Saturday, April 30, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook part 20: Alignment

With this chapter we see the introduction to D&D of the nine-point alignment system.  In OD&D, there were simply three alignment: Law, Neutrality, and Chaos.  Gary altered this in The Strategic Review #6, adding Good and Evil to the mix to give five possible alignments: Lawful Good, Chaotic Good, Neutral, Lawful Evil and Chaotic Evil.  This system was carried into the first D&D Basic Set.

In AD&D there are nine alignments, with the addition of Neutral Good, Neutral Evil, Lawful Neutral and Chaotic Neutral.  It's not made clear what purpose alignment serves in the game, but the nine alignments are each given a brief description.  This is more than can be said of previous editions, where the space given to each alignment was perfunctory at best.

Let's take a look at each alignment in turn:

Chaotic Evil: Values freedom, randomness and woe.  (Really?  Who values woe?) Disdains law, order, kindness, and places no value on life.  Seeks power in a system ruled by caprice and their own whims.

Chaotic Good: Values freedom, the welfare of others, and individuality.  Specific mention is made here of characters "promoting the gods of chaotic good", as though that's what they're expected to do.  Later on Gary states that the descriptions are generalisations, and this is one that I'm glad to lump in that category.

Chaotic Neutral: Places randomness and disorder above good and evil.  Again, the way this is described make the character sound like a crusader for a cause.

Lawful Evil: Respects law and order, but place little value on life, beauty, truth, and freedom.  Seeks to use discipline to impose their yoke on the world.

Lawful Good: Strictly upholds law and order for the common good.  Believes that certain freedoms must be sacrificed to bring order.  Values truth the most, and also life and beauty.

Lawful Neutral: Views regulation as all-important.  Believes universal harmony depends on law and order.

Neutral Evil: Dedicated to - and I quote - "maximum evilness".

Neutral Good: Believes in a balance between regulation and freedom to bring about beneficial conditions for all.  Curiously, it's said that they value intelligent creatures more than unintelligent ones.

True Neutral: Views all alignments as part of a natural system, and believes that this balance should not be upset by unnatural forces, including the interference of intelligent creatures.

So, looking at the above, just what is alignment?  Simply going by the name, it should be the side you are aligned with.  This implies that Good, Evil, Law and Chaos are fundamental forces of the universe, and at war with each other.  This is backed up by the descriptions, as several of them describe characters advancing the agenda of their particular alignment.

It's also clear, however, that alignment describes a character's morality, ethics and general behaviour.  Lawful good characters act a certain way, chaotic goods act in a different way, and chaotic evils act even more differently still.  The behaviours given here are said to be generalisations, and yet those generalisations must come from somewhere.  For the most part NPCs will behave much as their alignment dictates, as described here in the PHB.  There will be outliers, and PCs are likely to be among them, but they are just that: outliers.

So alignment in AD&D is both your behaviour, and the side of the cosmic conflict you fall on.  This raises a question, though: does behaviour dictate alignment, or is it the other way around?  I would be inclined to go with the former.  No creature (except for certain magical types, like demons and such) is born evil, good, chaotic or lawful.  (I would say that any infant is by this logic neutral, which cuts the whole "paladins killing orc babies" dilemma off at the knees right there.)  They will, however, be greatly influenced by their cultural upbringing (and genetics as well, I suppose), and if you're a baby orc surrounded by chaotic evil relatives, it's a good chance you'll grow up to be chaotic evil as well.  The chance for good is there, of course, but it's a slim one.

So the way a character behaves and thinks determines the side of the conflict they're on, and this may have a more profound effect on their inner selves than you would think.  After all, there are magical effects that work based on the target's alignment.  It's a palpable thing that can be detected.  There are even languages intrinsic to each alignment, and the inability to speak languages of differing alignments.  Whatever your alignment is, it connects you to something greater than yourself.  I wonder if this could perhaps be tied to the article Gary wrote in The Dragon #8, where he posits the idea that certain creatures are connected to the Outer Planes, and that each creature type has its own sub-plane.  Mostly this idea was put forth as a way of explaining the immunities of various creatures, but it could work to explain alignment as well.  It seems probable to me that every being has an intrinsic connection the the plane most connected with their alignment as well, forged in the developmental stages of their upbringing.

