More Holmes and the Combat Turn

In my last post I explored Holmes’ Second Example in light of three assumptions. Those assumptions were:

  1. The basic system is that from CHAINMAIL” (U&WA p25), and furthermore let’s assume CHAINMAIL’s Simultaneous Movement System (CM p9), and
  2. Surprise gives the advantage of a free move segment” (U&WA p9) really means a free turn segment, and
  3. Two moves constitute a turn” (U&WA p8), and furthermore let’s assume there are two moves per combat turn (more on this in a later post).

 

In this post I’m going to challenge two of those assumptions by rewriting the Holmes example four times–covering each possible combination of with/without surprise, and one/two moves per turn. So I’ll cover these four scenarios:

  • A. With surprise, and with one move per turn,
  • B. Without surprise, and with one move per turn,
  • C. With surprise, and with two moves per turn,
  • D. Without surprise, and with two move per turn.

At the bottom of all that I’ll compare each of the four scenarios to the most prominent features of Holmes’ original example, which I reckon are:

  1. the players are able to throw a spell first, and
  2. The players have time for one spell before melee contact occurs, and
  3. The players have time for two volleys of missiles before melee contact occurs.

 

About Movement Rates

While movement rate is central to the following discussion of moves per turn, it is important to note that Giant Spiders did not have published statistics until the AD&D Monster Manual (December 1977)–these later appeared in the 2nd print of Holmes (November 1978).

While both CHAINMAIL and the 3LBBS state explicitly that there is a movement bonus when charging into melee, Holmes does not mention this detail explicitly. There is a possibility (albeit a remote one) that Holmes may have assigned his Giant Spiders a base movement rate of 3″, to which he added a 2″ charge bonus in order to achieve the movement rate of 5″ given in the example. Other explanations may be more probable.

For the sake of the following comparison, I will assume that the published 5″ movement rate is inclusive of any charge bonus.

So then, here goes…

 

A. With Surprise; One Move per Turn

A party of adventurers is standing at an intersection of corridors when the Dungeon Master rolls a “wandering monster.” Using the Wandering Monster Table, he determines that the party has encountered six giant spiders with 1 hit die each and they are 100 feet away.

[SURPRISE CHECK] The players ​win a surprise segment​.​

[DECLARATION]​ ​The players use their surprise as a missile/magic segment in which ​”Flubbit” the magic-user throw​s​ a sleep spell, and the fighters ​​fire arrows​.

[SURPRISE SEGMENT] ​The Dungeon Master rules that only the two fighters in the front row and Flubbit have a clear field of fire. The two fighters agree to both shoot at “the one on the left”. They throw a 3 and an 18. The spiders are armor class 3 (plate), and the range is medium for the longbow (100 ft), so the 18 is a hit and is found to do 4 damage points. The spider’s hit die is rolled and comes up a 4—the creature is killed by a lucky arrow hit!

Flubbit’s sleep spell affects another four of them.

[​​​1ST TURN; ​MOVEMENT SEGMENT] The last spider comes at them fast, covering 50ft in its move (assuming a 3″ move + 2″ charge bonus).

[​​​1ST TURN; MISSILE​/MAGIC​ SEGMENT] the Dungeon Master rules that only the two fighters in the front row have a clear field of fire. As stationary longbow men not meleed at the end of the move segment, they get off two arrows apiece when the last spider is 50 feet away.

For their first volley they throw a 3 and an 14. The spider is armor class 3 (plate), and the range is short for the longbow (50 FT), adding one, so 14+1 is a 15, which misses by one pip.​

For their second volley they throw an 8 and a 12 so their shafts bounce off the monster’s armor again.

Flubbit is not meleed at the end of the spiders’ movement segment so could throw another spell, but he decides not to waste his magic on a single spider.

[​1ST TURN; NO MELEE SEGMENT]

[​2ND TURN; ​MOVEMENT SEG.​; FIRST HALF MOVE​] The last spider keeps coming… At the halfway point of its 5″ move the spider will have covered 25ft of the remaining 50ft gap–and will still be 25ft away.

[​2ND TURN; ​MOVEMENT SEG.​; PASS THRU FIRE] The gap between the spider and the fighters is now 25ft, which falls right between two important markers; 1″ and 3″.
* CM explains that man-sized figures control the space within 1″ around them; they can decide to attack other figures within that distance, and so 1″ is considered to be “melee contact”.
* CM and U&WA also refer to 3″ as “melee range” and “the range indicated (sic) for melee”. CM explains this as the distance a figure can cover to join an existing melee.

