Monday, January 31, 2011

Basic D&D: On Cavalry

As I said here, "Cavalry... get surprisingly short shrift in the classic D&D rules. The three-page Chainmail section on man-to-man combat (p. 25-27) manages to contain more detail on mounted combat than the entirety of the OD&D and AD&D system, for example." Let's look a little deeper at the issues around cavalry.

Quotes to Consider

First, recall that the primary thesis around cavalry is this: Cavalry attack is intrinsic to the unit's own movement. Before saying anything else on the matter as regards D&D, I'll look at a few quotes from Matthew Bennett's excellent essay, "La R├ęgle du Temple as a Military Manual, or, How to Deliver a Cavalry Charge". (Accessible in full online here; highly recommended.) Bennett relates the regimented formation of the Knights Templar immediately prior to their engagement on the battlefield, from their official manual of conduct:
When the knights were armed they took up their position in line, placing their squires with their lances and shields before them. They were expressly forbidden to break ranks or charge without permission, and even turning their horses' heads to the rear in order to fight, or in response to an alarm, was not allowed (161)... With permission he could take his lance and shield...
Then he quotes a very evocative passage from George Bernard Shaw's "Arms and the Man", describing a cavalry charge:
You can tell the young ones by their wildness and their slashing. The old ones come bunched up under number one guard; they know they're mere projectiles, and that it's no use trying to fight. The wounds are mostly broken knees from horses coming together.
And finally a supporting quote from Louis Edward Nolan (of "Charge of the Light Brigade" fame):
A charge, even on good ground, is seldom executed by the whole line at once; the enemy is reached in succession by different points in the line more advanced than others. It is therefore of the greatest consequence that those detachments which reach the enemy first shall be compact, and go at him as one man, to burst through.
I think the Shaw quote is perhaps the most poignant: They know they're mere projectiles. In this sense (thinking of archetypal European "heavy cavalry" in the Middle Ages) the men are actually rather unimportant. Their role is to hold the lance with discipline; in this sense they are simply proto-cannon, delivering a massive shock across the battlefield when called upon. The expectation is for the initial charge to "burst through", or else it is something of a disappointment.

Rules from Chainmail

That said, let's now think about cavalry as it appears in D&D. As mentioned above, the Chainmail man-to-man rules have more detail than later D&D publications. In particular, Chainmail features on page 25-27:
  1. "For non-mounted versus mounted men: add one to the die roll of the mounted man, subtract one from the die roll of the man on foot - 1st round only horsemen add two."
  2. "On the 2nd round of melee the horse as well as its rider attack, the horse counting as the following weapon(s), and able to attack a different opponent than its rider, but only footmen: Light 1 Mace; Medium 2 Maces; Heavy 2 Flails"
  3. "Men may be unhorsed by footmen if they specifically state this is their intent before dice are rolled. A score equal to a kill, with no subtraction for their being afoot, indicates a successful unhorsing. An unhorsed man is possibly stunned: Die Score 1-2 Not stunned; 3-5 Stunned 1 turn; 6 Stunned 3 turns. Remounting requires one-half turn, as does voluntary dismounting."
  4. Jousting as a complete and separate system from the rest of the rules: "Each player selects an aiming point (his attack) and a position in the saddle (his defense)... The aiming point of each player is matched against the position of their opponent and the result found. Results can vary from both opponents missing to both being unhorsed, as a study of the jousting Matrix will reveal. (See Appendix C.)..."
So that's Chainmail, with its fairly comprehensive rules for mounted combat. Almost none of this material is included in the OD&D or AD&D core rulebooks. Some additional questions we might have to rule on in this context -- (1) Should the modifier for mounted-vs-foot be doubled if we use it in the context of D&D (current sidebar poll would say "yes")? (2) Is the penalty for attacking mounted men a matter of cover or height (for example, can footmen with long polearms, or giant-types, ignore this modifier)? (3) Do archers suffer the same penalty to shoot cavalry? (4) If a footman's attack misses because of the mounted modifier, does it hit the horse accidentally? (5) Can men opt to intentionally attack the mount instead of the rider? (6) Can unhorsing be accomplished with any weapon type, or even open-handed?

