19 February 2012

Revised S&W Combat To-hit Table

First off, it's been awhile, so thanks for being patient. Last time, I promised that I'd write about Germanic Kingdoms, but I need to work on some campaign foundations before drilling down into specifics.

Second, and onto the topic at hand, a confession: I'm an ascending armour class guy. I've never liked descending armour class. Not even once. It makes no sense to me in a game where "plusses" mean good things, and the fact that a shield +1 actually reduces AC is just all sorts of counter-intuitive.

There. I said it. If you want to take me to task for it, feel free to post in the comments section, but I'm telling you right now that you're gonna have to piss nickels before descending AC makes sense to me.

I mention all this because I like that Swords & Wizardry (4th printing) gives you the option of choosing which flavour of AC you want to use, and the way it presents AAC makes rolling to-hit very easy and potentially chartless and fast.

But I am noticing some... opportunities for my OCD to take charge in the area of to-hit bonuses by class. What strikes me is that the progression (1) is non-linear, (2) doesn't differentiate class enough for me, and (3) seems too powerful at higher levels.

Here are some working assumptions about how classes fight:
  • Fighters get the best to-hit bonuses, ever. Because they're fighters. S&W reflects this, though the non-linear progression doesn't "feel" right to me.
  • By contrast, thieves and magic-users are the worst at fighting, though I'd like to differentiate them and give thieves a bit of an edge.
  • Clerics, as fighting crusaders, should be somewhere in between. But given their spell use and undead banishing, I suggest that they should be farther behind fighters than the Core Rules advises.
Taking these factors into account, I submit the following:

"To-hit" Bonuses by Class
LevelCleric FighterMagic-userThiefMonster
< 1+0+0+0+0+0

In summary, fighters get the best to-hit progression: +1 every 2 levels. Clerics are second, with +1 every 4 levels (i.e., they're half as good when it comes to smiting). Thieves are slightly worse, getting +1 every 5 levels; magic-users fall behind that, also gaining +1 every 5 levels, but unlike the other classes, they start at +0.

These values are almost universally lower at all levels than suggested in S&W, but I feel better about the standard progression. One thing you'll note is that clerics and thieves are closely matched at lower levels. I rationalise this by assuming the thief's physical acumen does for him what the cleric's limited martial training does for the cleric. However, at higher levels, the disparity is more pronounced because the thief's combat practice is less disciplined (and probably deprecated in favour of more intense study of all things stealthy).

Next Up, Critical Hits and Hit Locations
Listening To: Talking Heads, Remain in Light


  1. Whoa, I was working on the same thing. I'm going to digest this as I keep at it.

    And same here, Erin. When some of the retro-clones picked up on AAC, even as an option, I was so happy.

  2. The bonuses get a wide spread at higher levels, but non-fighters in this campaign have other benefits to offset the fighters' to-hit gain. More on that later, but thanks for checking this out.

    (Go AAC!)

  3. Finally found your home one the blogosphere, nice stuff! Though I prefer to keep thieves and clerics equally (in)competent at fighting on the assumption that, just as thieves focus on thiefliness, clerics lean less and less on their combat skills as they gain more miraculous abilities.

    1. Agreed - I come from a long line of conditioning that includes Thieves and Clerics on the same to-hit matrix. The distinction for this campaign is casting clerics in a more "crusader" type role and giving thieves a bit more stealthy bits.

      Thanks for reading - love your blog, BTW.