Saturday, November 14, 2009

Horses, Cavalry and Mounted Combat in OD&D

Several months ago, I shared my dissatisfaction with the D&D hit point mechanic, and compared it to the Lord Of The Rings: Strategy Battle Game approach. LOTR:SBG uses a combination of wound and fate points instead of hit points. Wounds represent physical damage, while Fate represents your ability to avoid a wound, dodge or parry a blow, or otherwise escape injury. While those two types of "damage pools" each operate a little differently in LOTR:SBG, I feel that the similar approach could be used in D&D.

The D&D rules for cavalry, horses, and mounted combat are similarly dissatisfying. They are dissatisfying because there are no rules in D&D for mounted combat! Having spent the last 45 minutes trying to locate something in the way of mounted combat rules, in the AD&D books, I finally turned to Chainmail.

Chainmail provides some guidance in regards combat between mounted and foot units. In the Chainmail rules, 2 light footmen attacking 1 light horseman have a 16% chance of killing the horseman. Conversely, 1 light horseman attacking 1 light footman has a 45% chance of killing the footman. A medium horseman has an even better chance of killing a light footman, somewhere in the 65% range.

I like the way LOTR:SBG handles combat between cavalry and footmen. In LOTR:SBG each rank-and-file figure has one attack. However, any mounted figure gets an additional attack, if charging. If the mounted figure wins the attack, while charging, he gets twice as many chances to wound the footman. Therefore, since the horseman had two attacks while charging, he gets double that (4 chances) to wound the footman. Conversely, if a footman wins a combat against a cavalry figure, there is a 50% chance that the attack will hit the horse instead of the rider.

I think similar rules could be used in D&D. You could give an attacker on horseback an extra to-hit roll. That attacker could roll all of his attacks at the same time. If the attacks hit, you could then double the number of damage dice rolled.


Rusty said...

I think that captures the shock troop value of the cavalry, beyond the mere mobility.

What would be the vulnerability? Chance of being knocked off of one's high horse? Injury from falling?

I don't know how you capture it in game terms but there is a defensive value of foot soldiers compared to mounted troops. Even in WW2, the value of tanks and other armored vehicles were as offensive instruments and infantry was considered necessary to truly take and hold ground. Infantry were considered essential in defense. The old Avalon Hill games often separated offensive and defensive capabilities to show the value of armor in attack and the value of infantry in defense.

Maybe some sort of armor class penalty to mounted soldiers? Not sure if that would be correct either.

I'm not thinking balance as much as the defensive value of foot soldiers.

Aaron E. Steele said...

LOTR:SBG only gives cavalry a bonus on a charge. If the cavalry get hemmed in or ge charged by foot-soldiers, the only advantages for the mounted unit is that the horse "gets in the way" and it is harder to strike a killing blow against someone above you, since you are fighting against gravity attacking someone higher than you.

Still not sure what the solution is to the lack of proper cavalry rules in D&D. BUt it seems like a pretty significant oversight by EGG.

Carter Soles said...

I have long been dissatisfied with this aspect of D&D as well, especially since I tend to favor outdoor wilderness adventures, where horses and cavalry are common. I like your suggested "two attacks" rule, but agree that there should also be "unhorsing rules," especially for footmen who use polearms or other horsemen who use lances. Any ideas?

Aaron E. Steele said...

In a pinch, I suppose you could have the player roll against their dex or str, to see if they stay mounted after they suffer a wound from a pole arm attack?

Alternatively, a successful grappling attack could accomplish the same thing, with the player again rolling against str to stay mounted.

That's the great thing about old D&D, you could come up with a solution "on-the-fly" for these sorts of things.