I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Friday, August 18, 2023

Tales of the Demon Lord (actual play review)

I ran Tales of the Demon Lord a few years ago, when trying Shadow of the Demon Lord for the first time. I did a review of the game but I hadn't reviewed this collection of adventures, so here we go.

This is the blurb:
The End Starts Here
The signs are everywhere. The mad prophets shriek dire warnings on the streets of Crossings, while strange monsters roam the lands beyond the city’s walls. Strange cults flourish in the lawless wilds, while the undead muster in the desert wastes to the north. The end is near, but is it too late to stop it?
Tales of the Demon Lord presents eleven adventures set in the lands of the Northern Reach, the far-flung province of a dying empire. Game Masters can run the adventures as a complete campaign, taking starting characters to the heights of their master paths, or use them individually to tell a different story. In addition to the adventures, this sourcebook contains detailed information about the city of Crossings and a selection of new creatures to terrorize the Northern Reach and beyond. 

Tales is indeed a collection of eleven adventures (I ran nine or ten, IIRC) that can be weaved together in a coherent campaign, although they do not follow neatly from each nor provide an easy "sandbox" for the PCs to explore.

Instead, it leaves to the GM to fill the details and omissions, which requires some work.

If you play the system as written, these adventures are enough  to get the characters all the way from level one to level 10 and face the end of the world - as intended in the rules book.

Because of this, I find  this collection to be a great introduction to the system -  although my players felt their characters were advancing in breakneck speed.  If I were to run another SotDL  campaign, I'd probably let PCs advance only once per two-three adventures instead of one.

The setting (the city of Crossings) it's interesting as a base of operations and provides a few potential patrons and factions, but again it is up to the GM to connect the dots. 

Unfortunately, the adventures themselves are mostly set in nearby villages (with no strong connections to city intrigues), so you don't get most of the advantages of having a coherent setting. There are a couple of exceptions (a dungeon you explore twice, a couple of recurring characters, and an attempt to tie everyone together in the last chapter), but they are few.

In my campaign, the PCs were  working for the city watch, and they got assigned to more dangerous missions (and more leeway) as they progressed in fame and fortune.

The appearance of this book is similar to the core book, which means decent, not great. Everything is grey and red, the maps are simple but serviceable (the resolution is a bit low, often too low), and the art is scarce.

The adventures themselves are good - maybe above average. They feel like D&D classics with a dark twist (and heavy metal or hard rock titles), unfortunately relying on some tired tropes (e.g., evil orcs, abandoned dwarven mines, etc.). 

They are thematically coherent, but they lack some sense of connection.

In chapter 9, for example, the author says - "Before the adventure begins, a number of things happen in Crossings. You can introduce these events in prior adventure sessions, or simply reveal that they occurred prior to the beginning of this adventure.". 

Wouldn't it be nice if the author himself had introduced them in the previous 8 chapters?

A regional map would be nice too (you have to go to the core book for that), maybe with some random encounters for the road (instead of leaving it to each adventure).

Each adventure has 2-6 pages, which is almost perfect for me. Once again, the GM has to fill some gaps, but I find this is easier than grasping 50 pages before running a single session.

This is very close to my favorite format, and I wish we had more OSR modules like this.

Finally, I must add a note on balance. I found the first adventure to be particularly hard and unfair, which is okay is a gritty campaign, but probably not on the very beginning, when the players have few tools and little knowledge to face these challenges.

All the adventures are dangerous but this is specially so (which might be good if you want to show your players that this systems is especially deadly).

There are other small balance issues (IIRC, in one adventure a group of 10 powerful NPCs are killed by half a dozen weak mook NPCs for no apparent reason, and one adventure seems to be a inescapable trap to automaton PCs as it requires sleep), but nothing as extreme.

In short, this is a good introductory module that can be made awesome with some DM effort. Add better maps, some art, a few extra pages on connections between NPCs and adventures, and you'd have a great sandbox.

