Monday, January 30, 2012

Book of War Expansion: Partial Hit Dice

If you look closely at the Book of War rosters for fantasy monsters, you'll see that the hit dice listings strip out any partial hit-point modifiers (for example: goblins are listed with HD1, ogres HD4, trolls HD6). This makes sense, because in our scaled-up system, each HD represents an integral number of mass "hits" that the creatures take before elimination. (For what it's worth, this is also how I play OD&D, just disregarding most of the partial HD bonuses.) Let's see how we should handle other such types. To make a long story short -- the partial hit-die modifiers don't really make any difference at 1:10 scale.

Consider a very basic fight in OD&D; for example, 1st level vs. AC5 (chance to hit is 7/20 = 35%). Of course, the basis for damage is a 1d6 weapon versus a 1d6 HD target; which has a kill-chance, on a successful hit, of 21/36 = 58%. So the overall chance to hit and kill with a single attack is 0.35 × 0.58 = 20% (note that's slightly better than 1-in-6.)

Now, adding or subtracting one extra hit point to the target doesn't change this much. If the target is HD1+1, then the chance to hit & kill is 0.35 × 0.42 = 15%. If the target is HD1-1, then it will be 0.35 × 0.72 = 25%. Even against a measly ½d6 target, the chance is still only 0.35 × 0.83 = 29%. Note: All of these probabilities are within 16% of each other, which is to say, they don't make even a single 1-in-6 chance difference using the BOW-scale d6 mechanic.

Further note: These numbers change by maybe one single percentage point if you switch to the post-Greyhawk system of 1d8 HD and 1d8 damage for weapons like a normal sword (specifically: the hit & kill chances will be 20%, 15%, 24%, and 28% respectively). Here's an Open Document Format Spreadsheet that lays out all the details, if you like:


At this point, further consider the normal BOW mechanic that awards a mass "hit" (i.e., 10HD eliminated) on a d6 roll of 3/4/5/6 against no/leather/chain/plate armor. If we try simulating the same attacks against partial-hit-die modifiers, then it likewise turns out to make almost no difference at all:
  • Against HD 1d6+1: Hits score on 4/5/5/6 vs. the four armor types. So this might make a one-point difference at the lighter armor types, except that no such monsters come at those armor types in D&D. Example: Hobgoblins have chain mail (AC5) and so would be hit on a 5 in BOW in any case.
  • Against HD 1d6-1: Hits score on 3/4/5/6 against the four armors -- absolutely no change at our abstracted scale. Example: Goblins in BOW are indeed equivalent to a full HD1.
  • Against HD ½d6: Hits score on 2/4/5/6 versus the various armor types -- again, no change except for a case of completely unarmored monsters (AC9 or 10), which doesn't occur in stock D&D. Example: Kobolds may as well also be shown with a full HD1 in leather armor (AC7 = AH4); and the same goes for OD&D skeletons.
These values were found with the obvious modifications to our BOWCoreRule.java combat-simulator program. And here's a text file collecting the various program outputs:


So: Although the other low-level humanoid types weren't included in Book of War for space and technical reasons such as these, there's no reason we can't start using them on the battlefield, in each case with the standard mechanics and showing HD1 each. A few modifiers for spice, perhaps: Hobgoblins won't suffer from the morale light-weakness penalty, and if you like, you can dress them in leather & shield and still get the full AH5 (see above). Kobolds with their half-D&D-hits will suffer double effect from a death spell, and let's also assume that they only do 1d3 D&D damage, reflected as a −1 to hit in BOW scale (effects included in the text file above). Modify or retract any of these if you prefer. Text between the rules below is Open Game Content per the OGL:


Unit Cost MV AH HD Notes
Kobolds, Infantry 3 6 4
1
Light-weakness, atk at −1
Kobolds, Slingers 4 6 4 1 Light-weakness, atk at −1, slings
Hobgoblins, Infantry
4 9 5 1 (No modifier)
Hobgoblins, Pikes
5
9 5 1 (No modifier)

Kobolds: These small creatures always attack at −1 on attack dice (representing low damage capacity). Death spells kill twice as many figures as normal.

Hobgoblins: These monsters generally function as orcs, but without light-weakness morale penalties. Note that even in light armor they would have effective AH 5.


[Photo by Dean Terry, under CC2.]

Friday, January 27, 2012

Book of War: Siege of Bridgefaire

Two weekends ago, I high-tailed it up to RI, so as to help out my good friend Paul in running a large and critical battle in his D&D campaign that we'll call the Siege of Bridgefaire. This fight sees a walled town called Bridgefaire undergoing an assault by a large force of undead skeletons, zombies, siege towers, and a high-level necromancer (hence the earlier tests on my part). Even better, our other friend BigFella made the trip down from Boston, we divided the attacking forces three ways between us, and then we literally "went to town" against Paul's players (5 of whom joined us to run the defending opposition this afternoon).

For what it's worth, Paul's campaign is actually an expansion starting from AD&D Module L1: The Secret of Bone Hill, which he plays using Moldvay B/X rules (basically). The nearby town of Restenford, detailed in that work, was the focal point of an earlier battle (see links at bottom). Pelltar the wizard has been an active and important member of the defense in both of these fights (as you'l see below).

Paul's also recently gotten into 10mm miniature wargaming, so he can fit a lot more figures on the table at once, and they take up less storage space and painting time. Since Book of War conventionally assume figures like 25/30mm (like those used in D&D or Warhammer), there was some advance discussion on whether the rules needed to change or not. My position was to say no; as long as everything is all scaled together (even approximately so), there really shouldn't be enough difference to worry about, or justify re-basing everything. Perhaps if I was being paid to push some particular miniature product line I'd be compelled to say something different; but I'm not, so it seems like the best answer is to "play with whatever you've got".


Setup -- Here's the town and surrounding terrain as set up by Paul & myself the night before. As you can see, the defenses include walls, towers, and a gate. Outside there are hills and a river -- uncrossable except at the shallow ford, which is itself defended by an external tower on a high bluff. We also gave the players the option to specify a secret sally port (location unknown to us until they decide to use it) which they can exit but we can't enter.



