11 April 2012

Labyrinth Lord Wins Initiative

Within the pages of the Moldvay Basic D&D rulebook (page B27), there is a sentence that reads "Whenever a two-handed weapon is used (including pole arms), the attacker cannot use a shield (this may reduce the Armor Class of the attacker) and will always lose the initiative, whatever the roll (see page B23)." I have no dispute with having to give up the advantage of using a shield when wielding a two-handed weapon, but the initiative penalty is another matter. Presumably the rule applies only to "pair combat" in which each combatant rolls initiative (as opposed to each side rolling initiative). It seems curious, though, that weapon speed should only be taken into account for one type of weapon. If two-handed weapons are penalized compared to one-handed weapons, should there not also be a distinction made between heavy and light one-handed weapons? (Someone recently wrote an article answering this very question with a new house rule, but I can't remember which Web log it was in. If it's you, please feel free to comment.) If speed is taken into account, shouldn't the reach of a weapon be a factor, too? A spear may be slower than a dagger in hand-to-hand combat, but odds are pretty good that the spear will strike its target sooner. It makes more sense to adopt a system that includes the speed and the reach of every weapon if any distinction is to be made at all. That way leads to AD&D, of course, and since I've decided instead to return to the Basic/Expert edition (with the Erol Otus cover illustrations), I have opted for the simpler method of editing the offending sentence to read "Whenever a two-handed weapon is used (including pole arms), the attacker cannot use a shield." This is patently obvious, and Labyrinth Lord, the Basic/Expert D&D retro-clone, to its credit doesn't even mention it. As far as I can tell, there are no weapon-specific initiative penalties mentioned at all in its pages. That is why Labyrinth Lord wins the initiative.

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