Lessons from Nightwick on BX Combat
I have been playing a fighter in Miranda Elkins’ Nightwick Abbey for a few months now. I have reached level 3 and have a magic sword that’s +3 against undead and detects metals and invisible 3 times a day. I have won Basic D&D.
As the party’s highest-level fighter and a weird freak who actually likes BX combat, I’m often in the front rank. This has taught me a few things about BX combat I shall share here. A lot of these might sound obvious, but in years of running and playing BX I very rarely see them observed, and it took the gruelling meatgrinder of Nightwick to drive home just how effective they are.
- Protect the back ranks. A lot of casualties can be avoided by putting your best-armoured fighters between the enemy and the rest of the party. Your damage output is irrelevant if you’re cut down before you can act.
- Use bottlenecks. This is especially useful in dungeons. If there are enemies in the next room, do not go through the doorway. Try not to stand in the doorway. Stand just before the doorway so the only way they can fight you is to squeeze into a tight space that only fits a couple at a time. This limits the number of attacks you can take per round and gives you a lot more control over the pace of the fight.
- Stay in formation. A lot of players will break ranks so their cleric in leather can take a swipe with their club or something. Don’t do that! Not everyone has to attack every round. Sometimes the best place for your cleric is safely ensconced in the middle rank, so they can live to Turn the horde of zombies two rooms over.
- Spears are OP. They allow you to hit enemies before they are close enough to hit back, and you can use them from the second rank. If your first rank is swords and shields, the second is spear, and your enemies are squeezed in a bottleneck, then their front rank is taking attacks from two characters per round.
- Exploit range. In Nightwick, it is impossible to fire into melee. This means the safest way not to get with an arrow is to get into a melee. Even if you’re not in Nightwick, remember that fighting indoors doesn’t allow much vertical clearance, meaning your front rank provides partial or total cover to the ranks behind. Use missiles when it’s still safe, and stay the hell away from enemies who can provide cover fire. (Aside: missile combat as written in BX is pretty ambiguous, so check with your DM how they intend to handle the cases above.)
- Cast Light. In BX / OSE, casting light on an enemy blinds them instantly and prevents them from attacking. This isn’t capped by HD like Sleep is (though they get a save) and, unlike Sleep and Charm, works on undead and non-humanoid monsters. It also provides a source of light in the middle of the enemy’s ranks, which is a huge plus in dungeons.