Re: Multiple attacks from Chainmail.

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Post by Talassa » Sat Mar 12, 2022 5:42 pm

Multiple attacks from Chainmail.

I would like to explore more the ideia that the character would get a number of attacks equal to his fighting capability (a 4th level fighter as a hero or as 4 men; a 4th level M-U as two men +1: page 17 of Bk 1.Men & Magic).

Also, that same reasoning extends to monsters, per HD, as per page 5 of Bk 2.Monsters & Treasure Monsters would get “Attack/Defense capabilities versus normal men are simply a matter of allowing one roll as a man-type for every hit die, with any bonuses being given to only one of the attacks, i.e. a Troll would attack six times, once with a +3 added to the die roll”.

I interpret “vs. normal men” as using the man-to-man system (appendix B) rather then the fantasy supplement (appendix E) from Chainmail. The common wisdom was of equating a normal man as a 1 HD enemy, which followed in subsequent publications and the rest is history as we all know it. I think that interpretation from Gygax does not have to be universal. It was a choice, sure. But what if...

In 1974 (before Greyhawk) people had the LLB and Chainmail to work on. Notice that Chainmail has at least 3 different combat systems that are supposed to be applicable in any given game in different situations: mass battle (troop types: heavy foot vs. medium horse), man-to-man (weapon class vs. armor class: spear vs. plate) and fantasy combat (fantasy archetypes: Hero vs. Troll).

That would mean, using Chainmail in conjunction with D&D, in my applicaction of said rules (one of many possible) that we could be using (at least) two different systems:

Appendix B: in a man-to-man scenario (versus normal men) the Troll would be able to make 6 attacks in a round (you had to invent or pick a weapon class for him) vs. a party of 6 1st/2nd level characters and retainers. That would be a dangerous prospect, but it would be faster combat in terms of rounds. The problematic thing in practical terms is, Chainmail used 2d6 for hit resolution (which imply the need for the referee to roll 2d6 six times for the Troll, which is unwieldy). The combat would get faster IRL if there was an different alternative system with d20 (which could enable a 6d20 roll for the Troll for instance). The alternative system in OD&D, which ended being the more popular, didn’t went in that direction, instead considered that the higher the character level, the greater the chance to hit with one d20 alone.

Appendix E: as soon as a character graduated to Hero status (or Hero -1), he could be able to engage the Troll by the fantasy supplement rules, which uses only a dice throw (by which in a 2d6 table a Troll would need a 8 or a 9 to hit a Hero, and a Hero would need a 9 or a 10 to hit a Troll). The conventional wisdom in this case tell that the damage suffered would be only 1d6. But I don’t think that is right. The damage suffered by such an hit would be equal to the fighting capability of a player character and the HD of the monster.

The reasoning being that in Chainmail a hit equals a kill, and the reason some monster/types fighting like more than one man is that they are tougher to kill, they need more than 1 hit to kill. So in Chainmail a hit means a kill vs. a man. I recall reading that Arneson changed that to a hit doing 1d6 damage vs a 1d6 hit dice in order to provide for more variety and uncertainty of outcomes, a clever move, really. That might have happened after a player of his lost his Hero character to a Troll in a simple hit based on Appendix E resolution table.

So I think it is fun to wander about the path not taken and think about some the emergent properties of D&D which may have been lost or never found in a world where HD would not only be relevant to the quantity of damage one could take, but also the quantity of damage one could dish. I think there are very interesting insights and choices to be made once you go explore further on that path.

Think how the fighter become so much weaker in subsequent supplements and editions that went further away from Chainmail. According to Chainmail 5th level fighter could be able dish 5 attacks or 5d6 damage in a round. That general math would remain a constant in Man-to-man, Mass Battle and Fantasy Combat, equating 1d6 to a hit/kill. A 5th level M-U would fight as 3 men, able to make 3 attacks, or cast a single Fireball Spell for 5d6 damage (guaranteed to hit w/o needing a to hit roll and being an area of effect; maybe allowing a save for half damage, see Bk 1.Men & Magic page 20 and 25).

