In the earliest iteration of the classic fantasy game, using the combat rules from Chainmail, fighting-men packed real punch. [Game mechanics are noted in brackets to explain my math.]
Consider a Super-Hero, or 8th level fighting-man, with platemail and a magical sword [counting as Armored Foot] opposed by hobgoblins [defending as Heavy Foot]. In this earliest version of the game, the hero would roll 9d6 for his attacks [8 dice for being a Super-Hero, plus one die for the sword] and score a hit on every 5 or 6 rolled. We would expect to see him kill 3 hobgoblins each round! The same Super-Hero facing an Ogre would kill the Ogre in one round on a roll of 4+ on 2d6. [The base roll would require 5+, modified by 1 for use of a magical sword]. That’s a 92% kill probability, meaning he kills 9 Ogres every 10 rounds.
Compare the same Fighter in the 1982 version of the rules. As an 8th level Fighter, we’ll assume he has a +1 sword and a Strength of 16, and that we are using variable weapon damage. The fighter will need to roll a 6+ on 1d20 to hit the hobgoblin’s AC 6 (75% likelihood). He will inflict 1d8+3 damage, against a hobgoblin’s average hit points of 6, so he’ll need to roll at least a 3 on his damage die (75% likelihood). With a 75% likelihood of hitting and a 75% likelihood of killing if he hits, the 8th level Fighter will kill an average of 0.56 hobgoblins per round, or less than 1/5th what he could do just one rules edition earlier. And he’ll kill at most 1 per round, a sad feat for a super-hero.
Up against an Ogre (AC5, 21hp), the 8th level Fighter will hit on a 7+ (70% likelihood), and will take on average 2.8 hits to kill. That means it will take an average of 3.7 rounds for him to kill the Ogre. In 10 rounds, he will kill just 2.7 Ogres, or only about 1/3 what he could under Chainmail.
Worse, over this time period, his rival class, the magic-user, has gotten more powerful. Magic-users in the original Chainmail had to “call out” the range of their fireballs and lightning bolts, as in tabletop wargame catapults; and opponents who saved against these attacks took no damage whatsoever. Now these spells automatically hit, and the damage is at best halved by a saving throw. Is it any wonder the Fighter suddenly feels like a weak younger brother?
In ACKS, we’ve tried to restore the Fighter (and related classes) to his pre-eminence on the battlefield. If you want to envision what we think a high-level fighter should be like, read about the legendary Achilles’ rampage through the battlefields of Troy, or watch any Japanese samurai movie in which one man stands against ten. After initially experimenting with the “make one attack per round per level against 1HD or less”*, we abandoned that in favor of an Arnesonian “chop til you drop” mechanic, with some twists.
Here’s how we do it:
- At 1st, 3rd, 6th, 9th, and 12th level, fighters get +1 on their damage rolls.
- If a fighter kills an opponent, he may immediately advance 5' and attack again, up to a maximum number of times equal to his level.
Up against an Ogre, he’ll hit 75% of the time, and inflict an average of 10.5 damage, meaning it’ll take just an average of 2.67 swings to kill the Ogre [2.67 x .75 x 10.5 = 21]. Every kill will allow him to cleave into another Ogre, which increases his Ogre-killing rate by 50%, to [1/2.67 x 150%] 0.56 Ogres per round. In ten rounds, he’ll slay 5.6 Ogres, or roughly twice as many as under the Classic 1982 rules.
One final note: In ACKS, the monsters get to keep attacking when they kill, too. An 8HD hill giant wading into a company of 1st level mercenaries will cause total mayhem. This rule is critically important in mass combat!
*We abandoned this mechanic because it created a weird discrepancy wherein, e.g., orcs were easily slain, but hobgoblins were terrifying. Attempted “fixes” such as “one attack per level divided by opponent’s hit dice” created even more anomalies when confronted with, e.g., mixed bands of foes. Arneson’s “chop til you drop” approach simply worked better, as it dynamically scaled the opponents that a fighter could cleave through as the fighter’s ability to deal damage increased.