On Lance Double Damage

Interestingly, in the 1E AD&D PHB, all of the "situational combat modifiers" are scrunched into footnotes in the table of weapon types (p. 37-38). I would argue that (as compared to Chainmail), this is a fairly deficient presentation method. Here we see:
  1. Certain types given the ability to "set" for double damage defensively, against a charge (military fork, glaive, glaive-guisarme, javelin, spear).
  2. Certain polearms having reserved the ability to dismount a rider with a normal "to hit" roll (fauchard, fauchard-fork, military fork, glaive-guisarme, guisarme, guisarme-voulge, lucern hammer, ranseur).
  3. Certain types capable of disarming an opponent with hit on AC 8 (ranseur, spetum).
  4. Missile attack adjustments of 0/-2/-5 for short/ medium/ long ranges.
  5. Any weapon striking +2 against the back or unseen; +4 against stunned, prone, motionless opponents.
  6. Lances doing "twice indicated damage against creatures of any size when it is employed by an attacker riding a charging mount."
These tidbits seem new to AD&D, and are not seen even in the "Alternative Combat System" additions and changes of Sup-I (Greyhawk, which otherwise introduces variable weapon damage and weapon-vs-AC modifiers, p. 13-15) -- although the famous details on polearms can first be seen in an article in the TSR magazine.

This last detail (lance weapons doing double damage in a charge) was "sticky" in the sense that it became the archetypal rule for dealing with the increased shock of a cavalry charge; it was propagated forward into all later versions of D&D (2E, 3E, B/X, etc.) But does it truly make sense?

I would argue "not really". The true impact of the cavalry charge comes simply from the speed, strength, and inertia of the horse. The fact that in D&D it's the rider that gets to use their attack level, Strength modifier to hit and damage, and weapon adjustment is frankly missing the point. There's nothing special about the lance in this regard (other than the length allowing the blow to be delivered before most counters). If there were, then one might ask what the point is with charging with implements such as bayonets or swords, as was commonly done in other contexts (see sidebar photo; Leicestershire PAO Yeomanry c1930).

On Mounts Attacking

The one notable constant throughout classic D&D is that mounts get no attack in the first round of contact, but do get one or more attacks in subsequent rounds:
  • "On the 2nd round of melee the horse as well as its rider attack..." [Chainmail, p. 25, repeated from above]
  • "When mounted troops are engaged in combat the mounts will not count in the first melee round. On the second and succeeding rounds of melee, however, mounts will fight as follows..." [Swords & Spells, p. 18]
  • "Warhorses fight on the second and succeeding rounds of melee, as long as their rider remains mounted. Their attack consists of two hoof thrusts and a bite." [AD&D Monster Manual, p. 53]
There is a major problem with this -- It makes cavalry more damaging in a non-charging situation! In broad terms, the charge grants two units of attack (one lance for double damage); while the sustained melee grants three or even four units of attack per turn (granted that as of Sup-I horses are given 2-3 attacks; and at a higher attack level from hit dice, to boot). To be more specific, assume an AD&D 1st-level fighter with lance and longsword on a heavy horse versus an AC 5 opponent. Then in the charge round we expect 4.8 points of damage (8/20 to-hit x 6 lance damage x 2 doubling); but in sustained melee we expect 6.85 points per round (man 6/20 to-hit x 4.5 longsword + horse 10/20 to-hit x (4.5+4.5+2)). That's a +42% damage improvement by virtue of not charging! And that just ain't right.

This artifact is a combination of (a) the only benefit of the charging being the double lance damage (and relatively minor +2 to-hit bonus), and (b) the very large number of attacks per round given to horses after D&D Sup-I, but only in non-charging rounds.

On the Move/Attack Sequence

In short, D&D mechanics pretty uniformly adjudicate movement in its entirety, prior to any melee attack resolution. (See Chainmail p. 9, Swords & Spells p. 3, 1E AD&D DMG p. 66, etc.) The problem with this move-strike-end-turn sequence is that it overlooks the "overrun" effect of cavalry breaking and stomping directly through a line of defense. As Louis Edward Nolan would agree, a cavalry charge that does not "burst through" the enemy is a failure, and this is in fact impossible in the standard D&D turn sequence.