The question must also be asked: are all characters crusaders for their particular alignment?  Of course the answer is no.  Most characters will serve their cause unknowingly, furthering it through their own actions and goals in spite of their ignorance.  Paladins and clerics are different, as are druids, and there will certainly be others who serve their cause knowingly.  But I feel like most people in the standard D&D world go about their business with little thought for Good, Evil, Law and Chaos.

Changing Alignment: It's said that involuntary change is possible, but voluntary change is very difficult.  If the ideas I've brought up above are at all true, this makes perfect sense.  I seems as though True Neutral characters have an easier time of changing alignment than anyone else, and this also makes sense: by their nature, they would have no connection to any of the Outer Planes.

Gary says that "evil alignment can be varied along the like axis", and I'm not entirely sure what this means.  Later on "axial change within evil or good" is implied to be easier than other kinds of change, and I wonder about this.  Does this mean that it's easier to alter alignment between good and evil?  Or easier to change between law and chaos?  Am I stupid, or is this poorly worded?  (A glance at the DMG tells me that this will all be cleared up in time, though perhaps said clearing up has little to do with the way things are worded here.)

Regardless, voluntarily changing alignment requires sacrifices, appropriate acts, and possibly a quest.  It's also next-to-impossible to change back to an alignment you have already forsaken (presumably said forces will be reluctant to take the character back into their good graces).

Friday, April 22, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook part 19: Multi-Classing and Dual-Classing

The Multi-Classed Character: Oddly, this section doesn't provide any rules for how multi-classing at all.  Instead it runs down all of the possible multi-class combinations (including the races that can access them), and gives a brief outline of each combo's strengths and weaknesses.

As established before, multi-class clerics can use edged weapons, and multi-class magic-users can cast spells in armour.  Thieves are the only class that gets shafted by multi-classing, as their abilities can;t be used while wearing armour heavier than leather.  This is all stuff that's been detailed earlier in the book, but it's nice to have it all in one place.

In OD&D, the only allowable multi-class combinations were fighter/thief, fighter/magic-user, fighter/magic-user/thief, and fighter/magic-user/cleric.  All of these are available AD&D, and quite a few more exotic combinations are also included.  Cleric/rangers sound cool.  Half-orcs can opt to be cleric/thieves or cleric/assassins, which must say something about their religious beliefs.  Gnomes can be fighter/illusionists or illusionist/thieves.  I like the flexibility of multi-classing in 3rd edition, but there's a lot to be said for the distinctive flavour that comes with restricting multi-class combos by race.

The Character With Two Classes: Or dual-classing, as I know it, although that term isn't used here.  Human characters whose stats are high enough can switch from one class to another, starting back at 1st level in the new class.  They retain the hit points of the previous class, but none of the other abilities and powers.  Those powers are still there, and they can be used, but if they are then the player in question gains no XP for that adventure.  Only when the level of the new class exceeds that of the old can the character use the capabilities of his first class.

It's interesting to note that fighter/mages created using dual-classing aren't allowed to cast spells in armour.  It seems that ability is restricted to multi-classed elves and half-elves, and that it's an ability restricted to them alone.  Normally I'd scoff at any rule that makes elves more powerful, but I like this one.  It's a good thematic fit.

Dual-classing was present in OD&D, but only in the vaguest sense.  It's mentioned that characters with a high enough prime requisite for the new class may switch, but there are no hard rules given.

Monday, April 18, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook part 18: Monks

Monks: This one might take a while, folks, as there's a lot to discuss.  Monk's get a lot of abilities, y'all.

Gary begins the entry by stating that the class is the hardest to qualify for, and possibly the deadliest.  I'm not sure that either is the case, although I've honestly never seen a high-level monk in action.  I doubt one would be a match for a high-level magic-user, though.  A Strength of 15, Wisdom of 15, Dexterity of 15 and Constitution of 11 are required to qualify for the class.  (In OD&D, monks needed Wisdom 15, Strength 12 and Dexterity 15, so it's harder to qualify for now.)

Here's a nugget that I forgot about: monks don't get an AC bonus from having a high dexterity, and they're not allowed to wear armour either.  In combination with their meagre 1d4 Hit Dice, that makes them super-weak at low levels.  It's no wonder I've never seen a high-level monk, really.  I don't believe that OD&D monks had a restriction on the AC bonus for Dexterity, but I'm also pretty sure that said bonus didn't exist in OD&D, aside from one article in The Dragon.

