Friday 1 March 2024

The Underappreciated Combat Table of Barbarian Prince

Barbarian Prince is a great little game from 1981. James Maliszewski over at Grognardia posted a short retrospective in 2011, and in 2020 Anne from DIY and Dragons wrote an excellent three-part analysis (Map and Layout; Main Menu; Characters, Followers, Encounters, and Combat). It has been recently on my mind partly because of the Drifter series (see my review of the first game here) and a four-part actual play series by the Lone Adventurer.

Today I only want to look at one specific aspect of Barbarian Prince: the combat result table.

The gist of it is this: roll 2d6, add your Combat score, subtract the enemy's Combat score, apply modifiers if any, and consult the chart below to see how many wounds the attack inflicts.

taken directly from Anne's part 3 post linked above

Anne points out how the wording in the original rules is confusing and how the table above makes no logical sense. The Lone Adventurer criticises the rule for a similar reason. I didn't go looking, but I imagine other people being baffled by the above table.

However, this table is actually pretty ingenious. Let me show you a table of the average expected damage results arranged by final modifier to the 2d6 roll.

The first column shows the final result; next to it you can see how many wounds that roll inflicts upon an enemy. The columns after that alternate between showing the percentage chance of a result (given the final modifier noted on the first line) and the expected damage. The bottom two lines show the average expected damage per attack based on the final dice modifier as well as the percentage chance of inflicting at least 1 wound (i.e. the chance of hitting).

As you can see, the average chance to hit steadily increases (up until it plateaus at 83.34%, while also retaining the increase in average damage). The way the table is set up allows the chance to hit
(basically) to follow a gradual progression whereas if it was a standard 2d6 roll (something like 2d6+mods vs a target number), the progression would be much steeper.

Of course, whether the added granularity and hard-capped accuracy is worth having a chart is something we may disagree with; I can at least point out how deliberate the numbers are, and the fact that such granularity can be achieved on a 2d6 roll is just interesting to me in and of itself.

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