Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Man-to-Man Combat: An Example

Here is an example of Man-to-Man Combat using D&D hit points. In this mock battle, three highwaymen accost Bishop Eustace the Useless (a 6th level cleric of St. Marr, armed with chain mail, shield, mace and 20 hits). The brigands are three normal men with leather armour and a shield, armed with a spear (5 hits), sword (2 hits) and flail (3 hits) respectively. The fastest weapons in the fight are the mace (3) and sword (4), while the longest weapons in the fight are the flail (7) and spear (8). The mace is ill-suited to combat leather armour and shield (requiring a 9+ on two dice to hit), while the sword, flail and spear are of varying use against chain and shield (9+, 7+ and 10+ respectively).

After enduring a surprising and withering barrage of insults, Eustace charges the scalawags (he won initiative and chose to move first). The bandits with flail and spear get the first defensive strike (for reach), followed by Eustace (as attacker) and then finally the swordsman brigand (as defender).

As a Bishop, Eustace fights as a Hero - 1 with four attacks (one with a -1 penalty), and as long as he diverts some of his attacks against the flail and spearman, the speed of his mace will grant him a bonus attack against those opponents as well. While the Brigands declare their single attacks on Eustace, the clergyman plans to engage all of his foes (if he does so, he will gain a bonus attack for speed against the spear and flail thugs). Further, Eustace declares his intent to parry the bandits' attacks - a minor parry against the lightning fast sword (costing one attack, in this case the penalized one) and a midi parry against the other two combatants (costing one attack each, but with the possibility of disarming or riposting the enemy).

Now it is time to resolve the action. The spearman strikes first, needing a 10+ on two dice to pierce the Bishop's chain mail and shield, and taking a -2 penalty for the parry attempt. An attack roll of 8-2 proves insufficient, and Eustace will regain his lost attack with a riposte. The bandit armed with the flail needs a 7+ on two dice with a -2 penalty, and connects with a roll of 10-2 (Eustace takes 2 hit points of damage and loses his chance to riposte). Eustace would levy his initial strike here, but by parrying he defers the action to the swordsman, who promptly misses his swing (the Bishop does not regain his spent attack in a riposte, as the sword is not significantly slower than the mace). Now Eustace may foist his initial blow, directed towards the swordsman, smashing him with a roll of 11 for 2 points - enough to kill him outright.

Eustace may now take his remaining strikes - of his initial four, he has lost two in parry attempts and spent another to dispatch the swordsman. The one basic attack that remains is owed to the spearman (the riposte). However, as he has engaged both the spearman and the flail thug with attacks (albeit ones spent on parry attempts), he gains a bonus strike against each for weapon speed. The spearman is clubbed once for 3 points of damage (not enough to fell him) and the brigand with the flail goes unharmed.

As one third of the enemy force has been slain, the bandits must now check their morale (likely testing as light foot, needing an 8 or better on two dice to remain on the field). In the next round, initiative order will switch to faster, lighter weaponry, giving the Bishop the first blow over his opponents.


  1. Excellent example. Now you're going to force me to re-read the parrying rules!

    How did you arrive at the idea that Hero -1 equals four attacks with a single on at -1, as opposed to -1 on all four strikes?

  2. In his essay I link to in the previous article, Jason Vey surmises that Hero attacks follow the same formula as monsters in OD&D. I.E., according to Volume II, the Troll attacks normal men with 6 attacks and gains a +3 to hit on one of the attacks for its 6+3 hit dice. I am inclined to agree with Vey here, as it just makes sense that a cleric (for instance) moves from making 3 attacks to making four attacks (with the new attack slightly penalized) and then to making four normal attacks when moving from levels 5 to 7. It's a question of odds - 3 non-penalized attacks are sometimes better and sometimes worse than 4 penalized attacks, depending on the targets AC. It wouldn't make sense for the higher level character to be sometimes worse than his previous level. If the character is merely gaining a bonus minor attack, then this is always an improvement.

    Interestingly, the Man-to-Man rules in Chainmail suggest leaders fight with a +1 on their attack rolls, which corresponds nicely with the 1st level Fighting-Man (the "Veteran"), who likewise gets a +1 on his one and only attack.

    Too bad my rolls didn't give me a good chance to demonstrate the disarming rules in Man-to-Man combat. They are also definitely worth checking out.



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