Swimming, Sinking and Drowning in AD&D 2E

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ArcticFox
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Swimming, Sinking and Drowning in AD&D 2E

Postby ArcticFox » Sun May 18, 2014 6:42 pm

So I have been brushing the rust off of my 2E AD&D rules knowledge in preparation for our eventual return to the AD&D campaign on Roll 20.

I've also selected a module to run, and have been studying it and making notes to myself to ensure things run smoothly when the time comes to play.  One rule that has come up is the ability for characters to hold their breath, and there's a "GM discretion" question that I've decided to put before the group to get some thoughts.

First, a quick tutorial on how characters holding their breath works.

If a character goes underwater, they can hold their breath for a number of rounds equal to their Constitution/3. (round up)  That's assuming no strenuous activity and they had a chance to take a breath before immersion.  This time is cut in half if they did not have a chance to take a deep breath first.  This time is also cut in half if they're performing strenuous activity.  So a character who is pulled under by surprise, and is fighting, would be able to hold his/her breath for Constitution/12 rounds.  (So 2 rounds for those with above average Con). 

Obviously, activity like swimming or fighting would be exertions that would cut time.

Once that time has elapsed, the character makes a Constitution check each round, with a cumulative -2 penalty.  Failure means the character has drowned.

Also, characters in metal armor cannot swim.  Period.  They sink like a stone.  (Yes, that includes magical armor.)  Chain mail armor takes 1 round to remove, and plate mail (or heavier) can be removed in 1d4+1 rounds (cut that time in half if the character is willing to quickly cut straps and tear buckles to get it off quick.)   

And now the question:  Would removing armor in a hurry count as an exertion?  My thinking is that yes, it does.  The problem is that a character wearing plate mail, who was surprised to be thrown in, and is struggling to get their armor off can hold their breath for only 2 rounds and then are suddenly making Constitution checks or die.

I can see this becoming an argument.  I don't want an argument.  

So what do you guys think?  It seems to me a body of deep water is quite a severe threat to a character with plate armor and no other means of underwater breathing.  You could literally be dead in 3 rounds if you fall in... and it can take as many as 5 rounds to get that armor off.  (3 if you're willing to sacrifice the suit itself.)  It's very easy to imagine a character struggling to shed their heavy armor is exerting himself quite intensely, and thus the additional cut to their time is justified.  (Honestly, we're only talking about the difference of a single round at most if the character was caught by surprise... but still.  Nobody wants their character to be in such helpless peril.)

I'm not looking to modify the rules, just interested in other people's opinions on the matter.  As it stands now, in a game I intend to rule it an exertion to shed armor quickly.
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Re: Swimming, Sinking and Drowning in AD&D 2E

Postby ccgr » Sun May 18, 2014 10:53 pm

I'm with you I think it's a pain in the butt to gear up and down and takes time and more energy to do it quickly. I think armored people shouldn't be near water IMO.

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Re: Swimming, Sinking and Drowning in AD&D 2E

Postby Sstavix » Mon May 19, 2014 3:03 am

I would think that it does count as an exertion to remove heavy armor.

But is drowning an "instant-kill" situation? I may be getting my editions / games mixed up, but I thought a character who was drowning took automatic damage each round until the person was pulled out of the water (or sand... I seem to recall this came up while playing Dark Sun...) or the character died.

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Re: Swimming, Sinking and Drowning in AD&D 2E

Postby ArcticFox » Mon May 19, 2014 8:31 am

Yep, drowning = death. Considering what's happening, it makes perfect sense.

Suppose we have a character of somewhat above average health, having a Constitution of 15. He's pulled under the surface suddenly. Normally he could hold his breath for 5 rounds, but since he was pulled under by surprise, that drops to 3 rounds. This is still impressive, as in 2nd Edition AD&D, a round is approximately 1 minute.

That character holds his breath for 3 minutes, THEN starts making Con checks. The first check is made against the base 15. Odd are, he'll make it. If he does, he's now been under for fully 4 minutes without a breath. Make another, and that's 5. In real life, not many humans can go 5 minutes under water unless they have an oxygen tank. Make another Con check, and that's 6. Most humans in real life can't even go a minute.

The next Con check needs to be under a 9, and is statistically unlikely to succeed, but it's still not too difficult. That's 7 rounds without a breath.

Odds are he won't make the next, and drowns.

7 rounds in AD&D is an eternity, and if a character can't surface in that time, he's probably already a goner anyway. I think if we were to go to hit point loss as the next step, it would become silly.

Actually, I think not tying it to hit point sis a wise move. It means a 1st level character and a 10th level character would last about the same time, as opposed to the level 10 guy living 10 times longer.
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Re: Swimming, Sinking and Drowning in AD&D 2E

Postby Sstavix » Mon May 19, 2014 7:53 pm

That makes sense to me.

(Side note - one thing that never made too much sense to me was that a round in 2nd Edition D&D was one minute long. Given that most characters only get one attack per round, I tend to visualize two fighters swinging at each other, then eyeing each other warily for the next 55 seconds while everyone else does their thing, including the thief coming up behind one of them to backstab.... Second edition is a good system, but that's one aspect that always stuck me as comically wrong....)

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Re: Swimming, Sinking and Drowning in AD&D 2E

Postby ArcticFox » Mon May 19, 2014 9:02 pm

Actually that's not the way it's meant to be thought of. The assumption is that in a one-minute combat round, the combatants are striking, dodging, parrying, maneuvering, etc, the whole time... but the number of attacks you get per round represent those opportunities to strike a telling blow on your opponent. In a combat round, you might hit with your sword many, many times but those are generally deflected, or do no significant damage. A 1st level character will only get about one per round, but a much more experienced fighter will create multiple opportunities to get in more important strikes. In both cases, the clash is continuous.
Last edited by ArcticFox on Mon May 19, 2014 9:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Swimming, Sinking and Drowning in AD&D 2E

Postby ArchAngel » Mon May 19, 2014 9:02 pm

A plate mail clad and water, I suppose, really should be a life or death situation. Given 2 free rounds and 1-3 rounds for removing the suit, you'd have about 1/3 chance that you'd need to make a constitution check. If you got about 50/50 odds on constitution check, you have about the odds of Russian Roulette. Still immensely dangerous. I'm not a fan of the instadeath, generally, but given that getting into water is usually a fail in itself, 1/6 isn't terrible odds.
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