RPG vs Skirmish game rule issues

If there’s one thing that can confuse people, it is that the rules of the D&D RPG and the D&D Miniatures skirmish game aren’t the same.

I see it over and over again, people thinking that because something works one way in the RPG, it must work the same way in the Skirmish game. Fortunately, they don’t.

Why do I say fortunately? It’s because the Skirmish game is simpler than the RPG. This is a big attraction, because the RPG is designed around one player controlling each figure (except the DM, of course). If you used the full RPG rules when running a Skirmish game, it’d take a lot longer. You’d also likely need a referee, because of the options allowed in the RPG rules.

The Skirmish game is simpler. Remember that, and you’ll find things a lot easier.

Here are a few issues that I’ve seen come up from time to time.

Melee Reach and Attacks of Opportunity

In the RPG, large monsters can attack any square they can reach, the same as the Skirmish game. Where the rules differ is as follows: in the RPG, when a creature move in an area the large monster can reach, the large monster gets an Attack of Opportunity. In the Skirmish game, the AoO only occurs when the creature moves from an adjacent square.

Why does it work like this? Simplicity. Although it’s not that hard to work out the reach (threatened) area when there’s only a few figures on the board, by the time you get to 20+ figures, things get a lot more complicated. It’s easy to see which figures are adjacent; it’s not so easy to see which figures are 2 squares away… and then remember whether or not they have reach.

The Carrion Crawler (a large creature) doesn’t have reach. The Elf Spearguard has Reach 2. And the Aspect of Lolth has Reach 3.

The less you have to check your opponent’s cards during the game, the quicker it will be. So, Melee Reach doesn’t allow Attacks of Opportunity if the creature isn’t adjacent.

5 foot steps and Sidestep

There’s a rule in the RPG that states that if the only movement for a creature is a 5 foot step in any direction (that’s one square), it doesn’t provoke attacks of opportunity.

That rule doesn’t exist in the Skirmish game. Any normal movement will provoke an AoO. There’s an exception, which comes from the ability Sidestep.

Why doesn’t the Skirmish game allow a Sidestep for all figures? Again, I suspect it’s for simplicity. Movement follows one set of rules (if you move from an adjacent square, you provoke an Attack of Opportunity). You only need to teach the one rule to a new player.

The Sidestep ability allows you to add the sense of that 5′ step to the figure that really need it (normally rogues with Sneak Attack), and maintain the simplicity of the game.

Magic Weapon vs Magic Fang

This one turns up quite a bit. Why does magic weapon affect all creatures whilst magic fang only affects Animals and Magical Beasts? Why doesn’t it work the same way as the RPG?

I think you can guess the answer: it keeps things simple.

In the RPG, magic weapon only affects manufactured weapons, with the exception of the Monk’s attacks. When you apply that to the miniature game, you suddenly have to decide whether or not the creature is wielding a weapon.

But wait! It get’s more complicated. The Medusa has two melee attacks: the first is with a shortsword, the second is a bite attack from her snakes. One is a manufactured weapon, the other isn’t. So what happens when magic weapon is cast?

So, to keep things simple, magic weapon affects everything, including animals. For the same reason, magic fang only works on animals or magical beasts rather on “natural weapons”.

This makes it better than magic fang doesn’t it? So, why have both of them?

Well, because it adds flavour. Druids and Rangers can cast magic fang, and Clerics and Wizards can cast magic weapon. It’s worth remembering that both spells won’t be on the same figure, and they’re not spells used in isolation – the figure doesn’t have magic fang and that’s it! If a figure can cast magic weapon (and that’s it), and another figure can summon a wolf and cast magic fang, which is the better figure?

Point costs, faction and utility determine which figure you’d use. There are times when the figure with magic fang is the better figure; it’s not quite as simple as it might initially appear.

Incidentally, you can cast magic fang and magic weapon on the same animal or magical beast, giving it +2 to its attacks and “Ignores DR”.


There are lots of other differences between the games. (The way Spell Resistance works is one). Normally, it’s to make the game simpler. Have a go of the Mass Combat system one of these days, and you’ll see why Simpler is good for the game. 🙂

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