Turn 1 -- Below you'll see our undead army right after we've taken our first move forward. We have something on the order of 30 zombie figures, 40 skeleton archers, 80 skeleton infantry, 3 siege towers, and a 13th-level wizard necromancer with a fireball wand (as usual, representing about 1500 individual troops on the ground). The defenders have about 20 archer figures, 10 crossbows, 10 light infantry, 10 heavy infantry, 10 medium cavalry, and one 9th-level wizard with a lightning wand (Pelltar from L1). They also have 3 figures of acolytes -- representing 30 organized 1st-level clerics from the town who can use a collective turn undead once during the game (and otherwise fight as light infantry). The defenders spent quite some time planning their strategy with us out of the room (smart), including initial placement of figures, division of control, and spell selection. You can see in the picture that they've bunched a lot of figures behind the main gate -- this being a feint, as their plan is to actually stream out of the hidden sally port which is in a different location.



Turn 2 -- Our undead army pushes forward, taking just a very few hits from wizard's lightning and long-range archery. The external tower actually started off with the roof filled with archers, but my very first move (I'm controlling far left, closest to the photo) was to position skeleton archers close-by across the river, and unleash a hellish fusillade on the tower; this instantly wiped out all the defenders except one figure of archers and heavy infantry (invulnerable in the tower), and now my skeleton archers are marching forward to the town proper. I've also got a squad of zombies clawing their way up the hill to assault that tower. Other interesting note: Due to no-morale for undead, we're just throwing our army towards the walls as fast as possible, even outrunning the slower siege towers to do so. If this were a mortal army it would probably be a self-defeating tactic (you'd want to more carefully protect yourself behind protective implements), but as mindless undead we don't care so much. So the use of siege towers sort of flip-flops for us, and they'll be a follow-up strike, not the initial hit on the walls (with everyone else carrying some ladders for a direct escalade).



Turn 4 -- Cavalry charge! Here the defender's medium cavalry have poured forth out of the sally port beyond the far right tower. The nearer units have almost entirely destroyed one of our skeleton units (one figure left by the red die), but the further one has gotten held up by the more powerful zombies. Now they're facing a line of skeleton archers who are about to recklessly pour arrows into them, our skeletons, and some of the zombies, as well. Also, Paul & BigFella have maneuvered another big unit of skeletons over the hills in that direction to backup our forces on that side. Outside the picture: I've got the skeleton archers raining arrows on the wall defenders, trying to degrade them as much as possible before we escalade to the battlements.


Turn 6 -- Several of our units have now made contact with the town wall, and are trying to climb it a few figures at a time -- but they'll taking gruesome losses from the double-attacks permitted to wall defenders as they throw down rocks, spears, and boiling oil. Close-by, I've got a figure of zombies in the tower meleeing with the heavy infantry there (I even had to delay and turn my siege tower because archers were about to degrade my skeleton pushers). But the far right is more critical -- the defender's cavalry were a very real threat to run over our lines there, and gain access and maneuvering at our backs around the whole table. So while we very much wanted our wizard to get close to the town wall, he's currently locked down on the topmost peak of the far hill, so that he can lob a death spell and fireballs at those enemy cavalry (results of which can be seen by the fiery-red dice around that part of the board). Next turn we'll finally succeed in getting them to rout off the top of the board, and our wizard will be free to press the assault again. But at the same time: We're going to lose the entirety of that big units of skeletons beyond the hills, as the defenders bunch up all their acolytes together and, with some exceptional rolls, turn the entire batch of them all at once! (That's like 15 figures or 150 skeletons lost to us in the next attack phase; for simplicity we just remove them from the board once they're turned.)



Turn 8 -- With our primary plan delayed, Paul decides to have our necromancer break away from his bodyguard skeletons and dash across the battlefield towards the wall (in think there's a scene in the Two Towers movie a little bit like that). Once he gets close enough, he casts disintegrate on the wall by the gate, opening up a gap that we can move troops through freely! Amongst our weaponry are also such diverse elements as escalades, siege towers against the wall, and more archery to kill the acolytes in revenge. But notice here that crafty Pelltar (you can see him standing alone in the far tower) has cast a wall of fire (dice) in front of our siege engine, so that a follow-up group of skeletons is barred from using it. They've had to turn to the side and aim towards the gap made by our necromancer, instead of actually being on the wall and threatening Pelltar himself in the tower.


Turn 10 -- Both sides (especially ours) are much reduced from ferocious hand-to-hand fighting at the town wall itself. Our skeletons are hung up once again at the gate itself, as lightly-armored defenders gather and push back against us through the gap. On the very far right, wizards battle with high-level magic. First, Pelltar let his wall of fire go in order to conjure earth elemental (completely unhittable by our troops) on the wall where our siege tower was letting forces up. Then, our necromancer moved to that side and cast dispel magic to eliminate the elemental. He's already been hit by a lightning bolt, but fortunately made his saving throw (yay us! aww players). Next turn, our wizard himself climbs the siege tower and makes a determined push to blast into the tower and slay Pelltar personally; he takes another lightning-hit but saves. A single heavy infantry figure bars the way; he casts two fireballs but manages to miss with both of them (boom! as the explode against the stone of the tower). The next turn, more defenders flow up through the tower to protect Pelltar, and the opportunity is lost -- our Necromancer decides to teleport away from the battle, ceding the town to the brave burghers. (And note: I never managed to kill that last heavy infantry in the outside tower, blast it!)


Turn 12 -- Victory to the defenders! Here you can see arrayed the remaining troops from this battle, standing battered but unbowed on the smoldering town walls. (Recall that they started with over 60 figures at the start, and us with 150.) Well played, defenders, well played.



Commentary -- An excellent and exciting battle! And as usual, it was great fodder for playtest feedback on how the game runs -- in the case, especially for me to see some people who'd played BOW from the book without my prior intervention. Like, there were some rules interpretations that were different from mine (like semi-accidentally using a Warhammer rule for hill movement, not pre-declaring moves and attacks, etc.). This was the most people I've seen to date all participating in a single battle at once (namely 8 -- which worked better than I might have feared, working quite well to semi-divide force responsibility). I saw that some refinements might be warranted to the castle-attacks rules (like clarifying how to target archery against wall sections, and maybe not allowing defenders to closely bunch up and still get double-attacks). And then there were the first-time-ever elements that got used here (like siege towers, earth elementals, etc.)

Finally, Paul pointed out the rather uncanny similarity between one of our photos and a very old snapshot of Arneson & company, posted on Grognardia just a few days after our game. Yikes! And a huge thanks to Paul, BigFella, and everyone else who played with us.



More views on the Siege of Bridgefaire:

And the earlier Battle of Restenford:


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Friday Night Book of War

Special night, special time -- this is actually a game we played here on Christmas Day. What could be better to get in the holiday mood than a desperate tooth-and-nail struggle against a seemingly endless horde of hellish undead from beyond the grave? I guess that's how we roll here. (And also hopefully lots of 6's.)


