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I'm reading an AD&D 2ed. module to 5E (The Wererats Of Relfren, from Dungeons Magazine #14), and in one passage, it's stated that in a small room of 10 foot square, there are 8 were-rats (supposedly medium sized creatures)

It got me wondering, how would a battle like that work on a grid...

What are the creature spaces for grid battles in the days of D&D pre 3E? How was an encounter like this supposed to work?

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Pre 3e, grids did not have the same importance. Step back from the grid a moment, and look at the room you're in. I'm in one that's about 10′×15′, and if it had less furniture in it, 12 human-sized creatures could fit in it with no problems. It would be fairly crowded, but living in dungeons isn't expected to be comfortable or spacious.

The way I'd expect to run this fight under AD&D 1 or 2e is based on the idea of frontage, rather than grid squares. (Facing and frontage is covered in the DMG, page 57.) It starts almost as soon as the door is opened. The fighter(s) at the front would expect to stay in the doorway, so as to limit the number of wererats that could get at them simultaneously.

If the door was 3′ wide, there would only be room for one fighter to engage. The wererats could probably manage two of them attacking him at once; they could try for three, but it would be very awkward for the two at the sides.

With a 5′ door, it would still be pretty crowded for two fighters with shields and weapons; the wererats have a slight advantage, in that using natural weapons in close quarters is easier than waving a 3′ sword. So the party might well have just one fighter in the doorway, but there would be more room to cast spells, fire missiles, or use spears past him. A well-organised party might well have people either side of the doorway to engage any wererats that tried getting out of the room.

In any case, the fight in the doorway is the first phase. If the party demonstrate that they can kill or disable the wererats fairly readily, the 'rats will stop attacking them, and pull back. if there's another way out of the room, they'd use it. Otherwise they'd spread out around the room so that they'd be able to attack anyone who came in from the sides and/or rear. They might well offer the party any treasure they have if they'll go away.

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