Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Moldvay Basic Set Combat Notes

From the Moldvay Basic Set.

On page B24 it gives five things in order to resolve

Morale check
Missile Combat
Casting Spells

There is a special note on movement that if you start in melee special rules applies (explained later in defensive moves) and you forfeit casting spells if you move.

The sequence doesn't say anything about arming oneself. In the section about using oil or holy water they also do not make mention of readying an item. It seems the assumption that within 10 seconds it just happens.

On page B47 it notes that using a magic item, except for weapons, armor, and protective devices, require concentration. While it could be written clearer it probably means that using a magic item is the same as casting a spell. Using it is the only thing you can do in that round. This seems to apply to scrolls and potions as well.

With the exception of magic items and spells, you could generally abstract the above sequence into allowing the character to move and do one significant and time consuming action. Or to abstract it further the character can do two actions but only one of those actions can be an attack or a movement. And casting spells and using magic items consume two actions.

While it could be written clearer, on page B24; Defensive Movement it seems clear that once a character is melee range, they are in melee and that their only option is to attack. Unless they want to do one of the defensive movements to get out of melee, then in the next rounds they can cast spells or fire missile weapons. Provided that they continue to remain out of melee.


asurastar said...

Do all participants resolve each step before moving on to the next? Or does one side do everything and then the other side do everything (which is the case in the Rules Cyclopedia)?

Rob Conley said...

It like the Rules Cyclopedia. The side who wins initiative executes all the steps above and then the side who lost. If tied then both sides resolve simultaneously the above sequence. Page B24.

Charles Taylor (Charles Angus) said...

In support of the no-time-spent-to-draw-weapons position, medieval fight-books occasionally show defenses that include the scabbard (apparently sometimes people used their sword & scabbard as a walking stick, so the scabbard would be immediately to hand).

Fiore's art of the sword in one hand focuses its defense on a position which could be taken while the scabbard is still at the hip, drawing and defending in one motion.

SpiralBound said...

I would hope is is obvious to most gamers that as the units of time measured by a system become smaller, the numbers of actions and the degree of resolution needed to define those actions would increase. Thus, a system which resolves time as "scenes" or "events" may condense combat down to comparing characters' "Combat" scores, abstracting an entire fight down to who won. At the other end of the spectrum would lie systems which measure actions in seconds, requiring an action such as "Combat" to be broken down into every single movement the character makes, treating each as a separate component. Units of time such as 10 seconds or 6 seconds were implemented by various editions of D&D as a compromise between the two extremes. ;-)

Edward Hamilton said...

I agree about the implications for melee and missile combat. The magic interpretations are very ambiguous, and permit more flexible interpretations.

With respect to magic, there are two relevant rules that appear in the Expert set covering these situations. Neither is as explicit as might be desired, but they contain clues as to the intent of spell-casting as an "action".

1) X11 indicates that spells need to be declared before initiative rolls. Then in cases where the caster's side loses initiative, it says the spell is lost if the caster takes damage or fails a saving throw.

2) X25 (concerning flying mounts) says that spells require a stable support, but that magic items can be used even on an unstable mount.

I interpret (1) as saying that spells don't fail unless the specific conditions mentioned are satisfied. That is, being the target of a melee attack that misses is not sufficient to prevent a spell, even if the caster is in melee; the attack needs to hit in order to interrupt.

I interpret (2) to say that using wands and similar items is still possible when in relative motion. At the very least, wand usage while riding a swooping, flapping roc doesn't seem any more difficult than wand usage while walking!

It's also instructive to compare this to Holmes (p21-22). Holmes flat out says that magic-users (and presumably also clerics?) simply cannot cast when in melee. There is no mention of the particular requirements to lose initiative or take damage, as in Molvay.

He also says that wands and staffs may still be used in melee, "in lieu of the dagger as an attack weapon". Perhaps this refers to use for physical damage as a normal weapon, but not to cast spells (though this seems rather hard to visualize in the case of wands!) Still, I regard this as some support for the idea that wands and staffs as easier to use during close combat than scrolls or memorized spells.

One final note: Holmes says scrolls are relatively cheap to make, costing only 100 gp per spell level. Moldvay thinks they should be much more expensive, 500 gp per spell level, the same cost as a wand. This might further suggest that Moldvay assumes scrolls have fewer use restrictions than Holmes does, to warrant the 5x increase in cost.

Peter Fröhlich said...

I was honestly more surprised by the fact that the DM always rolls damage, even for players. I got stated with BXCMI and if DM damage-rolls for players are also the rule there, then we never really played it correctly back in the days. That, or the German translator changed it.

Peter Fröhlich said...

Oh, and apparently the example on B28 is wrong: In the second column, second paragraph, Morgan shoots at the hobgoblins during their move although the party lost initiative. A strict reading of the combat sequence would say that Morgan should shoot after the hobgoblins are done with move and melee, not between their move and melee. Or maybe I am still not getting even this simple set of rules?