Start -- 300 points, Advanced Game with Expansion Units. At top, my opponent has picked a small group of pricey units -- a 10th-level wizard with a fireball wand, 10 figures of pikemen bodyguards, and also 3 figures of war elephants carrying archers (representing 100 pikes and 30 war elephants). And at the bottom, of course, you can see my legion of 75 figures of skeleton warriors (i.e., 750 skeletons). The only terrain are the two section of Woods placed by my opponent to slow down my already-meager movement.



Turn 3 -- The opponent made one move forward, and then opted to hold her ground and make use of missile fire against my advance. I've pushed my skeletons forward as quickly as possible (it would be nice to move forward in a unified line, but as long as I'm in the open on the right, it's best to be as aggressive as possible). Here you see combined elephant-back archery and fireball missiles wiping out half of my middle unit (7 figures, or 70 skeletons, going down on this turn).



Turn 5 -- My skeletons make first melee contact and achieve 1 hit on the elephants (remember that they have 6HD). In response, the elephants turn and start stomping all over my skeletons in melee combat (in fact, they automatically hit!). Also, the wizard fireballs one figure of skeletons in the unit in front of him.



Turn 6 -- The pikes go into hedgehog formation (so as to defend all sides), and I decide to charge them. Pikes are always going to lay out hideous damage when you do this, but I figure it's going to happen at some point anyway, and with lots of skeletons and immunity from morale, maybe I'll get some through; you can see the result of that clash below. Also on this turn (outside the picture) I've wrapped units all around the war elephants, and so with lots of attacks and rear attack bonus, managed to knock out one of the three elephant figures.



Turn 8 -- On the prior turn, I actually routed the pikes, but pinned in between multiple units, they had nowhere to flee. Not so for the wizard, however, who has broken off and run for freedom alone! Here you see me finishing off the last of the pikes, and I've also eliminated a second figure of elephants, although I've taken a lot of casualties in return.



Turn 11 -- The wizard commences a run-and-gun strategy. My skeletons are trying to chase him, but he fires off some fireballs and then runs back past them. I do, however, manage to finish off the last elephant figure.



Turn 14 -- I tried to trap the wizard in the top-right corner of the board, but he's too fast for me. Here he turns around and lights up my remaining skeletons again with more fireballs.



Turn 16 -- There goes the wizard past my encirclement again, dammit! At this point it's clear that my slow skeletons can't catch him, so I concede the game. Victory for the wizard, standing alone on the smoking field of battle!!



Commentary -- This was partly a test of the skeleton units for a game that would come later. One of the extremely important results of the test is that they quasi-break the overall structure of a Book of War game.

The important realization is this: Perhaps the greatest part of the pacing and tension in BOW flows out of the Morale checks; based on a single dice roll, a player may or may not lose an entire unit of figures. Thus, both players are eagerly watching for those rolls, and the game usually tips one way or another in response to them. But with the undead having no morale checks, the game frankly turns into a fairly predictable "grind" of attack-dice and a few figures lost each turn. You might say that a good part of the "fun" was lost. (And the game went long in turns, if not in actual time played.) Not something I realized before this game.

The secondary issue here was the bit at the end with the solitary wizard being able to hold off all my remaining skeletons. That's a weird corner case in that (a) skeletons have the slowest move of any basic footman, (b) the wizard has the highest, (c) the hero-type can make turns without any move penalty, and (d) the wizard can make wand-missile attacks with presumably no limit on charges. If you'd taken out any one of those items, this would not have worked out this way; or if my opponent had made any mistake in the endgame, I might have still caught her (but: no such mistake). Looked at another way, in D&D, this would probably be an opportunity for a wizard to start flying and blasting fireballs freely from the air. But in reality, you probably wouldn't really want to come to the table with absolutely nothing but basic skeletons, anyway.

So about the undead: if you're a DM and you want to use them in your game, then you should be cognizant that using them very much changes the flavor and flow of the game. Option #1 would be to accept that flavor, and commit to a drawn-out war of attrition against a rampaging wave of mindless bodies, something like you'd see in a Dawn of the Dead movie or whatever. Option #2 would be to make sure and add some other spice for interest, like necromancer wizards, other high-level monsters, interesting terrain features, or the like. That's what we decided to do in the later follow-up game, and I was very glad that we did so (more on that later).

Monday, January 23, 2012

Book of War Expansion: Lesser Undead

I didn't include any undead in the published Book of War rules. There are a few reasons for that (like: they're not classically in the D&D men-at-arms tables available for hire), but nonetheless, let's fix that right now. Here are some undead you might think about fielding in your campaign (text between the rules is Open Game Content, per the OGL):




Unit Cost MV AH HD Notes
Skeletons 4 6 4
1
Fearless
Skeletons, Archers 7
6 4
1
Fearless, shortbows
Zombies (1HD)
4 6 4
1
Fearless
Zombies (2HD)
6
6 4
2
Fearless
Ghouls
9
9
5
2
Fearless, paralysis, −1 in sun

Undead, General Notes: We assume that all undead are fearless (no morale checks ever), and also immune to death spells.

Skeletons and Zombies: Note that skeletons and zombies are indistinguishable at this scale! (Assuming stats of HD 1/2 and 1 respectively.)

Ghouls: These hideous creatures are likely to paralyze and consume their targets. On hits against mass creatures, check 1d6 ≥ HD/2 to convert any hit to a full figure kill. Against 1HD heroes, attacks roll 3 dice; against HD2+ heroes, attack rolls are as normal, but any such hit is a hero-kill. Elf targets are immune to this effect.


Commentary: Note that skeletons and zombies actually have different hit dice in OD&D (½ and 1 respectively) versus anything that came after that (1 and 2 respectively). Now, for skeletons, it turns out that there's no statistical difference at BOW scale between their having ½ or 1 Hit Dice, so the numbers above are applicable in either case (more on that in the future). But zombies will present a difference, so I've included both types above, appropriate for whichever variety you prefer. Another thing: Advanced D&D bumped the skeleton move up to 12", whereas Basic D&D instead accelerated zombies up to 12", so pay attention and modify for whichever edition you're playing under. (Myself, I prefer them both to be slow as in OD&D.) I don't think that the zombies-attack-last qualifier in those later editions makes any statistical difference in sustained mass combat; and I've also included and priced skeleton archers above, because a lot of people have miniatures of that type.

