Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Origana Holmes Sapiens: Holmes' Parry Rule and Two Attacks Per Round

I am very sure that Zenopus has tackled this in his archives blog, but I do want to go over a few things that I've finally had the chance to read for myself.

It appears that Dr. Holmes had taken a couple of combat rules from Chainmail's "Man vs. Man" rules, regarding small weapons making 2 attacks per round and Parrying and simplified them for Basic D&D.

From "Man-to-Man Combat" p.25 & 26: under "Melee" Rule 4)a: For any weapon 2 or more classes higher than the attacker the ability to parry does not exist. 

Rule 4)b: For any weapon 1 class higher to three classes lower than the attacker the defender may parry the blow by subtracting 2 from the attacker's roll, but he has no counter blow. 

Rule 4)c: For any defender whose weapon is four to seven classes lower than the attacker, the defender has the option to give the first blow OR parry the attacker's blow, by subtracting 2 from the attacker's roll. If the attacker equals the original requirement for a kill the higher weapon breaks the defender's weapon. If the parry is successful, the defender gets one counter blow. 

Rule 4)d: For any weapon whose class is eight or more classes lower than the attacker, the defender gets the first blow and may parry the second or strike the second. He subtracts one for the parry and a roll equal to the original kill requirement breaks the weapon. (Pikes, spears or lances of the attacker do get the first blow over lower class weapons if there is a charge. Here the length of the weapon prevents the defender, even with his lighter weapon, the ability to get the first blow.)

From "Melee Table" just below Rule 4)a-d: Note that each weapon listed has a number designating its class. The shorter and lighter the weapon, the lower its class. A man wielding a weapon four classes lower (1 vs. 5, 2 vs. 6, and so on) strikes two blows during every melee round. (See Appendix B.)

NOW I can see where Dr. Holmes gets his Parry Rule AND how normal weapons get 2 attacks per round, and why large weapons only get one attack every other round, in the original manuscript. However, the published versions has light weapons getting 2 attacks per round, normal weapons 1 attack, and large weapons 1 attack every 2 rounds. The basis of Dr. Holmes' Parry Rule lies within this extensive reading and implementation of "Man-to-Man Combat" parry rules.

I plan on implementing a little known, and possibly little-used rule from Chainmail that distinguishes between the First Round of combat from Subsequent Rounds of combat:

From "Man-to-Man Combat" under "Melee": When two figures are within melee range (3"), one or several blows will be struck. The order of striking depends upon several factors. The man striking the first blow receives a return blow only if he fails to kill his opponent.

1st Round:
First blow is struck by -
a) the attacker, unless
b) the defender has a weapon which is two classes higher, or
c) the defender is fighting from above (castle wall, rampart, etc.).

2nd Round and thereafter:
First blow is struck by -
a) the side which struck first blow previously, unless
b) the opponent has a weapon which is two classes lower, or
c) the opponent is fighting from above.

While considering the Man-to-Man Combat rules in light of the Holmes Basic rules, Initiative is a factor in determining who is the attacker. The attacker has the advantage in First Blow, because if the blow successfully kills the defender, the defender does not get a return blow. Again, weapon class is a factor in determining first blow in both First Round and Second Round sequences. Longer weapons strike first in First Rounds, and Shorter/Lighter weapons strike first in Subsequent Rounds. Rather than relying on Initiative Dice, or Higher DEX striking first in Holmes, weapon length/weight plays an integral part in deciding who strikes first in any given round.

The weapon length & weight is not specific in Holmes or LBB, but one of my earlier drafts of LBB did have specific weapon classes, with shortest/lightest weapons at the low end, and heavier/longer weapons at the high end of the number scale. I removed the Weapon Classes due to the complexity that it would introduce to LBB, and I wanted the streamlined version of combat that felt advanced, but was very straightforward. The weapon classes from Chainmail and Judges' Guild Ready Ref Sheets can be implemented with Holmes Basic & LBB, for those refs who want to use it. However, I allow this intentionally for LBB solely to discriminate between First Round combat from Subsequent Round combat.

