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[1st ed AD&D] So, how does weapon to hit bonus by amour type work?

Particle_Man

White Knight
Validated User
I can see the AC 10 (no armour), AC 9 (just shield), AC 8 (just leather) and AC 2 (plate and shield) but the ACs between 3 and 7 seem to have very different combinations, like (and I may get this wrong because I don't have the manual but bear with me) one type of amour by itself (say chainmail) and another type of armour + shield (say scale male and shield) having the same armour class, and therefore certain weapons having the same bonus against them (this is that table in the players handbook that has each individual weapon listed vs. each numbered armour class).

I would have thought "just ignore the shield for the purpose of this table" but then AC 9 and AC 2 only make sense with shields involved.

How should I read this table?
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
In OD&D, armor class meant armor class, not a number that's calculated by adding together other numbers. Here's a transcription of that original table:

AC
2 plate armor & shield
3 plate armor
4 chain mail & shield
5 chain mail
6 leather & shield
7 leather armor
8 shield only
9 no armor or shield

It's better to think of those numbers as ordinal, rather than cardinal. Wearing no armor and not having a shield means you have 9th class armor. It doesn't mean you added up some numbers that total "9". And that's the way it works in OD&D, because you never modify that number. Dex only affects missile weapons, not AC. And magical armor reduces the attacker's chance to hit, instead of adjusting the defender's AC. The tank in plate and shield is always AC 2.

AD&D inherited that basic concept, but the types of armor multiplied, and things like Dex and magical bonuses started to affect the actual number, turning it cardinal. Well, in part.

Other parts of the system still treat AC as an ordinal number. The weapon vs. armor table, for instance. Those digits running across the top of the table refer to specific armor and shield combinations, not the final number. AC 5 means chain mail. It doesn't matter that the number you wrote in the shield on your character sheet is 2 (because you have a Dex 15, and +2 armor).
 
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rstites

Active member
Validated User
Good catch. I never used these adjustments and never noticed that issue. My guess is that Gygax didn't think it through because as far as I can tell this mechanic was a complete afterthought, and he didn't use it. According to the rules in the PHB + DMG it sounds as if you should simply use the bonus for a base AC regardless of what types of armor achieve that, which seems nonsensical for this table.

However, I can note the following. It first shows up in Supplement I: Greyhawk* and is matched to OD&D AC's of 2-9 which each correspond to a specific armor combination: plate + shield (2), plate (3), chain+shield (4), chain (5), leather+shield (6), leather (7), shield (8), and unarmored (9), respectively.

As such, I'd apply it like this in 1e: plate + shield (2), plate (3), chain+shield (4), chain (5), scale (6), leather+shield (7), leather (8), shield (9), and unarmored (10), respectively. It appears that AC 6 is the controversial one and could reasonably be either Scale or Studded/Ring + Shield. Anyhow, I'd treat splint as scale for bonuses and studded and ring like leather.

* They really come directly from Man-to-Man in Chainmail where there are no bonuses, but rather a cross-reference table of weapon vs. types of armor for scoring a hit on 2d6. The to-hit adjustments are an adaptation of that to the d20 mechanic when it became the de facto standard for early D&D combat.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
However, I can note the following. It first shows up in Supplement I: Greyhawk* and is matched to OD&D AC's of 2-9 which each correspond to a specific armor combination: plate + shield (2), plate (3), chain+shield (4), chain (5), leather+shield (6), leather (7), shield (8), and unarmored (9), respectively.

As such, I'd apply it like this in 1e: plate + shield (2), plate (3), chain+shield (4), chain (5), scale (6), leather+shield (7), leather (8), shield (9), and unarmored (10), respectively. It appears that AC 6 is the controversial one and could reasonably be either Scale or Studded/Ring + Shield. Anyhow, I'd treat splint as scale for bonuses and studded and ring like leather.
If you flip back one leaf in the Players Handbook, there's a table specific to AD&D with all the armor and shield combinations and which AC they're associated with. Though the table does get weird because if you examine the numbers it seems to assume that AC 4 has a shield, and AC 5 doesn't, and that's not always the case with the new armor types.
 

rstites

Active member
Validated User
If you flip back one leaf in the Players Handbook, there's a table specific to AD&D with all the armor and shield combinations and which AC they're associated with. Though the table does get weird because if you examine the numbers it seems to assume that AC 4 has a shield, and AC 5 doesn't, and that's not always the case with the new armor types.
Yeah, I know that. I was trying to parse which ones would actually apply to the given bonuses. I think what the OP is after, and I agree, is that Chainmail + Shield, Banded Mail, and Splint Mail all are AC 4, but shouldn't have the same bonus to hit for any given weapon.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
Yeah, I know that. I was trying to parse which ones would actually apply to the given bonuses. I think what the OP is after, and I agree, is that Chainmail + Shield, Banded Mail, and Splint Mail all are AC 4, but shouldn't have the same bonus to hit for any given weapon.
That's the weirdness I referred to. Footman's flail goes +2 +1 +2 +1, which seems to be an attempt to account for the shield. Which works if you just have chain mail, but skews the results if you have scale or splint since they're one point off, and fall into the "+ shield" class sans shield, and the "no shield" class when combined with a shield.

I'd be inclined to just use the armors from the OD&D table, and then shove all the odd armors into whichever major class seems the best fit, so weird things don't happen with shields. Though AC 6 is a tough one, because it's the gap in the OD&D table that AD&D filled in so ACs go up to 10, which means it's not clear which armor is represented by that column in the table, or what's supposed to happen when it's combined with a shield and overlaps with chain.
 

rstites

Active member
Validated User
I agree. This is reminding me why I never used this table! :) It's also why I prefer to just stick with leather, chain, and plate for armors and be done with it.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
I always liked the idea behind the table (the right weapon for the right job; if you're facing off against a knight, whip out the mace or warhammer instead of a scimitar, for instance), but it never quite worked. Second edition simplified it a bit by classifying weapons into 3 different types (bludgeoning, slashing, and piercing; though I may be misremembering the specific terms wrong), and then giving each class of weapons specific bonuses or penalties against all the different armors (like brigandine or field plate), though that has its problems as well because you still have to look up a new numbers for every new type of armor you face, which is the wrong way around. They simplified it from the defender's side, but it's the attacker who makes the attack and presumably looks up the number, so it's the armor that should should simplified by being grouped or typed, not the weapons. And it doesn't account for monsters; is an ankheg's chitinous exoskeleton more like plate, or banded, or scale, or splint?

One solution might be a tag system. Rate all kinds of defenses, from blubbery and scaly dragon bellies to a brand new curiass using labels, like metal, leather, flexible, rigid, blubbery, heavy, light, superheavy, or whatever. And then give all the weapons specific bonuses or penalties against armors tagged with certain labels. That way the attacker can put the modifiers on their character sheet, and only has to know the general class of armor they're attacking instead of looking up a very specific variety. Though, honestly, that's getting to complex for me.
 

rstites

Active member
Validated User
Some of us have explored using the old Chainmail Man-to-Man tables for D&D (as it was possibly/probably originally envisioned) for fun. They work neatly in that it cross-references armor and weapon and just gives a To-Hit number. That's the base for a normal person. Then you just add a bonus based on class/level to all rolls. I think that would work easier than the list of bonuses for specific armor types since you only have one bonus to track in the Man-to-Man case.
 
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