Tunnels & Trolls: buying equipment for starting characters

This other thread has the context: running a quick dungeon delve at a convention.
My current plan is to use Tunnels & Trolls 1st edition, and not just for the historical value of it. You can currently buy a PDF of a rough scan of the 1975 badly photocopied booklet for under $2, if you dare, but beware of the incredibly crude, juvenile attempts at humor, including quite a lot of disturbing frat-bro stuff (women not really welcome, I assume) and the incredibly disturbingly casual mention that PCs can buy slaves (who are way cheaper than a piece of armor, anyway, and let's not mention what the text says about female slaves).
Oh, well, I've bought it and read it by now, and can't unread it, and there actually are quite a few things I do like in terms of game design, so I might as well use it and put myself as a buffer and filter between the players and the text, I suppose. I particularly like the "aggregated" way T&T deals with combat, especially for a casual convention game, as I believe it doesn't risk triggering that habit most contemporary D&D players have, of narrating each and every attack roll as a single sword-swing, allowing me to keep it nicely abstract and big-picture instead. It's also a great boon than monsters are described by a single all-purpose stat.

Despite the short time-slot, I definitely want to have character creation be part of the experience, using the original roll-3d6-in-order method. Following your fine advice in the other thread, though, I've decided to put together starting equipment packages, so that instead of rolling 3d6x10 and going shopping each player just rolls 3d6 on the table and gets more-or-less as much gear as they could have bought with the equivalent money roll - a great time saver. Furthermore, I love what Johnstone Metzger has done with random starting equipment in The Nightmares Underneath: there, you can roll packages including such fine items as "a notebook containing an earnest young man’s surprisingly eloquent poetry", "a letter reminding you how disappointed in you your family is" or even "a fire in your heart that the nobility can never quench". I then resolved to make my random tables just as colorful, including hints of backstory coded into the characters' stuff: a daunting, but exciting, task which will probably take me at least as long as designing a dungeon adventure from scratch, but whatever, I'm probably going to have a free afternoon or two just before the weekend of the convention.

Which brings me to the meat of the issue... I'm working from scratch because I can't just use - or effortlessly port - any gear packages written for OD&D, and I can't do that because the pricing of some items is so different in T&T as to look like some seriously fucked-up economics... I wonder whether anybody has experience with T&T or perhaps can, just out of their general OSR experience, advise me about any liberties I might consider taking with the equipment lists, departing from rule-as-written. For a starter, here is the T&T 1e basic gear shopping list (thanks to Oakes Spalding of Saves Versus All Wands blog):

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And here are, from the same source, the expanded armor list and but a small sampling of the extended weapon list:

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I submit these to your consideration and will follow up shortly with my own thoughts.

Also of note is that henchmen are dirt cheap in T&T 1e: a mere 10gp upfront payment for a PC-classed 1st level NPC, plus of course the cost of equipping and provisioning them (which is much more significant, at the above rates!) and the promise of a share of treasure ranging from 1/6 to 1/4 after deducting what you spent on their gear because "of course" they owe you for it (!). Labor is dirt cheap, apparently, and T&T delvers are terrible employers, but the interesting side is everybody was advising me to include a lot of "redshirts" as potential replacement PCs and, at these rates, I believe I can actually include a henchman with a lot of the starting gear results (probably a poorly equipped henchman, but still...).

Comments

  • To clarify: 1st edition doesn't include the subgame of weapons and armor optimization where you need to have specific Strength and Dexterity values to use specific pieces of equipment? I ask because I'm only familiar with later editions of the game.
  • To clarify: 1st edition doesn't include the subgame of weapons and armor optimization where you need to have specific Strength and Dexterity values to use specific pieces of equipment?
    It does, actually. In the above tables, "DN" is "Dexterity needed" and "SN" is "Strength needed".
    I believe I can get away with including alternate weapon options for when the "optimal" choice for a package - in terms of pricing - has mid-to-high requirements. I might be later proven wrong.
    On the other hand, high-requirement weapons are also generally expensive, which makes me wonder whether a starting adventurer ought to prioritize fancy weaponry over getting a reasonably geared-up henchman.
  • I'm mostly wondering because the weapon choice is such a striking feature of the game - for good or ill - so it seems counterintuitive to bypass it completely with equipment packages.

    How about you just say that everybody gets the (more or less optimal) weapon their stats indicate for free, and leave that bit out of the equipment packaging? You could make a table in advance. This would retain the feature without getting the game stuck in weapons-optimization. (It can take a while with new players, as they need to understand the concept and then find their favourite weapon out of the bazillion options.)

    Another thing I'd say about equipment packages is that when you get sufficiently old school about D&D-like dungeoneering, I don't think that equipment packages matter that much anymore: unless there is a specific rules-mechanical character optiomization game involved (e.g. a D&D magic-user saving money because they can't buy good armor), the reality is that all characters want to have the same ideal equipment set anyway. There are certain things that the party as a whole needs, and other things that each individual character needs, but unless character classes go out of their way to asymmetrize equipment needs, there isn't that much difference in the end.

    Which brings me to the suggestion that you could just simplify this equipment thing away altogether by designing a "basic adventurer's kit" which everybody gets. That plus the weapon indicated by stats and a reasonable armor (perhaps one step more reasonable for Fighters) seems to me to be enough for a one-shot. I would allow a player who specifically requests for some extra stuff to get what they want (or make a Luck save for it, whatever), because why not. And I suppose you should give each Rogue a free spell to start with (instead of having to buy them).

    (For comparison's sake, the way I've gone in D&D is nowadays simply that the players write down whatever equipment they want within certain constraints - mainly "no armor better than hard leather" - and that's that; the result is practically identical to what you'd get with equipment purchasing, except it's much faster.)
  • edited May 2017
    It's funny, Eero; my preferred approach to D&D adventuring gear is quite the opposite.

    In my mind, "adventurers" aren't perfectly prepared and well-equipped professionals (if they were wealthy enough and well disposed enough for that, they would probably have other ways of supporting themselves), except for the rare fellow who is a Baron's son who decided this would be a fun thing to do.

    No; they're down on their luck, and good adventuring gear that people are willing to sell or part with is rare. This means you don't get to have simply anything you want. (At least not until much later, when you might have enough wealth to convince a knight's squire to sell you his grandfather's sword, by paying many times what it's worth.)

    I prefer a playstyle where "adventurers" have a mish-mash of assorted tools and equipment, often not at all well-suited to the mission at hand. Perhaps one fellow owns a shovel, another has a mule, and a third has a set of mirrors his inherited. Only one happens to own armour, because his mother was once a mercenary, and he found it in the attic.

