After a several week hiatus due to a variety of factors, namely being on the road and working 14 hour days, I figured I'd make it easy on myself and write about something I've been thinking about over the past two weeks. In multiple parts so I have more posts.
I bought the Judge's Guild Ready Ref Sheets from Noble Knight about 9 months ago, but never really looked at them too closely, perhaps out of fear of messing up my pristine copy. I realize how idiotic that sounds; why purchase a book to keep it in plastic, never read? Ask all the comic collectors, I guess. The production values are pretty low, honestly, and simply flipping through it led me to believe it wouldn't hold up to multiple readings. So, again, quick perusal and on the shelf it went. Then I discovered that you could purchase brand new copies of it (and other stuff) here, for retail price, and thus I ordered two more. $10 total, less than what I initially spent. During the few spare hours I've had recently, I took a closer look at the book and decided it's a nearly essential resource for older-style D&D games. I'll cover more parts of it in the next few days, but I want to give a specific example first...
Hidden away on the lower right column of page 17 (parenthetical [in parens, no less], EVERYTHING is "hidden away" in this book, so I probably shouldn't preface my statements with that phrase) is a table called WEAPON PRIORITY with terse, yet, descriptive subtext: Higher total moves first. Instead of describing the table, how about I show a picture. Novel concept, right?
As you can see, this table essentially explains the age old question in D&D of who goes when during melee, and it's actually fairly good. Shorter weapons go later than long weapons, low-level spells are cast quicker than high-level spells, and reading scrolls takes the longest amount of time possible. There isn't a detailed explanation, but my guess is that a d6 for initiative could be rolled and added to the total to throw in a bit of randomness. Perhaps +/- d3? That would give Conan-types a pretty good chance of disrupting spells.
I really like this table a lot, and while it's not perfect, it demonstrates that although the D&D rules themselves were full of ambiguity and uncertainty, plenty of external material was developed to handle implementation. In light of such evidence, it's almost as if the ambiguous nature of the game was intentional, to allow an infinite number of possible variations.