While I ran it using SotDL rules, I think you could adapt it for OSR systems without much difficulty.

I've recommend checking Shadow of the Demon Lord before, as it is full of good ideas. If you want to try them in practice, I certainly recommend Tales of the Demon Lord

If you dislike dark fantasy (and still read this for some reason!), you might wait for the "vanilla" version of SotDL, "Shadow of the Weird Wizard", coming soon from the same author.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Minimalist grappling and striking (B/X, OSR)

In my most recent foray into the AD&D DMG, I found myself a bit frustrated with the combat mechanics. My general impression - and the same is true for the PHB - is that AD&D has tons of cool rules for combat, but these rules fell disjointed and complicated.

This is the second (but maybe not the last) post addressing this issue (here is the first).

The "WEAPONLESS COMBAT PROCEDURES" section is especially bad IMO, because:

- It adds an entirely different combat system for unarmed combat.
- It is needlessly complex and not a great fit to the existing combat rules (e.g., you can knock out people with a fist but not with a club).
- You do not get to choose your attacks, apparently (e.g., roll to see if you bite or kick).
- The author doesn't seem to understand real unarmed combat.

As far as I know, this is one of those rules Gygax didn't use in his own games.

[Notice that the Unearthed Arcana - which I haven't completely read - seems to have an reasonably elegant and straightforward system, that I'll use as inspiration, with some 5e stuff added to the mix]. 

But weaponless combat itself is, potentially, a fun addition to D&D characters (monsters already have some options such as bite, "bear hug", etc.).

How can we make it simple?

First, let's separate striking from wrestling/grappling.



Striking with a club or even claw is already covered by the rules. A fist should use similar rules - just a lot less damage than a weapon. Damage is 1 point for bare hands, 1d2 with a gauntlet or similar. Kicking is the same (with the advantage that you're rarely barefoot), but a natural 1 forces you to save versus paralysis or fall prone.

You could add an infinite amount of detail here (e.g., critical hits, fists versus armor, weapon length versus fists, speed, spell interruption, etc.), but you should only use that if you also use similar rules for weapons (e.g.: a fist has less reach than a short sword, but the difference between a dagger and a spear might be even greater).


Again, there is an infinite amount of detail to grappling (see my review of Dungeon Grappling, with is compatible with most OSR games), but we could "pareto" this thing to cover 80% of our needs with 20% of the existing crunch - or even better.

My first instinct would be using he d20, and you can do that if you want - but I think the d6 works better for various reasons.

I'll use attack bonus [AB] for my example, because I use ascending AC, but you could use THAC0 (see "motives and alternatives" below). 

Using B/X or OSE, THAC0 19 is a +0 attack bonus; THAC0 16 translates to +3, and so on. Remember that you usually add your Strength bonus (see below).

Simply roll with 1d6 + AB against your opponents AB (not AC). If you win, you can grab your opponent. If you win by 5 or more, you can hold, shove, trip, disarm, damage, etc. If you win by 10 or more, you can choose two options, and so on. Fail and nothing happens.

- Grab: the target gets -2 to attacks and +2 to be attacked (including further grappling). This lasts until the target's first attack (or movement etc.).
- Hold: like grab, but your opponent is held until he breaks free with a grapple attempt of his own.
- Shove: push your target away 10 feet.
- Trip: the target is prone (-4/+4 for attacks unless he uses half his movement to get up).
- Disarm: get your opponent's weapon or toss it aside.
- Damage: cause 1d4 damage with locks, punches, elbows, etc.

Other considerations.