What do you think? have you ever played like this? It would be something you would like playing?

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Post by Talassa » Sat Mar 12, 2022 6:00 pm

Re: Multiple attacks from Chainmail.

Your Hit Dice determining not only your hipoints but also your damage on a hit.

This means you could treat them as # of attacks (like in man-to-man), each doing 1d6; or
You could treat them as a sole attack roll, with #d6 damage (like in fantasy supplement).

That would put the fantasy supplement on par with man-to-man rules.

Also this is irrespective of the HD of opposition (it is the simplest math really).

So, this is not only for fighters and not only vs. 1hd monsters or NPCs. It applies to everyone.

As such, versus normal men (page 5 of Bk 2.Monsters & Treasure) would mean a Troll would be allowed one roll as a man-type for every hit die, BUT in heroic combat would get one roll only vs. heroes, doing full hit dice of damage (as that roll could mean a kill in Appendix E, Chainmail).

For this to work smoothly, I think it would probably be best to convert the 2d6 tables to d20 tables, and to make some particular rules changes in order to accommodate some effects. Nothing people won’t be doing as home rules anyway.

This means, taken the principle in Chainmail that 1 hit/1 kill means 1 Hit Die equals 1d6 hitpoints and 1d6 damage per Hit Dice.
That would be applicable to the Fighting man but also Clerics and M-U under OD&D, according to their respective Fighting Capability, remembering that 1 Hero fights as 4 men and a Super-Hero as 8 men in Chainmail. In D&D I would say a Wizard should fight as 5 men, according to the M-U progression chart.

That would make Fighting-men relevant again, given that they were subject to a major nerf since Greyhawk made the definitive choice for the alternative combat in OD&D. And I believe that is the reason why since Greyhawk fighters have been subject to further increases in power. Arguably we can defend they were majorly nerfed with the game drifting away from Chainmail.

Also, Monsters would have attack and defensive capabilities according to their HD (see the Troll example in OD&D). This interpretation is supported by Chainmail. Which means a 6 HD Troll would be able to do 6 attacks in a 1 minute round.

However, if we are going this route we would have to make a few changes: it would not make sense to use an attack table where the hit probability increases with level (as the alternate combat system). Characters and Monsters would get more attacks per HD/FC but the probability of each attack should remain the same as for a 1HD monster/1st Level PC (as it seems DD proposes to do).

Another way to do it would be to use the Chainmail Tables, making weapon class and type relevant, or better yet, to convert them to D20 (as Voyages of Zilarthen does). So you can roll all those d20 with your hirelings and henchmen, permitting to roll pools of dice, speeding combat in large numbers, like DD already does.

If we feel this rules have a much added mortality rate, specially for high level characters vs. high HD monsters there are somethings we can try to tinker about it, from letting PCs and NPCs roll on a casualty/injury table upon reaching 0 hp (maybe at the end of combat); letting some of the attacks to be used for defense, like parry, making good use of a shield, etc...

I think if we want to be faithful to the principle of converting a hit into a hit die, we must assume that a roll on Appendix E table, if not a Kill, at least should mean damage = number of HD of attacking creature/hero.

I would go even further and personally consider some house rule like reaching 0 hp could mean left for dead and if surviving, at least several adventures recovering and/or major loss on health & limb for the character. If needed, that is. Maybe it’s not even needed. But there was that lesson learned with Bob Meyer’s hero being killed by a Troll in a most probably very unsatisfying way.

I would be interested in the opinions from this forum, as I think Delving Deeper to be the retro-clone that has come the nearer to this interpretation. However DD choice was to separate the tiers man-to-man vs. fantasy supplement, where I see them as essentially compatível and mostly interchangeable, as page 5 of Monsters & Treasure gives us the rules for Fantasy Creatures to work in man-to-man (just treat HD as #attacks).
Last edited by Talassa on Sat Mar 12, 2022 6:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Talassa » Sun Mar 13, 2022 11:23 am

Re: Multiple attacks from Chainmail.

