posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post


Part 0 - Introduction

That's right, folks. We're going back to the basics. Back to where it all began.

Waaaaaay back in the day (the day being 1981), the first real release of Dungeons & Dragons wasn't sold as a complete game. Instead, ut were sold as boxed sets. The first one was the "Basic" set, also known as the original Red Box.

The Basic set had the rule book, the original Keep on the Borderlands module, and a set of polyhedral dice complete with wax crayon so you could color in the numbers. It only also covered levels 1 through 3. If you wanted to keep going from there, you had to buy the Expert set (a.k.a. the Blue box) which covered levels 4 through 14, as well as containing the rules for outdoor exploration and more info on running actual campaigns.

Once you hit level 14, it was time to get the Companion set. That took you from level 15 to 25 and introduced the stronghold rules and the Druid class. From there you moved up to the Master set which took you the rest of the way to level 36, which was the highest level you could get. The Master set introduced the Mystic class and the weapon mastery rules, and mainly focused on higher-level monsters and artifacts.

The last boxed set to be released was the Immortals set, which was about how to make your character into a god, complete with godly powers, getting your own clerics, and other fun stuff.

All five sets together make up Original D&D, also known as the BECMI rules.

Needless to say, it was hard to play a long term game when the rules were released piecemeal like that, espeically since the Basic set came out in 1981 and the Master set came out in '83.

After AD&D came out, TSR decided to finally release OD&D all at once. The result was the Rules Cyclopedia, which contained all the rules from the old sets except the Immortals set.

Interestingly, even though it was compiling rules that were released up to 10 years prior, they didn't consider it a "game". From the book's one-page intro:


This book is intended to be a reference volume for those who already play the D&D game. You'll find it much more convenient to look up a specific rule here than in earlier versions of the game. Just about everything appearing in the boxed sets is here—but in a more convenient format. For example, all the game's spells are in one
place, and all the details of creating a fighterclass character are in one location.

However, though this book is aimed at the experienced user, it is possible to learn to play the D&D game from these pages. The Cyclopedia lacks many of the examples and the patient explanation you'll find in the DUNGEONS &
DRAGONS® boxed sets, but you can still learn to play from these rules.

Okay then.

There's one other bit from the intro I want to quote here, because looking at it now just seems so odd.


Mapping and Calling
Although each person will be playing the role of a character, the players should also handle the jobs of mapping and calling. Any player can be the mapper or caller.

The mapper is the player who draws a map of the dungeon as it is explored. One or more of the characters should be making maps, but one of the players must make the actual map. The map should be kept on the table for all to see and refer to. Pencil should be used when making the map, in case of errors or tricky passages.

If the party's movement carries it into new and unmapped territory, the DM will describe the area in detail so the party's mapper can map it. If something such as a secret door or treasure item is discovered, the DM describes it and announces the results if the characters examine it.

The caller is a player selected by the other players to describe party actions so the DM doesn't have to listen to several voices at once. He or she tells the DM what the party is doing this turn. If the DM prefers, each individual player can describe his own actions. The caller is just a convenience in many campaigns; it's not a game rule that players have to use.

It truly was a different time.

Sorry this was so short, but don't worry; next time we're going to really get this ball rolling.

NEXT TIME: Roll 3d6 six times. In order.

Character Classes

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post


Chapter 2: Character Classes

WARNING: This is going to be Fucking Long. There are nine classes to work through, and one thing I haven't mentioned is how dense this book is. Three columns, small font; I think if laid out today this thing'd be in the 600-page range.

Let's talk about classes!

As we've established by now, there are four basic "human" classes: Fighter, Cleric, Thief, and Magic-User. There are also three "demihuman" classes: Elf, Dwarf, and Halfling. The human classes go up to level 36, while the demihuman classes...well, don't.

There is this funny bit before we get to the actual classes, though:


Demihuman Relations: Elves and dwarves don't usually like each other. This dislike usually surfaces as verbal battles, rather than physical. Both get along fairly well with halflings.

The DM will decide why elves and dwarves don't get along in his own campaign. In the D&D game's Known World setting, it's because they are so physically and emotionally different (elves are tall and willowy, dwarves short and stocky; elves love freedom and the outdoors, dwarves love organization and caverns, etc.), and because the two races had many clashes in the past for which they've never forgiven one another. But the reason can be different in your own campaign; a DM can decide, for instance, that in his own world the elves and dwarves are the best of friends!
I love the idea that the only reason elves and dwarves hate each other is because of their hieghts.

Each class has its own experience chart, because it takes each class a different amount of xp to reach each level. A cleric only needs 1,500 xp to hit level 2 and 3,000 to reach level 3; but a magic-user needs 2,500 for level 2 and 5,000 total for level 3. This means that you're pretty much guaranteed to have character of varying levels in the same party. Mix that with the fact that some classes stop leveling in the early teens (but keep earning XP), and you can see why the unified xp chart was such a hit when 3rd edition came out.

Anyway, let's get to it!

Clerics are the fightin' holy men of the world. Their Prime Requisite is Wisdom, and they have a d6 hit die. They can use any armor or shield, but aren't allowed to play with knives.


A cleric cannot use any weapon with a sharp edge or point; this is forbidden by the cleric's beliefs. This includes arrows and quarrels. But the cleric can use any non-edged weapon.
Even back then, we knew it was silly that a cleric couldn't cut someone but was allowed to smash skulls.

At first level, a cleric isn't really what you'd call "powerful". They don't get spells until second level, but they do start with the ability to turn undead, causing them to flee or crumble to dust. Turning is done with a 2d6 roll; there's a table where you compare your level to they type of undead, and that gives you the number you need to meet or beat to turn it. If you're a high enough level, you can actually turn or destroy a certain amount of undead automatically.

Just for reference, a first level cleric needs a 7 or better to turn skeletons, a 9+ to turn zombies, and an 11+ to turn ghouls, and can't turn anything else. When he hits level 4, he can automatically destroy 2d6 HD of skeletons, and can try turning liches when he hits level 13.

When a cleric hits level 9, they become a "Patriarch" or "Matricarch", and gets to make a few desicions.

If he's Neutral, a cleric has the option at this point of becoming a Druid, which I'll talk more about later. If he doesn't want to be a druid (or isn't Neutral), then he has the option of building a clerical stronghold. This would allow him to move up in his church's hierarchy, but will make him responisble for the people in his land.

If you don't want to be tied down, you can become a "travelling cleric", which means you're still doing your own thing but you can't rise in church rank later. That doesn't mean you stop leveling up, it just means you never rise in the church.

On the plus side, when you do decide to build a stronghold, the church will pay for up to half of it. So there's that.

Fighters are, well...fighty guys. Their Prime Requisite is Strength, they get a d8 hit die, and and use any weapon or armor they feel like. They also get the "Lance Attack" and "Set Spear vs. Charge" moves, as well as Fighter Combat Options which I'll cover in a few chapters' time; just so you know they're smash, multiple attacks (at 12th level), parrying (at 9th), and disarming (also at 9th).

As for what a fighter gets as he progresses to level 36...


Beginning fighters initially receive only a couple of special abilities and need no other special abilities to survive and prosper. Their great strength, hit points, strong armor, and many weapons make them a powerful character class without additional special abilities. At higher experience levels, though, they do receive some additional fighting abilities.

When a fighter reaches level 9, he is a Lord (or Lady, as appropriate) and has the option of either building a stronghold or being a "travelling fighter". Having a stronghold doesn't give you anything special.


If the fighter wishes to make his dominion in a wilderness which is not within an existing country, he may call himself anything he wants—baron, duke, king, emperor. However, be aware that a too-glorious title will make others laugh at him. If he takes a title, it should be appropriate to the size and strength of the dominion he is ruling; he may wish to change his title as it increases in size and prosperity.

If you're a travelling fighter, then things are a little different, depending on your alignment: if you're Lawful you can become a Paladin, if you're Neutral you can become a Knight, and if you're Chaotic you can become an Avenger.

Paladins and Avengers are mostly mechanically identical. To become one, you have to join a clerical order of your alignment and swear fealty and agree to help them out when needed. In return, you get the following:

There are a few drawbacks as well; paladins can only have a number of hirelings equal to or less than his clerical level, and must assist anyone who asks for help as long as they don't ask him to do something evil. Avengers can never have human or demihuman hirelings; instead, he can persuade Chaotic monsters to join him. This is done with a Reaction roll, and works like a non-renewable charm spell. Avengers can also get sanctuary from any castle, ruin, or dungeon run by an intellegent Chaotic monster.

Magic-User ! Such an evocative name! The Magic-User's Prime Requesite is Intelligence, and they only get a d4 hit die. They can't use armor at all (not even a shield), and can only wield daggers. Oh, but at the GM's discretion, they can also use a staff, blowgun, flaming oil, holy water, net, thrown rock, sling, or whip.

I love this sentence:


Magic-users find spells, put them into books, and study those books to learn the spells.
Innit cute? :3

A brief word on game balance:


Magic-users start as the weakest characters, but can eventually become the most powerful. Their magical spells can be used for many things—from simple things like opening doors and locks, to impressive and dangerous magical attacks such as throwing lightning. All details on spellcasting are given in Chapter 3.

However, it is often difficult for magic-users to survive. Their few weapons and spells (at low levels) balance against the power they eventually achieve. Therefore, magic-users must be cautious at lower levels, as few will survive long without protection.

The only special ability magic-users get is to cast spells, and we all know how that works so let's talk about 9th level.

At 9th level, a magic-user actually has three options! You can become a land-owning magic-user, or "Independant Wizard", build a stronghold, and add something a little extra...


After the magic-user moves into his tower, he may choose to build a dungeon beneath or near it. Most wizards and magas employ specialists to do their mining and engineering, but may decide to create the dungeons themselves if they know the proper spells.

Of course, any character building a stronghold could also build a dungeon, a subterranean complex where prisoners can be kept and the character can perform specific researches in secret. But a wizard can choose for his dungeon to be differe n t. If, once one or more levels of the dungeon are completed, the wizard leaves an unguarded opening into the dungeon, monsters will be attracted and will build lairs. Some wizards encourage this sort of thing so that they have ready access to a variety of different monster types (useful for research, and for staying aware of what's happening in the realms of monsters).

If you don't want to be a master of your own dungeon, you could become a Magist, which is a land-owning magic-user who actually works for someone else as "court wizard" or whatever. You don't get a whole tower and dungeon to yourself, but you can get paid 3000 gp/month and up.

On the third hand, if you don't like being tied down, then you can be a "travelling Magic-User", or "Magi". The benefits of this are that you can visit any land-owning magic-user to get help with spell research, and that you automatically attract 1d6 5th level fighters and clerics to accompany you on your adventures.

Theives kinda get the short end of the stick in this edition. Their Prime Requisite is Dexterity, and they have a d4 for a hit die. They can only use leather armor, but can use any missile or one-handed melee weapon.

Theives get one special set of special abilities called "Thief Skills". These are Open Locks, Find Traps, Remove Traps, Climb Walls, Move Silently, Hide in Shadows, Pick Pockets, and Hear Noise. A thief starts will all of these skills for free; they're all percentile chances that are fixed by level. First level thief's skills look like this:


Open Locks: 15%
Find Traps: 10%
Remove Traps: 10%
Climb Walls: 87%
Move Silently: 20%
Hide in Shadows: 10%
Pick Pockets: 20%
Hear Noise: 30%
Unlike later editions, Thief Skills are not modified by your Dexterity. What you see is what you get.

Thieves can also backstab unsuspecting opponents, getting +4 to hit and doing double damage. They also get an 80% chance to read any language at level 4, and can try to cast spells off magic-user scrolls at 10th level with a 10% chance the spell will backfire.

At 9th level, a thief has the option to build a hideout and start his own Thieve's Guild or bandit clan. When you build your hideout, you attract 2d6 1st level thieves. You can then get into gang wars with other Guilds and try to take them over.

Travelling thieves are called "rogues", can never start their own Guilds later, but can still be a member of one. They also have a chance each week to find treasure maps or getting leads to treasure hauls. Not a bad trade-off, really.

That covers the human classes; now onto the demihumans! And this is where things get wonky.

As I mentioned before, demihumans can't hit level 36 like humans can; they top out in the teens. That doesn't mean that they don't keep earning experience, though. After they hit the glass ceiling, they gain what are best described as "pseudo-levels" that only affect their base THAC0. Their saving throws also stop going up when they stop getting real levels, but to make up for this they start out a lot better than humans'; by level 10 or so a demihuman's saves are all in the 2-4 range.

Dwarves kick ass and take names. To be a dwarf, you need a Constitution score of 9 or better, and their Prime Requisite is Strength. They get a d8 hit hie, can use any armor, and can use any small or medium melee weapon. They can't use longbows, but can use short bows and crossbows. The maximum level a dwarf can reach is 12.

Dwarves start with Lance Attack and Set Spear, and get other fighter options when they get 660,000 xp (which is when they hit level 12), and can get three attacks per round at 2,200,000 xp.

When they hit 1,400,000, dwarves only take half damage from damage-causing spells and spell-like effects. Even better, if a spell's effect requires a save, making the save means you take one quarter damage.

Dwarves also get infravision, can see in the dark, and have a 1 in 3 chance to find traps in stonework when looking for them.

Like everyone else, dwarves that reach level 9 can build strongholds.


Unless he has forsaken his dwarven Clan and is living among humans, it should be an underground cavern complex located in either mountains or hills. (If he is living among humans, he may build any sturdy stone dwelling in the human fashion instead, but will still want for there to be an underground complex connected to it.) The character may hire only dwarven mercenaries, but may hire specialists and hirelings of other races.

