The next stage of D12 Combat

    For those who are not a reader of All Dead Generations, not too long ago there was a post about creating an "alternate, alternate" combat system for D&D by thinking about what might have evolved from a different set of wargames (specifically, Strategos). I found it an interesting read and absolutely love theoretical alternate histories about how D&D could have developed.

    So, to keep this idea developing, I am taking it into the next stage: refinement for actual use with OD&D by someone unfamiliar with the original source material. 

    As a warning, the refined system I am presenting here is just my interpretation of it and it certainly doesn't include everything you could possibly need (it doesn't even include everything from the original post!). Still, I think this is a productive exercise and useful to improve the system and hopefully create something that I can use in my own home game!

The Concept

    This new combat system will have a few differences from what you are probably used to. Instead of Hit Points, characters now have Condition (though it has current and base like HP has current and max). Unlike Hit Points it will move up and down within a fight and can go below 0.

    Every character also has a Morale score, rated from 1 to 12. There is a table lower down showing what bonuses it gives and there is a different procedure for checking morale than might be normal (described in step 12 of the basic procedure). PCs obviously only break when they choose, but they bonuses or penalties will still apply to them.

    Armor no longer provides an armor class, but instead points of armor bonus which is used when defending or dealing with failed attacks. Leather is +2, Chain is +4, Plate is +6, and a shield is +1. You will notice that this is effectively 9-AC, which you can use when converting statblocks.

    Finally, there is a new action to be taken in combat: recovery. As characters will steadily lose their condition in a fight and become worse fighters, they will want to get it back up again. To do this, they can take the recover action. If they aren't interrupted (or succeed on their defenses when interrupted), a character will restore 6 points of condition and move their morale 1 point toward 7. If they are interrupted, they will only restore 1d6 points of condition instead.

The Basic Procedure

In individual, man-to-man combat, use the following procedure:

  1. Combatants and their positions are decided
  2. Decide who is taking the active and passive stance
    1. Surprise attackers are active by default
    2. People retreating are passive
    3. If the result is unclear, those with a higher morale are active
    4. At the start, this is done on a side-by-side basis, so no having one person be passive in an active side
  3. Active combatants declare their actions or wait (attack, recover, or whatever else)
  4. Passive combatants declare their actions, no waiting unless they choose to do nothing this round
    1. Anyone being attacked is forced to defend and doesn't get to declare another action
  5. Active combatants who haven't declared actions (and aren't defending) are allowed to declare their actions now or do nothing
  6. Everyone fighting (attacking or defending) rolls 1d12, modified as follows:
    1. Everyone only rolls 1 die, even if attacking and/or defending multiple times
    2. Add Condition to the roll
    3. -2 if interrupted while trying to recover
    4. Weapon bonuses always apply
    5. Magic armor bonuses always apply
    6. Add magic or situational bonuses/penalty that the Referee feels apply
  7. Higher total prevails, the difference is the Degree
    1. Attackers win ties (are Superior)
    2. If a defender was interrupted while recovering, they can recover as normal if they prevailed in all defenses
    3. Each party shifts their Degree as follows:
      1. Superior rolls increase their degree with bonuses and lower it with penalties (min 0)
      2. Inferior rolls decrease their degree with bonuses (min 0) and raise it with penalties
      3. Morale shifts degree based on its value (see later chart)
      4. Defenders apply their armor bonus (don't apply magical armor bonuses though, they already happened)
      5. Inferior Attackers also apply their armor bonus (as before, don't reuse magical armor bonuses)
      6. Certain situations (excessive attackers or defenders, range, etc.) may cap an Inferior Degree, usually at 2.
  8. Consult the table for the effects of each Degree and apply them in the following order
    1. Ranged Attacks
    2. Superior attacks from active combatants
    3. Inferior attacks from active combatants
    4. Superior attacks from passive combatants
    5. Inferior attacks from passive combatants
  9. Any magic cast in the round now takes effect
  10. Any recoveries now occur
  11. Everyone in active combat (attacking, defending, or casting) ticks their Condition down by 1
  12. Perform Morale checks
    1. Morale breaks on a 1d6 > Morale

The Tables

    The first table is the most important, the general combat table. Note that any degree of 2 or more in the Inferior column also means that the low roller is forced back.