Alignment-wise, Monks must be lawful, as their various skills require discipline.  The general spread of monk alignment is said to be 50% lawful good, 35% neutral good, and 15% lawful evil.  OD&D monks could be lawful, neutral or chaotic, but as I've discussed before that system represents an entirely different thing than that in AD&D.  AD&D alignment is less about which side of the cosmic struggle you're aligned with, and more about your internal make-up.

As mentioned before, monks can't wear armour.  In terms of weapons they are restricted to the following: bo sticks, clubs, crossbows, daggers, hand axes, javelins, jo sticks, pole arms, spears and staves.  (In OD&D monks could use every weapon on the list, so this is a serious downgrade, albeit a thematically sound one.)  When using any weapon, monks gains a damage bonus equal to half their level (ranging from a +1 bonus at 2nd level to a maximum of +8).  This ability is unchanged from OD&D.

After a certain point, though, monks are more effective when fighting bare-handed.  They begin with 1 attack per round, doing 1d3 damage, but this gradually increases as they advance.  By 9th level they have 2 attacks per round, dealing 3-12 damage.  At their maximum 17th level, a monk gets a whopping 4 attacks per round with each one dealing 8-32 damage.  So yes, while monks start weak as piss, I must acknowledge that they are super-badass at the top level.  (OD&D monks were similar in this regard, albeit a little bit stronger.)

High damage and a lot of attacks is all well and good, but monks get even more on top of that.  Each bare-handed attack they make has a chance to stun their opponent for 1-6 rounds.  If the monk's attack roll exceeds the number required to hit by 5 or more (unmodified by Strength), their target will be stunned.  It gets even better, though, because every stun by a monk also has a chance for an instant kill!  This is based on the target's AC: you begin with the AC number as a base, and modify it upwards for every level the monk has attained beyond 7th.  So if the target has AC -1, and the monk is 12th level, there's a 4% chance for an instant kill.  The chances are low, as they should be, but with the sheer number of attacks per round a monk gets it's a great ability.  (This ability has been seriously nerfed from OD&D, as well: their stun used to last for 3-12 turns, and they got a flat 25% chance for an instant kill!)

Monks use the same saving throw table as Thieves, with a few extra bonuses.  In regards to magical attacks where the target can save to take half-damage, a Monk can save to take no damage at all.  At 9th level, the Monk automatically takes half-damage on a failed save, and no damage on a successful one.  They can also deflect non-magical missiles with save vs. petrification. (In OD&D, Monks used the Cleric saving throw table.  It also seems to me that as worded the rules state that Monks could dodge any type of magical missile, including a magic missile.  Note that magic missile was not an auto-hit spell in OD&D, so it's a fair ruling.  Their ability to take half-damage on a failed save kicked in a level earlier.)

Monks are difficult to surprise.  Their chance to be surprised begins at 33-1/3% (or 2-in-6, like everyone else), drops to 32% at 2nd level, then drops by 2% for every level gained thereafter.  I can't say I like this much, as I'm not a fan of the Monk operating on a different surprise system than everyone else.  Most characters roll a d6, or maybe a d8, but the Monk doesn't match that.  Maybe it works at the table, I wouldn't know, but it seems needlessly fiddly to me.  In OD&D the rule has a similar intent, but the chance starts at 2-in-6, drops to 1-in-6 at 3rd, then 1-in-8 at 5th, and 1-in-10 at 7th.  It's still not ideal, with multiple die types required, but it meshes better with the base surprise rules.

Monks operate exactly as Thieves in the following abilities: open locks, find/remove traps, move silently, hide in shadows, hear noise and climb walls.  So they can practically fulfill all of the thief's basic functions,  and are better in combat.  I suppose the difficulty of qualifying for the class would offset that, but I'm still not a big fan of sub-classes trumping the base class in everything.  (Not that Monks are a sub-class at all, but the point stands.  In OD&D monks operated as halflings or dwarves in the most favourable abilities, so it was even worse there.)

