This is going to be a dull analytical post, so feel free to skip it. The question before the house is whether longsword and shield is better than longsword and hand axe (In AD&D, only daggers and hand axes are allowed for the "off-hand" weapon in two-weapon fighting and, since the AD&D dagger is almost worthless as a weapon, I'm going to use the axe as the most effective option).
The rules for two-weapon fighting (TWF) are fairly straight-forward: the combatant is treated like any monster with an attack routine and when it is their turn in the initiative scheme, they roll once for one weapon and then once more for the other weapon. Whether these attacks are both against the same target or not is never specified, but there is some reason to believe that they are and that's what I'll assume.
The primary weapon attacks at -2 to hit and the secondary at -4 if the character's dexterity is between 6 and 15. At dex 16 the modifiers are -1 and -3, at 17 they are ±0 and -2, and at 18 the secondary penalty goes to -1.
I'm going to start off with two fighters in platemail, one with a shield and longsword (sword and board as da kidz say) and the other with the longsword and hand axe. I've not calculated these effects ahead of typing this, so the conclusions will be new to me too and may or may not confirm my own feelings. Isn't science exciting?
1 Puny Veterans
We'll start off with no ability score bonuses and 1st level fighters. This is an easy win for sword and board; hardly worth calculating but it serves as a baseline. Calculating the average hit and damage rates gives this:
S&B: 0.9 hp per attack.
TWF: 0.625 per attack.
TWF is doing almost 70% of the damage rate, although in fact the repeating 20's of the combat chart have helped to level the field somewhat here. Let's try bumping the combat ability a bit.
2 Puny Heroes
Same as above but 4th level fighters.
S&B: 1.35 hp per attack.
TWF: 0.85 hp per attack.
The repeating 20's of the combat table are no longer important for these guys and so TWF falls further behind to 63% of the S&B damage.
3 Puny Superheroes
Moving up to 8th level on the "no bonuses" ladder, we find these values:
S&B: 2.25 hp per attack
TWF: 2.45 hp per attack
Now that armour itself is becoming less important, the TWF has overtaken the S&B fighter and is doing almost 9% more damage per attack. Both fighters are now also getting 3/2 attacks per round, but the effect of this cancels out so we don't need to worry about it.
4 Puny Lords
Final run without bonuses: 12th level:
S&B: 3.15 hp per attack.
TWF: 4.05 hp per attack.
TWF is now 28% more effective per attack routine.
This is all nice but unrealistic. Firstly, the fighters are unlikely to not have some bonuses, and secondly, the high level fighters are unlikely to not have magic armour, weapons, and shields.
5 Agile Veterans
We'll give both fighters 18 Dexerity and look at whether this has most effect on TWF or S&B. The TWF now has no penalty for the longsword and only -1 to-hit on the axe. Back to first level:
S&B: 0.225 hp per attack.
TWF: 0.4hp per attack.
Essentially, the off-hand weapon is pure bonus here as everyone needs 20's to hit.
6 Agile Heroes
Moving up to 4th level with 18 Dex:
S&B: .45 hp per attack
TWF: .4 hp per attack
Simple enough: the TWF needs 20's with both weapons to do any damage while the S&B guy is hitting twice as often with his single weapon.
7 Agile Superheroes
8th level, 18 Dex:
S&B: 1.35 hp per attack
TWF: 1.825 hp per attack
TWF is now clearly superior, doing 35% more damage.
8 Agile Lords
Final run - 12th level 18 Dex:
S&B: 2.25 hp per round
TWF: 3.425 hp per round
52% better with two weapons.
Okay, at this point we've learnt something about the big value of 18 Dex as a two-weapon fighter. I'm not going to list every possible combination but I want to look at the possible effect of a magic shield. I'm going to assume that any magic armour and swords cancel out for to-hit purposes and see what a +3 shield does to the superhero and lord levels. I'm going to assume that the hand axe is not magical and that both longswords are +2 for damage.
9 Magic, Agile Superheroes.
S&B now has an effective AC of -5 while TWF has an effective AC of -1.
S&B: 1.95 hp per attack.
TWF: 0.825 hp per attack.
TWF is back to doing only 42% of the damage rate of the sword and shield.
10 Magic, Agile Lords
12th level as previous example.
S&B: 3.25hp per attack.
TWF: 2.825hp per attack.
Improving back up to 87% of the opponent's score, the TWF is still clearly the less effective option here too.
