|A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity cover by Jeff Dee|
I don't use a heck of a lot of house rules for combat in 2e AD&D, but I do use one which (for my gaming table) simplifies the positioning and facing of melee combatants. It's called the Flanking Rule. And it's basically insta-portable into just about any other old edition of D&D or retro RPG.
The Flanking Rule goes like this:
When you find yourself engaged in melee combat with two or more opponents (you are outnumbered), you are considered flanked—regardless of whether your opponents are in front of you, on opposing sides of you, partly in front and partly behind you, or whatever. The same works for you and any allies who are engaged in melee combat with a single opponent—you all flank him.
It is easier to attack flanked combatants, so you gain +2 to your attack roll. In addition, some special abilities allow you to deal extra damage against a flanked opponent. Flanked opponents do not lose their Dexterity bonus to AC (only surprised, held, or otherwise immobilized opponents do) and the DM ignores the rear positioning and attack roll modification rules in the DMG.
It takes a minimum of two combatants working in tandem to flank; you cannot flank someone by yourself. Up to six attackers can gain the flanking attack bonus against a single creature of their size. You must have at least four attackers to gain a flanking bonus against a creature that is one size larger than you or eight attackers for a creature two sizes larger than you. You cannot flank a creature larger than this. Creatures of unusual shape or body type may only be flanked at the discretion of the DM.
Flanking Rule Exception: You cannot be flanked so long as you have an ally beside you. The two of you naturally position yourselves to best deal with your foes.
This has led to a couple of other tweaks, most notably the removal of rear positioning attack modifiers and the adaptation of the thief's backstabbing ability to one more resembling 3rd and 4th edition's sneak attack [Steve's Note: More on this in a future post]. However, the main goal of this rule is to eliminate any tabletop miniature shifting/facing/positioning arguments, as well as the "no I was behind him!" bullshit that players (especially thieves) always seem to come up with.
Overall, my players and I like this simple change as it allows you to "gang up" on a foe and get a bit of a bonus. It also allows you to go "back-to-back" for safety when confronted with foes outnumbering you. Both are results which feel very old-school to me when in play.