Sunday, February 07, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook part 14: Rangers

Rangers: Rangers are an odd case, in that they debuted in an issue of The Strategic Review rather than in one of the official supplements.  The class was not originally designed by Gary, so it will be interesting to see how far he goes in altering it.

Rangers are described here as "a sub-class of fighter who are adept at woodcraft, tracking, scouting, and infiltration and spying."  In OD&D they were restricted to Lawful alignment, but in AD&D they can be Lawful  Good, Neutral Good or Chaotic Good.  (Yet more evidence that OD&D Law/Chaos are equivalent to AD&D Good/Evil).

The ability score requirement for becoming a ranger in OD&D were quite strict (Strength 9+, Intelligence & Wisdom 12+, and Constitution 15+).  They're not much more stringent in AD&D: Str 13+, Int 13+, Wis 14+ and Con 15+.  It's probably easier to become a ranger in AD&D, even though higher stats are needed, because of the more favourable ability score generation methods.  In OD&D, rangers had Strength as a prime requisite, but an AD&D ranger needs scores of 15+ in Strength, Intelligence and Wisdom to gain the experience bonus.  Although, now that I look closer, OD&D rangers didn;t get an XP bonus for having a high Strength.  Instead they had a weird ability that gave them 4 XP for every 3 XP earned, which basically amounted to a 25% bonus.  This ability was lost once the ranger reached 8th level, but it's not present in AD&D at all.

Rangers still receive 2 Hit Dice at 1st level, but the die they use to roll for hit points remains a d8 (the fighter and paladin have both upgraded to d10 in AD&D).  They keep rolling for hit points until 11th level though, whereas the other fighter-types stop at 9th.

As in OD&D, rangers gain their level as a damage bonus when fighting "giant-class" creatures.  This was originally very vaguely defined, with a note that said "Kobolds - Giants".  I always figured this meant all of the monstrous humanoid types, but it's the sort of loose definition that can cause problems.  In AD&D, it's a rigidly defined list: bugbears, ettins, giants, gnolls, goblins, hobgoblins, kobolds, ogres, ogre magi, orcs, and trolls.

Rangers are difficult to surprise, as they were in OD&D.  They also gain surprise more often, which might be a new ability.

The rangers' tracking ability has had a few minor tweaks, but remains mostly unaltered.

The rangers' spellcasting abilities may be the biggest change to the class.  In AD&D, rangers can start casting druid spells at level 8, and magic-user spells at level 9.  In OD&D, rangers cast cleric spells rather than druid, as the druid class had yet to be created at that point.  The spell levels attainable are also much higher in AD&D.

Rangers still gain the ability to use magic items pertaining to ESP (no doubt to emulate Aragorn's use of the palantir in Lord of the Rings).  They appear to have lost the ability to use magic items with healing powers.

That rangers gain a bunch of special followers at high level is the same as it was in OD&D, but it seems that the relevant tables are in the Dungeon Masters Guide, so I can't do a comparison as yet.

Rangers have a small number of restrictions, that are much the same as they were in OD&D.  They must remain of Good alignment, or lose their powers (in OD&D this was Lawful).  They can't hire men-at-arms or servants until they reach 8th level.  They can only own as much stuff as they can carry. No more than three rangers can work together (in OD&D, this number was two).

There have been some changes to the level titles for rangers.  I'll list the OD&D titles followed by the AD&D ones.

Level OD&D Title AD&D Title
1 Runner Runner
2 Strider Strider
3 Scout Scout
4 Guide Courser
5 Pathfinder Tracker
6 Warder Guide
7 Guardian Pathfinder
8 Ranger-Knight Ranger
9 Ranger-Lord Ranger-Knight
10 Ranger-Lord, 10th Ranger-Lord

On the whole, I prefer the OD&D titles. Courser sounds too much like a horse.  I can see getting rid of the "ranger" title, though.  It's weird having the class name and level title be the same.

As I recall, in my original speculation about the ranger class I decided to give rangers pretty much the same background that they have in Tolkien: fighters with ancestry from some great, lost kingdom. Given that I'm tying Middle-Earth into the distant past of Oerth, I could even make said ancestry the same as it was inLord of the Rings.  Gary hasn't changed the class very much, so there's no need for me to go back on that idea just yet.

Monday, February 01, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook part 13: Fighters and Paladins

Fighters: Fighters have changed very little from OD&D.  They're still the best class in battle, able to use their strength more effectively and wield all weapons and armour.  As before, a 9th level fighter can establish his own stronghold and collect taxes.  In OD&D the figure was set at 10gp per inhabitant per year.  In AD&D, it's 7sp per month, which comes to 84sp per year - equivalent to about 4 gp per year. Looks like AD&D fighters are taking a pay cut.  Probably the most significant change for Fighters is the jump from using a d8 for hit points to a d10.  There's honestly not a lot else to say.  It's the baseline class, and Gary didn't see the need to change them.

