Darths & Droids


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Episode 233: Flipping Out


Shamus Young, in the comic that inspired Darths & Droids, almost went there, but even his mighty lampooning intellect couldn't bear the thought of dealing with the horror known as the Grappling rules, and instead went for a joke based on the much easier to understand Attack of Opportunity rules.

Even the publishers of Dungeons & Dragons themselves admit that nobody understands the grappling rules! It's right there in the second sentence on the linked page!

And these rules have been simplified since the glory days of the first edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. A lot.

In those days, despite every single other form of attack in the entire game using a d20 dice mechanic, weaponless combat, split into the unholy trinity of "pummeling, grappling, and overbearing", used percentile dice. With adjustments of plus or minus 1% and 2% for various conditions such as the strength and dexterity of both the attacker and the defender, their movements rates, what they were wearing, armour class, shields, each 10% difference in weight, each 10% difference in height, having a helmet, how fast you were moving at the time of the attack, whether any limbs were restrained, surprise, amount of cover, balance, footing, star sign, what they had for breakfast that morning, marital status, left- or right-handedness, and so on and so forth. And then you needed a finite state machine to keep track of changes in position and relative advantage of each combatant as the fight progressed through a series of ineffable state transitions dictated by the results of the dice roll cross-matrixed with the current weather conditions and date in the druidical calendar.

Of course this is all just in Dungeons & Dragons. Many other game systems are worse. It seems the only constant in the varied and diverse field of roleplaying game design is that the grappling rules must be the most complicated, impenetrable, and frustrating part of the game. The game system the players use in Darths & Droids is no exception.


GM: All right... give me a second here.
Anakin: What's that enormous book? I haven't seen that one before.
GM: This, Annie... is the grappling rules.
Anakin: I try to grab the assassin and get control of the car.
GM: Okay. Hang on.
GM: <flip flip flip>
GM: <flip flip>
GM: <flip flip flip flip>
GM: <roll>
GM: <flip flip flip>
GM: Which hand are you grappling with, and what body part are you trying to grab?
Anakin: Does it matter?
GM: The car bursts into flames and crashes.

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Published: Sunday, 02 January, 2011; 14:36:51 PST.
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