Sunday, March 4, 2012

Interpreting AC and To Hit Rolls in D&D

This is why I shouldn't be allowed to have a blog.  I forget it needs updating.  That's a lot of work...

Anyway, I was thinking today about an older post of another blogger (whom I should probably link to, but I can't remember who it is) who wrote about abstract combat and the original Dungeons & Dragons combat system.  I don't know why that popped into my head today, but it did.  I guess the sermon at church just didn't hold my attention......

Basically, the original combat system was pretty abstract which is what you would expect from a group of wargamers.  If the number you rolled was equal to or greater than the target number to hit the opposing force you were aiming at, you hit and then you rolled damage.  If you rolled under the target number you missed.  The flight of arrows or the catapult shot or the fusillade from the musketeers either found a target or it didn't.  If it found a target, you then either rolled to penetrate the armor value (if it had armor) or you rolled damage which basically meant you figured out how many of the opposing force died.  There were no wounds or armor damage or anything like that.   And guess what that target number was called?  Yep...Armor Class.  Thus, you either pierced the armor and killed the opponent or the armor saved the opponent.

Now, I cannot verify if what he was saying is true or not.  I does jibe well with what I remember reading in Chainmail way back in the early 1980's .  I didn't do any wargaming until the mid to late 1990's when a coworker of mine talked me into playing Warhammer 40k  heavily house-ruled to match his personal experiences as a Navy Special Ops (pre-SEAL) member.  In that game, you rolled to hit, then to penetrate the armor, then the opponent would roll to "save" (meaning, was it a flesh wound or a mortal wound).  The battles were long and a tad bit tedious.  It also didn't help that he either couldn't roll to hit an elephant with a 10' pole or couldn't miss with every shot.

So, when I returned to playing Swords & Wizardry/AD&D 1e/OSRIC/OD&D, most of the other gamers disliked the abstract nature of combat in these old games.  To make combat more interesting, I decided to try to take all these experiences and ideas, shake them up, and synthesize them into the following rule to make the combat more descriptive and interesting.  Since Armor Class begins with 10 (if you use ascending AC, 9 if you use descending), a roll of that number is a "hit".  However, if you're wearing chain mail, then your AC is 14 or 5 (see above) and a roll between the base AC and your armor AC produces a "glancing blow which is absorbed by the armor or shield or helm".  If the roll is equal or above the AC target number, then the blow pierces the armor.  While it may sound like a lot of work, I was surprised at how quickly I picked it up.  And since one of my gaming groups is the school's RPG club, these 12 to 14 year olds really appreciate the visual descriptions.  They've even gotten into explaining their hits and misses this way.  One of  the first steps toward real roleplaying!
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