Paladins: The first thing to be noted here is that it's a lot harder to become a paladin than it was in OD&D.  All you needed there (assuming you were Lawful in alignment) was a Charisma of 17.  In AD&D, not only do you need the 17 Charisma, but you also need a Strength of 12, an Intelligence of 9, a Wisdom of 13 and a Constitution of 9.  I looked at some other guy's math, and if you roll your stats using 3d6 in order there's a 1-in-1000 chance that you'll get a paladin.  Good luck with that!

The new alignment system has, of course, necessitated a change to the restrictions on paladins.   In OD&D they had to be Lawful, and now they must be Lawful Good.  (This may have been introduced with the five-point alignment system from The Strategic Review, but I can't really remember).  A paladin who acts against their alignment will suffer a penalty, but an Evil act is punished more strictly than a Chaotic one.  If a paladin commits a Chaotic act, he can atone by doing penance as prescribed by a high-level cleric.  An evil act will cause the paladin to lose all their abilities irrevocably, with no takesies backsies.  (In OD&D, a Chaotic act was treated as an Evil one is here.)

As far as special abilities go, their +2 to all saving throws remains, as does their immunity to all diseases and their ability to detect evil at will.  Their "lay on hands" ability works exactly as it did in OD&D, but their ability to cure disease in others has been a bit nerfed: before it could be used daily, but now it can only be used once per week (with extra uses at higher levels).

In OD&D, 8th level paladins gained the nebulous ability to "dispel evil" simply by ordering it hence.  That's gone in AD&D, but it's been replaced by a continuous aura of protection from evil, which now that I look at it is pretty badass.  It's an ability I usually forget about, but the fact that it's always on makes this one of the paladin's most potent.

The paladin's warhorse is now explicitly said to appear as if by magic.  It's otherwise the same, except that in OD&D you could interpret the rules as saying that the horse has all the same abilities as its paladin master.  There's no such ambiguous wording here, unfortunately.

Unless I've missed something in the OD&D rulebooks, I believe that this is the first time that higher-level paladins get the abilities to turn undead and cast cleric spells (although perhaps the "dispel" ability I mentioned above was meant to represent turning).

Paladins are still restricted in the number of magic items they can own, and the amount of treasure they can amass.  The numbers here are much the same as they were in OD&D.

Paladins weren't given their own level titles in OD&D, so here are the newly created ones for AD&D:

Level 1 - Gallant
Level 2 - Keeper
Level 3 - Protector
Level 4 - Defender
Level 5 - Warder
Level 6 - Guardian
Level 7 - Chevalier
Level 8 - Justiciar
Level 9+ - Paladin


Saturday, January 16, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook part 12: Clerics and Druids

I'm back from the holiday hiatus.  Time to crack on with the Players Handbook, and make some headway with this Sisyphean Labour.

The Cleric: Although the entry for clerics begins with some statistical stuff, I'd like to begin by noting Gary's description of what a cleric is.  This is the first time in the game that the inspiration for the class has been outlined, so it's of note.  Gary states that the class "bears a certain resemblance to religious orders of knighthood of medieval times", which sounds to me like the Knights Templar and other similar orders.  Not that AD&D clerics are explicitly Christian; despite the origins of the class and certain trappings things are kept vague enough to avoid real-world religions.  Clerics worship one or more deities, and wield holy symbols that vary depending on the deity worshiped.  The role of the cleric is to "fortify, protect, and revitalize."  (Talk of specific deities wasn't really present in OD&D (excepting Supplement IV, of course).  Clerics in that game were aligned with either Law or Chaos. Low-level clerics could be neutral, but by 7th level they had to pick a side.)

I'm slightly surprised to see that clerics aren't allowed to be true neutral in alignment.  Every other alignment is permissible (depending on that of the cleric's deity), but true neutral is reserved for druids when it comes to divine spellcasters.

Once again it's noted that all clerics are forbidden to use edged and pointed weapons that draw blood.  I've always felt that weapon use should vary depending on the values of the cleric's deity, but it's worth pondering the idea that there's something inherent in the very nature of divine magic that makes clerics unable to used edged weapons.  It's not an easy thing to justify off the cuff, but I'll put some more thought to it.

Something I've noticed while reading the cleric entry is just how much information is reserved for the Dungeon Masters Guide.  Their ability to turn or control undead, demons and devils is mentioned, but the table isn't given here.  The list of magic items they can use is vaguely described, as are combat ability and saving throws.

Clerics of 8th level can build a place of worship, which will attract from 20-200 fanatically loyal followers.  Again, the details are left to the DMG.  Clerics of 9th level are able to build a stronghold, and the church will foot half of the bill.  They can tax the inhabitants of their land at 9 silver pieces per person per month.  (This ability came at 8th level in OD&D, and taxes were at 20 gold pieces per year.  An AD&D inhabitant provides 108sp per year, which converts to a bit over 20gp.  Nice to see that the math is comparable.)

