Tag Archives: fighter

Stonehell: Prepare to Die blocking and dodging

Knight blocking (image source)

Knight blocking (image source)

Blocking and dodging are an iconic part of Dark Souls combat. While I do not want to model Dark Souls combat entirely, I do want to inject some of that feeling while maintaining the randomness necessary for engaging B/X combat and also not changing the core combat engine or making it significantly more complicated.

The Shield Block and Dodge reactions replace the monster attack roll and so must be declared prior to throwing the monster attack roll dice. When a monster attacks, the referee should say to the adventurer player (paraphrasing): the monster is attacking you, do you want to block or dodge? and then proceed with the appropriate procedure.

The approach outlined below in essence allows the player to use strength or dexterity as their defense stat, instead of armor class. This also eliminates the effect of the monster attack bonus, and so will often, especially for particularly fearsome monsters, be probabilistically advantageous. The downside is that blocking or dodging risks running out of stamina, represented by a constitution check. This trades chance of near future danger for immediate benefit.

Knight dodging (image source)

Knight dodging (image source)

Characters that are out of stamina are sluggish and do not fight as effectively. They may not block or dodge and make all physical rolls, including attack rolls and ability checks, with disadvantage.

Blocking is more effective (even when the strength check result is failure the adventurer suffers less damage) while dodging consumes an adventurer’s per-turn movement allowance.

Some attacks are difficult to block (strength check success → half damage, strength check failure → full damage) or impossible to block (suffer full damage no matter what). Players must discover which attacks are able to be blocked through play. In general, this should follow common sense; don’t try to block a giant’s club.

Reaction: Shield Block

To block an enemy’s attack, make a strength check. On success, suffer no damage. On failure, suffer half damage (round up).

Also make a constitution check to avoid running out of stamina.

Playbook cue:
Make STR check (failure → ½ damage) and CON check (failure → out of stamina).

Reaction: Dodge

To avoid an enemy’s attack, make a dexterity check. One dodge can avoid multiple enemy attacks if fictionally reasonable.

Also make a constitution check to avoid running out of stamina.

An adventurer may not move after dodging on a turn during which the adventurer dodged.

Playbook cue:
Make DEX check and CON check (failure → out of stamina). Avoids multiple attacks.

Action: Recover Stamina

To recover stamina, spend a combat action.

Playbook cue:
Spend combat action.

(2016-12-08 Edit: recovering stamina used to require a successful CON check but I think that may be too harsh.)

Condition: Out of Stamina

Make all physical rolls with disadvantage.

Blocking and dodging are impossible.

Stamina recovers automatically following combat.

Weapons of unusual size

Young Guts from Berserk

Young Guts from Berserk

Hexagram characters begin with stats rated from 0 to 3, using the arrays I originally developed for Gravity Sinister. (There is a random determination table for players that do not like to bother with making choices.) Then, each level, including first, players choose one stat to improve. The same stat cannot be improved two levels in a row. The max character level is 10, which means that the highest a stat can be naturally is 8 (3 initial + the 5 for every other level increases).

Among other benefits, characters with higher strength scores can wield ever more obscenely scaled weapons. There are three size categories beyond standard: huge, giant, and colossal. They require, respectively, strength scores of 4, 6, and 8, to wield effectively. (Category names are subject to adjustment.)

For normal weapons, strength adds to melee damage, up to +3. Larger weapons can express strength beyond this limit. Huge weapons allow up to +5, giant up to +7, and colossal up to +8. (In general, the max bonus is one less than the ability threshold for the next largest weapon category.) For simplicity, there are no special encumbrance considerations for oversized weapons. Each counts as one significant item. They do, however, cost more to repair (an additional 1d6 * 10 SP per exceptional size category).

Larger weapons retain any type benefits. Thus, a giant axe can express up to +7 melee damage from strength and also provides a sunder bonus to damaging enemy equipment. Oversized missile weapons apply strength to damage rather than perception, but are fixed at +4, +6, or +8, depending on the size category. For example, a huge elephant gun deals +4 damage even if the wielder has 5 strength. Such weapons still use perception for attack tests.

Though this system is designed with big weapons in mind, it would be easy to adapt to enchanted weapons that would only serve worthy warriors (that is, those strong enough or with large enough attack bonus for D&D), and so could be another way to explain and manage the traditional restriction that only fighters can use magic swords.

For AD&D (1E and 2E) ability scores, use the strength damage bonus rather than the Hexagram strength ability. For something like D&D 3E or 5E, use the ability modifier. The mappings are not perfect, but they should be good enough. Some other rulings may be required, given that HP quantities in 3E or 5E are higher that the OD&D standards I tend to assume, so adjust accordingly.

