Friday, February 13, 2009

Request for Assistance

I'm one of those wacky people who actually likes the weapon vs. AC tables from Greyhawk. That's because the table has its origins in Chainmail and I'm forever drawn to the notion of making OD&D combat more consonant with the rules of its precursor game.

I'd like to include a similar table in Dwimmermount when/if I get around to publishing it. I have noticed, however, that OSRIC makes no attempt include such rules, which makes me think that it might be difficult to reverse engineer them in a legal fashion. Spellcraft & Swordplay does include such rules, but it uses a different AC numbering system (in part, I suspect, to avoid the very problem I'm grappling with), so it doesn't offer me a good model to emulate.

So, does anyone better versed than I in the niceties of retro-cloning have any advice? My gut instinct is simply to create tables that are similar but not identical to those in Greyhawk. The table basically boils down to -3 to +3 modifiers versus particular armor classes. My own feeling is that -3 and +3 are in fact too large as modifiers anyway, so I'd probably just cap the penalties and bonuses at +/-2 anyway. Would simply doing that (i.e. changing all the +/-3 references to +/-2 references), along with rearranging the presentation of the table (so it's alphabetical, for example) be enough to retro-clone it properly? Or have I missed something important?

31 comments:

  1. this thread over at Dragonsfoot as regards the development of weapon type versus armour class modifiers: http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=34417.

    It is almost certainly impossible to produce a simulacrum of the table that appears in the PHB, but the generalities can likely be emulated.

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  2. Hmmn, copy paste went wrong there, beginning of that sentence should have read "If you haven't already seen it, then you might be interested in..."

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  3. I think weapon vs AC makes sense if all weapons do 1d6 damage. In reality, an adjustment to the chance to hit in D&D is an adjustment to damage - damage over time. Having variable weapon damage PLUS the AC Adjustment matrix is like giving two bonuses to good weapons, instead of just one

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  4. Matthew,

    That's a terrific thread and some great work you did there.

    As to the simulacrum issue, if you believe it's impossible to recreate it, what do you think would be the best approach to emulate the generalities?

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  5. I think weapon vs AC makes sense if all weapons do 1d6 damage.

    I agree, obviously, since that's exactly what I do in my Dwimmermount campaign. I get a few complaints from one of my players who regrets not being able to use more than D6s for damage, but I think the overall effect on the game has been quite good.

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  6. You should make up your own table, inpired only by the basic _idea_ of the Greyhawk table. That's the only way to avoid risk of copyright infringement.

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  7. Actually John makes an interesting point. I wonder what the effect would be if you changed it to having a different damage die against the various armours instead. Interesting thought experiment.

    Of course the downside of rating weapons against the armours is that you eventually feel obliged to determine the armour equivalency of most monsters instead of just using straight armour class. Just to be fair. I know I did.

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  8. Technically, it's well established that you cannot copyright the ideas behind game rules, only the specific format of the rules. Practically, people worry that they can't afford to defend themselves from a nuisance suit, so the OGL provides a safe-harbor. I'm really not sure about the logic of that, since even if you use the OGL, you'd have to defend yourself against a nuisance suit if one was brought and the OGL has never been tested in court (while the proposition that you can't copyright the ideas behind the rules of a game has, at least in US courts...); still I suppose that the potential for a lot of bad publicity if Hasbro directly tried to break the OGL might be a deterrent.

    For your purposes, you'd have to decide whether you think there's a real risk of being sued and what you want to do about that.

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  9. I've worked on this a bit in the past (in 3E context). My motivation was to reduce the table to a more manageable block of data. 2E did something similar, but what I did here was a mathematical average of the 1E modifiers across each category (blunt/ sharp/ subdual):

    http://www.superdan.net/dndmisc/house_rules_1st_ed_flavor.html

    I've been feeling recently that it might be even better to collapse armors into just 4 categories (none, leather, chain, plate) and have a total of just 12 cells in the table.

    I have no problem with weapon-vs-AC being used at the same time as variable damage dice. In D&D armor and hit points simulate different things.