The number of experience points needed to advance is the same at low levels in AD&D and OD&D, but at higher levels AD&D clerics advance a little more slowly.  The level titles have also been altered, as shown below.

OD&D: 1 - Acolyte, 2 - Adept, 3 - Village Priest, 4 - Vicar, 5 - Curate, 6 - Bishop, 7 - Lama, 8 - Patriarch

AD&D: 1 - Acolyte, 2 - Adept, 3 - Priest, 4 - Curate, 5 - ???, 6 - Canon, 7 - Lama, 8 - Patriarch, 9 - High Priest

Village Priest has been altered to the more generic Priest, which is better.  No level title is given for 5th-level clerics in AD&D; I wonder if this was a mistake?  Vicar and Bishop have been removed, presumably because they are too specifically Christian. If that's the case, it's odd that the Buddhist Lama didn't get cut as well.

AD&D clerics gain spells faster than those in OD&D, and it should be noted that they can cast spells at 1st level.  Clerics in the original game had no spellcasting capabilities until 2nd level.

The Druid: Said to be a sub-class of the cleric.  They are priests of nature, viewing good, evil, law and chaos as balancing forces necessary for the continuation of all things.  Their spells are more attuned to nature, but they still serve the same support role as clerics.  They are later described as "medieval cousins of what the ancient Celtic sect of Druids would have become had it survived the Roman conquest".  (This is to be taken as an example, of course, and not a literal insertion of the Roman Empire and the Celts into canon.) 

Druids have a fairly strict code of behavior to adhere to.  They treat trees (especially oak and ash), the sun and the moon as deities.  As in OD&D, mistletoe is their holy symbol, and is said here to give power to their spells.  They have an obligation to protect trees and plants, and to a lesser extent animals and their human followers.  They won't destroy trees or crops under any circumstances, and try to avoid killing wild and domestic animals unless necessary for survival.  If they witness someone destroying their charges they are unlikely to risk their lives to intervene, but will probably take their vengeance at a later date.  (This is all pretty much as laid out in OD&D.)

A character must have a wisdom of 12+ and a charisma of 15+ in order to qualify to play as a druid.  (In OD&D the charisma requirement was 14+).

At 3rd level, druids gain the following abilities: they can identify different types of plants and animals, tell if water is pure, and pass through overgrown areas without leaving a trail.  (In OD&D, druids gained these abilities at 2nd level.)

At 7th level they gain even more abilities: immunity to charm spells cast by woodland creatures, and the ability to change their shape into any bird, mammal or reptile.  (OD&D druids gained these powers at 6th level.)

Druids still have their own secret language, and as in OD&D they gain another woodland language at 3rd level and every level thereafter.  Four languages have been added to the selection from OD&D: faun, gnome, lizardman, and treantish.  (At first I thought that fauns weren't anywhere to be found in the Monster Manual, but it turns out that it's another name for a satyr.)

Druids fight like clerics, but they can't use metallic armour or shields.  Their allowable weapons are: clubs, daggers, darts, hammers, scimitars, slings, spears and staves.  (I've always felt that the scimitar was an odd choice.  Perhaps it's meant to represent a sickle or a scythe, being the only curved sword on the equipment list.)  Darts, hammers and slings weren't allowed for druids in OD&D, so the class has become a little more versatile.  Their saving throws are the same as for clerics, but they get a +2 bonus against fire and electricity (in OD&D, this ability applied only to fire).

As in OD&D, druids have a hierarchy, an there are a limited number allowed at higher levels.  There can only be nine druids of 12th level (Druids), three druids of 13th level (Arch-Druids), and but one druid of 14th level (The Great Druid).  Any character wishing to move up into an occupied spot has to win a duel (either spellcasting or melee).  Presumably this is a world-wide hierarchy, although it's not stated as such.  (In OD&D there could be only four druids of 11th level, two Arch-Druids of 12th level, and one Great Druid of 13th level.)

The level titles are much the same for druids in OD&D and AD&D, except that the new title of Ovate has been created for 2nd level characters, resulting in all the other titles being bumped up by one.  Level advancement is a about the same rate, but an AD&D druid needs about twice as much XP to become the Great Druid, due to the extra level needed to attain that rank (i.e. you need to be 14th instead of 13th).  AD&D druids can generally cast more spells per day than those in OD&D.

Druids who attain the three top ranks gain followers, but they don't go building strongholds.  Instead they tend to dwell in small buildings of sod, logs or stone, and at higher levels may live in a complex of such buildings.

Monday, December 07, 2015

AD&D Players Handbook part 11

CLASSES
We begin with a brief description of each class and its role in the game: Clerics are support, with some offensive and melee capabilities; Druids are like clerics, but less able in combat and more useful in the wilderness; Fighters are fighters; Paladins are fighters who are Lawful Good, and gain some clerical powers at high level; Rangers are powerful fighters who gain some spells at higher levels; magic-users are weak in battle, but have a lot of powerful and useful spells; Illusionists are like magic-users, but with a different spellcasting focus; Thieves use cunning, nimbleness and stealth; Assassins are "quiet killers of evil nature"; and Monks are trained to fight with their bare hands.

