Saturday, May 21, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook part 23: Armour, Weapons, Hirelings and Henchmen

Armour: This is a short section that explains how Armour Class works.  There's not much to it, although it does have the table that shows the AC values for each armour type.  (The table is needlessly muddied by the inclusion of shields, in a bit of typically Gygaxian over-complication.)

There's a note here that monster AC values don't necessarily correspond with actual armour types.  Most monsters have various factors (size, hide, agility, multi-planar existence, etc.) that influence their AC.  In short, non-human monsters won't be carrying shields or wearing armour.

It's also noted that shields can only be used against attacks from the front.  Later it's said that attacks from behind and from the right flank can ignore shields.  This leaves out attacks from the left flank, but I'd be inclined to allow shields against those.  I'd also be inclined to allow switching these directions around for left-handed characters.

We learn here that small shields can only defend against one attack per round, a normal shield can defend against two attacks, and a large shield can defend against three.  This is something I've never bothered keeping track of, and to be honest it doesn't quite feel realistic.  The protective value of shields is massively undervalued in D&D.  (I'm willing to be proven wrong here, if any SCA-type folks want to school me on the usefulness of shields.)

Weapon Proficiency: What, you thought you could use every weapon on your class list?  Well, not any more, because weapon proficiencies are introduced here for the first time.  Basically, every class begins the game being proficient in a number of weapons.  There's no bonus for using a weapon you're proficient in, but there is a penalty for using a weapon you're not proficient with.  More weapons can be added as you gain levels.

I'm generally in favour of weapon proficiencies, though not always with the way the system is implemented.  It's pretty simple in AD&D, and it favours fighters heavily.  It's also another way you can customise your character.  It works pretty well here.

Weapon Tables: Following the section on proficiencies is a table that shows the damage ranges for each weapon.  For the weapons that appeared in OD&D, the damage ranges are much the same.  A number of other weapons are introduced here, but rather than getting their own entries they are likened to weapons that already exist on the equipment list.  I won't list them all here, because there are quite a lot, and I honestly couldn't tell you what most of them are.  I don't even want to Google the Bohemian Earspoon, because I just know that the reality will never live up to the name.

Things get  little more complex on the next table, which includes the following information: weapon lengths, space required to wield, speed factor and AC adjustment.  None of these are explained yet; I'll deal with them as they come up.  Certain weapons are noted here as being capable of dismounting a rider, and others as capable of disarming opponents.  Again, there's little detail on how theses are accomplished here.  There's a similar table following for missile weapons, with categories for rate of fire, range, and AC adjustment.

Hirelings: This is a short bit about hirelings, as distinct from henchmen.  There's not much to write about here, as the section pretty much just says that you can hire people to do stuff.  There are some example hirelings given, such as alchemists, armorers, engineers, etc.  The only one I've never heard of before is a "linkboy", which sounds dirty, but is actually just another name for a torch-bearer.  Actually pretty handy, I don't know why Gary would obfuscate this by using such an archaic term.  A character is not limited by Charisma in the number of hirelings he can take on.

Henchmen: Henchmen are a character's devoted followers, and these are most definitely limited by a character's Charisma.  Indeed, this is probably the most important thing that Charisma is used for in the rules.

The process of finding a henchman is detailed, with the character having to spend money on visiting inns, posting notices, hiring criers, etc.  Non-human characters are generally harder to locate then humans and "semi-humans" (I assume this refers to half-elves and half-orcs).

The PC must pay wages to their henchmen, as well as equip them and provide room and board.  They also get a share of treasure, and a share of XP (albeit a smaller one than a PC would gain).  I suppose that acting under someone else's instruction lessens the learning experience?  Something like that.

The loyalty of henchmen depends on a lot of factors, such as the PC's Charisma, generosity, and how they treat their henchmen in general.  As is becoming more and more apparent with the PHB, this is an overview, and the actual numbers are elsewhere )most probably the Dungeon Masters Guide).

(It's a little disappointing that this section doesn't deal at all with pets.  There's a bunch of animals ready for purchase on the equipment list, and some guidelines on how to run them would not go astray.  There's always some joker who wants to bring his guard dogs into the dungeon.)