Size/weight: if one side is significantly larger or heavier (e.g., double the weight), it gets a +4 bonus to grapple (+2 if 50% heavier, etc.). Enough size difference may make grappling impossible, but if your setting has an "epic" tone, a high-level fighter could conceivably pull a giant by his feet and bring him down, or get a dragon by the horns.
Limbs: using more than one limb gives you +1 per limb. Having more than 2 limbs on the ground (e.g., quadrupeds or centaurs) will similarly help you to defend against most maneuvers. Creatures without limbs (e.g. gelatinous cube) or non-humanoid shape are immune against some grappling maneuvers.
Bite: A creature with a bite attack can usually use that to grapple too, depending on size.
Weapons: you can grapple with certain weapons, in certain ways (a stick or polearm can be used to trip, a shield can be used to shove, etc. - DM's call). Otherwise, you need a free hand.
Armor: will usually not help/hinder against grappling. In fact, grappling a heavily armored foe might be a good tactic, especially if you're also heavily armored and a bit stronger.
Strength: can always be added to your AB when grappling.
Dexterity: can replace Strength when grappling, but only when defending.
Movement: you can move while grappling/grappled but your foe counts as encumbrance.
Interrupting spells: any grappling maneuver except grab interrupts a spell, similarly to taking damage.
Groups: various creatures can attempt to grapple a single powerful foe at once; however, see "stacking modifiers".
Stacking modifiers: if a creature is held by another creature AND prone AND grabbed by a third creature, only the worst modifier applies, with -1 for each additional creature (in our example, the modifier would be -6: -4 for being prone, -1 for being held, -1 for being grabbed).

Motives and alternatives to AB (attack bonus)

I use attack bonus because it includes class, level and Strength into its formula. A strong, experienced fighter should be great at grappling.

Using THAC0 is doable (e.g., roll 1d6 plus the target's THAC0 and try to beat your own THAC0).

Using HD would be a reasonable alternative - but requires more rolling and adding up, in addition to special rules for Strength and PCs with more than 9 levels (since they get no more HD despite improving THAC0).

Using 1d20 is doable but you'd have to rework all bonuses. I prefer 1d6 because you can keep math easy and bonuses small, although I might consider using 1d20 to keep it more similar to other attacks (I did something similar in Dark Fantasy Basic but I think it deserves refining).

Using saving throws as written in B/X or D&D is not a great idea, IMO - it makes grappling less relevant as you level up, and it stops big monsters from grappling each other effectively.

"Pummeling" and unconsciousness

The DMG uses "pummeling" with a fist or dagger (but apparently not a club or mace) as a way to make your opponent unconscious. This should not be unique to unarmed combat, of course. 

Here, I prefer the 5e rule: if you reduce an opponent to 0 HP with a melee attack, you can decide he gets unconscious (e.g., attack with a pommel, the flat of the blade, etc.).

There should be a small change of death regardless, unless you reduce the target to 0 HP trough grappling (choke, etc.).

Extremely simple combat maneuvers

Here is another take on a similar subject. It is a bit more freeform, but works well enough for weapons. Unarmed combat would take additional considerations, since the damage is usually too small to scare most foes - maybe defeating the entire purpose of grappling in armor.

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Sunday, August 13, 2023

Dragonlance: Dragons of Deceit

Readers of this blog are probably familiar with the Dragonlance D&D setting. Here is the short of it (from Wikipedia):
Dragonlance is a shared universe created by Laura and Tracy Hickman, and expanded by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis under the direction of TSR, Inc. into a series of fantasy novels. The Hickmans conceived Dragonlance while driving in their car on the way to TSR for a job interview. Tracy Hickman met his future writing partner Margaret Weis at TSR, and they gathered a group of associates to play the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game. The adventures during that game inspired a series of gaming modules, a series of novels, licensed products such as board games, and lead miniature figures.
I have read the first (and probably most famous) trilogy decades ago. At the time, I found it... okay-ish. Certainly not as interesting as the classics I was reading at the time (Tolkien, Poe, Lovecraft, etc.) but I still liked it better than The Icewind Dale Trilogy. 

It had an appropriate epic scope, diverse (if stereotyped) characters, and a setting that was almost create enough with its draconian foes, three moons and their respective mages, and deities walking the earth. It was maybe a bit "young adult-ish" for my tastes, but the main flaw was a few instances of "tell, don't show" where the author would bafflingly skip an epic scene only for it to be told by other characters later.