All ten of these classes have appeared in the game before, although some are altered from their original form.  The following classes were introduced during the OD&D era, but haven't made the cut for AD&D: Alchemists (from The Dragon #2), Healers, Samurai and Berserkers (all three from The Dragon #3).  The Bard (introduced in The Strategic Review #3) isn't listed above, but it's included in AD&D as part of an appendix.  Boy, is it ever.

The opening section ends with a note that multi-class character are only limited in weapon/armor selection in regards to the Thief.  Anyone else can apparently have at it, which means fighter/magic-users can cast fireballs in plate mail and fighter/clerics can use all the bladed weapons they damn well please.

From there we go to Character Classes Table I, which contains several things of note.  Clerics, Druids, Fighters, Paladins, Thieves and Assassins have all started using a larger die to generate hit points (for example, Fighters have gone from using a d8 to a d10).  Rangers are a special case, in that they have retained the d8 for hit points, but gained an extra die at first level: they potentially start strong, but will fall behind Fighters and Paladins as they reach higher levels. We can see that Assassins are limited to a maximum of level 14 (as before), while Druids can now advance to a max of 14th (one higher than previously) and Monks can reach a max of 17th (also one higher).

The way that hit points work for multi-classed characters is detailed below this table: basically, when you gain a level in a class you roll the appropriate die (or dice if you're advancing in multiple classes at once), add your Constitution modifier, and divide the total by your own total number of classes (i.e. a fighter/magic-user/thief would divide his total by three, even when advancing only in one or two classes). My notes are a bit hazy on multi-classing in OD&D (probably because the game itself was hazy), but this might be the first concrete explanation of how this is supposed to work.

Character Classes Table II lists the weapons and armour that the various classes are allowed to use.  It follows what's been established in OD&D pretty closely.  I'm always surprised to see that Thieves aren't permitted to use any kind of bows; as far as missile weapons go, they're restricted to daggers, darts and slings.  There's a note below the table that characters of under 5' height can't use a longbow or any weapon over 12' long, and that those weighing under 100 pounds can't use heavy crossbows, two-handed swords or polearms over 200 coins in weight.  It's a nod to realism, but it's also the sort of fiddly detail that gets forgotten during play.  I think 3rd edition does it better, with the use of size categories and different-sized weapons.  It's easier to remember at the table.

Of more interest are the two categories at the end of this chart: which classes are permitted to use flaming oil and poison?  In the case of flaming oil, anyone can use it except for monks.  I'm not sure why monks would be so averse to it when all the other classes are fine, but they do have the handy "derived from a foreign culture" origin to fall back on.  I can always give them a bullshit "code of honour" of the sort that martial artists always get slapped with.

Poisons are a bit trickier.  Assassins are the only class that are definitely allowed the use of poison.  Paladins are strictly forbidden, as are non-evil Clerics.  For everyone else, its use and availability is determined by the DM.  A wise decision for such a potential game-breaker.

Friday, November 27, 2015

AD&D Players Handbook part 10

Humans: Not much to say here.  Humans are the baseline, they get no special abilities or penalties, and they have unlimited advancement in every character class.  I kind if like that Gary only gives them about a paragraph, because who needs to waste space on humans?  We all know what they're like.

The section on races finishes up with the Racial Preferences Table, which details in general terms how the various races feel about each other.  This is fundamental world-building stuff for AD&D, so let's take a closer look.

Dwarves: Prefer interacting with other dwarves; have a good relationship with gnomes, as well as stout and tallfellow halflings; are neutral towards humans, hairfoot halflings and half-elves; dislike elves; and hate half-orcs.

Elves: Prefer interacting with other elves; have a good relationship with half-elves; tolerate gnomes and halflings; are neutral towards humans; dislike dwarves and half-orcs

Gnomes: Prefer interacting with other gnomes; have good relationships with dwarves and halflings; tolerate elves and half-elves; are neutral towards humans; and hate half-orcs.

Half-Elves: Prefer interacting with elves and half-elves; tolerate humans and gnomes; are neutral towards dwarves and halflings; and dislike half-orcs.

Halflings, Hairfoot: Prefer interacting with other halflings; tolerate dwarves, elves and gnomes; and are neutral towards humans, half-elves and half-orcs.

Halflings, Stout: Prefer interacting with other halflings; have good relationships with dwarves; tolerate elves and gnomes; and are neutral towards humans, half-elves and half-orcs.

Halflings, Tallfellow: Prefer interacting with other halflings; have good relationships with elves; tolerate dwarves and gnomes; and are neutral towards humans, half-elves and half-orcs

Half-Orcs: Prefer interacting with other half-orcs; tolerate humans; are neutral towards halflings; dislike elves and half-elves; and hate dwarves and gnomes.

Humans: Prefer interacting with other humans; tolerate half-elves; and are neutral towards dwarves, gnomes, halflings, elves and half-orcs.

