Fighting Capability

Author: DHBoggs / Labels:

The following is from CHAINMAIL:

Here, each figure will do only as well as its known capabilities foretell, with allowances for chance factors which affect every battle (such as dice throwing in miniature warfare)…… combat is based on the historically known capabilities of each particular kind of fighting man and then expressed as a dice rolling probability in relation to like and differing types of soldiers.p6

The Lycanthrope will bring a number of animals of its were-type with it, and this adds to their fighting ability. If they are fighting inside of, or within 6" of, a wood, other than an Entwood, they will double their melee capability. Lycanthropes attack as four Armored Foot and defend as four Heavy Foot.  p34

They will fight in formations, and have a melee capability of six Heavy Foot. p34.

From the above we can see that the terms fighting ability, melee capability etc..are interchangeable references to the power of a particular combatant, as expressed in number and type, i.e. “six heavy foot”.

HEROES (and Anti-heroes): ..... They have the fighting ability of four figures, the class being dependent on the arms and equipment of the Hero types themselves, who can range from Light Foot to Heavy Horse. CM p7.

The fighting ability or melee capability of the hero is “4 figures” but depends also on their “type”, meaning one hero could equal 4 figures of Light Infantry and another equal 4 figures of Heavy Horse. 

So what’s a figure?  That depends on scale.  It can represent 20 men, 10 men or 1 man.  In individual combat such as in Man to Man (or OD&D) a figure is 1 man.  “When two figures are within melee range (3"), one or several blows will be struck…. The man striking the first blow….” p25.

Each man/figure that wants to melee, can: “Units within 3" of a melee may be drawn into it if the player to whom they belong so desires.” p16

Now here comes a bit of deductive logic not specified in the rules, but apparent.  Each single man/figure gets one attack and dies when hit, but a Hero has a melee capability of 4 man/figures.  Therefore a Hero gets 4 melee attacks (melee capability) in Man to Man combat; one attack for each man they are worth.  Likewise a superhero deductively has 8 attacks, since they are equal to 8 men/figures, and each one of those 8 men is worth one attack separately.

Now lets turn to OD&D.  OD&D has new rules which replace or supplement CHAINMAIL.  Hit dice, have now replaced mere hits for defense.  Another column, labeled “Fighting Capability”, is defined as “a key to use in conjunction with the CHAINMAIL fantasy rule…”p18M&M  Fighting Capability lists a character level, and the number of men the level equals.  Heroes equal 4 men, and Superheroes equal 8 men.

Again, it’s not spelled out, but it is readily apparent that OD&D Fighting Capability is the same thing as CHAINMIAL fighting ability or melee capability in terms of attack value/number of attacks.  A D&D hero has the fighting capability of  4 men/figures, just as a CHAINMAIL hero has a melee capability of 4 
men/figures.  A D&D hero therefore attacks as 4 men when using CHAINMAIL Man to Man.

So, when using the CHAINMAIL man to man or mass combat methods, the Fighting Capability table tells you how many men/figures a D&D character is worth, plus possible bonuses. 

For more discussion, have a look at this post:


Aaron E. Steele said...

I think the alternate table assumes a single roll of a single die each round. I suppose you could calculate the odds embedded in each version of the combat systems, my gut feeling is that the alternate combat system makes heroes and superheroes far less powerful.

I prefer the math of the chain mail system, but then, my preferences are rather well known by now.

Hedgehobbit said...

This multiman fighting capability closely matches Dave's early 1d6 per hit die damage system in the case where all attacks do 1d6 damage. Do we know when Dave stopped using that system and started using the 1 attack / round (unless fighting normal men) system from OD&D?

Jon Peterson said...

I think first you need to separate Chainmail's mass-combat rules from the man-to-man rules. For the former, I was with you until "each single man/figure gets one attack... therefore a Hero gets four melee attacks" or for a Superhero "each one of those 8 men is worth one attack separately." When any group of mundane figures attacks any other group of mundane figures, the number of dice rolled is determined by Appendix A, and Appendix A also sets the die roll needed to score a kill on the defending group. If you have one Heavy Horse attacking a group of eight Light Foot, say, the Heavy Horse rolls four dice per Appendix A and kills one Light Foot for each roll over 4. Is that four attacks? For mass-combat rules, it's hard to say what is an "attack." This is just a slight recasting of Tony Bath's old medieval system.

Any time the rules for some fantastic creature say something like "attacks as four Heavy Horse" or what have you it is referring to fantasy-on-mundane combat, and how it is resolved by Appendix A. A Hero acts like four of the base type, as you suggest, and so a Hero Light Foot attacking the same group of eight Light Foot would roll four dice, just like the Heavy Horse, but the Hero would only rack up kills on a 6. Obviously fantasy-on-fantasy combat, like the Hero vs. Lycanthrope, is resolved by Appendix E instead. A Hero there gets the same roll everyone gets: 2d6.