Ghouls are a uniquely odd (and dangerous) unit type; the mechanic above took quite some time to nail down. The thing is, the chance for paralysis (and subsequent auto-hits or however you play it) is almost totally inconsequential against basic 1HD troops -- a single hit usually kills them anyway, so succumbing to paralysis on top of that is just academic. What the ability is really deadly against is higher-HD types, who might get paralyzed from one hit, effectively lose the benefit of all their higher HD, and wind up horribly consumed. So against mass troops at BOW scale there's a die-roll to turn any hit into a full figure kill, regardless of HD. And against hero troops there are either additional dice, or an automatic figure-kill, depending on how strong they are. Damnation! That's pretty scary, if you think about it, and accurate to how D&D would play out against a whole slavering army of ghouls in melee; in some sense, ghouls have the special ability to dissolve the value of opponents' higher hit dice.

Finally: I include the −1 to hit in sunny weather for ghouls in the tradition of OD&D and Chainmail saying that they, and other types, are weaker in sunlight (e.g., "... must subtract 1 from any die roll they roll when in full light" [CM, p. 37]). I think that's a nice segue into the higher-level undead who are totally incapacitated in light (spectres, vampires), but you might disagree and wish to strike that out. Also, if you want to include the possibility of victims killed by ghouls rising again later as undead themselves (OD&D/AD&D), then you should do that yourself in post-hoc fashion (and outside the scope of an active battle, I would recommend).


[Photo by zen under CC2.]

Friday, January 20, 2012

Book of War Review: Swords Against the Outer Dark

Another great overview of Book of War from Shane over at the Swords Against the Outer Dark blog. If you haven't visited yet, he has one of the greatest subtitles in the entire blogosphere -- "Sword & Sorcery Gaming Meets Cthulhiana and Yog-Sothothery". Here's part of what he wrote this week:
All in all, I highly recommend Book of War to anyone needing a simple, yet solid, set of mass combat rules for their D&D campaign. What Delta has delivered with this book epitomizes the do-it-yourself spirit the Old-School Renaissance is supposed to be about. BoW is exactly the kind of product that I love seeing come out of the OSR. Personally, I plan to use these rules in an upcoming game, and can't wait to see them in action.
How cool is that? If he can find use for Book of War in the context of desperate battles against slavering legions of the Old Ones, then I'll have to say that all of my hopes for the product have come true. (And of course it should be compatible with any close fork off the classic D&D path like his -- Original D&D, B/X, Swords and Sorcery etc. -- as long as you've got Hit Dice, Armor Class, Movement scores, and a comfort with adding some numbers to dice-rolls, then you've got the basics assumed by the system.) Thanks for the kind words, Shane!


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Poll Results: Dragon Extras

Last week I asked the question, "Should OD&D Dragons Require Magic to Hit?". A majority of respondents said "no" by more than a 2-to-1 margin. (Although a few people in the comments said they'd be okay with a magic-missiles-only requirement, as was done in 2E, for example.)

Therefore, I'll be following suit, still not having any such requirement in my OED house rules, and also I won't plan to include that in any foreseeable revision to the Book of War mass-warfare rules. I do think, however, that I'd lean towards including the other "extras" of cause-fear and see-invisible that seemed consistent throughout the Chainmail, OD&D (by reference) and AD&D lines. (Not that I'm 100% happy with the way it introduces a morale-check without loss of figures; although I suppose that's got the BOW un-rout rule as precedent for that already. Will need to think on that.)

Thanks to all who responded!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Original Monster Elegance

One of the many striking things that occurred to me when I got my Original D&D set (see very first blog post here) was the lovely and informative elegance of the monster roster. For those of you with OD&D, this will be old hat, but for those who've never seen it, I simply must share. As you open D&D Vol-2, Monsters and Treasure, the first thing you encounter after the Index is the "Monster Reference Table, Hostile & Benign Creatures", as follows (tables reproduced for the purpose of commentary, criticism, and scholarship).

First, page 3. Without anywhere explicitly saying so, this page is predominantly all the "Hostile" stuff, i.e., Chaotic monsters that you're expected to fight:



Now flip over to page 4. This page is mostly all "Benign" entities; all of the fey woodland-type creatures, mounts (ground and aerial), creatures you might summon with magic, etc.... and also the "clean up crew" mindless oozes that got squeezed in here, too.



Now, a couple things you won't see, of course: stats for Attacks and Damage. As you probably know, by default everything originally did 1d6 damage, with exceptions called out in the text paragraphs that follow (like giants and elementals for 2d6, black pudding for 3d6, etc.) This was perhaps a big oversight; with the first supplement (Sup-I, Greyhawk), rosters of different damage stats for all the monsters were provided, but then you needed to flip between two books to synch them up, and this required the later Monster Manual before it was fixed. Personally, in my copy of Vol-2 here I jot down an Attack & Damage stat in the margin for each type (in whole-number of dice, following the OD&D precedent).

But look a little bit more closely. For my purposes, I think it's a huge benefit that different monsters of the same type have all been listed and described together, in order of increasing hit dice, so that at a glance I can get a sense for the overall monster world ecology and interrelationships. For example, here are the "giant class" humanoids at the start, and you can see at a glance that across the category, numbers appearing are always going down, while armor, movement, and hit dice are always improving (in math we'd say "monotonically increasing"):



Even better is the list of undead. So simple: There's just one undead type created for each hit die number from 1 to 7! (And also skeletons starting at one-half.) Recall that in later Advanced D&D all of these undead got their hit dice bumped up by one place (with the odd exception of ghouls), whereas in the Basic D&D line they just bumped up skeletons & zombies, leaving the rest unchanged (i.e., with ghouls being the switchover point):



After that you get a block of chimerical and serpent-like monstrosities, culminating with dragons, purple worms, and (on the flip) sea monsters. Actually, in the extra Reference Sheets that come with the original game, they managed to fit Sea Monsters and Minotaurs on the first page, so that's even better. Another thing you don't see: Look very closely and you might notice sort of an extra-sized gap right under Dragons. That's where Balrogs were listed in the first printing -- taken out later, and the gap sort-of closed but not perfectly -- and there's a full-sized gap in the Reference Sheets so it's easier to spot there.

So: A great piece of work, and these two pages alone have given me a better, more immediate and visual sense of the core monster ecology of D&D than anything I had in the prior 25 years or so of gaming. In this particular case it really was better the first time.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Super Saturday: Superhero Non-Simulatability

Here's a real problem for superhero-based gaming -- whether you're talking tabletop RPGs, computer games, massively multiplayer online stuff, etc.). The problem is this: So many (most?) stories achieve a conclusion by means of a one time "gag" of a superhero surprise-revealing a new power, effect, or interaction -- one that has never been shown before, and will likely never be used ever again. In a regular rule-driven system (not one of those player-narrative-driven doohickeys), this seems like an insurmountable problem.

