The Death dealing fighting man

Author: DHBoggs / Labels: ,

One of the things that everybody in the know, including me until last week, knows about OD&D is that fighting men get 1 attack per level against opponents of 1 Hit Die or less.  This is simply a fact that we all accepted without much thought, so let’s give it some.
The rule does not appear as such in the 3lbb’s but it’s inferred from:

 “(Attack/Defense) capabilities versus normal men are simply a matter of allowing one roll as a man-type for every hit die attacks, i.e. a Troll would attack six times, once with a +3 added to the die roll.” M&T p5 

The rule here seems to specify only attacks against normal human beings.  However, we might reasonably stretch that to include all “normal” “man-types”.  In this post here
Waysoftheearth has dug through the 3lbb’s to identify exactly what falls into the ”men”,  “man-type” or “human-type” category:

kobolds, ½ HD
goblins, 1-1 HD
dwarves, 1 HD
orcs, 1 HD
gnomes, 1 HD
elves, 1+1 HD
hobgoblins, 1+1 HD

Berserkers 1+1 HD
Cavemen 2 HD
Dervishes 1+1 HD
Mermen 1+1 HD
Necromancer 7 HD
Wizard 8+1 HD
Lord 9+3 HD
Superhero 8+2 HD
Evil High Priest 7 HD
Patriarch 7 HD

Medusae, 4 HD

It’s interesting to note that there are 4 1HD creatures not listed as “man-type”.

Skeletons, Zombies, Halflings, Pixies and Nixies

That could just be an oversight, although it is also possible that all or some of these were considered “supernormal” (aka “fantastic” see below), and so not subject to the rule.  I would guess the latter is true for at least pixies and nixies.

It’s also particularly interesting to look at the Bandit entry on M&T:5:
“Although Bandits are normal men, they will have leaders who are supernormal fighters, magical types or clerical types…. For every 30 bandits there will be one 4th level Fighting-Man; for every 50 Bandits there will be in addition one 5th or 6th level…”  Supernormal here and elsewhere applies to heroic level for fighting men.  The clerics and magic users detailed in the entry are of even higher level – minimum 8th for Cleric, minimum 10th for MU.

So, in a 3lbb only game any “normal” creature, regardless of HD appears to be subject to multiple attacks from supernormal creatures.

Interestingly, that should also include attacks by “supernormal” level Magic-users and Clerics.  As far as I can tell, there’s nothing to exclude them.  (Presumably, supernormal or fantastic level for clerics would be 5 and 7 for Magic users, based on when they fight as heroes on the Fighting Capability column in Monsters and Treasure).

But then there is this:

