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IS CHAINMAIL REALLY NEEDED TO PLAY OD&D?

By Peter A. Lindstrom
Version 1.0
Copyright 2016. All Rights Reserved.
INTRODUCTION:
In the White Box Original Dungeons and Dragons™ (OD&D) ruleset, on page 5, under
“Recommended Equipment”, there is a reference to Chainmail© miniature rules, latest edition.
“Chainmail” is a set of rules for medieval miniatures wargaming. It was originally written and
published by Gary Gygax and Jeff Perren.
As of the time of this writing, the original D&D ruleset has been scanned and made available for
purchase by Wizards of the Coast. However, Chainmail has not been scanned and made
available for purchase. So what I set out to determine is whether or not Chainmail is really
needed to play OD&D? My short answer is in the negative. However, in this paper I will show
you why I believe this to be true, by analyzing the various references to Chainmail that are to be
found in Volumes I to III of the original D&D ruleset.
In this paper, all references to CHAINMAIL are to the 3rd edition, which was published in 1975.
VOL. I: MEN & MAGIC
Elves (p. 8): In Vol. I, it is stated that elves gain the advantages noted in the CHAINMAIL rules
when fighting certain fantastic creatures. Actually, in CHAINMAIL, pp. 29-30, the rules state
that elves perform better against certain fantastic creatures only when armed with magical
weapons. The information provided in this entry only applies if the CHAINMAIL combat
system is used. However, according to the Greyhawk errata, p. 67, elves add +1 to their hit
probabilities when using sword or bow, which is applicable to the Alternate Combat System.
Halflings (p. 8): Under Halflings, the rules state that they have deadly accuracy with missiles as
detailed in CHAINMAIL. The information in CHAINMAIL on Halflings on p. 29 only applies
if the CHAINMAIL combat system is used. However, according to the Greyhawk errata, p. 67,
halflings add +3 to their hit probabilities when using slings, which is applicable to the Alternate
Combat System.
Loyalty of NPCs (including Monsters) (p.13): In this section, it is stated that Non-player
characters (NPC’s) and men-at-arms will have to make morale checks (using the above reaction
table or “Chainmail”) whenever a highly dangerous or unnerving situation arises. A “Post-Melee
Morale” system is introduced starting on page 15 in CHAINMAIL. Under this system, a morale
check involves a calculation involving a comparison of the casualties lost on each side, a die roll,
and morale ratings by type of troop. I believe that this system involves too complicated a
calculation for the typical tabletop role-playing game table. CHAINMAIL also has a second
morale system that is introduced on page 17. This system involves a 2d6 check that is made
based on the amount of casualties taken. This seems to be an easier system to implement at the


 

