Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Reading Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Part 24


I will freely admit; the first time (the first few times, actually) that I looked at this section, I let out a hearty "What the F*#$??" At first glance, this really looks like the definition of the chaotic mess that AD&D has a rep for being.

It's really not, though. Once you dive in and read it, not only does it make sense, but it's pretty damned elegant. I've even found myself wondering how tough it'd be to directly convert the entire combat system to these rules.

This brings me to my one complaint about the weaponless combat sub-system.

...It's a sub-system.

What I mean is, AD&D already has a combat system in place; why design an entirely different set of rules that have no connection whatsoever to normal combat, just to handle grappling, pummeling, and overbearing? Was it needed? That's probably why most of us just decided to use good old-fashioned attack rolls with non-lethal damage applied to unarmed combat. While I can't speak with any authority as to what went through Gygax's (or whoever invented this) mind when this system was developed, I can say (speaking as a game designer) that sometimes things seem like a good idea when you're hashing them out and later, after they get published, you do a head-slap and realize there was a much. easier. way. That could feasibly be what happened here. It's pretty clear, as I discussed earlier, that AD&D was built on math and probability first and systems second.

But I digress. We were talking about weaponless combat. All of the above being said, this system is really neat, so it's worth a closer look.

There are three general types of unarmed combat in AD&D. The first is Pummeling, which resembles any number of bare-handed or -footed attacks. Punches, kicks, bitch slaps, whatever. The second is Grappling, which is essentially wrestling. The third is Overbearing, which is pretty much knocking someone's ass to the floor and then kicking them while they're down.

Each one of these situations is resolved in exactly the same manner, though the situational modifiers differ for each.

Step One: The DM rolls a d6 for the attacker and a d4 for the defender. The result of this roll is added to the column on the attack table that is referenced for a character of this class and level. Thus, a first level fighter gets a d6+2 to attack or a d4+2 to defend (the first column on the fighter table is for 0-level critters). A fifth level fighter, who references column 4, gets d6+4 or d4+4.

The resulting figure becomes a modifier that can be applied to either Step Two or Step Four, at the attacker and defender's option, but this must be stated before dice are rolled. Since all rolls are made by the attacker, the attacker's modifier becomes a bonus; the defender's becomes a penalty.

Step Two: The DM determines the player's percentage chance to successfully attack his opponent with the chosen attack type. The base chance to hit is generally based upon the defender's AC times ten, ignoring magical devices such as rings and cloaks, but adding bonuses for magical armor. This is then modified by circumstances such as the defender's strength, dexterity, condition (slowed, stunned, etc.), base movement, etc. The final total represents a percentage chance to hit.

Step Three: This accomplished, the attacker rolls percentile dice against the target, trying to roll under. If he fails, the turn passes to his opponent.

Step Four: If the attacker succeeds, he rolls percentile dice again for the effects of his attack, this time modifying the roll rather than the target, based on his own strength, dex, any weapons he has, his opponent's status, armor, etc., then consults a table to discover the effects of his successful attack, which could lead to another immediate attack, an unconscious or helpless opponent, straight damage, or any number of other effects.

In short, the attacker makes two percentile checks, the first against a modified target number, the second with the modified roll against a chart. Most damage inflicted is temporary, returning per round, with a small percentage "real" damage that's counted just like getting hit with a sword.

It gets into more detail, of course, with situational factors such as a grappled opponent throwing an elbow at the attacker's face, or what happens when you try to pummel, grapple, or overbear someone with a sword (hint: they get to hit you with the sword, first), but the general procedure remains the same for all three. I'm interested to run some kind of tavern-boxing or -wrestling match in a game, just to see how this plays out. Seems like it'd be fun.

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