A little over a year after publishing the 3lbb’s Gygax offered some clarifications regarding combat in the Strategic Review FAQ.
“When fantastic combat is taking place there is normally only one exchange of attacks per round, and unless the rules state otherwise, a six-sided die is used to determine how many hit points damage is sustained when an attack succeeds. Weapon type is not considered, save where magical weapons are concerned. A super hero, for example, would attack eight times only if he were fighting normal men (or creatures basically that strength, i.e.,kobolds, goblins, gnomes, dwarves, and so on).”
The FAQ rule first specifies creatures engaged in “fantasy combat” are exempt from multiple attacks, and further specifies that larger creatures (bigger than man sized) are also exempt.  The rule applies to “normal” (non-fantastic) “man-sized” (non-gigantic) creatures. 
So what is “fantasy combat”?  Well, in CHANMAIL, it is combat occurring between fantasy creatures.  What is a fantasy creature?  Broadly speaking it is a magical, enchanted or otherwise “supernormal” being.  In CHAINMAIL, fantasy creatures are all the creatures found on the Fantasy Combat Table, including Wizards, Heroes and Superheroes.  Elves, orcs, men, dwarves, hobbits and so forth are not “fantasy creatures” unless they also happen to be heroes +.  When Fantasy creatures fight each other, combat is handled on the Fantasy Combat Table and each “side” gets one roll per turn.  Otherwise, when fantasy creatures fight non-fantastic creatures they attack as a number of men on the usual combat tables.  For example, trolls fight and defend as 6 men.
So revisiting the 3lbb rule in light of the Gygax FAQ statement with our CHAIMAIL knowledge, the rule can be restated as:
“When supernormal Fantasy creatures combat each other, they normally only exchange one attack each per round, and unless the rules state otherwise, a six-sided die is used to determine how many hit points damage is sustained when an attack succeeds.  Weapon type does not effect the rule excepting the effects of some magical weapons.  When Fantasy creatures attack normal, non-fantastic creatures, however, they gain one attack roll per Hit Die or per Level, provided the defenders are roughly human sized or smaller.  For example, a Troll attacking an orc would roll on the chance to hit table six times, once with a +3 added to the die roll.  Very large or giant sized creatures are exempt from these multiple attacks due to their extreme size. 
That’s a good rule to flesh out the 3lbb statement.  But if one wants to go by the complete rule as given in the FAQ, it is not quite complete, because a few paragraphs further down in the FAQ Gygax attempts to give a more specific rule for what constitutes fantasy combat:
“Note that [the hero] is allowed one attack for each of his combat levels as the ratio of one Orc vs. the Hero is 1:4, so this is treated as normal (non-fantastic) melee, as is any combat where the score of one side is a base 1 hit die or less.” FAQ
Sometimes, I really wish Gygax had gone to college and taken some writing classes.  His use of “ratio” and “base” suggest you are supposed to create a fraction and reduce to determine whether fantastic combat is taking place.  Upon reflection, I don’t think that’s what he actually meant.  I think he’s giving us a version of this rule:
“…creatures with less than one eight sided hit die … entitle a fighter to a fighter to attack once for each of his or her experience levels..”AD&D Players Handbook, 1978:25
The AD&D rule makes no distinction between normal and fantastic combat, and that the FAQ does is potentially important.  The FAQ rule tells us that any combat involving creatures of 1HD or less is automatically “non-fantastic”, but it doesn’t strictly exclude creatures of greater than 1 HD in the manner that the AD&D rule does.  If one were so inclined, it could be interpreted in the light of the earlier passage this way:
  “When Fantasy creatures combat each other, they normally only exchange one attack each per round, and unless the rules state otherwise, a six-sided die is used to determine how many hit points damage is sustained when an attack succeeds.  Weapon type does not effect the rule excepting the effects of some magical weapons.  However, when Fantasy creatures attack any creature of 1 HD or less or creatures otherwise considered to be normal, and non-fantastic, they gain one attack roll per Hit Die or per Level, provided the defenders are roughly human sized or smaller.  For example, a Troll attacking an orc would roll on the chance to hit table six times, once with a +3 added to the die roll.  Very large or giant sized creatures are exempt from these multiple attacks due to their extreme size.”
Something else about the FAQ rule is different.  The AD&D rule is strictly for fighters.  The FAQ rule says ”any combat”, which seems again to include “supernormal” Magic users and Clerics.  This does make a certain amount of sense, as Wizards are included on CHAINMAIL’s Fantasy Combat Table.
In the end that may be the real difference between the AD&D rule and the the OD&D rule – that “supernormal” Clerics and Magic-Users get multiple attacks too.


Jon Miller said...

Great post. This is a live issue for me, since I'm currently running an OD&D campaign. I've had the same thought about multiple attacks for clerics and magic-users. I'm not sure how to allocate multiple attacks for non-fighters if one is using the alternate combat system, however.

Using the alternate system, the usual interpretation is to give a fighter one 1d20 attack roll per experience level, with no adjustments. But how many attack rolls should clerics and magic-users get? The "Fighting Capability" chart (Men & Magic, p. 17) requires interpretation, since fighting capability is listed in terms of numbers of normal men with an adjustment at some levels. An Enchanter, for example, fights as a Hero-1. Should one give the Enchanter four 1d20 attack rolls, with a -1 penalty applied to one of these rolls? This solution, while plausible, doesn't follow the usual solution for fighters using the alternate system, which is to give one 1d20 attack roll per level, with no modifiers. How would you handle it?

DHBoggs said...

There's a couple things you can do. I think the system on M&M:17 - even though it was concieved of for use with CHAINMAIL is the way to go for the d20 system also, except for very "special" fighter characters (like paladins), who should still get one roll per level.

First thing to consider is the M&M table is actually two tables. "3 men" etc applies to mass combat, and man to man in CHAINMAIL. Hero -1 applies to the Fantasy combat table. There's nothing to suggest you are supposed to treat hero -1 as meaning 7 men in mass combat. A superhero -1 ha meaning only for the FCT and I'm convinced it was never meant to imply 7 men, or what have you, in mass combat. The numbers of men top out at the numbers shown; so fighters are never worth more than 6 men, Clerics & MU's 3+1.

So, I would use those figures with the d20 system too, except, as I said, in the case of "special" fighters like paladins. So, for example, a 3rd level fighter (3 men) gets 3 attacks, but the 3rd level MU and Cleric (2 men) get 2 attacks per round.

