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Saturday, March 3, 2012

20 Questions, Part II: Combat

Part II of my answers to Brendan's questions covers basic changes to the combat rules.

5. Initiative: individual, group, or something else?
    Based on surprise, Dex, and weapon length.
6. Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work?
    Situational only.
7. Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet?
    Helmets (and shields) shall be splintered!
8. Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?
    Yes (5+ on d6 if you miss your target.)

I don't use standard initiative at all.  Based on my research, initiative was originally just a roll to see which player goes first, with the actual order of effects based on weapon length. I've been mostly going on weapon length only: first strike to the longer weapon, longer weapon also goes first when fighting animals or other tooth-and-claw attacks, but otherwise shorter weapon goes first. I'm going to change that a bit, keeping "longer weapon gets first strike," but otherwise going in Dex order (substituting Move for Dex for most monsters.) Weapon length is now a tie breaker.

I don't do "crit on 20, fumble on 1". Instead, I'm only using critical hits or fumbles in specific situations (magic-user wielding a two-hand sword in close formation? OK, but on a missed attack, roll a d6 to see if you hit a friend.) The firing into mêlée example in question #8 is one such "fumble".

I mentioned in passing at the beginning of our local games that I will be using "Shields Shall Be Splintered", but no one's tried it. I should make it more explicit in a written handout, and mention that helmets, like shields, can be sacrificed to block damage. This decision must be made before damage is rolled, and some attacks may prevent such a response (helmets are ineffectual against snakes biting your leg, for example.)


  1. Regarding initiative, what about missile weapons?

    (By the way, your comment system seems to have lost the email subscribe option.)

  2. @Brendan: Missile weapons generally go first, except heavy crossbows. In mêlée, go by actual length of the bow, for the tie-breaker. Maybe substitute Strength for Dex with crossbows, though, to represent the need to cock it?

    (Nothing I can do about the loss of the email subscribe option... that's apparently something Google is doing out of spite.)

  3. In the Blogger management interface, under Settings -> Comments -> Comment Form Placement, if you select "Embedded below post" (rather than "Pop-up window" or "Full page"), I believe the subscribe by email option comes back. Noisms over at Monsters & Manuals was able to solve a similar problem.

  4. One aspect of D&D combat that has always felt insufficient to me is how missile covering fire is handled. It often seems way too easy to close distance and enter melee with missile troops. For example, if there is a room with a row full of bowmen on one end covering a door, in real life it would be very hard to assault their position. In D&D though, the best the archers can hope for is one free round of missile fire going off before the enemies close and start hitting them with swords and sticks. Having missile attacks resolve before melee as you do here (and as I think is suggested in B/X) helps with this, but does not seem like enough.

    Think about, for example, how easy it is for a single person with a gun to keep a group of enemies pinned down, assuming the gunner has some cover.

    One rule I have thought about to address this is to allow something like an attack of opportunity by ranged combatants against enemies trying to close with them (assuming they are not using a slow-loading missile weapon like a heavy crossbow that requires a winch or a bazooka).