.table. Haste Spell (p. as modified in various places herein.Fighting Capability (pp. Fighting-Men. According to CHAINMAIL on p. 32. so this reference must be to “Elves (and Fairies)” on page 29 which states that “when invisible Elves (and Fairies) cannot attack .” In CHAINMAIL. Slow Spell (p. I. 25): The Fireball’s radius of 2” is “slightly larger than specified in CHAINMAIL. 26): This spell is also carried over from CHAINMAIL. However. a fireball has a hit area equal to a “large” catapult. Magic-Users & Clerics . II: MONSTERS & TREASURE Special Ability (p. no specification is given in Vol. once with a +3 added to the die roll. 28): This spell states that “the Elemental will remain until dispelled. . .” In CHAINMAIL. not the Alternate Combat System. 2    . I suggest that the morale system introduced in the Basic D&D rulebook edited by Tom Moldvoy (1979) will take care of your gaming needs here.e. At the bottom of page 18 is this statement under the heading “Fighting Capability”: “This is a key to use in conjunction with the CHAINMAIL fantasy rule. Invisibility (p. a Troll would attack six times. I as to how this spell works. CHAINMAIL. According to CHAINMAIL on p. the information is virtually the same. The added statement that “+3” is added to one of the die rolls for a Troll is consistent with the CHAINMAIL combat system.” CHAINMAIL does not have an “Invisibility” spell under Wizard figures. However. See page B27. but the Magic-User must concentrate on control or the elemental will turn upon its conjurer and attack him (see CHAINMAIL). p.” The information listed here is for the CHAINMAIL combat system only. Conjure Elemental (p. i. the following reference is given under “Special Ability”: Special Ability functions are generally as indicated in CHAINMAIL where not contradictory to the information stated hereinafter .” This appears to be a reference to the CHAINMAIL combat system. with any bonuses being given to only one of the attacks.” Fireball (p. 5): This section states the following: “Attack/Defense capabilities versus normal men are simply a matter of allowing one roll as a man-type for every hit die. However. 17-18): Fighting Capability for each class is given in CHAINMAIL terms. VOL. this spell speeds the movement of up to 20 figures by 50% for 3 turns. not the ACS. it is stated that that “as in CHAINMAIL. the entry in CHAINMAIL starting on page 12 does not have a reference to a “large” catapult. but they can become visible and attack during the same turn. this spell causes up to 20 figures to move at ½ speed for 2 turns. 26): This spell is also carried over from CHAINMAIL. The entries are for “light catapult” with a hit area of 2”. I as to how this spell works. The Alternate Combat System is recommended.” Attack/Defense Capabilities (p. and a “heavy catapult” with a hit area of 3 ½”. 5): After the Monster Reference Table is presented in the opening pages of this volume. no specification is given in Vol. 31. . However. 24): Under the entry for the Invisibility spell in Vol. 32. a character cannot remain invisible and Attack.

16): In this entry. . 7): It is stated here that “these small monsters are as described in CHAINMAIL. However. it is stated in CHAINMAIL on p. 30): Magical “. However. cavalry charges. 5): At the end of this paragraph. . Giants (p. immediately conduct missile fire. This information might only be helpful if you are using the CHAINMAIL combat system. This ability is described in CHAINMAIL. 8): It is stated that Giants act as mobile light catapults with a 20’ range (should this be 20” range?) “as stated in CHAINMAIL. Dwarves (p. it is questionable whether or not Combat was actually detailed in Vol. scoring damage as if they were striking an opponent (3–18 points).” It is also stated in CHAINMAIL. 3    .)” However. magical armor adds its bonus to the wearer’s Armor Class. before having to land.” In the “Melees” section of CHAINMAIL starting on page 14. 12. on sight. and then continue to move up to the remaining ½ of their normal movement. 16): The entry for Dwarves ends with the following statement: “They are otherwise as outlined in CHAINMAIL. a figure with split move and fire can move up to ½ of their normal movement. on p. Ghouls (p. 29.” Otherwise. Horses (p. and so forth. Otherwise. 16): The entry for Pixies states that they are “air sprites as described in CHAINMAIL. 8): Stone Giants throw as “heavy captapults. Earth Elementals inflict 4-32 points of damage. Elves (p.” Pixies (p.” Stone Giants (p. war horses melee “as explained in CHAINMAIL. the following is stated: “(Combat is detailed in Book III. Goblins (p.” This may be a CHAINMAIL reference. armor proper subtracts its bonus from the hit dice of the opponents of its wearer. Normally figures are not allowed to move after attacking.Attack/Defense Capabilities (p. there is some information include regarding mounted figures. that dwarves will attack goblins. according to Greyhawk. 18): Earth Elementals are described as having “the effect of a super battering ram against walls. Armor (p. excluding Elves. 29 that Sprites (Pixies) can fly for up to 3 turns maximum. on page 18. war horses were described in the D&D Expert book edited by Cook.” which is a CHAINMAIL reference. III as stated here.” This may be a CHAINMAIL reference. According to CHAINMAIL on p. according to Greyhawk. there is no new information offered in the CHAINMAIL entry for Goblins. as their natural and most hated enemies. 9): It is stated that Ghouls can paralyze any “normal figure” they touch. 20): In this entry. “as stated in CHAINMAIL for Wights. it is stated that elves on foot may split move and fire and that mounted elves may not split move and fire.” However. Earth Elementals (p.

