Passages in italics are quotations from Noism's post D&D Combat is More Abstract Than You Think, which kinda got me riled up, so I apologize in advance for the acerbic tone.
...it's important to remember that the D&D combat rules evolved in a
context of a 1 minute combat round: in OD&D and AD&D 1st
edition, the combat round is a minute in length.
OK, but 1-minute rounds are just stupid. Just because it was in 0e or 1e doesn't mean it made any sense, or that it's good game design. There's any number of things in the old editions that are stupid and that have been houseruled away by generations of gamers.
One of the big parts of the OSR is our willingness to deconstruct the rules and modify them to suit us, not point to them as gospel.
...the famous idea of Gary Gygax's that a D&D fight should resemble the
sword fight between Robin Hood and Sir Guy of Gisborne in the Errol
Firstly, the notion that Errol Flynn-style combat is worth emulating is far from a universal notion. It bears no similarity to reality, it has no real risk or danger, and is extremely ill-suited to a dice-driven system like D&D.
That kind of combat exists for one purpose only: advancing
the plot of a film. It's more the kind of combat you see in a story
game, where the relative advantages and disadvantages in the fight
reflect and comment on the dialog of the characters, and no-one gets
hurt or dies except for maximizing the dramatic effect.
It is literally the exact opposite of old-school D&D combat, which is random and messy - people die and get hurt with no consideration for what that might mean for the "story". The dice reign supreme, as opposed to the story.
D&D combat bears exactly zero similarity to that style of combat, and that combat bears exactly zero similarity to real life (except that there are humans, and they have swords). That Gygax said that says it was his inspiration says little about his knowledge of combat or game design.
So much for the idea of Errol Flynn combat.
You're rolling to see if, over the course of 1 minute, you manage to
wear down your opponent's defences, either through actual physical
damage or moral 'damage' or exhaustion or whatever.
Your hit points represent you capacity to stay in the fight, which
slowly gets reduced over time (the higher your level, the longer this
I covered this in my recent post on Hit Points.
Hit points exist as a proxy for your defensive abilities, not your physical or mental stamina, or physical ability to absorb damage. The notion in (0e, at least) was that a single blow would kill a normal person about half the time - that is to say, you essentially don't have any HP, you are simply killed by a single hit and have a base 50% chance of "save vs. death".
This can be seen as an evolution from the Chainmail 1 hit = dead every time, no chance to survive. The move to D&D gave you a 50% save vs. death built-in.
So HP are, in a real sense, nothing. Trying to map them onto stamina or morale or life force or blood pressure doesn't work, as they're a statistical increase to the average life expectancy, nothing more.
And your movement rate, which seems absurdly slow, represents the fact
that you are scooting around and manoeuvring for position while avoiding
blows, missile attacks, what have you.
There can literally be no defense of 0e's absurdly low movement rates. There is no way you can slice them that makes a lick of sense.
They are most likely an error in the move from Chainmail mass battle to D&D single combat.
The fact that only one or two shots are permitted in a 1 minute round
indicates that the archer is waiting to pick his moment to fire.
There's probably a reasonable middle-ground between 1 arrow every 6 seconds to 1 arrow every 60.
If you're taking a minute for an arrow, though, that's definitely excessive. Your odds of hitting are going to be much higher sending more shafts downrange than waiting for that "perfect chance" that may never come.
I would question why there really needs to be even an arbitrary length to a combat round of 1 minute.
Yes, and - as I said before - I agree. If you interpret D&D combat as you clearly do, then do away with rounds altogether. Just make an opposed d20 roll to see who wins.
What is the purpose of a combat round? It gives a chance for everybody to decide what they want to do and then act.
Well, it's supposed to give a way to direct a continuous action in discrete steps. As such, you need to know how long the step is going to be so you can plan your action.
It doesn't matter: there is no credibility to stretch because we are not
dealing with a system which has to make sense in the way that a less
abstract one does. We are not rolling dice 'to hit', despite the name:
we are rolling to see how far we attrit (that is a word: I looked it up)
If character A can attrite (I've always seen it with the 'e', but apparently both are used) character B by an average of 3 'units' per 10 seconds, then yes - it does matter one hell of a lot how long a round is. If character B has 10 'units' to attrite away, then he can last 4 rounds of 10 second, or less than 1 round of 1 minute.
I don't see how this is so hard to grasp...
Whether you're using a highly abstract system or a highly detailed one makes no difference, unless you're abstract to the point of story-gaming.
Another good reason for preferring abstract combat is just that realism may be something of a fool's errand.
It may be, but as I wrote before here, realism is to be infinitely preferred to not-realism (all other things being equal).
The short version, for the lazy, is that if the system isn't realistic, then the players need to master the system to make sensible choices. The more realistic the system, the more the players can leverage their knowledge of the real world.
For example, in reality, dropping a 25lb 10ft down onton someone's head would probably at the very least stun them, and possibly knock them out cold, maybe even kill them.
In D&D, it would have one of two effects: none, or kill them stone dead. Since that's not what would happen in the real world, a player needs to know the system well enough to understand that even though in the real world X would happen, Y will happen in the game.
I really like the idea of Western Martial Arts but I'm not persuaded
that they are entirely realistic; until people start actually fighting to the death using
these techniques, and agreeing that if they are injured they will only
use medical techniques that were in use in the 14th century, I think
that "what happens in a real sword fight" is still a matter of
considerable conjecture and will likely remain so.
Sorry, but that's just ignorant. I don't really know what else to say to that.
Your ignorant, uninformed opinion based on literally nothing compared to 30 years of dedicated scholarship and experiment? It's easy to see where the weight of evidence is, and it's not on your side.
I mean, what would you think if I said something like (I seem to recall that your field is philosophy of law, or something related - apologies if it's not), "I really like the idea of the philosophy of law, but I think that scholarship in that field has revealed nothing and that everyone who has ever studied it has completely wasted their time"?
That's literally what you just said about students of historical Western martial arts.