Elves are pretty overpowered. You need an Intelligence of 9 or more to be one, and their Prime Requisites are Strength and Intelligence. They get a d6 hit die, max out at level 10, and use any armor or weapon they want.

They also get a smorgasbord of special abilities:

Yup, spells. In the years before they had armor penalties for casting. You can run around in full plate & shield, wield a longsword, and cast spells with zero chance of failure. They never get more than three spells per level (and even then only up to spell level 5), but still.

At 9th level, an elf can build a forest hippie stronghold.


When the stronghold is completed, the character will develop a friendship with the animals of the forest (birds, rabbits, squirrels, foxes, bears, etc.). All normal animals within five miles of the stronghold will be friendly toward the elves dwelling there. Animals will be able to warn of approaching strangers, carry news of events, deliver short messages to nearby places, etc. In r e turn for these services, the animals will expect the elves to help and protect them.

Halflings are...surprisingly badass. Their Prime Requisites are Strength and Dexterity, and your Dexterity and Constitution both have to be at least 9 to qualify. They get a d6 hit die, can use any armor (it just needs to be designed for them), and can use any small weapon. They only get up to level 8.

The halfling's main special ability is his combat bonuses; they get a -2 to armor class when attacked by Large creatures, +1 to use any missile weapon, and +1 to their initiative. They also get Woodland Abilities: a 90% chance to remain unseen in underbrush as long as you stay motionless.

Halflings also get the dwarven automatic half-damage thing at 300,000 xp; the elven half-damage from breath weapons at 2,100,000 xp; and the fighter's multiple attacks and combat options.

At 8th level, a halfling is considered a "sheriff"; unlike everyone else he can build a stronghold whenever he can afford it instead of having to wait until 9th level.

That's it for the official classes, but we're not done yet! Now we have the new new optional classes: Druid and Mystic.

Druids are a bit of a corner case, because you can't start as one; you become one by switching your class when you reach level 9 as a cleric and have a Neutral alignment. The only real differences are that you can't use metal weapons and armor anymore, and your spell list changes. They get access to both the cleric and druid spell lists, but can't cast cleric spells which affect good or evil). They also have to live in the woods.


He must live in a woodland home, rather than in a town or city. He may visit a city (though he won't feel comfortable there), and he will always prefer to sleep in the wilderness—in a cave or other natural shelter if the weather is bad.

When druids reach level 30, they can only go up in level by challenging and beating an existing 30th level druid in a wizard's magic-user's druid's duel. If he wins he levels up and replaces that druid in the hierarchy (there are only a set number of druids in the world at the higher levels). If he loses, he stays at his current level, and loses enough xp so he's one point shy of his new level.

Mystics are the other new class, and they're available at level 1.


Mystics are monastic humans who follow a strict discipline of meditation, denial, seclusion, and mastery of the human body. Mystics are skilled in unarmed combat. They live in cloisters, or monastic communities.
In other words, monks.

(One thing that I should point out before we continue: the RC came out in the mid-80's, and was based on games that came out about 5 years before. At that point, Japan was still the Mysterious Land Of Mystery and Ninjas, whose media was slowly trickling stateside. So some of this stuff is going to seem a little more outdated than the rest of the book.)

To be a mystic, you need a Wisdom and Dexterity of at least 13. Their Prime Requistes are Strength and Dexterity, they have a d6 hit die, and can use any weapon. They can't wear armor, though. Also, they're the only human class with a level cap: mystics can only reach level 16, and don't keep improving their combat abilities after that like demihumans do.

Mystics have a bunch of special abilties, all of which are rated by character level. A mystic's level determines his AC, his movement rate, number of attacks and his damage with unarmed strikes.


Mystics are able to fight very effectively without using weapons or magic. They utilize a form of unarmed combat as part of their mystical training. They call this training "the discipline," but others often call it "martial arts." The discipline involves physical training, meditation, philosophy, and comprehension of the forces of the universe, and mystics are taught to resolve difficult situations peacefully whenever possible; for these reasons, mystics do not care to have their lifestyles referred to as "martial arts," as the term suggests that all they do is fight. The mystics' discipline is presumed to integrate and vastly improve upon the bare-handed combat techniques described in Chapter 8.

A first-level mystic has an AC of 9, moves 120' per round, and gets one attack at 1d4 damage. At level 9, they're AC 1, move 200' per round, and get three attacks at 2d8 damage each. In addition, a second level mystic's unarmed attacks are considered silver weapons for the purposes of damage resistance, and every three levels after that it increases to the equivalent of a plussed weapon. They also get the fighter combat options at level 9.

They also take a 20% experience penalty to get an ability called "acrobatics", which lets him jump/flip/tumble/swing/balance/be a monkey with a chance of success calculated by this simple formula: Acrobatics Check = d% roll vs. ([3 * Dex] + [2 x Lvl]) . If that wasn't enough, they also get the Find Traps, Remove Traps, Move Silently, Climb Walls, and Hide in Shadows as if he was a thief of the same level.

On top of all that , at each even-numbered level they get another special ability.
Level 2 - Awareness: only suprised on 1 on a d6.
Level 4 - Heal Self: once per day, heal yourself your level in hit points. This take a round.
Level 6 - Speak with animals
Level 8 - Resistance: spells and dragon breath do half damage, save for 1/4 damage.
Level 10 - Speak with anyone: you know every language there is.
Level 12 - Mind Block: immunity to ESP, Hold, and slow spells as well as magical charms, quests, and geas spells.
Level 14 - Blankout: focus for 1 round to become unseen by everything for your level in rounds.
Level 16 - Gentle Touch. I have to quote this in full because damn .


Once per day, the mystic may use the Gentle Touch on any one living creature (it requires a normal roll to hit; if he fails to hit, he can try the Gentle Touch again). The mystic must declare he is using the Gentle Touch before he rolls to hit, and must declare which result (explained below) he is seeking. The victim does not get a saving throw, but a victim which has more Hit Dice than the mystic's experience level is not affected.

The Touch will have one of the following results (the mystic decides and announces which before he rolls to hit): charm, cureall, death, quest, or paralysis. These effects mimic the same effects of the following spells in all respects except duration: charm person, cureall, death spell, quest, and hold person. The effect lasts for 24 hours—except for death, which is a permanent effect.

Mystics also have special restrictions: they can't use AC-altering magic items, and only gain xp for magic items if they donate them to their temple.

Like druids, becoming a higher-level (above 10th level) mystic requires going out, finding the current title holders, and beating them up. You also have the option of building your own cloister when you hit level 9, and if you're on good terms with your Grand Master he might foot the bill for you. At level 13, you become the master of your cloister, declare your independance, and can start attracting followers.

I know that some of the classes look a little anemic compared to the others (*coughfightercough*), but bear in mind this was before game balance was invented, that things scale differently in this edition, and that we're three chapers away from fighter supremecy .

NEXT TIME: Spells! Not as bad as you might think!

Spells & Spellcasting

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post


Chapter 3: Spells and Spellcasting

Magic's always been a big part of the game, a fact taht has led to one of the most common complaints of the system, "linear fighters quadratic wizards", or the idea that magic-using classes scale faster than melee classes, especially since weapon damage didn't scale up with level while spell damage did.

Of course, part of the problem was the sheer number of spells available, which was only compounded with the numerous supplements that gave the casters even more spells while the fighters got nothing.

So how'd OD&D handle that?

First off, let's talk about who gets access to magic. Obviously magic-users and clerics, but druids, elves, and high-level fighters with a high enough Wisdom also get them.

Anyone who can cast spells has to memorize them in advance, which is done for both clerics and magic-users. No casting on the fly here!


After a spell is cast, the character cannot rememorize it until he is well-rested. One night's sleep is enough rest. Upon awakening, before he spends time on any strenuous activities, the spellcaster must spend an hour (of game time) in study or meditation. Magic-users and elves must use their spell books to regain spells, while clerics and druids need only meditate.

It should be pointed out that in RC/BECMI, spells dont have casting times like they did in AD&D. Every spell was one action to cast, period, end of sentence.

Some spells are also "reversable", which means they have a version where the effect is the opposite of the "base" effect. Darkness is the best example, as it's the reversed version of the Light spell. Clerics can chose to "reverse" any reverable spell they cast when they cast it, but magic-users have to specifically memorize the reversed spell.

Let's start with clerical spells. Clerics just pick their available spells at the start of the day off the cleric spell lists.


Clerical spells tend to be less flashy than magic-user spells. Clerical magic primarily involves healing, divination of truth, protection from harm, and so for th. Seldom do you see clerical spells as forceful and dramatic as the magic-user's lightning bolt . On the other hand, clerics can fight well and don't need such spells.

There are seven levels of clerical spells, each with eight spells, for a grand total of 56 spells. Let's take a look at one of the old standbys...


Cure Light Wounds *
Range: Touch
Duration: Permanent
Effect: Any one living creature

This spell either heals damage or removes paralysis. If used to heal, it can cure 2-7 (1d6+l) points of damage. It cannot heal damage if used to cure paralysis. The cleric may cast it on himself if desired.

This spell cannot increase a creature's total hit points above the original amount.

When reversed, this spell, cause light wounds, causes 1d6+l (2-7) points of damage to any creature or character touched (no saving throw is allowed). The cleric must make a normal attack roll to inflict this damage.
CLW is a level 1 spell, of course, but notice that you can't save againt the reversed damage.

Even back then, there were examples of casters taking the non-caster's jobs.


Find Traps
Range: 0 (Cleric only)
Duration: 2 turns
Effect: Traps within 30' glow
This spell causes all mechanical and magical traps to glow with a dull blue light when the cleric comes within 30' of them. It does not reveal the types of traps, nor any method of removing them. Note that an ambush is not a trap, nor is a natural hazard, such as quicksand.
Unfortunately, it's not clear if that means that people besides the cleric can see the glow.

Here's an oldie but a goodie:


Sticks to Snakes
Range: 120'
Duration: 6 turns
Effect: Up to 16 sticks
This spell turns 2d8 sticks into snakes (detailed below). The snakes may be poisonous (50% chance per snake; the DM can roll 1d6 for each snake; on a roll of 1-3, the snake is poisonous). They obey the cleric's commands, but will turn back into sticks when slain or when the spell's duration ends.
Snakes: NA 2d8 (2d8); AC 6, HD 1; AT 1 bite; Dmg 1d4; MV 90' (30'); Save F l; ML 12; TT Ni l; AL Neutral; SA poison (50% chance for each snake to be poisonous); XP 10 (nonpoisonous) or 13 (poisonous).
That's a level 4 spell, which means you need to be a level 8 cleric to cast it.

Clerics get a pretty odd spread of spells; things like Sticks to Snakes and Insect Plague are clearly Biblical allusions, and other spells like Speak with Plants and Find the Path are more druidic that clerical. There's no real sense of focus to the cleric's spell set, really. It's like they realized that the cleric is needed to heal and to do Godly stuff, but they couldn't decide on what that should be, and a lot of the spells feel very situational.

The level 7 clerical spells include Wish, Raise Dead Fully (which is Ressurection), and Wizardry, which lets the cleric pretend to be a low-level magic-user.


Range: 0 (cleric only)
Duration: One turn
Effect: Allows the use of one magic-user device or scroll spell The cleric using this spell gains the power to
use one item normally restricted to magic-users: either a device (such as a wand) or a scroll containing a 1st or 2nd level magic-user spell. (The cleric cannot cast spells of 3rd or higher level, even though they may be present on the scroll.) This ability lasts for one turn, or until the scroll or device is used.
The cleric magically gains knowledge of the proper use of the item, as if the character were a magic-user. For the duration and effect of the magic-user spell, the caster is treated as the minimum level necessary to cast the spell.
Not really what I'd call super useful.

If a cleric changes to druid at level 9, that affects their spell list. As stated, any spell having to do with alignment is unavailable, although some are replaced (Detect Evil becomes Detect Danger, for instance). As for the new spells they get...well...


Call Lightning
Range: 360'
Duration: 1 turn per level of the caster
Effect: Calls lightning bolts from a storm
This spell cannot be used unless a storm of some (any) type is within range of the druid. (This does not mean that he must be within the spell's range of the storm cloud, but only that the stormy weather be taking place within 360' of him.)
If a storm is present, the druid may call 1 lightning bolt per turn (10 minutes) to strike at any point within range. The lightning boh descends from the sky, hitting an area 20' across.
Each victim within that area takes 8d6 (8-48) points of electrical damage, but may make a saving throw vs. spells to take half damage. The druid need not call the lightning every turn unless desired; it remains available until the spell duration (or the storm) ends.
I guess that's where your random weather tables come into play, then. Sadly, it's not clear if you need to be outside to use this spell (i.e., the lightning comes from the stormcloud) or if you could use this in a dungeon (i.e., the lightning comes from the druid).

Most druid spells deal with manipulating animals or the weater in one form or another.

Or they can do this as a level 7 spell.


Metal to Wood
Range: 120'
Duration: Permanent
Effect: Changes metal into dead wood
This spell can be used to change any metal item or items into wood. The spell can transmute five pounds (50 cn weight) per level of the caster. Any magical metal item is 90% resistant to the magic. The effect is permanent, and the affected metal cannot be changed back with a dispel magic spell. Any armor changed to wood falls off the wearer and any weapons affected turn to nonmagical wooden clubs.

Short form: clerical magic isn't that great unless you want to be a healbot, and druids get a slightly better deal. What about the magic-users, though?

