• The Infractions Forum is available for public view. Please note that if you have been suspended you will need to open a private/incognito browser window to view it.

[OSR]Linear Fighter Quadratic Wizard-Beefing up the Fighter


Sundered Empires
Validated User
Ok, I know this isn't quite as big of a deal in Old School games as it is in New School games, but I still think that, since Chainmail, fighters have gotten progressively weaker with each edition.

Now, ACKS goes a decent way towards helping out with the static damage mod and cleaving rules. It's a step in the right direction anyway.

But if you were worried about LFQW being a problem... what sort of issues do you see coming and how can you make the fighter better at higher levels?

And what are the problems the LF faces? Their saves are better than their later editions descendants. But they still aren't mobile. One failed save and they are done for. They can't deal with groups very well (unless they are low HD in which case Cleave comes up).

What else?


Staff member
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Since picking gear is where a great deal of customization goes in the old school character, I'd build as much of this stuff into the increasingly epic war tools the fighter has access too. Not overtly magical stuff, but another table all together of weapons and armor with level minimums (or mad big price tags, or special in-game achievements you need to win them) and cool special effects. Armor that insulates and grounds a fighter, allowing him to shrug off fire and lightning with minimal effects (saves negate, failed halves, say). Helms which contain laminates of rare wood and glues made from the brains of a certain species of mole which render him highly resistant to charm effects. Gear with special effects which do more than increment numbers, but instead offer new special mechanical exceptions.

Likewise with weapons. Swords of such keenness and balance that they expand the fighter's HD threshold for free murdering. Axes so large, they sever body parts or knock enemies prone. Lances intended to slaughter much larger creatures.

You can link some of these to in-game achievements. You kill the Ebon Lion, and rip off its skin to wear. It acts like full plate armor with the weight of leather, and lets you Hide in Shadows like a rogue of your level. But there's only one Ebon Lion, and while it lives it's a fricken invisible lion.



RPGnet Member
Validated User
I've always liked the Weapon Mastery system thant the Rules Cyclopedia uses (it can be seen for free in the Dark Dungeons retro-clone, here. For instance, a long sword at Basic ability does 1d8 hp. At Grand Master you get the following:
  • +8 to-hit (on top of other boni)
  • 2d6+8 damage
  • -4 bonus to your AC against a maximum of 3 opponents
  • Deflect up to 3 attacks per round by making save vs. Death Ray
  • Make a Disarm attempt, with the target suffering a -4 penalty to their Dexterity check to avoid.
  • Throw your sword 5/10/15 feet.

Also, keep in mind that at higher levels the baddies are also making most of their saves, either shrugging off spells or taking only half damage. Houserule the Cleave ability from ACKS. Oh, and at 9th level fighters can smash, whereby losing initiative and attacking with a -5 penalty they can add their strength score to the damage inflicted, in addition to the Strength modifier -- so a fighter with a Strength of 16 would actually add 18 points of damage.
Last edited:


Registered User
Validated User
Many old-school editions solve this issue simply by indicating that a caster who gets hit loses any spell he's trying to cast that round. More than that, the common damage cap in many editions of 10 dice on any given damage spell ensures that even a failed save probably won't take out a high-level fighter- and once they get within melee range... well, for these editions, you can't move and cast spells on the same round. By the time magic-users start getting access to save-or-die spells, the fighter's saving against them at 9+ or better, and the MU is packing all of 2.5 hp/level.

With an edition like B/X or OD&D. the thing is that nobody is particularly mobile, and nobody deals well with groups in melee- not by the standards of later editions. A 9th level MU mobbed by a dozen orc archers is probably going to die unless he's memorized Dimension Door or Teleport and can somehow get it off without disruption. His AC is garbage since he can't be guaranteed Bracers of Defense, assuming they even exist in his edition. He can't drop any of his area-effect spells on himself because he hasn't got the HP to survive a self-nuke. If he can zot the orcs before they get into melee range a Fireball will take care of them- his earliest area-effect damage spell- but that uses up one of his three third-level spells per day, and since he can't memorize lower-level spells in higher-level slots, he can't ditch the spells of a less practical level to load up extra on the Fireballs. I just haven't experienced meaningful imbalance issues between magic-users and fighters in the early editions unless the magic-users are given their choice of battlefields and have had time to prep- which is a circumstance I'm willing to give them primacy under.

