I'm a notorious critic of the d20 combat system, hit points, power creep and variable damage. Between the four of them, they are to blame for the ascension of granularity, and the endless combats that now pass for role-playing.
As i've mentioned before, you'd be hard-pressed to recognize any game as Dungeons and Dragons that fails to include hit points. Hit points are so deeply hard-wired into the D&D culture that most gamers would recoil from anything calling itself D&D that failed to include hit points.
But if I had my druthers, hit points would be tossed out the window of the D&D automobile, replaced by a simplified system of combat and wounds.
The original "Chainmail miniatures rules" was the default combat system for OD&D. Those Chainmail rules included three combat systems: mass combat, man-to-man combat, and fantasy combat, each of which were employed based on the particular circumstances of the encounter.
For the purposes of large-scale combats, with multiple opponents on either side, Chainmail's mass combat system is applied. The method for applying that system is that each combatant rolls a number of six-sided dice, which is based on her class and level. She counts the number of successful hits she achieves, and that is the number of hit dice of damage that she inflicts upon her opponent.
For example, a 4th level gladiatrix had the fighting capability of 4 women, so she rolls 4, six-sided dice to determine how many wounds she inflicts. She might need to roll a five or six to inflict a wound, so any fives and sixes she rolled will count as a wound upon her opponent.
If I understand my D&D history correctly, the addition of variable hit points was an Arnesian invention, adopted by Gygax, necessitated by the fragility of low-level characters. But if players are being honest about their hit points, it is nearly as likely as not that a single wound to a first-level character will result in death, regardless, if six-sided dice are used for both hit points and damage. Why not be honest about it and simply give starting characters an extra wound point or two, rather than perpetuate a fraud by introducing variable hit points as a solution to fragile low-level characters.
The Chainmail system works well, for fast, abstract combat, if there is a simple one-to-one relationship between the level of the character and the number of hit dice rolled to determine damage. But neither Chainmail nor OD&D make combat that simple. No class, not even the fighter, has a simple one-to-one relationship between level and hit dice rolled for wounding purposes in OD&D. The lack of a one-to-one relationship is the case because the OD&D rules assume that non-fighters will be less puissant at armed combat, and because only six-sided dice are employed.
In addition, in the Chainmail combat system, one needs to consult one of a half-dozen charts to determine what your odds of wounding are, based on the arms and armor of your opponent.
It is surprisingly easy to solve this problem, and Gygax himself promulgated the necessary polyhedral tools to do so. In the basic Chainmail mass-combat system, every character rolls a certain number of six-sided dice to determine whether, and how many times, they have wounded their opponent. In addition, in OD&D, Fighters are the most proficient in combat, followed by Clerics, Thieves and Magic-users.
Rather than using six-sided dice for all classes, then, why not use different dice for each class, with Fighters using the d6, Clerics the d8, Thieves the d10, and Magic-users the d12. Assuming that a roll of "1" is needed by each character in order to achieve a wound upon her opponent, first level Fighters would have a 17% chance, Clerics a 13% chance, Thieves 10% and Magic-users 8%. That would satisfy the OD&D assumption that different classes have different combat abilities.
Additionally, armor classes could be rationalized into four categories: 4 (no armor), 3 (light armor), 2 (medium armor), and 1 (heavy armor). That would be the same number, or less, that any character would need to roll, in order to achieve a wound upon their opponent.
Shields would act as a second-level defence, to block otherwise successful attacks, with some probability attached to deflecting blow(s), based on the size of the shield and perhaps the number of opponents the character is facing.
That, then is my crudely developed solution to the complexities of Chainmail combat, and desire to simplify and speed up battles, so there is more time for exploration and role-playing at the gaming table.