Well, for starters, magic-users use spell books.


When a magic-user or elf begins play at first level, he starts with a spell book, given to him by his teacher. The spell book will contain two 1st level spells. The Dungeon Master will tell you what spells your character starts with.
The spell book is large and bulky, and cannot be easily carried (about 2' square, 2-6 inches thick, weighing at least 20 pounds). It will not fit inside a normal sack of any size, but may becarried in a backpack or saddlebag. All spell books are written in magical words, and only their owners may read them without using the read magic spell (described later).
A magic-user (or elf) can't cast a spell he doesn't have in his spellbook, because unlike clerics, magic-users have to memorize their spells out of their spellbooks. The spell remains in their minds until cast, at which point the spell is forgotten.

No, really.


As previously discussed, the magic-user or elf forgets each spell as he casts it. This is why he has a spell book: He can memorize the spell again later and have it available to him once more.
On the plus side, magic-users and elves can learn new spells to put in their spellbooks without waiting for a new level or anything like that. Spells can be learned from teachers, other characters, found scrolls, or from the spellbooks of defeated magic-suers.

Of course, if you lose your spellbook you're pretty much screwed; making a new spellbook costs 1,000 gp and one week per level of spell being replaced. You can make a backup spellbook for free, though, as long as you still have your original.

So what are the spells magic-users and elves have? Let's start with another classic.


Magic Missile
Range: 150'
Duration: 1 round
Effect: Creates 1 or more arrows
A magic missile is a glowing arrow, created and shot by magic, which inflicts 1d6+l (2-7) points of damage to any creature it strikes. After the spell is cast, the arrow appears next to the spellcaster and hovers there (moving with him) until the spellcaster causes it to shoot. When shot, the magic missile will automatically hit any one visible target the spellcaster specifies. The magic missile actually has no solid form, and cannot be touched. A magic missile never misses its target and the target is not allowed a saving throw.
For every 5 levels of experience of the caster, two more missiles are created by the same spell. Thus a 6th level spellcaster may create three missiles. The spellcaster may shoot the missiles all at one target or at different targets.

Most of the other spells are the old stand-bys; Invisibility, Fireball, Charm Monster, Floating Disk (not Tenser's, though; no "named" spells), Cloudkill, Create Normal Monsters, and Wish.

There are a few odd spells that kind of fell out of the "core" over the years.


Range: Touch
Duration: Permanent
Effect: Creates up to 30' x 30' cloth
This spell creates quantities of cloth up to 30' x 30'. The cloth created by a single spell must appear in one piece. Unlike many creation-type spells, this one creates cloth that is nonmagical and cannot be dispelled.

If the campaign uses the optional general skills and the caster has an appropriate Craft skill, he may shape the cloth as he creates it. He may thus create a tent, a sail, a single garment, a drape, 60' of common rope, etc. If the campaign doesn't use the skills rules, the character could have been defined earlier as one who knows how to work cloth in order for him to do this. Naturally, unshaped cloth created by this spell can later be cut, sewn and otherwise fashioned into such objects.

The cloth so created is much like undyed linen—it 's tough, serviceable, and unglamorous. A caster can create his cloth with an unfinished end, and later he or another caster can use another clothform to create cloth joined to the first on that edge—and there will be no seam or weakness at the joining. This makes it a good spell for creating rugged, dependable sails. When created, the cloth extrudes from the caster's hands and out along the ground. If there are obstacles, it piles up against them but does not shove them back. The spell may not be cast to create a huge sheet which falls over a unit of enemies, for instance. The cloth, when created, may not be attached to anything except to another expanse of clothform cloth, as described above. The cloth cannot be cast in a space occupied by another object. In adventures, this spell is often used to make quick shelters and to create rope.
Forget making infinite light bulbs, I'm gonna corner the fabric market.


Death Spell
Range: 240'
Duration: Instantaneous
Effect: Slays 4d8 (4-32) Hit Dice of creatures
within a 60' x 60' x 60' area
This spell will affect 4d8 (4-32) Hit Dice of living creatures within the given area. Normal plants and insects are automatically slain, and those with no hit points (normal insects, plants smaller than shrub-sized, for instance) are not counted in the total affected. Undead are not affected, nor are creatures wi th 8 or more Hit Dice (or levels of experience).

The lowest Hit Dice creatures are affected first. Each victim must make a saving throw vs. death ray or die.

Oh, and Cloudkill (level 4 spell, uncastable until level 7) isn't as powerful as you might remember.


Range: 1'
Duration: 6 turns
Effect: Creates a moving poisonous cloud This spell creates a circular cloud of poisonous vapor, 30' across and 20' tall, which appears next to the spellcaster. It moves away at the rate of 60' (20' per round) in any one direction (with the wind, if a n y; otherwise, in the direction chosen by the caster). This cloud is heavier than air and will sink when possible (going down holes, sliding downhill, etc.).

The cloud will evaporate if it hits trees or thick vegetation. If cast in a small
area (such as in a 10' tall dungeon corridor), the cloud may be of smaller than normal size. All living creatures within the cloud take 1 point of damage per round. Any victim of less than 5 Hit Dice must make a saving throw vs. poison or be killed by the vapors.
Given that hit dice are about equal to levels, 5HD creatures wouldn't be much of a challenge anyway, and 1 damage/round isn't that big a deal for larger monsters.


Range: 0 (Magic-user only)
Duration: 2 turns per level of the caster
Effect: Allows caster to turn to stone
This allows the magic-user to change into a statue, along with all nonliving equipment he carries, up to once per round (to or from statue form) for the duration of the spell. The caster can concentrate on other spells while in statuefor, though he can cast no new spells while in this form. Although this spell does not give him immunity to "turn to stone" effects (from a gorgon's attack), the caster may simply turn back to normal one round after becoming petrified.

While in statue form, the magic-user is armor class -4, but cannot move. He cannot be damaged by cold or fire (whether normal or magical) or by normal weapons. He does not breathe, and is thus immune to all gas attacks, drowning, etc. Magical weapons and other spells (such as lightning boh) inflict normal damage on him. If a fire or cold spell is cast at the magic-user while in normal form, the character need only win initiative (with a + 2 bonus) to turn into a statue before the attacking spell strikes.

And here's a level 9 combat spell.


Meteor Swarm
Range: 240'
Duration: Instantaneous
Effect: Creates four or eight meteor-fireballs This spell creates either 4 or 8 meteors (at the caster's choice). Each meteor can be aimed at a different target within range, but only one meteor can be aimed at any one creature. Each meteor slams into its target and explodes like a fireball (affecting all creatures within a 20' radius).

If the caster creates four meteors, each strikes for 8d6 (8-48) points of damage and then explodes for 8d6 (8-48) points of fire damage. If the caster creates eight smaller meteors, each strikes for 4d6 (4-24) points and then explodes for 4d6 more points of fire damage. Note that if the meteors are aimed accurately, a victim or area
might find itself wi t h in overlapping blasts and thus take explosion damage multiple times.

The player rolls damage for each strike and blast separately. A meteor never misses its target.

Any victim struck by a meteor takes full "strike" damage (no saving throw). Each victim within a blast radius may make a saving throw vs. spells to take only half of the given blast damage. Even fire-resistant and fire-using creatures are ful ly affected by strikes from a meteor swarm, although they might be resistant to the fiery explosions. A separate saving throw must be made for each blast the character contacts.
You'll notice that this spell doesn't have friendly fire; not something you'd want to cast once people are actually fighting.

It should be pointed out that a magic-user doesn't get access to 9th level spells until he hits level 21. It should also be pointed out that if you get to level 36, a magic-user can memorize 9 spells of each of the 9 levels. Just something to think about when you see people complaining about how 4e has too many character choices to make.

RC spells are all pretty straightforward; there are only about 100 or so spells all told for everyone; it helps pare down caster supremacy when there aren't hundreds and hundreds of spells that cover every possible action. There are surprisingly few damaging spells at higher levels (only 3 level 9 Magic-User spells actually do damage) and the ones they do get are mostly not single-target stuff, so it's actually harder for casters to dominate combat with one spell in a non-"nuke everyone in the room including myself" way. That's not to say a Cloudkill or Meteor Swarm can't take out a lot of enemies in one shot, of course. But with how scaling in the game works, they're not as powerful as they look.

NEXT TIME: Weapons! Armor! Ten foot poles!


posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post


Chapter 4: Equipment

Let's talk about the D&D economy. I will try and make this not boring.

As always, D&D is on the gold piece standard. Everyone starts with 3d6 x 10 gp; that's pretty impressive when you consider that most commoners would only have a few copper pieces. There were also silver, electrum, and platinum pieces, each with their own conversion rates.


1 sp = 10 cp
1 ep = 5 sp = 50 cp
1 gp = 2 ep = 10 sp = 100 cp
1 pp = 5 gp = 10 ep = 50 sp = 500 cp

That's about it for money, so let's move on to weapons.

Back in Ye Olden Tymes we didn't know about katanas yet, so we were pretty limited on what what we had available to hit people with. The weapon chart in the RC is only one page long, and covers axes, bows, bludgeons, daggers, pole weapons, shield weapons (like spiked shields), swords, and "Other", which covers stuff like blowguns, bolas, and whips.

Each weapon has a damage notation, range (if applicable), cost in gp, encumberance in coins, and some notes we have to look up on a separate table.

(Oh, yeah...for some reason item weight in BECMI was measured in coins, not pounds. One coin weighs one tenth of a pound.)

Just for an example, let's look at the "normal sword" (i.e., the longsword). A sword does 1d8 damage, costs 10 gp, weighs 60 "coins" (so 6 pounds), and has the notes "r,M". "r" means it can be thrown, but is rarely used this way, and "M" means it's a Medium sized weapon.

Each weapon gets a paragraph or two of general description, although the more bizarre weapons need a little more explanation:


Blackjack: This weapon is a small leather sack, 4"-8" long, filled with sand or metal shot and with a looped strap attached. It causes little damage (1d2 points) but, if it is used to strike a victim's head or neck, it can possibly stun or cause unconsciousness.

This weapon has no effect on a victim wearing a metal helmet (which is included in any set of plate, banded, chain, or scale mail) or on any unarmored monster of armor class 0 or less (which indicates very tough skin or protective plating).

The DM decides whether or not someone using a blackjack can hit his target's head. The DM might decide, for example, that someone who has sneaked up on a completely unsuspecting target can aim at the target's head with no penalty, or that the character, in combat, can aim at the enemy's head by taking a -4 penalty to the attack roll. Also at the DM's discretion, if the target is so much taller than the attacker that the attacker can't reach his head, then the attack can only inflict normal damage.

If the attack does hit the target's head, consult the Weapon Special Effects Table. The victim must make a saving throw vs. death ray (possibly with a bonus; see the table). If he fails the saving throw, he suffers the additional effects shown on the table, as determined by his Hit Dice. These effects are as follows:

Knockout: The victim is immediately unconscious and remains helpless for dl00 (d%) rounds.
Stun: The victim is stunned and will remain stunned until he successfully makes a saving throw vs. death ray. He may try to make a new saving throw each round.
Delay: The victim is mildly dazed; he loses initiative on the next round.

One of my favorite quirks of the weapon system is that only daggers can be bought as a "silver weapon"; I guess nobody's been able to apply the principles of inlaid silver to larger weapons.

There's also an optional rule for "Nonstandard weapon use".


Sometimes a character may want to use a onehanded weapon with two hands. This inflicts more damage, but has the following limitations:
• Any one-handed weapon (except "Other Weapons") can be used for this option.
• The character loses individual initiative.
• The character cannot effectively use a shield for defense while wielding a weapon twohanded (no AC bonus).
When used two-handed, weapons gain an additional +1 point of damage to their attacks. This bonus applies to any one-handed weapons used with both hands, regardless of the original damage of the weapon. Therefore, a dagger used in this way inflicts ld4 + 1 (2-5) points of damage, and a spear does ld6 + l (2-7) points of damage when wielded with both hands.
It's kind of not worth it, though.

From weapons we move onto armor. We have a whopping 6 choices for armor (leather, scale, chain, banded, plate, and suit) with the option of a shield. All shields provide the same amount of protection (-1 AC) regardless of the size of the shield, which makes you wonder why they bothered even mentioning different shield sizes.


Smaller shields are considered easier to move into the path of danger, while larger shields protect better but are slower to move into the path of danger—thus the benefit is evenly divided.

"Suit" armor is basically full plate; it provides AC 0, and has some advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, apart from the AC 0 suit armor also reduces area effect damage by 1 point per die of damage and gives you a +2 to the save, since the armor is full coverage. If the armor is enchanted, it reduces damage by a further 1 point per two pluses.

On the down side, suit armor is really heavy; the encumberance value is 750 cn (so 75 pounds), and has to be custom-fitted to the wearer, which costs 250 gp. Trying to mount a horse or get up if knocked prone only has a 1 in 6 chance of succeeding. It's also loud and clanky; you can hear it from 120 feet away, makes you easier to surprise, and the wearer's movement is severely reduced. On top of all that, it doesn't provide the defense bonuses against gaze-style attacks or electricity, and gives a -5 penalty to non-crossbow ranged attacks.

In addition to armoring your character, you can also buy barding . Barding comes in the same types as normal armor, except there's no horse shield.

I would like to point out, though, that "Joust" barding (the best you can get; AC 0) has an encumberance of 5,000 cn. That's 500 pounds . I'm no expert on horses or mideval armor, but I'm pretty sure that number's a little high.

