Friday, November 27, 2009

A Fist Full of Dice

I have a soft spot for Weapon vs AC tables. They are a remnant of the Chainmail rules and represent another level of tactical choice within combat. The problem with them has always been complexity — they just are too ungainly to use. Recently, I was looking at the Chainmail rules and had a bit of an "Aha" moment. The reason the Weapon vs AC tables work in Chainmail, is that the to hit number remains static. It doesn't matter who is wielding the weapon — that particular weapon will always need the same number on the die to hit that particular AC.

This is why Weapon vs AC tables have never transfered well into the alternate combat system in the LBBs, which went on to become the standard in later editions — the to hit number is determined by character class and level, not the weapon used. Thus, Weapon vs AC tables have since then consisted of a bunch of unwieldy to hit modifiers.

The secret, then, to using a Weapon vs AC table is to tweak the system so that weapons determine the to hit number, not character class and level. This can rather easily be done if, as in Ruins & Ronin (and 3rd ed), characters are given attack bonuses based on character class and level. Thus, on an attack roll a player totals the attack bonuses and penalties to the to hit roll and compares it to the target number provided by a Weapon vs AC table.

There is another option, however, and it is provided by the LBBs. When using the Chainmail combat system, characters would progress according to troop type as they gained levels. For example, a 4th level fighting man fought as a Hero. This progression resulted in more opportunities to hit, not in an easier number to hit. Thus, one way to utilize a Weapon vs AC table would be to translate the old LBB Chainmail combat classifications into number of d20s to roll per round. Despite the greater number of opportunities to hit, this system results in about the same number of hits, because the target numbers remain the same — I've run a number of simulations. If anything, at higher levels combat moves a tad bit faster and allows fighters to be a bit more powerful.

Besides the added tactical wrinkle, there is one big advantage to this rules tweek. The higher level a character gets, the more dice you get to throw. Personally, I have always enjoyed the tactile wonder of a fist full of dice and seeing them roll across the table.


  1. Congratulations Dave--you have just discovered Spellcraft & Swordplay. Come play. :)

  2. Yes, but I don't get to roll all the cool shaped dice...;)