"Black Dougal gasps 'Poison!' and falls to the floor. He looks dead."

Sunday, January 17, 2010

B/X Unarmed Combat

I have been thinking about rules for unarmed combat and grappling the last while. This is because of a post a bit ago on Wheel of Samsara "The Eternal Pain of Grappling" and discussion about 1E AD&D grappling rules on an episode of Roll for Initiative. Grappling hasn't come up in my 2E Rise of the Runelords campaign which is good because I haven't read the 2E grappling rules in years.

In the Expert rule book (page X25) it states:
Unarmed Combat
Characters who engage in combat without a weapon (for whatever reason) will do 1-2 points of damage plus and strength adjustments for a successful attack. All normal rules regarding combat apply to unarmed combat.

So that does it for punching and kicking but what about grappling where your character is trying to grab or wrestle down an opponent?

I have typically used one of the following methods:

Method 1. Opposed d6 rolls. I think this is from OD&D, maybe an issue of Strategic Review or an early Dragon. Each side rolls a number of d6s equal to the HD or level of that side. So for example, a 4th level fighter is being grappled by 5 orcs. The player rolls 4d6+strength adjustments and the DM rolls 5d6 for the orcs (there are no strength adjustments as strength is factored into HD). High side wins.

Method 2. The Ode to Black Dougal Default System. Have the player roll 2d6 with some adjustments for relative sizes, strengths, circumstances, etc.
2= it turns out REALLY bad for the player
3-5 = it turns out bad for the player
6-8 = neutral
9-11 = it turns out well for the player
12 = it turns out REALLY well for the player

Using the Fiendish Dr. Samsara's example of a Sorcerer, finding himself not too successful with spell or weapon, wants to pull a beastie off a companion before it eats her shoulder. Roll 2d6 with some adjustments you feel are appropriate:
2 = It turns out very poorly for the sorcerer - maybe he is knocked down at the feet of another beastie
3-5 = The sorcerer fails to grab the beastie
6-8 = gets his hands on the beastie but doesn't pull him off. May allow for a bonus to try again next round.
9-11 = pulls the beastie off
12 = pulls the beastie off and punches it in the face!

Method 3. Probability of Success. I have been gaining a greater appreciation for this style lately. Just determine what the probability would be for the characters to succeed and roll the d%. Using the sorcerer example again, after weighing many factors the DM decides that the sorcerer would have a 30% chance of grabbing the beastie and pulling it off his companion.

How do you do grappling in your old school game?


  1. i think the Really Simple Combat Maneuvers could possibly be all you need for grappling.

  2. The Companion Rules (book one, page 6) has some wrestling rules laid out you might find of interest. It hinges on a new stat WR ("Wrestling Rating") which is determined by: dividing the PC's level by 2 and rounding up, adding or subtracting attribute bonuses for STR & DEX, and adding this to the PC's base AC (without DEX or magic adjustments). For monsters, you double the HD and add 9 if there is no AC (all descending AC here of course), or if the monster is wearing armor add its AC instead of 9.

    Now that you've got your WR and the monster's WR, you roll d20 and add it to your WR. The higher roll wins, or there's a tie and noone wins that round. Winner chooses to Grab, Hit, or Strike. On to rd. 2! If the winner of round 1 wins again and keeps choosing Grab, the victim falls down. If a third successful win is made on the third round, the victim is pinned.

    A pinned victim can't do anything and the opponent MAY (if desired) inflict 1-6 pts. damage/rd plus STR bonus if any. Saving Throw is allowed against Death Ray here. If Save = natural 20, the victim stands up (1 point for escape!). I think I read that right.

    There are also rules here for multiple wrestlers and a bunch of optional rules. It reads a little crazy, but some modified version of this might work, or if you practice played it a bunch it might not be so bad.

    Anyhow, maybe someone without the complete BXCMI rules will find that of interest... Personally, it almost has never come up that I can remember, I think we have just made up rules on the spur of the moment or made saving throws against each other somehow.

  3. I don't really like the wrestling rules from the companion book but they are definitely an alternative.

    I don't use any of the BECMI or Gaz rules that don't also appear in B/X. They just change the feel too much.

  4. Patrick, since you have weighted the outcomes based on the bell-curve, I 'heartily approve' of your methodology listed above. As if my opinion matters, lol.
    --Good stuff there. :D

  5. There are many online available resources where you can find useful information regarding grappling and unarmed combat. I would like to guide you to go for online resources to have a better understanding.
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