Edit: though above I noted that there are no special considerations regarding encumbrance, I am not fully convinced that is the right way to go. I think as written there may be insufficient incentive for diversity of weapon choices (that is, anyone with high strength would prefer an oversized weapon), which is perhaps uninteresting. I will need to see how this plays at the table, but one potential modification would be for each extra size category to count as a significant item, though I am wary of slipping graduated encumbrance in via the backdoor.


Pursuer's Ultra Greatsword from Dark Souls 2

Pursuer’s Ultra Greatsword from Dark Souls 2

Guts from Berserk

Guts from Berserk

Monster Hunter concept art

Monster Hunter concept art

Cloud from Final Fantasy 7

Cloud from Final Fantasy 7

Saw spear from Bloodborne

Saw spear from Bloodborne

Monster Hunter concept art

Monster Hunter concept art

Bow from Monster Hunter

Monster Hunter concept art

Training bonuses

dark_souls_swords_by_bringess-d7bebkw copy

Dark Souls swords by Bringess

This is an idea for weapon training that I had which is probably too fiddly for online play, but might work in person. To gain more than a +1 to attack or damage (whether from attack bonus, strength, or wherever bonuses come from in your system of choice), a combatant must train with a given weapon. Each weapon is rated with minimum stat requirements and maximum bonus potential. Mundane weapons might be, for example, min +0 and max +3/+3, meaning that anyone without a penalty can use them and they can support at most a +3 to attack and damage. Insisting on using a weapon without the minimum stat imposes some large penalty (-4 or 5E style disadvantage).

The constraints would need to be tracked for each weapon along with training level, which could default to starting scores for starting weapons initially (representing background training). For example, consider a first level Labyrinth Lord fighter with 16 strength, which grants a +2 to attack and damage. A first level fighter in this system also has the equivalent of a +1 bonus to attack. Assume further that this character starts with a battle axe and dagger. Under skills, the player would write battle axe +3/+2 and dagger +3/+2. This is the character’s initial training. If a sword is picked up, it will be wielded with +0/+0 until the character can train with it.

How does training work? As a downtime action, the character can pay for training in a weapon. This costs some set amount, maybe based on bonus to be unlocked, say 500 GP per target plus (so, moving from +1 to +2 would cost 1000 GP). This raises either the attack or the damage by one point, assuming that is supported by class attack bonus or ability scores. Thus, that example first level character above can gain no more bonus points in battle axe until ability scores or attack bonus increase.

The benefits are that it gives fighters something to do during downtime actions, somewhat restrains bonus progression, makes special weapons more valuable without needing to resort to magic weapons as treasure all the time, and allows fighters to ease in to using crazy weapons like the Berserk dragon slayer sword or the asylum demon’s great hammer which might make their use feel a bit more special (and also more fictionally justified). It would also allow weapons to be numerically defined on dimensions of finesse and brutality. For example, a big club might be +1/+4 in potential, making it a good choice for a character with low skill but high strength (assuming such is possible in the base system).

This would would particularly well with a system that has regular stat increases, such as this adventurer class or Green Ronin’s Dragon Age, but should also be functional with a regular attack bonus.


Warrior class

Like the rogue and sorcerer classes, this warrior class is designed around the trichotomy of untrained, trained, and mastered. For warriors, these concepts are applied to weapons, armor, and shields. Similar to the other two classes in this line of development, the warrior uses the high rationalized hit dice progression and hit dice dice as attack bonus.

One improvement option is chosen each time a character gains a level. A character must have training in something before mastery.

This post completes a three-fold division of adventuring types. As discussed previously, the structural difference between the main classes is combat/renewable resource (fighter), combat/consumable resource (magic-user), utility/renewable resource (thief), and utility/consumable resource (magic-user). This scheme implements that structure by making warriors the only class that gets better at using weapons (renewable combat resources), rogues the only class that gets better at using skills (renewable utility resources), and sorcerers the only class that gets better at using spells (consumable combat & utility resources). It is also worth noting that the split is not complete, as all classes increase to some degree in hit dice, which gives sorcerers and rogues some minimal development in renewable combat resources, though much less than the warrior.

As you might suspect, I have thought about how classes might gain cross-class training. For example, how do you handle a sorcerer wishing to gain training in a sword or a warrior wishing to gain training in a spell? The approach I favor is simple, but must wait for a future post.


Initial training:

  • Four weapons from any weapons list.
  • Light armor, heavy armor, and shields.

Improvement options: weapon training, weapon mastery, heavy armor mastery, shield mastery.


  • Simple: dagger, staff, spear, club
  • Light: short sword, bow, sling
  • Heavy: long sword, mace, axe, pole-arm, longbow, 2H sword

Untrained Weapons

Attack rolls are penalized by four with untrained weapons.

Trained Weapons

Attack rolls are not penalized when wielding trained weapons. Training also often unlocks weapon-specific options (for example, daggers may only be thrown by characters with dagger training).