Next, what happens if the S&B fighter decides to put their 18 into STR while the TWF keeps it in Dex? Assuming 18/50 and staying with the magic listed above, the S&B fighter's effective AC drops to -1, while the TWF's is reduced to 0 due to the +1 to-hit for 18/50 strength. How does the increased damage balance against this AC change?
11 Strong Vs Agile Magic Superheroes
Back to 8th level with +2 swords.
S&B: 3.325 hp per attack.
TWF: 2.825 hp per attack.
I have to admit to being surprised; I thought the TWF would win this one. Instead it scores 85%.
12 Strong Vs Agile Magic Lords
12th level as above:
S&B: 5.225hp per attack.
TWF: 4.825hp per attack.
TWF moves up to 92%.
I'm surprised enough by these results to briefly go back and look at the STR Vs Dex values without magic.
13 Strong Vs Agile Heroes
So we're back to no magic and 18 Str Vs 18 Dex. S&B guy has an AC of 2, while S&B is at 0 (again, because of the +1 to hit from Strength).
S&B: 1.425hp per attack.
TWF: 1.825hp per attack.
Advantage to the TWF guy; 28% better.
14 String Vs Agile Superheroes
When we move these two magically-impoverished fighters up to 8th level the pendulum swings again:
S&B: 2.85hp per attack
TWF: 2.625hp per attack.
Now TWF is back to being 92% as effective as S&B
As I suspected, the balance of power between TWF and S&B is quite delicate and it's not an easy thing to call which side it will settle on just by a casual glance over a character's stats and possessions. It's also true that these examples have been quite artificial and I don't expect every fighter to have an 18 in either Dex or Str.
Having said that, even a 16 Dex represents quite a step down for TWF and a quick calculation on some of the above situations suggests that it really isn't very viable.
To really dig into the implications of TWF you'd really need to construct a spreadsheet to allow changing of lots of factors so that more realistic situations could be examined. But "more realistic" equates to a huge number of possible combinations of magic swords, shields, dexterity, strength, weapons (and weapons Vs armour which I've ignored here) and numbers of opponents. Probably there are a lot more situations where TWF is at least marginally better than sword and shield but I'm pretty confident that a shield of the calibre of the +3 one in the examples here will more than negate the usefulness of TWF in any situation likely to arise in play.
Of course, "likely to arise" is of no consequence to the DM who has to handle the situation when it does arise and a fighter with 18 Str and 18 Dex would be mad not to take TWF and there's no value in the DM saying "well, that was really lucky rolling!". Of course it was. But rather than worrying too much about how such an unlikely thing might be "out of balance", I think it's more productive to say "this character could become one of the really memorable ones" and try to embrace it without allowing it to overshadow the other members of the party. All characters have weak points (usually the player behind them) and so long as the game doesn't become a long string of "well, Dexto the Barbarian handles it" then every one should still be able to have fun with such a fluky character in the party.
One other thing I've noticed while going through this process is that the two-handed sword is not as bad an option as I thought, if the character has 18/50 strength. With an average adjusted damage of 8.5 against a human and 13.5 against large creatures, it's probably worth consideration at low levels. At high levels, a magic shield is still a much better option, I think, especially as a magic longsword will probably have made an appearance by then.
As I've mentioned on Dragonsfoot, I charge a proficiency slot for fighting with two weapons over and above any used to learn how to use the weapons singly, although a character can learn, for example, "longsword and dagger" without taking either weapon on its own, and simply receives the non-proficiency penalty when forced to use one or the other alone. This is an additional factor in deciding whether to take two weapon combat or not, particularly for thieves who only start with two slots.
Sunday, 21 October 2012
Wednesday, 17 October 2012
|Ninja at work|
The Ninja is a sub class of monk. Ninja may be of any race and any non-chaotic, non-good alignment. Entrance requirements are:
Ninja do not receive a 10% bonus.
The differences from the monk class are as follows:
- Normal ability score bonuses and penalties.
- 1d6 hit die per level from 1st to 9th and +2 per level thereafter.
- If the standard monk AC is poorer than AC10+Dex, then the better AC is used.
- Spy and disguise as per assassin (DMG p18).
- Backstab as per thief, using stabbing weapons only, including missile weapons.
- 2 initial proficiency slots.
- Any armour may be worn as part of a disguise without incurring a performance penalty.
- No armour may be worn while using any class combat ability (including bonus damage) or thief-related skills, or the monk falling ability. Such abilities as feigning death are unaffected.
- May use poison.
- Open hand combat is as per a monk of half the ninja's level (round up).
- Ninja never gain the ability to speak with animals (A on the monk list) or plants (F), nor do they have the secret of the quivering palm (K).
