The surprise rules are laid out in a fairly concise manner. In a standard situation, each side rolls 1d6, and they are surprised on a roll of 1 or 2. If the die indicates surprise for one side, the number rolled is the number of segments that side is surprised for. If both sides are surprised, the difference between the two dice gives the number of segments the losing side is surprised for. Some creatures and spells change the likelihood of surprise (1-in-6, 1-in-8, etc.), but the above rules are applied in much the same way. It's all pretty simple, and not the complicated nightmare I'd been told to expect. I'm wondering if the complicated stuff comes in with the DMG.
One aspect of AD&D surprise that differs from almost every other version of the game is that a character who has surprise can make one attack per surprise segment. That can add up to a lot of free attacks on the party, and I wouldn't be shocked if bad surprise rolls are one of the leading causes of TPKs in AD&D games that are run strictly by the book.
TRAPS, TRICKS AND ENCOUNTERS
This section briefly outlines the nature of the various tricks, traps and encounters that the party might encounter on their adventures, and some tips for avoiding or dealing with them. It's rudimentary stuff for experienced gamers, and there was nothing like this in OD&D. It's similar to a lot of the advice seen in Dragon to this point though. Things like using poles to probe the floor ahead, avoiding wandering monsters that have little treasure, minimising random encounter checks by not wasting time. I wonder perhaps if Gary included this stuff after seeing how the game was played outside of his immediate circle, by people who were less tactically-minded. It's all good survival advice for those starting out.
Some guidelines are given as to who acts first in an encounter, though at this point it's not dealing with first strikes in melee and the like. Basically, the PCs roll 1d6, the monsters roll 1d6, and the highest roll goes first. Dexterity isn't a factor, but hasted creatures always go first, and slowed creatures always lose initiative. Like the surprise rules above, it's shockingly simple, but I know that there are complications to come.
I like that the first option given after Initiative is described is talking to the opposition: it's a clear indication to the players that there are more ways of getting through an encounter than killing. There's not much here, though, besides bringing up the fact that non-humanoid monsters will be difficult to communicate with.
This section spends most of its time talking about bribes, and how they can be the difference between life and death for the PCs. It also points out that even dumb monsters will know when they're outmatched, and in those cases won't push their luck when making demands.
In this section is covered the various major actions that a creature might make in combat. The order that these actions are given in is strangely arbitrary. I can't discern any rhyme or reason to it, and it definitely reinforces the notion that Gary was writing a lot of this off the cuff, regardless of whether that's true or not.
The ability of clerics to turn undead is described, and it should once more be noted that this ability extends to demons, devils, godlings and (in the case of evil clerics) paladins. I find it curious that this section (and pretty much this whole chapter) is mostly devoid of rules. What we get is more like rough guidelines about what the players should know, and advice on how to play well. It's noted that a turning cleric must be able to speak and hold forth their holy symbol, and that they can't cast any spells at the same time.
Gary talks a bit about items and spells that grant control over certain monsters, but rather than give guidelines about how much control is conferred, he makes it clear that these items don't function automatically. These items must be used, and there are many ways in which that use can be disrupted. Or, to use one of his own examples "a scroll cannot be read in the whirlwind of an air elemental's attack". Words of wisdom.
It's pointed out that spells take a long time to cast, and often go last in a round. Casting can also be disrupted by striking, grabbing, or otherwise attacking the caster. It seems to me that only successful attacks disrupt casting, but it's not 100% clear.
Breath Weapon Attacks
There's not much here, just a reminder that certain monsters have breath and gaze attacks, and that there are certain precautions that can be taken that might minimise their effects. About the only thing of note here is these attacks happen really quickly, and so are difficult to disrupt.
Magical Device Attacks
Again, more vague waffle that's not all that helpful. There are devices, they usually have an area of effect, saving throws apply, and attacks made with them happen quickly.
All this section does is outline what counts as a missile attack. Included are catapults, rocks thrown by giants, manticore tail spikes, fireballs from a necklace of missiles, and poison spitting. I appreciate the weird specificity here.
After a brief definition of melee, and a reminder of how initiative works, it's noted that Fighters with multiple attacks will always attack first against opponents who can only attack once. I wonder, does this apply to monsters with multiple attacks as well? Or to non-fighters who otherwise acquire multiple attacks? Or is it completely restricted to the Fighter and its sub-classes? I'd be inclined not to apply this rule to monsters, because a lot of them have multiple attacks, and AD&D is deadly enough as it is.
