Interesting aspects of AD&D combat

One of the interesting things about running AD&D combat after so long with 3E and 4E is how it allows simultaneous resolution of melee combat. In particular, when most of the group are just hitting monsters with their swords, hammers and axes, I’ve told them the AC they need to hit, and then let them tell me the damage (if they hit). There’s not a lot of waiting around.

This is really important in this campaign, as I’ve had up to nine players (and three dogs) in the game at once. If we played using the 3e and 4e paradigm, which spends a lot of time on each action, then combat would be going for hours.

The fewer players you have, the more time you have to resolve individual actions. It’s not a surprise that some of the best sessions I’ve had of 4E were with only 3 players.

Non-cyclical initiative also helps AD&D run quicker; especially as you don’t have to plan out your move on your turn because the situation changes so much.

That said, if you’re playing a fighter in AD&D, you really would like your DM to allow you to do Cool Stuff through description from time to time.

Of course, when I say “AD&D”, I’m talking about a game that doesn’t exist in the rulebooks. Gary Gygax was many things, but a good rule writer was not one of them. It’s staggering to look at the rules that are missing from the AD&D tomes. A good example proceeds from the morale rules, where failed morale gives four options:

* Surrender (no problem there)
* Flee in Panic
* Disengage/Retreat
* Fall back, fighting

However, when you look at the rules for moving from combat, you get the following:

It is never possible to flee from on encounter where the opponent party is in striking range. (See Breaking Off From Melee, below)

Breaking Off From Melee:

At such time as any creature decides, it can break off the engagement and flee the melee. To do so, however, allows the opponent a free attack or attack routine. This attack is calculated as if it were a rear attack upon a stunned opponent. When this attack is completed, the retiring/fleeing party may move away at full movement rate, and unless the opponent pursues and is able to move at a higher rate of speed, the melee is ended and the situation becomes one of encounter avoidance.

So, what’s the difference between “Flee in panic”, “Disengage/retreat” and “Fall back, fighting”?

The Player’s Handbook gives a little more detail:

Participants in a melee can opt to attack, parry, fall back, or flee. attack can be by weapon, bore hands, or grappling. Parrying disallows any return artack that round, but the strength “to hit” bonus is then subtracted from the opponent’s “to hit” dice roll(s), so the character is less likely to be hit. Falling back is a retrograde move facing the opponent(s) and can be used in conjunction with a parry, and opponent creatures are able to follow if not otherwise engaged. Fleeing means as rapid a withdrawal from combat as possible; while it exposes the character to rear attack at the time, subsequent attacks can only be made if the opponent is able to follow the fleeing character at equal or greater speed.

Given that most characters have a zero modifier “to hit” from Strength – and even most of the better ones just a +1 – parrying is one of Gygax’s really bad rules. All of these descriptions look like they’ll be explained further in the DMG, but – surprise, surprise – such was not forthcoming.

Help comes from the various Basic D&D games, but AD&D is a frustratingly incomplete game in some of its core rules. And with some really, really overcomplicated rules.

Interestingly, the Bless spell adds +1 to morale, whilst AD&D morale is expressed in a percentage. Hmm. (It’s also a really flawed version of morale; my favourite remains that in Moldvay).

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