... now with 35% more arrogance!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Weapons, Armor, and Magic

James Maliszewski of GROGNARDIA fame has been doing a series on the Holmes Basic "blue book" edition of D&D, reading it from cover to cover. I've been following it, but hadn't read through the comments on his posts until today. His post on blue book combat in particular got a lot of comments, especially -- predictably -- about the Holmes/LBB approach of having all weapons do 1d6 damage.

I've covered my thoughts on d6-only weapons extensively already, but I thought I might specifically address two issues raised from the viewpoint of how the rules as a whole fit together. One commenter stated that "obviously" bigger weapons do more damage. Another raised the old issue of, if a fighter is limited to doing 1d6 damage no matter what the weapon, why isn't the MU's Fireball likewise limited? What both are ignoring is the rest of the rules.

A Fireball spell does damage based on an MU's level -- but so does a fighter's attack, when directed against 1 HD monsters and normal men. A fighter can simultaneously attack a number of 1 HD opponents equal to the fighter's level; he is, basically, his own Fireball spell, except he can do this multiple times per day or even per combat, unlike the MU who can only cast multiple Fireballs when memorizing more than one 3rd level spell, or when using a wand of fireballs.

Weapon damage in the d6-only system works because hit points equal luck, a "to hit" roll is the chance of dealing a blow that would kill a normal man, and armor reduces the likelihood of dying, rather than reducing the force of a blow. Thus, "damage" in the original model doesn't mean what those who prefer variable weapon damage thinks it means. If you switch to variable weapon damage, you should also switch to armor reducing damage, to strength-based weapons, and to fixed hit points based on size and Constitution instead of level and class.

Basically, you should be using the Melee (TFT) combat system as a plug-in for your D&D, if you want realistic damage.


  1. I originally had more to comment but it looks like you've been over much of this in the past and in most cases, we will just have to agree to disagree on the d6-only vs variable damage weapons (I'm not a fan of the term variable damage weapons, after all, 1d6 is "variable" too, I just haven't settled on a replacement term yet.)

    One thing I haven't seen with the d6-only system is how it deal with larger-than-human monsters. Does a dagger really do the same "damage" to a dragon, or even a cow, that a two-handed sword does or halberd? I know we're thinking of hit-points in differing ways, but a d6-only system means I'm just as likely to kill a dragon or stone giant or even a gnoll with a dagger as I would be a large axe or two-handed sword.

    I know part of your concerns with "variable-damage" weapons is that everyone will end up picking the same weapon, but I've always found that happens more in d6-only games I've been a part of. Lots of people take daggers (twice the attacks per round with all the same damage using Holmes' rules) or at least one-handed weapons so they can use a shield. Two-handed weapons fall by the wayside quickly. Anecdotal to be sure, but evidence that d6-only systems don't necessarily generate more weapon variety.

    Anyway, I'm sure we've all been through these discussions before, I just like to hear other opinions and see what people have worked through.

  2. @Coldstream: You *could* kill a dragon with a dagger that strikes a vulnerable part. You probably won't. OD&D assumes that a successful "to hit" roll means a blow that would kill a normal man (1d6 for hit dice.) Dragons have more hit dice, so it's a little harder. I covered my general thoughts on weapon mass in this post (summary: I'd grant a to-hit bonus rather than a damage bonus.) For really large monsters, I could give them a defensive bonus for weapons below a certain size. I might do a post on that.