The next section is Adventuring Gear, and has all the old standbys like "mirror", "10 foot pole", "Spikes", and "Stakes (3) and mallet".


Pole, Wooden: This is the proverbial 10' pole, made of wood 2" thick. Particularly cautious adventurers, or adventurers in regions where such objects have proven their usefulness, use poles to prod piles of rags, stir around in watery pools, poke into corners, touch objects that may have traps attached to them, test the sturdiness of floors and ledges, and so forth.

Next up is Land Transortation Equipment, which is just a fancy way of saying "mounts, carts, and boats". Fun things in this section include the fact that a camel costs 100 gp but a riding horse only costs 75, the fact that a full-blown troop transport ship (capable of moving 100 troops) cost 30,000 gp, and a canoe weighs 100 pounds.


Galley, War: This large, two-masted galley is designed for combat; it is often used as a flagship. The length is 120'-150', beam is 20'-30', and draft is 4'-6'. Capacity: 60,000 cn plus crew. Standard crew: 300 rowers, 30 sailors, 75 marines, 1 captain. This ship always has a ram and one deck above the rowers has two light wooden towers (bow and stern), each 10'-20' square, height 15'-20'. It can have three light catapults

If you don't want to spend a couple of grand on your own ship, the book helpfully provides costs for passage for first-, second-, and third-class by the mile.

Finally we have siege equipment. This covers both siege weapons and support devices.

What may surprise you is how little damage siege weapons do. A ballista only does 1d10+6 damage and takes two round to reload. It also requires 4 people to work it, but on the plus side they only cost 75 gp so you can buy a lot of them. For comparison, a heavy catault does 1d10+10, and a battering ram does 1d6+8. The THAC0 for siege weapons depend on the weapon; a ballista's THAC0 is determined by the fighter level of the guy manning it and the fighter has more hp and a better AC to boot.

In all honesty, it's probably cheaper to just have high-level characters attack the castle directly, since they're probably capable of dishing out more damage than the siege weapons. Heck, a 1st level fighter with an 18 Str can do 1d10+3 with a two-handed sword; that's almost the same as a ballista with the same THAC0 as if he was firing the ballista himself! Fuck throwing boulders, I'm gonna run up and punch the castle to death.

The remaining seige equipment is stuff like siege ladders, gallery sheds (used to protect soldiers as they use a battering ram from attacks from above), and the mantlet (a small wall on wheels used to protect troops from incoming arrows).

Now, I know this chapter was pretty boring (except for the fact that a third-level fighter is more dangerous than a freakin' siege weapon). After all, we've seen D&D weapon tables god knows how many times.

But what matters most about weapons in RC D&D isn't their stats. It's what happens when the fighters start using them, which we'll learn more about...

NEXT TIME: Fighter supremacy! Skills! Tables!

Other Character Abilities

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post


Chapter 5: Other Character Abilities

This is the part a lot of you have been waiting for; the rules that put the fighters on even footing with the casters, as well as the non-combat abilities.

This chapter contains two optional mechanics: Weapon Mastery and General Skills. And while both are optional,
there's really no reason to not use them.

First up is the Weapon Mastery system. Weapon Mastery is a way for characters to specialize in a weapon or two, and as they get better with their weapons they gain some pretty impressive abilities.

If you're using Weapon Masteries, then your character starts not knowing how to use any weapons at all (normally you know how to use every weapon available to your class). Instead, you start with a number of "weapon choices" based on your class. At level 1, a fighter get 4 choices and everyone else gets 2.

Well, everyone human, anyway.


Demihumans do not gain or use weapon choices; due to their longer lifespans and wilderness-oriented lifestyles, demihuman characters start with basic skill in all weapons not restricted from their classes.
Demihumans can get weapon choices at higher levels, but they still have a long wait.


Demihumans can train to reach higher levels of weapon mastery just as human characters can. However, demihumans are eligible to train only at levels 4 and 8 (and level 12 for dwarves) and at every 200,000 experience points after reaching their maximum level.

As (human) characters level up, they get another weapon choice at levels 3,6,9, 11, 15, 23, 30, and 36. If you're a fighter, you also get choices at levels 19, 27, and 33. This means that, at level 36, a fighter will have a total of 15 choices and everyone else will have 10.

Each weapon choice is used to buy a level of mastery in a given weapon. At first level each choice must be spent on different weapons, but as you get more you can improve your mastery in a weapon you know or buy a new one.

The first level of mastery is "Basic", and just means that you use the weapon as per the normal rules. From there, you spend choices to increase your mastery by one level. The next step from Basic is Skilled, then Expert, Master, and finally Grand Master. If you don't have any mastery levels in a weapon, you're considered "Unskilled", which means you use the weapon as if you had Basic mastery but only deal half damage.

Or you can just flail around like an idiot.

(There's a bunch of stuff here about training as well, including time required to train, how much it costs, and the percent chance that your training will stick. The most interesting thing is that to get Grand Mastery in a weapon, you need to find a trainer who's already a Grand Master, and even then you only have a 1% chance to learn the new rank. On the plus side, if you fail you can find another trainer and get try again at a 10% bonus, and if you don't make the training roll you don't lose the weapon choice.)

The reason you want weapon mastery is because, as you get better with the weapon, you get special benefits and maneuvers based on the weapon.

To start with, each rank of mastery above Basic gives you a +2 to your primary targets and a smaller scaling bonus to your secondary target. This applies to every weapon, and I'll explain what that means in a second.

As for the other benefits, it'll help if we have a visual aid. The RC has two pages filled with the weapon mastery charts for pretty much every weapon in the game, but for explanation purposes, let's look at the chart for the "normal sword" (a.k.a. longsword).

Looks pretty confusing, but a lot of the entry is shorthand.

First off is the weapon name, then the weapon's "primary target type". That's the [P = H] thing; "P =" means primary attack, "S =" is secondary. The "H" means that the weapon's best against enemies that use hand-to-hand weapons or one-handed missile weapons (like crossbows or slings). The other category is "M", which means targets using missile weapons or monsters with natural weapons. This is what determines what kind of to-hit bonus you get, as well as being a suggestion on the best kind of target to use the weapon against. These notations are used later, but the easiest way to remember them is that H=hand-held, M=missile/monster, and A=all types.

The symbols under that are general weapon info. The little hand means it's a one-handed weapon, the heavy circle means you can use a shield with this weapon, the cross means "melee weapon, rarely thrown", and the empty circle means it's a medium-sized weapon. Then we have the cost and encumberance, which are taken from the equipment list.

The rest of the entry is how the weapon works at each mastery level. At Basic (BS) level, every weapon works as if you weren't using the mastery rules. However, once we start spending some weapon choices on it, things improve quite a bit.

For the longsword, going from Basic to Skilled increases the damage die for the weapon from 1d8 to 1d12; that's better than a normal two-handed sword! In addition, being Skilled lets the wielder use the "deflect" and "disarm" special effects.


Deflect: In addition to any attacks, the wielder of this weapon may attempt to deflect the number of melee and thrown weapon attacks indicated in one round. To deflect each attack, the character must make a saving throw vs. death ray.

Disarm: The wielder of this weapon may attempt to disarm an opponent instead of making a normal attack. The attacker must roll to hit the target. The victim can save his weapon by rolling less than or equal to his Dexterity on 1d20. If the attacker has the Disarm Combat option, the victim must add a +5 penalty to his die roll. The DM should determine Dexterity scores for NPCs and monsters or else assume a Dexterity score of 11. In addition, for each level of mastery the attacker has gained beyond basic, the victim suffers a penalty of +1 to his roll vs. the effect.

The "H: -2AC/1" thing means that the wielder gets a -2 to his AC against the first attack made against him in a round made by an "H" category attack; melee or one-handed ranged weapons.

In other words, someone who's Skilled with a normal sword attacks at +2, does 1d12 damage, has a chance to defelect a melee/thrown attack once per round in addition to his normal attacks , gets an AC bonus against the first weapon attack made against him in a round, and he can disarm opponents.

That's possible at level 3, by the way.

Moving down to Expert, we see a range notation has been added (-/5/10). Yup, that means that the wielder can now use his longsword as a thrown weapon. The weapon's damage increases again to 2d8 (the little symbol next to the die notation means the weapon can be thrown now), the AC bonus now applies against the first two attacks, the wielder can deflect twice a round, and there's a penalty to the disarm saving throw. If you're focusing on one weapon, you can do this as soon as level 6.

(Oh, on the subject of throwing longswords: throwing a "rarely thrown weapon" uses Strength instead of Dexterity. But the real reason to throw melee weapons is because it's unexpected: when you do this, the target has to roll to see if he's surprised, which is a 1-2 on a d6. If he's not surprised, he has to make a save vs. death ray. Making the save halves the damage, but if he is surprised or fails the save he has to eat the whole thing.)

At Master level, in addition to the expected AC, deflect, and disarm boosts, we also see the damage split. The longsword now does 2d8+4 (and has +6 to hit) against the "Primary" targets (Hand-to-hand/thrown), and does 2d6+4 damage at +4 to hit against the secondary type (missile/monster).

Grand Mastery is more of the same; better damage, better to-hit bonus, better AC bonus, three deflects a round and disarm targets have a +4 penalty to saves.

Just for the record, Grand Mastery can be achieved as soon as level 11.

Let's take a look at a battle axe, which is a [P=M] weapon, which means it's intended against monsters.

The two hands means it's a two-handed weapon, and everything else is like the normal sword. The battle axe gives access to two new special effects, though:


Delay: The victim hit by this weapon must make a saving throw or lose initiative the next round. If the type of saving throw is not specified, it is a saving throw vs. paralysis. For missile attacks, this effect occurs only at the indicated ranges.

Stun: If the victim is approximately the same size as the attacker or smaller, he is stunned if he fails a saving throw vs. death ray. A stunned character moves at 1/3 speed and cannot attack or cast spells. The character also has a +2 armor class penalty and a -2 saving throw penalty. A stunned character can make a saving throw vs. death ray each round to recover from the stun effect. For missile weapons, this effect occurs only at the specified ranges.
Personally, I'd think those'd make more sense for the warhammer, but there we go.

Here's a ranged weapon:

There are also shield weapons.

"Second Attack" means that you can make an off-hand attack with it as part of a normal attack, and at no off-hand penalty. "Breaks" means that there's a chance that the weapon on the shield will break off when you get hit.

Other weapon abilities include Charge (if you charge 20 yards or more, you do double damage), Hook (no damage, but knocks an opponent down), Slow (half speed), and Skewer:


Skewer: If the target has no more than the number of Hit Dice indicated, the wielder of this weapon may decide to skewer him instead of strike him normally. A normal attack consists of striking the target and withdrawing the trident for another attack; with the skewer, the attacker thrusts his trident into the target and twists it so
that it is not easily extracted. Once the weapon hits, it is stuck; it will remain stuck for ld4+4 (5-8) rounds, after which time the victim's movements will cause it to come free. For each round a victim remains skewered, he automatically takes 1d6 points of damage.

Some weapons, like blackjacks, blowguns, and nets do special effects like tangling opponents or knocking them out. Blowguns have a bunch of different effects depending on what you coat the needles with.

The tables also contain the seeds of Unearthed Arcana's infamous "glaive glaive glaive guisarme glaive" tables. There are three polearms listed on the table: halberd, pike, and "polearm, other". In order to model all the different types of polearms out there, though, you can combine these with other weapons to model other polearms. For instance:


Bardiche: This polearm uses halberd statistics but also has the deflect abilities of the pike. The bardiche may be set vs. a charge.

Glaive: This weapon uses poleaxe statistics and deflect scores. The glaive causes double damage like a dagger. This weapon may be set vs. a charge.

Lochaber Axe: This polearm follows all of the halberd rules, but the lochaber axe may also stun at the highest two masteries.

Voulge: This weapon uses poleaxe statistics, but it causes +2 points of damage. The voulge uses the deflect scores for a halberd. It may cause double damage like a dagger.

Oh, daggers can do double damage on a natural 20 at Skilled, with the range increasing by 1 per mastery level until you get to Grand Mastery, where you do double damage on a 17-20.

There's one special effect that every weapon gets: despair .


A weapon master's amazing ability with his weapon can cause despair and fear in some opponents. This is called the despair effect. When it happens, the targets affected must make a standard morale check.Opponents must be above animal intelligence to be affected.

Targets that fail their morale rolls try to flee or surrender at their next opportunity. The DM should describe the expressions of the monsters who've had to make special despair morale checks, but he or she shouldn't describe whether the monsters successfully made their rolls until it's time for them to act.
Despair is rolled whenever a weapon wielder does one of the following with a weapon he's at least Skilled with:

Despair will affect 4 HD of monsters per mastery level above Basic; a Grand Master can cause a 16 HD monster to turn tail and run if it fails the morale check. x2!

Next up is a section about "retroactive weapon mastery".


If a campaign has already begun but the DM would like to add weapon mastery to it, it's not too late. The DM should start by carefully examining each character. Characters often have a few favorite weapons. Assume that these are the character's preferences; these will be the weapons for which the character has learned increased mastery, while the knowledge of the proper use of other weapons has faded through lack of use.

