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.

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.