Thursday, October 20, 2011
AD&D's unarmed combat rules, with its distinctions between grappling, pummeling, and overbearing were a source of continued vexation to me as a younger man. I longed to have simple, workable rules to handle the inevitable barroom brawls that would break out in the course of a campaign and yet I couldn't make heads or tails of the rules in the DMG. I mostly wound up using the standard combat system and improvising the effects of bare-knuckled punches and the like -- that is, until I read Phil Meyers's "Without any weapons ..." in issue #61 (May 1982) of Dragon.
I really liked Meyers's rules, which were intended to be easy to use and abstract, just like melee combat in D&D. They were certainly a lot easier to use than those in the Dungeon Masters Guide at any rate! I used to keep a photocopy of the rules folded up inside my DM's Screen (along with critical hit tables from another issue of Dragon) and used them often in play. In retrospect, Meyers's rules are still fairly complex, especially when compared to later alternatives; they were just simpler than the official rules -- and made more sense to boot.