Encounters, Combat, and Initiative

Hi Flex' 

Originally posted by Flexor the Mighty!
Hello Gary. Hope you are having a relaxing Sunday afternoon.

I've wanted to ask you about the 1e combat system.
Sorry if this has been asked before but I can't search the threads until I pony up and become a member.
Anyway, since you said you didn't like weapon speeds did you reduce battles to

1. Roll d6 for initiative.
2. winning side rolls attacks and spells. Spells, then missles, then melee. Charging against set weapons would give the opponent an attack first.
3. losing side rolls attacks and spells.

Did all spells get announced first at the start of the round?

Whoosh! That's a big chunk of stuff to chew on...

We usually managed combat thus:
    1. Roll d6 for initiative, low score going first.
    2. Weapons attacks and spells with a segment cost of 1
    3. Spells with more than 1 segment time involved add 1 pip to the initiative roll per segment, so 2 adds 1, 3 adds 2, and so on.
            A 6-segment-long spell adding 5 meant that at best it would happen simultaneously with the opponents actions who had rolled a 6 on initiative.
    4. Moving into combat range against a longer weapon gave the opponent first attack.
    5. Simultaneous attacks occured together where adjusted initiative was the same for both sides.

Dexterity Reaction in Surprise
Factors Contributing to Surprise
Initiative for Creatures with Multiple Attack Routines
Inflicting Damage

Combat is divided into 1 minute period melee rounds, or simply rounds, in
order to have reasonably manageable combat. "Manageable" applies
both to the actions of the combatants and to the actual refereeing of such
melees. It would be no great task to devise an elaborate set of rules for
highly complex individual combats with rounds of but a few seconds
length. It is not in the best interests of an adventure gome, however, to
delve too deeply into cut and thrust, parry and riposte. The location of a hit
or wound, the sort of damage done, sprains, breaks, and dislocations are
not the stuff of heroic fantasy. The reasons for this are manifold.

[Rationale] As has been detailed, HP are not actually a measure of physical
damage, by and large, as far as characters (and some other creatures as
well) are concerned. Therefore, the location of hits and the type of
damage caused are not germane to them. While this is not true with
respect to most monsters, it is neither necessary nor particularly useful. Lest
some purist immediately object, consider the many charts and tables
necessary to handle this sort of detail, and then think about how area
effect spells would work. In like manner, consider all of the nasty things
which face adventurers as the rules stand. Are crippling disabilities and
yet more ways to meet instant death desirable in an open-ended, episodic
game where participants seek to identify with lovingly detailed and
developed player-character personae? Not likely! Certain death is as undesirable
as a give-away campaign. Combat is a common pursuit in the
vast majority of adventures, and the participants in the campaign deserve
a chance to exercise intelligent choice during such confrontations. As hit
points dwindle they can opt to break off the encounter and attempt to flee.
With complex combat systems which stress so-called realism and feature
hit location, special damage, and so on, either this option is severely
limited or the rules are highly slanted towards favoring the player
characters at the expense of their opponents. (Such rules as double
damage and critical hits must cut both ways -- in which case the life
expectancy of player characters will be shortened considerably -- or the
monsters are being grossly misrepresented and unfairly treated by the
system. I am certain you can think of many other such rules.)

One-minute rounds are devised to offer the max. of choice with a
min. of complication. This allows the DM and the players the best of
both worlds. The system assumes much activity during the course of each
round. Envision, if you will, a fencing, boxing, or karate match. During the
course of one minute of such competition there are numerous attacks
which are unsuccessful, feints, maneuvering, and so forth. During a one minute
melee round many attacks are made, but some are mere feints,
while some are blocked or parried. One, or possibly several, have the
chance to actually score damage. For such chances, the dice are rolled,
and if the"to hit" number is equalled or exceeded, the attack was successful,
but otherwise it too was avoided, blocked, parried, or whatever.
Damage scored to characters or certain monsters is actually not substantially
physical - a mere nick or scratch until the lost handful of hit
points are considered - it is a matter of wearing away the endurance, the
luck, the magical protections. With respect to most monsters such damage
is, in fact, more physically substantial although as with adjustments in
armor class rating for speed and agility, there are also similar additions in
hit points. So while a round of combat is not a continuous series of attacks,
it is neither just a single blow and counter-blow affair. The opponents spar
and move, seeking the opportunity to engage when on opening, in the
enemy's guard presents itself.

Because of the relatively long period of time represented by the round,
dexterity (dexterity, agility, SPEED, quickness) is represented by a more
favorable AC rating rather than as a factor in which opponent
strikes the first blow. Likewise, weapon length and relative speed factors <note that this contradicts what is written in the PH>
are not usually a consideration. (See Initiative and Charging below, however.)
The system of AD&D combat maximizes the sense of hand-to-hand
combat and the life-and-death character of melee without undue complication.
Because of this, you, the DM, are enabled to conduct such portions
of a game without endless resort to charts, tables, procedure clarifications,
and over-lengthy time requirements. Players, on the other hand, will not
become bored with endless dice rolling and rules consulting, but at the
same time will have a reasonable chance to seek escape for their
characters should the affair go badly.

