Friday, January 21, 2022

How to Read the AD&D Rules Part IV: Weapons

We're looking at weapons today kiddies so open to page 37 of your textbooks. You'll notice two tables on this page: 

1. Weapon Proficiency Table:

This table lets you know the following:

  • how many weapons you can be proficient with depending on your class, 
  • how much worse you are at hitting things when attacking with a weapon in which you are not proficient, and 
  • how long you have to wait to get a new weapon proficiency. 

Nowadays everyone is proficient in all the weapons all the time, but I actually like that folks weren't as effective with weapons that they'd never actually used before. 

and 2. Weight and Damage by Weapon Type:

This economical table gets it. Except for the Speed Factor business.

The second table tells you how much your weapon weighs. None of you are going to track your encumbrance, but at least you can meaningfully contemplate whether your footpersons mace is worth its weight in gold.

More importantly, this table tells you you're going to do 2-16 pts of damage to large creatures with your Bastard Sword. If you don't want your fighter to do 2d8 damage against ogres then close the book now, AD&D is not for you. 

Those of you who took a gander at the weapon price list on page 35 are probably wondering why you can't buy such weapons as the Chauves Souris, Ransom, Rhonca, Rhoncie, or Runka. Fear not gentle reader, this table assures us that those implements are all covered under "Ranseur."

Notice the ** next to the "spear" listing. These asterices indicate that 

"This weapon also does twice the damage indicated to any opponent when the weapon is set to receive their charge." 

When you consider that in AD&D anyone who travels more than 10' to engage in melee is, technically, charging, and that weapon length determines who strikes first in a charge situation, and spears are 5-13' long... the spear becomes a very intriguing weapon, no? Does that mean that spears were preferred among savvy gamers? Heck no! Why not? Well, since that thing about only moving 10' to engage in melee was roundly ignored, "charging" only came into play when you were on horseback and carrying a lance. 

On the next page we have another weapon table: Weapon Types, General Data, and "To Hit" Adjustments

"General Data" includes how long your weapon is and how much space you need to use it; information you can probably figure out how to use on your own, right? But then there's a column labelled "Speed Factor." Nowhere is this explained but that's ok because if you use this information while playing a game called Advanced Dungeons & Dragons then you are, by definition, playing 2nd edition.

The table goes on to list combat adjustments based on the armor class of the opponent. Since the ACs listed only go from 2-10, it seems obvious that this is intended to simulate the relative effectiveness of certain weapons against specific armor types, e.g. a staff is not going to be very effective vs. a guy in platemail, and a -7 adjustment reflects that. What's less obvious is whether your staff is also -7 to hit a guy with Bracers of Defense AC 4 who has a 16 Dex (-2 AC adj.). You could--and should--ignore this business based on inadequate information and overly complicated rules but really you're going to ignore it regardless because in the heat of the moment you're not going to remember to apply these modifiers.  

At the bottom of the table is a separate section just for missile weapons. This section includes the already obsolete AC adjustments mentioned above but also throws in some very useful info such as Fire Rate and Range. Penalties for launching missiles beyond short range are only mentioned in an underhanded footnote:

"Armor Class Adjustment is based on the weapon or missile being discharged at short range. Adjust by -1 for medium ranges, -2 at all long ranges."

So underhanded is this note that I never noticed it before today, the 21st of January 2022! This note is noteworthy because these range modifiers were overruled by the combat matrices on page 74-75 of the DMG; under each table it is noted that missiles are -2 at medium range and -5 at long. So there was a brief period between the publication of the PHB in 1978 and the DMG a year later when archers were 15% more effective at hitting targets at long range.

Fire Rate seems pretty self explanatory and is even explained in a note under the table but the folks over at GGNoRe were confused by it and they're a pretty seasoned bunch, so I'm guessing that folks coming at this from later editions are not necessarily going to realize that each round you can fire your long bow twice, throw 3 darts, or launch half of a bolt from your heavy crossbow. Does this mean that no one ever used a heavy crossbow? Yes, that is precisely what it means.


Dennis Laffey said...

No one ever used light crossbows, either, because the damage sucks.

Timrod said...

Also true.

Peter D said...

"But then there's a column labelled "Speed Factor." Nowhere is this explained but that's ok because if you use this information while playing a game called Advanced Dungeons & Dragons then you are, by definition, playing 2nd edition."

Heh. It's explained in the DMG, p. 66-67. But this made me laugh out loud.