This is all fairly standard fantasy stuff: dwarves and elves at odds, nobody likes half-orcs, etc.  Most of it stems from Tolkien, which is not necessarily a bad thing.  If you're laying down a baseline for how D&D worlds work, there are worse places to start than the most well-known work of modern fantasy.


The section ends with an illustration showing some of the races, which is handy for size comparison purposes.  But where are the gnome and halflings?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

AD&D Players Handbook part 9

Half-Elves: Half-elves made their debut as a playable race in Supplement I: Greyhawk, but they might as well be a new race as presented here (at least mechanically).  The major advantage of being a half-elf is their extreme flexibility when it comes to class: they can be clerics, druids, fighters, rangers, magic-users, thieves, or assassins, as well as having the ability to combine a whole bunch of those via multi-classing.  The OD&D half-elf, by contrast, were fighter/magic-users, and that was that.  It's interesting to note that multi-class clerics aren't restricted to the use of blunt weapons - is it possible that the clerical weapon restrictions aren't based on belief and religion?  No other explanation seems plausible, unless we give half-elves a special exemption for some reason.

Half-elves get a bunch of elf abilities: their infravision and ability to spot concealed and secret doors are just as effective,  but their resistance to sleep and charm is only 30%.  They get the same list of languages that elves do as well.

Halflings: Once again, players are referred to the Monster Manual for complete details of Halflings: in this case it's almost necessary, because the three sub-races (hairfoot, tallfellow and stout) aren't really described in the PHB at all.  To recap: hairfoots are your baseline halflings, tallfellows are a bit bigger and are friendly with elves, and stouts live underground.

Halflings can be fighters, thieves or fighter/thieves.  Taking a look at Supplement I: Greyhawk, it seems to me that this is the first time that halflings are permitted to multi-class.

Halflings get the same resistance to magic and poisons as dwarves and gnomes.  It's not mentioned here whether their resistance to magic is due to their being "non-magical", but it's possible, as they're not able to take any spellcasting class.

They can speak the languages of dwarves, elves, gnomes, goblins, halflings and orcs.  In OD&D they had no base languages listed.  The list matches that in the Monster Manual, except that only tallfellows could speak elvish, and only stouts could speak dwarvish.

Stout halflings have infravision, and can also detect sloping passages when underground.  There is mention of halflings with mixed blood, and they get infravision to a lesser extent.  To be honest, I don't know why you would ever play a hairfoot or a tallfellow: they get no advantages whatsoever.

Halflings get a stealth ability similar to that of elves: their ability to gain surprise is increased when they are alone and not wearing metallic armour.

One thing that halflings have lost from previous editions is their bonus when using missile weapons.  I guess you could say that it's been preserved in their +1 Dexterity bonus, but there's no guarantee that a halfling's Dex score will be high enough to affect attack rolls at all.

Half-Orcs: We learn here that orcs are "fecund", meaning that they have a lot of offspring, and are able to crossbreed with a number of different races.  Most of these offspring will be indistinguishable from orcs, but about 10% of orc-human offspring will be closer to human stock, and they're the race detailed here as half-orcs.

Half-Orcs can play as clerics, fighters, thieves, assassins, or a multi-class combination.  The option of a cleric/assassin is a tantalising one, I must say.  Half-orc clerics can also ignore blunt weapon restrictions, which is more evidence that this isn't a strictly religious rule.  I can't come up with a good explanation right now, but I'll think about it.

Half-orcs can speak common and orcish, and they have infravision.  They don't get a lot of special abilities.  The real advantage of playing a half-orc is that they get a +1 bonus to both Strength and Constitution.  Alas, they can't get a Strength of 19, but it's still a super combo for Fighters.  Their penalty to Charisma doesn't apply to other half-orcs.  (Though it does seemingly apply to orcs, which makes sense from a bigoted perspective.)

Monday, November 16, 2015

AD&D Players Handbook part 8

Elves: The section on elves begins with a note that all PC are considered to be high elves, the most common sort.  The varieties listed in the Monster Manual include aquatic elves, drow, gray elves, and wood elves.  All of those will become playable races soon enough, but mercifully we are spared for the moment.

Elves can become fighters, thieves, magic-users, or assassins.  They can also multiclass, with the following combinations being legal: fighter/magic-user, fighter/thief, magic-user/thief and fighter/magic-user/thief.  This is a big change from the way elves functioned in OD&D, where they were fighter/magic-users, fighter/magic-user/thieves, or thieves.  The bizarre way that multiclass elves functioned in OD&D has also been jettisoned; now that system has been properly ironed out, and elves do it just like everyone else.

I didn't note this when I was going through the Monster Manual - and I could very well be incorrect - but as far as I can tell the elvish resistance to sleep and charm spells was introduced in the MM (and appears here unchanged).

The bonus when fighting with bows and swords is not new; it was introduced in Supplement I - Greyhawk.  It's clarified here that the bonus doesn't apply to crossbows, and for swords it only applies to short and long swords.  They also retain their ability to see in the dark with infravision, to a distance of 60'.

