OSR How do you run your combat? (B/X, BECMI, OSR)

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
I recently went back and re-read B/X Moldvay and I found it much more ambiguous than I remembered. When you make declarations of actions does not seem to be specified except for defensive movement which must be declared before initiative. The sequence of events on B24 seems to say everybody on one side goes through the four sequences in order (move, missile, spell, melee) then the other side does, but the sample encounter on B28 seems to have Morgan shooting before the hobgoblins who win initiative get to melee which would be consistent with doing each sequence in group initiative order instead of each side doing their whole sequence.
Yes, that example of combat implies that each side does each step rather than each side running through all four steps before the other side. It's kind of notorious. I find that most folks follow the instructions rather than the example.
 

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Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
3/2 attacks: round 1, you can make 1 attack. Round 2, you can make 2 attacks.

I thought that was how it was supposed to go. Thank you for clearing that up.

This is how I've always ran things, but, BtB, it is supposed to be 2 attacks in the first round, 1 in the second, 2 in the third, etc.

I always ran it the other way as well.

The chart on page 25 of the PH does not say one way or the other. This DMG p. 63 section on "initiative for creatures with multiple attack routines" seems the only reference to say one way or another. That is pretty buried.

The 2e PH chart on fighter attacks per round similarly does not say. The section in the PH on multiple attacks and initiative that mimics the 1e DMG p. 63 section does not have the reference to 3/2 attacks and odd rounds.
The charts don't say, but my recollection is that 2E reversed 1E on this. Made the extra attacks happen on the even-numbered rounds. I think the text actually specifying this is similarly obscure. I think it's in the PH text under attacking with two weapons.

"The use of two weapons enables the character to make one additional attack each combat round, with the second weapon. The character gains only one additional attack each round, regardless of the number of attacks he may normally be allowed. Thus, a warrior able to attack 3/2 (once in the first round and twice in the second) can attack 5/2(twice in the first round and three times in the second)."

I think we did it the wrong way as well, and then did it the ‘right’ way, and then decided to let the fighter or character decide how they wanted to do it - in the first round of combat, do you want to swing twice or once? The following round, you completed the series and that was how you attacked going forward for that combat. Worked for us.

I’m sure there was an article in Dragon or a Sage Advice for Faq somewhere where they explained it. I’m sure I also saw it outside of the rulebooks.
Yes, I think they also put it in Sage Advice and they may have talked about it in the Complete Fighters Handbook.
 

The charts don't say, but my recollection is that 2E reversed 1E on this. Made the extra attacks happen on the even-numbered rounds. I think the text actually specifying this is similarly obscure. I think it's in the PH text under attacking with two weapons.

"The use of two weapons enables the character to make one additional attack each combat round, with the second weapon. The character gains only one additional attack each round, regardless of the number of attacks he may normally be allowed. Thus, a warrior able to attack 3/2 (once in the first round and twice in the second) can attack 5/2(twice in the first round and three times in the second)."


Yes, I think they also put it in Sage Advice and they may have talked about it in the Complete Fighters Handbook.
Yep, the bolded quote is on page 96 of the original 2e PHB. I remember this coming up in a previous thread and seeing @Nikosandros post above about the 1e DMG explains why there was confusion about how it was handled in 2e, since people were falling back on a previous edition habit.
 

Jack Daniel

dice-universe.blogspot.com
1e and 2e did it differently.

In both cases, the multiple attacks were supposed to be staggered through the initiative count rather than all happening at once like in BECMI or 3e. I don't remember ever seeing anyone actually follow that rule, so I'm fuzzy on the particulars, but the idea was that on rounds when fighters got 2 attacks, they were supposed to make their first attack when everybody else did, and their second attack came later in the round, possibly after the enemies' initiative and actions. If you were running a monk with 3 or 4 attacks per round or a fighter who got more than 2 attacks thanks to missile rate of fire or weapon specialization, it was incumbent on the DM to figure out how to spread those attacks out over the whole round, and how they intermixed with the multiple attacks of monsters or other high-level fighters.

Presumably, if two monks with a similar number of attacks per round were dueling (such as to claim or defend a high experience level), they'd trade back and forth starting with whoever won the initiative. So if a Master of Spring (#AT 4/round) was defending his title from a challenging Master of Summer (#AT 3/round), it's easy to tell what happens when the Spring monk wins the initiative — the Spring monk attacks first, it goes back and forth, and the Spring monk also attacks last. But if the Summer monk wins the initiative, then what? I have no idea where in the sequence the Spring monk's fourth attack would fall, except maybe to have the Spring monk end the sequence with two attacks in a row.

When the number of attacks was factional (e.g. 3/2), 1e let you make the extra attack right away (2 – 1 – 2 – 1…), and 2e made you build up to it (1 – 2 – 1 – 2…). So I like to think of the 1e method as an "action surge with an n-round cooldown" and the 2e method as a "limit break sequence with a buildup bar." Imagine for a moment that you have a low-level monk with 5/4 attacks per round. In 1e, it would basically be like an extra attack that you get to make on the first round of melee, but then three rounds of "cooldown" would have to pass where you can only attack once (or take some other, non-melee action) before you could attack twice again. Compare to the 2e method, where you need to spend three rounds on continuous melee to "build up" the right to make two attacks.

