11 November 2012

Total defense in Classic D&D

Over at Delta’s D&D Hotspot, there was a discussion of the parry rule in AD&D. In general, this is a pretty useless rule because a character gives up their attack for a bonus to AC. (Well, it’s a penalty to the opponent’s “to hit” roll, but we’ll consider that equivalent.) In D&D combat, if you aren’t attacking, you’re conceding. But special circumstances can arise where this tactic does make sense.

AD&D compounds the uselessness of the rule, however, but setting the bonus equal to the characters “to hit” bonus due to strength.

Chainmail has a parry rule as well. Though it is complicated by its weapon classes rules. The weapon class rules are reasonable, but more complexity than I’d want. The important bit is that Chainmail makes the benefit a flat +2.

Dan also makes a good argument that a +1 in Chainmail should become a +2 in D&D.

It turns out that the d20 SRD has a similar total defense rule, which gives a +4 to AC.

So, that’s what I’m going with...

If a character chooses total defense, they may not attack that round, but they gain a 4-point bonus to AC.


Brendan said...

My own personal variant allows fighters (but none of the other big four classes) to improve their AC by sacrificing some of their attack skill. They still get an action, it's just not as accurate. Fighters can also use this to defend others (effectively raising their AC).

Details here:


Brendan said...

(And by raising AC of course I mean improving AC.)

Matthew James Stanham said...

The idea of "total defence" breaks down for me as soon as you have to think about it in relation to missile combat.

Robert Fisher said...

Total defense doesn’t apply to missile attacks. Done.

Brendan said...

Matthew, how so? It seems like one could be more cautious and less daring in either context (think about an archer standing up and taking less advantage of cover in order to aim a better shot).

Matthew James Stanham said...

Needless to say, I find neither of those solutions satisfactory. Giving up an attack when you are not attacking is giving up nothing, and getting a better armour class by virtue of being in close combat seems incongruent to me. It is not necessarily a bad idea for missile attacks to be reduced in effectiveness, but conceptually it makes no sense to me for a line of plate armoured troops to be trying to avoid volleys of arrows and that is about when I dismiss it as a bad job for an abstract game.