    I find this far more interesting and far more appropriate to the desired playstyle: the players have to get creative and find unusual uses for an odd assortment of equipment.

    Of course, the default D&D rules don't help with this at all. Randomized starting equipment (or a few choices made from customized lists) work far better. Just like your character's odd assortment of randomly-derived ability scores, you get some selection of tools to work with - but it's up to you to figure out how to make them useful.

    I understand the idea behind careful choice of equipment, optimized for the job at hand, but in that style of play I feel it would be more congruent to "design" characters that way, as well (perhaps by "buying" ability scores from a pool of points, or so on, trying to minimize your weaknesses and maximize your effectiveness). Random (or somewhat random) assignment of equipment fits nicely with randomized character generation, in my mind, and leads to more varied and exciting play, full of challenges. (Much like with oddball spell selection for magic-users.)

    There's a rabid bear in that cave, and you've got a bag of dead rats and three long spears. What do you do?


    All kinds of interesting play comes out of that, in my experience.


    (Another fun way to do this is to generate a "pile" of equipment - three axes, a shield, five torches, two bags of dried meats, etc - and then have the players decide how to split up all these niceties between them before they set off to adventure. "Hey, Drogo here should probably take the last axe, right? He's big and strong. I'll carry the maps, since I'm less likely to be in the front line during a fight. Agreed?")
  • I see what you're getting at, Paul, but I haven't found the actual game capable of really supporting that scenario in much of a meaningful way. Keeping characters desperately short of useful equipment while still having some equipment (and being technically combat-capable) is a fragile balance when there just isn't that much actually, realistically useful equipment available at starting level, and what little there is constitutes the basics without which you don't actually want to go to the dungeon at all.

    Of course I don't give "good" equipment out as default for starting characters, but certain game assumptions require us to settle on on some default level that actually makes characters technically combat-capable. Specifically, I've found that if the players do not consider their characters conceptually as "warriors" or "raiders" of some sort, the 1st-level adventure material doesn't work, either; it's a much too violent and merciless world to expect half-wits and desperate beggars to constitute the actual player character pool that manages to plan and put together a dungeon expedition. An individual PC here and there may be characterized as a "desperate loser", but I find that the party loses its adventurous motivation if there is no core of characters who feel that the dungeon is a sensible place for them to be - and it's not that for the absolute bottom rung of society, not without the help of a competent party that drags them along.

    I believe this reality is at the bottom of the traditional "power level assumption" where 1st level characters are considered seasoned veteran soldiers (I'm describing Gygax's original campaign here), and they have enough of a nest egg to actually own a sword, shield, a set of leathers, rope and lantern from the start, plus enough left over to attract some actual losers to join the expedition as NPC mooks. It's just the sensible starting point for something where you end up restarting again and again, with the least amount of hassle out-of-dungeon so you can actually get the party into the dungeon at some point, instead of getting stuck begging on a street corner.

    I could see going with the "you're all hilariously inept dregs of society" as a starting premise under some very careful campaign conditions: the starter dungeons would have to be designed with this in mind (near to homebase, attractive adventure hook, puzzle-heavy rather than combat, probably some easy early gains), and the actual equipping of new characters (as the first ones inevitably start thinning out) would be the responsibility of the party apparatus from the moment they actually have anything to buy equipment with. And if the players "bottom out" and have to start from scratch, I'd need more "starter dungeon" material, because a normal 1st-level dungeon is simply not a place to send a group of desperate half-wits; in most places they'd be much, much better off doing street crime instead.

    I'll emphasize that I think that this is a doable vision, but it's not the default of the game, and you've got to design for it if it's to stand rigorous examination (read: a bunch of wargamey players playing it as a campaign premise). I personally would prefer to conceptualize what you describe as a "0th level start", like the DCC rules-set does: in that campaign protocol character really are at the "shovel and a dead rat" level of preparation when going into their first dungeon, which is presumed to act as a "character funnel" that weeds out the weak, leaving the players with a bunch of 1st-level characters at the end. My take on the concept would have later characters start at either 0th or 1st level according to fiction (you hire civilian losers and you get 0th levelers; you hire a "seasoned veteran" and you get a 1st leveler), but either way they would have the party to set them up as an useful member, instead of having to go into the dungeon half-cocked.

    Were I doing this sort of thing, I would also pay special attention to equipment utility in that "starter dungeon"; the idea that "my character starts the game with a set of cymbals, and this is exciting" only works if there is some potential for those wacky "desperate civilian" equipment sets to amount to something useful in the adventure. The truth is that standard D&D dungeon lego pieces make weapons, armor, light, food and a sturdy lever of some sort (to pry off sarcofagus lids or whatever) relevant, with anything else being so situational that it's effectively its own "bit" for the characters to set up and execute a wacky plan to make use of that equipment. To make this different requires designing the dungeon for it, I think, because you don't want to twist the game physics to accomodate that sort of stuff in a standard dungeon, either (because in the D&D chassis any rulings of that sort will undermine the "normal" equipment choices; if a pouch of pepper and marbles lets characters consistently defeat goblins, nobody'll want to carry swords anymore).

    To give an idea of how very constrained I feel the normal D&D equipment baseline to be, here's what I would go with nowadays if I simply dropped the individualized equipment and decided that everybody gets the same at start:

    sword (or whatever's class appropriate, if you're still doing that)
    a choice of leather armor or whatever specialized and useless thing you want instead (like, rope)
    some rags to make torches with
    blanket
    flint
    food for 3 days
    water bottle
    knife
    clothes, boots, backpack

    What else do you really need for that first dungeon? What tactical master-piece of clever character design is available by customizing that package? Is it something you can't just let the players have if they want it? In my experience it's a relatively dry and pointless subgame to play, this "guess what might be useful in the dungeon" game, and it's doubly so when executed as a point-buy (as it is when the players get to purchase their starting kit). Sure, players will spend a lot of time adding situational stuff in the hopes of it making a difference, but I feel that this is something that belongs to the second expedition more than the first - it belongs in a campaign game in general, not a simple dungeon jaunt one-shot.
  • Guys, that's a solid perspective on things, thank you!
    For comparison, Eero, the notion that your run-of-the-mill 1st level fighter is a veteran only clicked in place for me after reading Lamentations of the Flame Princess (as a child, I figured there was a typo in the fighter experience table and that "veteran" was actually supposed to the title of a 2nd level fighter, earned by surviving dungeons). I was all like: "Oh, of course! An adventurer fighter is someone with movie-style PTSD from witnessing war violence who, like Rambo, can't get back to a normal life, working some non-violent job, and ends up looking for more battles to fight - in the dungeon!"
    Of course, people of this sort could become robbers and highwaymen - but adventurers are those who, on top of their movie-style PTSD, have a vision of sorts, better described as an incredible amount of ambition and hubris, and - not unlike a Fiasco setup - they take to the dungeon in pursuit of a mirage of fabulous riches, because they aren't the kind of people who set for anything less than fabulous riches.
    Or you could say that they are, in fact, robbers and highwaymen, as seen from the perspective of all those sentient, intelligent beings who live in dungeons.

