Saturday, January 29, 2011

Breath Weapon Damage (again)

I've blogged before about the discrepancy in the rules of various TSR versions of D&D dealing with dragon's breath weapons.

Do they do the dragon's full hit points at all times?  Do they decrease with damage taken?  Moldvay/Mentzer/RC are clear that it's the dragon's current hit points.  OD&D, Holmes and AD&D don't necessarily say one way or the other, but they read to strongly imply max damage.

Anyway, I finally finished up my new verse translation of Beowulf today (it sat on the shelf for quite a while) and in the battle with the dragon, there were two passages that caught my attention:

To assist his kinsman, that man in mail
aimed not for the head but lunged at the belly
of their vile enemy (in so doing his hand
was badly burnt); his sword, gleaming and adorned,
sank in up to the hilt and at once the flames
began to abate.

The 'man in mail' referenced above being Wiglaf.

Each time I slashed at that deadly enemy,
he was a little weaker, the flames leaped
less fiercely from his jaws.

Wiglaf recounting the battle to the cowards.

Quotes from the verse translation by Kevin Crossley-Holland (c) 1999.

If the Beowulf author says I'm doing it right, I'm doing it right.


  1. In AD&D I always did current hit points. I can see the argument for full hit points - but the current hit point scheme is nice, because it means a dragon coughing out his last breath isn't going to be very imposing.

    Also, anything that knocks down the notion of "dragons are nearly indestructible!" is good. The game is named Dungeons & Dragons - dragons should be grist for the adventure mill, not near-gods.

  2. That's some pretty good precedence.