Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ready Ref Sheets Volume I, Part I

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.


  1. Allow me to flog my favorite out-of-print game ... Magic Realm.

    It uses an interesting priority system. In the first round of combat, longest weapons act first. In the second and subsequent rounds, fastest weapons act first.

    I think Chainmail uses a similar system.

    I like all of the interesting bits that are buried in the Ready Ref Sheets.

  2. Love the Ready Ref sheets, there is an entire OD&D supplement worth of variants buried in there.

    Weapon strike by length rules definitely need the reverse order balance provided by Chainmail (I model the same in my own mini rules), otherwise you make short and medium length weapons almost useless.

    I used a lot of the big picture stuff in there for baseline calculations for the Domain Game.

  3. I prefer to use the rule that longer weapons strike first, until such time as the shorter weapons succeed in a hit. At that point, the shorter weapon is inside the reach of the longer weapon, and so it gets to strike first each round until the longer weapon succeeds, and the situation reverses. It represents the ebb and flow of maneuvering to bring the other guy into the ideal range for your weapon.

    Hope This Helps,