So ideally, we would like a mechanic wherein the cavalry lancer drops his target and then keeps moving. (There is a rule like this in the Chainmail mass rules, p. 15; and also a rule that makes standing mass cavalry weaker, p. 17; but such rules appear nowhere in either the man-to-man section nor any flavor of D&D rulebook.) Other questions then arise from the gap: Can footmen be knocked over without being killed? Can the horses get some kind of trampling or bludgeoning attack as they run by? And so forth.

On Barding

Another amusing complication is that while every version of classic D&D features barding (horse armor) on its equipment list, none specify what the effect is. OD&D has just one type of barding (Vol-1, p. 14), while AD&D has three types (leather/chain/plate, PHB p. 36), none of which have any commentary in the rules (recall horses have different starting AC than men; AC 7).

If we look back to the Chainmail man-to-man melee table, then we have at least a clue (Chainmail p. 41); the last two columns in the weapon-vs-armor chart are for "Horse: No Armor/ Barded", and in each case the barded score is 2 pips more difficult than the unarmored (single exception: morning star scores are identical, likely a typo?). If that's the intent for D&D, then we again have to consider if we should convert this as a +2 AC or +4 AC bonus.

On 3E Figure Positioning

A special note here on the 3E miniature-based rules: "A horse takes up a 5-foot-by-10-foot space, and you take up a space 5 feet across. For simplicity, assume that you occupy the back part of the horse." [3E PHB p. 138].

While initially attractive (each of two spaces has one "head" in it), on further reflection this doesn't work so well. To begin with, a two-square-long lance now barely reaches ahead of the horse, seemingly losing any advantage for first-attack-from-reach. More keenly, an enemy directly in front of the horse cannot exchange sword blows with the rider at all! (The rider & footmen each have one square reach, but the horse's head keeps a 2-square gap between them; again see sidebar sword-wielding cavalry above to see how this makes no sense.) So if the rider figure cannot be positioned directly in the middle of the horse (where they really sit), then I would argue in this case that the rider is more properly positioned in the front square of the horse (perhaps mostly leaning forward).

Some Suggested Fixes

So granted how terribly deficient the D&D rules are for mounted combat (the norm being exactly the opposite of what would be reasonable!) we come to a point where we wonder how much alteration and divergence we have the stomach to import to our game.

First, we might consider the usual desired doubling of modifiers from Chainmail. We could make mounted men -2 to be hit by footmen; +2 to hit footmen; and +4 to hit in the initial charging round (original source Chainmail p. 25). Same for barding: Give it a +4 bonus to horse AC (AC7 becomes AC3, as plate)?

We might momentarily consider possible game-theoretic advantages of different levels of mounted armor bonuses; say we use the Chainmail rule for felling a rider and possibly stunning them (above). Then when is it advantageous to attack the rider directly (lower HD, but likely better armor and mounted penalty to-hit) versus the mount (more HD, but possibly lower AC and being able to stun the rider and take away the mounted bonus), assuming that's permitted?

According to the computer simulations that I've run, if the rider AC bonus is +2 then it is always the best choice to attack the rider (even assuming unbarded horses); if the bonus is +4, then it's better to attack light riders and heavy horses; if the bonus is +6, then it's always best to attack the horse. However, in the latter two cases we would actually be making plate-armored riders totally unhittable (to-hit 21 or more for OD&D fighters up to 3rd level), which is probably not what we want. In my game I've decided to use the +2 bonus for rider AC.

Secondly, we might reconsider the mechanics for mounts moving and attacking. In my game, I strongly recommend giving horses only a single attack per round, which seems both reasonable as they simultaneously carry the rider and maneuver, and also prevents the prolonged melee from outweighing the effect of the charge round (i.e., sticking with by-the-book OD&D, and also Swords & Spells p. 18). In addition, we might consider a charge-round sequence such as the following: (1) mount & rider move to lance range, delivering initial attack; (2) mount continues move to first target or one behind it, delivering one hoof/trample/smashing attack; (3) mount & rider continue balance of movement if way is clear.

This doubles the shock potential on the charge round (granted both knight & horse make attacks), and offers the hope of cavalry "bursting through" on the attack, at the expense of some added mechanical burden on our play. However, in practice I've found that even this actually makes very little difference; the chances for 1st-level attack success in D&D are fairly low (less than 50% to hit, even with charge bonus; and even then no guarantee to score killing damage), so we have at best a faint chance to drop at most 2 men in file. Thus the difference is fairly marginal, if we do not add some additional large creative bonuses for the charge attack.