Also: Consider the variant to rock-paper-scissors in which "fire" may be thrown once in your lifetime. How do you really adjudicate/enforce that fairly?

A couple of examples from early classic Lee-Kirby Thor issues (maybe not the most perfect of case-studies, but what I have at hand here):
  1. Journey Into Mystery #85 -- Thor's first clash with Loki (encompassing the whole issue) ends with Thor dunking him in the East River. "According to legend, Loki's magic powers are useless in water!" he says. Obviously, that was never effective again.
  2. JIM #93 -- Thor's first battle with the Radioactive Man. Among the unexpected one-off things that happen here are that (a) Radioactive Man would "blow up like an H-bomb" if subjected to any physical violence, and (b) the issue ends with Thor summoning a tornado in New York that can blow the Radioactive Man all the way back to China, where he then mushroom-cloud explodes as predicted.
  3. JIM #114-115 -- The Absorbing Man is another good example of a seemingly unstoppable foe who is basically never beaten the same way twice. His first dramatic appearance ends with Thor "spinning my enchanted hammer at cyclotronic speed, [so that] I have the power to transmute the elements themselves!"; after which a bystander says "It was like a nuclear explosion! Even the ground is glazed!". Thus Thor has created helium gas, forced the Absorbing Man to change into it, and floated him into space. This will never happen again.
  4. Thor #171 -- Here, a long battle with the Wrecker ends with Thor throwing him onto the powered third-rail of the New York subway system, and then connecting Mjolnir to it to drain away all of the Wrecker's supernatural strength (allegedly de-powering him "fore'er"). I'm particularly uncertain how you'd ever deal with circumstantial power-changes or de-powering of different characters (pretty common in the comics) in the game setting.
Thoughts? Have comics gotten away from that kind of deus ex machina over time? Is that just a hopeless thing to try and recreate in a rule-driven game system?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Book of War: Hero and Wizard Specs

Short post today -- Here's a new version of the OGL "Hero Specification" document (this time including Wizards) showing D&D-style statistics in case you opt to use the Book of War "Special Combat" rule (1:1 combat for opposing heroes). Click on the image below for a PDF:


Monday, January 9, 2012

Dragon Extras Through the Ages

One of the key lessons from Book of War play (for example) is that OD&D dragons are quite distinctly not Smaug-like. They are hittable by normal men (AC2), and their breath weapons really aren't large enough to hit hundreds at a time, so they are quite vulnerable to a mass of human archers, say. And thus: They are best used tactically against some other type, best of all as a pouncing anti-hero weapon, say.

But the other day, commentator UWS Guy asked one of his usual troubling questions. So I figured I'd look at the "extra" abilities of dragons in different versions of D&D -- not the primary stuff like toughness, flight, and breath-weapons, but the other little gifts that dragons get (and that you might overlook).


Chainmail Fantasy -- There are three notable extra benefits for dragons in Chainmail fantasy, which I quote here:
They cause enemy troops within 15” of them to check morale just as if they had suffered excess casualties. Dragons have the power to detect any hidden or invisible enemies they are within 15” of... They melee as if they were four Heavy Horse being impervious to missile or melee hits in normal combat (see Hero and Super Hero sections for the only exceptions). [CM, p. 35]
The latter part, "impervious to missile or melee hits in normal combat", is enforced by not giving them any combat stats except for their appearance on the Fantasy Combat Table, where they might be eliminated by other exceptional beings (such as Heroes, Superheroes, Giants, etc.) Note that the defense here is practically identical to that of Elementals: "impervious to normal attacks against them" [CM p. 36], again appearing on the Fantasy Combat Table, etc.


Original D&D -- None of the abilities listed above are mentioned in the OD&D writeup on dragons. However, recall that all of Chainmail is supposed to be incorporated into OD&D by reference. At the start of Vol-2 Monsters and Treasure: "Special Ability functions are generally as indicated in CHAINMAIL where not contradictory to the information stated hereinafter..." [p. 5]. Moreover, you can see the effect of their detection power in the OD&D description of Pixies, for example: "They [pixies] can be seen clearly only when a spell to make them visible is employed, although certain monsters such as Dragons and high-level fighters will be aware of their presence." [p. 16]

But the "impervious to... normal combat" is quite troublesome indeed. In the case of Elementals, this was converted explicitly in OD&D to a hit-only-by-magic requirement: "Only magical weapons/attacks affect Elementals." [as underlined on p. 18] But no such conversion or reference was made for dragons, and without it, the status of the Chainmail rule seems difficult to adjudicate in the new context. If one were to use it, one might ask: What now counts as "normal" (under the unified, d20-based Alternative Combat System)? If Heroes at 4th-level can clearly hit a dragon, where is the cutoff from 1st-3rd? Is the magic-weapon requirement implied by the example of Elementals? Etc.

I didn't include the three special abilities above in Book of War, and I can't say that it was intentional -- frankly, I just overlooked the implied reference. But you can see if we did include them, that OD&D dragons suddenly really would look Smaug-like -- detecting hiding/invisible halflings, menacing to human armies, killed only by a magic arrow. Was that the intention?


Advanced D&D 1E -- If it was the intention, then Gygax again acknowledges the first two, but not the last one, in his AD&D work. The Monster Manual -- whose prime directive was to consolidate the scattered monster entries from OD&D, after all -- says nothing about any magic-to-hit requirement, but it otherwise provides continuity by saying this:
Because of these keen senses, all dragons are able to detect hidden or invisible creatures within 1" per age level. Dragons also develop the power to panic enemies as they mature... [several paragraphs regarding fear-aura follow; p. 29]
So at this point we have two editions in sequence written by Gygax which provide evidence of having scrubbed or discarded the hard-to-hit quality that dragons formerly had in Chainmail.