The DM may then give the character the number of weapon choices appropriate for his class and experience level. Weapons that are the character's personal trademark can be bought up to expert mastery; weapons that the character uses frequently can be bought up to skilled mastery; weapons that the character has been known to use effectively should be bought to basic mastery. If the character still has any weapon choices left, his player can assign them as he pleases to buy Basic masteries with other weapons; he cannot buy higher than basic mastery for these additional weapons.
This may seem odd, but this section is here because the original weapon mastery rules didn't come out until the Master boxed set, which was the "endgame" set before Immortals. So it was possible to get up to level 26 as a fighter, get the new set, and then see all these awesome weapon abilities you could have had for the past 25 levels. This also probably explains why this stuff was considered "optional" since it was added so late.

This part of the chapter closes out with information on giving monsters mastery levels; only intelligent weapon-using monsters can get mastery levels, and even then they can't go past Master.

And that's it for weapon mastery! Now let's talk about general skills .

Every character (regardless of race) starts with four "slots" for skills, with a few more for higher Intellegence.

Each skill is assigned to a stat, and to use the skill you have to roll under or equal to that skill's stat. So if you have an 18 Dexterity and have the Athletics skill, you'd succeed on an 18 or less.

And look damn good doing it, too.

There are 62 skills available, ranging from the useful (Intimidation, Disguise, Bargaining) to the not-as-useful (Food Tasting or Art).

I'm not going to go into detail about skills, since this is another thing we've all seen a thousand times. I will give you a few skill descriptions, though:


Bargaining: A successful skill roll allows a character to get the best deal available for goods, services, or information. It's not usually possible for a character to bargain someone into giving him very much for nothing.

Ceremony (choose specific Immortal): A character with this skill knows how to honor an Immortal through ritual and ceremony; the skill allows a cleric character to perform normal rituals of his clerical order and could even (if the DM allows) permit a character to gain an Immortal's attention (through devout prayer, fasting, sacrifice of possessions, etc.). This skill includes knowing the code of behavior and the rituals pleasing to the Immortal.

Food Tasting: This is the ability to taste food and water to see if they have spoiled. Thus the character can avoid suffering from food poisoning by carefully tasting his food first. This ability will not detect poisons added to a dish unless the DM determines that the poison has a taste (in which case it may be too late anyway).

Leadership: Successful use of this skill adds + 1 to the morale of any NPCs under the character's control. It can also be used to convince other NPCs to follow the character's commands. The DM can decide that any NPC who has a good reason nor to follow the leader is automatically successful at resisting this skill. Unlike Intimidation, Leadership does not bully, antagonize, or make enemies of the NPCs it is used upon.

Quick Draw: A successful skill check with this skill allows the character to nock and fire an arrow with a + 2 bonus to individual initiative.

Characters gain more skill levels as they level up, but again it's different for humans and demihumans.

First off, every character gets a new skill slot ever 4 levels after the first; that means at levels 5, 9, 13, and so on, up to level 36. Since demihumans can't reach level 36, they have to work off XP totals.


Above 12th level, dwarves get another skill slot at 1,200,000 experience points and another slot for every 800,000 experience earned after that. Above 10th level, elves get another slot at 1,350,000 experience points and another for every 1,000,000 experience points earned after that. Above 8th level, halflings get another slot at 300,000 experience points and another for every 1,200,000 points earned beyond that.
Being a demihuman kinda sucks.

When you get a new skill slot, you can use it to either buy a new skill or improve an existing one; every slot used on an existing skill gives you +1 to your skill roll. And, of course, the GM can give situational modifiers for things like easy tasks or difficult ones. Regardless of modifiers, a natural 1 always succeeds and a natural 20 always fails when using skills. Sadly, the idea of "don't roll a skill if success/failure doesn't really matter" hadn't come up yet, so there's no advice on that.

So there we are: Fighter awesomeness and doing things outside your class abilities.

It's interesting to look at these from our current perspective, especially given a lot of right-wing OSR-y comments like "we didn't have skills, we roleplayed it out!". If that was the case, then why did this version of the game have skills?

Well, it's an obvious answer: they were optional, and didn't get added until late in the game's lifecycle. But still, it's interesting to see this in OD&D, especially considering that skills were more-or-less dropped from 1e and 2e. In a game like D&D, where characters can end up getting pretty same-y due to the lack of customization, it's nice to know that early on there were attempts to make Bob the Fighter mechanically different from Jeff the Fighter apart from "one uses a sword, the other uses a hammer".

As for weapon mastery, I fucking love this system. This is another thing that pretty much vanished after OD&D, and didn't pop up again until 4th edition, where some fighter abilites were modified depending on the weapon the character was using (like an attack doing 2[W]+Str, but if you're using a hammer you add your Con to the damage too).

Weapon Mastery has two big pluses going for it, despite how clunky it can be. First off, it allows fighters to "scale" up with level like spells and monsters do, so you're not stuck doing 1d8+6 damage your entire life. Second, it actually make each weapon feel different. There's a mechanical difference between using a sword and using an axe apart from the damage they do; there's situations where one would be better than the other. It's also where the meme of "fighter bristling with tons of different weapons" came from; it was all about having the right tool for the right job.

It really is amazing what's been lost over the editions, isn't it?

NEXT TIME: How to move!


posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post


Chapter 6: Movement

This chapter is about large-scale movement, so of course it starts off with a discussion about time .


Time is handled somewhat differently in the D&D game than it is in real life. Time that the players experience is called "real time." Time that the characters experience is "game time." In D&D games, the passage of time experienced by the characters is usually compressed. A game can take as little as an hour of real time or up to twelve hours (or even longer with tireless players), but that real time may represent days or weeks of game time.

Game time is not always longer than actual real time. Combat and some role-playing can take much longer than the actual game time. For example, it may take half an hour of real time to play a battle that lasts only a few minutes of game time.
It's weird to think that there was a time you had to explain to players that "real time" and "game time" are not the same thing. Truly, it was a different age.

Anyway, time in D&D is broken down into rounds, turns, and days.

Rounds are used in situations where danger is immediate; nto only combat, but triggering a trap. Rounds are 10 seconds long, and during a round you can perform one action; moving, attacking, casting a spell, but only one.

Turns are 10 minutes long, and cover "[s]lightly less intense situations—such as carefully exploring a dangerous set of catacombs, sneaking up on an enemy encampment, or trying to escape a pursuing army that is a mile or more behind".

Days are, well, days. No real explanation needed. This covers pretty much anything long-term like long-distance travel and spell research.


Assumed and Defined Actions
In D&D games, the player does not normally have to describe every action his character takes throughout the day. For example, when the characters are doing long-distance traveling and time is being measured by the day, it's reasonable for everyone to assume that the characters do eat, rest after and sometimes during travel, talk to one another, behave in a normally prudent and careful fashion, and so forth, without the players having to role-play every single incident or encounter.
Not roleplaying every little thing? MY IMMERSION! Next you're going to try and make me use disassociated mechanics!


With time comes distance . Distance measurements depend on the scale you're working with at the moment; if you're indoors, then you're working with feet. If you're outside, then things start being measured in yards. It's a little abstract; if your normal movement speed is 90' per turn indoors, then that translates to 90 yards per turn outdoors.

What's interesting is that this also applies to missile and spell ranges, but not areas of effect. So fireball , which has a range of 240' indoors, has an outdoor range of 240 yards but still only has an area of effect of 40 feet in diameter.

There's a bit of info about using minis and how that affects scale; in that case one inch on the table equals 10' of movement.


You can use a ruler to measure distances or you can buy one of many vinyl or plastic playing surfaces that are already gridded into inches. Additionally, you can use watercolor markers to draw room and situation details on vinyl or plastic surfaces and easily erase them once the combat is done.
Wait...a grid ? Not hexes? This is becoming more and more disassociated by the minute!

Now we come to movement rates . There's a table for this (natch), and your movement is based solely on how much encumberance you have. If you're at 400 cn or less, then your normal speed (in feet per turn) or running speed (feet per round) is 120' and your encounter speed is 40' per round. For every 400 en you have over that, your movement is reduced.

Yeah, there's three kinds of movement. "Normal" speed is your normal dungeon exploration; drawing maps, checking for traps, things like that. "Running" just means going full-tilt during an encounter. "Encounter" movement is 1/3 your normal speed, and is how far you can move on your action during your turn in combat. It's also possible to get exhausted if you run more than 30 rounds (5 minutes); if you get exhausted you have to rest for three turns before you can do something else, you reduce all damage you deal by 2, and monsters get +2 to hit you.

And that's really all there is to normal movement. The rest of the chapter is about overland movement. Those of you who suffered through my THE SECRET FIRE review will find some of this a bit familiar; this is the point in the book where you start to see what cargo the THE SECRET FIRE devs were building the cult around.

To find a group's overland movement rate, you take the slowest movement in the party, divide that by 5, and that's how many miles a day the party can go through clear terrain. Traveling on roads make you move faster, forests and swamps and such slow you down. If you're mounted, then your movement rates will be much faster. Also, the party needs to rest one day for every six they spend travelling, otherwise they suffer a -1 penalty on attack rolls per six days they go without rest.

While travelling over roads is pretty safe, going through forests and mountains can cause you to end up lost. Fortunately, we have mechanics to cover what happens in that case! And they're actually not that bad!

When the party is in terrain that can cause them to become lost, and don't have a guide or map or anything, the DM rolls 1d6 at the start of the day. If they're in clear terrain, they get lost on a 1; in swamps, jungles, and deserts you get lost on a 1-3, and every other type is a 1-2.

When the party becomes lost, what happens is that they just keep going as normal; the GM doesn't tell them they're lost. Instead, the GM determines randomly what direction the party's actually heading in, then just lets them keep going in the directions they think they're going in. If the party changes direction, then the GM adjusts the "real" direction accordingly, and that keeps going like that until the PCs figure out that they're lost and find out where the fuck they are.

Now compare that to THE SECRET FIRE's

Overland travel also requires a bit of planning when it comes to food. You can bring enough food to cover the whole trip plus a bit of a buffer, but circumstances can always consipire to run you out of food. It's possible to forage food by moving 2/3 your normal group speed, and even then you only have a base 50% chance to find food; the GM can adjust this number up or down depending on the terrain.

The next section is about "water travel", and starts with this section:


By Swimming (and Drowning)

Characters are all assumed to know how to swim unless the DM says they can't. Swimming speed is 1/5 your outdoor movement speed.


Under normal conditions, a swimming character is in no danger of drowning. However, if the character is swimming while carrying heavy encumbrance or swimming in rough, dangerous conditions, he can drown. If a character is carrying more than 400 cn encumbrance, sheer weight will drag him down. The DM should decide on the chances of drowning in rough water, swimming while encumbered, or fighting while swimming.
The "default" way to do this is to have players make ability checks against Strength or Constitution.

That's swimming. Now for drowning.

A character can hold his breath for his Constitution score in rounds, assuming he's not exerting himself in which case it's half his Constitution. Once that time runs out, you start to drown. A drowning character has to make a Constitution check each round with a +1 to the roll for each round he's unable to breathe. If he fails the roll, he drowns.

On the plus side, drowning doesn't mean death. Characters who drown can be revived if someone hits him with a healing spell or uses the Heal skill on them within 1/3 their Constitution in rounds.

Following all that is information on ship travel. Ship speed is dependent on the ship (of course), but can be modifed by weather. There's a handy "roll for wind" chart to help the GM figure out how those light breezes or gale force winds will affect a ship's speed.

Lastly, there's this information on aerial travel:


Aerial Travel
Characters traveling on aerial mounts can move 72 miles per day. Characters traveling on aerial devices (such as flying carpets) can move 120 miles per day.

And there we go. Again, nothing to amazing here, but it's interesting to compare the exploration stuff to how some other games got it completely wrong.

NEXT TIME: How to meet people!

Encounters & Evasion

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post

Sorry about the long delay on this for the two of you who still care, but we're past most of the interesting stuff and into the dull parts now.


Chapter 7: Encuonters and Evasion

This chapter is about encounters, which are like the containers that combat happens in.


An "encounter" occurs when a player character or a PC party meets a person, group, or monster that is not a member or his party. An encounter can result in combat between the two sides, conversation, cooperation, a chase, or similar event. "Evasion" is what happens when an encounter occurs and one side wants to escape the other; that side turns and runs.

Sound simple? Well, it's not, because we've got 10 pages of rules for it. This is where things get a little BEEP BOOP-ish, with defined sequences on how to do things like exploring; this is further complicated by the fact that this chapter isn't organized very well. Half of the chapter is random monster charts, and rules aren't presented in the sequence you'd use them in. For instance, the rules for determining surprise come after the rules for determining distance in an encounter, which is based on determining who's surprised. Also, a lot of things in this chapter will (again) look familiar to those of you who remember the THE SECRET FIRE readthrough.

Things start out with Exploration and the Game Turn . When you're exploring, time is measured in turns, with one turn being 10 minutes. Each turn, you go through the following process:

1) If wandering monsters are encountered, they appear 2d6 x 10' away and you go into the Encounter sequence.
2) The party caller (or the players) describe what they're doing; moving, searching, whatever.
3) The GM tells the players what the results of their actions are. Treasures found, secrets discovered, etc.
4) The GM rolls for wandering monsters. If monsters are encountered, the fight happens at the start of the next turn.

Yes, that's the order the sequence is presented in.

Wandering monsters show up on a 1 on a d6, but the GM only checks this every other turn. Also there's this:


Important Note: If the Dungeon Master has already decided to have a prearranged encounter during this two-turn time period or if he has decided that the characters will have no encounter during this period, he can skip the wandering monster roll.
Well, thank goodness for that!