Monks can fall great distances with no damage, so long as they are within some distance of a wall.  The distance able to be fallen safely increases as they gain levels, as does the distance they can be from said wall; by 13th level, they can fall any distance at all with no damage.   (In general, OD&D monks start this ability later, but advance in it quicker.)

It doesn't even end here!  They get more abilities!  It just keeps going and going.

Starting at 3rd level they can speak with animals.  (This was a 4th level ability in OD&D.)

At 4th level they gain a resistance to ESP that increases as they advance.  (This ability started at 6th level in OD&D, and was much more effective.)

At 5th level monks become immune to disease, and can't be affected by haste or slow spells.  (This ability seems to be new to AD&D, and I guess it's a thematic fit with the monk's total body control and discipline.  The immunity to haste could definitely be seen as a drawback rather than a benefit.)

At 6th level they can perfectly simulate death, and can maintain this state for longer periods as they advance.  (This was a 5th level ability in OD&D, and it did not improve with advancement.)

Monks can self-heal once per day starting at 7th level.  This healing begins at 1d4+1, with a further +1 added for every level gained beyond 7th.  (The base die for this in OD&D was 1d6, but otherwise it was the same.)

They can speak with plants starting at 8th level.  (This ability is unchanged from OD&D.)

Beginning at 9th level, monks are 50% resistant to beguiling, charm, hypnosis and suggestion spells.  This resistance increases as the monk advances.  (In OD&D this ability kicked in at 8th level, and was a complete immunity rather than a resistance.)

At 10th level monks function with an Intelligence of 18 in regards to telepathy and mind blast attacks, such as those from a mind flayer.  (This ability was similar in OD&D, but it also granted them an immunity to the quest and geas spells, which it does not do in AD&D.)

Monks gain immunity to all poison at 11th level.  (This ability doesn't exist in OD&D.)

At 12th level they gain immunity to quest and geas spells.  (Okay, I jumped the gun there.  Is there anything these bastards aren't immune to?)

Finally (finally!) there is the Quivering Palm, gained at 13th level.  This ability allows the monk to set up deadly vibrations in the target simply by touching them.  At any point the monk can cause the vibrations to stop, which will kill the victim.  It sounds cool, but the target's HD can't be higher than the monk's, and it can't have more than 200 hit points in any event.  It also doesn't work on undead or creatures only hit by magical weapons.  To be honest, it seems less effective in combat than their stun/auto-kill attack.  It actually sounds like a more effective assassination tool than anything, probably even more effective than a high-level assassin.  It doesn't seem to offer a saving throw, either.  (This is basically the same ability as in OD&D, it's just been clarified here.)

While monks have a raft of special abilities, they also have restriction that hamper their effectiveness, as follows.

Monks can't wear armour, and gain no benefit to AC from a high Dexterity.  What they do get is an AC that improves as they advance in level.  It starts at AC 10, and by level 17 has improved to AC -3, which is not bad but would probably not be a match for other characters of a similar level.

Monks have to give away their treasure to religious institutions, much like paladins.  They can also only possess 2 magic weapons, and 3 magic items of other types.  (I can't find any mention of this restriction in OD&D.)

Monks are able to use any magic weapon on their class list, rings, and miscellaneous items usable by thieves.  They can't use any other items at all, and that includes potions.  (This is exactly as in OD&D.)

Monks don't get any bonuses to hit or damage from a high Strength.  It's all in the technique, I suppose.  (This restriction didn't apply in OD&D either.)

Monks can't have hirelings or henchmen until they reach 6th level.  At 6th they can take on hirelings for a single day, and up to two henchmen (fighters, assassins and thieves only).  They can take on more henchmen as they advance.  (This is pretty much as in OD&D, but there henchmen were restricted to fighters and monks of their own order.)

There is only a limited number of monks in the world above level 7: three level-8 monks, and only one of each level thereafter.  Any monk PC wishing to advance beyond 7th is going to have to find and defeat the relevant monk in single unarmed combat.  Monks will immediately know where to find the one they need to battle, and if they don't go and do so straight away they drop in XP to their previous level.  (This was the same in OD&D, but it started one level earlier, and magic was allowed in the duels.)

Upon winning the duel to become 8th level, a monk gains a number of 1st-level monks as followers.  He can also take the monastery of the monk he defeated as his own, or spend up to 250,000gp to build a new one. (No mention was made of this in OD&D.)

