Monday, December 2, 2019

I Totally "Invented" My Own Archery Rules for AD&D and It Screws Up Everything

The other day, I had a game session that featured an awful lot of archery. Bow fire in this campaign turns out to be very deadly. It probably didn't help that between myself and the player characters, over a half dozen 20s were rolled in a single combat.

I decided to look back at my PHB and DMG for AD&D e1 to see what I was doing wrong.  According to the PHB, characters get two shots per round. On page 61 of the DMG, missile fire comes after evasion, parley and awaiting other party moves. Step 4 D covers all kinds of distance attacks. The old wargamer in me sees no problem with this.

Bow wielding characters can fire twice before the onset of melee in Step 4 E. But the question in my mind is: do you have to shoot twice? Since you have two shots, can you invoke 4 A, B, or C in lieu of your second shot? The extremes of this are "yes, what if you only have one arrow?" or "no, you missed your chance this round".

As a player, I have seen the "best" way of avoiding this is to have each character roll their own initiative. As a player, I like this choice, but as a DM, I think it's too much paper work and dice throwing. I am certain to goof this much dice action up. 

My house rules make clarify to the order of battle, without making too much of hash out of out. It does have the effect of making bows more deadly.

Here is how I handle initiative. If all parties are in one group, then they get one die roll modified by the best player's reaction. As a reward for that reaction bonus, the best player goes before all others on his team. Everyone else in each party is going at rough they same time.

Sometimes, I have a three or four way initiative if there a number of players not in the same general area. Note: I never allow separated members to roll for surprise on their own. Surprise is strictly an all or nothing affair. The curve on a six-sider makes an extra surprise opportunity too deadly.

Typically, in the first round of action missile fire is king and it is important to get off all missiles into the closest targets first. In the second round, spells are trump arrows, as they tend to hit harder and archers have to start selecting targets more carefully.

I don't really need to think about missile fire as fragmented actions until the second round.

I use a modified initiative system:

1. Roll for initiative. Win or lose, the player/npc that provided a bonus goes first for his team.
2. Side A proceeds down the sequence of combat.
3. Side B proceeds down the sequence of combat.
4. Side A performs any awaited actions. (Repeat 4 A-H from DMG)
5. Side B performs any awaited actions. (Repeat 4 A-H from DMG)
6. Last actions occur, such as slow monsters always striking last. If there is more than one, they are simultaneous. Do not repeat 4 A-H, it's a free-for-all.
7. Go back to one.

If a character decides to hold an arrow for some contingent event like a new opponent stepping into the battle, that is an awaited action and occurs at either 4 or 5 of the sequence above. It turns out that players who are used to the bow mechanics don't always shoot when they can. 

I have some other special rules.

  • Magic trumps missile fire. Either the spell was prepared last round* and is available first or is coming from a device with no prep time. 
  • Once you shoot, you can drop your bow and draw a weapon. You can't melee this round but are ready to do so in the next round. 
  • Missile fire can occur while advancing at a walk (or on a mount) with no penalty. 
  • An archer jogging fires at a -2. Running is a -4. Sprinting is right out. Mount speed is treated the same as character speed, so a running horse is just as bad for shooting as the player running.   
  • If an enemy charges AT someone with a ready missile weapon, their AC is reduced by 2 for thrown weapons and 4 for bows and crossbows. The target is only getting bigger. 
  • Shooting at a foe moving quickly across your field of view is done at a -1 for running and -2 for sprinting. This is ignored if charging a ready archer. I am pretty sure much of this is right out of Car Wars
Shooting into a melee is kind of interesting in my game. Instead of trying to figure out cover, size, and concealment, I merely note which guy has cover or concealment and which does not. The archer rolls two to hit dice for each arrow, because there are two targets. Typically, one will hit and one will miss and the damage is applied to the target hit. It's fun to shoot your friends in the back! 

If both dice indicate a hit, the first two points of damage are applied to the target which was providing cover or concealment. All remaining points are applied to the covered or concealed target as the completely stopped the arrow's motion. If there is nothing left to damage the second target, oh well. 20s are handled as per normal, doubling the damage to that target. 

In this method, I do not consider the flanking or back attack modifiers. It makes things too deadly and besides, the archer is at a disadvantage because he is trying to avoid one of the targets anyway. His ability to hit anyone is degraded. 

How do you handle missile fire in AD&D? 

*I do have a handful special rule for spells to make this system work. Once you prep a spell, you can hold it as long as the spell description says OR as long as you do nothing more than walk or turn, which ever is MORE restrictive. Casters can step behind barriers and pop out later with a spell prepped, but can't go prone as that requires not holding your hands correctly. 

If combat ends before the moment of casting, the caster can pull back the power in a controlled fashion, so they don't lose a prepped spell for a lack of opportunity. It saves on rest and study time. 

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