If you're travelling overland, then you have a whole different sequence:


1. Daybreak: Party prepares for travel, studies spells, selects travel direction.
2. Getting Lost: DM rolls 1d6 to see if party becomes lost. If so, see the "Land Travel" section in Chapter 6.
3. Daytime Wandering Monsters: The DM makes a 1d6 roll for wandering monsters for the daytime hours. See the Chance of Encounter Table for determining rolls.
4. Encounter Results: Based on the DM's die roll, the party does the following:
a. If no wandering monsters are encountered, party concludes movement and daylight period ends. Skip to Step 6.
b. If wandering monsters are encountered, the DM goes to the Encounter Checklist, below. If the characters want to evade or pursue encountered monsters, the DM goes to the "Evasion and Pursuit" section later in this chapter.
5. Resume Travel: After the encounter, the party may resume travel. If they are lost, the DM may (at his option) recheck the direction of travel.
6. Nightfall: The party finds a place to stop and rest.
7. Nighttime Wandering Monsters: The DM makes a 1d12 roll for wandering monsters for the nighttime hours. See the Chance of Encounter Table for determining rolls. If an encounter is indicated, the DM chooses the watch during which it occurs; two or three PC guards can be posted during the night, each taking an equal amount of time guarding the party while on watch. Continue with one of the following steps:
a. If an encounter occurs, the DM uses the Encounter Checklist, below,
b. If no encounter occurs, the DM proceeds to Step 9.
8. Resume Rest: Once any nighttime encounter is over, the party returns to rest.
9. Night's End: Return to Step 1 above.

When the PCs meets up with a group of NPCs or monsters, that's when we move into Encounters .

The first thing you do is determine surprise. A d6 is rolled for each side if there's a chance they can be surprised, and on 1 or 2 they are.

[sub]To break up this wall of text, here's a picture of an encounter.

Next, you determine how far away the two sides are. The default is 1d4 x 10' feet, and surprised parties will reach half the distance before they notice the other side. If both sides are surprised, then there's a special table to determine distance based on environment and visibility.

If one side has surprise, they can attempt to either evade, or to take a free round of attacks before the other group can respond.

On top of that, you have to take Monster Reactions into account. While some monsters will always react the same way, there's a 2d6 table the GM can use to determine if the monsters are friendly or not, which can be further modified by the situation or location.

The next section is about Dungeon Encounters , and it just a few paragraphs on which of the random monster tables you roll on to see what the PCs encounter.


For example, on the first level of a dungeon, the DM rolls an encounter. He consults the Dungeon Encounters Level 1 Table below and rolls 1d20; the result is a 14. According to the table, the encounter will be with orcs. The die roll in the "Number Appearing" column of the table is 1d6; the DM rolls 1d6 and gets a 4. This means that the encounter is with four orcs. The DM can now consult the description of orcs in Chapter 14 to see what they do, how tough they are, how they behave, and so forth.
The deeper you go into a dungeon, the tougher the monsters get. There's actually six separate encoutner tables for dungeons, based on the dungeon level: 1, 2, 3, 4-5, 6-7, and 8-10. On the first level, you might run into 1d6 orcs, but on level 10 you might find 1d2 dragons.

Wilderness encounters work a little differently, since you don't have handly levels to separate the easy monsters from the tough ones. Instead, each terrain type has its own chart, which is not broken down by level. It's entirely possible for first-level characters to run into a cloud giant. There's even special tables for "castle encounters" and "city encounters" which I'm not going to get into but I will point out this paragraph.


The DM can determine character class of castle inhabitants either by using the Subtable: 10. Castle Encounters (page 98) or by selecting classes as appropriate. If the table is to be used, roll a 1d6; if the result is a 3, roll 1d6 again and see which of the demihuman races is the result. For human owners of a castle, regardless of class, roll ld20 + 8 for the owner's level. Demihumans' levels are listed in the table.

There's some information on handling random encounters for high-level characters when you generate a random encounter they could just plow through.


In low-level play, wandering monsters help make adventures interesting, keep the characters alert, and give the characters experience in dangerous situations. Once the characters are very experienced, though, wandering monsters no longer serve this last purpose. If the DM runs them exactly as they come up on the Encounter Tables, monster encounters will be nothing but boring delays or (at best) comic relief.

Therefore, when the PCs are high level, the DM needs to think briefly about every random encounter and decide how the PCs' experience levels affect things. He or she should discard (that is, not play) encounters that would be nothing but dull combats and keep the encounters that have other purposes.

The rest of the chapter is about Evasion and Pursuit . Again, we get a sequence of instructions on how to handle this.


1. Contact: The two parties encounter one another.
2. Decision to Evade: One party decides to evade. If the evading party is not surprised and the other party is surprised, evasion is automatically successful; go to Step 6. If the other party is not surprised, go to Step 2.
3. Decision to Pursue: The other party decides whether to pursue. The PCs decide for themselves; monsters must make a morale check (defined in Chapter 8). On a successful morale check, the monsters give chase (go to Step 4). On an unsuccessful morale check, the monsters do not chase (go to Step 6).
4. Attempt to Evade: The DM rolls on the Evasion Table. If the PCs succeed, they have evaded the pursuers (go to Step 6). If they fail, pursuit continues (Step 5).
5. Pursuit Continues: Movement is measured in rounds and conducted at running speed; both sides roll 1d6 for initiative once per round; the side with the higher roll moves first each round. The chase continues until one of the following happens:
a. The pursuers decide to give up. Monsters must make a new morale check every five rounds and give up the chase if they fail the check. Go to Step 6.
b. The evading party is caught by the pursuers (because of superior speed or terrain obstacles). Combat occurs; go
to the Combat Checklist in Chapter 8.
c. The evading party escapes (by using magic spells or by finally making a successful evasion roll on the Evasion Table when terrain and circumstances warrant). Go to Step 6.
6. Regain Bearings: Evaders rest and determine where they now are.
The tables mentioned above have evasion chances based on the size of the evading party, the size of the pursuing party, and external conditions.

There's also this:


Evaders can drop goods that the monsters might want; a hungry monster might want meat rations, for example, while a vampire might be more content with magical treasures. In these cases, the DM rolls 1d6 if he or she feels that the item dropped is indeed appealing to the monster. On a 1-3, the monster stops to consume (or retrieve) the proffered goods and is delayed long enough for the evaders to get away.

The last chapter is about balancing encounters and is labeled as "optional". I'll leave the interpritation of that up to the reader.

To figure out if an encounter is balanced to the party, first you determine the Total Party Level (TPL), which is the sum of all the character's levels. That's assuming, of course, that everyone is at full strength. If a character has take a point of damage for each level he has, then he's considered one level lower. If he's down two hit points per level, then he's considered two levels lower, and so on.

Next, you figure the individual adjusted hit dice of the monsters. This is done by taking the hit dice, adding the flat HP addition divided by 5, and rounding up. Unless the HP addition is negative, in which case you subtract half a hit die per two hp subtracted. Then you add a hit die for each special ability the monster has. You also adjust up if the NPC party has +2 or better weapons or have some spellcasters (highest level of spells / 2 / number of NPCs in the party, rounded up and added to the Individual Adjusted Hit Dice (IAHD) value for each NPC in the party). You do this for every monster or NPC in the group, then add them all together.

Now all you have to do is divide the total IAHD by the TPL, convert it to a percentage, consult a chart to get the challenge level! A result of 50-70% is a "Challenging" fight, and a result of 30-50% is a "Good fight".


Now imagine doing all that for a random encounter.

Jesus, this chapter was a slog. I really don't like this chapter simply because it's so dense with info and rules you don't really need. I very much feels like a textbook example of what happens when you feel you need to have rules to cover every situation that may come up ("What if we try to run away from the orcs in the forest when it's raining?").

Just bear in mind: I skipped a lot of stuff in this chapter, and you still see the complexity here. Just something to think about when people try and say that older versions of D&D were rules-light.

NEXT TIME: Fighty time!


posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post


Chapter 8: Combat

Wow, been a while since I posted on this, huh? When you see how long this is you'll understand why.

So OD&D combat! I hope you like the word "optional" because I'm going to be using it a lot.

As is the norm for this book, we're thrown right into things from the start of the chapter without any real lead-in.


When an encounter turns into a battle, the conflict is played out in combat rounds. Each combat round is ten seconds or game time.
During a round, characters can do one thing: move, attack, cast a spell, drink a potion, or any other single action that a person can normally do in ten seconds. A character cannot do two things in a single round, such as run 20 feet and then attack. He would have to run 20 feet in one round, then attack in the next round.

Characters rarely stand solidly in one place and fight without moving from one position. When a character attacks, we assume that he is maneuvering for position. To reflect this limited movement, a character can move up to 5 feet while he is fighting. Maneuvering in this way does not count as an action during the round.

That is how the chapter starts out, by the way. We haven't even gotten to intiative, and they're already talking about five-foot-steps.

It turns out that there are two kinds of combat: melee , which is hand-to-hand only, and a battle , which is when you start bringing in ranged attacks and spells and such. Sadly, the book doesn't mention why the difference is important.

Anyways, let's take a look at the Combat Sequence .
A. Initiative: Each side rolls Id6 to determine initiative.
B. First Side Goes: The side that won the initiative acts first.
   1. Morale (Optional): Monsters and NPCs roll Morale Checks. Also, anyone who needs to make a saving throw vs. an ongoing effect does so now.
   2. Movement: Characters who choose to move do so now.
   3. Missile Combat: Characters using missile and thrown weapons make their attacks.
      a. They choose their targets, 
      b. They make their attack rolls,
      c. They roll damage for any successful hits.
   4. Magic: Characters using magic cast their spells.
      a. They choose their targets,
      b. Their targets roll saving throws if appropriate. 
      c. The DM applies the results.
   5. Hand-to-Hand Combat: Characters fighting hand-to-hand make their attacks.
      a. They choose their targets,
      b. They make their attack rolls,
      c. They roll damage for any successful hits.
C. Second Side Goes: The side that lost the initiative acts now, performing the same five steps.
D. Special Results: The DM announces any special results.

So we start with the first phase: Intiative . Initiative is rolled as a group; each side rolls 1d6, whichever side gets the highest number goes first. On a tie, everything happens at the same time.

Wait, what? One roll for everyone? Only 1d6? No itiative modifiers? What madness is this?

Fortunately, there is the optional "Individual Initiative Rule" (where everyone rolls for themselves) and the "Dexterity Adjustment Rule" (add your Dexterity modifier to your individual initiative), so we can at least do something more than Final Fantasy I combat.

There's also an optional Morale rule: at various points in the fight (like when one side tries to run, or when someone on their side gets killed), the GM rolls 2d6 and compares it to the creatures' morale stat. If the role is higher than the creature's morale stat, they break and run.

Obviously, there are situational modifiers to the morale stat. For example, if the monsters have killed a PC but haven't taken a loss themselves yet, they get +2 to their morale. If the PCs are tossing a lot of magic around, the monsters get -1. Stuff like that. There's no hard list (surprisingly), but the modifier should stay in the +2 to -2 range.

It should be mentioned that, while the PCs don't need to roll morale, their retainers do. The purpose of the morale mechanic is to keep the GM's bias out of how monster act and keep it in the "hands" of the dice, and of course to maintain Gygaxian Natur...


DMs are free to ignore this rule entirely, and they can gauge the morale based on the situation, the nature of the creature involved, and any other factors they deem as relevant. The morale check is supposed to be a convenience for the DM, to give him a quick way to decide how creatures react; it's not a straight-jacket to keep him from role-playing a character the way he sees that character behaving.
...and once again, the grognards don't know what the hell they're talking about.

Phase 2 is Movement . There's not that much here, since this was covered in detail in chapter 6. During a round, you can move up to 1/3 your full encounter speed and still attack, and if you run you can't attack at all, but that's it.

Phase 3, 4, and 5 are the combat phases, and that's when you use Combat Maneuvers . This is just a fancy term for "what attacks you have available when".

During the Missle phase, you can throw or shoot ranged weapons.
During the Magic phase, you can cast a spell or use a magic item.
During the Hand-to-hand phase, you can attack, do a "fighting withdrawl", retreat, and perform the lance attack or set spear vs. charge maneuvers if you're a fighter. If you're doing the extra fighter abilities, you can also do stuff like multiple attacks, smash, parry, or disarm.

All this stuff has been explained before except "fighting withdrawl" and retreat.


Fighting Withdrawal
A character can only perform this maneuver when he begins his combat round in hand-to-hand combat with an enemy. With this maneuver, the character backs away from his enemy at a rate of 5' per round. He makes no attack unless his enemies follow him later in the same combat round, on the enemies' own movement phase. If they do, he can make his attack at the end of the enemies' movement phase, before the enemies begin their own attacks. The character's attack is the same as a normal attack. If he is not in handto-hand combat with his enemy when his movement phase comes around in the next round, he can go to running speed that next round.

A character can only perform this maneuver when he begins his combat round in hand-tohand combat with an enemy. The character runs away from his enemy at greater than half his encounter speed, up to his full encounter speed. He forfeits the armor class bonus of his shield. Any enemy attacking him later in the combat round (that is, either an enemy who followed him during the enemies' movement phase or an enemy attacking with a ranged weapon) receives a +2 attack roll bonus this round. This is the same +2 that characters normally get for attacking from behind (see the Attack Roll Modifiers Table on page 108).
If the character is not in hand-to-hand combat with his enemy when his movement phase comes up in the next round, he can go to running speed that next round.
Or, to put things in more modern terms, a fighting withdrawl is a shift that gives you a free attack if you're followed, and a retreat is...uh, just moving away from your opponent and forgoing your shield bonus. Okay then.

