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Monday, January 12, 2015

Cover Your Damn Head Before You Catch Death! Further Thoughts on Helmets.

Below is one of those rules from the AD&D 1e DMG that wasn't found until we had been playing for nearly a year, and quickly decided not to follow after finding it.
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 of a "great helm" odds 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 which case 1 blow in 2 will be aimed at the AC 10 head (d6, 1-3 = head blow) (AD&D 1e DMG)
What are the odds of striking the head if a helmet IS worn? 1 in 6? Seems like it. I mean, the AC is given for a great helm in the example.

That would mean that every attack by the PCs required an extra d6 roll to determine if the head was a target or not. Not bloody likely to happen.

Was there a similar rule in previous editions (OD&D, B/X) or later editions (BECMI / 2e)?

I still prefer +Joe D 's house rules from Blood Island.


  1. And if this were the case I think players would swing at the heads of their enemies every round.

    1. It's not even unrealistic in any way. Most boxing is headhunting.

  2. I don't use this generally, in the same way I don't use rules for armoured boots (sabatons?) or gauntlets, pauldrons or breastplates. It is simpler to assume the helmet is part of the suit of armour. I like the idea that any new rules should not add more dice rolls to combat than there already are - having to remember to roll 1d6 for characters without helmets makes combat just a little more cluttered.

  3. Now, granted, that's not a rule I've ever used, but note the first sentence you quoted from the DMG: "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." (emphasis added)

    If you're wearing the helmet that came with your armor, you have "uniform protection". Everything has the same AC, so there's no need to roll an extra d6 to determine whether an attack is to the head or not.

    It only calls for an extra "is it a headshot?" roll if the target of an attack is either wearing a great helm (not just any helmet, but one of the giant plate metal cans which is big enough to interfere with your vision and "restricts vision to the front 60" only") or no helmet at all. Either of these cases would be very much the exception, not the rule.

    Tim Shorts: Nowhere does that rule say that you have a choice of whether to target the head or not. You take your best available shot(s) that round and the d6 tells you whether that's a shot at the head AC or the body AC.

    1. That's right: remember, these rounds represent a full minute of thrusts and feints; you're not rolling for every attempted hit but rather the results of a full minute of fighting.

  4. The 1 in 6 (or 3 in 6) chance of the head being hit only comes into play when either a great helm (AC 1) or no helmet (AC 10) is worn. Otherwise, it doesn't matter because the head has the same AC as the body.

    I don't think I've ever had a player use a great helm, so it's really only an issue if the PCs are attacked during an unarmored resting period or surprised while listening at doors.

    I've not found it to be a particularly difficult or cumbersome rule to use. No worse than "Natural 20 is a critical hit/Natural 1 is a critical fail" any an number of other minor house rules.

    The combat round is an abstract minute of time during which, as noted elsewhere and above, lots of cut and thrust, parry and riposte, strike and block, etc. is taking place. There is a slim chance, in those rare occasions when the AC of the head is different from the rest of the body, that one of those "telling blows" *may* strike the head as distinct from the body.

  5. By implication? In OD&D there is a 10% chance of an attack against an unarmored head: From Volume II:

    *Helm of Reading Magic and Languages:* Wearing this helm allows the person to read any language or magical writing. It does not protect in the same way as Magic Armor, so if it is worn in combat any hit upon its wearer should be given a 10% of striking the helm and smashing it.