5    Immediate free attack on this opponent.
6    Starting next round, opponent suffers 1 point of damage at beginning of round.
7    Opponent off balance, loses ability to act next round.
8    Add “to-hit” bonus total to damage from this attack.
9    Opponent prone. -2 AC and must spend next round getting up. Or crawling away.
10  Starting next round, opponent suffers 2 points of damage at beginning of round.
11  Roll additional damage die. If this roll is natural “6”, roll on Critical Table again. Damage                    modifiers do not apply to the additional damage die, nor to an additional roll on this table.
12 Brutal injury. Opponent suffers -1 to any stat of attacker's choice. This damage requires 6 months       to heal naturally. This can be reduced by 2 weeks per casting of Cure Wounds I of per use of               Healing Potion. It may be reduced by one month per casting of Cure Wounds II.


Additional Combat Notes

Magic weapons no longer add their bonus “to-hit”. Instead they add their bonus to the wielder's level. Depending on class and level, this may mean that the character is receiving no bonus “to-hit”. Damage bonus remains unaffected.

Potion of Heroism: +2 bonus to Armor Class and damage rolls for one hour. For purposes of “to-hit” bonuses, the character is considered two levels higher for the duration of the potion's effects.


By the way, I know that one of the knocks against critical hits is the ratio of monster attack rolls vs player attack rolls. I suggest not allowing any monster/opponent with 3 or fewer HD to roll on this table. Effectively that means that no low down goblin is going to kill your 7th level dwarf with one lucky roll. I've seen it happen and it was ugly.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Collapsing Column Conundrum

In this post I talked about a friend's game where we found ourselves in a room filled with granite columns falling all about us. I was contrasting one of the differences between D&D and Dungeon World. That difference being that in D&D getting "hit" by a column was a matter of losing hit points, while in the fiction-first world of DW, missing a roll to avoid a granite column would likely prove fatal.

I'm in a DW mood again and I found myself pondering this situation again. Even though I'm in a DW head, I think I've stumbled on a more satisfying way to handle this in D&D.

The real crux of problems like this in D&D is remembering that hit points are abstract constructs that represent many facets of a character's ultimate survivability (see this post). In this sense, hit point loss is a narrativist opportunity. Well, D&D isn't a narrativist game, so hmmm.

Here's my idea (finally): In the column room example my character was a fighter (natch, I usually play fighters), with somewhere around 70 hp. The room was quite large and filled with these falling columns. I think another way to handle this would be to say "In order to cross the room, you have to make 3 successful Dex checks (or saving throws, whatever). For every one you fail you take d10 damage."

I think that makes it more narrativist. It models an escalating situation, where every column that you don't "dodge" whittles away at your chances of getting to the other side of the room alive. You're getting more tired, more tensed up. Maybe you're dodging away from one, only to step in the way of another one. In any event, if you do make it to the other side alive, the damage from the failed checks represents the physical and emotional exhaustion of such a harrowing experience.

And if the DM wanted to be extra nasty, for each failed roll impose a -1 penalty to the next roll. That would really ramp up the tension.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

. . . and we're back

I've been nagged lately by an old idea: bringing a little more Chainmail into my D&D. As any of you who have survived my hiatuses (hiati?) know, this has been my Eleanor. I place the blame for its resurgence squarely with the esteemable Mr Simon Bull, of Delving Deeper fame. In the v5 beta of Book I, he has added "Fighting Capability" to the classes. Yet, the rules for using it won't be available until the Book II beta release.

In any event, I've been thinking about it again, and I wanted to "journal" my thoughts, as much for myself as anything else. As always, though, comment and discourse are welcome.

Use the basic 2d6 "to-hit" table from the Man-to-Man section of Chainmail. It is based solely on weapon v. armor. This is to be used with opponents (whether they be PCs or NPCs) of less than Heroic stature.

PCs will attack on this table according to their Fighting Capability (FC). Thus, a third level fighting-man would attack three times. Note that these are not to be spread among multiple foes. This does not represent individual swings of a weapon. Rather it represents the greater likelihood that a more capable combatant will force a decisive outcome. Thus, even though it might be more than one roll, it still represents a single attack.

Certain bonuses will accrue to the "to-hit" roll itself. In this case, the bonus will apply to only one such roll.

Magic weapons are an exception to this. Bonuses from magic weapons modify, for purposes of "to-hit" rolls ONLY, the wielder's hit dice, thus, by extension, the wielders FC. Damage bonuses,where they are indicated v. specific targets, are applied to all successful "to-hit" rolls.

Magic shields reduce an attacker's hit dice similarly, in turn reducing FC (this effectively results in magic shields "blocking" attacks). Magic armor adds its bonus to an attacker's "to-hit" roll. Note that this may make the wearer unassailable without the availability of "to-hit" bonuses. Hero/Superhero/Wizard FC will attack such magically armored foes in Heroic Combat.

Characters with FCs of Hero, Superhero, or Wizard are all capable of Heroic Combat. Any creature above 3 HD is beyond the capacities of a normal man (being 3 HD or less). Such foes are not attacked using the Weapon v. Armor matrix. The target number to hit these foes will be from the Fantasy Combat Table in Chainmail.

Ok, so those are my initial thoughts. Like I said, this is mainly me journaling where I am in this thought process at this time. Who knows where it will go from here.