Advanced D&D 2E -- 2E usually copies things like spells, magic, and monsters forward from 1E pretty directly, but due to overall power inflation, it specially rewrote dragons (and giants) in numerous ways, so as to keep them atop the heap of the monster ecology -- giving them multiplied Hit Dice, extra defenses, and about a dozen new attack forms each. Separate sections, each a few paragraphs long, are included on both "Dragon Senses" (detect invisible and hidden, as well as clairaudience and even telepathy) and "Dragon Fear" (with a somewhat consolidated mechanic compared to 1E). In addition, a requirement for magical attacks starts to creep back in, but only at the topmost levels, and only for missile attacks (perhaps to specifically counter the case of masses of human archers being deployed against them):
Old dragons or older dragons are immune to normal missiles; their gem-encrusted hides deflect arrows and other small projectiles. Large missiles (from catapults, giants, etc.) and magical missiles affect them normally. [2E MM, Dragons]

Dungeons & Dragons 3E -- 3E retains all those attacks and special abilities, and again boosts Hit Dice, etc. It includes the abilities of "Blindsight" and "Frightful Presence" which duplicate the see-invisible and fear-aura abilities which have been a constant. And it also includes a general Damage Reduction defense which requires magic-to-hit or else a penalty to damage is applied (and not just for missiles). For example, from the entry for Black Dragons:
  • Young adult... Damage reduction 5/+1
  • Mature adult... Damage reduction 10/+1
  • Very old... Damage reduction 15/+2
  • Wyrm... Damage reduction 20/+3 [3E SRD]


Basic D&D -- Interestingly, there is no evidence of any of the dragon's "extra" abilities (fear, detection, or hit-ability) in any version of the D&D "Basic" line -- including Holmes Basic D&D, Moldvay Basic D&D, Mentzer Basic D&D, or the Allston D&D Rules Cyclopedia.

This is pretty easy to explain, actually, if we look back to the legacy above. In the aftermath of the bifurcated Basic-versus-Advanced D&D lines, the start of the "Basic" line was kept more firmly rooted in the OD&D texts, ignoring most of what Gygax did with AD&D. But again, the problem here is that dragon "extras" don't appear anywhere in the OD&D text itself, but only by reference back to Chainmail -- so inasmuch as Gygax was mentally cognizant of that, he kept continuity by copying them into the AD&D line (at least for fear & detection), but the B/X authors kept a different kind of continuity, one where the OD&D LBB text was taken in isolation (and so missing any of the "extras").


Therefore, it seems like we have a steady tradition of dragons with special fear and detection abilities throughout OD&D/AD&D, and a parallel fixed tradition lacking those abilities throughout the OD&D/Basic line. Meanwhile, magic-to-hit wasn't included anywhere except piecemeal in 2E and 3E. But again we note: To the extent that any of these abilities are included for our D&D dragons, they look more and more like a Smaug-type creature from the works of Tolkien.


Poll Question: Should OD&D Dragons require magic to hit? Feel free to interpret that question any way you wish. (See poll results here.)

[Photo by Falashad under CC2.]

Friday, January 6, 2012

On Burning Oil, Part 2

Here's a little "myth-busting" experiment you can do easily in your own home. Recall that medieval lamp oil was just olive oil (or more rarely some other vegetable, fish oil, etc.). Here I've put together a "flask" of such oil, some matches, a little bit of string, and poured some of the oil on a plate:



Consider the following as representative of a torch applied to a pool of oil on a dungeon floor. Is it possible to get that pool ignited by applying a flame? No way! I emptied a whole book of matches on multiple attempts (photo shots) like this:



But if I take a little bit of string, dip the end in some oil, and light it like a wick, can I use it as a lamp? Quite easily!



I left this burning away happily for the better part of an hour. I can carry it around the house and even light up my always-dark bedroom with it reasonably well. (Actually, it's still going next to me as I write these words.) I've really got no idea how long it would take to burn away (can't see any noticeable difference in the wick or the pool). After an hour, for argument's sake, I tried to ignite the whole pool again -- Not gonna happen!



See also:


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Book of War Expansion: Cold

We had a pretty good cold snap in the northeast this week, so I figured it was a good opportunity to write about adding cold powers to Book of War play. It's something I kind of wanted to do for symmetry's sake in the system, but it requires you to bend a few of the core principles in order to make happen. For example -- Fire Giants get an advantage in being immune to the powers of Red Dragons and Fireball-wands in the game; Storm Giants can say the same against Blue Dragons and Lightning-wands; but Frost Giants are left out in the, um... cold. So let's give them something to be awesome against:


White Dragons

If you've got the BOW rulebook, you might wonder why I only included 3 kinds of dragons: Adult Blue, Red, and Gold. As you might guess, space was an issue, and 3 types seemed enough to suggest the overall flavor of the possibilities. It also seemed nice to include the first 2 types given detail in Chainmail Fantasy (Red & Blue), plus the one Lawful type as a counter.

But the other thing is that those 3 types are the only ones that qualify to appear as solo Heroes at the Adult age level. Recall that a major principle is that creatures need 10 Hit Dice minimum in D&D to appear as Heroes (and this is already being generous, so I tend to uphold it strictly). Consider the OD&D Adult Blue Dragon (medium size): hit points are 9 dice × 4 points per die (for age) = 36 hit points. Pro-rated, that's the equivalent of 36/3.5 (expected value of d6) = 10.28 hit dice -- just enough. Red and Dragon Adults have a bit more, so they're in too, but the rest all fail the test.

So if you want to see a White Dragon in your game -- the weakest of all dragon types -- it has to be nothing less than Very Old (the topmost category) in order to qualify as a Hero. Then you'll have 6 dice × 6 points per die = 36 hit points (the same as the Adult Blue above), and it just squeaks in 1 point over the cutoff. (Note that this "pro-rated" hit dice analysis is systematized in the AD&D Monster Manual as the way to adjudicate Dragon Saving Throws: "When a dragon attains 5 or more hit points per die, its saving throw is calculated by dividing its total hit points by 4, thus giving a higher number of hit dice than it actually has..." [MM p. 31]). So the result follows (text between horizontal rules is Open Game Content per OGL):


Hero

Cost

MV

AH

HD

Atk

Dam

Notes

Dragon, Very Old White

40

24

6

1

3

2

Flying, breathe cold


Dragon, Very Old White: This type functions as other dragons, but has a cold-breath attack for damage 9.


Walls of Ice

While Book of War directly provides only for the top 6th-level spells in play, you can of course dig down into the lower levels and have your wizards use all that other stuff, if they have the opportunity and you're so inclined (like: conjuring elementals). So the 4th-level wall of ice (or anything else: fire, stone, iron) might be considered as a barrier-making mechanism. But if we apply the AD&D-explicated rule that areas stay in feet-scale outdoors (all-caps on PHB p. 39; and really the only rational way to deal with it in my opinion), its effect might be more limited than first hoped for.