Open Questions

I end with a compiled list of questions we could ask about mounted combat in classic D&D:
  1. Should the modifier for mounted-vs-foot be doubled (+1 to +2) if we use it in the context of D&D?
  2. Can any of the following ignore the rider AC bonus: (a) footmen with polearms, (b) archers, (c) giants?
  3. If a footman's attack misses because of the mounted modifier, does it hit the horse?
  4. Can men opt to intentionally attack the horse instead of the rider (and is there any symmetric modifier or chance to hit the rider)?
  5. Can unhorsing be accomplished with any weapon type in OD&D?
  6. Should there be some radical change to how charge attack to-hits are adjudicated (i.e., no lance exceptionalism, use horse attack level, speed indicator, re: to-hit and damage)?
  7. How many attacks per round should horses be given?
  8. Should horses continue to be barred from any attack in the charge round?
  9. Should there be an "overrun" capacity in which cavalry can move/attack/move (and possibly more) within a single charge round?
  10. What level of AC should barded horses be given?
  11. Should riders be positioned at the front or rear of the horse (i.e., can they sword-attack an enemy in front of the horse)?
  12. Do we use the "rider stun" chart from Chainmail? What if the horse is dropped in a non-intentional-unseating attack?
  13. Do warhorses attack on their own if the rider is killed or unhorsed? Do they run from the line of battle, or stand motionless?
  14. Should we use a +4 to-hit bonus for charging cavalry (doubled from Chainmail's cavalry-first-turn-bonus, p. 25), and a separate +2 bonus for anyone else charging (as per AD&D DMG p. 66)?


  1. Excellent, excellent post. First, I'll put my answers down by number, then add a bit.

    1. Yes, that's pretty clear.
    2. a - no; b,c - yes. Meeting a cavalry charge with a polearm has two advantages: you can hit the knight before he's on top of you, and you can possibly spear his horse so it never reaches you.
    3. Yes, but only if the roll would still hit the horse's AC.
    4. Yes, no chance to hit rider on a miss.
    5. Yes, but I would give a bonus for specialised polearms.
    6. Rider level - low levels are wild and slashing, high levels know they're a projectile. +4 to hit on a charge. Double damage for all weapons in a mounted charge.
    7. Just one. On the charge it should basically be an overbear or knockdown attack. In static melee it's overall effectiveness for the round.
    8. No, as above.
    9. Yes.
    10. 2 better than the base armor type, e.g. leather barding = ac5
    11. It should be well-nigh impossible to attack a foe directly in front of your horse without turning it, but once in melee it'll be turning a lot anyway. Attacking a foe directly behind your horse is nearly as hard.
    12. Yes, but I would give the rider a saving throw to avoid the effect.
    13. Only if it's an exceptional horse, like that of a paladin. Use morale.
    14. Yes, definitely.

    Additionally, here's how I think the overrun or breakthrough effect should be handled. For any unmounted individual receiving a cavalry charge, if they are hit IN the CHARGE, they need to make a saving throw or be overrun, knocked down, or otherwise passed-by. As long as the first foe meeting your charge is passed-by, your mount then gets its 'overbear' on the next target in line, and if hit they must make the same saving throw or be overrun or knocked down as well.

    Now... my question back, at this point, is: should this process continue as long as opponents keep getting knocked down, potentially letting a knight break through 3, 4 or more ranks (though increasingly unlikely) in a single round; OR should the round end with the mount's bash/overbear/overrun, but if the mount successfully knocked 'their' target down, allow the charge effect to continue in succeeding rounds (although the rider would have to drop their lance and pull a shorter weapon to get their attack in addition to the horse's) ? If the charge effect continues in succeeding rounds, should the charge modifier drop (perhaps by 1 per round) ?

  2. Great post! My initial reactions to these questions:

    1. I’m unsure.

    2. Yes for b & c. Maybe for a.

    3. I tend to think, “no”. It seems like the footman should have to make the choice and not just aim for the rider knowing that they might get a chance against the mount if they miss.

