Normalizing Swords & Wizardry “to-hit” bonuses
As a fan of ascending armour class (AAC), I love the simplicity it offers. I tinkered with this years ago, in an article about chartless combat. One of the cool by-products of the OSR is formal adoption of the convention, most notably in the Swords & Wizardry Core Rules (4th printing), which bakes AAC right into the system.1
One facet of the AAC system’s ease is an attacker’s “to-hit” bonus, a value dependent on ability score bonuses, magical “plusses,” and–significantly–level. The S&W rules include a table of level-based “to-hit” bonuses, but I find that the progression (1) is non-linear, (2) doesn’t differentiate class enough for me, and (3) seems too powerful at higher levels. Naturally, my OCD kicks in.
Here are some working assumptions about how classes fight:
- Fighters get the best to-hit bonuses, ever. Because they’re fighters. S&W reflects this, though the non-linear progression doesn’t “feel” right to me.
- By contrast, thieves and magic-users are the worst at fighting, though I’d like to differentiate them and give thieves a bit of an edge.
- Clerics, as fighting crusaders, should be somewhere in between. But given their spell use and undead banishing, I suggest that they should be further behind fighters than the Core Rules advises.
Taking these factors into account, I submit the following alternative:
|“To-hit” Bonuses by Class|
In summary, fighters get the best to-hit progression: +1 every 2 levels. Clerics are second, with +1 every 4 levels (i.e., they’re half as good when it comes to smiting). Thieves are slightly worse, getting +1 every 5 levels; magic-users fall behind that, also gaining +1 every 5 levels, but unlike the other classes, they start at +0.
These values are almost universally lower at all levels than suggested in S&W, but I feel better about the standard progression. One thing you’ll note is that clerics and thieves are closely matched at lower levels. I rationalise this by assuming the thief’s physical acumen does for him what the cleric’s limited martial training does for the cleric. However, at higher levels, the disparity is more pronounced because the thief’s combat practice is less disciplined (and probably deprecated in favour of more intense study of all things stealthy).
- I realize this is offensive to some, though I assert my preference unapologetically. If you want to take me to task for it, feel free to post in the comments section, but I’m telling you right now that you’re gonna have to piss nickels before descending AC makes sense to me.