The greatest and undefeated Japanese sword master Miyamoto Musashi has once written in 1643, that TIMING IS EVERYTHING in HIS 10 Commandments to a swordsman who would be undefeated. Rules for timing in traditional AD&D 1st Edition combat rules is yet another overlooked element that can make the combat more realistic.
Combat is a team sport in AD&D, contrary to it being portrayed as an individual endeavor in the swords and sorcery literature. Its conceptualization is quite modern, concealed behind the medieval occult-like appearance of the game. In the immortal words of a 50 something LOTR movie fan and a novice to D&D, who exclaimed: "Hey, six man team is a special forces squad!", when I told him that D&D is set up for an optimal party size of six adventurers. Both, Gygax and Novice must have been drinking from the same pool of the Vietnam Era Green Beret radiance or something!
Gygax offers a very sophisticated and workable model for timing and initiative in D&D combat. I believe that it is based on the modeling of naval combat, from which he borrowed the concept of the Armor Class (AC). Two parties of combatants (i.e. adventurers vs monsters) encounter each other at a randomly determined distance. Surprise roll is then made for each team. For humans, surprise occurs by rolling 1-2 on 1d6. Cunning monsters, such as ghouls, surprise on 1-4. The tactical time in Gygaxian AD&D is expressed in 10 minute Turns, 1 minute Rounds and 6 second Segments. The key, and most often overlooked component of being surprise is the team inaction under fire. Two teams roll 1d6, one or both may be surprised. Surprise may be impossible if the team conducted a successful reconnaissance etc. It will take precious time before the surprised team will react at all, expressed as the number of segments equal to the difference between the two die rolls. Loser rolled a 1 and the winner rolled a 4. The winner can act with impunity for 3 segments or 18 seconds before the enemy team starts reacting. The winner can close the distance and start attacking, cast and release spells, shoot the arrows. How much damage in real world? Historically, prepared British yeomen had to fire an arrow every five seconds, 7/12 had to hit the target at the 150 yard range. That is way too fast and furious for the AD&D, where 2 arrows can be fired per Round. How fast can the distance be closed? Self-defense Gospel is that a man with a knife ready, can cover 20 feet and stab another man, before he can draw a pistol from the holster and shoot the assailant. Again, a little beyond the pale of most role-players and re-enactors.
But let's get back to AD&D: This system of being caught with the pants down and open to attack is likely influence by the naval battle simulation as well, though, Lord knows there were enough infantry platoons, 20 men plus, going back to the WWI, which were surprised by a hidden machine gun and were cut down in less than six seconds or a single D&D Segment, and as to naval battle, archeological evidence shows that in one of the battles for the Nile, the French fleet readied one side of the battle ships of the line to fire on the British, and Lord Nelson surprised them and attacked the French Navy from the OTHER side, from which they weren't able to shoot. That carried the battle for him.
There is one tactical element, which makes Gygaxian model of surprise so much more sophisticated: and that is individual initiative. While surprise is done for the group, and my philosophy is, if the group is acting in concert as a team, then do group surprise, it is individual initiative that breaks the stunned stupor of the surprised group. One of the bonuses that comes with the high Dexterity is the Reaction Adjustment/Atack modifier. The attack is the bonus to the To Hit roll with missile weapon shooting/throwing. The reaction adjustment is subtracted from the number of segments that the character spends in the state of inaction as a result of being surprised. Let's look at our example of the team that is surprised and inactive for three segments. Among those, there is a fighter with the dexterity 16. He will be stunned for 2 segments, not three, and will be the first to react. Of course, there is also a Thief with DEX 18, with his +3 bonus,. he will not be surprised at all and will re-act immediately.
Starting with the quick Thief, the surprised team starts to react, and rolls for initiative, and in the next post we will examine the initiative and weapon speed.