I haven’t be able to post in the odd74.proboards for some reason but I would also like to posit my interpretation regarding U&WA p8 (The Move/Turn in the Underworld): <<There are ten rounds of combat per turn>>

I read this by meaning that there are ten 1 minute rounds in a 10 minutes turn (for underground exploration).

The number of attacks (which can abstractly mean one attack or several blows, simultaneous or alternate with the opposition), should be condensed in the frantic 1 minute round. I think it is best that those are vague and fluid but nevertheless I think to share that equate 1 round to a blow is not my reading of the text. I think it makes sense 1 minute round to encompass all those blows.

This is only my reading of the text (Chainmail + 3LBB), by which man-to-man combat and fantastic combat are really interchangeable, in that the first would require more rolls, as many rolls as HD (for Monsters) or FC (for characters), each hit doing 1d6 damage) and would be apt to play skirmishes with many “figures” as well single combat, also allowing for detail, taking weapon class and weapon class into consideration.

Fantastic combat by Chainmail would require only one roll, being more abstract, but that roll potentially being a kill. That seems to be a problem Dave Arneson encountered when one of his players lost a hero character to a Troll in but a roll of 2d6. For me it makes sense to treat one roll doing damage dice = to FC or HD (for monsters - however I would posit that some monsters would have special rules, for instance OCHRE JELLY would always do 1d6 damage/round in contact with flesh, irrespective of HD).

However, the interesting thing of page 5 of M&T is that show us we can convert fantastic combat to man-to-man with no problem, keeping the math intact (which is possible in OD&D, unlike Chainmail, because all monsters have Hit Dice in OD&D, one HD equaling one man strength). The only thing that is missing in order for monsters to attack in man-to-man is the equivalent weapon (horses we know from Chainmail do damage with their hooves like a mace/morningstar/flail). I think the right solution (already implemented by Delving Deeper), is to let Monsters roll in the 1HD attack matrix when they are making multiple attacks. I would eschew completely the attack routines route (from Greyhawk), because I don’t think they really fit with the Chainmail + LLB ethos. If the Referee wants he can describe the damage result as being claws reading, bites tearing the flesh, etc.

A 3 HD heavy horse from LLB would attack in ODnD with 3 hit rolls in a round (separate blows or simultaneously, that can be something for the individual referee to decide and describe), in Chainmail he would attack as 2 flails. ODnD requires some adaptation by nature.

We know from Chainmail and OF&D that is possible for some figures to have different attack and defense values and that explains neatly why the FC vs. HD does not always have to be a perfect 1:1 ratio. Some Monsters can be tougher, others more dangerous. The same for Classes, which explain the different ratio for Clerics, they fight as fighting-men but advance more slowly in FC than HD, and that is ok. I think it fits their intended niche, they are meant to be more resilient than capable fighters, being able to do it and contribute to the fray anyway.

We could consider two possibilities here: Consider the horse has 2 FC and attacks with two hits (like flails), in the Chainmail matrix, each hit with a ~58% probability vs. AC2 (7+on 2d6), but I would prefer to use the same matrices converted in Voyages of Zylarthen, which I find much more interesting and fine tuned (Morningstar: WC9, 16+ on a d20 = 25%) or use 3 hit rolls at 1HD probability as per page 20 Man&Magic (1HD: 17+ = 20%).
Last edited by Talassa on Sun Mar 13, 2022 11:40 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Post by Talassa » Sun Mar 13, 2022 8:02 pm

Re: Multiple attacks from Chainmail.

Following on the same topic on another thread published at

In there, Moonglum said:

“I my opinion, the failure to adapt Chainmail's approach to increasing offensive output with increasing level was sort of disastrous for the balance of play in D&D, and much of what followed in further developments of the system were just repeated attempts to fix the problems created by that mistake. The basic issue is that fighters don't actually get much better at fighting as they go up in level; it just takes more for them to die. This is frustrating in general, feels stupid in comparison to the way magic using classes and even thieves advance, and leads to slow, boring fights. Can you imagine anything more boring, in actual play at the table, than two 10th level fighters having duel with no magic equipment and no house rules? It would take forever to resolve, nothing interesting would happen, and the end would be the anti-climactic moment when one of them finally scrapes zero HP.