- Ninja gain the ability to feign death (D) at third level.
- At 13th level ninja gain the ability to create a passwall effect as per the 5th level magic user spell. This ability may be used once per day at 13th level, and an additional daily use is gained at each level thereafter. However, the effect applies only to the ninja and has no duration; the passage closes behind the ninja.
- Ninja gain the ability to heal damage on their own bodies as per monks (E) but the ability requires a turn of peaceful meditation in order to succeed. If disturbed once rest has begun the ability is lost for the day.
- Ninja may train in the use of any weapon and may retain any number of magical weapons.
- Ninja may not retain items they can not use but they may accumulate as much cash as they desire.
- Ninja do not have to fight for promotion and there are no limits on how many ninja of a certain level there may be.
- The ninja may reduce his/her weight, including carried gear, by 10% of their own body weight per level for 1 round per level. See below for details.
- All thief-acrobat abilities are gained from 6th level.
- 0 Shoshinsha
- 2500 Kyodai
- 5000 Monjin
- 10000 Kumori
- 20000 Himeru
- 45000 Kemuru
- 90000 Kage
- 180000 Chunin
- 350000 Ninja
- 700000 Ninja, 10th level
- 1000000 Ninja, 11th level (Jonin)
- 1300000 Ninja, 12th level
- 1600000 Ninja, 13th level, Shinobi
All ninja gain the ability to reduce their weight by 10% of their body weight per level (assume 14lbs per level if body weight not known) to a minimum pressure of approximately half an ounce (14g or 219grains). The effect can be used for up to one round per level per day, in one or more bursts (always count a usage as one full round even if shorter than that).
More than 100% is possible and allows carried weight to be negated too. Thus, a tenth level ninja carrying 60lbs of treasure or equipment can reduce the pressure of their footsteps to 60lbs for ten minutes in a day; at 13th level the same character could reduce their pressure to 18lbs.
The weight reduction aids movement in many ways and when used to reduce weight to the minimum possible, the ninja is able to walk on water and climb even walls of ice like a gecko. Other effects of near weightlessness are at the DM's discretion but it is a magic effect, not a physical one so the ninja will not suffer combat penalties nor be blown away by the wind etc.
Alignment ChangeA ninja who becomes good or chaotic becomes a nukenin (literally an "ninja with no shame"). They retain their xp, level, and ninja abilities but further progression gives them only the thief ability improvements that they would normally have received (at the xp cost of the ninja class). If desired, a character may abandon the way of the ninja completely and become a thief of the same level.
Ninja may multi-class with assassin. This option is available to all elves and gnomes. Humans may, of course, dual-class.
Drow: 10th, other elves: 9th (half elves depending on elven blood). Dwarves: 6th. Gnomes: 9th. Halflings: 5th level. Half-orcs: 6th.
With the exception of half-orcs, these values assume Dex 17. For dex 18 add a level and for Dex 16 or less lose one. Single classed elven and gnomic ninja gain two levels to their maximum level as per UA. Half orcs may add one to their maximum level for each point their Dex exceeds 14.
Ninja use the monk starting age for humans, thief for demi-humans.
All ninja must use a language slot to learn the secret cant of their clan/school.
My pidgin Japanese is not up to translating the noun stems above into the correct form so, for example, "kage" means "shadow" (I think!) whereas I would rather it meant "one who is like a shadow". So apologies to anyone who knows their Japanese (or knows someone who does *cough*) for the crudeness of the level titles.
Saturday, 13 October 2012
The seeds for the (generally) poorly received fighter classes in Unearthed Arcana were sown in the earliest days of the game's history and the Barbarian class eventually presented represents the "victory" of one of two strands of influence on the game which represent by far the biggest flaw in the design philosophy of AD&D (and to a lesser extent, OD&D).
As any fule kno, D&D grew out of mediaeval wargaming and this brought with it a certain attempt at simulation in things like armour types, weapons (pole arms!), movement rates, encumbrance, and so on which was based on the real world, at least as far as the designers could make it.
But the players and designers in those early days also wanted to simulate something unreal - they wanted dragons that can fly and breath fire, trolls that regrow limbs, fireballs and lightning bolts (very, very frightening me - Galileo etc.) and other magic items.
These two design aims did not sit well together, not least because the fantasy side of it is much more subjective. It's certainly subjective what parts of the real world one thinks worth simulating in a game, but at the same time there is a basic testable nature to those parts that fantasy does not have and nowhere is this more clearly seen than in the case of the world's favourite barbarian.
