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

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The BECMI reaction table

To be honest, I never paid much attention to the BECMI reaction table. 

I'm usually more interested in B/X and I thought that the BECMI table was just a needlessly convoluted version of the B/X table I liked, requiring multiple rolls to achieve the same result.

I was completely wrong, of course.

The part I overlooked is the asterisk. It explains in a succinct manner a  number of questions I had with B/X reactions:

- When do you use Charisma for reaction rolls?

- What happens in an "uncertain" result?

- What happens if the NPC is still uncertain after several rolls/actions?

It doesn't answer all questions of course, nor does it address all the issues I have with encounters, but it is a great starting point - probably much better than B/X.

It could probably be simplified to two rolls instead of three. Or to a single table with pone roll affecting the next, such as the Rules Cyclopedia (which also has a tendency towards hostility that I find appropriate for most monsters):

And as much as I dislike the number of rolls you need to create an encounter, I have to admit this "roll again" part has an interesting risk reward dynamic: 

"The NPC is obviously hostile, so what do we do?"

If we have something to offer, or a charismatic PC who can talk to him (in the same language), maybe negotiating is our best bet. Even if we do, however, there is a chance the NPC will suddenly use this opportunity to attack us!

And, of course, you only need one roll to start the encounter - further rolls depend entirely of the PCs actions. 

So you have cool "social mechanics" or even "roleplaying minigame", which is as interesting as combat - since it can also involve initiative, intimidation, role-playing AND "roll-playing" (or player skill AND character skill), languages, alignment, spells, etc.

And you can use this table regardless of your preferred D&D edition or OSR game.

These "social mechanics" are often and unjustly maligned in OSR circles - "just role-play it!" - but IMO these are great rules from a game that definitely has old school cred (Mentzer red box).

And, of course, this is just a refinement of a rule that was contained in the original D&D. 

Social mechanics are here from the start.

Additional reading:


  1. Yeah, I love that table. I don't always need to follow it to completion. Often one roll is enough, even with an Uncertain result. But it makes encounters more interesting.

    I also gave variations of results for different intended effects in Chanbara. The bell curve spread and options for future rolls make it a lot more satisfying than a d20 system single d20+skill roll.