Friday, May 13, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook part 22: Coins and Equipment

Starting Money: PCs are said to be exceptional in regards to starting funds.  The main four classes are listed here, with fighters being the wealthiest (50-200 gold pieces), clerics second (30-180gp), thieves third (20-120gp) and magic-users last (20-80gp).  Monks are also listed separately (as they aren't a sub-class), and they are the poorest of all (5-20gp).  This is a departure from OD&D, where all characters started with a range of 30-180gp.

I'm not sure what the following sentence means: "To determine the number of gold pieces your character has at the start, simply roll the appropriate dice and total the sum (adding a decimal place if necessary)."  What decimal place would that be?  I can't see where it would be needed, and it's bugging me.  What was Gary getting at here?

The Monetary System: Gold pieces are the basic currency, and there are also copper pieces, silver pieces, electrum pieces and platinum pieces.  Their values are as follows:

200 copper = 1 gold
20 silver = 1 gold
2 electrum = 1 gold
1 platinum = 5 gold

In OD&D it was only 50cp to 1gp, and 10sp to 1gp.  It looks as though copper and silver have both been devalued since then.  (The exchange rates in early D&D always baffle me, because I'm much more familiar with later editions where it was 100cp to 1gp, and 10sp to 1gp.  It doesn't hurt that the math for that is a little easier to do quickly in my head.)

Gary ends this section with an interesting bit about prices being higher in adventuring areas due to supply and demand: coin is plentiful in comparison to other places, and adventuring gear is in short supply.  The implication here is that gear would be cheaper in areas that don't have many adventurers, though it's not spelled out.  I'm not sure that this makes sense, but little about the D&D economy does.

Money Changing, Banks, Loans & Jewellers: Gary gives some quick but practical advice on financial establishments.  
  • Coins can be exchanged at a money lender's for a 3% fee.
  • Money can be stored with a money lender, but they don't give interest.  (I'm wondering what's in it for them? Perhaps that 3% fee applies here as well?)
  • Characters can get loans, with varying amounts and interest depending on their status and reliability.  The more famous the character is, and the more assets he or she has, the better the deal will be.
  • Jewellers and merchants buy gems and jewellery at 80% of the actual value.
 There's not a lot of depth here, but sometimes quick guidelines are more useful at the table.

Equipment - Armour: In OD&D there were but three types of armour: leather, chain and plate.  I was always pretty happy with this.  It gives you a light, medium and heavy option; what else do you want?  AD&D sees the introduction of an armour for every Armour Class; in addition to the three mentioned above we now have padded, studded, ring, scale, banded, and splint.  Variety is fine, and I guess there's always that weirdo who really wants to wear splint mail, but I don't think they add much to the game besides thoroughness.  Leather armour is cheaper than it was in OD&D, but chain and plate have skyrocketed.  Gary wasn't kidding about supply and demand.

Helmets have now been split into small and great varieties (with the small variety costing the same as an OD&D helmet)  There are also three types of shields: large, small, and small wooden (with the small shield costing the same as an OD&D shield).

Equipment - Arms: Again, this list is much larger than its OD&D equivalent.  That list had 22 items (including ammunition).  The AD&D list has 52.  The following weapons are making their debuts in AD&D proper: bardiche, bec de corbin, bill-guisarme, dart, fauchard, fauchard-fork, military fork, glaive, glaive-guisarme, guisarme, guisarme-voulge, lucern hammer, hammer (surprisingly), javelin, partisan, footman's pick, horseman's pick, ranseur, scimitar, slings and sling bullets, spetum, bastard sword, broad sword, short sword (really?!?), trident and voulge.  In addition, composite bows are now split into long and short varieties, and flails and maces are now split into footman's and horseman's varieties.

(While all of the above-listed weapons are making their debut on the equipment list, some have appeared in the table of damage by weapon type: military picks, slings, and tridents.  I wouldn't be surprised if some more have shown up in other places, particularly in Chainmail.)

Most weapons have different prices in OD&D and AD&D.  I feel like in general weapons are cheaper in AD&D, particularly the more common varieties.  The notable exceptions are composite bows and two-handed sword, which have gone up by quiet a bit.

Equipment - Clothing: Clothing wasn't listed in OD&D, but now you can buy items for your outfit separately.  I would tend to allows characters to start with clothes without paying for them.

Equipment - Herbs: You can buy belladonna, garlic and wolvesbane, which were all available in OD&D.  The prices here have dropped precipitously - we're talking a garlic bud dropping from 5gp to 5cp.  Something bizarre happened in the herb market between editions.