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  10. @John - not if the weapons perform different against different types of armor. In reality it boils down to penetration and damage to the human body two different things. A blunt blow inflicts a different type of trauma versus slashing versus a stab. Each of the types of trauma also performs differently against the various types of armor.

    The Chainmail tables are meant to capture the penetration difference. The assumption was if the blow manages to penetrate it is going to kill the individual. Consider each blow in chainmail to do 1 pt of damage and normal men have 1 hp.

    OD&D changes this so that damage is now a 1d6 and normal men start off with 1d6 hit points. This is to represent the variability of people and the vagaries of combat.

    (Waxing Gygas me thinks)

    Then in Greyhawk come the realization that some weapons are better able to hurt people if they hit. The force behind the two-handed sword is way more than a one-hander. The different types of trauma, (slash, stab, blunt) are just arbitrarily factored in.

    Later on as RPGs grew more complex some start making the distinction. (GURPS, Rolemaster, Harnmaster, etc).

    Separate but parallel is the need to fold in all the non-armor modifiers particularly for monsters. In the beginning AC was a straight forward representation of armor types but became divorced from the under lying armor system to become a scale measuring how are things are to hit. D20 take this to it's logical conclusions' giving armor a modifier

    This whole disconnect is why in AD&D the weapon vs AC says to look at what the guy is wearing not his numerical AC.

    If you want to use modifiers versus AC and not violate IP what you should do is return the chainmail roots and just list the modifiers for each weapons and include any notes for particular monsters.

    You can derive the values from the chainmail table. For example (note I don't have chainmail in front of me so I making stuff up)

    Longsword
    +3 vs no armor
    +2 vs leather
    +1 vs chain
    +0 vs plate
    -2 vs Dragons
    +1 vs Chimeras
    +1 vs Trolls
    +2 vs Purple Worms

    You can get as complex or simple as you want as well as avoiding IP problems.

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  11. Matthew,

    That's a terrific thread and some great work you did there.


    Thanks!

    As to the simulacrum issue, if you believe it's impossible to recreate it, what do you think would be the best approach to emulate the generalities?

    It depends which bits you particularly want to emulate, and how close you want the numbers to be. As I understand it, the problem with reproducing the tables as they stand is that most entries are subjective and so fall under "artistic presentation".

    What you need to do for a simulacrum of the table is to be able to show a mathematical progression, which you can then alter to reflect your own subjective choices [i.e. your artistic presentation].

    So, something like the "long sword" isn't too hard to reproduce as it is basically: +2|+1|+0|+0|+0|+0|+0|+1|+2, but something like the footman's flail seems to follow no easy pattern.

    You can produce some basic generalities, such as "blades good against light armour, poor against heavy armour" and "crushing weapons good against heavy armour", as well as "bigger = better", but that requires classifying the weapons by type and then inserting your own personal thoughts into a weapon description (such as "aside from being good thrusting weapons, a glaive has a cutting edge which makes it good against light armour).

    I am no lawyer, of course, but it seems to me that a basic set of guidelines, followed by some interpretive discussion would allow you to construct a table that similar to the one in Greyhawk. The closer the approximation, the more risk is attached, but the method should be fine [i.e. maths + opinion]

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  12. To follow up, here is a thread in the OD&D74:S&W Forum that addresses Weapon versus Armour for your Dwimmermount Campaign:

    http://odd74.proboards76.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=retroclone&thread=1820

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  13. I always thought the Weapon vs. AC tables were bizarre. I understand the intent, but since AC can be a result of so many things, it seems an odd way of solving things.

    I think the 1d6 damage is nice idea, however. I might do something like this:

    Jimmy's Weapon vs Damage Table

    But then, AC is just a chance of being hit, and I think in this case armor and dexterity should be in opposition.

    That table is totally OGL, BTW ;)

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  14. I always thought the Weapon vs. AC tables were bizarre. I understand the intent, but since AC can be a result of so many things, it seems an odd way of solving things.

