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Sunday, July 28, 2013


One of the biggest flaws of the Gygaxian combat system is that it is linear. An arrow does 1d6 points of damage. A Fifth level fighter has 50 hit points, give or take a few, how many arrows does it take to kill him in battle?

Answer is: ONE, if it hits. Anybody has any doubt that any medieval knight or a man at arms will not die, most likely, when an arrow tears his jugular, or hits him in the eye and goes in the brain? AD&D combat can be made non-linear and any arrow potentially deadly with an elegant critical hit system, that must deliver the fear of a SUDDEN DEATH! I combine the critical system mechanic from the second edition with the critical hit system from the Wizards of the Coast edition, for a very quick and elegant hope for every low lever adventurer. To put simply, ANY ATTACK HAS A CHANCE OF STRIKING A FIGHT-ENDING BLOW!!!!!!!! Note, that I didn't say, a killing blow. You can defeat any opponent in battle, ever the ones that can't be hit by non-magical weapons, but it does not mean that you kill them, only that they break off the fight. Why? DM can improvise and narrate: Vampire slips, falls down the stairs, turns into a wolf and runs away. The fire breathing demon sees something that it thinks will kill it, and flees to its primary plane of existence. To facilitate play, I do away with the traditional Hit location table. I have it, but it is optional.

Here is how the Midlands CritHit system works: Roll 1d20, 20 always hits, 1 always misses and you have a fumble (roll on critical fumble table - weapon breaks, you slip and fall, you drop weapon, etc.)
If you hit 5 higher than your To Hit number, you automatically inflict maximum damage!

If you roll 20 (for spears and axes), 19-20 (for swords), 18-20 (for curved swords), then your damage is multiplied (x3 for spears, x2 for swords, and x4 for scythes and military picks). Your regular To Hit Roll will tell you if you scored a critical hit and how much damage the opponent is in for. When you score a Crit Hit, you roll a second time to see if the opponent is out of the fight. If you score a second Crit Hit, then the opponent, no matter how big or invulnerable, is out of the fight!

If it is a +5 Crit Hit, the opponent is more scared than hurt, and breaks off the fight and runs or tries to surrender. If it is of the 19-20 Multiplier variety, then the opponent is more hurt and is actually incapacitated by the injury, and if the second roll is 20, the opponent is killed!!!!!!

Initially, I did not use a hit location table, and just improvised along, but then, to encourage the building of suits of composite armor by players and to aid in narration. Basically, if a player character wears a metal plate over a location that is hit, there is a good chance that a critical hit, and more importantly, the hit that knocks you out of the fight, will be averted. There are head, face, and neck locations, to account for metal skull caps, partial and fully enclosed great helms that the player characters might opt to wear. This also encourages the use of heavier shields.

I also have a detailed game mechanic (largely for the players benefits), to see of the crit hit knocks the player character off his feet, renders him incapacitated, knocks the  PC unconscious, or puts them into traumatic shock. That one has great (and realistic) narrative results, but it needs me reviewing it, before I DM a game session.


  1. @ Brooser Bear,

    This is the second time I read this post. Very interesting stuff. Sort of Runequest meets AD&D. I've got something vaguely similar.

    I like the ideas in various games for max damage, or multiple damages on critical successes. I made some notes and I'm not sure if there is something I'm missing here, but are Scythes and Military picks considered the same as Curved swords? Here's what I have:

    Spears & Axe... On a 20 To Hit = x3 Damage
    Sword.............. On a 19-20 To Hit = x2 Damage
    Curved Sword... On a 18-20 To Hit = ????
    Scythes & Military
    Picks............... On a ???? To Hit = x4 Damage

    I think the above table makes it simpler to visualize at a glance the various choices involved for weapons and their effects. Very nice effects, by the way. I love that stuff.

    For "Out of the Fight - But not necessarily DEAD":
    2 Critical Hits. The 1st Crit Hit is rolled for normally. A 2nd Crit Hit
    Confirms the first and you are out of the fight. Due to falling down staircases, spotting some object lethal to you, etc. GM narrarates the specifics off the cuff.

    This is good. When does a 2nd Crit Hit = DEATH? What is the limit that it must pass to cause this to happen? I have zero familiarity with D&D 2nd edition and D&D 3rd edition crit hit charts. I also didn't know that either of them used the Runequest body locations for composit armor. An idea I loved 30+ years ago, when I encountered it in Runequest.

    For Fumbles:
    1 = Always Fumble (Weapon Breaks, Slip & Fall, Drop Weapon,
    20 = Always Hits.
    Roll 5 over To Hit = Max Damage.

