Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Old School Chainmail Combat, LOTR-Style

I have the "good fortune" to ride the train several times a week. That gives me the opportunity to do some reading, whether it be a book from my "appendix n" collection, catching up on the day's news, or perusing something from my gaming collection.

Today's pick was my gaming collection, specifically, Chainmail: rules for medieval miniatures, by Gary Gygax and Jeff Perren, first published in 1971. Now, you'd think i've pretty much exhausted whatever nuggets of wisdom could be mined from that old wargame ruleset. But my earlier post on Battle of Wits Combat Systems got me thinking about old-school combat, and what could be more old-school than Chainmail?

Lord Of The Rings Strategy Battle Game, apparently. Like Chainmail, LOTRSBG is a tabletop miniatures wargame that allows you to field fantastic monsters, orcs, goblins, trolls, wraiths, wizards and heroes, and conduct battles between them.

The above "Wound Chart" is from LOTRSBG. In the game, you compare your attacker's strength to your opponent's defence, and must roll the indicated number, or higher, on a d6, to score a kill. For example, my Warrior has an Stength of 3. Your Orc has a Defence of 5. I need to roll a 5+ on a d6 in order to kill your Orc.

In many ways, the LOTRSBG Wound Chart is very similar to the mass combat rules in Chainmail, except that Chainmail uses light foot, heavy foot, armoured foot, etc., rather than numerical attack and defence categories. Both Chainmail and LOTRSBG also give Heroes multiple dice when attacking opponents. In short, it has just about everything that Chainmail has.

LOTRSBG has rules for Initiative, Armor, Weapons, Movement, Shooting, Combat, Cavalry, Charging, Courage, Morale, Magic Weapons and Spells, Equipment, Seiges, Catapults, Fortresses, Heroes and Heroic actions, Climbing, Leadership, Rallying Troops, Monsters, High Ground, and Effects of Terrain on Movement.

If I was going to play a D&D game using the Chainmail mass combat rules, I might instead be tempted to adopt the LOTRSBG rules, because they are clearly written, readily available, and i'm guessing you could get an old version of the LOTRSBG rules for free, or nearly free, since the rules have been updated several times since 2001.


The Happy Whisk said...

Good Morning Paladin - Nicely written blog. I'm new to all this as a player/reader.

Have you written any adventures? Tim's been writing them and it's pretty neat stuff.

I best get to cleaning the house or ... maybe I'll read a few more blogs. You know ... I don't want to jump right into housework.

Have a good one and again, well written. I enjoyed reading your post.

Sean Robson said...

Weird coincidence. I was just reading Chainmail last night, and I've been considering adapting miniature wargaming rules, similar to Chainmail, Warhammer, or LoTRSBG for spell casting in my game.

SBG is kind of a blend of miniatures war game and role playing game, with its small-scale man-to-man skirmish rules (as opposed to large units), rules for jumping and climbing, and of course heroic actions using Might, Will, and Fate. I think there are lots of neat ideas here to borrow for an rpg.

Wickedmurph said...

Isn't that basic structure pretty much how the Warhammer rules work? Toughness indicates what you have to roll to damage a unit.

Seems like a pretty straightforward, workable solution, although my preference is to avoid charts, as they tend to really slow down play.

Of course, seeing as I'm starting into a Rule Cyclopedia game tomorrow, I suppose I should get used to charts, eh?

Sean Robson said...

It is similar to Warhammer, though simpler, since Warhammer requires you to compare relative Weapon Skills on a chart to hit, then Strength vs. Toughness to Wound, whereas in SBG each side rolls one or more d6 and he with the single highest die roll wins the fight then gets to roll to wound.

The charts are only necessary when you're first starting out - eventually you don't need them at all - equal Strength and Defense scores always need a 4+ to wound and you just adjust that 'to hit' based on the difference in relative atribute scores - much like THAC 0 in D&D, which also become so intuitive you don't need to consult a chart.

Clovis Cithog said...

I use a similiar system for resolving large scale melee (see 9 Oct 2010 post) in my Red Planet game. This is possible as morale rules are not required.

“Upon warlike Barsoom, there are few cowards, and that every man, whether prince, priest or peasant glories in deadly strife.” (GM, II)

Also there is a relative paucity of unit types
Red warriors, Red cavalry, green cavalry, thern warriors, black pirates and yellow infantry.