    I think that is likely a misunderstanding on your part. Armour Class (in AD&D at least) is literally the class of armour, not the overall defensive value of the individual. Yeah, there are plenty of oddities around that (padded armour and leather being treated the same, mail and shield the same as banded, etcetera), but armour class is actual armour type, not modified armour class [i.e. by magic, dexterity, or whatever].

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  15. I think that is likely a misunderstanding on your part. Armour Class (in AD&D at least) is literally the class of armour, not the overall defensive value of the individual. Yeah, there are plenty of oddities around that (padded armour and leather being treated the same, mail and shield the same as banded, etcetera), but armour class is actual armour type, not modified armour class [i.e. by magic, dexterity, or whatever]

    No, I've got that much.

    However, do the weapons vs. AC tables refer to unmodified AC or modified ACs? I always assumed it was modified AC. In the first case it makes some sense, but requires keeping track of each; in the second case it seems logically inconsistent.

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  16. However, do the weapons vs. AC tables refer to unmodified AC or modified ACs? I always assumed it was modified AC. In the first case it makes some sense, but requires keeping track of each; in the second case it seems logically inconsistent.

    Unmodified, which is what I said above. ;)

    Basically, if a character has an armour class of 1 from mail armour, dexterity 17 and a ring of protection +1, he is armour class 5 (mail) for the purpose of the weapon versus armour table. As a result of Chainmail/OD&D conventions if he has a shield he is armour class 4, but mail armour +2 is still AC 5, not AC 3.

    It would be more consistent if shields were ignored, but they aren't.

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  17. Thanks Mathew. I just reread the 1e PHB 'ARMOR CLASS TABLE' section on pg 36. After 25 years, the last sentence reads differently to me: "Magic plate mail +3 and magic shield +5 are equal to AC -6, or can be treated as AC2 with a subtraction of 8 from the attackers' 'to-hit' dice rolls."

    Why oh why did Gary write "equal to AC -6, or..." Why the equal/or?! Why didn't he write something explicit considering 'to-hit' weapon adjustments? It would have saved me pain in 1983.

    Curious, is there a place where the distinction of modified AC and unmodified AC for weapon adjustments is made explicitly in 1e AD&D? I read over those books a lot as a youngin and never could understand the logic of the weapon vs. AC tables. Had I considered it was unmodified AC, I might have actually tried it back in the day.

    It seems such a simple thing that could have been noted explicitly.

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  18. Wait. Just found it. Bottom of pg 28, 1e DMG.

    -palm to face-
    Son of a b...

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  19. Jimmy, here it is on 1E DMG p. 28:

    WEAPON TYPES, "TO HIT" ADJUSTMENT NOTE: If you allow weapon type adjustments in your campaign please be certain to remember that these adjustments are for weapons versus specific types of armor, not necessarily against actual armor class.

    I was certainly in the habit of listing "AC: 2 (Type: 4)" back when I played AD&D for this purpose, not sure if it showed that way in any publications.

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  20. And... ninja'd by Jimmy himself. Well played! :D

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  21. Personally I have dropped weapon v. armor pluses/minuses from my 1st e. AD&D just to have one less table to look at, but if all weapons are going to do the same damage (something that will never seem right to me), I think it is much needed.

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  22. No problem, Jimmy. You are by no means alone in thinking that is weapon type versus modified armour class (which is partly why I was able to guess your problem). I think it is just about the most common misconception with regard to those AD&D tables.

    For what it is worth, it is not at all clear that the same applies to the 1976 Greyhawk version, that has to be guessed from the source material (Chainmail) and doesn't seem to be carried over to Swords & Spells (where armour classes as low as −2 have modifiers).

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  23. To follow up, here is a thread in the OD&D74:S&W Forum that addresses Weapon versus Armour for your Dwimmermount Campaign:

    That's superb. I'll be giving it a whirl this weekend. Thank you.

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  24. Here's one thought that requires A decent amount of upfront work to get it in place but afterward it becomes just a table.

    Step 1 - A little websurfing to see what weapons various armors were effective against (and what weapons were most useful against various weapons). Try to generalize this into slashing, piercing, and bludgeoning.

    Step 2 - Use these to generate a first pass of to-hit modifiers. (i.e. ac 7 is +x vs slashing, -y vs piecing, etc.).