Both feel quite different when you think of them that way: I prefer the 1e method, because it's much more generous about breaking off melee and doing other things in a combat, which can help encourage players to be more dynamic during encounters. (Minus all the staggering and initiative segments and all that business, of course. I'm playing BECMI, there's just one melee phase and all multiple attacks happen all at once when it comes around.)
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
In both cases, the multiple attacks were supposed to be staggered through the initiative count rather than all happening at once like in BECMI or 3e. I don't remember ever seeing anyone actually follow that rule, so I'm fuzzy on the particulars, but the idea was that on rounds when fighters got 2 attacks, they were supposed to make their first attack when everybody else did, and their second attack came later in the round, possibly after the enemies' initiative and actions. If you were running a monk with 3 or 4 attacks per round or a fighter who got more than 2 attacks thanks to missile rate of fire or weapon specialization, it was incumbent on the DM to figure out how to spread those attacks out over the whole round, and how they intermixed with the multiple attacks of monsters or other high-level fighters.
The rest of your post is spot-on, but you've missed a detail here. Characters with multiple attacks in AD&D 2nd edition work as you've described.

In 1st ed they automatically strike before those without. Then their second routine comes after everyone else. And when characters with multiple attack routines face off, they do alternate like you said, with the initiative roll determining which of them goes before the other, and them all striking before normal 1 attack per round combatants.
 

Cruentus

Adventurer
Thinking more about it, I think we also at one point interleaved the attacks throughout the round (for 3/2 or 2/1). We did it two different ways:

1) the character with more than 1 attack would attack on Init for their first attack, then all other attacks at the end of the round (after everyone else) - I don’t remember the staggered attack for monsters, but I do remember this for PCs (no idea where this approach came from)

2) when we used the Speed Factor of weapons, you rolled Init on d10 and added your SF to the attack. So if I rolled a 4, and my longsword SF was 5, I attacked in 9 (totally making up all these numbers!). If you had a second attack that round, you added your SF again, so I would attack also on 14 Init. The DM would count up from 1 and people would go when their number came up. Again, no idea where it came from, or why we did it, but I remember it.

And, of course, this has nothing to do with B/X or older OSR systems, and I’m glad for one attack or action per round for PCs for its simplicity. In fact, I think I’ll always use straight side Init. So much easier on everyone at my table.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Thinking more about it, I think we also at one point interleaved the attacks throughout the round (for 3/2 or 2/1). We did it two different ways:

1) the character with more than 1 attack would attack on Init for their first attack, then all other attacks at the end of the round (after everyone else) - I don’t remember the staggered attack for monsters, but I do remember this for PCs (no idea where this approach came from)
This is by the book for 2nd ed AD&D, see pages 56-57 of the DMG. When multiple attacks are the result of multiple attack forms (like a monster's claw/claw/bite, someone attacking with two weapons, or a Fighter using the optional "sweep" rule against foes with less than 1HD), they all happen together on the attacker's initiative. When they're multiple attacks for high level/skill (Fighters) the first attack goes on rolled initiative, then subsequent ones after everyone else.

And, of course, this has nothing to do with B/X or older OSR systems, and I’m glad for one attack or action per round for PCs for its simplicity. In fact, I think I’ll always use straight side Init. So much easier on everyone at my table.
I love side-based initiative, but I do also like giving Fighters multiple attacks under at least some circumstances.

I've come to really enjoy OD&D's original "1 attack per level against 1HD / "ordinary man/orc equivalent or weaker" foes, as being very emulative of how heroes like John Carter, Conan, Fafhrd & the Mouser, and the warriors in the Fellowship of the Ring take on multiple foes.

I also like the OSR variant (I can't remember who came up with it) where you can make as many attacks as the enemy HD divide into your level. So if you're 4th level, say, you can make 4 attacks against orcs or 2 against Gnolls.
 
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I play how I've always played and use Parallel Actions.

I had a chance to sit in with Bob Meyer running his version of Blackmoor and he claimed he ran his game like Arneson. He too used Parallel Actions.

It goes back to the 1 minute combat round idea of OD&D where everyone can do something meaningful in each combat round. You just remove all the granular detail and make it epic. It also makes it so players can do a big combat in about 10 minutes and move back to exploring. It's nice to get in 12 to 15 encounters in a game session.

It is not for everyone though. No minis and pure make beleive requires players who can think more abstractly. I have some programmer types I play with who just can't grasp it fully, they always grumble for using combat grids and figures. ;)
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
I play how I've always played and use Parallel Actions.

I had a chance to sit in with Bob Meyer running his version of Blackmoor and he claimed he ran his game like Arneson. He too used Parallel Actions.

It goes back to the 1 minute combat round idea of OD&D where everyone can do something meaningful in each combat round. You just remove all the granular detail and make it epic. It also makes it so players can do a big combat in about 10 minutes and move back to exploring. It's nice to get in 12 to 15 encounters in a game session.

It is not for everyone though. No minis and pure make beleive requires players who can think more abstractly. I have some programmer types I play with who just can't grasp it fully, they always grumble for using combat grids and figures. ;)
To be fair it also requires the DM to be able to accurately describe the scene and not Gotcha anyone over missed details. I've run TotM with eight or nine players and a similar number of antagonists and positioning can be a lot to keep track of.
 

To be fair it also requires the DM to be able to accurately describe the scene and not Gotcha anyone over missed details. I've run TotM with eight or nine players and a similar number of antagonists and positioning can be a lot to keep track of.
It is always a choice of what you want in your game. So it really does come down to personal taste.

I want my players to be immersed in their own heads instead of looking at minis and a battle mat. I've played both styles and I like both styles for variety. In my own campign I do not want a player pointing at a figure out there and thinking, that is me.

There are tools you can use that blend styles. I make the players use a standard marching order. For complex situations I draw room diagrams on paper. Sometimes I get overwhelmed and my players remind me where they are and what they are doing. I think the real beauty of evocative make believe play is that the players have to trust their referee and the referee has to trust the players. I've rarely had people cheat, this is due to the trust relationship at the table.
 

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