Q: How come a low-level character
gets only one attack per round? A
one-minute melee round certainly
allows time for several attacks, especially
if the character uses a light
weapon such as a dagger.
A: A single melee attack in the AD&D game
assumes the exchange of several blows.
The player?s single attack roll represents
the result of a series of attacks by the
character, not just a Single blow. See the
DMG, page 61, for more details. High-level
characters who are allowed multiple attacks
do not actually strike more blows;
their greater experience merely allows
them to strike a larger percentage of telling

The steps for encounter && combat are as follows:

1. Determine if either or both parties are SURPRISED.
2. Determine distance, if unknown, between the parties.

3. If both parties are unsurprised, or equally surprised, determine INITIATIVE for that round.
4. Determine the results of whatever actions are decided upon by the party with initiative:
    A. Avoid engagement (flee, slam door, use magic to escape, etc.) if possible.
    B. Attempt to parley.
    C. Await action by other party.
    D. Discharge missiles or magical device attacks or cast spells or TURN undead.
    E. Close to striking range, or charge.
    F. Set weapons against possible opponent charge.
    G. Strike blows with weapons, to kill or subdue.
    H. Grapple || hold

5. Determine the results of whatever actions are decided upon by the
party which lost the initiotive (as per A. through H. above).

6. Continue each melee round by determination of distance, initiative,
and action until melee ends due to fleeing, inability to continue, or
death of one or both parties.

DMPrata wrote:
Gary, when running OAD&D combat, did/do you require players to declare all their actions (not just spells) prior to the initiative roll? If so, are they allowed to change their declared actions as the round progresses (perhaps forfeiting an attack to help a fallen comrade, who may not have been "fallen" at the beginning of the round), or are they locked in to what they declared?

Actions must be declared or obvious--such as continued close-quarters combat.
If some character desires to change a declared action in a round, then I generally assume that the alteration occurs at mid-point.

What I attempt is to have the party behave as would real persons in a confused situation.

In the LA game actions are in blocks of only three seconds, so there's no changing them.




When encounters occur, the distance between concerned parties will be 5" to 10" (d6 + 4)
subject to the following modifying factors:

1. Line of Sight: If this is unobstructed and light is involved, the distance
possible for determination of another party present is virtually infinite.
It could likewise be sharply restricted due to obstructions.

2. Noise: If one party is making considerable noise which is discernible
by the other party, the latter will have the options of fleeing or concealment;
the former negating the encounter, the latter allowing distance
to be 1" to 4" before discovery by the noisy party.

3. Actual Area: If the encountered party is in a small area, distance between
the two can be no greater than the maximum distance possible
for discovery of the one by the other, i.e. opening a door into a 20' x
20' room will mean the distance between the two parties can be under
10', 10' or thereabouts, or 20' (d6, 1-2 = striking distance, 3-4 = 10'
distance, 5-6 = 20' distance).

4. Planned or Unplanned Appearance: The sudden precipitation of one
party upon the other due to any of a number of factors (teleportation,
dimension door spell, other magical means, a chute, etc.) will cause
distance similar to that found when actual area is a factor.

5. Surprise: Surprise can only be a factor in close encounter situations. If
either or both parties are surprised, the distance must be either 1" to 3"
or it must be less as determined under the actual area modifier. Thus if
the actual area were a 40' X 60' room, if surprise exists the distance
between the parties will be 1" to 3".

6. Light: The illumination factor or visual capability of the concerned
parties will affect encounter distance as follows:

    A. A light source reliance limits the encounter distance to twice the
    normal vision radius of the source (2 X radius of the light source).
    B. lnfravision and/or ultravision operate only to the stated limit of
    their range and limit encounter distance accordingly.


Lastly, in AD&D how would you handle an out-and-out ambush set up by monsters, particularly if a party has a very-difficult-to-surprise character (like a ranger)? I'm talking about a situation where the party is observed from a distance by the monsters and the creatures make good their set-up and are ready to spring it on the party at the appropriate time. The way I've been handling it is to treat the monsters as having a surprise score of "6" no matter what, then roll a single d6 for the party and ajudicate accordingly.

I think I'd have the ranger check for detecting the ambush with a second, opposed roll, check if the initial check would otherwise succeed in spotting the waylayers.


Originally posted by MerricB
I was wondering (again!) about something in those oAD&D rules. You've got a rather complex system written for initiative - with modifiers for weapon speeds, weapon lengths when charging, casting times, magic device activation times, bow fire initiatives modified by dexterity...

Did you actually use all of that, or was it - as seems standard for you - much more a DM's call as to when things occurred, modified by what seemed appropriate?

Many thanks once more!

Actually, most of the DMs I played with were like me.
We used only initiative and casting times for determination of who went first in a round.
The rest was generally ignored save in the most critical situations when rules lawyering might enable saving a PC.
I did use weapon length for the NPCs as a factor when I DMed so as to manage to get in some first attacks on PCs, and players who had good Dex could factor that into their initiative when using bows, sure.
If they didn't, okay  In all, we played to have fun, and in the throes of a hot melee rules were mostly forgotten except as a feature of the combatant's nature, if you will.
If it seemed logical then none of the veterans would look for a rule to the contrary.