Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Reading Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Part 23

Interesting note about this section: it's called "Melee," but one of the first things it says is that this section doesn't cover the procedures for Melee.

Go figure.

As you've no doubt already picked up, we've covered a lot of the combat procedures already, and the "to hit" tables are still to come. This section covers "Special considerations" one might take into account during melee.

Gotta love the layout of the first ed. DMG, eh?  For all its Gygaxian charm, nobody ever accused it of being laid out in a logical or intuitive fashion.

Number of Opponents Per Figure: Here's a section for those who insist that D&D was always intended to be a miniatures game, as it lays out the number of attackers that can gang up on one target in melee, and refers to them as "figures." It also uses squares and hexes to illustrate positioning in combat.

Again, however, it's important to remember that in the early days, AD&D was being targeted at wargamers, not role players (indeed; when AD&D first came out, TSR was pretty much the only kid on the block—if you’ll indulge a bit of hyperbole—for role playing; there was not yet a role playing community like there is today).  Thus, it made sense for Gygax, et. al. to use familiar terminology for their target audience. And indeed, after the illustrations and a quick 1"=25mm scale reference, it goes on to suggest the DM simply memorize the sketches and mentally visualize the situation. And indeed, the breakdown is quite simple: 6 S, 4 M or 2 L creatures can attack a S target; 8 S, 6 M or 4 L can attack a M target, and 10 S, 8 M, or 6 L creatures can attack a L target. If you can remember 6/4/2 for a small creature, you're good to go--just add 2 to each category per category of the target.

While allowances are indubitably made for miniatures use, it's still by no means the default assumption.

It goes on to remind the DM that these numbers are guidelines—a giant snake has more surface area to attack than does a giant, for example, as one lays flat and the other stands tall.

Now, the reason for all this clarification is so that the DM knows when and how to adjudicate Special Types of Attacks, these being Flank attacks, Rear attacks, Stunned, prone, or motionless opponents, Magically sleeping or held opponents, and Invisible opponents.

There's not a great deal to elaborate on here; the functions of these conditions haven't changed much since the early days. Flank and rear attacks negate shield and Dex bonuses to AC, for example (though it's important to note that in first ed. "Flank" was a position, not a tactical maneuver as in 3.x). Montionless, sleeping, and held opponents could automatically be hit for maximum damage in combat, or automatically dispatched out of combat. Invisible opponents imposed a -4 to hit (if you could pinpoint them).


Important note regarding "To Hit" Adjustments: This bit isn't very well thought out, because it just doesn't need to be present. It cautions to always apply "to hit" adjustments to AC rather than the actual attack roll. Why? Because applying it to the attack roll will make certain characters "hit proof," while applying it to AC means "it is still possible for attackers to roll natural 20's and thus score hits."

...apparently it's not possible to roll a natural 20 if you have a bonus or penalty to hit?

I think the train of thought here is to apply the penalties (or bonuses) to the "rule of 6" progression on the attack tables, which we'll examine later...but even still, a natural 20 is a natural 20, regardless of bonuses or penalties; applying such bonuses to the hit roll or to AC is functionally the same, in practice.  If there is a difference, I can’t figure out how.

Who Attacks Whom in Melee: Basically, this section just clarifies that once you're in melee with an opponent, you're in melee with the opponent. You can't just switch opponents every round at your whim.

Meleeing an opponent spell caster: Remember how melee is a minute long and broken down into 6-second segments? This is where that becomes important. If you cast a spell that takes 3 segments to cast, start casting on segment 9 (as indicated by your initiative die), but get hit by an opponent on segment 7, before your spell goes off on segment 6, your spell is ruined.

Attacks with Two Weapons: You know how this works. -2/-4, offset by dex bonuses, which can't grant actual bonuses, only offset the penalties. Straightforward and elegant.

Breaking off from Melee You break off from melee, your opponent gets to hit you as though making a rear attack (+2 to hit, you get no dex or shield bonus). Again, simple and elegant.

Monks' Open Hand Attacks: This section serves mostly to keep monks from being supermen, limiting their open-hand attacks to damaging creatures based on their level and the creature's height and weight. It works, though I've known normal people who are bigger than a first level monk could damage. 400-lb people are unusual but far from unheard of. This is mostly just a nitpick, though.

Actions during combat and similar time-important situations: This section pretty much just cautions the DM to pay attention to what the players can reasonably accomplish in one minute, using an example of pulling out a flask of oil, lighting it, throwing it, drinking a potion, then sneaking up and stabbing an opponent as an example. It breaks each action down into probable segments and demonstrates how long it wouldreasonably take. It's a good section to review when dealing with the long combat rounds of first edition AD&D.

Finally, the section closes with an example of Melee, which it's not necessary to go through in detail, save to say it sadly does not include a single one of the special considerations that the section focuses upon. Still, it's a good, solid example battle for demonstrating how combat comes together.

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