    Anyway, my personal vision for the specific game I'm going to host is, the dungeon delvers are basically a crew of pirates. Desperate, not because they are inept, but because they don't fit in - like people who're fresh out of prison and end up organizing a heist, because they know no other way - and throwing all they have into this one huge gamble. They aren't "the bottom rung of society" in the sense they're all beggars and street thugs - more like society's leftovers: warriors without a war to fight, undisciplined soldiers, former convicts, escaped slaves, students of arts best left alone, fourth and fifth sons of petty nobles, adepts of outlawed cults, persecuted ethnic minorities, people too bright to accept their lot in life, ruthless venture capitalists. There's nothing hilarious about their circumstances, but there's emphatically nothing "heroic" either. Most of them are violent people, and I assume when considered as a group they sport above-average education. Character classes tell us what these people are competent at - mostly spellcasting and/or armed violence - but, crucially, none of them has previous experience going into a dungeon: that's a set of competences which isn't abstracted and that they'll have to develop through play.
    To give an idea of how very constrained I feel the normal D&D equipment baseline to be, here's what I would go with nowadays if I simply dropped the individualized equipment and decided that everybody gets the same at start:

    sword (or whatever's class appropriate, if you're still doing that)
    a choice of leather armor or whatever specialized and useless thing you want instead (like, rope)
    some rags to make torches with
    blanket
    flint
    food for 3 days
    water bottle
    knife
    clothes, boots, backpack

    What else do you really need for that first dungeon?
    That's spot on. And, in fact, that stuff Paul linked in the other thread looks more or less like that to me, with the random element amounting to: who's so poor they can't even afford leather armor? Who so filthy rich as to start with plate? Who can afford a lamp instead of torches? Who's packing a crossbow and who's making do with a single javelin?

    What's giving me pause is: if you look at those tables in my opening post again, you'll realize that with 3d6x10 starting gold most beginning T&T PCs can't actually afford to buy the weapon of their choice, armor and the basic provisions you list. Armor is arguably not as important in T&T as in D&D, but it's really expensive. Provisions ("food, drink and matches", as the book says) are insanely expensive, at 10 gp a day!
    To fill in No.18 in my tentative equipment package list for fighters, I tried to outfit a "knightly" character with the paltry (in T&T1e anyway) sum of 180gp. After buying a suit of chainmail, boots and clothing, I had to choose whether to get them a lowly falchion instead of a more appropriate broadsword or a weaker "target shield" instead of the more powerful "knight's shield"; either way, there weren't any coins left to buy food, at all. This lends itself to an interesting character concept of a knight fallen to hard times, but I'm not sure it's even remotely viable as a starting equipment choice.
  • edited May 2017
    T&T armor is not as important as D&D armor mechanically; you can easily just drop armor altogether from the starter kit if you don't care to comp it for the adventurers. I'd probably just let them have some in a one-shot in the interest of showing off the way the game deals with armor, myself. Maybe just make it one set of medium armor, and let the players decide who gets it, or something.

    When I say "not as important", I mean that it's not as tactically overwhelming; in D&D there are certain tactical choices you should not be taking without a chain mail or better (generally, the ones where you're targeted by more than one attack per round), while in T&T the lack of armor can be off-set in very direct ways by tactics and other material advantages.

    Out of curiousity: how do you repair 1st edition armor? That text makes it sound like armor is ablative - that it loses point value same as the character would, essentially working as extra hitpoints. In later editions this is not the case (armor acts as a "buffer", enabling you to soak minor damage round by round), so now I'm wondering how that works out in practice.

    One philosophical issue that you'll need to decide on as a GM is whether you're going by the books or by the setting in determining stuff. The T&T rules particularly are remarkably even less realistic than D&D (I do not blame a person for thinking this impossible) in many, many particulars; running it by the book on setting details like price of food and such is pretty stout-hearted business, I think. (I wouldn't have the stomach for it for anything but the flimsiest one-shot. Every time I've run T&T it's started with extensive rejiggering of minor stuff simply to get some setting consistency into it.)

    Thinking about my earlier minimalistic sermon on D&D equipment, it occurs to me that the T&T mechanization emphasizes equipment differences a bit more than D&D does: in D&D it's really just the different ACs that mean anything, and the rest is gilding and weapons porn (players enjoying the visceral fictional idea that their character has an axe instead of a sword, even as this matters little in practice). In T&T the equipment loadout has the potential to make a mathematical difference, particularly in weapons, as the different weapons are clearly more or less effective in combat (unrealistically so; this is one of the things my personal T&T hack fixes first thing).

    This goes back to the notion that while I'd likely just give every character the same basic equipment package, I would simultaneously prefer not giving the weapons list to the players (it really does cause an immediate slow-down in the chargen if you expect the players to choose their own weapons) while still ensuring that the characters get to benefit from higher-than-usual Strength and Dex. It's such a distinctive part of the system, for good or ill.