Now, here's the thing...if we're talking about attacks, we need to talk about attack rolls. And that means that we have to sit down, and talk about the Attack Roll Table and THAC0 .

Now, I could sit here and give you a bunch of math, or talk about calculations and hit dice vs. AC and so on, but I'm just going to screenshot these things because if I didn't, I don't think you guys would believe me.

Now you guys know why it took so long for me to get motivated to do this chapter.

We also get a reminder of how THAC0 works here; if the target's AC is higher than 0 (and therefore worse than 0), you subtract the AC from your THAC0 and that's the number you need to roll above to hit. If the target's AC is below 0 (and therefore better than 0), you add the AC to your THAC0, and that's the number you need to meet or beat to hit.

There can, of course, be modifiers to the attack roll. There are surprisingly few, though: attacking from behind (-2 and the target doesn't get his shield AC bonus), stat modifiers, magic items, attacker or target being exhausted, range, and cover are pretty much it.

Now let's focus on the combat phases. First up is the Missile phase , and this is pretty straightforward: everyone who's firing a missile weapon or throwing something goes now. One interesting thing to note is that any ranged weapon attack done against a target up to 5' away from you will always automatically miss unless the target can't move at all.

There is a "Partial Concealment" optional rule, and it works like this:


A combat round is ten seconds long. The DM should calculate, based on how he sees the situation, how long the target was exposed, then consult the table below for the target's defensive bonus. The bonus applies both to armor class and saving throws. In fact, if the attack is a spell that normally does not allow a saving throw, any defensive bonus from partial exposure gives the target a saving throw of 20.
Basically the way it works is that for every second you're behind cover, you get an AC/saving throw bonus. The more second, the better the bonus. I can't imagine why you'd feel the need to track things to that granular level, but there you go.

Next is the Magic phase , which is when spells go off. There's only one new piece of information here: you can't roll more than 20 damage dice for a spell no matter what.

Now comes the Hand-to-hand phase which is when the fighty mans hit each other. This section does have a bit more information because there are a few optional sub-systems here you can bring to bear.

First is Two-Weapon fighting. If you fight with a weapon in each hand, you get an extra attack per round (at a -4 to hit). Also, if you're using the Weapon Mastery rules, your second attack is treated as being one Mastery level lower.

There's also rules for what happens when you want to use two-weapon fighting, multiple attacks, and weapon mastery all at the same time. It can get complex, and is affected by the specific weapons you're using. Some weapons (like a cestus or spiked shield) alter the penalties and modifiers and such.

Unarmed combat is not an optional system, so I don't know why they put it here between two optional systems. (Have I mentioned that this book isn't organized as well as it could be?) Basically, if you don't have a weapon, you do 1 plus your strength mod damage.

And from that simple statement we get to the second-best optional rules in the game: [/b]Striking and Wrestling[/b].

Here's how they work.

First off, anyone can strike or wrestle. Mystics use the striking rules if they want to hit someone without killing them. Second, you have to be completely unarmed to use these rules. No chairs or improvised weapons allowed in the ring.

Striking works like a normal hand-to-hand attack, and happens in the same phase. When you hit someone with a strike, you only do Strentgh mod damage, but the target hit by the strike must roll a d20-his Constistution score (or his Hit Dice*2 if it's a monster). If the result is at least 1, then he's stunned for one round. On top of that, he must make a save vs. death ray with a +4 bonus or be knocked the fuck out for a number of rounds equal to the Con roll.

There are a few restrictions, of course. You can't knock someone out if you have less than 4 Hit Dice, and you can't stun or KO something that's more than twice your size (not weight). This means that a halfling can't stun or KO a human, but can against an elf. Also, creatures like undead, oozes, things with multiple heads, and ones immune to normal weapons can't be knocked out.

On the plus side, you can take Weapon Mastery levels in striking boxing; higher levels do more damage, negate the off-hand penalty for punching, and put a penalty on the save vs. KO. A Grand Master boxer does 3d4 damage with the first hit, 2d4+1 with the second (at no penalty), and puts a -5 penalty on the save.

By the way, being "stunned" means you can't attack, you're at -4 to save and +4 to AC, can't cast, and you move at 1/3 your normal speed. In addition, you can't use general skills and all your weapon masterly levels revert to Basic.

The striking optional system has a few optional rules itself; pulling punches, punching with cestus/brass knuckles, making the KO save harder based on the attack's Strength, things like that. There's also a few optinal Fighter/Demihuman Combat Options, like this one:


Smash : An unarmed character with the smash maneuver option may smash with his fist; this is called a "haymaker." He suffers the normal -5 to hit, but the other smash rules are different for a haymaker. First, the unarmed character adds only half his Strength score to the damage he does with the smash. Second, a victim who must make a saving throw vs. death ray against knockout does so at a -4 penalty, negating the standard +4 bonus given. Third, the haymaker can affect monsters of any size ; monsters two or more times the size of the attacker are not immune to stun and knockout effects of the haymaker.
To answer the question you're all thinking: yes, this means a fighter can knock out a small dragon with one punch, and with a few mastery levels have a chance at KOing some of the large ones. Small dragons have 7 to 10 HD, which doubles to 14 to 20. If it flubs the d20-(2*HD) roll (which is possible for 9HD or less), it'd be stunned for a round and have to make the flat save vs. death ray. Small dragons save as 10th level fighters, which means they need to roll a 5 or better to save. That still means that if you punch a small dragon with a haymaker and connect, there's a 25% chance you will knock it right the fuck out .

A sweet science, indeed.

Now that we've learned how to break a dragon's jaw, let's learn how to suplex them afterward and look at the wrestling rules.

Like striking, anyone can try to wrestle. You roll intiative and everything as normal, but if you try to wrestle someone who's armed they win initiative against you automatically. Just for the record, "touch" spells and abilities can happen during wrestling, so wrestle-wizards are sort of viable.

If you want to wrestle, you need to figure out your Wrestling Rating (or WR). For characters, this is level*2+Str mod+Dex mod+unmodified AC. For monsters, it's HD*2+9 if unarmored, or HD*2+AC if it has armor.


Worse armor classes (for instance, 9) result in better wrestling ratings than good armor classes (for instance, 2). This is correct. The more armor a character is wearing, the harder it is for him to wrestle effectively. Remember, magic bonuses and Dexterity adjustments do not count toward wrestling ratings.

When the bell rings, both people roll 1d20 every round, adding WR if he's actually trying to wrestle, and the higher roll wins that round.

At the start of the fight, both combatants are considered "Free" (i.e., not actually entangled with each other) on this table:
Starting at Free, if you win the roll you've Grabbed the other guy. If you win next round, you go from Grab to Takedown and so on.

If only one character is trying to wrestle, then you just move down that table each round the wrestler wins the roll. If the other guy tries to wrestle back, things get a little more complex. If they tie, then there's no change. If you win against your opponent, you move one rank down towards Pin. If your opponent wins, though, you move up one rank towards Free. In other words, once you actually lock up, whoever won the roll to get to Grabbed is trying to get to Pinned, and the wrestlee is trying to get back to Free to escape.

Now, even when you're grabbed, taken down, or pinned, you still have some options. If you're grabbed, you can still throw small or medium throwing weapons, smash, disarm, or stab the guy grabbing you. You can't cast, fire a missile weapon, use magic items, and other assorted complex actions while grabbed, though. If you're taken down, pretty much all you can do is wrestle or stab your opponent with small weapons. If you're pinned, all you can do is try to escape the pin (at -3 to the wrestlying roll). If you're the one doing the pinning, you can do 1d6+Str damage per round if you want.

There are more rules than that, of course. There are rules for multiple wrestlers (i.e., dogpiles), and attacking into a wrestling match. And again, you can take weapon mastery ranks in wresting to improve your WR (resulting in faster takedowns) and give opponents penalties to their WR when you've got them pinned. A Grand Master wrestler can dues 3d4/2d4 damage, gets +4 to his WR, and gives a pinned opponent a -15 to their WR.

The optional rules for wrestling aren't as interesting as they are for striking; class adjustments, instant pin on a natural 20, and how to deal with multiple attacks is about it.

Believe it or not, there's still more stuff after all that. The next section is a short thing on Aerial Combat. There's nothing really different here, except for a new general notes:
1) If you're on a flying mount with wings, you have to use Large melee weapons. If you're using a fly spell or a magic carpet or something, you can use small or medium weapons.
2) There are no specific modifiers for aerial melee combat, amazingly enough.
3) Missle combat does get a -4 penalty for "unsteady mounts" (anything with wings), though.
4) You can't cast spells at all from an unsteady mount.

There's also special rules for dropping heavy items and charging "swooping", but they're not that interesting.

Now we move to Naval Combat. Again, this follows the normal sequence except:
1) Hand weapons do no damage directly against ships.
2) Ships can ram each other or monsters in the water. Damage depends on the size of the ship and the target.
3) If you ram, the ships can "grapple" which leads to boarding actions.
4) Ships slow down the more damage they take, and repairs take a long time.

From ship-to-ship combat we move logically to underwater combat. All you need to know about this is that everyone who isn't a native water-dweller has a -4 penalty to hit, you can't use missile weapons, Fire and Air based spells don't work, you can't cast if you don't have a way to breathe, and hand-to-hand weapons take another -10 to hit and only do half damage. Oh, and you can drown, too.

Finally, we come to Siege Combat. These are the siege combat rules based off the normal combat rules; next chapter we're going to cover actual Mass Combat.

There are four kinds of siege damage (creature, structural, fire, special) and three types of targets (monsters, wooden, stone). Different types of weapons and attacks affect each of these types differently. Thow they are is not listed here, because that info's in the equipment and mass combat chapters. There is a long list of how different spells and damage types affect siege-level targets; burning buildings, floods, polymorph, and so on.

And...that's it! Finally!

I know combat is an important part of any RPG, but goddamn this chapter. I've commented before on how dense the text of the RC is, but this is the first part of the book where it really starts getting heavy . Technically it's not that long (14 pages), but there is a friggin' ton of information there; just for reference this post is just over 3,500 words long and I summarized a lot of info.

And really, except for the THAC0 stuff it's not as complex as it seems. Still, this is where you really start to notice all the writing quirks and poor organization.

Either way, I just want to finish up this chapter by appologizing once again for the long ass delay, and to point out that 4e grappler fighters had their start in RC D&D. Which I'm pretty sure predates most anime in the States, even though most grogs maintain that punching out a dragon or putting a demon in a Figure Four Leg Lock is anime.

Which just goes to show that, once again, the grogs don't know what they're talking about.

NEXT TIME: Mass fighty time!

Mass Combat

posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post


Chapter 9: Mass Combat

Now that we know how to fight small-scale combat, it's time to look at the Mass Combat rules, a.k.a. The War Machine . You'll also see why it took me so goddamn long to write this.

The War Machine has a few basic assumptions:


1. All troops have a "level of quality" that can improve or drop with time and experience.
2. Many other factors such as terrain, weather, etc., besides quality of troops, influence the outcome of a large battle.
3. Luck, good or bad, can influence combat results, whether in a single combat or a clash of armies.
4. A character knows how to survive in the D&D world; the player does not need to know the tactics of war.
Look at number 4 there. Separation between a character's abilities and the player's. Looks like player skill only goes so far.

Anyway, here's how things work. It's a four-step process.
[*]Figure out the "basic force ruling" (BFR) of each force in the conflict.
[*]Find the "troop class".
[*]Calculate the "battle rating" (BR).
[*]Roll d%, add the BRs, and whoever rolls highest wins.

Seems simple, right? Well, not exactly, because we have sub-steps and charts to wade through. So everyone get ready for a trip to Minutia Town!

Just as a note, every force of troops has a leader (who runs the show) and officers who help. These terms will be coming up shortly.

You start out by calculating the "basic force rating" of each force in the battle. (And yes, the name does change between the list and the section in the next column.) This is calculated by taking the level of the force's leader, add the adjustments for the mental stats, and add +2 for each 1% of the force that is 9th level or higher. This gives you the Leadership Factor.

Then you take the average level of all the officers in the force, multiply that by 3, add double the average level of the troops, add one for every victory they've had (up to +10) and subtract one for every loss (up to -10). That total is the Experience Factor.

Then you figure the Training Factor. This starts with one point for every week spent training (up wo 20 points per year), adding 1 for each month the leader trained with them (max 20) and for each month the troops were on duty (max 12).

Then you calculate the Equipment Factor. This starts at 5, 10, or 15 depending on the quality of gear (average/good/excellent). The only thing that determines quality of gear is the cost (x1/x2/x3). Add 5 to this number if the troops have a back-up weapon, and another 5 if the average AC is 5 or better.

Then you figure the Special Troop Factor. If the force is all elves or dwarfs, then it's 15.


Note that dwarves and elves are never in the same force.
If you have monsters with special Hit Dice, then there's more math. For each 1% of the force that has special hit dice, you add 2 points to the Special Troop Factor.

Now you add up the Leadership, Experience, Training, Equipment, and Special Troop factors, and you finally get your Basic Force Rating! Simple!

So that's step 1. Only three more to go!

Step 2 is finding the Troop Class. This is actually easy: look up the BFR on a table to get the description of the troop's class: Untrained/Poor/Below Average/Fair/etc.