The level titles for monks haven't changed a lot.  The title of Brother is wedged in at 3rd level, which bumps all of the others up by one.  Grand Master is changed to Superior Master, and the word "Grand" is stripped from every title except the very last (Grand Master of Flowers).  AD&D monks advance faster the those in OD&D at lower levels, and more slowly at higher levels.

Well, that's the monk class, and if writing this up has done anything it's given me the urge to play an AD&D monk to high level.  Despite the drawbacks, and the weakness at low levels, they sound super-badass.  It seems they've been de-powered a little from OD&D, which is a good thing.  I doubt I'll ever get to play one, but one of the bonuses of being a DM is that I can just throw one in as an NPC and experience the fun of using those abilities without having to work for it.

NEXT: Multi-Class and Dual-Class

Friday, April 08, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook part 17: Assassins

Assassins: Assassins first appeared in the OD&D boxed set as an NPC specialist, and in Supplement II: Blackmoor as a playable class.  They appear here as a subclass of the Thief.  It's slightly easier to become an Assassin in AD&D: you still need a Strength and Dexterity of 12, but the Intelligence requirement has dropped from 12 to 11.  The racial restriction has also been loosened: in OD&D only humans can be Assassins, but here the class is available to every race except for halflings.

The alignment restrictions have changed as well.  OD&D Assassins were all neutral, but now they are required to be evil.  Personally I agree with the latter, but it raises some interesting ideas about how the Assassins' Guild was previously run.  If killing people for profit is intrinsically evil, how could the older breed of Assassins be neutral?  I have two thoughts here: either the old-school Assassins had an ultimate goal (maybe a benevolent one) that went beyond killing for profit; or the way the original alignment system worked didn't take into account the morality of killing for profit.  (I'll be covering the alignment chapter in a few entries, and I might get into the relationship between the three alignment systems presented so far.)

As a Thief sub-class, Assassins have all the abilities of that class at two levels below their Assassin level.  The only Thief ability they can use without this penalty is the Backstab.  They can also use shields, as well as every weapon on the equipment list, so although they have the same combat abilities as Thieves they're slightly more versatile.

Assassins can use poison, either in their victim's food or on their weapons.  There's a chance that a bared weapon with poison on it will be spotted by those nearby.  In OD&D that chance was 50% per round, but in AD&D it's been changed to 10% cumulative chance per round.  The NPCs in AD&D are also less aggressive in their reactions: they might attack or call the city watch, whereas in OD&D they would all attack ferociously.  Why none if them run like buggery is anyone's guess.

The ASSASSINATION TABLE (Gary's emphasis) is mentioned, in that an Assassin who surprises an enemy can use it to try and kill the victim instantly.  That sounds great, but the table isn't included!  Presumably it's in the Dungeon Masters Guide, which is fine for me, but I feel sorry for the folks who had to wait two years for the bloody thing to come out.  (Admittedly, the text says that it gives the Assassin a roughly 50% chance of an instant kill, so at least there's something to go on.  That sounds awfully high to me, I must say.)

The ability for Assassins to learn new alignment languages is kept from OD&D, but the rules have been changed to accommodate the different alignment system.  The Assassin needs a 15 Intelligence to learn a new one, and can learn an extra one for every point of Intelligence above that (to a maximum of four).  Thieves Cant and Druidic are also included on this list.  (This goes against my ideas about alignment languages: that they're the primal languages from the dawn of the universe, and that there's something about them that makes them anathema to those of different alignments.  I guess whatever it is that makes them so, the Assassins' Guild has figured out how to get around it.)

Their disguise ability has also been retained - Assassins can change their appearance, even appearing as members of the opposite sex or a different race.  Relevant NPCs have a chance of spotting the disguise every day, and this number is modified by Intelligence and Wisdom.  It works basically the same way that it did in OD&D, except that it seems to me that AD&D Assassins are harder to spot.

A table is given for the cost of hiring an Assassin, with the price determined by both the level of the Assassin and the level of the victim.  (In OD&D, only the Assassin's level was taken into account.)  If you really want to, you can drop 10,000gp to get a 15th-level Assassin to murder a 0-level NPC.  It costs more to have important people like nobles murdered.