What is the difference between First and Subsequent Round combat, you ask? Why the distinction?

If you think about it, ask yourself "what happens on the first round that doesn't usually happen on subsequent rounds?" The answer is that the First Round is the initial round of the encounter, barring for the moment the Surprise Round(s). Side A and B must move to meet in the middle in order to conduct Melee Combat. The longer or heavier weapons will strike first. We should assume that most combatants in the first round have already moved within Melee Reach during Subsequent rounds. Once the longer and/or heavier weapons are within melee reach and blows are struck in the first round, those weapon wielders will be open to attacks from the shorter, lighter weapons in the subsequent rounds (unless they move out of melee reach - but that is a variable to be considered at a later time).

The trick for the referee and players is to have rules on hand for any variables that may come into play AFTER these two rules have been considered. Right now, the important thing is to consider just these two rules as concrete actions; they must factor in the combat first, because they carry the most potential for striking first in any round of combat. If we follow the form of First and Subsequent Rounds, we can follow the rest of the combat rules concerning Missile Fire, Spell-Casting, Mounted Combat, Charges, and Artillery.

This is the reason why Spells and Missile Fire should be resolved before Melee Combat - Weapon Reach. Now, the wildest variables should come from Spells, as their effects could come at any moment during the combat round - whether it is in Missile Fire or Melee, but again the actual spell-casting does take time, and even spells may be interrupted under certain circumstances, but, again, this is a variable that should be discussed later. Missile Fire is a long range weapon, and should be resolved before Melee combat is resolved, but it is normally used for full effect in First Round combats, because we should assume that Sides A & B are still moving toward each other during the bulk of the Combat Round.

It should also be assumed that once the combatants are within Melee Reach of one another - toward the end of the First Round, Missile Fire is just as likely to strike a friendly figure as an opposing one, and that is why many D&D combat rules forbid missile fire during the Melee portion of the Combat Round. I believe that many referees (DMs) are misreading the Missile Fire rule - instead interpreting it as "NO missile fire is allowed during the Combat Round", which makes using bow & arrow worthless for most of the game. What the rule should be explicit in saying is "Missile Fire is allowed against any un-meleed opponent without fear of striking a friendly figure", or something like that. Once Melee is engaged (meaning: your friendly is toe-to-toe with an enemy), Missile Fire should be discouraged, due to the 50/50 chance of hitting your own guy. The same can be inferred for casting spells, unless a spell is capable of targeting only an enemy figure (the revised Magic Missile), or a spell that will do no harm to anyone, but effect everyone in the area of effect equally (Sleep).

There is a distinction between the Combat Round and Melee Combat. Combat Round is a unit of time elapsed; in this case, it is ten seconds. Melee Combat is that part of the Combat Round where two opponents face each other within Melee Reach (3" according to the Man-to-Man Rules), but for Holmes and LBB, this distance is effectively 20 feet. Engaged in Melee means that the two (or more) opponents are within 10 feet of each other. If you are Engaged, you are within Melee Reach of your opponent, and you are considered to be in Melee Combat. However, Melee Reach (20') should still be considered for the purposes of Missile Fire, but only as long as there are no other viable targets within a 20' radius of the target.

Of course, if you have actually looked at my LBB house rules, you will notice a LOT of additional rules to combat, and I will admit that implementing all of these rules does pose a bit of a problem if I claim that they are 'streamlined'. In all actuality, they are not streamlined; they are clunky and piecemeal, but I would say that these are things that should be considered part of 0e and Holmes. Eventually, some of these rules will become shaded box 'variants'. These rules would include "The Revised Parry Rule", "The Helmet Rule" and "The Shield Rule", after all, the Helmet Rule does require an additional die roll to be useful, the Parry Rule adds a modifier to the mix, and the Shield Rule offers additional effectiveness for 1 or more attacks depending on the size of the shield and the number of blows against the shielded defender that round, AND it was also derived from 2nd edition AD&D rules. But I still like it, and it offers players an additional bit of protection for their characters.