“It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye.”
So someone’s swinging a sword at a target they can’t see. This isn’t as unlikely as it seems! Aside from hiding beneath a blanket of invisibility or blinding foes with light or darkness spells, the party may simply find themselves in the dark without a torch.
What happens then? Various old-school rulesets have little to say on the subject, and they often disagree.
OD&D and Red Box don’t seem to cover the question of blindness.
The Rules Cyclopedia gives the following penalties to blind characters:
* -6 penalty to attack rolls;
* -4 penalty to saving throws;
* +4 penalty to Armor Class;
* Move at 1/3 speed (this is in feet, even outdoors); increased to 2/3 if led (this is in yards if outdoors), or to full speed if on a horse that’s being led.
Against an invisible foe, the Rules Cyclopedia only applies the -6 penalty to hit.
Labyrinth Lord imposes a -4 penalty to hit for both blindness and invisibility.
OSRIC and Swords & Wizardry impose a -4 penalty to hit for invisibility, but provide no rules for blindness.
In all cases, one must know the approximate location of an opponent in order to attack. Obviously this leaves a lot of room for DM rulings. If a distant opponent is standing in one place and making a ruckus, can it be targeted by a blinded character with a bow? If so, where do you draw the line at which you do or do not know a foe’s “approximate location”?
The Rules Cyclopedia seems to be a bit of an outlier in terms of the effects of blindness, but it also covers some bases that might be worth considering.
So here are my own tentative rulings on blindness in Red Box:
* -4 penalty to attack rolls;
* Move at 1/3 speed, or 2/3 speed if led—may attempt to move faster by making a 3d6 Dexterity or Wisdom check, whichever is better;
* May be backstabbed from any direction, not just from behind.
How do you see yourself handling blindness in your old school game?