Technically, there is no preexisting melee in this scenario, so the two archers cannot move across 3″ to join combat. Moreover, their intent was to fire missiles not advance into combat. Therefore, the fighters would instead take the opportunity to give another round (their fourth!) of pass through fire with their longbows.

[​2ND TURN; ​MOVEMENT SEG.​; SECOND HALF MOVE​] The last spider is upon them, biting! The last spider covers the final 25ft to reach the fighters. In fact, it only needed to cover 15ft to achieve melee contact at 1″. The fighters and the spider are now considered to be “meleed”.

​[2ND TURN; MISSILE/MAGIC SEGMENT] The two fighters are meleed so they cannot fire. But–assuming he is sensibly positioned at least 3″ behind the fighters–Flubbit is not meleed so he could throw a second spell (if he had one available) at risk of affecting his allies who are now meleed.​

[2ND TURN; MELEE SEGMENT] The two fighters drop their bows and draw swords for melee, missing the first round as they change weapons, while the spiders have the benefit of the impetus bonus in the first round.

Summary
* Sleep spell first,
* Two (potentially even three!) opportunities to throw spells,
* Three (potentially even four!) opportunities to fire missiles.

 

B. No Surprise; One Move per Turn

A party of adventurers is standing at an intersection of corridors when the Dungeon Master rolls a “wandering monster.” Using the Wandering Monster Table, he determines that the party has encountered six giant spiders with 1 hit die each and they are 100 feet away.

​[SURPRISE CHECK] T​here is no surprise.

​​[DECLARATION]​ ​”Flubbit” the magic-user decides to throw a sleep spell, and the fighters to fire arrows.​ The ref decides the spiders​ will come at them fast​.​

[​​​1ST TURN; ​MOVEMENT SEGMENT; 1ST HALF MOVE] The spiders come at them fast, covering 25ft in their first half move (assuming a 3″ move + 2″ charge bonus).

[​​​1ST TURN; ​MOVEMENT SEGMENT; PASS THRU FIRE] the Dungeon Master rules that only the two fighters in the front row have a clear field of fire. The two fighters agree to both shoot at “the one on the left” and throw a 3 and an 16. The spiders are armor class 3 (plate), and the range is medium for the longbow (75 ft), so the 16 is a hit and is found to do 4 damage points. The spider’s hit die is rolled and comes up a 4—the creature is killed by a lucky arrow hit!​

[​​​1ST TURN; ​MOVEMENT SEGMENT; 2ND HALF MOVE] The remaining five spiders cover another 25ft, closing the gap to 50ft.

[​​​1ST TURN; MISSILE​/MAGIC​ SEGMENT]As stationary longbow men who are not meleed at the end of the move segment are allowed two shots per turn, the two fighters get off another arrow apiece when the spiders are 50 feet away, this time adjusted by +1 at short range. They throw an 8 and a 12 so their shafts bounce off the monsters’ armor.

Now Flubbit’s sleep spell goes off, but it only affects four of them.

[​1ST TURN; NO MELEE SEGMENT]

​[​2ND TURN; ​MOVEMENT SEG.​; FIRST HALF MOVE​] The last spider keeps coming… At the halfway point of its 5″ move the spider will have covered 25ft of the remaining 50ft gap–and will still be 25ft away.

[​2ND TURN; ​MOVEMENT SEG.​; PASS THOU FIRE] See remarks in case A. above. Technically, the two fighters have an opportunity to give pass through fire again, which would be their third missile volley.

[​2ND TURN; ​MOVEMENT SEG.​; SECOND HALF MOVE​] The last spider is upon them, biting! The last spider covers the final 25ft to reach the fighters. In fact, it only needed to cover 15ft to achieve melee contact at 1″. The fighters and the spider are now considered to be “meleed”.

​[2ND TURN; MISSILE/MAGIC SEGMENT] The two fighters are meleed so they cannot fire. But–assuming he is sensibly positioned at least 3″ behind the fighters–Flubbit is not meleed so he could throw a second spell (if he had one available) at risk of affecting his allies who are now meleed.​

​[2ND TURN; MELEE SEGMENT] The two fighters drop their bows and draw swords for melee,missing the first round as they change from bows to swords, while the spiders have the benefit of the impetus bonus in their first round.

Summary
* Movement first, then missiles, then spell.
* One (and potentially two) opportunities to throw spells,
* Three opportunities to fire missiles.

 

C. With Surprise; Two Moves per Turn

A party of adventurers is standing at an intersection of corridors when the Dungeon Master rolls a “wandering monster.” Using the Wandering Monster Table, he determines that the party has encountered six giant spiders with 1 hit die each and they are 100 feet away.