Superior Degree Inferior
-2 Condition 0 -1 Condition
-1 Condition 1 -1 Morale, -1 Condition
--- 2 -1 Morale, -2 Condition
+1 Morale 3 -2 Morale, -3 Condition
+2 Morale 4 -2 Morale, -4 Condition
+2 Morale 5 -3 Morale, -5 Condition
+2 Morale 6 -3 Morale, -5 Condition
+3 Morale 7 -4 Morale, -5 Condition, Flesh Wound
+3 Morale 8 -4 Morale, -5 Condition, Flesh Wound
+3 Morale 9 -5 Morale, -5 Condition, Serious Wound
+4 Morale, may Recover instead of stepping into enemy's space 10 -5 Morale, -5 Condition, Serious Wound
+4 Morale, take another action 11 Down, Mortal Wound
+4 Morale, +1 Morale to allies, take another action 12+ Death

    For the wounds mentioned in the table, they restrict a character's condition to certain values:

  • Flesh Wound: Condition can only be -2 or lower
  • Serious Wound: Condition can only be -5 or lower
  • Mortal Wound: Condition can only be -8 or lower
    • Also, a character hit with this will die unless they receive urgent treatment of some kind. The treatment will not remove the wound, but will make it non-fatal.

For morale bonuses, the following table should be fairly clear. The default morale for everyone is 7, though PCs should probably get a +1 and fighters a +2 to that, though that is up to the Referee.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
-3 -2 -2 -1 -1 0 0 +1 +1 +2 +2 +3

Connecting to OD&D

    While the system so far has been fairly system neutral, from here on I will be providing the information that would allow you to use it with OD&D. I will be separating things into the respective books they appeared in, so hopefully finding what you are looking for is faster.

Men & Magic

    First things people are going to want to know about is how to create characters to work with this new system. It is fairly straightforward, being mostly the same. The following changes should be applied however:
  • 15+ Constitution increases base condition by 1 and the characters recovers 1 point more
  • 6- Constitution decreases base condition by 1 and the character recovers 1 point less
  • 12+ Dexterity grants a +1 to the d12 roll when using a ranged weapon
  • 9- Dexterity grants a -1 to the d12 roll when using a ranged weapon
  • A character's base condition is equal to their fighting capability. Effectively the number of men they fight as. You can treat +'s or -'s as direct mods to it, but the Referee will need to use some judgement there.

This booklet also includes the spells, which actually end up working the same as usual for the most part. The only notable changes are as follows:

  • Protection v Evil: +1 to saves, -1 to applicable attack rolls
  • Fireball and Lightning Bolt: Deal condition damage equal to the number of dice that would have been rolled on a save and also inflict a serious wound on a failure (or mortal if they have a condition at or below -6)
  • Wall of Fire and Wall of Ice: Stops anyone with a base condition of 4 or less, deals condition damage equal to the number of dice that would have been rolled when someone breaks through
  • Cure Light Wounds: Restores 1d6+1 condition, clears a flesh wound

Monsters & Treasure

    This is the booklet I am the most unsure of, since there are probably other and better mechanical ways of dealing with certain features. To save space, I will address the common things to cover when converting OD&D monsters to this system:

  • Armor bonus is equal to 9-AC
  • Base condition is equal to the HD of the monster, rounding down any halves, plusses, or minuses
  • Creatures with multiple attacks just use their 1 attack roll against the multiple targets. If they use multiple on the same target, they can roll a second d12 and pick the better for that target only. See the next bullet point as well.
  • Monsters that deal multiple dice of damage (giants, dragons, so on) instead double the degree of a superior roll, before any other modifications are made (EX: A giant rolls 8, Urist McDwarf rolls 6, so the degree starts at 4 instead of 2 for any modifications).
  • Likewise, monsters that halve or double the damage they take from something halve or double the degree of the roll. Use your judgement for when this should happen, since I am hazy on how to best say when halving/doubling is appropriate.
  • Level drain is fairly permanent loss of base condition (specifics of recovery are left up to each Referee)
  • Undead, not able to grow tired, do not tick down their condition at the end of a round of combat
  • Mindless creatures (ie Skeletons) don't use Morale at all, ignoring anything that would change it and receive no bonuses or penalties from it

    With all of that out of the way, here are the specific notes on creatures that came up and aren't already covered. I didn't bother tracking most morale modifiers since they are fairly self-explanatory
  • Berserkers add +2 to their roll when attacking
  • Dervishes ignore morale, get +1 base condition, and add +2 to their roll when attacking
  • Cavemen get a base condition of 2
  • Mermen take -1 to all combat rolls on land
  • Goblins take -1 to all combat rolls in full daylight
  • Ogres get +2 to the degree when attacking
  • Trolls do all of their regeneration at the recovery step of combat
    • They recover 2 condition per round
    • They recover from flesh wounds 1 round after gaining them
    • They recover from serious wounds 2 rounds after gaining them
    • They recover from mortal wounds 3 rounds after gaining them
    • Being damaged by acid or fire in the round prevents all of this
  • Mummies halve any condition damage they would take, except from fire
  • Purple worms swallow targets whenever they wound them
  • Any victory will kill insects/small mammals
    • Use degree for number killed if needed, possibly doubled

