Attack and Damage in Classic D&D

'Axe Fight' by laurelfan on Flickr
'Axe Fight' by laurelfan on Flickr

This is part of my ongoing series dissecting early Dungeons & Dragons, and building the retroclone Dungeon Raiders out of it.

Interestingly, in early D&D, all weapon-based (e.g., non-magical) attacks deal 1d6 damage.

Should this be changed? It really depends on how I want to simulate combat.

Will a “powerful” weapon in the hands of an unskilled person do more damage than a dagger? Arguably not. Indeed, a neophyte will probably be able to hurt more easily with a dagger than with a broadsword.

To reflect a character’s individual training and skill in combat, I debated about using the attack die as the damage die. So, if your attack die is 1d8, you would roll 1d8 to see if you hit, and if you do, roll 1d8 again for damage. However, this favors fighters excessively, who already have an attack advantage, and in a combat-heavy game, it feels unfair.

So, all attacks deal 1d6 damage, with modifiers as appropriate for fighters and for unusual weapons. Also, powerful creatures can have multiple attacks, giving them much higher damage capacity.

To attack, roll your attack die. If your roll meets or beats 4, you hit and roll 1d6 for damage points. Fighters add 1 to the damage roll, and all characters add one damage per level beyond their first level (see the “Experience Points” section for more). Damage points are subtracted from the enemy’s HP, with armor absorbing its rating in damage points each blow. So, an attack roll of 4 will still hit a character with +1 armor, but if the damage roll is 2, only 1 point of damage is dealt.

Simple enough. Next week: magic!

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