[SURPRISE CHECK] ​The players ​win a surprise segment​.​

[DECLARATION]​ ​The players use their surprise as a missile/magic segment in which ​”Flubbit” the magic-user throw​s​ a sleep spell, and the fighters ​​fire arrows​.

​[SURPRISE SEGMENT] ​The Dungeon Master rules that only the two fighters in the front row and Flubbit have a clear field of fire.

The two fighters agree to both shoot at “the one on the left”. They throw a 3 and an 18. The spiders are armor class 3 (plate), and the range is medium for the longbow (100 FT), so the 18 is a hit and is found to do 4 damage points. The spider’s hit die is rolled and comes up a 4—the creature is killed by a lucky arrow hit!

Flubbit’s sleep spell affects another four of them.

[MOVEMENT SEGMENT; 1ST MOVE] ​The last spider comes at them fast, covering 50ft (assuming a 3″ move + 2″ charge bonus).

​[MOVEMENT SEGMENT; PASS THRU FIRE] The archers get off one arrow apiece as the spider is 50 feet away; they throw an 8 and a 12 so their shafts bounce off the monster’s armor.

​​[MOVEMENT SEGMENT; 2ND MOVE] The spider covers the remaining 50ft to make melee contact (with 10ft to spare). ​Now the monster is upon them, biting,

[MISSILE/MAGIC SEGMENT] The two fighters are meleed, so they cannot fire. However–assuming he is sensibly positioned at least 3″ behind the fighters–Flubbit is not meleed so he could throw a second spell (if he had one available) at risk of affecting his allies who are now meleed.​

​[MELEE SEGMENT] AS the two fighters drop their bows and draw swords for melee​, ​missing the first round as they change from bows to swords, while the spiders having the benefit of the impetus bonus in their first round.

Summary
* Sleep spell and missiles simultaneously first,
* One (and potentially two) opportunities to throw spells,
* Exactly two opportunities to fire missiles.

 

D. No Surprise; Two Moves per Turn

A party of adventurers is standing at an intersection of corridors when the Dungeon Master rolls a “wandering monster.” Using the Wandering Monster Table, he determines that the party has encountered six giant spiders with 1 hit die each and they are 100 feet away.

​[SURPRISE CHECK] ​there is no surprise.

​[DECLARATION]​ ​”Flubbit” the magic-user decides to throw a sleep spell, and the fighters to fire arrows.​ The ref decides the spiders​ will come at them fast​.​

​[MOVEMENT SEGMENT; 1ST MOVE] The spiders combat at them fast, covering 50ft (assuming a 3″ move + 2″ charge bonus).

[MOVEMENT SEGMENT; PASS THRU FIRE] ​The Dungeon Master rules that only the two fighters in the front row have a clear field of fire, and they get off one arrow apiece ​when​ the spiders are 50 feet away. The two fighters agree to both shoot at “the one on the left”. They throw a 3 and an 15. The spiders are armor class 3 (plate), and the range is short for the longbow (50 FT), so the 15 is a hit and is found to do 4 damage points. The spider’s hit die is rolled and comes up a 4—the creature is killed by a lucky arrow hit!

​[MOVEMENT SEGMENT; 2ND MOVE]​​ Five spiders survive to cover the remaining 50ft to make melee contact (with 10ft to spare). ​Now the monsters are upon them, biting…

[MISSILE/MAGIC SEGMENT] The two fighters are meleed, so they cannot fire. However–assuming he is sensibly positioned at least 3″ behind the fighters–Flubbit is not meleed so his sleep spell goes off. The sleep spell is an area effect, so the referee dices to determine which four among the five spiders and two fighters are affected; luckily Flubbit’s sleep spell affects four spiders and none of his allies.

[MELEE SEGMENT] The two fighters drop their bows and draw swords for melee, ​missing the first round as they change from bows to swords, while the spiders have the benefit of the impetus bonus in their first round.

Summary
* Movement first, then missiles, then spell.
* Exactly one opportunity to fire missiles,
* Exactly one opportunity to throw spells.

 

Final Analysis

Only one of the four combinations explored enables the players to throw a spell first, and to fire exactly two volleys of missiles before melee contact. That combination is: with surprise and with two moves per turn.

While it’s unlikely that Holmes stuck to the simultaneous movement system in the detail explored above (in fact, he discusses movement per round rather than per turn), it seems plausible that we can get the same result as Holmes with the original turn structure–assuming a surprise segment and two moves per turn.

Of course with a more “ad hoc” approach to combat resolution, anything becomes possible 🙂