Thursday, January 18, 2018

Coshing, It Is All the Rage

I was reading through an adventure module from the olden days, The Mines of Keridav written by Kerry Lloyd for Phoenix Games back in 1979. I had hair back then. A lot of it.

While I was reading this relic I found a section on coshing.

Nope, wrong cosh. That's Kosh.

Ah no, that may be a cosh, but not correct one.

There we go, that beauty above was used by press gangs for the Royal Navy back in the day. That look vicious.

So coshing is basically bopping someone in the head and knocking them out. A non-lethal way to subdue someone without a lot of noise.

Umm, not the same thing. Close. Just put the metal baton in Spock's hand and have him club the guy over the head. That would be more accurate. But thank you Spock for the demonstration.

In the Mines of Keridav there is a small section about the mechanics of coshing someone. The adventure is written for Runequest I believe so it may reflect that, but the mechanics could be used universally. Instead of quoting from the adventure I scanned the section.

Click it to make it big. I find the mechanic good for back then, but today I am sure GMs would add a opposing contest of skills. Stealth vs. Perception kind of thing. And then the component for knocking someone out has a lot to do with the hear gear worn.

I like the idea of a non-lethal form of combat. In 1970s shows there was always a lot of coshing going on. Whap someone in the back of the head, they would catch them for some reason, probably to reduce the noise, lay them on the ground or stash them out of sight and then continue on.

Here's the problem I have with it, in my game, if the players can do it, so can the NPCs. Can you imagine a 5th level fight standing guard gets knocked out with one blow. The outrage. The cries of injustice. The throw of dice and tantrums. And that's just me. I would need to change it up if I planned to use coshing in my game.

Here's what I would do. The base of success would not be determined by the helmet, but by the character's saving throw. I think this is a mechanic that fits well with the use of a saving throw. I mainly play games were there is single save, but if you play a game with more than one type of save you can just pick the best fit. Then I would give bonuses to the save based on the helmet. Say +1 for a coif, +2 for leather helm, +3 for a metal helm. Keeping it simple. And if the head protection has magical bonus I would add that in also. So wearing a +1 coif would provide +2 to your save vs. coshing.

Let me know what you thing and if you know of any other 'knock out' mechanics in games, please let me know.


  1. I love coshes and "blackjacks;" there were rules for them in the old Unearthed Arcana that I made extensive use of, back in my AD&D days.

    My second book, The Complete B/X Adventurer, included a bounty hunter (based on the Bard Games write-up). My adaptation gave the class the following ability:

    "...when striking an opponent with surprise, a bounty hunter may WAYLAY his victim with a fist or blunt weapon. A normal to hit roll is made and, if successful, the bounty hunter does double damage and knocks the target unconscious for a number of minutes equal to the damage caused. If the waylaid target is of equal or greater level or or hit dice to the bounty hunter, it may make a save versus death ray to avoid losing consciousness."

    In a B/X game that included such a class, I'd allow non-bounty hunters to cosh someone in similar fashion with the caveats: must use a weapon (not a fist), damage is NOT doubled (and thus KO time is halved), and a saving throw is ALWAYS permitted.

    Save adjustments for helmets seems a little fiddly to me (bonuses for magic armor/helms?) but I might allow them on a case-by-case basis.

    My B/X Companion had unarmed combat rules that allow knock-outs, but it does not address blackjacks/coshes.

    1. I'll have to dig out my B/X book and reread it again. And as far as magical helms go, I can't remember the last time one was found in my game. But yeah dude, it's magical, it's only job is to keep your head intact, and I think coshing would be covered in its duties.

    2. I like this rule. Seems pretty straightforward, simple and logical.


  2. It was a while ago but we used this back when you played Ashling

    Head Shot
    The attacker may elect to try a head shot on helmless target. The attack roll is at a disadvantage. The target makes a normal roll for his saving throw. If the target fails his saving throw, he falls unconscious. If the target
    is unaware or surprised the attack is normal.
    Targets that are five times the size of the attacker are not effected by head shots.

    1. I do remember that and was trying to remember how you ran it, but couldn't remember any of the details.

  3. By the way (and totally off subject): have you shown the Whisk this post on tumblr?

    Very awesome.
    : )

  4. That is cool. I'll show her. Thanks JB.