25): This is the big reference to CHAINMAIL from Vol.” This may be a CHAINMAIL reference. According to CHAINMAIL.” Here are the steps. “they not necessarily increase hit probability. However. III. Initiative: Both sides roll a die (d6). . It is stated here that “the basic system is that from CHAINMAIL. or the Alternate Combat System in Vol. and a position in the saddle for his defense. this item has been later described in Basic D&D edited by Moldvoy. etc. VOL. Land Combat (p. 4    .” However. Under this system.Horn of Blasting (p.” This may be a CHAINMAIL reference. So what is really missing from the CHAINMAIL combat system in the original D&D? I suggest it is the turn sequence for combat and the initiative system. on page 42. Gauntlets of Ogre Power (p. Girdle of Giant Strength (p. 26-27. but no system for initiative was included. Split move and fire is possible here.” There are “Jousting” rules presented in CHAINMAIL on pp. III: UNDERWORLD & WILDERNESS ADVENTURES Fighting-Men (p. this item has been later described in the Expert D&D rulebook edited by Cook. However. each combatant selects an aiming point for his attack with a lance. gates.” Bombards are described on page 14 of CHAINMAIL. 15): While in the Wilderness.” Here. if the party encounters Fighting-Men within castles. a “Turn Sequence” is given called “The Move/Counter Move System. A surprise system was provided in Vol. it is stated that melee and missile combat can be conducted per the CHAINMAIL system. they may demand a jousting match with all fighter types. I. with scores equalling a drive back or kill equal only to a hit. Melee can be conducted with the combat table given in Book I or by the CHAINMAIL system. 38): Horns of Blasting are stated as having the “effect of a double bombard (see Book Ill and CHAINMAIL) on non-living materials such as walls. 38): This magic item is described as giving the wearer the “strength and hit probability (if greater than the wearer’s own) of a Hill Giant. It is also stated here that “if a joust takes place (use rules from CHAINMAIL) the occupant of the castle will take the loser’s armor . . in summary. Counter Move: The side that moves last now moves its figures. 3. 38): This magic item is described as giving the wearer “the ability to strike as an Ogre. the side with the higher score has the choice of electing to move first or last. Split move and fire is possible here. The action is resolved by reference to a Jousting Matrix in Appendix C. However. I suggest that you check the entry for this item in the D&D Expert book edited by Cook. on page 9. with one figure representing one man or creature. III. Move: The side that moves first now moves its figures. with my headings added: 1. 2.

A d6 initiative system was also introduced in Basic D&D edited by Moldvoy. I suggest to you that Chainmail is not required to play OD&D.” CONCLUSION: In this paper. missile combat is as in CHAINMAIL. Self-explanatory. I have analyzed the various references in OD&D to Chainmail to determine if access to the Chainmail ruleset is really needed to play OD&D. melee combat is conducted according to the “Man-to-Man rules as found in CHAINMAIL. Therefore. Naval Combat – Boarding and Melee (p. 5. In Appendix A. Air Combat (p. In addition. Artillery Fire. under the “Individual Fires With Missiles” table on p. Missile Fire. 6. Self-explanatory.4. I suggest that you refer to that system. Melee Combat. Naval Combat – Missile Fire (p. in the D&D Basic Rulebook edited by Moldvoy. any omitted information was later furnished in Greyhawk. Thank you and happy gaming. All of these publications are readily available at this time. but were given in CHAINMAIL. 5    . provided you are using the Alternate Combat System. Self-explanatory. 41. ranges for missile weapons are given. or in the D&D Expert Rulebook edited by Cook. However. 30): In Naval Combat situations. missile fire ranges were also given in Basic D&D edited by Moldvoy (at page B27). 25): Here it is stated that missile and melee combat is based on CHAINMAIL. I. Incidentally. Missile Fire Ranges were not included in Vol. I conclude that having access to Chainmail is not required to play OD&D. 31): During boarding actions.