    Step 3 - Then use the variable weapon damage to give an extra bonus or penalty to-hit (assuming you are using the d6 standard damage). For instance, a 1d8 weapon gives an extra +1 to hit against all armors (which is combined with the step 2 value) while a 1d4 weapon would be -1.

    Step 4 - Double-check the table generated to see if it "feels" right. i.e. "I think the dagger should get a little boost against this armor type because...".

    It's kinda kludgey, but it is probably along the lines of how the initial tables were generated.

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  25. My pleasure. I hope it works out for you. At some point in the near future I will look into ranged weapon modifiers and add them in as well.

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  26. Oh you know, one thing I'll point is that in Greyhawk Gygax writes specifically that the weapon-vs-AC table is intended to be used in conjunction with variable weapon damage (p. 13).

    If this system is used it is suggested that the separate damage by weapon type and monster type also he employed.

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  27. Here's my OD&D weapons-vs-AC proposal for today:

    http://deltasdnd.blogspot.com/2009/02/proposal-weapons-vs-ac.html

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  28. I'm not a lawyer, but my understanding is that you can't copyright rules, and thus that you could use *all* the information from that table, as long as you didn't copy their 'artistic presentation' ie as long as the table wasn't substantially the same. The law does bear in mind that there are only so many ways to present particular kinds of information, so I'd just (for example) put the weapons in a different order and put the ACs in reverse order.

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  29. I think you have to be careful with those bonuses. Somebody wears leather, and you grant his opponent a +2 bonus, that's the equivalent of ignoring his armor altogether. Plus a high bonus encourages people to obsess about arms and armor -- I'm not sure this a healthy development. That's why I'd suggest a simple +1 bonus.

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  30. Actually, different weapons being more or less effective against different types of armor is very historically accurate and adds a level of realism to a system which has been often criticized for being unrealistic. A specific example from history was the shift in weaponry that occurred at the advent of full plate armor. When plate came around, soldiers quickly discovered that their traditional weapon of choice, the sword, could not penetrate and was not effective against such armor however bludgeoning weapons, especially ones with flanges, spikes, etc., were, so there was a decided shift in weaponry in which soldiers began to carry maces, flails, hammers, and blunt axes instead of swords. Where swords were used they had changed in form to the estoc or tuck which had a long tapering triangular pointed blade specifically designed not to cut but to pierce the joints and cervices of plate armor or to split mail.

    This fact of combat has, of course, been simulated in the OD&D Greyhawk and AD&D rules through giving specific weapons "to hit" adjustments versus specific classes of armor. This system works regardless of whether variable damage is used because the "to hit" table is what determines if you can actually damage your opponent not how much dice of damage the weapon actually does. The system does run into trouble in D&D when one modifies Armor Class with dexterity and other modifiers or when a monster is given an AC rating without explanation as it can then hard to determine what the actual Armor Class with regard to weapon adjustment an opponent actually has. For example, in AD&D, a pixie is listed as having AC5, is this because it is wearing chain mail or has a hide like chain mail and my scimitar should get a -1 to hit it, not likely, rather it is likely AC 5 because it is small and fast. If that is the case, then what should it's AC be with regard to weapon adjustments. For this system to really work, creatures need to be given a very strict armor class and then bonuses or minuses to hit on top of that to account for speed, size, etc. rather than a generic number. A pixie for example could be listed as AC:10(-5 to hit) or more complex AC:10(-3 Dex, -2 SZ) or some combination there of.

    ED

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  31. Actually, different weapons being more or less effective against different types of armor is very historically accurate<

    Oh man, why didn't anyone else think of that? Sorry about the dark sarcasm, but really, preaching big time to the choir there..

    and adds a level of realism to a system which has been often criticized for being unrealistic<

    Gonna need to be some major rules overhauls (as in - throw them all out) to the system to be anything but a "bit" more realistic. I think this is all about the simple concept of game task resolution and the DM's comfort level of how it's done, not an attempt to bump up D&D's "realism" or historical accuracy.

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