Elves all speak common, elvish, gnome, halfling, goblin, hobgoblin, orcish, and gnoll.  Gnome, halfling and goblin weren't on this list on OD&D.  Adding goblin makes sense, as I generally assume that goblins and hobgoblins are closely related.  As for gnome and halfling, I can say that elves are becoming less insular, and opening the lines of trade and diplomacy with their neighbours.

The elvish ability to sense secret doors has been nerfed somewhat.  In OD&D they had a 2-in-6 chance of noticing any secret door they pass close by, and a 4-in-6 chance of locating one if actively searching.  In AD&D, a differentiation has been made between secret doors and concealed doors.  The elvish chance to automatically notice these now only applies to concealed doors, and has been halved to 1-in-6.  If actively searching, they'll find a secret door 2-in-6 times, and a concealed door 4-in-6 times.

Elves get a +1 to Dexterity and a -1 to Constitution.  (Am I correct in thinking that these racial modifiers to ability scores are new in AD&D?  My notes are becoming a little unwieldy, so it's getting harder to tell, but I'm quite sure I'm correct.)

Elves who are alone and unarmored get a bonus to surprise.  This ability was introduced in the Monster Manual, but there it only applied to wilderness areas such as forests and meadows.  That limitation doesn't apply here, as opening doors is specifically mentioned as something that negates this surprise bonus.

Gnomes: This is the first appearance of gnomes as a PC race.  They can choose to play as fighters, thieves, illusionists, assassins, and can also multiclass.  Multiclass characters are said to be able to wear leather armour while using their non-fighter abilities, which brings up the possibility of gnomes spellcasting in armour.

Gnomes get the same magic resistance as dwarves, based on their consitution score.  The source of this ability isn't stated here, but it seems unlikely that they're inherently non-magical like dwarves; they can play as illusionists, after all.

(Checking the Monster Manual, I see that the gnomes there get the save bonus vs. poison as well, just like dwarves.  That's not mentioned in the PHB.)

Gnomes can speak the following languages: common, dwarvish, gnome, halfling, goblin, and kobold.  Like most other PC races, it's their closest allies and their most hated enemies.  They can also communicate with burrowing mammals such as moles, badgers and ground squirrels.  they have the same limitation as dwarves, and can't learn more than two additional languages.

Also like dwarves, gnomes have 60' infravision, and they can detect certain things when underground: sloping passages, unsafe areas, depth and direction of travel.  Where these abilities overlap with dwarves', the gnomes are slightly better.

Again like dwarves (sense a pattern?) gnomes get an attack bonus against certain enemies, and are harder to hit when attacked by others.  Their attack bonus applies to kobolds and goblins.  Their defensive bonus applies to the same monsters as dwarves', as well as gnolls and bugbears.  I guess being a little smaller has its advantages.

Gnomes suffer a bit from being too similar to dwarves, I feel.  Their ability to speak with mammals, and the choice of illusionist as a class, is really the only thing that sets them apart.  I wasn't at all surprised to see them get cut out of 4th edition, to be honest.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

AD&D Players Handbook part 7

Dwarves: The entry for dwarves here is mostly just a reiteration of things we have already learned from previous books.  Indeed, the race is barely described, and players are directed to the Monster Manual for more information.  It's noted that players can use both hill dwarves and mountain dwarves,  The differences between the two are negligible: mountain dwarves are a little taller, their skin is lighter, and in the MM they have 1+1 Hit Dice, compared to 1 for hill dwarves.  As for PC mountain dwarves no mention is made of that extra hit point, and I'd be inclined to ignore it.

As I understand the rules in OD&D, dwarves could only fighters or fighter/thieves (with clerics and fighter/clerics mentioned as NPCs).  In AD&D they have a bit more freedom, as they can now play as fighters, thieves, fighter/thieves, or assassins.

The dwarven resistance to magic is still here, though interestingly it's described as an inherent part of their nature, rather than a cultural aversion.  So it's not just that they don't want to be magic-users, it's that there's something in their physical makeup that means they can't be magic-users.  In OD&D, this resistance was implemented by treating the dwarf as if he were four levels higher in regards to saving throws vs. magic.  In Holmes Basic, it's done by giving dwarves their own line on the saving throw table.  Here in AD&D, it's a function of the dwarf's Constitution score, with the character gaining a +1 bonus to relevant saves for every 3.5 points of Con.

Dwarves gain a similar resistance to poisons, though curiously it only applies to "toxic substances ingested or injected".  I wonder if this excludes poisons that are inhaled?  The definition of ingested could be considered wide enough to cover poison gas, but there is a point of ambiguity there.

The languages known by dwarves are given as dwarven, gnome, goblin, kobold, orcish and common.  Previously (in OD&D) they were unable to speak orcish.  It's noted that they can't learn more than two extra languages, regardless of their Intelligence scores.  It's a bit of an arbitrary restriction, but I suppose it's due to their often insular society.