Probably the most important factor of playing this class is the Assassins' Guild.  The book says that there is a Guild in "most towns and cities", which is shockingly far-reaching.  The demand for assassination must be pretty high.  An Assassin PC doesn;t have to be a member of the local guild, but if a non-member does any assassinating in that guild's territory, they will be marked for death.  Each guild is headed by a Guildmaster Assassin of 14th level.  It's not made explicit, but it seems as though these Guildmasters report to the Grandfather of Assassins, and to me it sounds as though there's only one such Grandfather in the whole world.

For any Assassin to reach 14th level, he has to either murder a Guildmaster, or challenge him to a duel.  The same goes for becoming 15th level, with the Grandfather of Assassins.  This is similar to the way that Druids and Monks advance at high levels, but trickery and deceit is actively encouraged for Assassin duels.

The level titles for Assassins have been significantly changed and rearranged from those in OD&D.  There are still the old menacing ones like Murderer, Killer and Executioner, but there are now a few that are lovably silly, like Rutterkin and Waghalter.  The Grandfather of Assassins is new in AD&D.  OD&D Assassins advanced in level a bit quicker.


Saturday, April 02, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook part 16: Thieves

The slog through the PHB continues.  I'll get there eventually, but it has been sporadic, as my enthusiasm for D&D has waned recently.  Perhaps it's a side-effect of never getting to play...  To be honest, I feel like I need to give what I'm doing here a rethink.  In the meantime, I'll keep plugging along.

Thieves: This entry begins with something of a contradiction: Gary claims that the profession of the Thief is not dishonourable, but neither is it honourable or respected.  The confusion continues in the list of allowable alignments: Thieves are Neutral or Evil (some rare examples may be neutral good), and of Lawful or Chaotic nature.  I'm not even sure what this is telling me...  Can my thief be Chaotic Good?  True Neutral?  It's really not clear.  By the book, it seems that Lawful Good and Chaotic Good are not allowed.  This seems bonkers to me, as Chaotic Good is my idea of the archetypal good-hearted Thief.  The idea of a Lawful Neutral Thief is ridiculous, but there it is, allowable in the game.

(In the three-point system of OD&D, they were restricted to being Chaotic or Neutral.  The Basic D&D boxed set written by Eric Holmes has a five-point system in which Thieves are said to be Neutral or Evil.  This is consistent, as a chronological reading of the D&D books reveals pretty clearly that Law/Chaos in OD&D equate to Good/Evil in AD&D.  I suppose the only thing I need to explain here is the appearance of the odd Neutral Good Thief, though it's not difficult to imagine a basically Good person wanting to use their skills to help people.  They'd just have a bit of trouble navigating the treacherous politics of the local Thieves' Guild. And perhaps a small section of Lawful Neutral Thieves has arisen, determined to run the Guild in a very ordered, regulated manner.)

Thieves use 1d6 for hit points.  This is a step-up from the 1d4 that they used in OD&D (and a much-needed one).  It seems that the Guild is training its recruits to be a bit tougher.

In terms of weapons and armour available, thieves can wear leather, and they can use clubs, daggers, darts, slings, shorts swords, longswords, and broadswords.  Weapons allowable for Thieves were unclear in earlier editions.  OD&D said they could use magic swords and daggers, and gave no other guidelines (I might hve missed something here, so please feel free to point it out if I'm wrong here).  The Holmes Basic Set allowed them the use of all the same weapons as Fighters.  AD&D pares it back to a more thematically relevant list (although the lack of short bows is an oversight, I feel).

The primary skills of the Thief are as follows: picking pockets, opening locks, finding/removing traps, moving silently, and hiding in shadows.  These were basically considered to be self-explanatory in OD&D, but here Gary goes into some more detail and clarification.

Pick Pockets is clarified so that it won't be applied too liberally: it doesn't just apply to pockets, but also to folds of clothing, girdles, etc.  As in OD&D there is a chance that the Thief will be noticed, and it increases with the level of the victim.  The rules are a lot clearer here though, with concrete number to differentiate between a failure that isn't noticed, and one that is.

Opening Locks in OD&D applied to the regular sort, as well as "magical closures".  The same is true here, but it's been expanded to include "sliding puzzle locks".  It's also clarified that a Thief can only attempt to open a specific lock once, and can't try again until he has gained a level.

