Welcome to the Flaming Faggot

Callovia is called "the boundless empire" yet you have managed to find its northern border - a notorious roadhouse deep within the Madrasan Marches on the edge of the wilds of Llanvirnesse. The sign above the door reads "Flaming Faggot," which would suggest a cozy, homey inn with fresh biscuits served at teatime if not for the severed troll heads mounted on pikes at the gate.

As you cross the threshold the raucous din quiets momentarily as all eyes dart to the door and calloused hands drop instinctively to well-worn sword hilts. The threat, instantly assessed, is dismissed and roadhouse patrons go about their business hardly missing a beat.

Grim, hard-eyed men huddle around tables in close conversation thick with conspiracy; caravan guards gamble away their earnings; Caemric rangers sit close to the fireplace cooking the damp of the Black Annis from their clothes as they warm their innards with Red Dragon Ale; minstrels play and buxom wenches dance for the pleasure of men who pay them little attention - until they need a companion to warm their bed.

As you approach the bar, a huge, bald barman with a greatsword slung across his back slides a mug of freshly-pulled ale towards you, its frothy head dripping over the rim.

"Pull up a seat, lad," he says, "and let me tell you a tale of high adventure."

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Grappling with Overbearing Rules

Back in 1974, while the world was being introduced to D&D, we were also grooving to Carl Douglas's disco hit, Kung Fu Fighting!  Kung Fu was becoming all the rage in North America, thanks to the popularity of the 1973 movie, Enter the Dragon, and the television series, Kung Fu (1972-1975), and it's pretty fair to say that I've been a martial arts enthusiast ever since I watched David Carradine snatch the pebble from his master's hand back in 1972.

David Carradine as Kwai Chang Caine

I didn't end up discovering D&D until 1980, right around the same time that I was watching Chuck Norris kick ninja ass in The Octagon, while getting my own tossed around the tatami mats at the YMCA judo club.

Once I got my hands on the Dungeon Master's Guide, though, I was eager to see the rules for weaponless combat, sure that I would soon be dishing out some smack-down in an orgy of bar-room-brawling mayhem.  My eyes quickly glazed over as I read the two pages of rules for pummeling, grappling, and overbearing, which I'm sure are the most bewildering and complicated in rpg history.  The much-anticipated tavern mayhem never came to pass, and I have to wonder if anyone has ever used those rules.

The situation has never really improved much.  Even after running a 3rd Edition campaign for eight years I still needed to look up the rules every time a player wanted to grapple.  Does unarmed combat really have to be this complicated?

Here are some simple rules for pummeling and grappling that I've come up with for my S&W game that I think are pretty straightforward.  I use a 1 minute combat round and group initiative in my game, but the rules should be equally valid no matter what system you use.

1. When attacking an armed opponent all unarmed attacks are at -4 to hit, and the armed opponent attacks first regardless of initiative since the unarmed attacker must get inside the weapon's range.

2. A successful pummeling hit deals 1d6 points of damage minus the armour rating of the target because punching a guy in full plate armour is pretty pointless (this assumes the opponent is wearing a helmet).  So, for example punching an opponent in leather armour deals 1d6-2 points of damage.

1. Before the grapple can occur the intended target must be taken down to the ground.  Unless the target is already on the ground a take-down attack (throw or leg-sweep) must be made.  If the take-down attack is made against an armed opponent the attack roll is at -4 to hit, and the opponent attacks first regardless of initiative.  An opponent's armour does not protect him against a take-down; only Dexterity bonus, Shield bonus, or magical items such as Bracers of Defense can protect against this attack.

2. If the take-down was successful the attacker follows his opponent to the ground and immediately applies a hold.

3. On the defender's turn he has one chance to break free.  Each participant in the grapple makes either a Strength or Dexterity check (whichever is higher) by rolling under their attribute score on 1d20.  Because fighters are universally trained in grappling arts they may add their level to their attribute score when making this check, and if monks are used in your game they, too, should add their level.  Whoever makes a successful attribute check by the greatest amount wins the grapple.  If the defender wins he is able to break the hold and either stand up or catch his attacker in a hold of his own.  If the attacker wins, his opponent is pinned and helpless.  Escape attempts on subsequent rounds are not allowed because the longer an attacker has to consolidate his hold the more difficult it becomes to break; even if you're using a 10 second combat round, by the time a defender makes a second attempt it is too late.

Now, let's get out there and dish out some smack-down with Carl Douglas!


Don said...

Sounds reasonable to me. :)

The Happy Whisk said...

I will have this song going through my head all morning while I work.

Thanks for that.

Sean Robson said...

Hey Whisk, me too! Great song.