For the man-to-man rules (Appendix B), weapon class determines how many blows you get to strike per round - up to two or three if your weapon class is quite low and your opponent's is quite high. This is balanced by the difficulty of landing a blow against most armor types with a low weapon class.

So basically, there are three distinct combat systems in Chainmail, and of the three, really I'd say only the man-to-man has a concept of "multiple attacks," and that is based just on differences in weapon class.

There are actually good reasons to think that OD&D aspired to a multiple-attack model for the alternate combat system, based on some early clarifications that Gygax tried to make. There are vestiges of a level-based system where an attacker gets a number of attacks based on the ratio of the attacker's level to the defender's level. This system was never sufficiently baked, however, and was quickly replaced. The oblique text on M&T pg5 about "allowing one roll as a man-type for every hit die" such that "a Troll would attack six times" is an example of this. The intended system wasn't very coherent or playable, however, which is why it was quickly abandoned, and why in general we don't play that way.

That's my take, anyway.

DHBoggs said...

Yep, right with you Jon, except I see Man to Man a bit differently. I believe it to be a reasonable, and likely common interpretation to expect each "man" value to represent a separate dice roll on the appendix B table. This view gains importance (and validity) when applying Man to Man to OD&D where multiple attacks are the only way to distinguish attack value of character level. It's admittedly a viewpoint, and you are in good company, as Steve Winter seems to have viewed Man to Man as you do, with the possibility of multiple attacks,even with D&D, stemming only from weapon type.
So, to revise and extend (heh) I should have written "each single man/figure gets one attack in Man to Man, otherwise the PC or creature attacks as its # of man/figures in mass combat, or as it's hero/creature type on the FCT...". That's all pretty well spelled out in ye old OD&D with CHAINMAIL doc, come to think of it (prolly should have thought of that in the post).
It's worth mentioning there is also Jousting - a fourth combat system in CHAINMAIL, and (I'm sure you know but for the sake of others reading) Pickens wrote an interesting article about that in Dragon 17. Food for another rambling post perhaps.

DHBoggs said...

Hard to know if he ever completely stopped using HD=damage dice. Sounds like he was still using it for Svenny at the '76 gencon. I would guess he applied the "rules" however he was inclined to at any given game. Hence the "Hello, I'm Dave Arneson" reply to the "what edition are we playing?" question.

Jon Peterson said...

The Chainmail (and OD&D) rules are ambiguous enough to support all kinds of interpretations, so I can certainly imagine people reading it the way you describe. I think though that it's pretty clear that the man-to-man rules were not intended to be applied to Heroes. Remember that fantasy rules are confined the the Fantasy Supplement at the end, and the man-to-man rules are not inside the Fantasy Supplement. We're supposed to take the "man" in "man-to-man" in its narrow Chainmail sense. That's why these rules make no mention of Heroes and we need to resort to inference and interpretation to try to apply Appendix B to fantasy creatures.

The Fantasy Supplement needed to provide some account of how it would interface with Appendix A, so it included in creature descriptions all of that "fights as X men" language. It is very clear from the Hero description that "when meleed by regular troops," "combat takes place on the non-Fantasy Combat Tables" - meaning Appendix A ("Combat Tables" plural because that is the title of Appendix A, and "non-Fantasy" to distinguish it from Appendix E). All this language is clearly only intended to interface with Appendix A - it has no meaning in the man-to-man rules. What would it mean to "defend as two Heavy Horse" in Appendix B? If the Fantasy Supplement had been intended to modify the man-to-man rules, it would have said something applicable to those rules (like, "a Hero gets double attacks per round of combat," or something). We can make up a rule like that for how Heroes would use Appendix B, but I don't think we can recover the designer's intention where there was none. Similarly, we could make up a Hero rule for jousting, but there's none implied - we shouldn't be trying to figure out how to "defend as Four Armored Foot" in Appendix C.

Deadstop said...

Forgive the off-topic comment, but what has happened to Dragons at Dawn? Thanks to reading Mr. Peterson's book, I have become interested in acquiring D@D, only to discover that it seems to have vanished from the Internet. Is there any way I might purchase a PDF copy from you?

DHBoggs said...

Have a look at this thread.

Sales should resume in September, meanwhile, check out some of the great threads on the forum.

Deadstop said...

Aha, thanks! And kudos for your volunteer work.

dervishdelver said...

I have experimented with these ideas in actual play, even to the extent of trying to reconcile the use of OD&D PC's with Chainmail in mass combat. As a result, I have concluded that the Fantasy Supplement was originally intended to be played with the Appendix A combat system at 1:1 scale.

I believe the Appendix B rules must have been a later addition. In fact I have heard that they were an adaptation found in a magazine write up. But I have not been able to corroborate this. Since you're a historian Jon, maybe you could substantiate or disprove this account.

That being said, I do feel DHB's relation between Chainmails "fighting ability" and OD&D's "fighting capability" is a reasonable conclusion if you are going to use the Man-to-Man combat system in Chainmail. This seems natural because it has closer similarities to the Alternative Combat System.

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