This section begins with a short notice that these rules can be added to the game once two or three sessions have been played, as they increase the complexity of the game. I've been playing the full game for so long, and playing many more complex games than Classic D&D, that it's easy to forget how much there was to digest as an 11-year old. And as I've stated several times in the past, there were several systems we ignored or got wrong for a few years, and sometimes preferred the "wrong" way once we realized the error. So while many of these things seem like integral parts of "Ye Olde Game," the real "basic" game is even simpler.
In other words, here come the optional rules.
If you want to attack hand to hand, it's pretty simple. Ranged combat adds complexities like range, cover, and the (unstated here actually) tracking of ammunition. Not overly complex, but I can see how it makes sense to have beginning players and DMs sticking to the simpler melee combat rules for a few games before adding all of this in.
We're given rules for missile devices (bows, crossbows, slings), as well as thrown weapons (spears, axes, daggers, plus holy water and oil). Devices may not be used within 5', period (unless the target is helpless). Thrown weapons may be thrown or used in melee, giving them versatility to compensate for poorer range.
Both holy water and burning oil do 1d8 damage. Holy water is expensive and only works on undead, but oil is cheap. Also, while oil requires two hit rolls, it also burns for two rounds. We never abused burning oil as kids, but in recent games I've found it is a life-saver for low level adventurers.
There's one small mistake in this section, the crossbow is stated to have the best range of any missile weapon, when actually it's the long bow (180' crossbow, 210' long bow). Rather unimportant, really.
In the oil section, we get a version of what will be called "touch AC" in 3E. Once a creature is covered in oil (which for some reason appears to requires a hit roll against normal AC), an attack with a torch or other flame only needs to hit AC 10.
Range penalties are different from other editions of the game. AD&D and its descendants use normal odds for short range, and apply penalties for longer ranges. Not so here. Being within short range grants a +1 bonus to the roll, while medium range is at no modifier, and long range is at -1. Nice and simple, and I prefer it to having to remember 0/-2/-5 like in AD&D or the progressive penalties of 3E/d20. Not that those are hard, mind you. It's likely just familiarity and years of use of the Classic system.
Variable Weapon Damage
For us, this went into effect from the get-go. It's only in recent years that I tried "all weapons do 1d6" (not counting the starter adventures in this book). We weren't always sticklers for the two-handed weapons automatically losing initiative thing, since we usually used group initiative.
And despite this, as kids we still had a wide range of weaponry among characters. We definitely played to type, rather than optimizing, when we were kids. Often our characters were copies of, or at least inspired by, some character in the media (comics, books, TV, movies, video games).
This is a bit of a loaded term for me, now, since it's what I call all the crazy martial arts "feats" in Flying Swordsmen and Chanbara. Here, it simply covers fighting withdrawals and retreats, and paired combat (individual initiative) rules.
Fighting withdrawals are at 1/2 speed, the opponent may move with you, and you both still get to attack/defend normally.
Retreats are at full speed, and the fleeing character may not attack, suffers a -2 penalty to AC, and may not use a shield bonus. Simple and about as complex as attack of opportunity rules need to be, IMO.
Paired combat replaces the standard group initiative rolls with rolls for each PC and monster (or group of monsters). This allows players to add/subtract Dex modifiers (and a +1 bonus for Halflings) to the rolls, and makes for a bit more dynamic combats.
I'm all for round-by-round initiative, if the rolls are simple as they are here. Whether it's group init, or individual, a simple 1d6 (with a couple of modifiers) makes it easy to implement each round.
The "basic" Basic game ignores encumbrance, which as this section tells us can get silly. But then most classic video games ignored it and no one seemed to care.
Here, we're given a functional but abstract system to use, with advice that a more detailed version will be given in the Expert set. Basically if you're in no or leather armor plus normal gear, you can carry up to 100 cn and still be unencumbered (120' per turn). Wearing chain or plate armor plus gear slows you down to 90' per turn, and again you can pocket up to 100 cn worth of treasure before being slowed further.
10 coins to the pound is a bit ridiculous when considering real-world coinage, but it makes for simpler calculations. I do like how special treasures, like jewelry and potions are simply listed as weighing 10 cn, with gems being 1 cn. The gems and jewelry, we imagined, were like the types you see in movies. Honking huge. I imagine now the intent was that they're usually in a padded case of some sort like actual jewelers use, or will be wrapped in rags or something when carried to minimize damage.
We get capacities for bags and backpacks, and some brief rules for pack mules as well.
Retainers get some detailed rules here. Hiring them should be an adventure of sorts all its own, heavily role played. There are no "men at arms" 0-level NPCs mentioned in this section, only classed characters. They get what they are paid, rather than a share of treasure, although bonuses increase morale. They do take a 1/2 share of all XP earned.
In play, we've always tended to have classed retainers ask for a 1/2 share of treasure (minus magic items) instead of a salary. 0-level hirelings get set amounts of pay and no XP. Not by the book, but then we didn't use retainers or hirelings much anyway in the early days.
I do like how it suggests that retainers will leave after their contract is up or after gaining a level, but the sheet should be given to the DM so they can use them as recurring NPCs. Shared world building on a small scale, but I like it.
Hirelings can be expensive, too. As per the book, the PC should buy ALL equipment for the character. That's one way to use up some of that treasure at low levels. Especially if the retainers don't renew contracts. And considering, why would they? Many of them have just made a fair amount of money and somehow not been lucky enough not to have been wearing a red shirt.
Retainers - the overlooked money-sink of low level play.
And with that, I think I've got one more post to do to cover the final section plus all the end of the book stuff (glossary, ads, character sheet). Then it's on to the Dungeon Master's Rulebook!