    4. There is no question in my mind that this should be allowed. What the risks or modifiers are I am less sure of. For instance, should this leave the attacker more vulnerable to a counterattack by the horseman?

    5. An attacker should always be able to attempt it. (If they have only a dagger, it would be considered an unarmed attempt.) Some weapons should make it easier and some have penalties, though.

    6. I’m tempted to say that the better of the horse’s or rider’s level should be used.

    7. I tend to be a one attack per creature per round guy, but I might be persuaded.

    8. I wouldn’t think so, but perhaps they only get their attack if the rider hit? Or, their attack is the overrun?

    9. If the attack hits, there should be an overrun. If the attack misses and the opponent is in-rank, then the horse is stopped. If the opponent is in the open, then the horse may continue its move past the target without an overrun.

    10. I’m unsure, but thinking +2 is a good start.

    11. I don’t use strict grid positioning, but even if I did, I’d still be tempted to make ad hoc rulings based on the rider being in the middle of the mount.

    12. Yes or some variant thereof. The reason for the unhorsing doesn’t really matter. If anything it would be whether the rider had a chance (and did) prepare for it before it happened.

    13. I don’t know enough about warhorses. I like migellito’s answer: Use morale.

    14. Unsure.

  3. 1.Should the modifier for mounted-vs-foot be doubled (+1 to +2) if we use it in the context of D&D?
    If you double the other modifiers, then yes, as described in your earlier blog post. I think it's appropriate in the context of the AD&D modifiers, but I use smaller modifiers in my game. High STR for example just gives +1 damage, and an Ogre strength gives +2. So I wouldn't double them.

    2.Can any of the following ignore the rider AC bonus: (a) footmen with polearms, (b) archers, (c) giants?
    I'd say the bonus comes from extra height, the vitals especially the head are out of reach, and the rider can control the horse to deflect or distract. For this reason, I'd give pikes, archers, and anything as large as rider + horse a pass. But then do we give giants the horseman bonus because they're so big? I say the bonus is already calculated into their HD and AC.

    3.If a footman's attack misses because of the mounted modifier, does it hit the horse?
    Only if you already use some system for determining where misses go. If you don't, then the attack just missed. Remember that I assume the benefit of the horse is in height and distraction, and by deflection I mean having the horse kick or back up.

    4.Can men opt to intentionally attack the horse instead of the rider (and is there any symmetric modifier or chance to hit the rider)?
    Sure, at the horse's AC and without the penalty to hit a horseman. But horses are valuable loot and so are worth saving, and the higher HD might mean you take longer to kill it (while leaving the rider able to stand up the next round and attack).

    5.Can unhorsing be accomplished with any weapon type in OD&D?
    Anything that would trip you in the first place can unhorse you, plus things that carry such a heavy impact that you might be knocked over. If it's possible to knock someone over by lancing him or hitting him with a giant's club, then it's possible to unhorse him that way.

    6.Should there be some radical change to how charge attack to-hits are adjudicated (i.e., no lance exceptionalism, use horse attack level, speed indicator, re: to-hit and damage)?
    Lances should have no benefit other than greater reach and less maneuverability. The benefit of the charge comes from the strength of the horse not the strength of the rider, and from the fact of the charge. I like horses getting one attack, but I'm using a somewhat OD&D system with universal HD and weapon damage, few creatures get multiple attacks, etc. I'd say if you charge on horse you get the horse's STR bonus for your melee attack and damage at the end of the charge (plus your own). Since it's difficult to part out the monster's STR in AD&D, doubling weapon damage would work.

    7.How many attacks per round should horses be given?
    1. I give wielders of two weapons two chances to hit, choosing one that actually does damage. It means a higher chance to hit instead of higher damage. So I give horses two hoof chances, but you choose the higher roll.
    (What I don't like about this is how it virtually prevents fumbles for two weapon fighters. I might change the rule to state that a fumble overrides the other attack, which makes the fighting style better to-hit on average but very accident-prone. Or maybe that if you roll a fumble for a weapon it will be a fumble for that weapon even if you choose to use the hit on the other weapon. I don't know, it gets too complicated.)

