Monday, January 23, 2017

On Hit Dice & Weapon Damage - Conversions and Comparisons to Swords & Wizardry Complete

One of the first things you'll notice about Swords & Wizardry Light (SWL), after its small size, is that it only uses two sizes of dice - d20s and d6s. Newer players often have trouble differentiating between the different sized polyhedral, and using just two sizes of dice simplifies things greatly.

One result of this is that monsters, which have a d8 for Hit Dice (HD) is Swords & Wizardry Complete (SWC), now use a d6 for HD in SWL.

That changes the power curve, right?

Not really. If you figure the Long Sword is the base weapon for damage in SWC, it does d8 damage, same as the HD size of a SWC monster. In SWL, that Long Sword does 1d6 damage, same as the HD size of a SWL monster.

Where the power curve does change a bit is with casters. That Magic Missile spell which did either 1d6+1 with a hit roll needed (basically the same avg as a 1d8) OR 1d4+1 with no roll needed to hit (basically the same avg as a 1d6) in SWC is now, in SWL, 1d6 no roll to hit needed. In many ways, its the best of both options from SWC - no hit roll needed AND a full HD die of damage.

When we consider optional rules that will allow higher level casters, spells like Fireball and Lightning Bolt will become more powerful if not tweaked - area effect damage spells that potentially effect a full HD per die, not 3/4s of a full HD as it is in SWC. Something to think about as we move forward.

So, how does one convert monsters from Swords & Wizardry Complete or other OSR sources to Swords & Wizardry Light?

If you are converting a monster from a monster section, monster bestiary or such, remember to roll the Hit Points (HP) using d6s. Monster damage will be rolled using d6s also. So, 1d4 becomes 1d6-1 and 1d8 becomes 1d6+1. For larger damage numbers, add the low end of the damage indicated to the high end. Divide by 3.5 - this is the approximate number of d6s it converts to.

To adjust the Hit Points (HP) of the monster in question for an adventure, for each HD of the creature (assuming a d8 for the HD size in the source material) subtract one HP from the total of the creature. If the total is still higher than HDx6, either lower the total to HDx6 or subtract one HP per HD again. Obviously, the first option give you a much stronger adversary.


  1. Heh. I just commented on this in the Poll thread...

  2. Which version (besides Holmes) needed a too hit for MM? I've always thought it was autohit 1d6+1 except adnd.

    1. Here's how the Magic Missile spell plays out through the iterations of D&D...

      Original D&D (Gygax & Arneson) 1974
      Not present.

      OD&D + Greyhawk (Gygax) 1975
      Roll to hit*, 2-7 dam, no save, 150ft. Add 2 missiles/5 levels.

      -- Basic (Holmes) 1977
      -- Roll to hit*, 2-7 dam, no save, 150ft. Higher level casters throw more missiles.

      -- Basic/Expert (Moldvay) 1981
      -- Auto hit, 2-7 dam, no save, 150ft. Add 2 missiles/5 levels.

      -- Basic/Expert/Companion/Master/Immortal (Mentzer) 1983
      -- Auto hit, 2-7 dam, no save, 150ft. Add 2 missiles/5 levels.

      -- D&D Rules Cyclopedia (Allston & Schend) 1991
      -- Auto hit, 2-7 dam, no save, 150ft. Add 2 missiles/5 levels.

      Advanced D&D (Gygax) 1978
      Auto hit, 2-5 dam, no save, 60ft +10ft/level. Add 1 missile/2 levels.

      AD&D 2nd Edition (Cook) 1989
      Auto hit, 2-5 dam, no save, 60ft +10ft/level. Add 1 missile/2 levels (max 5).

      D&D 3rd Edition (Cook, Tweet & Williams) 2000
      Auto hit, 2-5 dam, no save, 100ft +10ft/level. Add 1 missile/2 levels (max 5).

      D&D 3.5th Edition (Cook, Tweet & Williams) 2003
      Auto hit, 2-5 dam, no save, 100ft +10ft/level. Add 1 missile/2 levels (max 5).

      * Greyhawk doesn't state that a hit roll is required, or that the missile hits automatically. It merely says the magic missile is equivalent to a magic arrow. The Holmes edit, however, states explicitly that a longbow roll is required on the missile fire table.

      Magic Missile appears, perhaps, to be most potent under the B/X --> BECMI --> Cyclopedia series of rules where it has long range, auto-hits, and deals 2-7 damage against monsters with eight-sided hit die.


    2. I read the bit about Holmes using a longbow roll and I instantly thought of Hank the Ranger.

  3. Poring thru the rules. Small comment. Because you are using the d6 standard, the dagger and short sword are both 1d6-1. There is no real benefit to having both on the list. Perhaps swap the short sword for a polearm (1d6+1, two-handed, reach, 10gp). Then the thief base gear would be club or sword + dagger, for instance.

    1. Dagger should remain because it's considered a ranged weapon (hence it's specific call-out "throw-able"), whereas short swords are not.

      There's not a ton of ranged options, so having that remain is valid.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Yes, I proposed to leave the dagger as the traditional versatile melee/thrown weapon, and swap out the short sword due to redundancy based on the damage die.

  4. Although it may be wise to specify in the Ranged list that daggers can be used as melee, and take it off the Melee list, thus allowing for V.A.'s idea.....?

    1. probably not necessary - since both the dagger and spear are classed as both melee and thrown on the tables.


Tenkar's Tavern is supported by various affiliate programs, including Amazon, RPGNow,
and Humble Bundle as well as Patreon. Your patronage is appreciated and helps keep the
lights on and the taps flowing. Your Humble Bartender, Tenkar

Blogs of Inspiration & Erudition