Friday, February 10, 2012

Wessex weapons in AD&D

The three stupidest, ugliest, pain-in-the-assiest charts in the 1st edition Players Handbook are found on pages 37 and 38.  These are the Weight and Damage By Weapon Type chart and the two Weapon Type, General Data, and "To Hit" Adjustments charts.  Go look if you have a copy.  Of course, if you have a copy you probably know exactly what we're talking about.  We're talking about the friggin' speed factor/weapon-versus-AC chart.

Since AD&D1 is on a lot of minds lately, what with the forthcoming reprints and all, I thought I'd try chopping these charts down by only using weapons and armor that actually appear in my campaign.  The results seem a lot more manageable.

(Click to embiggen)

The lesson here might be that with a game as big as D&D one way of getting a handle on it is to cut it down to size.  You can do this same sort of thing with monsters and treasures, too.  I talked a bit about that a while back.


  1. I agree about cutting down. It what you have to do for GURPS when you setup a campaign.

    However about the complexity of weapon speed and AC Bonus. I think the big problem is explaining what the do. It took reading ADDICT and Chainmail before I realized that both are straight forward to use.

    Weapon speed only comes into play for tied initiative, and if your weapons speed is considerably less than your opponent you get multiple attacks.

    Weapon vs AC is better read as Weapon vs Armor. It only come into play if your opponent has the armor in question. Which largely leave worrying about monsters.

    Of course AD&D makes it murky it up with having in between Armor types. In OD&D we have none, leather, chain, plate. Then the shield modifies. AD&D adds types inbetween those.

  2. of all the fiddly rules in AD&D, Weapon vs. AC is one we never used. I think I had one player bring it up a few times until he realized that it also involved hit penalties. Then it never came up again.

  3. I like how you made the vs. armor actual armor types (vs. listing armor classes). That's how it should have been - and a good merging of relevant info

  4. Anonymous2:55 PM

    It's still a bit weird. It's not quite complete enough to be, well, complete -- there's no costing or availability to classes, for example. But there's still detail which isn't directly related to running the average combat, either, like encumbrance. So hrm.

    Also do you mess around with dual-wielding at all?

    1. Cost and class availability weren't on the charts I merged. Not that that stuff can't be added back in easily enough.

      Dual wielding: currently not available in Wessex. In AD&D you can wield a dagger or hand axe in your off hand for two attacks, but your attacks are -2 and -4 to-hit, which can be offset by your reaction/attacking adjustment for dex.

  5. wonderful charts. they spice up combat which otherwise would be boring..
    i think we are used to playing an over-simplified version of ad&d most of the time.
    these tables are nowhere near the complexitiesof other fantasy rpg's out there, but many are scared by them, can't understand why.

  6. Anonymous3:33 PM

    they spice up combat which otherwise would be boring..

    As the DM, my policy is that I spice up combats which might otherwise be boring.

  7. Never used those charts. Ever. No one I currently game with used them either (as far as I know). I can't recall ever playing the game with anyone who used them.

    While I am inclined to go with Anonymous on this, I would add, 'I spice up combats 'In D&D' which would otherwise be boring.' In most games I run, a combination of the game and the players prevent it from being so.

  8. Anonymous8:04 PM

    In most games I run, a combination of the game and the players prevent it from being so.

    Naturally; on some level one could respond to my earlier point by noting that, taken to its logical extreme, it leads to a game with no rules at all besides the whim (however thoughtful and internally rational) of the DM. My players would probably find this arrangement a little questionable! Story games seem (never having played one myself) to be heavy on rules that make explicit the dynamics and distribution of agency around the table, whereas D&D's rules maybe function more like a steady-state "bill of rights" for the players that maintains certain contextual assumptions about the consequences of their actions. Fortunately, my players are rarely satisfied with those rights made explicit in the rules; they can't stop themselves from keeping things from being boring.

  9. I don't actually play AD&D, I use BECMI basic, so take this with a grain of salt.

    I agree with the general idea that Weapon vs. Armor Type/AC is interesting but over complicated in most games. It's something I've never even considered adapting to my game.

    Weapon speeds, however, I like, and use. There's two reasons, really:

    1> I also use spell casting times. IMO, if you use casting times but don't use weapon speeds, you're unbalancing the game even more against Wizard types. Even if you don't use some sort of rule that says a spell is interrupted and not cast (or worse, botched) if the wizard is hit in melee before his spell goes off, at low level especially, the big, slow weapons are quite likely to incapacitate or kill a wizard. Since the melee focused classes are more likely to get an initiative bonus from a good DEX score, its probably unlikely that a wizard will go before the tanks in a combat round.

    2> Speed factor gives a player a reason to select the small, fast, finesse weapons instead of just going for what deals out the most damage. As a player whose favorite class is the thief, it's nice to have some game benefit, however minor, to reward me using daggers instead of the long sword. Like the logic for the speed factors and casting times above, if my weapons do less damage on average than the big dumb fighter's, but i get to strike first most of the time, there is less reason to just min-max for damage dealing.

  10. I use weapon versus armor to determine critical hits,
    NOT effect the d20 roli,
    more seamless that way and allows different weapons to have different effects.

    Similar to Role master and WarHammer fantasy .. .
    send me your email address I wont publish)
    IF you want a copy of the Word file.

  11. Fussart? The shortened glaive thing? Why only d4? Or is it something else?

    1. No, you got it right. I decided it does one die less than a full-sized glaive. I like the way it sucks.

  12. My major take-away from this: Leather + Shield is the baseline armour for hit probabilities.

  13. Really nice summary! It does make it seem less cumbersome.

  14. If you think the AD&D 1e charts were bad, wait till I type up the Mythus weapon charts. Then again, combat is in 3 second rounds, each of which has 30 tenth of a second beats.

  15. My main objections is that the modifiers make no sense. Out of what Portable Ass of Holding did Gary pull out a +3 vs. unarmored for crossbows but a +1 for quarterstaffs? The concept would be more realistic as a set of conditional modifiers based on tangible benefits; e.g., a mace gets +1 to hit for each 2AC of physical armor, to simulate its penetrative power; a wooden weapon like a staff gets +1 to hit vs. an unarmored opponent; etc.

  16. Roger - I have to admit, the overarching reason I didn't use AC vs. Weapon Type was because I scoffed at some of the judgement calls in the table. I also didn't feel knowledgeable enough to reject Gary's reality and substitute my own.