Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Weapon Specialization Poll and More Fighter Ideas

Back when we started our AD&D experiment a month or so ago, I asked the readers whether they use Weapon Specialization or not in their AD&D games.  Here's what said about it:

DO YOU USE WEAPON SPECIALIZATION IN YOUR AD&D GAME?

Yes; Love it - (30%). No; Unearthed Arcana was the devil - (50%). What? - (18%).

I'm not a big fan of 1E's Unearthed Arcana, where weapon specialization appeared, so maybe those 18% of folks that said "What?" have the right of it, never having cracked open a copy of UA (along with the 50% of UA haters, where I tend to sit).  So far we are soldiering on without specialization; however, I don't mind beefing up fighters and have the impression (still to be tested) that they get left behind at higher levels compared to the other classes, and we intend to run this game through to high levels.  But I don't like what specialization does to limit weapon use .  If we were to implement that particular rule option, I would let someone specialize in a coarse-grained class of weapons, like all bow weapons, all two-handed weapons, or all one-handed weapons.

One of the commenters (Peter) mentioned that Dragon 104 had a good analysis of specialization, and it was a good read.  Len Lakofka's column runs the numbers and shows how a 2nd level fighter with specialization takes out a 4th level fighter without specialization, and has a good shot at besting a 5th level fighter without specialization, too.  That's a big jump in power - like gaining 2-3 levels by specializing.  If you consider the fighter is similar in base line power to a monster of the same level, that means your 2nd level specialized fighter is nearly a match for an ogre.

I don't think the door is totally closed for us, though.  Specialization was in base AD&D 2E, and one of the clones I like (ACKS) beefs up the fighter by giving all fighters a "cleave" ability - basically a free attack anytime you down a foe.  The nice thing about the ACKS cleave is that it applies equally to monsters; if a monster downs a PC, it gets to cleave too.  I also appreciate the LOTFP approach, where the fighter is the expert on to-hit rolls and is the only class that advances in fighting ability.  The point is, newer designs (post-AD&D and classic) have all done something to give the fighter a stronger combat presence.

Prior to our AD&D conversion, we were using "weapon by class", where magic users did a d4, all other classes a d6, fighters and dwarves did a d8 for damage or d10 for 2-handed.  That did a good job of giving the fighters a decent niche without major rules surgery.  But with the move to AD&D we're back using the quirky "damage by weapon type" along with S-M/L damage dice - that's too big a part of the 1E experience to omit!  If we don't do a form of coarse-grained specialization, the next easiest thing would be to reimplement cleave for fighters and monsters.