Their abilities in regards to stonework are pretty much the same as they were in OD&D, but they've been codified in game terms.  Also, their chances of success are much greater: in the Basic Set these abilities succeeded about a third of the time; in AD&D the chance of success ranges from 50 to 75%.  The ability to determine depth underground is new to AD&D, as far as I can tell.

Dwarves now get +1 to hit against half-orcs, goblins, hobgoblins and orcs.  Previously (as per the errata from Supplement I: Greyhawk), this was applied to creatures of the "Giant Class", which was always an ambiguous rule.  I tend to play it as applying to all creatures listed under "Giant Types" in the Wandering Monster Tables, which includes all of the above plus kobolds, gnolls, ogres, trolls, giants, gnomes, dwarves, elves and ents.  If you use the tables from Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry the list becomes even larger (though it does include leprechauns, which amuses me for some reason).  So yeah, in AD&D this rule has been scaled back significantly.  It's probably for the best.

Ogres, trolls, ogre magi, giants and titans all now subtract 4 from their attack rolls against dwarves.  In OD&D this was done by having these creatures halve their damage, but the intent of the rule was the same.

(I've checked the Monster Manual, and it's all fairly consistent with what's presented in the PHB.  The only major difference is that the dwarven resistances are treated in the MM as they were in OD&D, by saving as if the dwarf were 4 levels above their actual level.  It makes sense, as it's unusual for monsters and NPCs to have their ability scores rolled.)

Sunday, November 01, 2015

AD&D Players Handbook part 6

Apologies to everyone for the several week hiatus in posting.  I've been trying to avoid lengthy delays like this, but such are the vagaries of life, family and sleep deprivation.  Let's crack on shall we?

Charisma: Let's go to the source for the definition of this stat.  Gary describes it as the character's combination of "physical attractiveness, persuasiveness, and personal magnetism".  In short, it's how good a character is at leading and interacting with others.  It's stated outright that a character doesn't have to be beautiful to have a high charisma, he or she just has to compensate with high ratings in the other areas that affect the stat.

As always, I'm intrigued by the class restrictions that are enforced by having a low score.  For charisma, any character with a score under 5 can only be an assassin.  It seems like such an arbitrary restriction, and I can't really make sense of it.  Perhaps the answer lies in the necessity of an assassin going unnoticed, and being somewhat nondescript, but that could equally apply to a thief.  It's an odd one.

I notice that a dwarf can only have a maximum charisma score of 17, at least in regards to non-dwarves.  They can have an 18 when interacting with other dwarves, which makes perfect sense.  Half-orcs have the same limitation in regards to interactions with anyone except for orcs and other half-orcs, but in their case their charisma is limited to 12.  It's pretty harsh.

As in OD&D, your charisma determines the maximum number of henchmen you can have in your employ.  The numbers are a little more generous in AD&D, though.  I've always been a bit vague as to what constitutes a henchman; I assume it's anyone in your service who has levels in a character class.  I'll keep an eye out to see if it's adequately explained.

Your charisma also modifies the loyalty score of your servants.  This was in OD&D, but there the modifiers were expressed as a number (-2, +1, +3, etc.).  Here they are given as percentages, so the system has been given an overhaul.  That will have to wait until later in the book, though.

Finally, charisma affects your Reaction Adjustment, which means that it changes how the creatures you meet react to you.  This was in OD&D in a general sense, but I think that this is the first time it's laid out in a concrete fashion.  It's mentioned that a low-charisma character can offset his deficiency with bribes and gifts.

CHARACTER RACES
Now we move on to the section on player character races, of which there are seven: dwarf, elf, gnome, half-elf, halfling, half-orc, and human.  The half-orc is appearing as a playable race for the first time.

The first thing we get in this section is a table listing which classes are available to each race, but I'll deal with that later.  Of more interest right now is the table on racial level limitations.  In AD&D, only humans are unlimited in the level they can attain.  Demi-humans all have caps on how far they can advance.  For example, a halfling can only reach level 6 as a fighter, and an elf is limited to level 11 as a magic-user.  These limits are relaxed slightly for characters with high ability scores, but not by much.  There are a small number of exceptions to the rule: all demi-humans except for half-orcs can advance as high as they want in the thief class.  Half-orcs have no limits in the assassin class.

I'm torn on level limits, to be honest.  I can see their role in creating a human-centric setting, if that's what you want.  Supposedly they're also there to offset the special abilities that demi-humans gain, but I don't think it balances out.  Demi-human special abilities don't make that much of a difference, especially at higher level when the limitations kick in.  On the whole I prefer the approach of giving humans some extra abilities to balance things, rather than punishing demi-human characters.

It's interesting to note that, although they can't be used as player characters, clerics for dwarves, elves and gnomes are listed on the table.  Presumably they're too tied to their home communities to be out adventuring.  Halflings can't be clerics at all, but they do have NPC druids, which could be an interesting little cultural nugget.

