Gygax on Chainmail's Fantasy Scale

Regarding Chainmail's Fantasy man-to-man scale, here's an exchange between Gary Gygax and our friend RFisher, from ENWorld in 2005 ( http://www.enworld.org/forum/2069195-post152.html ):
RFisher: A couple of Chainmail questions: When the combat tables say "1 die per man", do they mean 1 die per man (20 dice per figure) or 1 die per figure (1 die per 20 men)? (I've known people to interpret it both ways.)

Gygax: Read "man" as "figure" and you have it. One die is just that...

RFisher: Under Heroes, does "They have the fighting ability of four figures" mean that they are equivalent to 4 men or 80 men?

Gygax: Heroes are used only in Man-to-Man play, so one is equal to four normal men.

RFisher: I understand that hero v. hero would be resolved on the Fantasy Combat Table. Hero v. normal forces would be resolved on the regular Combat Table. (The hero being classed as heavy foot, armored foot, light horse, &c. as fit the particular hero.) But were heroes & other things from the Fantasy Supplement ever used with the man-to-man rules? If so, how?

Gygax: I am quite at a loss to answer that, as the Hero and all the other Fantasy supplement figures were employed only in the play of Man-to-Man games, never in the mass system where one figure equalled 20.

And just so we don't forget, Gygax was consistent on this point over the years. Working backward in time, from his Dragon #15 article, "D&D Ground and Spell Area Scale" (June 1978):
The “Fantasy Supplement” was an outgrowth of the medieval rules and the “Man-to-Man Combat” (1 figure to 1 actual combatant) section I also devised for conducting battles of several different campaigns I ran for the LGTSA...

And earlier, from the Swords & Spells Introduction in 1976 (p. 1):
The FANTASY SUPPLEMENT written for CHAINMAIL assumed a man-for-man situation.

Also in 1976, note the full-page advertising blurb for Swords & Spells in The Dragon #3 (p. 24), whose singular exclamation points to the key difference from what came before:
S&S is structured to allow the use of 1:10 scale figures and 1:1 scale figures representing high-level fighters, magic-users, and clerics -- whether player characters or not -- in the same engagement!

And from The Strategic Review #2 in 1975 (p. 3):
CHAINMAIL is primarily a system for 1:20 combat, although it provides a basic understanding for man-to-man fighting also. The "Man-To-Man" and "Fantasy Supplement" sections of Chainmail provide systems for table-top actions of small size.

And in original Dungeons & Dragons Vol. 3, Land Combat in 1974 (p. 25):
The basic system is that from CHAINMAIL, with one figure representing one man or creature.

And from Wargamer's Newsletter #127 in 1972, where early play of the game is discussed purely in terms of man-to-man play:

It's funny how many of us (me included!) were tricked into the illusion that Chainmail Fantasy apparently supported mixed 1:20 and 1:1 scale play, when it really doesn't.


  1. So much so that we have him playing mixed scale combat with Jeff Perren in 2006 at Lake Geneva. Of course, that would be exactly like Gygax to not mention to Paul Stormberg that his "tribute game" was not the sort he thought Chain Mail suitable to fight.

    It is no surprise that we should be under this illusion when Chain Mail does not use attack and defence values by type for 1:1 scale. The very same issue can be seen in Warriors of Mars, which offers 1:50 scale combat.

  2. Looking at the inspiring presence ability of heroes next to the "army commander" in the non-fantastic rules, it is quite apparent that a hero in the mass combat rules simply raises the dice rolled by the units he is leading by +1. So a unit of troops lead by a hero and 2 units nearby (within 12") would roll rolls 3d6+1 to determine kills.

    The difference between an army commander and a fantastic hero, is that a hero doesn't suffer the fate of the unit he is with.

    So you are correct sir, although you can quite easily run mass combat on a 1:1 scale, a hero only fights on the man to man scale as the rules are written.

  3. You are wrong however, (in a different post) to assume the fragility of a hero though. The fact that heroes (let alone a super hero in magic armor!) require simultaneous is literally unkillable by almost any amount of normal men.

  4. furthermore! you mention that the fantasy rules were 1:1 only. This is incorrect when looking at the description of ogres/trolls. "They may fight in formation". 25 trolls = 6 heavy foot. Ergo roughly 4 trolls = 1 heavy foot. So 1 unit of trolls is 6 heavy foot and on the man to man scale 1 troll takes 6 hits.

  5. Wow, this observation seems to upset people so much they become incoherent. :)

    (1) Trolls in formation in no way contradict that Chainmail Fantasy scale is 1:1. (2) Fragility of heroes in the other post was not in regards to Chainmail.