    How about you choose four weapons on the cheaper side out of the lists and give each character one of them? One for high Strength, one for high Dex, one for the particularly incompetent ones (a club of some sort, if memory serves) and a default one for the average-statted characters. This seems like a reasonable simplification of the affair, while still letting characters benefit for their high stats in the double-dipping way that T&T enjoys. (As in, you both get higher combat adds as well as better dice for having good stats.)
  • Out of curiousity: how do you repair 1st edition armor? That text makes it sound like armor is ablative - that it loses point value same as the character would, essentially working as extra hitpoints. In later editions this is not the case (armor acts as a "buffer", enabling you to soak minor damage round by round), so now I'm wondering how that works out in practice.
    You're right that in 1st edition armor is ablative: extra HPs that never come back (unless you enchant armor with a spell, then it "heals" by mending itself between fights) and, when they're gone, that piece of armor is destroyed.
    Shields, OTOH, work as expected, soaking 1-3 hits per round. Thus, shields are strictly better than the equivalent armor, and a much more sensible choice of starting equipment. The buckler, priced at 5gp, might be the better value off the whole equipment list!
    But, if I'm not completely mistaken, the core "compare total attack roll per side to determine winner and the difference is hits scored" combat resolution mechanic means more powerful (i.e. bigger) weapons are better than even shields: by having more powerful offense you make yourself less likely to be hit in the first place. What this means in term of starting equipment is, a character who can afford (in terms of money and attribute requirements) a 2 dice +adds or 3 dice weapon should opt for that in preference to a shield. (I'm not so sure I like that, aesthetically).
    One philosophical issue that you'll need to decide on as a GM is whether you're going by the books or by the setting in determining stuff. The T&T rules particularly are remarkably even less realistic than D&D (I do not blame a person for thinking this impossible) in many, many particulars; running it by the book on setting details like price of food and such is pretty stout-hearted business, I think. (I wouldn't have the stomach for it for anything but the flimsiest one-shot.
    I think I already know, somewhere in my heart, I do want to deviate from the book. Creating packages might be a way to "covertly" do that: I start with by-the-book pricing of stuff to get a general ballpark notion of how a character might actually gear (especially in terms of weapons and shields) with the equivalent wealth roll, then I ad-hoc adjust the result to make sense, in terms of aesthetic fictional coherence.
    I guess what I'm trying to ask here, then, is which (if any!) of the apparently crazy pricing choices in T&T you believe are motivated by serious game-design thought and I should try to preserve as far as possible.
    Every time I've run T&T it's started with extensive rejiggering of minor stuff simply to get some setting consistency into it.)
    [...]
    the different weapons are clearly more or less effective in combat (unrealistically so; this is one of the things my personal T&T hack fixes first thing).
    Do you happen to have any notes around of extensive rejiggering you've already done, then? :)
    This goes back to the notion that while I'd likely just give every character the same basic equipment package, I would simultaneously prefer not giving the weapons list to the players (it really does cause an immediate slow-down in the chargen if you expect the players to choose their own weapons) while still ensuring that the characters get to benefit from higher-than-usual Strength and Dex.
    Oh, I'm definitely not giving them the weapons list!
    What I'm now thinking I might do is create a matrix of "optimal" weapons based on STR/DEX scores, keep it strictly to myself and use it to tell them what to get. I might be done with this in the time it takes the magic-user players to review their 1-page starting spell list.

    BTW, it's good for a 1-shot that magic-users start with all the 1st level spells by default, while those aren't actually a lot in number. And I'm not going to give rogues starting spell simply because I think that makes for more interesting player-player interaction: magic-users start with a spell to teach rogues spells. I'd like to see them use it tactically, as in: I'd cast this spell right now if I had the strength to do it, but since I don't, I'll teach you how to do it - yes, you.
  • That's probably a better thing to do with the Rogues and spells, assuming you get at least one magic-user. The players might choose to just teach the Rogues all the spells as a matter of party loyalty, but I'm sure you'll figure out what to do about that.

    The thing I ultimately decided to do for my T&T homebrew regarding this whole weapons-and-armor thing is roughly as follows. This is just rough notes, and I haven't playtested most of this yet, so up to you to see something useful in it or not:

    Combat Math

    We can talk more about how to run this if you want, but the way I do it is very much like the way I run Mountain Witch: defining a complex combat encounter in terms of individual melees is a tactical key to success, and a "general melee" in which every character on both sides of the battle participates is merely the default starting point. Both the adventurers and monsters can attempt to use tactics to achieve defeat in detail for the opposition.

    To streamline the math a bit, and to achieve certain technical and tactical features, I make one small change to the combat math: each war party (a melee side that sums up their combat adds) only gets the combat dice for their leader; everybody else contributes their full adds, and you can "support" for +1 die if your personal dice are better than half of those in the war party pool, up to a maximum of doubling the leader's dice. (So with a 4-dice leader the party's dice cap is 8 dice, assuming supporters of sufficient skill.)

    This applies to monsters as well, so a horde of 8-point monsters (1d+4 each) fights with 2 dice, plus adds for however many monsters fit into the tactical situation.

    Combat Styles

    Instead of tracking individual melee weapons and their presumed impact on the melee, I'll track the "fighting style" of the individual combatant. Fighting styles are basically like the weapon entries in the equipment list, except less fuzzy-woobly. Something like this:

    Non-combatant:
    1 die, no attribute minimums or equipment costs. The character participates in combat mainly by getting in the way. Special maneuver: for 1 spite, save yourself by hiding somewhere; you cannot be targeted by damage this round.

    (I seem to remember that spite dice aren't in the 1st edition; in later editions of the game you'd count the number of '1's rolled in melee, and those would be special "spite damage". One of the clever bits you can do in T&T is to build special combat maneuvers off spite.)

    I would presumably have about half a dozen of "default" options for this right from chargen, and of course characters could retrain themselves for different combat styles later on (with increasingly exotic/heroic/fantastic options available for more competent characters). A few examples of what they might look like, depending on setting:

    Militia
    2 dice, Strength 8, 20 coins and 2 weeks training. The character fights with a spear and a truncheon, uninspired yet solid. Weak in the open (half combat adds).

    Street Fighter
    2 dice, Dexterity 8, 5 coins and 2 months training. The character fights with knives and clubs, drunk with violence. Cannot hold ground or follow orders.

    Legionnaire
    3 dice +1, Strength 11, 50 coins and 2 years training. The character fights with sword and shield, dart and javelin, plus medium armor. Professional soldier emphasizing discipline and duty over personal heroism.

    Barbarian
    4 dice, Strength 12, Dexterity 10, 40 coins and 2 years training. The character fights with a wide variety of personal weapons and medium armor. Member of a primitive warrior caste made of honor, steel and blood. Special maneuver: for 2 spite, go into berserk rage for +2 dice (rolled immediately this turn) until the end of combat, but be unable to retreat.

    As you can see, this is mostly just an attempt to cut down on excess, useless detail in favour of useful, flavourful broad outlines. The useful and interesting thing that the weapon lists do in T&T is determining how many combat dice your character gets based on stats, availability and affordability; I want to retain that, yet make the overall concept of "choosing your weapons" more tactically meaningful and flavourful, which means broadening the scope like this. I'm pretty convinced that the concept of "combat style" makes for more interesting expandability in all directions; I think a mid-level fighter should have something more interesting to look forward to than just swapping their smaller swords for bigger swords, and I think that it'd be interesting if individual characters could benefit or suffer when their combat style is particularly suited or unsuited to a given situation.

