Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cry Havoc, Trollsmyth-style

OdRook asks, “In your own campaign(s), what rules do you use for two-handed weapons and two-weapon fighting (assuming you allow this one)?”

I’m going to take advantage of OdRook’s question to post a quick overview of my combat rules. One-handed weapons do 1d6 damage. Two-handed weapons do 2d4 damage. Fighting with a weapon in each hand (or using a quarterstaff) does the best roll of two six-sided dice. So if you’re fighting with sword and hand-axe, you’d roll a pair of six-siders (say you rolled a 2 and a 5) and you’d do the damage indicated on the higher roll (in this case the 5). You still roll only a single d20 for to-hit, however.

I also use individual initiative, but don’t roll for it. Instead, it’s dictated by your choice of weapons:

WEAPON
DAMAGE
INITIATIVE
NOTES
Bastard sword
1d6
9
2d4 when wielded two-handed
Battle axe
2d4
8
Club
1d6
2
Dagger
1d6
4
Hand axe
1d6
3
Lance
1d6
9
Double damage on charge.
Mace
1d6
6
Pole arm
2d4
8
Short sword
1d6
7
Spear
1d6
10
Double damage when set to receive charge
Staff
Highest of 2d6
7
Sword
1d6
8
Torch
1d6
1
+ 1d4 burning damage
Two-handed sword
2d4
7
War hammer
1d6
5

This is where things get a bit complicated. Highest number goes first, and you do add your DEX modifier to the number. This makes spear-and-shield a pretty good combination, with high initiative and the additional protection of a splinterable shield. And you’ll want to wear a helmet as well, just in case you end up rolling on the Table of Death & Dismemberment.

That’s the how and here are the whys: 1d6/2d4 damage is quick and easy. Players remember which die they need to roll. It also means that magic-users don’t need to be limited to daggers so much; I even allow them to use quarterstaves, but still no shields, two-handed weapons (other than the staff) or weapon in each hand. (Granted, that still leaves things open for magic-users getting their hands on magic swords. I’m less worried about that, honestly, since they’re extremely rare in my games.)

Not rolling for initiative means one less roll needed in combat, which speeds things along. Dice-rolling is my least favorite activity in RPGing, so I try to minimize it as much as I can anyway. (Yeah, I know that’s blasphemy. ;) ) It also means a real difference between swords and spears and daggers in spite of them all rolling the same d6 for damage. Spears, quite frankly, are an incredibly flexible weapon for adventurers. They can be set to receive charges, held in one hand for stabbing, thrown, or even used as prods and levers when exploring.

The Table of Death & Dismemberment means heroes are less likely to die without sacrificing much in the way of tension, makes helmets important, and serves as something of a critical-hits table. In spite of the example I give, I do not allow the CON bonus to affect rolls on this table. It just wasn’t necessary. I think in a year of play we’ve rolled six times on this table, with one death, two lost hands, and the rest were stunned-for-one-round. My players are crafty and sly, and try to avoid “fair” fights whenever possible, for which I heartily commend them.

Art by Eugene Delacroix and Constantin Hansen.

5 comments:

scottsz said...

Excellent Post.

Splintering shields, helmets, etc. make me curious to see a roll-by-roll jousting contest with these rules.

Oddysey said...

Huh. Six seems a little low, but I can't think of any more than that off hand. I think I'm probably mixing up rolls on the table with all the other ways people have died/been knocked unconscious.

sirlarkins said...

I've been casting about for a new and more satisfying approach to Initiative. My super-simple "d6 group initiative" rule that I tried out last session provoked howls of indignation from the high-Dex members of the party. I think you may have just presented the ideal solution. Thanks!

trollsmyth said...

scottsz: I'll consider doing that for an upcoming post. I really don't have any fast-and-hard rules for being unhorsed or anything like that, but still...

Oddysey: Yep, I feel the same way, but I'm having trouble remembering other times. Most spells and poisons don't bother with this table, and, as you've already seen, folks like slaadi don't always wait for a KO before they start making with the egg-implantation ickiness. :p

SirLarkins: My pleasure, hope it works for you.

One of the huge benefits for me is no waiting around trying to figure out whose turn it is. I know everyone's DEX bonus and what weapon they are using, so I never have to ask, "Whose turn is it?" I just jump to the next person in line and away we go.

It's also pretty easy to modify for your group. Do magical weapons give you an initiative bonus? It can just match the plus of the weapon. Casting times can be used to, usually by just subtracting the current casting time from 10 to give you their relative initiative placement in a round.

Currently, ranged weapons always go before hand-to-hand weapons, but can't be used if you've got someone waving a sword right in your face. In my LL game, that doesn't use casting times, the initiative for a spell is 10 minus its level, so first-level spells tend to go off pretty quickly.

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I'm agree, six is a little low don't you think?