Attempts to address these problems include making it almost obligatory to equip fighters with powerful magic items, creating sub-classes with cool powerzzz and functionally making them magic using, and layering on sub-systems of proficiencies and feats that kind of paper over their anemic offensive output. None of it really works. In an alternative universe, original D&D would have taken it as a core design concept that a fighter's offensive output scales sort of linearly with increasing level, and then found a way to let them use those increasing actions/output creatively enough that there are some fun things to do each turn.”

That is exactly the crux of my ideia. In the past I’ve come from playing and running D&D (Mentzer), and years running an AD&D campaign from 1st though 3rd edition, after having some prior contact and experience with DragonQuest, coupled with some pages from Chivalry & Sorcery. I remember reading D&D for the first time and thinking “Hit Dice” were the dice you used to hit your opponents. It took me some time to understand they were only meant to roll hit points. I believe the relation of HD to Fighting Capability was lost in translation. I found recently OD&D was that was just the thing I though the game was really missing. Also I think robertsconley is right about that making rules on top of the game text would make it even better: a blows system like Chivalry & Sorcery, a parry option for some blows, etc. But the thing is... as written (though not exactly as played, and for several reasons), the HD/FC system from Original D&D was a very sensible one and showed a lot of promise to explore. Alas, that was not the road taken.

First of all, because of the ideia of interpreting “vs. normal man“ as written in Man&Magic, page 5 as being equal to “1 HD or less” is IMHO just wrong, conceptually and systematically, if you go by the books as written.

Contrarily to the most widespread belief, I believe OD&D, as written, does exactly the opposite thing, by closing the gap and bridging two of the main 3 Chainmail combat systems: “man-to-man” and the “fantasy supplement”. Man&Magic, page 5 gives you the way for enabling to bridge that gap, telling you by examples how to use a Troll in Man-to-man combat by way of OD&D (with its Hit Dice/ Fighting Capability concepts): The Troll attacks with as many attacks as it has HD. That is the general rule. Some cases, like the Cleric, show is that it is possible to have a stronger defensive progression (HD) than offensive (FC). Likewise some monsters and troop types/NPCs have different defensive/offensive ratios, which could be explained case by case. As robertsconley mentions, to invent solution for those cases it would not be hard for an audience that were used to making rulings on the basis of how it worked in life, fiction, or film, and specially by extrapolating how it worked in Chainmail, where the bridge between the “fantasy combat” and the “mass combat” scale was already present: see for instance the text where Lycanthropes attack as four heavy foot and defend as four armored foot, how elves could fight using the man-to-man and the fantasy combat tables, How Treants melee as six armored foot in combat , how Wights melee (attack) as light horse and defend as an heavy horse, as a Basilisk have a petrifying gaze, defendes as a Lyncathrope and otherwise did not attack, etc... By giving HD to the monsters what OD&D was doing was closing the gap between fantasy combat and man-to-man combat, enabling the translation (as 1 HD = 1 man).

This alone enables a clever group to fight every monster on the 3LLB using Man-to-man rules in OD&D. I think reverting to the fantasy supplement rules as separate from the man-to-man and making it the sole province of heroes is downplaying this innovation present in the text of both 3LLB and Chainmail, if you really want to be purist about those texts. Mostly, it seems a missed opportunity not to follow this line of reasoning. At the very least I think a faithful retroclone, like DD, should account for this interpretation as possible.

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Post by waysoftheearth » Tue Jul 19, 2022 12:09 pm

Re: Multiple attacks from Chainmail.

Big posts Talassa; thanks for sharing.

In general, yes. OD&D's default combat system (a.k.a. CM's M2M/FC dichotomy) is deadlier than the d20-based alternative. I'm not sure that OD&D specifically "closes the gap" between M2M and FC, but much of what you're suggesting seems pretty close to me. Be interested to hear how you went with it :)
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Post by ehiker133 » Fri Jul 29, 2022 2:00 pm

Re: Multiple attacks from Chainmail.