    Armor Implementation

    The way T&T thinks about armor is somewhat tricky to balance well. Specifically, I find both ablative armor (its value reduced like hit points) and soaking armor (reduce incoming damage by the armor value each round) somewhat problematic or unsatisfying. If the soak values go high enough, they amount to virtual invulnerability (e.g. a 10-point plate mail in duel with another player character - you might as well not bother rolling), and no matter what you do with the ablative armor, it's still just extra hitpoints, which is pretty boring.

    It's a fundamental structural issue that in T&T combat damage is distributed between the members of the war party after the attack rolls have already been made, which opens way for a somewhat annoying optimization game where the players attempt to split up the damage evenly between the characters. Soak armor aggravates this for me, as it makes everything so safe. There are advantages to this scheme as well (for one, the party divvies up damage equally and therefore characters rarely die alone), but I don't think it should be accepted uncritically.

    Part of the solution for me is in the combat styles above: once I broaden the scope of "what gets you combat dice" from the weapon choice to the choice of combat style, it becomes obvious that armor is part of that style. It's simply an assumption that if you're going to fight with style X, you need the equipment indicated for it, which may include certain kinds of armor. It is not a given that armor needs to be acknowledged mechanically as separate from weapons choice.

    Aside from that, you probably need to acknowledge the idea of armor in some way, but I'm still uncertain as to how. Monsters do fine without explicitly modeled armor, by the way; the armor is presumably accounted for in their monster ratings. The biggest single reason to not do away with mechanically modeled armor altogether is that armor use bonus is such a central advantage for fighters. Perhaps I could just replace that advantage with a halving of the money and time costs in picking up new combat styles. Still thinking on this one.

    Other Stuff

    I'm also going to rejigger the stat line and introduce a real skill system, I think, and I've got a new leveling scheme in mind, but those are largely separate issues from this combat simulation question.
  • I don't want to derail the interesting T&T-specific conversation, but just to address the discussion with Eero:

    Your comments about the "set of cymbals" made me laugh! I can see your points here, as well, of course - turning D&D into incompetence porn is entirely subversive.

    I believe we understand each other well enough (Eero and I have discussed D&D play a lot, and played together a handful of times), but for the sake of other readers, I should clarify a bit:

    My position on the equipment front isn't quite as exaggerated as you're making it out to be. Although sending a bunch of useless hobos with ill-chosen equipment into a dungeon sounds like it could be a fun game, we certainly wouldn't want that to be the *default case* here.

    Rather, I like the idea of highlighting the reality that equipment isn't omnipresent and immediately available. Surely the characters have access to some weapons - it strains credibility to send them into a dungeon with a frying pan, for instance - but limiting their access somewhat is also an exciting facet of play which can be explored.

    Perhaps one of them has a crossbow, for instance - not a common item, and not easy to get your hands on. Same goes for heavy armour, perhaps.

    But I don't like - partially aesthetically, and partially because it's less interesting - the idea of a group of 1st-level characters heading to adventure while they are ALL kitted out in heavy armour and carrying crossbows.

    The one guy who's got the serious armour... that's what makes him special. Same for the young woman with the crossbow.

    From this perspective, I think that my ideal is a balance between having *most* of the necessities covered (most everyone should have a weapon and a few adventuring basics, like rope or a waterskin) but still having some interesting choices to make.

    Arguably, that's what encumbrance rules and "starting wealth" rules exist to do, in any case. In the case of a situation like this - a one-shot game interested in getting rolling quickly - it seems to me that a limited set of equipment is a natural choice.

    Leaving the "adventurers" with a limited set of tools can make for some really interesting adventuring, too: perhaps they'll be forced to approach a patron to finance their expedition, or maybe they'll have an extra incentive to overpower the orcs guarding the cavern, simply so they can take their halberds, instead of just avoiding them altogether.

    These things can nicely turn into excuses for adventure ("adventure hooks") and provide tactical and strategic challenges. That appeals to me.

    It's the same logic behind how we wouldn't want our 1st-level wizard to start with a "brew coffee" spell and a "repair teddybear" spell, but neither do we want to simply give him access to all possible spells. A few constraints here and there encourage creative thinking and strategy-making, while offering the players some interesting choices in terms of what they want to prioritize. Do you want an offensive spell, or one which allows you to enter a place you normally couldn't?

    I still think my favourite approach was - unfortunately, I can't find the link! - a fellow who made drawings of various bits and pieces of equipment and then put them in a pile in the middle of the table. "Here's the stuff you guys have access to. Split it up between yourselves!" (He also, I believe, had a visual system for tracking encumbrance, so that larger/heavier items were drawn on larger pieces of paper, and you could only carry what you could physically fit on your character sheet. Pretty clever.)

    I find that this approach also simplifies character creation and cuts out a few extra steps, speeding things up.

    On a separate topic:

    Your comments about the "challenge level" are interesting, however. In your experience, doing this kind of thing leads to too much "character incompetence", right?

    Why is that? I'm curious. Is it because you use a lot of commercial modules, or some other reason?

    It seems to me that this issue depends a great deal on how many player characters there are, how the adventuring environment is set up, what kinds of rules are in play, and so forth.

    I've never used commercial modules, so it's not too hard for me to design adventure locations and dungeons and such in the same spirit. I won't be expecting three 1st-level adventurers to have to choose between facing an organized troop of 30 well-armed and well-armoured Orcs and running into a dragon's den, for instance.

    Where does this lead to trouble?

    All this has got me hankering to do some more old-school adventure play. It's been a while!
  • Perhaps we should do some online play in the summer. We could playtest my Tunnels & Trolls rules, for instance - I've been thinking that something with a 17th century feel (Warhammer Old World or historical fantasy France, whatever) with a significant military context (like, the PCs could lead a company of mercenaries or something) might fit the rules system well.

    Regarding the equipment philosophy, it seems we don't really disagree much on the appropriate equipment power level, but it does seem that you see some interesting decision-making in character equipping that I mostly don't. I think this has to do with the mechanical particulars of the game; I may run equipment with such minor mechanical impact compared to you that I simply don't see the interesting possibilities you're seeing.

    For example, weapon choice really doesn't mean much at all at our D&D table; as long as it's reasonably long and sharp, it's going to let you make your to-hit rolls and roll damage - d6 per hit, same as everybody else. There's just not much mechanical space for variety in this at the start when all's said and done - sure, characters can play finesse games with weapon choice, but those are something you do when you have disposable income, as a particular sort of downtime activity. It's not really appropriate for character generation, because we want that character in the field quickly, and a sword's going to get you started just the same as any other murder implement. Being finicky and detailed about equipment is, in a way, a privilege that you earn by surviving that first adventure.

