Archive for the 'Red Box Armory' Category


Standard Pack Comes Filled With Fresh Monster Gore

Be prepared! Preparedness begins with knowledge, to whit:

Edible items will have a small likelihood (10%) of distracting intelligent monsters from pursuit. Semi-intelligent monsters will be distracted 50% of the time. Non-intelligent monsters will be distracted 90% of the time by food. Treasure will have the opposite reaction as food, being more likely to stop intelligent monsters. (Gygax & Arneson, 1974)

This is all well and good, but how do you make sure to have both edible items and treasure always ready to provide a distraction? The New York Red Box has a solution!

Infographic by Scott LeMien, credited to an idea of Thaddeus's.

In the forum thread from whence I have ripped off this bit of practical advice, Ridiculossus further notes:

The jars are filled with fresh monster gore when you start, or other animal kill.

Pack cost (backpack) = 5g
Mini-loot drop = <20g
5 vials of oil: 10 gold
Clay jars (and padding) = 1g

It is to my great shame that I didn’t think to include this in my section on mundane gear and adventuring kits for Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium. I blame Scott, who should leave these ideas lying around ready to be swiped when I need them, not months later.


Red Box Armory: Pikes

No, not that kind.

The pike is a very long spear, typically 15 feet in length, intended for use in mass combat. Pikemen gather in large ‘hedgehog’ formations, so called because they bristle with spearheads like a hedgehog’s spines.

Pikes may be used to attack opponents 10 feet away (or farther, for especially long pikes) and always gain initiative against an attacker who’s closing to melee range while using a shorter weapon. However, they may not be used at closer range, nor may they be thrown. A successful pike attack inflicts 1d6 damage.

The unwieldiness of the pike makes it impossible to casually swing it about in melee. Instead, its wielder must specify in which direction he or she is pointing it. If there are other characters within 10 feet, it takes a full round to maneuver the pike around them in order to change facing. (A group of untrained peasant levies must make a successful morale check each round in order to accomplish this task.) The wielder may only attack opponents within a 90 degree forward arc.

It is rarely possible to bring a pike into a dungeon, as it’s hard to fit around corners in narrow passageways.

Treat pikes as spears for purposes of weapon proficiency.

Cost: 5gp.


experimental combat system

Quick post because I have to get to work.

Several months ago I was wondering about how to separate deflection-type protection (shields, dexterity) from soak-type protection (armor).

In cases of uncertainty, the baseline here is the Moldvay/Mentzer Basic D&D combat system.

  1. Typical combat sequence is unaltered. Variable weapon damage is used.
  2. Attack rolls are made as usual in D&D: 1d20 + (class attack bonus/THAC0 stuff) + (ability mod) + (magic mod) + (circumstance)
  3. Ascending Deflection Class = 11 + (Dex mod) + (shield & shield magic mods) + (circumstance). Note: no actual “armor” in this calculation.
  4. If the attack roll equals or exceeds your deflection, guess what – you’re hit.
  5. If hit, Armor decreases the size of the damage dice: 1d10 > 1d8 > 1d6 > 1d4 > 2 > 1. Any hit does at least 1 point of damage, regardless.
  6. Multiple dice-types (3dX for example) shed the extra dice first, and once they hit 1dX then degrade to the lower dice type.  So 2d6 > 1d6 > 1d4.
  7. Light armor reduces the damage die type by one step, medium armor by two steps, and heavy armor by three steps.
  8. Damage is then rolled “normally” – the modifed die type + (ability mod) + (magic mod) + (circumstance)
  9. Magical armor lightens your Encumbrance Category, e.g., a heavily laden warrior in Plate +3 moves as if totally unencumbered.
  10. Monsters don’t have to be changed, but they could be depending on your ambition. An attack doing 1d3 damage reduces to 2 points, not 1.

Thus: Arnold Littleworth, under this system, has a Bathrobe of AC 4, which is equal to Chain + Shield. His Deflection class is 11 (base) -1 (poor Dexterity) +1 (equivalent to shield) = 11.

If, solely for the sake of science, Martin le Black attacked Arnold with his +2 sword Bazilien, his attack roll would be executed normally, hoping for a roll equal or better than 11. Because Arnold’s Bathrobe is equivalent to Chain armor, the damage from Bazilien would be 1d4 (starting from 1d8 and reducing two steps) +1 (strength) +2 (magic).

Action Normal B/X D&D Experimental System
Martin hits Arnold … 60% of the time 80% of the time
On average Martin inflicts 7.5 damage 5.5 damage
Expected damage per round 4.5 damage 4.4 damage

Note a couple of effects from this experimental system:

  • Armor reduces damage, it doesn’t keep you from getting hit in the first place.
  • Magic-Users and Clerics can make “touch attacks” to overcome Deflection Class much easier than AC
  • Characters are hit more often for less damage. Armor is approximately twice as useful as before, which helps Level 1 wimp-o’s.
  • Damage reduction is neither fixed nor does it require an extra roll, i.e., it’s unpredictable without slowing play
  • Against a guy with heavy armor, a dagger +1 does the same damage as a normal sword (more, on average, since it hits more often): magic is cool
  • Heavily armored knights are slow and easy to hit, but very difficult to wound without magic.
  • The special thing about Frodo’s undershirt is that it was extremely lightweight and easily concealed – like not wearing armor at all.
  • Maybe someone other than me will enjoy the strategic effects of Encumbrance… oh who am I kidding

Just to see what it would look like, here is the comparison for a duel between Martin le Black and Hanna Darrowkin, using their stats as of 1/9/2011:

Action Normal B/X D&D Experimental System
Martin hits Hanna … 25% of the time 55% of the time
On average Martin inflicts 7.5 damage 5 damage
Expected damage per round 1.875 damage 2.75 damage
Action Normal B/X D&D Experimental System
Hanna hits Martin … 30% of the time 60% of the time
On average Hanna inflicts 3.5 damage 1 damage
Expected damage per round 1.05 damage 0.6 damage

What’s happening here is that Hanna, physically weaker, is using what amounts to an ordinary sword to attack a stronger foe armed with a larger, more heavily enchanted blade. Both duelists are very heavily armored, but over time, Martin’s superior strength and magic can punch through the Halfling Hero’s defenses.

I still need to figure out:

  • What to do against touch-style attacks, like Wights and Vampires?  They become a lot deadlier under this system.
  • Do Hit Dice change? I’m thinking that combat between heavily armored dudes would take too long at standard Hit-Dice values.
  • Maybe each type of armor stays vulnerable to a particular type of damage (Piercing, Slashing, Bludgeon), if people think armor otherwise is too good.

Red Box Armory: Bolas

Git along little birdies!

Bolas are an exotic weapon from faraway lands. They consist of a cord or chain with weights at the ends, meant to wrap around a target’s legs to entangle them.

When attacking, treat bolas as a thrown weapon with the same range increments as flaming oil or holy water. A successful hit inflicts no damage but binds the target’s legs together. An entangled target can only move 3’/round and must save vs. paralysis each round or fall prone. Removing the bolas takes a full round of action and requires at least one free hand. (If a character is in no position to unwrap the bolas manually, he may attempt to snap the cord or chain with an Open Doors check.)

As a rule, only classes that can use all weapons, such as fighters, halflings, dwarves and thieves, may use bolas, and even then they require some training in their use.

Past Adventures of the Mule

September 2019
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