Mildly interesting, but not something I was willing  to pursue further.

However, I've recently found Dragons of Deceit on a sale and decided to give it a try.

It might have something to do with nostalgia or the fact that I had a friend who read ALL novels and told me some of the stories with an obvious passion. I imagined the books might have become better as the authors gained experience.

Well, this is not the case for this Dragons of Deceit.

The book tells the story of Destina Rosethorn, the young daughter of a brave knight who goes into battle against the same villains of the first trilogy. Trying to save her father (and herself) from all the problems that come with this fact, she goes searching for an artifact that would allow her to travel trough time.

The first problem with this book becomes obvious right in the beginning, as it adopts the "Poughkeepsie" style criticized by LeGuin in her famous essay; i.e., the setting looks exactly like modern days with some magic and pointy ears (and even more D&D-isms than the first trilogy as far as I can remember, such as people starting working miracles for no reason).

Feudal lords spend vast amounts of time with lawyers and merchants, with some of the main battles being resolved in courts or with a few coins. There are "magic shops" willing to sell potions and time-traveling devices. Gods walk the earth like common folk, and they talk funny. Dragons are nice and willing to be ridden just because. The mage police is called when there is a problem with mages. And so on. 

Everything is magical... which means nothing is.

The second problem is common in many trilogies (the worst offender in recent memory is probably The Blade Itself): nothing interesting needs to happen because we have two more books to tell a story. Dragons of deceit, however, is a duology; so only the first half of the book feels a bit stale. In the second part, LOTS of things happen, and the universe is potentially turned upside down.

Well, kinda. Like the death of a comic book superhero, you often feel that the stakes are mild, and no permanent damage will be done (or, worse, nothing will "really" happen because time travel will solve itself).

The third problem is the "tell, don't show" I've mentioned above. Few important scenes are skipped, but even when you see them happen, it gets told again nevertheless. A character often explains to others something that has happened a few chapters before. 

Stories get repeated again and again. Characters and scenes from other novels get "repeated" too, as they get retold or revisited with time travel. 

You would expect the author of the original trilogy to come up with new characters and battles, but alas, these are few (come to think of it, the book has only a couple of real fights).

In short, the tone of this books is light and vanilla. 

The characters get into multiple hijinks and marriage jokes that might make you smirk if you're in a great mood.

All "good" characters are nice to each other regardless of circumstance, there are almost no shades of gray between good and evil, and so on. This is closer to "young adults" and further away from "dark fantasy" than the original trilogy.

Compared to other books reviewed in this blog, this it is not great. Not as funny as proper comedy, not as epic as something like Anderson or Tolkien, not as imaginative as Vance or CAS.

On the other hand, it is a reasonably quick and easy read and the second half at least gets you curious to get to the end (and maybe read the other half of the duology). I think it deserves at least a few points for being reasonably short.

In short, if you really liked the original Dragonlance books or setting, this could be is a fun read that might hit you pleasantly in the nostalgia. If you haven't read the original trilogy, try that first - Dragons of Deceit obviously relies on the fact that the reader is probably a fan.

Friday, August 11, 2023

Fixing AD&D initiative/segments

In my most recent foray into the AD&D DMG, I found myself a bit frustrated with the combat mechanics. My general impression - and the same is true for the PHB - is that AD&D has tons of cool rules for combat, but these rules fell disjointed and complicated.

I also noticed what seems like an obvious hole - the lack of obvious connection between surprise, weapon speed and thief skills. They don't seem to communicate... but they obviously should!

I think it would make sense if:

* The thief uses fast weapons (daggers rather than swords) to improve his sneak attack. He often surprises foes by moving silently. 
* Anyone can attack a surprised foe with a fast weapon - maybe more than once. 
* A surprised enemy can be "backstabbed" by the front. 

Could we make a complete overhaul of segments, initiative, surprise and weapon speed - so they can all fit together in a coherent whole?

