Friday, March 17, 2006

Mapless D&D Combat, part 1

I'm considering getting rid of the battlemat and figures for my next d20 campaign. The main disadvantage in doing so is that several sections of the rules are designed for to allow for tactical advantages based upon positioning. In this post I'll tackle Area Effects in abstract combat. I'm saving the whole AoO's and Flanking for a future date. But first, how many orcs does my fireball hit?


5' radiusd4d3+1d2+2d2
10' radiusd8d6+2d4+4d3
15' radiusd20*d12+12d6+18d4
20' radiusd30d20+24d10+34d6
15' coned6d4+2d3+3d3
30' coned20*d12+12d6+18d6

*Substitute a d24 if one is available.

Adjust the number rolled based upon foe size. For example, double the number affected if the foes are small and divide the number rolled by 4 for large numbers.

At the DM option specifying a particular target in a group ('I center the effect on the wizard') bump the dice range one category to the left. Crowded groups are treated as average density and average groups as sparse. Half the numbers rolled for sparse groups.

The special 'vs PCs' column is designed to take into account that most players are smart enough to avoid crowding up against a dragon or fireball-lobber. A DM could probably get away with occasionally using this column for tactically-minded NPC groups.


  1. For reasons I still don't understand Blogger likes to add in a bunch of empty space above standard HTML tables. Anybody know a fix for this?

  2. I suspect it is due to the stylesheet that you are referencing.

    If so, you could either change the template so that the style doesn't do that to tables or you could tweak your html. A quick thing to try would be to replace your table tag with table style="margin-top: 0cm" or something.

  3. I don't know how I feel about this.

    What goes into determining how many orcs your fireball hits?

    You make it merely a matter of:
    - The size of your fireball
    - The density of the orc crowd

    This sort of takes into account how many orcs there are, but... not so much.

    It ignores:

    - The cool plan the PCs come up with
    - How the terrain might effect the grouping of the orcs
    - The angle of attack (with a cone attack)
    - The fact that a PC might be willing to put himself or another PC at risk in order to get more of the enemy

    A battlemat may not be essential for all of the above, but it does have the advantage of conveying a complicated situation pretty quickly.

  4. Good points all around. I'll check into the stylesheet issue.

    I'm not porposing this chart as the end-all and be-all of resolving this issue. Once you elminate the map the DM has to adjudicate these things on the fly. I just wanted a tool to give myself a good starting point. I'd have no problem with bumping up a density level is the PC's were willing to risk catching friendlies in the blast, for instance.

    And the chart is designed to be generous to the PCs. I assumed that an 'average' density could possibly result in a bad guy standing in every affected square.

  5. Is the chart used before or after the fireball is lobbed?

    Is it:

    Option 1

    Player: If I use a fireball and want to hit that wizard, how many orcs can I get in the blast?

    DM: (consults chart. rolls) Four.

    Option 2

    Player: If I use a fireball and want to hit that wizard, how many orcs can I get in the blast?

    DM: (consults chart.) 1d8 Blast away and we'll see.

    Option 3

    Player: If I use a fireball and want to hit that wizard, how many orcs can I get in the blast?

    DM: Blast away and we'll see. (i.e., chart consulted after the player decides on a course of action)

  6. I would roll and give the player that info, but that roll would be good only for that round.

  7. That makes sense.

  8. On the topic of firebals:
    "No thanks, I'm not hungry."