    To round out this section, there are also the special items that come from this book. As mentioned previously, magic weapon bonuses apply to all rolls. Don't worry about differences between to-hit or damage bonuses, just pick the larger if you have both. For magic armor, the armor still has its normal armor bonus which is used normally. If it has any +'s or -'s for AC or damage, add that, and only that, to the defense d12 rolls. Other notes include:
  • Healing potions restore 1d6+1 condition and drops 1 wound by 1 tier, prioritizing the most severe wound
  • A potion of invulnerability grants +2 to defense rolls and a +2 armor bonus as well (effectively +2 leather armor)
  • A ring of regeneration heals wounds at 1/3 of the rate of troll regeneration, like it says
  • Staff of striking doubles the degree on a superior attack
  • Displacer cloak grants +2 to appropriate saves and defense rolls
  • For the horn of blasting, just make an attack roll with it

Underworld & Wilderness

    While this book doesn't have much for the combat system, it does provide a couple things. Giant leeches have condition 2, can drain, and once affixed to a target are wholly passive so consider a defense roll penalty (-2 perhaps?).

    Wounds can be healed with time and normal care. Each would will take 1 week per tier to recover, and wounds will heal sequentially. So, someone with a serious wound and 2 flesh wounds would take 2 + 1 + 1 = 4 weeks to recover. Feel free to adjust this as you feel appropriate. 

    When adventuring, parties need to rest every hour or everyone will have -1 condition for each missed rest.

Additional Musings

    While the system is complete as I have prevented it, I will not claim that it is finished. There are many points of friction and design choices that should be looked at. For example, I simplified the results table from 5 columns down to 3 because I noticed that there was basically no difference between attack and defense in the superior or inferior column. I also renamed those columns to superior and inferior because I didn't like using the terminology of victory or defeat in a single round of combat. I am still not satisfied with superior or inferior, but they work well enough.

    One point with this system that I think will help keep everyone using it on the same page is understanding where bonuses go. There are effectively two places they could be used: on the roll or on the degree. If something is majorly impactful or affects both your ability to be in combat and deal with combat, it should apply to the roll. If something is of secondary importance in combat or only affects how you deal with combat, then it applies to the degree. This mindset is what led me to using condition on the roll, instead of morale like is initially prescribed by All Dead Generations. 

    I ended up removing most of the language about capping success or failure in combat because I wanted to try to simplify the system. If you really like it, I came up with the following guidelines that felt good in tests:

  • Attacks with no chance for reprisal (bow vs sword): cap inferior at 1
  • Attacks with limited reprisals (spear vs sword): cap inferior at 2
    • Also, consider instead of pushing back a spear user at degree 2, let the defender close in by 5 ft to their range!
  • More attacks than defense or vice versa: cap defeat at 2

    For examples of how I might rewrite stats, here are Orc and Skeleton statblocks respectively:

  • Orc (CN 1, ML 7, AR +1, Sword or bow, -1 to rolls in sunlight)
  • Skeleton (CN 1, ML -,  Sword, Undead, no CN loss from fatigue)

    In the future, and for different systems, I will be interesting to integrate more robust stat modifiers into the system. Constitution would be easy to apply to recovery, but then become much more difficult to apply to base condition in that case. Dexterity would probably be fine as a ranged attack bonus and the same would apply for strength. They would probably be about double as effective as they are on a d20, but I don't think that would be too much of a bad thing, especially if your table already uses them to modify d6 chances of success.

    One notable feature of this system, is that I think it would actually make an excellent transition to gunfights, which cannot really be said about the current AC and HP system. This would be because until someone actually gets a wound, they haven't been shot; it was all just jostling for positions and taking pot shots at each other. This wouldn't be perfect for something like a wild-west duel, however, because that is expected to end with someone getting shot immediately. Still, I think it would only require a minor bit of tinkering to make it work well.

    As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter down in the comments or in r/OSR!


Popular posts from this blog

The Properties of Hexes and Mapping

On Expected Uses of Usage Dice

A Fantastical Caste System