Thursday, March 25, 2010

two thoughts on Chainmail

Thought One: This post by Evan  and the list of Chainmail monsters I made last month cross-pollinated in my brain a bit and got me thinking more about the intersection between Chainmail and OD&D.  When using the Chainmail combat rules monsters that fight like men (halflings, sprites, pixies, dwarves, gnomes, kobolds, elves, fairies, orcs, zombies, etc.) cannot hurt some monsters (true trolls, dragons, elementals and giant spiders).  To defeat the latter you need someone who can fight on the Fantasy Combat Table.  That means you need at least one Hero, Super-Hero or Wizard in the party to take on these baddies.  Third level fighters can operate as a "Hero -1", as can sixth level clerics.  As far as I can tell twenty second level fighters and a dozen fifth level clerics will be utterly destroyed by a single True Troll.   The True Troll can hurt them but they can't hurt it back, if they leave things up to the combat system.  I like that a lot.  Kinda like how the Holmes Basic monster list contains a bunch of monsters completely out of the league of normal 1st through 3rd level play.  Players are forced to out-think the monsters because brute force simply won't work.

Thought Two: What happens when someone runs out of hit points?  Looking at Chainmail reminded me of D&D's wargame heritage.  Wargames normally don't really care whether a chit full of troops is dead to a man.  Although the term 'killed' might be bandied about, we're really talking about casualties, a concept which covers a lot of ground besides outright death.  Any troop that can't fight is a casualty, whatever the circumstances.  Troops too wounded to fight are casualties.  As are those troops that are captured, missing, or disabled by psychological trauma.  To a general mustering forces for the next battle, a deserter is a casualty.  From this point of view, equating running out of hit points with pushing up the daisies over-simplifies the situation.  That's one of the reasons some minis games have random die charts like the one near the end of this post to determine the fate of special figures that have been "killed".  Here's a similar chart I first developed back in 2007 for when PCs and their minions hit zero HP.

Death's Door, v1.1.

PC's and important NPCs roll on this chart when their supply of hit points have been completely exhausted. First level PCs add one to their roll.

1. Dead. Only Raise Dead or Reincarnation can help now.
2. Mostly Dead, as in The Princess Bride. Character can take no actions until roused by magic. Cure Light Wounds or a healing potion each have a 50% chance of working. Each of these methods may only be tried once. Cure Serious Wounds always works. Revived characters are -4 on to-hits, saves, and damage for d12 days.
3. Major Wound. Knocked unconscious, awaken as per number 5 below. Loss of d6 stat points, each coming off a random stat. Total debilitation for d6 months, after which stat loss heals at one point per month of complete rest, except for the last point of stat loss, which is permanent. Cure Serious Wounds turns the months of recovery into weeks but otherwise provides no further assistance.
4. Unconscious and Bleeding. Must save versus Death Ray d6 rounds from now, then d6 turns later, then d6 hours. Any failed save results in death. Any cure spell or healing potion halts the bleeding, allowing the character to regain consciousness with one hit point. Someone taking 1 round for first aid and rolling Wis or lower on d20 slows the bleeding, bumping the check interval up to turns/hours/days. After such a wound hit points heal naturally at a weekly rather than daily rate until the character is fully restored. Awaken as per number 5 below.
5. Knocked out. Awaken d6 turns later with one hit point. All attacks, damage rolls, and saves are at -2 until the character gets d12 days of rest.
6+. Close call. Character still has 1 hit point. No further effect.

Maybe I should do a new revision with captured, missing, desertion and/or shell-shock as possibilities.  Another way to go would be a gristly Rolemaster/Arduin Grimoire style crit shart that one rolls on anytime you get whacked down to zero HP.  Most NPCs would give up or run away at that point, but the PCs could buck up and fight on.  Every subsequent hit would mean additional rolls on the gruesome critical strike charts.