In a description of the melee actions a character can opt to take, there's a rule for parrying: the creature gives up its attacks, and its Strength bonus to attack rolls is subtracted from the enemy's attack rolls. I'm not a fan of this rule, especially because the majority of AD&D character's just won't have any bonus at all. Monsters don't even have Strength scores. For most creatures, parrying will confer no benefit.
Falling back is described as moving backwards away from the opponent, possibly in combination with a parry. Fleeing exposes a creature to a rear attack as they move away from melee at top speed. With both of these maneuvers, the opponent has the option of following the one moving, which makes a lot more sense than the "you move, now I move" sequence that D&D combat often has.
Example of Combat
In this example, five PCs (a thief, a magic-user, a cleric, a human fighter and a dwarf fighter) surprise an illusionist and twenty orcs. There's only one thing about this example that I don't understand. The PCs have surprise, and the magic-user starts casting a sleep spell. After the surprise round the orcs win initiative, and one of them disrupts the spell with a thrown spear. Sleep only has a casting time of 1, though. Shouldn't it go off in the surprise round?
Regardless, I'll probably use this party as a group of NPCs, probably assigning this battle as part of the backstory for whatever appropriate pre-gens are in the modules. Or I might just decide that they all die here, and place their corpses in the Greyhawk dungeons. If I go that way, I'll have to create a lair for the illusionist and his orcs (even though said illusionist is killed here).
The process of rolling to save against various attack forms is detailed. It's specifically pointed out that items need to make saving throws as well, although no guidelines are given. Examples given include a cloak exposed to dragon breath, and (I love this one) a magic hammer flying through a cone of cold before reaching its target.
The various factors that can make up a character's Armor Class are laid out: armor, shields, Dexterity, other magic items, the dwarven bonus against giants, etc. There's an example combat given in which it's made clear that a shield can only protect against a limited number of attackers (in this case it must be a large shield, because it's given as three). It's also shown that a character can only react to those in front of him, so those attacking from the flanks and rear can ignore the defender's Dexterity bonus.
The example character is a dwarf fighter, who's wearing splint mail, has a +1 shield and a displacer cloak, and has a Dexterity score of 16. I might make him the same dwarf from the Example of Combat above, perhaps later in his career, and say that he survives both of these sample combats.
No, it's not Jackie Chan's Police Story 4, it's the determination of who gets the first blow in melee combat. Usually initiative determines this, but certain factors can influence it. Fighters with multiple attacks will strike first, and take their remaining attacks last. Slowed creatures go last, while hasted ones go first. A creature with a significantly longer weapon than their opponent will get the first strike, at least in the opening round. Dexterity and weapon factors are said to apply to important single combats only.
The various weapon properties are listed (damage, weight, length, space needed, speed factor, weapon vs. armor), but nothing is detailed.
Monster Attack Damage
Monsters either use weapon damage, or that of their own natural attacks. No shit, Gary.
Attack and Saving Throw Matrices
All of the charts for attack rolls and saving throws, basically the whole guts of the combat system, are in the DMG. I've always found this a little baffling, as I feel that it's really the sort of thing a player should have at their fingertips. They should be able to look up the combat capabilities of the various classes, and compare them. I know they can just get their own DMG, but I still find it a bit of an odd decision. And then there's the fact that the DMG wasn't released for quite some time after the PHB, so at the time players could create AD&D characters but they couldn't run combats without referencing back to OD&D or the Basic Set.
Damage is taken away from hit points, and if a character is reduced to 0 or below, they're dead. Trolls and those with a ring of regeneration are pointed out as an exception. (Note that we still haven't got to the point where characters below 0 are dying, and can be bandaged and healed. At this point, it's still outright death.)
Falling deals 1d6 damage per 10 feet, to a maximum of 20d6, possibly modified by the surface landed on. The possibility that the referee might dish out broken bones and the like instead is alluded to. I'm not 100% sure about this, but this might be the first time that falling damage has been outlined in the game.
Natural healing occurs at a rate of 1hp per day of rest, and after 30 days of rest that healing increases to 5hp/day. This can be slow for high-level characters, and creates the strange phenomenon whereby 1st-level characters heal up from their wounds much faster than those of higher levels.
In OD&D, characters didn't heal anything on the first day of rest, and after that they regained a hit point on "every other day thereafter". Depending on how you interpret "every other day", that could mean that healing rates have doubled since OD&D, or it could mean that they're pretty much the same (at least for the first 30 days of rest).