But if you want to boost fighters? Let 'em automatically succeed on one saving throw per day, their choice, picked before rolling the save normally. They can always shrug off the first death spell of the day, which means the magic-user has probably blown his best spell on them. If they can't get equal with a round's head-start on a guy with 19 hit points, I'm not going to feel too sorry for them.


Registered User
Validated User
It depends on where you get your fun from in battle. D&D's classic system is made for the fun to come from battlefield level tactics and plans. Your fighter is helping to push through the enemy's exposed flank, the detail of how their fighting the Orc to do so isn't important. Most attempts to beef up the fighter seem to do so by trying to tack on detail on to very abstract system to give the fighter maneuvers, putting the strain on such a simplified core. If your looking to beef the fighter I suggest figuring out where your fun mainly comes from. If you enjoy getting into the details of what your fighter is doing then you might want to consider tweaking if not fully re-working the combat system to be more open to such detail. Here's one under development to consider: http://spellsandsteel.blogspot.com/2012/08/whats-wrong-with-d-combat.html

Otherwise giving them the ability to up their damage die to ten and then twelve sides is something to consider. Personally I'm more of a "lower the MU's power" sort so take all this with a grain of salt.


Was he a violent man?
Validated User
Fighter Damage isn't usually the issue. What you need is a way for a fighter to deny 4-6 opponents their actions for 2-3 turns at range. A way for fighters to deal with flying enemies and mobility issues by spending a single action per fight.

This is why Spike Chain fighters were as popular as they were in 3e - every turn, you did damage AND limited enemy actions. A fighter that keeps up needs to do both every turn. Making trip free - full damage, full attack, can be done once per turn would be nice and provide some solid battlefield control for the fighter.

Letting it affect flying enemies to 'knock them down' or 'hedge them in' would also be nice. That way you can pull out your bow and try to force the enemy in.

Doesn't solve some of the mobility concerns, but just allowing fighters a level of every turn control over anything he can see goes a long way to making it feel less left behind.


New member
I've never really had an issue with casters being overpowered in TSR era style D&D. I've found that most people that have problems like that are not playing with rules in place that mitigate the caster (% to learn spells, finding them, spell interruptions, spell components, etc), as well as 95% of game play taking place prior to level 11, so high level spells are a non issue anyway.


Registered User
Validated User
I houserules a system for OSR fighters that was similar to the D&D Next expertise dice system. I really like the state of the XD system in the latest play test and have decided to just use that system fr OSR fighters. I am also looking at a Mage class that uses the XD as well.


Exploding Murderer
Validated User
Start with making heavy armor as badass as it should be. The two classic means of countering a knight in plate are either sending men wielding specific anti-armor weapons such as mauls or picks, or having regular infantry outnumber them five-to-one. All plate was custom-made to the wearer and was worth a small fortune, and was the peak of not-dying-when-stabbed technology at the time.

So, if you're a mage and you want to hurt a person in heavy armor, your options should be:
A) Load up with anti-armor spells. They're signifigantly less effective than regular combat spells, but regular combat spells are nearly useless against a guy in heavy armor.
B) Bring four other mages and all use regular combat spells. (Not really an option.)
C) Have the Fighter deal with it. He has a maul.


Blogger and gamer
Validated User
But if you want to boost fighters? Let 'em automatically succeed on one saving throw per day, their choice, picked before rolling the save normally. They can always shrug off the first death spell of the day, which means the magic-user has probably blown his best spell on them. If they can't get equal with a round's head-start on a guy with 19 hit points, I'm not going to feel too sorry for them.
Oh, that's really cool. But why not just let them do it after they roll the save? That's even better. "Disintegrate!" "<rolls>" "HAHA! You die!" "NOT THIS DAY."
Top Bottom