Bar Bar Bar
"Barbarian" means to many players, and even moreso in the 70's, "Conan". What does Conan look like? Well, he's big, has blue eyes and black hair, is very strong and wears....? Well, in the books he generally wears armour, usually chainmail but sometimes in hot climes he will eschew the weight for mobility. But that's not what people tend to think of when Conan is mentioned. They tend to think of Conan as depicted by Frazetta and his imitators - naked but for a loin-cloth or sometimes not even that. Simulating one Conan doesn't necessarily give you the Conan your players expected.
Flicking through Judges Guild material such as the City State of the Invincible Overlord will turn up any number of such "no armour barbarians" in the illustrations. It was a big trope from the very start of the game's popularity. Very big.
The magic shield in particular is a classic "unintended consequences" moment. It disrupted both realities in the game - the real-world reality and the fantasy one.
Imagine AD&D without magic armour: two players roll up identical fighters and play them, one aiming for playing a Knight (ie, Cavalier) in shining armour and one as a Barbarian in nothing much other than a red cloak. At early levels the would-be knight probably can't afford the best armour so the mechanical difference between the characters is minor in combat. As the knight gains levels and better armour, however, the barbarian's choices start to balance out - s/he has better movement and potentially gets bonuses on reaction and missile fire which the knight loses as s/he dons bulkier armour, even visibility is massively improved and listening at doors etc becomes an instant action.
|Insert "Ogre" pun here|
|High level fighter|
[check this - ed.]
Now add in magic armour and the barbarian is dead in the water. Magic armour is listed as being like normal clothes and either weightless or half the normal weight. There's been various attempts to work out what this means, but it certainly erodes the barbarian's mobility advantage. Much worse is the effect of combined armour and shield magic. +3 on each is not unlikely for 8th level characters and the barbarian superhero is suddenly giving up not 8 points of AC to the knight but 14!
Who's Cockamamie Idea Was This, Anyhow?
PHB-era AD&D simply does not support playing as a barbarian, and it has a lot of trouble with playing as Robin Hood too, but if you keep such a character in the wilderness and lean heavily on missile combat I think it's just about doable.
I say "PHB-era" (just there above, look) but really the issue is the contents of the DMG. Well... I say the DMG, but actually the issue is the contents of most of the TSR modules. The level of magic treasure in the 1e DMG and MM is very low compared to the modules from which many DMs learnt their ideas of what a haul of treasure looks like. The books didn't really back that up.
For example, a medusa lair has no chance BtB of containing any magic armour at all. If an 8th level fighter is encountered via the "Men" entry, far from "+3 on each is not unlikely" for armour and shield, there's only a 16% that s/he'll have both a magic shield and magic armour of any sort and a very remote chance that they'll both be equal to +3 plate+shield or better (about 1 in 33, for a total chance of less than ½% of all encountered 8th level fighters).
Anyway, what the books said and what the modules did were two different things and the modules won because, firstly, Gygax wrote most of the iconic tone-setting modules and they reflected his style (who's style do the books reflect? Good question), and secondly modules were wildly successful in the early days of the hobby and literally millions of players and DMs formed their expectations of play from them and not from using treasure types and listed chances for items from the monster manual.
|A nice knight in|
in front of the fire
And yet...The barbarian fighter is one of the stronger archetypes in fantasy, particularly art and film fantasy. Much moreso than clerics or monks, or even rangers. Clearly there was a problem with a game which was unable to allow players to successfully participate as one of the game's own inspirations.
Thus we arrived at Unearthed Arcana which so sharply drew the line between the Cavalier and the Barbarian and which, rather than mechanically reining in the former (which would have required a drastic change of direction for the whole game by that point), the latter was boosted to give balancing advantages, not least in the areas of AC and hp, in an effort to make the trope playable.
In the end, the attempt largely failed and the UA barbarian and cavalier classes have never really caught on. The cavalier was unneeded - the game actually allowed a player to play a typical knight from the first day of publishing - and the barbarian's "solution" to the problem felt artificial and forced and both classes were far too heavily encumbered with rules that got in the way of player interpretation.
|Classic D&D Thief|
|More realistic thief|
Saturday, 6 October 2012
Frequency: V. Rare (unique)
No. Appearing: 1
AC: 8 (0 vs missiles)
Move: 9" or 3" (see below)
Hit Dice: 6, 7, or 8 or more.
% In Lair: 1%
Treasure Type: In lair only:F
No. of Attacks: 3
Special Attacks: Psionics/Fear, Cold.
