Saturday, 11 December 2010

Helmets, Hoods and Hearing

Woke up thinking about helmets. In truth woke up thinking about work but quickly moved onto helmets as far more enjoyable.

Whilst both topics may lead others to question my mental health, I am sure any blog readers will be more forgiving.

I had some theories for a B/X house rule: lack of helmets penalise AC and helmets penalise hear noise. This follows the B/X principle of house ruling: Keep it Simple Stupid, or the KISS principle. So no critical hits that are worse without a helmet, no death or dismemberment tables at negative hit points and no 1in6 blows hit the head or 1in2 if attacker is intelligent. I now think the latter hear noise penalty is a bit harsh on the armored character.

Not unexpectedly when I did a quick search I discovered wiser bloggers than I have been through this topic before.

In May this year Beyond the Black Gate raised this topic. In the comments section JB was months ahead of me in thinking with his suggestion:

-1 penalty to normal AC if helmet is lost/missing
+1 bonus to AC if a Great Helm is worn instead of the normal cap

And make sure the great helm has the mechanical (perception) disadvantages. Also, I'd make everyone draw a picture of how elaborate their headgear is!

A lower comment quoted AD&D DMG page 28:
Helmet - It is assumed that an appropriate type of head armoring will be added to the suit of armor in order to allow uniform protection of the wearer. Wearing a “great helm” adds the appropriate weight and restricts vision to the front 60° only, but it gives the head AC 1. If a helmet is not worn, 1 blow in 6 will strike at the AC 10 head, unless the opponent is intelligent, in witch case 1 blow in 2 will be aimed at the AC 10 head (d6, 1-3 = head blow).

So my house rule:

-1 penalty to normal AC if helmet is lost/missing (armor cost assumes a helmet, padded/ leather hoods/helmets for leather armor, metal helmets for metal armor)

+1 bonus to AC if a Great Helm is worn instead of a normal helmet (assuming one can be found in my campaign world). Perception limited to the front 60°only (DM to take this into account for backstabs, attacks from behind as the back is effectively now 300°. Additionally attacks from the non-shield flank/side can be made without shield AC bonus). Hear noise at -1 penalty.

The -1 penalty to Hear Noise has some mechanical relevance as I'm with Robert Fisher Classic D&D on Move Silently and Hear Noise (direct quote below):

Move silently

Anybody can move quietly. I like to use a variation on the listening at doors mechanic (p.B21) to determine whether a character moving quietly is heard.
Demihumans have a base 2 in 6 chance of hearing noise. The chance for thieves depends upon their level. For everyone else it's 1 in 6. (The DM will choose a base chance for each monster.) If the sneaking character is wearing metal armor or walking on a particularly noisy surface, increase the chance of being heard by 1 in 6. (i.e. 1 in 6 becomes 2 in 6. 2 in 6 becomes 3 in 6.) If multiple or extreme factors are involved, the DM may increase the chance further.
Increases beyond 5 in 6 should go to 7 in 8, then 9 in 10, then 11 in 12.
Thieves, however, have a chance to move silently. If successful, there is no chance for the thief to be heard. If the thief fails to move silently, they should still be considered to be moving quietly.
Note that if he is moving silently, a thief is not hiding, in shadows or otherwise. Move silently & hide in shadows are mutually exclusive. There is no double jeopardy.
Note: The surprise mechanic can also be use to cover stealth. There is precedence for this in module X4:
[the characters] will first have to dispatch the guard ... Since he is not watchful, the characters will be able to surprise him on a 1-3 if they creep up on him.
(...from Mike's observation on DF)

I'm not with Robert Fisher on Find Traps but that's for a different post.

So nothing startling in the above but has helped me consolidate my thoughts and house rules.

PS One final comment. It's worth reading to the bottom of Robert Fisher's web page I linked to for this gem.

Open locks & pick pockets

These are thief only skills.
A non-thief might be able to learn these abilities by spending appropriate costs (time, money, XP, or whatever). The skill would not be tied to the character's level, but would require additional training to be improved.

The ability to purchase skills or abilities is very subtle and very DM friendly. 500gp and 1 weeks study may give 1st level thief open locks (not all thief abilities). A further 1000gp and 2 weeks study may give 2nd level. Doubling each time, 2000gp and 4 weeks study for 3rd level etc. Or, a character wishes to learn assassination or another skill, this type of rule could be applied. Radically, could one spend 5000gp and 1 year training for a 1st level magic user spell - doubling each time?  Certainly no NPC or character learning abilities from another class should ever be able to be superior to a character class - the cost and time must be prohibitive.  

PPS Welcome to the blog, Spawn of Endra 

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