Dec 9, 2009

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Stickler’s Spotlight – Weaponless Combat

Our Stickler’s Spotlight this week focuses on unarmed combat by the book (the DMG, that is) and by other means. For more discussion of grappling, pummeling and overbearing, here are some good Dragon articles to seek out:

“How to Finish Fights Faster” by Roger E. Moore. Dragon #83, March 1984, p. 55
Roger E. Moore leads his article off with a quote by Gary Gygax which completely negates any claim “by the book” DMs like myself have that the DMG weaponless rules are the canonical way to play (and I don’t care, I still like them best): “…I do have one severe problem with my own game system. I got talked into doing the complicated and time-consuming series for grappling, pummeling, and overbearing in a weak moment. I have regretted them ever since. I tend to use a very simple system which we initially developed for such close-quarters combat in about 1974.”
To be fair, the DM styles of Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson seem to have differed markedly with respect to the reliance on statistics and complex tables, and in this sense, I would be in Arneson’s camp. Still, this is a great article for those who want a faster system that still maintains some feeling of realism.

“Without any Weapons” by Phil Meyers. Dragon #61, May 1982, p. 14.
This article does a superb job of addressing the missing elements of the DMG’s weaponless combat, and streamlines some of the elements that are included. Most notably, it provides rules and tables for non-humanoids, as well as multiple attackers.

“Poker, Chess, and the AD&D System: The official word on what’s official” by Gary Gygax. Dragon #67, p. 63.
This is the article which contains the quote by Gary Gygax about his regret over the DMG unarmed combat rules. It’s particularly interesting, not so much for any insight into weaponless combat itself (it barely mentions it), as for its look into what does and does not constitute “official” AD&D. The essence is that although players are free to use whatever house rules they like, and by house rules, he includes all third-party works as well, those players are not playing AD&D. It’s a valid point, but pretty ironic, considering Gygax’s earlier personal view of people who fretted too much over “official rules.” From WIRED magazine:
He had little time for people who played too by-the-book. “They’d write in and ask the publisher of the game what to do,” he says. “Whatever they were told, they did. And I said, that’s silly — just make it up.”

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  1. Volume 1 Issue 2 – Where to find 1st edition AD&D books - [...] Mechanics: V,S,M: All about Magic-User spells The Dragon’s Hoard: The Robe of Useful Items Stickler’s Spotlight: Unarmed combat Interview: …

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