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+ So who wants to talk about Original D&D?

Old Geezer

Active member
Banned
This sounds like a failed loyalty check to me, with the 1-in-36 worst possible result explained in-game by attachment to the ring.
Maybe, or maybe Gary said to himself "How badly does the apprentice want the ring for himself" and rolled boxcars... "REAL badly."

That's how I'd do it.
 

Old Geezer

Active member
Banned
I'll tackle phalanxes. First level characters are equivalent 1 on 1 with orcs, for example. That's a bad situation as it basically means you have even odds taking an orc on. However, orcs aren't organized and don't fight in formation (typically), so you can seriously swing your odds by making use of a tight formation. Going in with three characters across a 10' corridor gives you 3 attacks to 2 to someone not discipline enough to form up. Give everyone in the front line a 1-handed weapon and a shield, and you're good to go. However, 3-to-2 is still dicey, so hire a bunch of heavy mercenaries (or take henchmen) and give them spears in the second line. Suddenly, you get 6 attacks to the orcs' 2. Additionally, those orcs are typically in leather and shields, while the PC's are in chain or plate and shields. Organization makes a group of smartly played PC's able to completely overmatch foes who are equal 1 on 1 to them.

Hold that formation on things like pesky kobolds. It provides good cover and you can advance in formation to corner them and slaughter them. If you break up and chase them, they can take you out piecemeal.

Add some more heavies to the back of that formation to protect your back, and then you can move them up on either side to fill out that formation for rooms wider than 10'. Typically if you can hold that formation across 30' (9 heavy fighter/clerics) you're in good shape. Use lightly armored PC's (fighters or thieves) to provide cover fire to protect the flank, or help turn the enemy flank. Drop magic over the top when necessary.

Clerics are as good in combat as fighters at low levels and advance faster. Put a 2nd-3rd level cleric in the center of the front to heal the front rank as necessary in battle. Place another behind to drop Bless on the front to boost all of them.
This is a good summary, and yeah, second rank with long spears is a REAL killer!

Also, put a dwarf in the front rank with a magic user behind him. It makes it possible for the magic user to cast and still get 50% cover. Maybe more if the dwarf is yelling "COME GET SOME YOU YELLOW BASTARDS, IF YOU THINK YOU'RE HARD ENOUGH!!"

And plus points for the heavies in the back. I've seen groups get slaughtered by being flanked or taken from behind.*

All this, of course, is default and must be modified for situations. Most monsters do NOT get an area effect attack, so a dense formation is a desirable default. But if you're facing something known to get an area attack, you disperse. Note that "dispersed order" is NOT the same as "total lack of cohesion," though.

And as mentioned somewhere in here, the front rank should have one hand spears or hand axes... something that can be thrown. Even a mace can be thrown, and was.

The rules clearly state that the movement rates are for careful movement while mapping. Normal sighting distance is 20 to 80 feet, unless surprised. You don't map during combat. If you see an enemy magic user, CHARGE! Move as far as you can in the combat round and throw your spear/hand axe/mace/whatever and melee the son of a bitch as soon as you can.

If you're fighting one single large opponent try to envelop them and attack from all sides.

*hurr hurr hurr...
 

Old Geezer

Active member
Banned
That would be cool. Would also like to hear how you used the wargaming tactics in OD&D (beyond basics like flanking and attacking from the rear for a +x bonus).

Well, for starters.

Morale. Morale is the key to winning a battle. Last stands are renowned because they are so rare. You don't win a war by killing every man, woman, child, and puppydog in the enemy country, and you dont' win a battle by killing every man in the enemy army. You win a battle by killing enough of the enemy that the rest decide to leg it.

CHAINMAIL has "morale due to excess casualties," and it also assigns troop equivalents to manlike fantastic creatures (kobolds, goblins, etc.)

So, goblins attack as heavy foot and defend as light foot. For morale checks, then, I'd treat them as Light Foot.

Light Foot check morale at 25% casualties, and stay on a roll of 8+ on 2d6.

So, twenty goblins rush at you. Your magic user (standing behind your dwarf for half cover) throws Sleep and drops seven of them.

Morale check time!

Now, let's say they make it.

At the next casualty percentage... that is, for light foot, at the second 25% casualties... THEY AUTOMATICALLY ROUT.

Yeah, you heard me. Light foot brought to 50% casualties automatically rout off the board.

So after dropping seven goblins, in two rounds of melee your "plate armor, shield, and weapon" front rank plus your "chainmail and long spear" second rank kill another five goblins.

"Time to trot, bwana," said Spam. The goblins automatically fail their morale check and flee.

No place for them to flee? Why not.. they should have provided for such. However, Crom help you if they can't. As Sun Tzu says, always leave your enemy a way out. Otherwise they fight more desperately, and nobody wants that. You're after their treasure, after all, that's where the XP are.

Player characters never check morale. This in and of itself gives a huge advantage. Combine this with morale checks for intelligent humanoid creatures and you realize that first-to-third level should NOT be the meat grinder it is often portrayed as.
 

Daily Alice

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Validated User
Getting to 2nd can be tough because on average the next hit has a high chance of being the last. Good strategy can reduce the frequency of monsters getting a whack, but a lot is still down to luck. In my experience, it's pretty common to go through several characters and the survivors are likely to be above average (low-hp figures especially tending to perish).

From 2nd to third, though, takes only the same XP, and you've got more hit points, and a pile of loot to spend, and clerics get a spell and mages get another - sweet! Staying on the first dungeon level halves your XP take, but of course also tends to reduce risk.