For monsters, you have the option of going with Greyhawks multiple attacks or just treating them as fighters of their HD level.

Jon Miller said...

Thanks for the reply.

I had always assumed that a Hero would be equivalent to 4 men (for example). But the table doesn't say "Hero or 4 Men," does it? And it does say "3 Men or Hero -1" for 3rd level fighters. Interesting.

However, in the D&D FAQ (The Strategic Review, #2, p. 3), Gygax does give the 4th level fighter 4 attacks against the orcs. That seems to be indirect evidence for the view that a Hero counts as 4 normal men and a Superhero counts as 8 normal men.

I still don't really understand how Chainmail combat was supposed to work in OD&D, however. Forgive me if you or another person in the OSR has already covered this, but are you supposed to use the man-to-man system or the mass combat system (with the fantastic combat table) in OD&D? I see a potential problem either way.

The mass combat system does not let normal men attack fantastic creatures (unless I am mis-reading the Fantasy Combat Table, which is possible). This doesn't seem to work with OD&D, since OD&D apparently assumes that 1st level characters can attack fantastic creatures; 1st level characters are neither heroes nor superheroes, so I'm not sure if they are allowed to attack fantastic creatures using the mass combat rules from Chainmail.

Meanwhile, Chainmail's man-to-man table assumes attacks by normal men with weapons, which seems to exclude attacks by fantastic creatures.

Perhaps this is an issue for a separate blog post or forum, but any help you could give would be appreciated. Thanks.

DHBoggs said...

Hi Jonathan. I was going to recommend you have a look at my "OD&D with CHAINMAIL" doc - free in my PDF store on Fastspring, but I see from them that you already found it! Another cool thing to look at is this post by Steve Winter

The upshot is that people have been debating the CHAINMAIL question forever and there really is no right or wrong way to do it.

Anyway you cut it, CHAINMAIL has to be adapted/changed to use with D&D. The main combat methods in Champions of ZED, building off the OD&D with CM doc, are one way of making those adaptations integral to the game, so you might find that interesting. I believe the next issue of Fight On! will have CoZ's combat tables.

I agree the FAQ could be seen to support the idea that the M&M Fighting Capability tables "hero" etc listings could be translated into "4 men" or "8 men" etc., but I don't think it's a very strong case. Gygax was giving an example of d20 combat, whereas the FC tables were meant for CHAINMAIL, but either way, the numbers give you another tool in your warchest to use how you best see fit.

Jon Miller said...

I was going to leave a reply here saying I had found your OD&D with Chainmail document, but you beat me to it. I'm still digesting the OD&D with Chainmail doc, but it answers most of the questions I've been having. Thanks for putting it together.

Learning about Chainmail and OD&D is fascinating, though I don't think I'm going to end up using the Chainmail combat system for my campaign, at least not the rules as written. It seems like it would be difficult to implement in play. All of the players in my campaign are new to OD&D, and all but one are new to gaming in general, so simplicity and ease of use are important. Right now we're using the alternate combat system together with some of Chainmail's rules for movement and the turn sequence, and that seems about the right speed. The players have already made great use of the halt move and pass-through fire rules to gain a tactical advantage.

Regarding Champions of Zed, I'm definitely interested in seeing what you've come up with. It's too bad I missed the Kickstarter. A question: how does it relate to your Dragons at Dawn project?

Finally, I recently read part of Arneson's First Fantasy Campaign, and it's much better than I expected. One hears about the typo's and lack of clear explanations, but there are a lot of great ideas in there. I'm not so much interested in Arneson's combat rules or the specifics of his world building (much of which strikes me as cheesy--the Egg of Coot, the turn-style in the dungeon, etc.) but the rules for sandbox and barony-level play are awesome. I was also struck by the one-line entries on his dungeon key for Castle Blackmoor. It never occurred to me that you could have a functional key with so little to go on, but it seems to have worked just fine for Arneson.

DHBoggs said...

Check my latest post for an answer to the CoZ/D@D question.

There was a lot of "cheese" in early Blackmoor play, and the funny thing is that I think virtually all of Arneson's biggest fans don't share his sense of gaming humor. We all prefer to take a grittier view of our settings, it seems. But, as you are discovering, Arneson was very serious about the mechanics of gaming and building campaigns and its easy enough to ignore or transform the occaisional oddball bit of humor as the DA series or Blackmoor d20 series shows. The FFC is an absolute goldmine of campaign ideas when you really dig into it.

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