Saturday, March 19, 2011

Chainmail Revisited (Weapon vs. AC Reborn?)

A recent post over at A Paladin in Citadel has got me thinking about Chainmail (and thus Weapon vs. AC tables) again. I very much like the system proposed, due to its marvelous simplicity; however, it suffers from the same problem that I ran into in my own attempts to implement a Chainmail-esque combat system. Unlike the alternate d20 system that subsequently became the norm, hit points never outpace damage per round in Chainmail combat. A 9HD creature has the potential to kill 9HD worth of opponents per round. This leads to short, deadly and (most importantly) boring combat.

This did not stop me from re-reading my LBBs with Chainmail in mind, however. As a result I ran into a very interesting tid-bit:
All attacks which score hits do 1-6 points damage unless otherwise noted.
On its own, this is not earth-shattering; however, this appears as part of the Alternate Combat System. This got me thinking — what if variable damage was not used if the Chainmail combat rules were in place? Rather than doing d6 hp damage per hit, everyone (unless noted — more on that later) would simply do 1 hp damage per hit.

Without having play tested this idea, there are some immediate consequences that come to mind:
  • On average I would expect combat to last a little longer.
  • Tactics would prove vital — figuring out how to focus attacks on a single target (and getting the right type of weapon vs. armor to increase the chance for a hit with a Weapon vs. AC table) would be key.
  • Morale would play a much greater role in combat (and might actually help keep combats short).
  • Creatures such as Ogres, Giants and Dragons would be truly terrifying, because they are capable of doing variable damage per hit.
  • Having a +1 damage on anything would be a huge bonus.
  • And most importantly, hit points outpace damage beginning at first level. Combat is still deadly, but no one is going to die from a single hit unless they have 1 hp (or are stupid enough to take on an Ogre, Giant or Dragon).
My obsession with finding a workable Weapon vs. Armor table may very well have found a second life...


  1. I never liked the man-to-man combat table in Chainmail. The probabilities seemed to have been arrived at willy-nilly. Having said that, I would love to see a weapon vs. armor table that "made sense".

    I liked the Magic Realm combat system, as it recognized that armor reduced the effectiveness of edged weapons, but role-players are typically looking for a little more nuance that that.

  2. Forget Dragons and Giants, trolls in this system would be nigh unstoppable killing machines.