    Similarly for armor: you could be unarmored, but if the character background is at all martially inclined, you'll probably have something with that +2 to AC. However, barring exceptional character background, you definitely won't have the +5 to AC level stuff, as that's made of metal and expensive. A typical sign of a successful low-level party is that it can afford to buy chain mail all around.

    Much of the rest of potential equipment that characters out of chargen could have falls into the mandatory cheap-o stuff (as in, no player with any experience under their belt will want to go without) like e.g. blankets and torches, or they're things that are so situationally useful that you probably don't want to waste your time on them before you see if you're in one of the 5% of the adventures that makes use of that item. Useful-and-expensive things like say pack mules are out of the price range, but I don't mind them if the player spins out an amusing character background to justify it.

    I'll mention one particular item as a special case here, rope: utterly essential if you need it, but heavy and useless if you don't. In a one-shot context I would rather make sure the party has the rope (in their camp) than leave it up to chance.

    This being the nature of the field, however would I go about giving characters a distinctive variety of equipment? Sure, they could have that single chain-shirt to put on their vanguard, and I guess it would be sort of colorful if everybody was fighting with spears except one or two guys who have swords - fundamentally mechanically minor, but colorful, although I generally find that the players do the color thing better if I just let them choose for themselves whether their character swings a sword or a frying pan or what.

    Perhaps one of them could have a mirror, wouldn't that be interesting? No particular character reason for it, rather perhaps the mirror inspires the player to invent a reason for why they have that. Sounds like a good bit to include in a varied dungeoneering kit. Makes for a choice on the GM's part, though:
    1) Maybe they're getting a mirror because I know that the dungeon will feature one of the rare situations where a mirror will actually be highly useful. Utterly unhygienic compared to the original procedure where that mirror just sits in the shop until a PC decides to purchase it.
    2) Maybe the player, because they have the mirror (plus the utter despair of a 1st level D&D character in a dungeon) , decides to invent some sort of mcguyverism where they use the mirror to cause false light signals to mislead the goblins, and then won't it be great when they succeed and have managed to wring a victory by clever play. Except they likely won't succeed (how do I know that - well, if mirrors were a reliable goblin-bane, we would presumably already know and it wouldn't be a fresh and clever solution) unless the GM is just letting them have it, as per some sort of looney tunes principle where a weird gimmick is more effective than a sword in the face.
    3) Maybe the mirror will not be relevant to the adventure, it just sits in the character inventory unless by chance and ingenuity a situation comes up where the mirror can be effectively used to solve something. The chance is low, low, low unless the dungeon's been designed for it, because the baseline D&D dungeon doesn't have any standard fixtures that react to mirrors. Most likely it's just going to be a whiffed set-up element - we went to the trouble of noticing that my character has a mirror, but that detail never went anywhere in actual play.

    The difficulty I see in the varied equipment subgame is that much of the choices available in a normal 1st-level situation are false choices, and the rest are pretty trivial, unless you fall to the temptation of allowing a "looney tunes" paradigm of problem-solving where the simple fact that a character has a mirror or a set of marbles makes those kinds of solutions unexpectedly effective. (A valid choice, but contrary to certain spirit of realism that I myself like to foster.)
  • What the game ultimately boils down to most of the time is commando tactics in a dungeon, and unless you allow PCs to build firebombs out of lamp oil and good intentions, it's going to be a game of cruelty and risk-taking and swords to the face, and not so much a game of cleverly applying a wide variety of adventuring equipment. To change this would be to utterly change what a "normal" dungeon is about: you'd need to drop the ever-present goblinoid denizens and undead hordes and add in mysterious situations and physics puzzles as the focus of action. The sort of dungeon where having a mirror could actually come in handy is the sort where you need to reflect light or make a lucrative trade with a vainglorious djinn; seen any of those situations in your 1st level dungeons lately?

    I'll note, by the way, that there's nothing wrong with an equipment subgame when there's conceptual strategic room for it in a situation. I am reminded of an excellent yet not very well known adventure from Frog God Games, Vengeance of the Long Serpent; unlike many FGG products it's legit old school, and it starts with an intriguing strategic challenge as the PC party gets stranded by a polar expedition in the arctic wilderness. They have the opportunity to unload some equipment for themselves as they go, but they are forced to make choices between food, sleds, sled-dogs, camping gear, climbing gear, weapons and all sorts of other things they could potentially take with them as they try to survive the challenge ahead. Limited time to make the choices due to the ship imminently leaving to continue on its way, and limited space as they will have to arrange to transport the gear they take. The incomplete understanding of the strategic situation combined with the grave limitations that different equipment loadouts might cause for the party make for a tense situation indeed.

    All that being said, it is very simple to prove me wrong on this - just lay down some practical kit: what kinds of items would it be interesting to offer to a 1st level party in a one-shot context? Can we get an interesting little subgame of character customization out of "who wants item X, we only have two" and "I've got item Y, and that makes me special"? The idea of giving them a chain mail (often too expensive an item for 1st level characters, but in some rules sets quite feasible) and a crossbow (sometimes a clearly better weapon choice than some alternatives, but a bit pricey) goes this way a bit, but is there anything more to say in this regard? Surely we're not giving out magical stuff like healing potions or something like that? Food, could a given character's "special equipment" be that they have food with them, unlike the others?
    On a separate topic:

    Your comments about the "challenge level" are interesting, however. In your experience, doing this kind of thing leads to too much "character incompetence", right?

    Why is that? I'm curious. Is it because you use a lot of commercial modules, or some other reason?
    It's a combination of what sort of things a "normal" D&D module environment communicates to the players, and the way players react to different types of character identities. It's not just commercial modules, either - the OSR scene has a sense for what a normal low-level adventure is like, and that sensibility is in my experience simply not conducive to the light-hearted fun implied by a party of less than serious characters.

    Specifically, there comes a point of desperation at which players will stop trying. It's not the same for everybody, but we can still discuss different campaign aesthetics and get a general sense for what tends to be "too much". My experience is that a combination of hilariously incompetent characters and a normal D&D dungeon, run in a hygienic manner, is too much for the players to take seriously - they start adopting a fatalistic attitude where they no longer believe in their chances of wringing victory out of the dungeon with solid play. Rather, the game becomes something of a farce, where the more ludicrous your failure, the better. With serious murder-hobos they might still strive on, but having a "civilian" character makes it much easier to just embrace who your character is and let their inherent powerlessness lead them wherever their destiny is (in the gullet of a monster, in the case of this game).