Well, let's try!

1. Getting surprise


A) Use the usual AD&D rules, or;

B) if you're using 1d20 skills/initiative (like in Dark Fantasy Basic), surprise is achieved by beating the enemies initiative (or perception, etc.) by 10 or more.

Notice that you can simply substitute your stealth/perception (if they also use a d20) roll for your initiative. If the thief gets 23 in his stealth check and the goblin rolls 9 for his perception (or hear noise, etc.), the goblin is surprised.

The goblin is surprised for one segment, plus one for each point of difference over 10; e.g., 5 segments in the example above.

[Alternatively, you could use 1d20 for AD&D too, and "translate" AD&D bonuses to surprise as modifiers to initiative: +3 for rangers, +5 for barbarians, etc. Add circumstantial modifiers as needed. This is much simpler than the original rules.]

If only one side is aware that the other side is present, they have an obvious advantage, which should also give them a bonus (I'd start with +5, maybe +10 if your foe is sleeping). "Prior detection negates the possibility of surprise", as the DMG says. Even if a PC in the best circumstances roll terribly and loses initiative, he won't be surprised.

2. Surprise effects

When you surprise someone, you win initiative. In addition, you gain additional segments (see above, or roll 1d10 once per player or per group) to take actions BEFORE any other action.

* Attacking takes at least one segment, but you're limited to your usual number of attacks (one for most PCs, more for high level fighters, etc.). In addition, you can take ONE extra attack if you use a number of segments equal to your speed factor (SF - determined by your weapon). E.g., if you usually have two attacks per round, a dagger (SF 2) allows you to make three attacks within two segments. Again, you only get ONE extra attack - you do NOT attack 15 times with ten segments!

[We need to assign SF to ranged weapons... I'd start with 5 or 6].

The first attack against a surprised opponent counts as a "backstab" regardless of direction.

* Spells take a number of segments equal to spell level TIMES THREE. This keeps spellcasting a lengthy process as intended in AD&D.

* Movement takes 10 segments. If you have fewer segments you can take a fraction of your movement (e.g., in 5 segments you can move 50% of your maximum).

* Other actions are determined by the GM; we suggest 1 segment for every few (2-6) seconds.

* Combining actions is also possible at GM fiat, but changing actions take at least one segment between them.

This is how it would look in practice:

Andrei, Bob and Chris surprise a group of four (NPC) goblins from an enemy clan. They decide to attack on sight. They get 5, 6 and 3 segments each.

Andrei gets to make an extra attack with his dagger (SF 2). The first attack counts as a back-stab.

Bob is using a spear (SF 7), so no extra attacks for him - he gets one attack as usual. Alternatively, up to 60% of his total speed, or try to talk, hide, get something in his backpack, etc.

Chris is a mage - he can cast a 1st level spell with his 3 segments.

After that, proceed to combat as usual. The PCs have the initiative.

Simple, right?

Using this for modern games

In most modern games (e.g., D&D 5e), winning initiative means you get to move and attack before the opponent, regardless of initiative "phases". If you're using such systems, surprise will only give you a few benefits - maybe an extra attack or some additional movement.

This is milder than the usual 5e rules for surprise, but it does allow a thief to take advantage of his sneak attack, which 5e doesn't, while also being more limiting to mages - both positive consequences, IMO.

In this case, it is up to you to decide a weapon's speed factor.


It took me a while to reach a reasonably elegant solution. I kinda like it - especially the d20 initiative part. It reduces the number of rolls and it "connects" everything (stealth, surprise, weapon speed) smoothly. Still far from perfect, but I like it better than the original.

There is infinite crunch to be added here... if you want. You could recalculate the number of attacks per round according to weapon speed, move characters segment by segment, etc. But I think therein lies madness. We are trying to simplify things, not make them more complicated. so we leave spell interruption and other effects of weapon speed to a different post.

