Have I hit well? Hacking Moldvay’s Challenge System Combat for a quicker, more intense game

Edit: before you use this in game read the followup post please! Math goes all screwy for multiple attacks!

Moldvay’s Challenge System has a really interesting optional rule: it does not only matter if you hit, but also by how much. And if you miss by only a bit, you might still deal some damage, but if you miss badly you might lose initiative next round, or even the full round. So it basically wraps a progressive critical hits/miss system in the hit roll. ❤ Basically, it looks something like this (totally my stuff, I’m just explaining the principle):

  • miss by 10 or more: lose next round
  • miss by 5 or more: lose initiative next round
  • miss by 3: no damage
  • miss by 2: deal 1 damage
  • miss by 1: deal half damage
  • hit exactly: deal normal damage
  • hit by 2 or more: +1 damage for each 2 points of margin…
  • hit by 4 or more: …and deal a light wound (-1 to hit/saves until a cure light is received, or rest 1 week)
  • hit by 7 or more: …but the wound is medium instead (-3 to hit/saves until a cure medium is received, or rest 2 weeks)
  • hit by 10 or more: …but the wound is critical instead (-5 to hit/saves until a cure critical is received, or rest 4 weeks)

So a margin of 8 deals +4 damage and deals a medium wound. Another version could be done with combat tricks (trip/disarm/stop from pursuit next round/whatever you get from Dungeon World):

  • miss by 10 or more: enemy does 1 combat tricks to you, their choice
  • miss by 5 or more: enemy does 1 combat tricks to you, but the choice is yours
  • hit exactly: deal normal damage
  • hit by 2 or more: +1 damage for each 2 points of margin…
  • hit by 4 or more: …and inflict 1 combat trick on the opponent for each 4 points of margin

So, yeah, awesome. The only problem is that you have to calculate the margin. Calculating margins is a bit boring. Especially because there’s a way of doing it without margins. HAVE I HIT WELL SIR? TABLE When you roll to hit, match the natural d20 on the table below. Careful, it’s split in two parts: one cares if you HIT, the other if you MISS. No need to calculate margins. You basically want to roll LOW, but ABOVE the armour class. If you miss, you still want to roll LOW. IF YOU MISS WITH A…

  1. glancing blow: deal half damage
  2. bruise: deal 1 damage
  3. miss
  4. miss
  5. lose initiative next round
  6. lose initiative next round
  7. lose initiative next round
  8. lose initiative next round
  9. lose initiative next round
  10. or more: lose next round


  1. or less: 5+ damage (or more), critical wound
  2. +4 damage, medium wound
  3. +4 damage, medium wound
  4. +3 damage, medium wound
  5. +3 damage, light wound
  6. +2 damage, light wound
  7. +2 damage, light wound
  8. +1 damage
  9. +1 damage
  10. Normal Damage
  11. Normal Damage

The only issue is that it’s a bit counterintuitive. But if you do the math, you realize that extra bonuses actually stop you from f*cking up badly. And make you more capable of doing that sweet thing of hitting with a 10 or less. Also, it’s a handy table that tells you what sweet effect happens without calculating margins or rolling extra dice. I like that. EXTRA CONTENT: Parrying! Defense! When your character spends the round defending only, they give a negative modifier to up to 2 attackers equal to the defender’s hit-roll modifier PLUS 1d6. This might make feints and respostes more of an interesting thing.

8 thoughts on “Have I hit well? Hacking Moldvay’s Challenge System Combat for a quicker, more intense game

  1. Pingback: Hacking Moldvay’s The Challenges System | OSR Today
  2. Pingback: More on the Challenges Combat system hack: Multiattacks, | Lost Pages
  3. Pingback: Whitebox20 and the Q&A that goes in my head | Lost Pages
  4. Pingback: Whitebox20: Combat & Goblins | Lost Pages

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