    As an interesting aside, I've found that certain less-than-functional rules systems manage to swings things this way all by themselves, without needing to make the player characters particularly "weak" in fictional terms: when we played Only War, the WH40k game, in Helsinki a couple years back, our group pretty much transitioned into this fatalistic comedy mode due to sheer astonishment with the rules system. Apparently forcing people to play a game with task resolution success rates in the low 20% range and one-second combat rounds fosters a certain sense of comic desperation - who knew [grin].

    However, game mechanics are not nearly the only thing that can influence players to this direction; fictional positioning of your character is at least as powerful in convincing a player that they want to become a flashlight dropper. (You remember that discussion, yes? We're essentially talking about a creative drift from Gamist "will to victory" to a Sim "I'm just playing my character" fatalism here.) I've found that when players choose to play "weak" characters in D&D, it is generally accompanied with giving up on victory. Usually it's just the one player playing a child or the village idiot or a naive woman on men's business - the relevant detail is the idea that my character is weak, and supposed to be weak, and therefore it is entirely natural for them to fail, as I was going to do anyway.

    If I wanted to run a "0th level" D&D campaign start, with the idea that the players retain their "will to victory" despite playing a party of let's say comically misprepared misfits, my strategy would be to start with much less dangerous dungeons than what is normal for the game: I'd want something where like 80% of the encounter material was non-lethal, and lethal encounters would only take out one character at a time. Solutions should also be much less violence-based. Think dark fantasy movie instead of fantasy Vietnam, if you will.

    So yeah, it's about the kind of game you get by running ordinary D&D dungeons. Swap in some different kinds of adventure environment, and you can probably maintain a sense of struggling for your destiny even if a character happens to be a hapless housewife armed with a frying pan.
  • Eero, I think we're on the same page. (Although your descriptions of, for example, drifting creative agendas makes me think you're imagining a far more extreme case of this than what I had in mind.)

    The short version is:

    * I don't want to spend a lot of time on equipment choice.
    * Rolling for starting income, and then spending that to buy equipment, can create some really well-equipped characters alongside really poorly-equipped characters, and simultaneously is a whole extra step, which, for some people, can be very time-consuming.
    * It's more interesting if really useful equipment is either rare or expensive or both, so that "starting" characters have something to work towards. (Like the "achievement" of scoring enough wealth to outfit the group in chain mail, for example.)

    A random or semi-random apportioning of useful equipment with a sprinkling of interesting or unusual items suits this situation very well. Random rolling between a "basic package" of adventuring must-haves, and the occasional inclusion of an unusual item or the ability to choose between a few really useful items (like, say, armour), satisfied this pretty well.

    I don't have a problem with the "mirror trick" being useful in the game. I'm not going to create opportunities in an unhygienic fashion, but I find that if you give a player with a sheet that says "you have a nice, polished mirror" and a dangerous dungeon, they will often think of something interesting.

    If I'm GMing, I'd imagine that a clever and reasonable "mirror trick" will work. The catch is that it probably will only work once (most foes will catch on, after all), and it probably won't be as effective as you hoped. (Otherwise, everyone will start doing it, as you suggest!) Still, in a deadly fight-or-die situation, even contriving for a way for your enemies to hesitate at an opportune moment could be quite meaningful.

    Negotiating the details around how the characters might make use of the item or items can be a fun exercise on its own.

    Types of items which I think can be interesting to have, but I wouldn't want all adventurers to have at all times, to give a few examples:

    * Weapons which are particularly useful in limited circumstances. (Like the crossbow.)
    * Tools, like lockpicks, shovels, pickaxes, winches, or crowbars.
    * Tame or trained animals (e.g. a pack mule, a homing pigeon, a bloodhound)
    * Uncommon information or resources (e.g. an unusual map, a document which allows you to communicate with a certain faction, a set of communications protocols or ciphers used by soldiers, a book listing the ancient history of potential adventure locations, star charts, a book of local myths and legends)
    * Instruments for exploration or measuring (e.g. a telescope, a sextant, a magnifying glass, a compass, a boat)
    * Other equipment, like a chain with a lock, a set of manacles, a safebox, a cart, a set of chisels and files
    * Fine clothes (allowing you access to higher social echelons), a military uniform
    * A letter from an authority figure
    * etc

    The idea is that, much like your ability score array is a starting position you then have to work with - what are you going to do with that low-Strength character? - so is your starting set of equipment.

    It provides different challenges and different opportunities each time.

    Even if the item in question doesn't necessarily end up being used in play, it might inspire a bit of roleplaying or history. Your character has fine clothes? Maybe he's a disgraced noble. I'm carrying a set of manacles? Maybe I'm an escaped slave. You have a sword and shield? You're probably an army deserter or former soldier. That kind of thing.

    It's a very efficient way to get a lot of material for play in a short space of time.

    Some of these might give us different opportunities for engaging with adventure hooks, instead - the guy with the military uniform can pretend to be a guard (passing in the dark!) and the fellow with the fine clothes can more likely be invited to meet with the local Duke so he can learn more about the missing cattle.
  • I think I'm convinced on your approach for a suitable sort of campaign context. Not so sure about how much use it will be for a one-shot, but I can see how this sort of equipment philosophy can help kickstart fictional positioning of characters in a way similar to what WHFRPG careers do. I particularly like the idea of a PC who owns a treasure map from the start; one might ask why I haven't done that bit myself at any point, instead of having the adventurers find their maps in play.

    (In our campaign characterization tends to be practically 100% player-driven in general. I suppose I could have some sort of a random background generating table, as I've seen other GMs use, but then again I'm pretty lazy about tables in general.)

    I imagine that the "characterization" items like fine clothes will do their thing well in a one-shot context. Other stuff less so, although I suppose anything can be viewed as simple characterization. For instance, a character owning a boat will be unlikely to get any use out of it in a one-shot context, so it might just as well be a "sailor uniform".

    Your list of examples has ~10 items in it, out of which I count 3 functional items (likely to be useful in a one-shot dungeon without GM pre-coordination). I suppose it's not inconceivable for this sort of thing to be a net benefit, but I would personally be a bit worried that a player holding onto e.g. a manual of heraldry could be disappointed when the adventure is over and there never was a setpiece situation where that manual would have been useful. This sort of thing can seem so much like the GM is setting you up with a quest item, you know, when they were simply pushing random color clues to character background.