Friday, August 04, 2023

AD&D DMG cover to cover - part VI, pages 61-83 (COMBAT)

We´ve been reading the original DMG - the ultimate DM book! - but from a B/X and OSR point-of-view.

Check the other parts of this series here.

Today we discuss COMBAT!

— Surprise 61
— Holy/Unholy Water 65
— Magical Device Attacks 65
— Effect of Cover On Spells And Spell-like Powers 65
— Monster Charm Power 65
— Counter-Affecting 66
— Charge 66
— Weapon Speed Factor 66
— Striking To Subdue 67
— Special “To Hit” Bonuses 67
— Pursuit And Evasion In Outdoor Settings 69
— MELEE 69
— Special Types Of Attacks 70
— Important Note Regarding “To Hit” Adjustments 70
— Attacks With Two Weapons 70
— Breaking Off From Melee 70
— Monks’ Open Hand Melee 70
— Actions During Combat And Similar Time-important Situations 71
— Example of Melee 71
— Opponent Armor Class Description 73

ENCOUNTERS, COMBAT, AND INITIATIVE contains a lengthy quote that I'll reproduce here:
"It is not in the best interests of an adventure game, however, to delve too deeply into cut and thrust, parry and riposte. The location of a hit or wound, the sort of damage done, sprains, breaks, and dislocations are not the stuff of heroic fantasy. [...] 
As has been detailed, hit points are not actually a measure of physical damage [...]. Therefore, the location of hits and the type of damage caused are not germane to them. While this is not true with respect to most monsters, it is neither necessary nor particularly useful. Lest some purist immediately object, consider the many charts and tables necessary to handle this sort of detail, and then think about how area effect spells would work. In like manner, consider all of the nasty things which face adventurers as the rules stand. Are crippling disabilities and yet more ways to meet instant death desirable in an open-ended, episodic game where participants seek to identify with lovingly detailed and developed player-character personae? Not likely! Certain death is as undesirable as a give-away campaign. Combat is a common pursuit in the vast majority of adventures, and the participants in the campaign deserve a chance to exercise intelligent choice during such confrontations. As hit points dwindle they can opt to break off the encounter and attempt to flee. With complex combat systems which stress so-called realism and feature hit location, special damage, and so on, either this option is severely limited or the rules are highly slanted towards favoring the player characters at the expense of their opponents. (Such rules as double damage and critical hits must cut both ways — in which case the life expectancy of player characters will be shortened considerably — or the monsters are being grossly misrepresented and unfairly treated by the system. [...])
While critical hits are certainly a matter of taste, I disagree with most these points. "Sprains, breaks, and dislocations are not the stuff of heroic fantasy"? What about ear disease

Besides, you shouldn't need hit location or critical hit tables for each hit. E.g., if you ONLY use them when you reach 0 HP, it doesn't increase lethality nor complexity; on the contrary. Also, "double damage" is not even necessary; you could treat a natural 20 as maximum damage, +1 damage, or another attack (potentially against another creature). 

I think most tables today prefer having the thrill of the "natural 20" mean something - even if they are playing B/X or AD&D.


As the author explains in this section, combat is more or less abstracted and simplified. Well, not REALLY simplified, as you'll see... Coming from B/X, this is a bit of a nightmare.

Surprise allows the surprising party to take action for a number of six-second "segments" before the surprise party reacts. But each segment allows you to make the same number of attacks as you normally do in a round (1 minute). In certain circumstances, a medium-level fighter could attack you half a dozen times before you can react, or fire arrows three times faster than usual, which soudns strange and extreme. OTOH, spells are not "sped up" accordingly, so this provides a deserved boost for fighters at the expense of wizards.

This section contains lots of good common-sense rulings/advice on surprise and detection, morale, parlaying, distance, and so on - all readily applicable to B/X.

Initiative is simple enough at first. then you need to factor in the order of attacks (for creatures with more than one), but the whole thing is pretty sensible and intuitive - although it might become a nuisance in practice. I won't go to deep into AD&D initiative here since this probably requires the PHB.