The unusual cases that arise along the way are part of the fun. Pretty often, the 'demigod' figure meets an early demise; more rarely, a 'hopeless' one attains glory.
 

Daily Alice

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Validated User
I think the reason many gaming groups under-utilize the 'turn' and day-to-week time scales in their gaming, focusing instead on the 'round' scale, is that you have to make up more of the structure of the game, meaning its easy to ignore and groups will tend to diverge more from one another. My point is, you can and should ad-lib any element of the game, but when you do this in combat it happens in the context of a pretty structured, well defined framework - you are riffing on something everyone already understands and executes in a fairly uniform way. When you do this on the turn or longer time scales, the game provides you with ideas, but little actual structure. So, some groups will fill in that gap with their own notions of how to play, and others will just skip over it. Mostly people skip over it. This results in adventures where it feels like you are always standing in some doorway looking at a bunch of monsters that need to be chopped up.

I believe the solution is pretty obvious, is illustrated by some existing games, despite never really having found its way into an official published version of D&D: provide a clearly articulated structure to how you play out turns, days and weeks, leaving it open enough that groups will be able to riff on the basic themes, but with an understanding of how game play proceeds. For example, if you had a list with accompanying simple explanations and (where needed) rules about what you can do in each 10 minute turn, and it was accompanied by an explanation and example of how you use this in practice, you would get in the habit of treating exploration as something that follows a structured, logical flow just like combat. And, if you had a list (similarly explained and illustrated) of things you can do per week in 'campaign time', and some sort of structure like a calendar you fill in each month, you would just get used to developing your character's lives in an organized, fully fleshed out way. The best example of this (that I know of) is En Garde! Another take might be Pendragon, though I prefer En Garde's more formal organization. Turn-focused exploration play basically amounts to a sort of board game with roleplaying elements.

Anyway, if I had a time machine and wished to contribute something to the hobby back in the day, I would have encouraged some early edition of the game to shine a bit brighter light on these elements of play. I think it is clear that the intention was always that D&D meant a balance between campaign, exploration and encounter. And it is noteworthy that 5E makes an effort to revive this balance in its DMG. But there isn't much to help players understand how it works. So they mostly seem to just drop it, and focus on the one part of the game that provides them an obviously interpretable road map to what they do from one round to the next.
Chivalry & Sorcery went into this more, but perhaps still took for granted only slightly less campaign-game experience than did AD&D. The separation of the D&D-playing demographic from the old hobby-game demographic is even more significant now, when the bosrd-game giants are no more and historical miniatures have a lower profile.
 

Daily Alice

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Another thing is that some points matter more (or are more fun to make matter) in a grand campaign than in a "standard weekly party of five" setup.
 

Barbatruc

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Maybe, or maybe Gary said to himself "How badly does the apprentice want the ring for himself" and rolled boxcars... "REAL badly."

That's how I'd do it.
Fair enough. You certainly have me beat in the "what was Gary thinking" department! Still sounds like a loyalty check to me, except with desire for the ring as the trigger instead of a post hoc explanation, not that it matters what the roll is called.
 
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CountMRVHS

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Validated User
I'm curious about multiclassing in OD&D. I can't remember if it's spelled out in the rules or not, but I'm sure some folks must have tried it (since, c'mon, there's a line about playing as a dragon in that first book).

So what were fighter/wizards like in OD&D, if there were any? Were they derided as paragons of munchkinism, or conversely, were they so lame in practice that they just didn't work? (I've been wondering about the origins of the fighter/wizard trope lately...)
 

Old Geezer

Active member
Banned
Getting to 2nd can be tough because on average the next hit has a high chance of being the last. Good strategy can reduce the frequency of monsters getting a whack, but a lot is still down to luck. In my experience, it's pretty common to go through several characters and the survivors are likely to be above average (low-hp figures especially tending to perish).

From 2nd to third, though, takes only the same XP, and you've got more hit points, and a pile of loot to spend, and clerics get a spell and mages get another - sweet! Staying on the first dungeon level halves your XP take, but of course also tends to reduce risk.

The unusual cases that arise along the way are part of the fun. Pretty often, the 'demigod' figure meets an early demise; more rarely, a 'hopeless' one attains glory.
First to second level isn't really that tough. Yes, one hit can kill, but it doesn't always. Further, the front rank simply should be in plate armor with shield, period. AC2 vs AC6 for typical orcs means that the PCs hit twice as often as the enemy does. That is a HUGE advantage, multiplied by the advantage of a second rank with spears.

Not to mention the SLEEP spell, which every party should have one of, period.

No, it's not a cake walk, but going from first to second level is not nearly as dire in my experience as you paint it.

Of course, we also mastered the fine art of the tactical withdrawal. Get a treasure, and if you've taken a few hits, go back to the surface to heal and rest before going back down. That of course assumes an open ended dungeon rather than a "mission oriented" situation.
 

Old Geezer

Active member
Banned
I'm curious about multiclassing in OD&D. I can't remember if it's spelled out in the rules or not, but I'm sure some folks must have tried it (since, c'mon, there's a line about playing as a dragon in that first book).

So what were fighter/wizards like in OD&D, if there were any? Were they derided as paragons of munchkinism, or conversely, were they so lame in practice that they just didn't work? (I've been wondering about the origins of the fighter/wizard trope lately...)
Never saw any except for elves. I think they are in fact the only multi-class character permitted; other characters can change class, but they are changing class permanently.
 
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