Mastered Weapons

Mastered weapons deal an extra point of damage. Mastery also optionally allows special weapon properties to be used (such as the long bow’s volley attack).


Are considered as trained for all characters, have a further bonus against armored targets, require a round to reload, may not be mastered, and are controlled munitions (any character not in a lord’s uniform carrying one will have it confiscated at the very least, and likely expelled from town or thrown into prison).

Armor & Shields

  • Light armor: leather (AC +2)
  • Heavy armor: chain (AC +4), plate (AC +6)

Armor Penalties

Wearing armor imposes two kinds of penalties on characters, a general physical penalty and a skill penalty. The general physical penalty applies to attack rolls, physical saving throws, and physical ability checks. This penalty depends on armor type (leather = -1, chain = -2, plate = -3), and is cumulative with any penalty from encumbrance.

Skills that require general agility (climb, stealth, and steal) are penalized by 1 if wearing chain armor and 2 if wearing plate armor. Skills are not penalized by leather armor.

Armor Training

There are two kinds of armor training, light and heavy. Light armor training applies to leather and similar armors, while heavy armor training applies to chain and plate armors. Having training in armor removes the physical penalty but does not remove the skill penalty. A character must be trained in light armor before being trained in heavy armor.

Heavy Armor Mastery

Characters with heavy armor mastery gain +1 AC when using exceptional armor, and decreases the skill penalty by 1. Exceptional heavy armor must be purchased at great expense (exact cost should vary based on available materials and labor, but ten times normal cost would be a reasonable baseline). Further, rare materials may be required for the crafting.

No benefit is gained from mastering light armor.

Untrained Shield Use

Untrained shield users gain +1 AC, but only when they focus on using the shield to the exclusion of all else.

Shield Training

Characters with shield training gain +1 AC when using a shield in combat.

Shield Mastery

Characters with shield mastery gain +2 AC when using a shield in combat.

Rogue, sorcerer, warrior

Why this split? This began as a comment on a Google Plus conversation, but I think it’s worth a blog post. For me, the split is based on two things: problem solving tools and archetypes. For archetypes, the inspiration is swords & sorcery. This, in my opinion, is uncontroversial and does not need further elaboration (other than to remark that the cleric, if taken too far away from the original Van Helsing and Solomon Kane inspirations, does not fit so well aesthetically or culturally).

Clerics are really a hybrid class in terms of problem solving, and could potentially be either fighter/mages (for the trad crusader vampire hunter that also has some magic) or thief/mages (a version less often seen, but just as thematic for zealous witch hunters or hashashin characters). However, the hybrid nature of the cleric means that it can be understood based on the other three main classes, so no more need be said about the cleric independently.

The primary problem solving qualities of the core classes are: combat/renewable resource (fighter), combat/consumable resource (magic-user), utility/renewable resource (thief), and utility/consumable resource (magic-user). Thus, the magic-user is more versatile, but resource-limited (and in most incarnations, more fragile). Obviously there is some bleed between the approaches when you consider the actual implementation (everyone can make melee attacks, fighters can still use some magic items, etc). So that’s where the split comes from in terms of OD&D game mechanics.

Edit: I should also link to Talysman’s post on classes and problem solving here.

Degree of success as damage

Men & Magic, page 19


A simple house rule idea that just occurred to me, for D&D and similar games: damage from a successful attack = 1 + attack roll degree of success. The 1 is necessary so that some damage is still done when the attack roll succeeds exactly (otherwise, you are essentially applying a -1 penalty to the attack roll).

Some benefits:

  • One roll rather than two.
  • Makes clear the true nature of the attack roll (expected damage is the important thing).
  • Higher level fighters do increasing damage in a pleasing way.
  • The attack roll has many seeming degrees of success.

Expected damage numbers are provided below, for fighters of levels 1, 4, 7, and 10 against ACs of 9 and 2 using ATTACK MATRIX 1 from Men & Magic, page 19 (B/X uses identical numbers other than for zero level people; see the Expert Rules page X26). These numbers are averaged over all die possibilities, including misses, and so are expected damage per round. Comparisons with expected numbers from weapons dealing 1d6 (average: 3.5) damage are provided in parentheses.

Fighter Level Damage Versus AC 9 Damage Versus AC 2
1  3.3 (1.925)  0.5 (0.7)
4  4.55 (2.275)  1.05 (1.05)
7  6.8 (2.8)  3.3 (1.925)
10  8.55 (3.15)  4.55 (2.275)

You will see that in general, this shifts the damage potential up for most situations (all, in fact, other than first level versus AC 2, at least of those data points shown in the table). ACs 9 and 2 were chosen because they encompasses the full OD&D range from unarmored to plate & shield. Results are independent of other bonuses, which will just raise or lower the expected numbers for all schemes. I imagine the numbers would remain somewhat similar if using a simplification such as hit dice as attack bonus. The same numbers obtain for the other classes, though the level ranges are different (a 9th level cleric hits as a 7th level fighter, for example).