ENCOUNTER REACTIONS are similar to the classic B/X reaction table, but uses d100. It assumes that the parties are speaking, which clarifies things a bit. Doesn't explain how to deal with "uncertain" results however (or what to do when PCs decide to wait and see).

Some sensible remarks on  avoiding, parlaying and waiting come next.

MISSILE DISCHARGE contains rules on firing into a melee - you usually do not get to choose your targets, unless one size is significantly larger. Fair enough.

Then, there is this:

Dexterity Penalty And Bonus Considerations: The Dexterity Attacking Adjustment is for missile firing considerations when initiative is considered. It adjusts the initiative die roll for the concerned individual only. Thus, it may well allow the concerned individual to discharge a missile prior to the opponent’s attack even though the opponent has gained the initiative otherwise or vice versa. More important, this factor also gives the individual a “to hit” penalty or bonus when discharging a missile at an opponent.

A terrible rule and unnecessary fiddly, IMO.

The section keeps on to describe various special cases: siege machines (that curiously ignore AC bonus provided by Dex, another baffling idea IMO), cover, concealment, grenade-like weapons (oil, holy water, etc. - the require a roll to see if they break, but fortunately glass break 95% of the time...), etc.

SPELL CASTING DURING MELEE requires the caster to be motionless and concentrate; being hit spoils the spell. I appreciate the extra difficulty to spell casting. Magical devices are faster, however.

Monster Charm Power contains some detailed rules on the subject.

TURNING UNDEAD contains an idea I like to use in my B/X games: "If the undead are in a mixed group — for example, 1 vampire, 3 ghasts, and 8 ghouls — you may opt to disallow any turning or other effect if the most powerful member — in the example above, the vampire — is not affected by
the cleric. Naturally, this rule applies only to groups of mixed undead where the lesser are following or serving the greater. Mindless undead, skeletons and zombies, cannot be considered.". Neat!

Evil clerics can control undead, evil areas make turning undead harder.

FURTHER ACTIONS contains detailed rules on charges, including a bonus to movement and attacks, and a penalty to AC. "Initiative is NOT checked at the end of charge movement. The opponent with the longer weapon/reach attacks first." another sensible and fun idea.

Tied initiative brings "Weapon Speed Factor" into effect, allowing a knife to attack two (or three) times against someone using a heavy weapon, for example. This also affects the chances of stopping a spell with a weapon.

I love these small details that differentiate weapons, and even the interaction with spells is fun if a little complex (here is a good chance you can interrupt a powerful mage with a magic missile!). I cannot help but to wish for a simplified version of this system (e.g., roll 1d20 for initiative and subtract you speed factor or spell level, a natural 20 allows multiple attacks etc.).

MORALE is more detailed here than in B/X; multiple circumstances are considered - including HD, since AD&D monsters default to 50% morale (curiously, unintelligent monsters seem to get no bonus).


This are the "chase" rules, including how likely a pursuit happens in the first place. Sensible, detailed stuff, but nothing specially fun, and in the end it is up to the DM in some cases ("The likelihood of any distraction being successful is a matter for individual adjudication by the DM", etc.).


This sections start with some rules about positioning, flanking, rear attacks, grids, etc. "Magically sleeping" opponents suffer maximum damage and twice the number of attacks (curiously, not as many as some surprised opponents...).

Another curious rule asserts that "it is generally not possible to select a specific opponent in a mass melee. If this is the case, simply use some random number generation to find out which attacks are upon which opponents", but if "creatures are able to single out an opponent" somehow, "then the concerned figures will remain locked in melee until one side is dead or opts to attempt to break off the combat". I fail to see the point of the entire section; maybe it means unintelligent monsters will attack randomly. Here are my thoughts on the matter.

Attacking with a secondary weapon is possible with a penalty.

Breaking off from melee allows a free attack (so "attacks of opportunity" are a thing from the beginning...).