    Note that every item on your list could be a tactical or strategic choice were it something a player bought or earned in the course of play, instead of having it tossed to them randomly at the start. Context matters a lot for what these sorts of items mean and how useful they are; garlic may be useless most of the time, but if you know a priori that you're going to be driving through bat country, there's nothing strange in packing some.
  • The appeal of this approach, for me, is how it leaves questions of "what is my background?" and "would I know anything about this?" to be discovered in play with as much or as little detail as the group wants.

    The GM who is too lazy to come up with a random background generating table can simply ask they player: "How come you carry around a spyglass? What's your background?" The player who likes daydreaming about that sort of stuff can do it on their own, and scribble details on their character sheet. If the GM and players don't care, they don't need to worry about it at all.

    The reason it appeals to me is that it interfaces so seamlessly with the challenge-based nature of the game, since (unlike many other RPGs) the stuff you're carrying really matters, while giving us things we can improvise around if we decide that's the way we want to develop our game. It's a resource and a colour tool all at once, and as much or as little as the group wants.

    The GM can use it, too: when, for example, the players say, "Hey, would we know anything about that? Should we roll a Knowledge check?", the GM can say, "Oh, right, Globrin has that book of legends, doesn't he? Let's see if there was something useful about these rumours in there. Roll it."

    For a one-shot, you could embrace this randomness (with the high potential for irrelevant Colour, with no other purpose), or you could create a list of items that are specifically relevant to the adventure/setting in some way. Either sounds fine to me.

    I've seen lots of fun things you wouldn't expect, though, like a group taking a rowboat to turn upside so they could hold it over the heads while walking through the cavern with the stirges. I like creating the potential for those surprises in play. When you're given a challenge, and the only tool you have at your disposal is a handful of random items, it's not that uncommon that someone will have a good idea.

    A mule could be slaughtered and left as bait for a monster; a spyglass could be offered as a prize to a group of kobolds to encourage them to negotiate instead of fighting; a shovel might inspire the players to dig a trench outside the dungeon and then smoke out the inhabitants of the caves, and so on.
  • My groups love mini-games like “how can we make this set of manacles, this book about heraldry, and this fancy ballgown outfit into a tactically useful situation that will end in us stealing the goblins' treasure”. And I don't have this problem of fatalism very often with level ones at all—it only really comes up when the level ones are alongside actually capable characters which hopefully you won't have too many of. My hireling characters always come with stuff like this.
  • I'm happy to see several, interesting threads of conversation going on. I'll try to address them all, eventually. Meanwhile...
    What I'm now thinking I might do is create a matrix of "optimal" weapons based on STR/DEX scores,
    With that idea in mind, I went and created a simple spreadsheet of what appear to be the "optimal" melee weapons in T&T1E by Str and Dex score. Here's what I got so far:
    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Zmz6yzJqm6ShH4LDKz8R6SX0EerJW28TbzKvJdxDcbw/edit?usp=sharing
    A few premises:
    • The ranged weapons table isn't done yet.
    • The way you read entries, such as "Broadsword (50: 2+3)", is that a broadsword costs 50 gp and hits for 2 dice plus 3 "adds", or 2d6+3.
    • My method is to equate average hits to the absolute "value" of a weapon. I'm counting each die as 3.5 hits. Thus, 1d6+4 > 2d6 > 1d6+3
    • Polearms are marked with an *, as by the book they are the only weapons to explicitly suffer from circumstantial penalties, dropping their effectiveness to half in most dungeon environments. I tried to always recommend a non-polearm alternative. Spear-type weapons, including pikes, are apparently exempt from such penalties (but the pike at least sounds like it ought to be affected, on grounds of common sense - that's why I included alternative choices with it).
    • Some weapons are almost identical to others, with only minor differences in pricing and weight: this being the case, I included both.
    • Some weapons are much more expensive than others, and some are simply beyond the means of even the richest, luckiest starting character. For weapons costing more than 45 gp, I tried to include a cheaper alternative, but sometimes the alternative is expensive too, or loses up more than 1 point in effectiveness. The common Spear and the Gladius only made the tables as cheaper substitutes to more powerful and more expensive weapons.
    • The text is mostly silent on which weapons can be combined with a shield. The entry for a Bastard Sword seems to imply that 3-dice swords are two-handed. Common sense seems to dictate polearms, at least, are strictly two-handed, but I'm not sure about spears (including the Oxtongue and the Pilum). Everything else being equal, I favored uncontroversially one-handed options --- sometimes, I even included such weapons as alternatives when they fall just 0.5-1 point short of the presumably two-handed, more powerful option: "Oxtongue or Broadsword" makes sense, as an entry, if we believe the Oxtongue not to allow a shield.
    • In later editions of T&T one is allowed to "dual wield" any two one-handed weapons and sum up their dice and adds, but has to satisfy the combined, summed-up Str and Dex requirements of both. This isn't in the 1E text, but Main Gauche (or Sword Breaker) + any sword offers a similar combination of weapons: the way I read it, a Main Gauche adds its 1 dice in hits and soaks 1 hit as a shield, as long as you satisfy the weapons' Str and Dex reqs after applying the Dex penalty from the sword. I thus included "Broadsword & Main Gauche" as a separate weapon entry in the table (and no other, because the Str needed for the Main Gauche is as high as for the Broadsword, the best one-handed sword).
    I'll follow up with my considerations, as in "what I've learned (if anything) from the exercise".
  • A pilum is a heavy-throwing weapon. It can't really be used in combat effectively. It's not really a missle weapon either. It was a javelin with a very heavy weight at the sharp end. It was meant to be thrown at extremely short range on the charge, just as the legionnaire was about to enter combat--seconds before he drew his gladius.
  • You probably knew that already... I feel kind of silly.
  • I didn't know, actually, except as far as it was a Roman legionnaire weapon. You saved me the time to look it up. :)
    What's silly, if anything, is that "pilum" is listed as what amounts to a double-powered spear in T&T. Besides being one of the "best" melee weapons (in that it's the lowest-entry 4-dice weapon), my read of the rules as written is it can be used with a spear-thrower for a grand total of 8-dice, making it the most powerful "ranged" weapon in the game. But that's by far not the only weird thing going on here...
    Even when upholding RAW, though, knowing about these weapons IRL helps with the fictional positioning around using them. Just as I wouldn't allow fighting with a pike in a small cramped room, at least now I know better than to allow long-distance sniping at people with a pilum. :)
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