Jayzus, I'm not sure I've ever put that much thought into ANYTHING I've done. :\
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Post by mushgnome » Sat Jul 30, 2022 2:10 pm

Re: Multiple attacks from Chainmail.

Interesting topic! For me it comes down to, what kind of game do you want to play? Which is more "fun," throwing one d20 or a handful of d6's?

After much playtesting, I've decided the way I grew up with is the most "fun" for me: Each player gets 1 attack and rolls 1d20. Sometimes you roll a 20, other times you roll a 1. It makes for exciting and unpredictable combat. Combat can last several rounds, and the tides can turn unexpectedly based on luck.

The thing I don't like about "Chainmail style" combat (1 attack per hit die or "man" of fighting capability) is that, the higher level you attain, the steeper the "bell curve." The more dice you roll, the more your results revert to the mean. So you end up with a weird situation where, as your PC goes up in level, they become more "average" in combat. High-level combat is more boring and predictable than low-level combat. Fights only last a round or two, and the victor is often determined by who wins initiative.

Chainmail solves this nicely with the Fantasy Combat Table. For example Superhero vs. Balrog, instead of rolling 8 attacks vs. 10 attacks, you "go all in" and determine the outcome with one all-or-nothing roll. But while that's fun for a wargame like Chainmail, it's generally not what players want in an RPG. In D&D, it takes a long time to earn enough experience to reach 8th level, and the player doesn't want their Superhero getting one-shot by the bad guy!

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Post by waysoftheearth » Sun Jul 31, 2022 3:35 am

Re: Multiple attacks from Chainmail.

Great post Mushgnome.

I love the part about what you grew up with being the most fun (nostalgia factor!) I recall playing a lot of Warhammer in the early 1980s, which involved big fists of d6s. There were a few earlier games, but that stuck with me.

I agree that the more dice you roll the more likely their sum will tend toward an average result but, considering multiple attack rolls, we're not interested in the sum. Each attack is its own independent event, so it's kinda irrelevant whether you roll one attack or 20. FWIW, my recollection is that I've been on the receiving end of many bizarre outlier results of multiple independent dice---dark elf repeater xbow regiments with scores of shots I'm looking at you! The other thing to flag, I think, is that a superhero gets 8 attacks vs normal men. So, we're talking about his specific performance against normal men rather than his overall performance. (If you want to short-circuit hits and damage rolls and simply dice for a number of mooks killed, see the discussion here).

Whether the superhero continues to get 8 attacks vs a hero (or other fantastic creature) is, i think, undefined in CM/OD&D itself. It has the FCT option instead (as you mentioned). On the other hand, we have the rather versatile statement in Daluhn about fighting so many men "on an equal basis" implying that HD ratios are meaningful, so a superhero could fight 8 (1 HD) men, or 4 (2 HD) gnolls, or 2 (4 HD) heroes on an equal basis (i.e., one exchange of blows each). From vague memory, EPT has a similar concept for high-level fighters. The FAQ article in SR1.2 also has some fluff about a (4 HD) hero having a 4:1 fighting ratio over (1 HD) orcs. So, yeah... that's interesting to think about.

I agree that initiative is absolutely vital in CM/M2M, and is still a crucial element in OD&D. This is why weapon selection/reach is such a big deal in M2M (something I hope to emphasise a bit more in DD5). FWIW, I had always thought that the FCT used simultaneous blows, but in a D&D context it makes sense that initiative is used instead. Persumably then, the attacker would gain the initiative and the supreme advantage of the first blow! But at least in the D&D context a kill or driveback on the FCT would equal only a single hit. Otherwise, I agree, it would be too deadly for an RPG!
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Post by mushgnome » Sun Jul 31, 2022 1:32 pm

Re: Multiple attacks from Chainmail.

I do like the idea of Chainmail Fantasy Combat being simultaneous actions. It's such an iconic trope, for a Hero to sacrifice their own life to defeat the big bad (simultaneous kills).

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