  4. 8.Should horses continue to be barred from any attack in the charge round?
    They should get a standard attack, but I think it has more to do with the trampling. I think there should be a knockdown chance for the lance charge and the horse attack separately, lance first. So the sequence would be: Lance hit, if knockdown then move over him and horse can trample him at prone bonuses or hoof the next standing foot. If no knockdown, horse attacks the still-standing first rank footman. If lance killed footman, horse doesn't need to trample him and so gets to hoof the next guy.
    (Man on the ground under a horse, after being trampled, can always just stand up unless the horse "grapples" by not taking any more attacks or movement. If horse tramples the guy on the ground, he has the ability to stand up as if he didn't have a horse on top of him.)

    9.Should there be an "overrun" capacity in which cavalry can move/attack/move (and possibly more) within a single charge round?
    I don't think so, because the charge will be stopped by a second or third rank anyway. If there is no second rank behind, the horse can clearly move through next round. Nobody stops him. That's the benefit of multiple ranks. A single horse charging a line of men should be able to punch through, unless the round of the charge they mass around the horse to stop him. But I can easily see why people would want a move-attack-move horse to punch through a single rank regardless of initiative concerns. Problem: why don't we then give move-attack-move to giants? I say the horse uses its move to charge up, then the rider uses his attack to lance. If the horse wanted to use its attack to move again instead, that would work. And that's actually a nice-sounding rule in general because it encompasses running without creating a separate running rule. It also allows for two attacks per round for a footman in melee who isn't moving anywhere, or two shots per round for a bowman (one shot and reload for crossbow) who is not moving. It's a lot like the 3E "standard action" idea.

    10.What level of AC should barded horses be given?
    You can do the equivalent AC type of the human armor, unless the animal AC was equal or better already, in which case just +1. But that means a horse in leather barding is equivalent to a horse in scale barding, which is just dumb. I'd say give the full AC bonus (+4 for scale since it's AC 6, +7 for plate since it's AC 3) but the weight and cost is x8. This will keep the plate-barded horses slow as hell unless they wear magical barding (oh goodness how valuable THAT stuff should be!) or strength-boosting magic.

    11.Should riders be positioned at the front or rear of the horse (i.e., can they sword-attack an enemy in front of the horse)?
    I say the rider can choose front or back, shifting as his movement in any round. But if the horse carries gear beyond saddlebag contents, it must be on the front or back (generally back) and the rider can't sit there. Two riders must be in separate halves. Assume the front unless otherwise stated.

  5. 12.Do we use the "rider stun" chart from Chainmail? What if the horse is dropped in a non-intentional-unseating attack?
    A falling rider takes falling damage equivalent to 10' (check for the surface modifiers). Roll for dropping his weapon (if there is a rule in your game concerning surprise and dropped weapons, this would work). If his horse dies he falls and must save or be crushed under it (a skilled rider gets a bonus to this save). Rider stun is taken care of by making him spend the round to stand back up and recover his weapon if dropped, plus the falling damage.

    13.Do warhorses attack on their own if the rider is killed or unhorsed? Do they run from the line of battle, or stand motionless?
    Roll morale each round for the horse and on a failure it flees. Otherwise it stands near the fallen rider and attacks. If a mass of friendly horses moves near it must roll vs. half moreale or flee to join the herd. War-horses always attack if attacked, and may also move away. Non-war-horses rarely attack and generally move away (reflected in low morale).

    14.Should we use a +4 to-hit bonus for charging cavalry (doubled from Chainmail's cavalry-first-turn-bonus, p. 25), and a separate +2 bonus for anyone else charging (as in AD&D DMG p. 66)?
    If there's a +1 footman charge bonus in Chainmail, and +2 for horse charges, and you double these for AD&D, then it makes sense to use +2 for foot charges and +4 for horse charges. But then what of the charging giants and dragons? We're talking about a human on a horse vs. a human on foot. A giant on foot vs. a human on foot should get even higher charge bonuses than the horseman. You could say that's already built into the monster HD.

    Some other points:
    Should there be maneuverability rules for horses? Say you charge and smash through the enemy line. Can you next round spin around and stab someone in the rear rank? What if you smash into the enemy line and don't break through? Are you able to spin around, canter back 20', spin around again, and charge, all in one round?