In OD&D, the magic walls of both ice and fire have the same options for area: either (1) a standing plane of 6"×2", or (2) a circle of 3" diameter and 2" height (later editions make this latter a hemisphere, but here it's easy to read it as an uncapped cylinder). Using the Book of War rule to divide areas by 3 (p. 16), we get a straight version that's 2" long, and a circular version that's just 1" diameter (enough to contain one figure, really). A more technical conversion of the former, using our preferred 1"= 5 feet scale for man-to-man D&D (i.e., taking the inches literally compared to standard miniature figures), would give 6" × 5 ft/dnd-inch × 1/20 bow-inch/ft = 1½" long -- but the approximating rule in BOW is so much simpler to use that there's really no need for all that. (Almost all distances in OD&D are divisible by 3, so that's why I round in that direction.) Or if you prefer the 1"=10 feet scale then you get a 3" long wall instead.

So either way you slice it, the wall of ice (and the rest of its family) is not very big on the mass-combat tabletop. Maybe it's just enough to wall off a narrow passage between two terrain features that get set up close to each other (perhaps pre-planned on game start), or maybe stop up a gap in a castle wall made by your opponent's disintegrate spell. Personally, I don't mind that, as at 4th level, it really shouldn't be something that rivals the power of the "greater spells" at 6th level. And the other thing that's funky about wall of ice is that in OD&D, it seems to mimic wall of fire with its concentration-based duration, but every other edition gives it a fixed duration instead. I think I agree with the change; it seems like an active, flickering fire with no fuel source is more in need of infusion with energy than an unmoving block of ice. I converted it to a 6 turn duration in Book of Spells, for example. Thus we get:


  • Wall of Ice (Range: 12", Duration: 6 turns). This spell creates either a 2" long wall, or a 1" diameter circle of ice. It can be broken through by 4HD troops or greater, or any Hero, who then take a damage 1 cold attack (2 for fire-users).



Cold Wands

Following Chainmail Fantasy (where all wizards have an at-will attack form of either fireball or lightning bolt), wizards in BOW all come prepared with either a wand of fire or a wand of lightning. Again for symmetry, I came very close to suggestion an option for an equivalent cold wand, but ultimately didn't keep it in the book (I actually went back-and-forth, inserting and deleting text to that effect a few times).

OD&D has a cold wand, but as written, it simply won't cut the mustard. The effect is what we'd call in later editions a "cone of cold" (5th-level spell as of the 1E PHB). Instead of having the fireball/lightning missile tradition of a long 24" range, it only creates a 6" long cone emanating from the user; see above for what happens when we convert that area-effect to BOW scale (becomes just 2", more-or-less). That's a whole hell of a lot less threatening. Perhaps the cold wand and similar-acting devices (fear, paralysis) are really more specialized to dungeon adventuring than the fireball/lightning attacks -- (1) the area is really sufficient for most purposes there, (2) it has more control, in that there's no legacy of variable targeting error, and (3) no one ever suggested the need for any "blowback" in constricted areas. But outdoors, by the text-as-written, it's clearly deficient.

So part of me wants to go off-book and permit a wizard to appear equipped with something like a wand of ice storms that has the equivalent effect to the other spells, but as cold instead of fire/lightning, at no additional cost. A few problems with that: (1) Obviously there's no such actual item described in core D&D. (2) Even the book effect for ice storm is always shown as shorter range than the other missiles, like 12" when it appears as a 4th-level spell in Greyhawk (Sup-I, p. 23). (3) In addition, I have a much harder time visualizing a cold effect shooting in a line over the battlefield, compared to fireballs/lightning. The ice storm description asserts that a localized storm pounds down out of nowhere, which is frankly a little silly compared to the other stuff. So this is actually the kind of thing that I would criticize other RPG designers for: creating new feature via mere game-mechanical symmetry, even when the modeled concept doesn't really stand up as a thing-in-the-world. I don't know; I guess you could do that if you want to, but I haven't really been able to make myself comfortable with it.


[Photo by sgetliffe under CC2.]

Monday, January 2, 2012

Flying Through the Ages

Having discovered how very powerful dragons are in Book of War (largely due to their immense maneuverability), I started digging into the flying rules for classic D&D.

Partly the lesson here is that nothing is really a tabula rasa ur-source, not even Original D&D. On the contrary, one of the ways that OD&D is so commendable is precisely in how it makes its mechanical predecessors explicit, in a fashion that was mostly wiped out in later editions. For example:
  • In the OD&D "Recommended Equipment" section you're supposed to have a copy of the Outdoor Survival game by Avalon Hill (coming even before suggestions for dice and Chainmail [Vol-1, p. 5]), and it gets used & referenced as the basis for D&D's Wilderness movement and adventuring rules [Vol-3, p. 14-17].
  • The OD&D section on "Aerial Combat" begins with a reference to another work, as well -- "Many of the most interesting battles take place in the air, so we offer you 'Battle in the Skies' or 'BITS' (with no apologies to Mike Carr, creator of Fight in the Skies)" [Vol-3, p. 25]
  • In the OD&D section on Naval Combat, the situation is somewhat more obscured, but the suggested scale for action exactly matches Gygax & Arneson's earlier work, Don't Give Up the Ship! -- "For movement purposes 1:1200 scale models can be used, so a playing area about the size recommended for aerial combat will suffice." [Vol-3, p. 30]

Now, never once in all my years of playing D&D have I actually made use of the flying rules in any way. But one interesting thing -- In Gygax's works of OD&D and AD&D , the Aerial Combat section actually appears before Naval Combat. (As opposed to how you'd intuit the presentation would run, starting from the mundane and proceeding to the more-exotic: presumably standard wilderness, then land combat, naval combat, aerial combat, possibly extra-planar, etc.) So this, combined with the line above on the "most interesting battles", suggests that Gygax was more personally intrigued and invested in Aerial action rules than even something presumably more common like Ships. Therefore, it's a case especially worth considering.


Original D&D

OD&D has a very nice and fully-developed mini-game for aerial combat (presumably inspired in some way by the Mike Carr game, as we see above). It suggests either miniatures or paper counters on a hex-grid specifically at least 48×48 inches (or 6' square for miniatures), with written orders from each side per turn. There are specific move rules for Climbing, Diving, Crashing (including the 1-die-per-1" falling rule, "i.e., a crash from 12" means twelve dice"), Bombing, Melee, Air-to-Air, and Ground-to-Air Fire (specifying catapults with a load of small stones acting as a "shotgun effect"). Here's the table for turning (presumably with "moves" technically in rounds and "turns" [pivots] in number of hex-sides, i.e., 60-degrees each):


(Note that Dragons are in a separate category from "Giant Reptile" at the end of that table -- representing a flying dinosaur, I suppose?) And here's a specialized system for "Critical Hits" on flyers, by which a partly-damaged aerial combatant might be forced to crash or land:


One critique here: Note that the chance to critical-hit a flyer out of the game doesn't account for individual toughness in any way. A single sling-stone is just as likely to take down a dragon as a hawk!