Penalties and Bonuses for Race: One of the above-mentioned perks of being a demi-human is the modifiers that are applied to your ability scores.  Each race gets a bonus in a stat, and a penalty on another.  Dwarfs get a Constitution bonus, and a Charisma penalty, for example.  Half-elves have no modifiers, and surprisingly neither do gnomes.  Half-orcs get a bonus to Strength and Constitution, which makes them a pretty attractive prospect.  I always see D&D players trying desperately to roll that mythical 18/00 Strength, but surely it's better and easier just to roll an 18 then pick your race as half-orc.  You have to deal with a super-low Charisma, but a 19 strength has a way of mitigating that.

Character Ability Scores by Racial Type: Each non-human race has a minimum and maximum in each ability score that must be met before you can choose to become that race.  Gary generously gives you the option of lowering your stats to meet the requirements, if necessary.  These scores are split between male and female requirements, but it really only applies to maximum Strength.

This is another rule that's just a bit too finicky for my tastes.  It makes the various races a little bit more distinct, but also more limiting.  I prefer to play without these restrictions.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

AD&D Players Handbook part 5

Dexterity: I'll leave it to Gary to define exactly what the Dexterity stat covers: "hand-eye coordination, agility, reflexes, precision, balance and speed of movement".  It's no surprise that a high score in Dex means that all of these attributes will be superior, but the note about low Dex is a curious one.  It indicates that some character with a low Dexterity may actually be superior in one of the attributes listed, while inferior in others.  It's something of a moot point, because it's all the same mechanically, but it could lead to some interesting situations.  Or to some players trying to use it for some creative powergaming.

Dexterity is most useful for thieves, as it grants them an XP bonus.  It also affects their special skills, which (so far as I can tell) is a first for the core D&D rules (the rule was introduced into the game in The Strategic Review #7).  The bonuses and penalties given here in the PHB are different, of course, because a dexterity score of at least 9 is now required to be a thief.

A high or low Dexterity also affects attack rolls made with missile weapons (a rule present since the original D&D booklets, though here the modifiers can be higher).  Your reaction speed when surprised is also modified, but I'll cover that in more detail when I cover Surprise.  (Not that I'm particularly looking forward to opening that can of worms.)

The other thing that Dex modifies is defense, primarily Armor Class.  Previously, when this rule had been introduced in Supplement I: Greyhawk, the bonus had been restricted to fighters.  Now it can apply to every class.  It's also noted that this modifier affects saving throws against spells that can be dodged, specifically calling out lightning bolt and fire ball.  (The wording of this paragraph is also one of the best arguments in favour of 3rd edition's AC system that I've seen.  Gary jumps through some linguistic hoops explaining that bonuses subtract from AC, while penalties are added.  Simply flip the system so that a high number in AC is good, and the necessity of the explanation goes away.)

I have to point out that anyone with a Dexterity of 5 or less can only be a cleric.  It makes sense: thieves have Dex as their primary stat, magic-users need to make intricate symbols with their hands, and fighters require a certain level of hand-eye coordination to wield weapons.  A cleric just has to be able to pray, and wave a holy symbol about.

Constitution: This stat represents a character's general health and resistance to all manner of harm.  There's no class that uses it as a prime requisite, but it has a lot of mechanical effect on the game.  As introduced in Supplement I: Greyhawk, it provides a hard limit to the amount of times a character can be raised from the dead (barring wishes and other magic).  It's clarified here that even if a character's Constitution score is raised in some manner, the number of times he can be resurrected remains the same (and that a rod of resurrection is considered the same as using the spell).  This also seems to be the introduction of a penalty to Constitution upon being raised: each time it happens, the character loses 1 point.

As in OD&D, characters' hit points are modified by Con.  Introduced here is the rule that fighters (and their sub-classes) can get a higher bonus than other classes.  This is part of the strengthening of fighters in relation to spellcasters that Gary was going on about earlier in the book.  Frankly, thieves could have used a bit this as well.

The percentage chance for surviving a resurrection is back, but the numbers are a bit more favourable to players here than they were in Supplement I.  It's clarified here that any character that fails this roll is "completely and totally dead forever".  Not much wiggle room in that wording, I'm afraid.

System Shock (previously known as "probability of surviving spells") is also back, with numbers in the same ballpark as the original table.  The rule was a vague one before, but here it's been greatly clarified: any magic that causes aging, petrification, or polymorph requires the character to roll against his System Shock chance, or die instantly.  I can see the rationale here: anything that greatly and rapidly alters a person's body could kill it.  I've little doubt that it came up as a way to stop the abuse of certain spells, polymorph in particular.  In practice I'm all for it, so long as players are aware of the consequences.  As a calculated risk System Shock is fine, but not as a surprise sprung on the players I don't care for it.  Gary has it spelled out right here in the PHB, so I guess it's all cool.  (Though now that I think of it, several spells have hidden effects in the Dungeon Masters Guide that could System Shock a player to death.  Not cool, Gary!)