    I use a similar system, although it isn't with d20. For Max Damage, since that is possible on regular rolls, I make it: Max Damage +1. Its a tiny difference, but it makes it stick in the players' heads, that they rolled something exceptionally above anything they could possibly roll without a super critical success!

  2. @ Brooser Bear,

    I'm looking over my notes, again, and maybe I figured out what I was wondering about the Crit hits leading to Flight vs. Death.

    1) IF Crit Hit = +5 over Target Number + a SECOND Crit Hit Roll
    = Opponent Out of Fight/Surrenders

    2) IF Crit Hit = Natural 18-20 (Varies by Weapon Type)
    + a SECOND Crit Hit Roll
    = Opponent DEAD!

    Question: Is the SECOND Crit Hit Roll always a 20, or is it variable
    18-20, depending on THAT weapon's first Crit Number

  3. @ Brooser Bear,

    I was wearing out last night when I wrote those comments, but, I wanted to know: I'm not sure how much your rules differ from old school AD&D combats. For instance, how many blows are exchanged by the average 1st level fighter and an Orc, before one of them dies? I haven't used that system for a long time, but I've got the books right by my computer, these days, for reference. I'll do some dice rolling and see what I come up with, since the math that comes up can be important.

  4. Neal, you are forgetting one thing: You are a DM, you are a story-teller, you have the artistic license! Not every Orc whom the player thinks he killed, dies on the battlefield! Even if you roll two natural 20's it does not necessarily mean a certain death for the character! I have no problem killing them. To get resurrection might mean a quest or another adventure for the other players! Player does not have to die right there! Player can be eviscerated, but still alive and in great pain, for the players to deal with. In MIDlands, a loss of limb, broken knee-cap, brain damage, loss of one or both eyes etc, are not curable with any of the cure light-medium-curious wounds spells. The player character need not remain a cripple for the rest of his or her days, but it will take an adventure to find a healer of a Necromancer (illegal) mage to restore the player character to the original!

    With regards to Crit Hits. For the dramatic results, we are only counting natural 20's! not the OSR multiplied damage type crit hit of 18-20. Two natural 20's mean death OR out of the fight for good. One 20 means opponent is knocked down and is at a major disadvantage, loses initiative, gets stunned.

    You also need to look at the damage caused by the crit hits themselves. Let's say you rolled two 20's and it was 5 higher than the to hit roll, with the sword you just inflicted a MINIMUM of 8x2 + 8x2 = 32 Points of Damage! Any Orc and most low level player characters will be dead as a matter of hit points dropping to below zero. If you want to be more liberal, you can make EACH CRit Hit do its own damage, so two Hit +5 in row will do Max damage + Max damage. Two 18-20 crit hits will do 1d8x2 plus 1d8x2 damage or between 4 and 32 points of damage!

    You mentioned about making certain death result less frequent for the players. Remember, natural 20's add NARRATIVE FLAIR to the game! I wouldn't change it, but I might want to mitigate it somewhat: If a player character gets hit with a 20, 20 CRIT HIT, Make him Save vs Death and either get killed or survive somehow, maybe terribly injured.

    Another thing is, if the player is protected by Plate Mail Armor, then the Monsters only become capable of scoring a To Hit + 5 CRIT HIT at level 6!!!! Remember, how the rule is "a natural 20 always hits!!!!" If the character is wearing Plate, and the monster really needs a "21"; "22" or "23" to hit, then the monster hits regularly and no critical damage occurs. I DO NOT LIKE THIS, but you can use this to prolong the lives of your players. One other dynamic. In MIDlands, you can not just buy a suit of Plate Mail and wear it to battle! Historically, young squires spent their adolescence LIVING in Plate Mail so as to make their bodies adapt to it. As a consequence, the range of motion of their arms and shoulders matched the range of motion of their EXPENSIVE suits of armor. Sort of the Western equivalent of the Chinese foot binding for women! So, the Plate armor is very expensive and not everyone knows how to use it. Heaviest armor for most is Chain Mail. However, most warriors wear SOME plate - maybe Cuirass, plate breast armor, maybe a full helm, etc, so a fight ending crit hit necessitates a roll on the location table. Chest and abdomen have one location each, while the Head has - Head, Face, Throat and Neck - to distinguish between an arming cap (metal skull cap), an open face helm, a 3/4 helm and Full Helm. A natural 20 falling on solid metal will avert a disaster.

    I don't know how different my home brew from typical AD&D. I think that it differs a lot. That's why I call it My Homegrown!