Chainmail And Weapon Modifiers

In my last post I took a look at the Chainmail Man-to-Man tables and distilled each armor class down to a standard to-hit value. To spare you the pain of looking back over that rambling mess, here’s the table of to-hit values for every armor class, listed for 2d6 and d20 combat, as well as a straight percentage chance of hitting.

9

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

2d6

7

7

8

8

9

9

10

11

d20

10

11

13

13

14

15

18

19

d100

0.57

0.5

0.42

0.42

0.35

0.29

0.15

0.1

Recall that, in Chainmail, AC 9 represents an unarmored opponent, AC 8 represents leather armor, AC 7 a shield alone, AC 6 leather and shield, AC 5 chain mail, AC 4 chain and shield, AC 3 plate armor, and AC 2 plate and shield.

This table shouldn’t be too big of a shock. It follows more or less the progression suggested in the “Alternative Combat System” in Original D&D, with the caveat that plate is significantly better than chain mail. Now we’re going to move on to weapon modifiers. In Chainmail, every weapon has a certain chance to hit each armor class. In this distilled system, this is represented by a table of to-hit modifiers, where the weapon is compared against the armor class, and a certain bonus added to the to-hit roll. Below is the table used when the 2d6 combat system is used.

Reach

9

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

Dagger

1

1

0

0

0

0

-1

-2

-1

Hand Axe

1

0

0

0

-1

-1

-1

-1

-1

Mace

3

-1

-1

0

-1

1

1

3

3

Sword

4

0

-1

0

-1

1

0

0

0

Battle Axe

5

-1

-1

0

0

2

2

1

1

Morning Star

6

1

1

1

1

3

2

2

3

Flail

7

0

0

1

1

3

2

4

4

Spear

8

-1

-1

-1

-1

-1

-1

-1

-1

Polearm

9

1

1

2

1

1

1

1

1

Halbard

9

-1

-1

0

1

3

3

3

3

Two-Handed Sword

10

1

1

2

2

4

4

4

4

Mounted Lance

11

2

2

3

3

2

2

2

2

Pike

12

-1

-1

0

0

1

1

1

1

Any positive numbers are simple bonuses to be applied to the to-hit rolls, while negative numbers are penalties. Using this table, we get exactly the same combat odds as in the original Chainmail. It’s obvious from the above table that some weapons, especially bigger ones such as the two-handed sword and the mounted lance, are simply better than their counterparts. To get a feel for exactly how much bigger, in a language that D&D players are more likely to understand, here is the same table converted to the d20 system (following the to-hit numbers stated earlier in this post).

Reach

9

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

Dagger

1

3

2

0

0

-1

-3

-2

-1

Hand Axe

1

0

2

0

-3

-4

-3

-1

-1

Mace

3

-3

-2

0

-3

1

2

9

6

Sword

4

0

-2

0

-3

1

0

0

-1

Battle Axe

5

-3

-2

0

0

5

6

2

1

Morning Star

6

3

4

3

3

7

6

5

6

Flail

7

0

2

3

3

7

6

11

10

Spear

8

-3

-2

-2

-3

-4

-3

-1

-1

Polearm

9

3

4

6

3

5

2

2

1

Halbard

9

-3

-2

0

3

7

9

9

6

Two-Handed Sword

10

3

4

6

6

10

11

11

10

Mounted Lance

11

5

6

8

8

7

6

5

4

Pike

12

-3

-2

0

0

1

2

2

1

Now it should be a lot clearer exactly how much better than your standard weapons the two-handed sword, for example, is. To penetrate plate and shield a standard character with a two-handed sword needs to roll a 9 or higher on a d20.

You’ll notice also that weapons have a “reach” value (this is called “class” in Chainmail, but I think “reach” is more descriptive). This has the following effects:

  • In the first round of melee between two opponents, the attacker (being the one who moved into melee) strikes first unless the defender has a weapon whose reach is 2 greater than the attacker’s. This simulates the defender setting his spear or whatever against the charge.
  • In the second and each subsequent round of melee, the same person who struck first last round does so again, unless the opponent has a weapon whose reach is 2 lower than the first combatant’s. This simulates the added speed and maneuverability that having a lighter weapon gives you.
  • If combatant A’s weapon has a reach of anywhere from 3 lower than combatant B’s to 1 higher than combatant B’s, combatant A can parry his opponent’s attack, forcing him to subtract 2 from his to-hit roll, though combatant A can not make his next attack.
  • If combatant A’s weapon has a reach from 4 to 7 lower than combatant B, then combatant A can either choose to strike first or parry combatant B’s blow. If the parry is successful, combatant A still gets to make his counterattack.
  • If combatant A’s weapon has a reach of 8 lower than combatant B, then combatant A gets the first blow, plus he has the option of striking again or parrying.
  • Any combatant whose weapon’s reach is at least 4 lower than his opponent’s gets another blow in addition to the benefits listed above.

So now we have different weapons that feel completely different, so while a burly fighter wielding a two-handed sword might make mincemeat out of a scrawny magic-user with his dagger, the magic-user still gets two chances to strike the fighter before the fighter even makes his first attack roll. Under the Chainmail rules, weapons are all different, many weapons having certain advantages over others. We’ve given weapons character even though they all deal 1d6 damage with a successful hit.

This also goes a long way towards differentiating classes at lower levels. I’ve often heard the complaint that, at low levels, there is no difference in fighting capability between fighters, clerics, and magic-users. Now the difference is clear: fighters can use any and all weapons, from the lowly dagger to the mighty two-handed sword, while magic-users can only use a knife. Not only would these two classes have different results in combat, playing them would feel very different.

Now what of when PCs are fighting monstrous creatures that have no immediate analogue in the weapon vs. AC table? I think the best solution is to give each weapon a simple modifier to hit to be used when facing monstrous foes. This modifier would be used regardless of the opponent’s armor class, and would simply be a reflection of the overall effectiveness of a weapon. Or you could just leave that system the way it is, and give those magic-users a fighting chance against a dragon.

You may notice I haven’t covered ranged weapons. This is because ranged weapons suck, and the math involved sucks, and I haven’t had the drive or opportunity to do it yet. I also haven’t talked about combat progression yet. I’ll get to that as well, but again the math is a bit wonky, or at least it seems that way to me. As it is this post pretty much outlines an entire combat system that you can plop into a D&D game. I plan on using this in my next game, whenever that happens, either in a 2d6 or a d20 form.

Whew. That was a lot of post with very little fluff. Here are some pictures to make everybody chill.

My latest D&D-related acquisition.

My current sci-fi reading.

Lumpy Space Princess

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