Step 3 is calculating the Battle Rating. You do this by dividing the BFR by 10; this number is the bonus and you add it to the BFR for each of the following statements that's true:


a. 20% or more of the force is mounted,
b. 50% or more of the force is mounted.
c. 20% or more of the force can use missile fire.
d. 20% or more of the force has a missile fire range of 100' or more.
e. 1% or more of the force is equipped with magical abilities.
f. 20% or more of the force is equipped with magical abilities.
g. 100% of the force is equipped with magical abilities.
h. 5% or more of the force can cast spells.
i. 30% or more of the force can cast spells.
j. 1 % or more of the force can fly.
k. 20% or more of the force can fly.
l. The force has an average movement rate of 100' per turn (or more).
Once you finish adding all the bonuses to the BFR, the final number is the Battle Rating .

If you don't feel like doing all that, there's a "Quick Battle Ratings" system where you just add a bunch of numbers together to get the BR. It's hardly called out and you have to wonder why they didn't just use that system in the first place.

Oh, something else mentioned in passing: to use the War Machine rules, each side has to have the same number of forces. So if one side has three separate forces and the other has one, then the side with one has to split into three separate forces.

So now we're at Step 4: Determine combat results . The overall result of the battle is determined by taking the BR we got in the last step, modifying it even more based on Troop Ratio (how outnumbered you are), morale, environment, terrain, immunities, and fatigue. Each of those can modify your BR even more.

Once you have your final final BR, you roll percentile and add your BR. Whoever gets the highest value wins.

At least, wins that exchange.

When you figure which force beats its opponent, you then have to figure losses. This is done on a chart where you look up the difference between the winner's BR and the loser's. This gives you casualties, fatigue, and location (fall back/press ahead) for both sides. Then you roll off with BR again and again once per game day until one side is wiped out.


The next part before the optional rules is some extra rules for simplified sieges if you want to use the above rules instead of the provided Siege mechanics. Yikes.

There are a few optional rules for all this if you've got room on your spreadsheet:
Tactics: Each sides's commander secretly picks a "tactic" from a list of six, and compares them at the same time. You cross-reference the result and apply it to the battle (so if side A picks "Attack" and side B picks "Hold", then side B gets -10% casualties.)
Mercy: If you're winning, you can offer mercy to the opponent for bonuses.
Character Actions: the characters doing things like scouting or coming up with a good plan can get you some bonuses.

And we're still not done with normal army-vs-army combat! There's another 3/4 of a page before we get to the Siege Engine system. This stuff is mostly extraneous bits; how to work mass combat into a normal session, and rules for troop movement if you really want to track food for ten thousand dwarves and watch armies circle each other.

Okay, all that stuff? The 100 or so lines I just finished up there? That's five pages in the book and I skipped a large chunk of detail . Now you know why it took me so goddamn long to write this part. And there's still another four pages for the Siege Engine!

The Siege Machine is the companion to the War Machine rules, except they're meant to be used when you send waves of your own men against a large wall instead of other dudes.


A siege situation is one where an army tries to capture a fortified structure held by another army. When, in the course of a normal D&D® game, a siege situation crops up, the players and the DM must decide how they want to resolve it. There are three methods:
1. Play a normal game based on the siege.
2. Use the basic War Machine system.
3. Use the Siege Machine.

Siege Machine builds on the War Machine rules, taking a few new things into account, like fortifications and siege engines.

Each side is also more limited in their options; attackers can depart, bombard, harass, or assault, and defenders can, uh...sit there, or send out an attack force.

Unfortunately, since sieges take longer than army battles, there's more stuff we need to track now.

Before you even get the siege rolling, you need to do some prep work. You have to figure out the costs for the weekly payroll, food and water supplies, and ammo.


Review the detailed notes given for each topic at the end of this section.
You also need to calculate your BFR/troop class/BR like normal, with the addition of taking things like walls and siege engines into account. There are also other considerations you need to take into account if you're the attacker or defender; the attacker's final BR depends on the tactic they're using, while the defender adds his total defense bonuses.

Now we actually enter the Siege Engine algorithm.

First, everyone has to subtract cash for their troops and supplies each battle week except for the first. You need to pay troops, buy supplies and food, ammo, and dominion costs.

Next, you modify each side's BR based on the usual stuff; terrain, morale and so on.

Now each side picks a tactic, which is required in the Siege Machine but wasn't in the War Machine. The main difference is that if the attacker picks "bombard", then the defender has to use the "bombard" tactic back no matter what he picked. The choices of tactics modify your RB again .

Finally, you apply the results. This depends on the attacker's tactic: each one has a different system. For instance:


Bombard: The attacking player adds the BR bonus gained for artillery and ballista. He then rolls 1d10 to determine casualties inflicted on the defending forces. The resulting roll is read as a percentage (10%, 20%, 30%, etc.) of the BR rating equaling the Hit Dice of casualties inflicted on the defenders. The defender follows the same procedure, but rolls 2d10.
Harass: Each player rolls d %, and adds the result to the BR of the force. The player with the higher total wins this round of the siege. Subtract the lower total from the higher, and refer to the War Machine Combat Results Table to find the resulting casualties and fatigue. (Up to this point, the procedure is identical to that of the War Machine.) Modify the results as follows:
a. All casualties are only one-tenth of normal (drop the last zero in all cases).
b. Both attackers and defenders ignore location changes; a "Rout" or "—" result for fatigue is treated as "S."
c. Defender casualties are half the final percent. If artillery is used, calculate casualties as for bombard.

There are also rules available that let you give your opponent false intel about your forces and do "siege accounting" where you track all those boulders you're lobbing at the castle.

On the plus side, the Siege Machine rules actually take into account that you can have people who can literally summon food and water out of thin air, and gives you a chart so you can tell how many people a level whatever cleric can feet per week. It's a small thing, but it's nice that they actually acknowledge the fact that having people who can snap their fingers and make lunch appear mean that having enemies camped on the farmland isn't quite a big a problem as you'd think.

You can also have "special squads", like reconnaissance, demolition, and commando squads. Special squads "usually involve magic", and need to be created before the siege starts because I guess you can't get a half-dozen guys together and tell them "guard the wizard while he fireballs that catapult" once things start flying. Special squads don't fit into the Siege Machine rules, they play out under the normal D&D rules.

We also have rules for building/repairing siege equipment in the field if you've got a nearby source of materials. Obviously, you need a lot of said supplies; better hope there's a forest or something nearby if you need to make a catapult in the field.

Oh, and there are post-siege adjustments to make once things are done! You need to figure damage to fortifications, because fortifications at 75% hit points aren't as effective.

The chapter closes out with this:


These notes are offered as historical information, to stimulate the imagination and give a more detailed view of medieval siege warfare.
The siege section of the War Machine already reflects the assumption that some or all siege weapons are being employed, and that some appropriate defenses are at hand and likewise used. For fast resolution of any assault on a fortification (whether walled town or huge fortress), you can still use that system.
However, not all attacks on fortresses will result in sieges. This is especially true if powerful magic-users are present, for magic can produce very fast results. When both sides have powerful magic-users, the battle could be quickly resolved in either direction, depending on the tactics used. The War Machine rules are inadequate for such cases. A game session devoted entirely to this sort of battle is recommended.
If a long siege situation does arise, one important point should be emphasized: the costs of paying one's forces and maintaining supplies for their use should be strictly applied throughout any siege. Cost was historically (and should remain, in the game) the greatest obstacle to siege warfare.
...uh huh.

And finally, we're done with the mass combat rules!

I know it's probably unfair to compare a game written decades ago to something more recent, but I can't help but compare these rules to the way that Remnants did it: "do some quick addition to figure base army strength, give each character a spotlight scene where they try to influence the battle, roll and high number wins".

I mean, I get that D&D was based on wargaming and it really shows here, but this just seems like the clunkiest way to go about handling mass combat short of breaking out an actual wargame and playing that for two weeks. If you're going to reduce the battle to nothing but long calculations to get two numbers, then slam them against each other, why do you need so much detail?

I know technically there's nothing wrong with the "rulings not rules" stance of the OSR, and this is still one of my favorite versions of D&D, but Jesus Christ when OSR types use that term to talk smack about modern game design I want to rub this damn chapter in their face.

Any, we're through the worst of the book now, so...

NEXT TIME: How to get better at stuff!


posted by Evil Mastermind Original SA post


Chapter 10: Experience

As we all know, character advancement in D&D (and 99% of the other RPGs in existance) comes through the accumulation of experience points. While nowadays we have things like unified XP tables or level-less systems when you just spend XP to get something, back in the old days each class had its own experience chart as we saw way the hell back in chapter 2. This was done as a way of balancing the classes; the more powerful the class the more XP you needed to level up. A fighter needs 8,000 total XP to get to level 4, whereas a wizard needs 10,000 XP and an elf needs 16,000.

So how do you get these XPs? There are five ways:


1. By Role-Playing Well
2. By Achieving Party Goals
3. By Defeating Monsters and Opponents
4. By Acquiring Treasure
5. By Performing Exceptional Actions
Unsurprisingly, there's mechanics for all five of these ways.

By Role-Playing Well means stuff like playing your alignment or performing something exceptioanlly heroic. You do that, the GM can give you an XP award equal to 1/20th of the experience needed to get from your current level to your next level. So if you're a level 2 thief and you role-play well, you'd get 60 XP (going from level 2 to level 3 costs 1,200 XP, so you get a twentieth of that).

Achieving Party Goals means accoplishing whatever it is everyone set out to do. Completing quests, finishing an adventure, that sort of thing.


Normally, this bonus should be equal to the experience point total the characters received for all the monsters they defeated in the course of that story line.
For this reason, it's a good idea for the DM to keep track of the encounters the characters have had in the course of a protracted story line. That way, he'll find it much simpler to recalculate this experience bonus.
...which is odd, because monsters xp is calculated separately. I guess they mean you get all that XP again? Also there's that word "story" again.

Speaking of monsters, Defeating Monsters and Opponents is an easy one; every monster in the book has an XP value listed with it. Just add up all the values for all the monsters defeated or overcome, divide that number between everyone in the party (PCs and NPCs), and done. If the monster isn't one from the main book, there's a chart where you can get its XP value based on its hit dice and number of special abilities.


Characters who die are awarded their share of points, too: They'll need the points if raised from the dead, and this rule helps deter characters from coveting their fallen comrades' experience points.
Also, if the PCs didn't actually defeat certain opponents (they ran away, or were captured or something) they only get 1/4 the monsters' XP.

Experience From Treasure is easy: 1 gp = 1 xp. Note that this is just for treasure you've found and kept . If you find a magic sword and sell it, you get XP for the money you get for the sword, not the sword itself. No double-dipping.

Lastly, Performing Exceptional Actions is the catch-all "did something awesome not covered by the previous categories" category, and the reward is 1/20th of the XP needed to get to your next level.

And don't forget, all these XP rewards can be adjusted up or down a bit depending on your stats.

Knowing all that, how fast do characters level?


On the average, characters should go up one experience level approximately every five adventures. At that speed, level advancement doesn't come easily enough to cause boredom, but isn't rare enough to cause frustration.
Various factors can adjust that rate of experience gain. Are most of the characters magic-users or elves, who require more experience points than most other classes? They might go up an average of once every six or seven adventures. Do you play two short games a week instead of one long one? Characters might go up a level once every eight to ten adventures instead. Do you play once a month or less?
You might think about adjusting experience gains so they go up a level once every two games, so that the players don't become frustrated by their slow rate of progress.
You can tell that first paragraph was written back in the days before most players had full-time jobs and familial/social obligations. We're old.

Anyway, no matter how fast you want things to go, you can't get more than one level per adventure, and there is a maximum hp value for each class (which is just the maximum hp possible with max Con and rolling max on every hit die). A fighter tops out at 153 hp for the highest total, while the halfling is the lowest at 72.

On the subject of "maxing out", when you hit level 26 you can start walking the paths to Immortality. These will be covered more in a few chapters' time, but they break down to building a great empire, becoming a classic epic hero, mastering your chosen class profession and building upon it, or mastering all known skills.

Lastly, there's information on how to create a higher-level character instead of starting off fresh at level 1. This is pretty much the same as normal character creation, but there are a few differences:

First off, you choose your class, then roll or pick your stats. The book flat-out states that normal "3d6 six times in order" shouldn't be used in this case, since it's possible to get stats that don't jive with your class. Instead, you should do roll-and-assign or point allocation (60+5d6 points for stats).

Second, you start with 1% of your XP in cash. So if you're starting as a level 8 fighter, you start with 120,001 XP and 1,200 gp. Note that this gold isn't used to buy normal gear; high level characters start with appropriate normal gear. This is how much you have on hand after you've "bought" all your mundane stuff.

Third, you start with a few magic items. You can either buy them with your starting cash, or let the GM just roll on the treasure tables, getting him a number of magic doodads equal to half his level.


Though this may seem quite generous, remember that a high-level fighter (for example) often has a set of magical armor, a magical shield, one or two permanent magical weapons, and a few temporary ones (usually missiles)-plus a few potions, a useful scroll or two (often protection), a ring, and possibly a few miscellaneous magical items.

Fourth, the GM may be allowed to set up the background for the new character.


The DM may choose to prepare a detailed background for each new character. The character may be on a special quest, or perhaps affected by a curse or other external force. The DM should also list current rumors, mysteries, or clues of which the player character is aware.
Oh yeah, and you'll probably start with a few retainers and troops and whatnot as appropriate.

Aaaaand...that's pretty much it. There's really nothing much for me to sum up here. Not that I'm complaining; after the last chapter I needed something simple. But again, it's interesting to look at how something as simple as handing out XP was actually handled back then, especially when you compare it with how people seem to think or remember it happened.

NEXT TIME: Hangers-on! Hiring people to adventure for you!