Equipment - Livestock: Where you can buy chickens, dogs, cows, birds, pigs and loads of different types of horses.  Generally this section is the bane of the DM's existence.  I hate players who insist on buying animals at 1st level.  In OD&D you only had mules and three diffierent types of horse, and that's the way I liked it.  Horse prices have gone up a lot since OD&D.

Equipment - Miscellaneous: A section for general adventuring gear such as ropes and sacks and lanterns.  Most of this stuff was in OD&D, but the prices were higher there because OD&D only listed prices in gold pieces.  Now that things ae listed in cp and sp, the prices have come down a lot.

Equipment - Provisions: In OD&D, you could buy wine and rations.  That's good enough for most adventurers, but now the aspiring gourmand can buy beer, ale and mead.  There are also prices listed for a rich meal and a merchant's meal, though not a poor meal which I find odd.  Horsefood is also listed, which was a big oversight in OD&D. 

Equipment - Religious Items: The main difference here from OD&D is that the cleric's symbol is listed as a holy symbol rather than a cross.  You can also buy prayer beads and incense, though I'm not sure what practical purpose they serve.

Equipment - Tack and Harness: Saddles and horse armour and the like.  Barding now comes in leather, chain and plate, and they cost a lot more than they did in OD&D.

Equipment - Transport: Surprisingly, the cost of boats has come down.  You can now also buy a warship, which sounds pretty awesome.

Monday, May 09, 2016

AD&D Players Handbook part 21: Hit Points and Character Languages

Character Hit Points: This is a pretty basic coverage of what hit points are and how they work, but there are two points of interest here that I'm not sure have been covered earlier.

The first is that monks and rangers have two hit dice at 1st level.  I've never actually considered this, but for the purposes of spells and other magical effects they should count as 2HD creatures.  I've always treated characters according to their level, but in doing that I've probably been short-changing monks and rangers.

The second is that Gary tackles the most common complaint about the hit point system head-on.  Invariably when discussing D&D and RPGs in general, there's always some ning-nong who talks about how ridiculous it is that high-level fighters can survive a hundred sword wounds.  Well, Gary agrees with you, and that's not how hit points work.  His description of how they do work is as follows: "the majority of hit points are symbolic of combat skill, luck (bestowed by supernatural powers), and magical forces."  The explicit mention of supernatural powers influencing hit points says a lot about default AD&D, and could perhaps tie in with the alignment stuff I was talking about in my last post.

It's mentioned that rest restores hit points, but no figures are given.  The idea of keeping a character's exact hit points a secret is also brought up, and I'd like to recommend that DMs try it at least once.  Players can get extremely cautious when they don't have the exact numbers in front of them, and it adds a lot of tension to the game.

Establishing the Character: At this point Gary recommends naming your character and creating a family background.  (Which is odd, because I'm sure I've read somewhere that a lot of characters in his campaign weren't even named until they reached 3rd level.)  He also mentions the idea of naming a next of kin that can inherit your character's possessions in case of an untimely death, which is a rule from OD&D that I feel gets little play in later editions.

What's of most interest here is that we get a glimpse into what I assume is what Gary sees as the quintessential campaign opening scenario.  He described the characters approaching the main setting (probably a village, town or city), getting through the main gate, finding a place to sleep, and learning the lay of the land.  Again, it doesn't feel quite right given what I've read of Gary's DMing style; I would expect him to get to the adventure a bit more quickly.  Still, it jibes well with two of his introductory modules, Keep on the Borderlands and Village of Hommlet, and it could be a difference between starting an adventure and starting a campaign.

Character Languages: The first thing established here is that all humans, semi-humans, and non-humans in regular contact with people speak the "common tongue".  The use of parentheses here indicates that "common" is not a language per se, but just a placeholder for whatever language would be appropriate in your campaign.  Gary then says that common is spoken by all states in the central campaign area, which I will assume applies to Greyhawk.

Alignment languages are then discussed a little further.  They can be spoken by all creatures able to converse in speech, which is an important qualifier.  It rules out True Neutral characters having conversations with horses and oozes, for one thing.  Importantly, it's noted that in most campaigns open alignment speech is a serious breach of social etiquette.

The process of learning additional languages is brought up.  It requires the character being in close proximity to a tutor for a period of 12 months, modified downwards by high Intelligence.  I'll assume that the character will still be able to adventure during this time, it's just that he or she can't go on any long trips, and has to spend a lot of downtime doing the learning.