Advanced D&D

As usual, the word-count in AD&D expands greatly, and here you get long passages on training, feeding, and resting different types of aerial mounts in the campaign; issues of thrust and balance on different types of creatures; seating and restraints for mounted fighters, etc. Each separate flyer type now gets a separate entry with a few lines on individual powers & tactics in the air. The specialized "Critical Hits" system is stripped out here, and replaced with a more abstract rule of "Any winged creature which sustains damage greater than 50% of its hit points will be unable to maintain flight and must land" [DMG, p. 53]. The Bombing system is missing, but we are introduced to new rules for diving attacks (double damage), and under the levitation/flying notes, a special accumulating penalty for firing missiles without a stable platform (OD&D just said: "Missile Fire, Air-to-Air: Treat as normal missile fire..." [Vol-3, p. 27]). But the core of changes is to systematize flyer maneuverability into new lettered classes A through E, which looks like this:

Class A: Creature can turn 180° per round, and requires 1 segment to reach full airspeed. Creature requires 1 segment to come to a full stop in the air, and can hover in place. Class A creatures have total and almost instantaneous control of their movements in the air. Examples: diinn, air elementals, aerial servants, couatl.

Class B: Creature can turn 120° per round, and requires 6 segments to reach full airspeed. Creature requires 5 segments to come to a full stop in the air, and can hover in place. Examples: fly spell, sprites, sylphs, giant wasps, ki-rin.

Class C: Creature can turn 90° per round, and requires 1 round to reach full airspeed. Examples: carpet or wings of flying, gargoyles, harpies, pegasi, lammasu, shedu.

Class D: Creature can turn 60° per round, and requires 2 rounds to reach full airspeed. Examples: pteranodons, sphinxes, mounted pegasi.

Class E: Creature can turn 30° per round, and requires 4 rounds to reach full airspeed. Examples: dragons, rocs, wyverns. [DMG, p. 50-51]


Holy smoke -- look at how much maneuverability was reduced between OD&D and AD&D! As one example: In OD&D, Dragons could make 3×60° = 180° turns each round (that is, wheel around in one half-circle). Here, reduced to a 30° pivot each round, it would now take 6 rounds to make the same turnabout (i.e., 6 minutes in AD&D alleged 1 round=1 minute time scale). The same can be said for all the rest -- the OD&D range was from 120° to 360° per round; in AD&D it's 30° to 180° (generally halved or quartered). However, the minimum-spaces-between-turns rule from OD&D is now gone.

To my eye, the OD&D system looks like a mini-game that was actually used in play at some point; the AD&D version looks like -- as can be said for many other parts of the advanced game -- an abstracted model that was never actually play-tested. Questions: (1) How many AD&D combats even last more than 6 rounds to allow a Dragon to turnabout in the air under this mechanic? (2) Can a Dragon just land on the ground, immediately turn around for free (bypassing these rules), and then take off again in a different direction?


Expert D&D

The next place that aerial combat shows up is in Dave Cook's D&D Expert Rulebook (in the 1980 B/X line, the follow-up to Moldvay D&D Basic). What you get here is a clearly cut-down version (24 lines total), emphasizing shortened versions of the new AD&D rules. You get mechanics for: Surprise (diving/swoop for double damage), Spell Casting (stable platform or no spells: a harsh new restriction!), Missile Fire (stable platform or -4 to hit), but we also reach back to OD&D for the delightful Bombing rules. What's been sliced out are any of the other rules, in particular all of the rules for maneuverability and critical hit-locations (as seen in the tables above). These considerations are, perhaps quite reasonably (again, I never used them, so arguably they're a waste of space), punted off to the DM:

The DM should feel free to add to these guidelines as needed; for example, rules for climbing, diving, turns, crashing, and so on can be added. [D&D Expert, p. X25]


Battlesystem

The other place I thought to look (granted my particular interest in their use for a mass-combat game), was in Doug Niles' Battlesystem rules. In the first edition (Battlesystem Fantasy Combat Supplement, 1985), Niles explicitly refers back to the AD&D text, using the exact same Maneuverability Class ratings and rules as seen above (which is maybe a bit sketchy, since the mass time scale has converted to 1 turn=3 rounds):

Basic rules on flying movement and combat for the AD&D game are listed in the DMG, p. 49-53. Those rules apply in the BATTLESYSTEM game except as specifically noted below. For the D&D game, use the rules given below only. [Battlesystem FCS, p. 29]


One thing that Niles does here is to abstract altitude (in previous system, recorded as inches in paper, counters, or with a dowel) to simply 3 categories: Low, Medium, and High. Other than that, he hews pretty closely to AD&D, presenting conversions for the Aerial Fire (stable platform or penalty), Forced Landing (flying creature takes partial damage), and again the Bombing rules, as seen above.

In the later edition, however (Battlesystem Miniatures Rules, 1989), Niles allows his ruleset to evolve into something beyond the original basis. He keeps the same maneuverability classes (A to E), but wisely multiplies the turns allowed for his mass-combat game (A has no limit, B is 360 degrees/turn, etc., down to E at 60 degrees/turn). The abstracted height categories are gone, and altitude is recorded by a d20 placed next to a unit, showing height in actual inches. There are specialized rules for Changing Altitude, Ground Attack, Pass-By Attack, Vertical Envelopment, Dogfighting, Setting Spears/Pikes Against Flying Creatures, Falling Damage, Flying Units and Missile Combat (negate wall bonuses), Range Effects (shortcut rule for triangulating height & ground distance), and Morale and Flying Units (aerial units suffer morale penalties and are harder to rally). What's out are: the Dive bonus to attack, Hits forcing flyers to the ground, and the Bombing rule. Largely this puts this system in a different class than what has come before.

Here's a summary table of notable Aerial Combat mechanics throughout the different editions of classic D&D:


Which of these rules do you prefer in your own D&D games? Do you think it's preferable to let Dragons and similar creatures turnabout in the air within 1 round, after 6 rounds, or some number in between?