Finding/Removing Traps applies to small mechanical traps (as it did in OD&D).  I guess this rules out things like pit traps and stone slabs, and nature-based snares as well.  (Fair enough, it's thematically sound, and it allows Dwarves to be a bit more useful.)  Finding a trap and removing it are separate rolls, and can only be attempted once per Thief.  There's always a fine line between the Remove Traps roll and role-playing solutions.  I try to use the roll to allow a Thief to deactivate a trap automatically, but also to allow them to role-play a solution of the roll fails.  If you block the hole of a dart trap with a plank of wood, you should be safe regardless of your Remove Traps roll.

Moving Silently is clarified here to be in addition to the rules for surprise: it should always be remembered that being silent doesn't automatically grant surprise, but it does improve your chances.  Also, just because you failed a roll and made a sound doesn't always mean you'll be heard.

Hiding in Shadows is clarified in that the Thief must remain motionless.  I've always played it as a way for thieves to sneak around behind opponents, but apparently that's not the intent.  There's also some clarification of how it interacts with infravision - you can't hide from creatures with infravision unless there's a nearby heat-producing light source that would mask the Thief's presence.  (Though I would rule that a heat source that doesn't produce light would also work.)  The spells detect invisibility and true seeing also reveal a hiding Thief.

The Thief's secondary functions are listening at doors, climbing walls, and the ever-awesome backstab.

The Listening ability was present in OD&D, but it was given as a bonus to a system using a d6 that was also used by other characters.  In AD&D the Thief's Hear Noise ability is given as a percentage roll, and there's no indication if there are rules for other character to attempt the same.  (If there is, I think it must be in the Dungeon Master's Guide, because I'm not seeing it here.)  Apparently the Thief must "move silently" to the door to use this ability (this is clarified later, and doesn't actually require the Thief skill Move Silently).  It takes a full minute, and creatures that are undead make no noise that can be heard through a portal.  Apparently neither do sleeping creatures, though I would make an exception for very large creatures, and very loud snorers.  I have relatives who can be heard from outside the house, let alone through a door.

Climbing Walls is the ability to scale a wall as long as said wall isn;t completely smooth.  In general, a roll must be made to scale halfway, and then another to make it safely to the top.  Failure, of course, results in a fall.

Backstabbing works exactly as it did in OD&D: a +4 bonus to hit, and double damage.  The damage multiplier increases every four levels: x2 at level 1-4, x3 at level 5-8, x4 at level 9-12, and x5 at level 13-16.  I'm pretty sure that OD&D had no cap on this ability, but in AD&D it seems to top out at x5.  There seems to be no requirement in determining a backstab, except that the Thief must strike from behind.

Thieves in AD&D can speak a special language called Thieves' Cant.  I can't quite believe this, but I'm unable to find a trace of it in any OD&D material; this may be its first appearance.  It's not give much of a description, however.

The ability of Thieves to read any language is still present here, but it's been downplayed somewhat.  In OD&D, a Thief of 3rd level and above had an 80% chance to read a language.  In AD&D the ability kicks in at 4th level, and starts at 20%, increasing by 5% per level until it caps at 80%.  It's said to be useful for Thieves to decipher treasure maps, and I wonder if it should only apply to those?  Probably not, it doesn't make a lot of sense.

Thieves of 10th level can read magical scrolls, as they could in OD&D.  As before they can't read clerical scrolls, but it's been added that they can use those intended for druids.  In OD&D it was only spells of 7th level and above that had a chance to backfire, but in AD&D it can happen with spells of any level.

The level titles for Thieves have been rearranged, and changed a bit.  The OD&D list is as follows: 1 - Apprentice; 2 - Footpad; 3 - Robber; 4 - Burglar; 5 - Cutpurse; 6 - Sharper; 7 - Pilferer; 8 - Master Pilferer; 9 - Thief; 10 - Master Thief.  The AD&D list has been changed as follows: 1 - Rogue (Apprentice); 2 - Footpad; 3 - Cutpurse; 4 - Robber; 5 - Burglar; 6 - Filcher; 7 - Sharper; 8 - Magsman; 9 - Thief; 10 - Master Thief.  The main difference is that Cutpurse has been dropped two levels (fair enough, it does sound a bit small-time), and the two Pilferer levels have been replaced by Filcher and Magsman.  I suppose someone decided that Pilferer didn't sound dignified enough, although Filcher is hardly an improvement.  OD&D Thieves in general advanced a bit faster than their AD&D counterparts.