Special Defenses: Immune to cold.
Magic Resistance: 20% Vs fire and light
Intelligence: Average (low)
Size: M (spring, summer) or L (autumn,winter)
Psionic Ability: Special
Attack/Defense Modes: Special
Lv/xp: VII/1725+10 per hp
The Groke's origins are unknown but many assume that they are tragic. Whatever they are, the being known as The Groke is certainly unique and her loneliness is a power which radiates from her, creating an aura of fear which spreads around her in layers, accompanied by a deeply chilling cold.
In the summer she is at her smallest of 6 HD, in spring and autumn she has 7 HD and in winter she has 8. In addition, damage based on cold actually heals her and if enough "damage" is done to heal her beyond her current maximum (eg, 64hp in winter) then she will actually gain extra hit dice. So, if The Groke has 70hp and is struck by a cone of cold for 35 damage, she will have 105hp and 14HD (105/8, round all fractions up). Such extra hit points do not heal when lost (even by application of cure spells) and as they are lost, the extra dice go with them, so if in the previous example she was then struck for 12 weapon damage she would lose 12hp and two hit dice.
Anything she touches (or which touches her) suffers 1-2 points of damage from the cold, enough to kill grass, worms, small animals etc. and even standing near (10') her will do similar damage per round after a number of rounds equal to one's Con score. This effect also allows her to walk across bodies of relatively calm water at a rate of 3", as each footstep instantly freezes the surface to a depth sufficient to support her weight.
Despite, or rather because of, her coldness, fire does half damage to The Groke and if she approaches to within ten feet of a normal fire it will be extinguished, producing the smoke effects of a pyrotechnics spell. Magical fire is likewise extinguished if her special magic resistance roll succeeds. Flammable liquids such as lamp oil are apparently not affected by this.
Animals within half a mile (88") of The Groke will become restless and if able to will instinctively move away from her. The urgency of this will increase with her approach. Within a furlong (22") it will become hard to control animals that are not trained for war.
The fear caused by The Groke is such that at very close ranges even inanimate objects such as grass, sand, leaves etc. will move away from her. Although this effect is relatively slow it makes aiming missile weapons at her much harder as the missiles themselves attempt to avoid touching her! Hence, she has a much better AC against missile attack than melee.
If The Groke is in sight and less than 22" away, all creatures are subject to a fear spell. Those that save are immune to this effect for a number of rounds equal to their CHA score (use INT for monsters/animals etc) after which they must make the save again.
This fear is primarily the fear of loss and those who are very young (ie, are younger than the start of "young adult") are less affected by it than others. Conversely, its affects are such that elves do not receive any special immunity, although any character's wisdom bonus is counted in the saves.
Those that approach The Groke closely enough for melee combat must face the full focus of her psychic anguish should she detect hostility. This is modelled by the Psionic Blast table. As with the fear effect, elves receive no racial bonus and those that save need not re-roll for a number of rounds equal to their CHA (or INT) score. This applies indiscriminately to anyone within 20' of the Groke once she has decided that she is unwelcome.
In combat, The Groke will grab with her long hands and bite with her huge mouth, enveloping and swallowing whole any smaller creature should she succeed in hitting with all three in a single round (save Vs Death to avoid). Anything swallowed by The Groke is gone forever, consumed by the absolute blackness in her.
This blackness is like a hunger to The Groke and she is attracted by light sources and greatly values gems, which can be used to bargain with her (for she can speak), usually to get her to leave. It will also negatively affect any light spells illuminating an area that she enters, based on a magic resistance of 20%. Any light dispelled in this way will not resume after her departure. This applies to light cast by magical items, including swords etc.
The Groke is not aggressive as such, although she is quite bad-tempered, and in most encounters will simply play the part of an obstacle which must be avoided, bribed, or otherwise managed.
Where The Groke's home is is unknown but where ever it is it is sure to contain gems, bright metals, and magical lights of all sorts, although many of the latter will have been spoilt by her magic resistance.
Description: The Groke appears to be a shaggy pile of brown hair with a large nose, two pale eyes, and a row of white teeth. As the hair hangs down to the ground, no one is sure what she looks like underneath it nor does anyone really want to know. She has two long arms which usually remain hidden within the mass of hair, showing only the hands with their black leathery skin and grasping fingers. Her voice is redolent with loss, misery, and scorn.
The Groke is a character from Tove Jannson's classic children's stories about The Moomins. I've extrapolated slightly for AD&D usage, but this is mostly intended as a faithful rendition of the horror of Moominland's midwinter.