Monks get to affect larger and heavier opponents with their stunning/killing as they level up. Unfortunately, "weight" an "height" are not usually included in monster statistics, so the GM has to guess. And it is suggested the DM can change the table anyway. Sigh.

Actions During Combat likewise leave to DM common sense to decide if a PC can attack, drink a potion and stab in the same round.

Example of Melee is a lengthy description of combat bringing most of this stuff (and PHB stuff like the weapon versus armor table) together in a coherent whole.

NON-LETHAL AND WEAPONLESS COMBAT PROCEDURES has an entirely different combat system for unarmed combat, using percentages rather than the d20, substituting AC for penalties, and (partly temporary) damage included in the d100 roll. There must be some easier way!

An "example of unarmed combat" might be useful here, but alas, we get none.

From a brief glance, the system is based on adding all kinds of bonus to get to a percentage, and then roll to find out how you attack you enemy (it is not up to the attacker to decide to kick or bite, for example; kicking is extremely hard to do, but OTOH is much more effective than a dagger if you hit...). It gives me the feeling that the author doesn't know much about actual grappling or striking either.

There could be some ideas on how to create a d100 combat system here, but adding an entirely different combat system ON TOP of the existing one is not something I want to do.

COMBAT TABLES are attack matrices (chances to hit a target), the assassination table (for assassins), turn undead (for clerics), saving throws (including for items), and so on. They are missing from the PHB, IIRC. Here is one example:

While I prefer THAC0 or a simple formula, I like AD&Ds smoother progression for fighters (about 1 point per level, suggested as an optional rule over the indicated 2 point per 2 levels) over B/X. They deserve the boost. Notice that rolling a 20 basically counts as 25, allowing anyone to hit opponents in formidable armor.

Monster save as fighters. They could attack as fighters too, but why make things simpler?

This section also include mental combat (psionics). I will not even try to understand this one (there is no B/X equivalent), sorry. Maybe some other time. It looks amazingly complex and it baffles me that they couldn't simply use something more similar to spellcasting (example). It is probably a cool rock-paper-scissors systems if you're familiar enough.

SAVING THROWS explains, in the convoluted Gygaxian tone, the reason of this mechanic. The interesting part is that each character has its own method of avoiding spells/effects: fighters with defiance, thieves with quickness, clerics with faith, etc. A natural 1 is always a failure, a natural 20 always a success. Magical armor enhances your saving throws, which is nice.

HIT POINTS are described here as toughness PLUS intuition, luck, magic and so on. HP loss is not wounds - but a high-level fighter, "having sustained 40 or 50 hit points of damage", "will be covered with a number of nicks, scratches, cuts and bruises. It will require a long period of rest and recuperation to regain the physical and metaphysical peak of 95 hit points". Okay... At least "4 weeks of continuous rest will restore any character to full strength".

Zero Hit Points do not mean immediate death, necessarily, but unconsciousness and bleeding.  -6 HP could cause the lass of a member, etc. Since the DMG advises against critical hit tables, this is left to DM discretion.

EFFECTS OF ALCOHOL AND DRUGS include making you braver, tougher, and dumber.

Are we still in the combat section? Okay.

Next we have the various types of INSANITY.

This is certainly useful for some types of campaigns.

"Naturally, these forms of insanity are not clinically correct. They are designed to conform to game terms and situations. Their inclusion is to fill in an area of the game where a condition exists and no adequate explanation is otherwise given (Cf. DISEASE)."

What have we learned today?
This section was frustrating, TBH. 

AD&D contains lots of cool combat ideas (e.g., I like weapon speed, length, etc.) but the whole thing is convoluted, often unnecessarily so. 

I've been trying to add detail to B/X combat, and this was less helpful than I had hoped. I should probably look at the PHB again for weapon details. But anyway, I like the ideas on charging, speed factor, and even segments. 

Let's see if we can adapt this to B/X somehow.

Here are a couple of ideas to play with in the future: minimalist unarmed combat and "hitting the unhittable".