AD&D Thieves have much higher perentages in their special abilities than did those in OD&D.  Hide in Shadows is the only skill that remains the same.  Climbing Walls starts with a base percentage of 85%, as opposed to 13%!  Racial bonuses for different races have changed a bit.  Elves, Dwarves and Halflings are the same in general.  Dwarves remain good at the mechanical stuff, but they've lost their bonuses for moving silently and hiding.  Halflings still get a bonus to basically everything except climbing.  Elves remain good at sneaking and picking pockets, but not so good with locks.  There are new bonuses included for Half-Orcs, Gnomes and Half-Elves.


Monday, March 14, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook part 15: Magic-Users and IIlusionists

MAGIC USERS: This class is dealt with here in only the most general terms: most of the magic user's special abilities come from spells, and his other abilities are further dealt with in the Dungeon Masters Guide. Intelligence remains their prime requisite, and they are still forbidden from using armor. Their range of weapons available has widened though: whEreas before they could only use daggers, now they are able to use staffs and darts.

Spellbooks are discussed briefly, and it's interesting to note the following: "as the magic-user advances in levels of ability, a book of spells for each higher level of spells which become usable will have to have been prepared through study and research." This says to me that magic-users need a new spellbook for every spell level, which I thought was new, but it's right there in OD&D. Silly me. This puts a pretty big crimp on spell-casters travelling on long journeys - you can't really fit nine spellbooks into a backpack. Re-memorisation could get difficult.

The enchantment of items and scrolls is glossed over, but no hard details are given. I guess they're in the DMG. As in OD&D, they have to be 11th level to start doing this.

Magic-users now have the option to build strongholds and tax the land, which I'm pretty sure wasn't an explicit option for them in OD&D.

The titles for levels 1 and 2 have been changed. In OD&D, they were Mediums and Seers respectively; now they are Prestidigitators and Evokers. There are also some new titles near the top of the chart: 16th-level magic-users are called Mages, and 18-level are called Arch-Mages.

A comparison of the XP needed to advance in level shows that, starting at 5th level, AD&D magic-users take longer to advance than those in OD&D. The gaps starts small, but grows wider with every level. The number of spells a magic-user can cast per day is comparable in both editions, with OD&D slightly edging ahead now and then before drawing level again. It's not until level 17 that OD&D pulls ahead in this regard; AD&D magic-users only win out because their chart goes all the way to level 29, while the OD&D chart stops at 22. OD&D wizards still get more lower-level spells.

ILLUSIONISTS: This class first appeared in The Strategic Review #4, and they are included here as a sub-class of magic-users. It's a little bit harder to qualify for this class now: in OD&D, a high intelligence was recommended, and a Dexterity of 15+ was necessary; in AD&D, Int 15+ and Dex 16+ are both needed, and having a high score doesn't grant them an XP bonus.

The major difference between magic-users and illusionists is their choice of spells. M-Us are probably more versatile, while illusionists have some powerful low-level spells, and can be used very effectively by players who can exercise them creatively.

The major weakness of illusionists is that they are restricted in the magic items they can use. As in OD&D, they can only use scrolls with illusionist spells on them. They can use all potions, except those restricted to fighters (in OD&D potions weren't mentioned as allowable items). They can no longer use Crystal Balls, but they are now able to use all rings (again, rings weren't mentioned before). They can also use the rod of cancellation, staff of striking, and wands of enemy detection, fear, illusion, magic detection, metal & mineral detection, secret door & trap detection, and the awesome wand of wonder. (This is a wider selection than they had in OD&D, but the wand of paralyzation has dropped off the list.)

The level titles for Illusionists remain the same, except that Prestidigitator has been inserted at level 1, causing all the others to bump up a slot. In OD&D they stopped rolling hit dice at level 11, but now they stop at level 10.

AD&D illusionists seem to get their high level spells quicker, while OD&D illusionists can memorise more low-level spells. AD&D illusionists need far less XP to advance (though it evens out around level 14).

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.