  6. Great post Delta. I haven't strong thoughts on your posed questions, yet. I did wonder if morale offers an easily applied game mechanic to the charge. Enemies receiving a charge must pass a morale check. Success means the horse and rider are locked in melee combat. Failure and the horse and rider have broken through and able to use the remainder of their movement to escape counter attack.

    One could add in minuses for each foot soldier killed. Has the advantage that if charging goblins one is very likely to break through, but unlikely to if charging the elite imperial guard.

  7. After further thought, it's possible what we need is a unit-level rule set and an individual-level rule set. Once you get men massed on formations things start to get a little strange. What do you think?

  8. Great feedback, guys (compiling overall consensus at the moment...)

    One general follow-up question I'd pose on barding (#10), esp. to you distinguishing between different types (leather/chain/plate) -- What about in OD&D where there is only a single "barding" entry listed? Treat that as leather (+2) or something else?

  9. Hey JP: "I haven't strong thoughts on your posed questions, yet. I did wonder if morale offers an easily applied game mechanic to the charge."

    It's something to think about, and you've got Gygax writing "Fear of the charge was usually more dangerous than the impact of the cavalry." [Chainmail p. 18] However, I don't see the same assertion in historical sources, so I'm not so apt to go with a "morale interrupt". Wonder if anyone has historical citations on that kind of thing? (quote, title, page/link)

  10. 1d30: "After further thought, it's possible what we need is a unit-level rule set and an individual-level rule set. Once you get men massed on formations things start to get a little strange. What do you think?"

    My general philosophy is that it's most interesting if all our axiomatic D&D mechanics are statistically extrapolated to large scale. (Possibly with some additions for formation, etc.) I've found that where this doesn't give good results you can really identify some key oversights in man-to-man D&D to begin with (as I've pointed out in the main blog post).

    I've also seen Gygax write that mass combat "should" be runnable by a big computer program adjudicating each man independently -- but obviously he never actually got his hands dirty with the results/implementation details of such a thing.

  11. I suppose. It would make sense from an atomic standpoint - an atom of chlorine should behave basically the same when near an atom of sodium as when several chlorines are near several sodiums.

    I think some issues don't appear in man-to-man combat on the scale of 3 or 4 combatants per side vs. 300 or 400 on a side.

    One might be morale failure cascades, where you see some statistically small number of men who flee which tilts the numbers just enough to force everyone else on their side to check again. You might see this in small fights involving several combatants but not in 1 on 1 fights.

    Another might be that men only care about successes and failures they know about, which means on a large battlefield it's possible a unit may continue fighting when they would have fled if they knew what was going on elsewhere. That doesn't happen in small fights because the distances are small enough that everyone can see everyone else.

    And the movement of masses of people, where people may get crushed in a press or never get a chance to take a swing because an enemy never gets within melee range of that man. Again, there is usually plenty of room to move around in an individual fight.

    Side thoughts for individual combat that come forth from thinking about mass combat:

    Not just morale, but morality too. What if some of the men don't want to kill? They may suffer a partial morale failure, that is, they move forward to fight but don't fight as effectively.

    What about battle fatigue? After fighting for six hours, fresh troops arriving should have a benefit over the ones who have been fighting all day.

    What about the morale and physical effect of poor rations? Disease from encamping too long? Fighting an enemy known to have no loot?

    What about equipment breakage for a unit? Should it just be assumed to be a gradual reduction in effectiveness as time goes on between resupply / blacksmith availability?

  12. As for the barding, I'd look at the equivalent effect of the one type of barding vs. the different types to try to match it up with one of them. Then either say "who cares, there's just one barding" or let the other types into the game with modifications to fit with the OD&D numbers.

    I suspect they meant leather barding, possibly supplemented with some plates, but who knows? Barding a horse in plate sounds ridiculously heavy!

  13. Regarding morale, I'll just say that it's kind of a whole separate issue -- There isn't any "core" classic D&D morale rule. Methods include (1) Chainmail, (2) Swords & Spells, (3) AD&D DMG, (4) Moldvay B/X, (5) Battlesystem, etc. All radically different, most not really functional in the first place.

    So sure, for morale in particular I think you're free (even forced) to make whatever mass rule you think is best. You could say the same for terrain considerations and other stuff that D&D is lacking a "sticky" core rule for.