The expected values are close enough that this adjustment will obviously not break the game, though it might shift the dynamics slightly. One could also cap damage at 6 for slightly more restrained damage results (just for comparison, with that modification numbers versus AC 9 become: 2.55, 3.15, 4.05, 4.65 for levels 1, 4, 7, 10 respectively and have a much smaller standard deviation).

The spreadsheets that I used to calculate these numbers can be found here:

Another stunt system

Jeremy D. recently posted this simple and elegant stunt system based on the DCC deed die but intended for use with traditional rules. The basic idea is that attack rolls are made with d16 + class hit die (assuming B/X style variable hit dice), and a pre-declared stunt is successful if the hit die comes up 4 or greater and the attack roll is high enough to hit. This gives fighters (d8 hit die) roughly a 62% (4 or higher on a d8) chance of pulling off a stunt, given a high enough modified attack roll. Magic-users (d4 hit die) have a 25% chance (4 or higher on a d4). What’s the trade-off? If the stunt fails, the attack misses, even if the number would have been high enough to hit had a stunt not been attempted.

The system is clean, but does require Zocchi dice, which is a downside. However, thinking about the trade-off gave me an idea for another system based on a similar principle. The basic idea is to gamble on two independent dice both coming up high. So why not make stunts require success on two attack roles rather than one? This would still represent a single action, but would be similar to roll twice, take the lowest (since both need to hit). The essential dynamic of fighters being most able to benefit from stunts would be preserved, because (assuming the same level) fighters will have the best chance of hitting. This also seems like it would be easy to communicate to players: just make two attack rolls; no new mechanics would need to be introduced.


To throw yourself in the path of an attack directed toward another character, make an attack roll. If this intercept roll hits an armor class as good as the attack roll being intercepted, the interceptor becomes the new target of the attack and moves between the attacker and the original target. The decision to intercept must be made prior to the attack roll.

Fighters may perform one intercept reaction per combat turn. Characters of other classes may only perform an intercept if they hold their action. Retainers directed to intercept attacks may be required to pass a morale check.

I want to add a sentence about how intercepts can only be attempted if they make sense logically, or are supported by the fiction (or whatever), but don’t have quite the proper language down yet.

Shield saves

Image from Wikipedia

I would like to experiment with an “active defense” option for shield use. Here is the proposal.

Shields provide the following benefits.

  • +1 AC
  • 1 shield parry per round
  • +4 to saves versus appropriate area effects
All of the benefits only apply when a shield user has freedom of movement during combat (so not against traps).
At the beginning of a combat round, characters must decide which enemy they will primarily direct their shield against. The shield parry is a reaction, and may be used against a successful hit by that enemy. Fighters use their most favorable saving throw, other classes use their least favorable saving throw. Note also the ability of axes to destroy shields.
Use of a shield save requires a full action for characters without armor skill (e.g., zero level humans and magic-users). In other words, a “full defense” type of action will allow the use of a shield saving throw even for a non-combatant class character.
Appropriate area attacks would include dragon breath and fireballs, but not, for example, cloudkill.
Hopefully, this will not prove cumbersome (an attack in addition to a save versus poison does not seem cumbersome, so I don’t see how this will be much different, though I suppose getting hit happens more frequently than getting hit and poisoned). In any case, figuring things like this out is what testing is for.

I think this rule would also work with my recent 2d6 fantasy game, without the +1 AC bonus (since the numeric armor scale is less extensive), and with only +1 to saving throws versus area effects.


Image from Wikipedia

Also known as gatecrashers, petards are incendiaries designed to blow open doors or other small fortifications. Petards are second level concoctions, and thus cost 1000 GP in components in addition to special ingredients, given a functional recipe. One recipe involves ash that was used in the ritual to summon a fire elemental.

Petards are designed to be more targeted than firebombs, and also use slow fuses, so they are not as effective in direct combat (though they can make excellent diversions or surprise attacks, if used tactically). The standard, and safest, use of a petard uses a full slow fuse and takes one turn. The fuse may also be trimmed for faster detonation (within 1d6 combat rounds; on a roll of 1 the detonation is premature and the petardier is caught in the blast). Any standard (even reinforced) door will be blown open by a petard charge. Solid metal doors will be blown on 3 in 6 and stone doors on 1 in 6. Anyone within 10′ of a petard detonation takes 2 dice of damage (save for half).

Longer fuses may be used, but for each turn worth of extension there is a 1 in 6 chance the fuse will go out before it reaches the petard. For example, a petard with a 4 turn fuse has a 3 in 6 chance of not detonating. Stacked petards will blow each other, but will never do more than one extra die of damage (so 10 petards results in 10 chances to blow a door but only 3 dice of damage).