Tuesday, August 27, 2013

You Hit it on the Head! Helmets in 1e

I was listening to the Roll for Initiative podcast on the commute to work this morning, and they brought up one of the obscure rules for helmets in AD&D 1e - intelligent adversaries attacking an unarmored head 50% of the time.

As such, I remember we always bought helmets for our PCs and then had no use for the rule.

The thing is, I always thought of the AD&D combat system as abstract - it wasn't blow by blow and it didn't have hit locations, so this rule is a rule that kind of breaks the rules that were already in place by default.

Did you / do you use the unarmored head gets the shit beat out of it rule when running you AD&D / OSR games? Why / why not?

(damn, I should ask about "weapon speed" in a later post ;)


  1. We didn't generally, but since redoing D&D we've included an optional set of rules for this sort of thing.

    Now weapon speed, on the other hand, has ALWAYS been used, and is one of my favorite aspects of 1st edition.

  2. Personally I have never used weapon speed, helmets were assumed to be worn unless stated otherwise, and I also chucked out encumbrance rules as well.

  3. Thanks for Listening Erik. I always found that rule weird and never used it. I can see how some people might enjoy that.

  4. I always have (and still do) ruled that critical hits (we play 2e with the C&T crit tables and 15 second rounds) that are allotted to the head are mostly negated by helmets. This saves characters from having a "face smashed forever" result.

  5. I never played with that rule, but I never played that game (unfortunately)I think as a DM I would handle thing similar to Josh, it makes no difference until you get crit in the face, at which point you can sacrifice the helmet to take no critical result, after which monsters get like +1 to hit you or something.

    I do similar thing with shields in my game, they can be destroyed to lower damage taken or negate it all together. Does the whole "I block the Dragon Fire with my shield" thing really well, until it breathes on you again that is.

  6. Hah, yes, we bought helmets and ignored them in play. We also weighed the pros and cons of boots (low vs high, soft vs hard) and ignored them in play. For the most part anyway. I think we did not allow sneaking in hard boots and once in a while had to take off helmets to listen at doors.

  7. I didn't even know about that rule until years later. It strikes me as Gary Gygax striking directly at some player who wanted to wear a magic hat and claimed he still got his full AC, or something like that. A rule to smack down one particular thing he found annoying. Just not as obvious as the (Jim!) remarks in Greyhawk under Meteor Swarm.

  8. I've never enforced the helmet rule. I always assume characters have headgear similar in protective quality to the rest of their armor, and leave it at that.

    I've never used weapon speed either. I don't really even understand how WS is supposed to work in relationship to the d6 initiative system.

  9. Doesn't the Blackmoor supplement spend a large number of its cramped 1/2 sized pages offering up a hit location system (which among other things makes it really hard to kill big monsters by hitting their ankles)? I presume helmets might come into play here?

  10. I never used it nor played with anyone who did. I suspect the reason is the very one you point out. In an abstract combat system, suddenly giving special status to one particular target area doesn't make so much sense.

  11. We used it when we remembered or when (as DM) we wanted to fuck over someone who hadn't bothered to pick up a helmet.

    Once we figured them out, we always used weapon speed and segments and weapon vs. armor rules and all that minutiae. Made a bland combat system O So tactical.
    ; )

  12. This reminds me of the old jokes about the helmet in Hero Quest. If you could only have one piece of armor, it damn well better be a helmet! Not only did it give you +1 to defense, it negated damage from all falling rock traps (which account for about 1/3 of all traps in game).


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