Saturday, March 22, 2014

Modified ACKS approach to combat maneuvers

Labyrinth Lord is silent when it comes to special maneuvers that players might want to try during combat: disarming, bull rushing, tripping, overrunning, grappling, etc. So it's up to the DM either to wing it on a case-by-case basis or invent some kind of fixed mechanic that he can use to determine the outcomes of such attempts.

ACKS has a simple method for such things: the attacker makes an normal melee attack roll at -4 against the defender's AC, and the defender gets a save vs. paralyze. I have two reasons for not being satisfied with this method:

1) Using the paralyze save gives lower-level magic-users a consistent advantage over fighters when it comes to fending off such attacks. Fighters 1-3 save vs. paralyze at 14 while magic-users 1-5 save vs. paralyze at 13. Granted that the fighter's save improves more rapidly (1-3, 4-6, 7-9 vs. the magic-user's 1-5, 6-10, 11-15), that only allows the fighter to reach parity with the magic-user at certain levels; he doesn't overtake the magic-user until level 7. This doesn't make much sense: combat maneuvers are straightforward physical attacks, which the fighter should always excel at defending against.

2) Making AC the target number for determining the success of such maneuvers, while convenient, is implausible. Why should grappling or disarming an opponent wearing plate mail (AC 3) be 25% harder than grappling or disarming someone wearing leather (AC 8)? Armor type doesn't seem relevant to these sorts of attacks, and yet armor type is the single-most important factor in determining AC.

In spite of these two misgivings, I do like the simplicity of the ACKS approach. I think it fits well with the uncomplicated Labyrinth Lord (B/X) method of combat resolution. So here's my attempt to rectify things:

1*) Replace the save vs. paralyze with a save vs. breath attacks. Fighter-types are consistently better at this save than any other class; they top out at level 16 with a 4, while the next best is the cleric, who at level 17 saves with a 6. Magic-users top out with a 7 at level 19.

2*) Make AC 9 the base target AC for all defenders, regardless of what armor they're wearing, and have it improve with combat level advancement. Combat level is 20-THAC0, so this would imply that a creature's ability to defend against combat maneuvers scales with the ability to execute such maneuvers (which is just a normal attack roll).

So, a 1st-level fighter attempting to grapple a hobgoblin (HD 1+1, THAC0 18, combat level 2) would make an attack roll at -4 against AC 7 (base AC 9 minus 2), despite the fact that the hobgoblin is wearing chain mail+shield (AC 4). If he succeeds, the hobgoblin would need to roll a 15 or better (F1 save vs. breath attacks) to break the grapple.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Form-fillable pdf character sheet for Labyrinth Lord/AEC

Yet another Labyrinth Lord character sheet, this time a landscape version that auto-calculates attack values, equipment cost and encumbrance.

(p.s. - the gem encumbrance values are derived from the 1e DMG)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Reaper Bones Skeleton

Painting miniatures has never been my strong point, but I've decided to work on upping my game. My Army Painter "Mega Paint Set" arrived today, so I had a go with one of the skeletons from Reaper's plastic "Bones" collection.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Labyrinth Lord Referee Screen (Landscape Orientation)

Here are the panels of my Labyrinth Lord referee screen. I slide them into a Savage Worlds GM screen (they're pricey but awesome). Note that there are some house-rule modifications: I gave the heavy crossbow a longer range than the light crossbow and gave a 5 lb. carrying capacity to the small belt pouch. Everything else should be in accordance with the LL/AEC rules. You can download the pdf from the link in the sidebar.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The cleric is dead. Long live the magic-user.

My cleric, Anselm, bit the dust in last night's OD&D game (due to a rather foolish bit of bravado). In all of five minutes I had a new magic-user rolled up and ready to go.

Try doing that with Pathfinder.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

"I'll take Purify Food and Drink"

If you ever hear a cleric say that, it's probably April 1st. Unfortunately, the way D&D is usually played,  both magic-users and clerics pretty much always prepare the same damn spells for an adventuring session. The reason is obvious: if you don't know exactly what you'll be facing, then it stands to reason that you'd select those spells that are most likely to be useful against the sorts of things that you usually end up facing: monsters. So clerics take healing spells, or maybe command (which is still risky because you probably won't speak the right language) and magic-users prepare sleep or magic missile.

In my current Barrowmaze campaign, I'm trying to encourage a little more variety by rolling randomly for the clerics' bonus spells (an idea I believe I got from the Akratic Wizardry blog), but it's a bit too heavy-handed in limiting the players' choices regarding a major aspect of their PCs capabilities.

It seems to me that the problem is just that: the players don't know what they'll be facing. By overcoming that lack of knowledge the spell casters would be in a better position to make more nuanced spell choices, and this can be done in (at least) two ways. The players themselves could attempt initial reconnaissance missions before making a head on assault on the dungeon. I understand that Rub Kuntz's Robilar character would first investigate a given level of Castle Greyhawk and get the lay of the dungeon before taking on whatever was there. So if the party scout comes back with info about a room full of snakes, then the cleric could prepare snake charm for the next day's attempt on that room.

Also, DMs could make info about the dungeon available through NPCs that have braved the dungeon themselves and, for the right price, are willing to share a few of the secrets they've discovered with the party. In fact, tracking these sorts of NPCs down might make for an interesting side-adventure. "There's a rumor in town about an old fighter living off in the hills who years ago lost his right arm and was driven to near madness by something he ran into in the dungeons below the ruined castle. If you can find him he may have something useful to say about what's in there." And such info may very well give the spell casters ideas as to what spells to prepare against these threats, that might prove even more useful than cure light wounds or magic missile.