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OD&D A request for advice

Which book should I get?

  • Rules Cyclopedia

    Votes: 14 66.7%
  • Dark Dungeons

    Votes: 1 4.8%
  • Get both! It ain't my money you're spending

    Votes: 6 28.6%

  • Total voters
    21
Personally I'm not a fan of the way BECM and RC stretched progression over 36 levels.

I think it was a poorly thought out choice, which really only works for folks who play a TON, and expect to regularly play at high levels. For most of us, most of those levels are wasted space, and the poor Thief (already sadly weak in many regards in B/X) gets his abilities weakened and progression slowed, which definitely wasn't necessary or good. 36 levels also means slowed caster progression to those highest-level spells, and that the poor demihumans get completely left behind, whereas in B/X their level caps aren't SO onerous.

About the only rules choice BECM/RC made that I prefer over B/X was allowing magic users and elves to get new spells from scrolls and captured spellbooks, which has always been one of the most fun parts of wizard-type characters in D&D, in my opinion.

All that being said, my preference is very much for OSE, and I just house rule spell acquisition.

If you really like the 36 levels, though, I'd say go with the RC.
The caster progressions isn't slowed, though I think some powerful spells were moved up to higher spell levels than they had in BX.
One could easily accelerate thief skills to +5% per level, and stop advancement at level 14 if they wanted to, and keep the rest of the RC as it is.
 

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cavalier973

Explorer
So, I am pleased as punch so far with my printed copy of the Rules Cyclopedia.

A very few observations:

1. Magic Users get two first level spells at level one, keeping the Mentzer rule from his Basic Set. This is excellent, because "Read Magic" is required for any scrolls found while dungeon-ing.

2. Magic Users can, with the DM's permission, expand the weapon selection from daggers only to blowgun, bottles of flaming oil, bottles of holy water, staves, slings, and whips. A whip-wielding wizard is so very much D&D, or should be. I checked the Master Set rules, which first expanded the magic user weapons, and noticed that it did not include slings.

3. The artwork, which is widely panned, is actually not that bad. There are some very good pieces in there--a couple of guys hiding in a pond to escape orcs is one. Granted, there are some stinkers, too. Someone should do a poll whether the RC halfling or the 5e PHB halfling is worse.

4. Weapon Mastery seems very interesting; I might whip up some 4e-style "power cards" for players to use, though.

5. Dwarves can use polearms (at a penalty). Cool. It wasnt specified in Moldvay or Mentzer whether they could. It wasnt exactly prohibited, but the dwarf was supposed to be restricted to "normal size weapons".

6. I find it disappointing that a section giving examples of map symbols was not included. Also, I think there could have been a sample dungeon, either the Haunted Keep, or Castle Mistamere.

8. I was a little frustrated trying to find some specific rule that I knew I had seen in a prior reading.

9. The Paladin, Avenger, amd Knight are prestige classes for fighters who do not wish to ascend to the nobility. No ability restrictions, either, although a WIS score of 13 or higher is necessary for casting cleric spells.

10. Thieves. Ugh. This is something for all editions, really. I am not talking about the slow progression and the practical uselessness of thief skills at low levels, either. It's the idea that the class is a "thief". I agree with Matt Colville that the class is actually something like "dungeon crawler", because all the skills are useful for dungeon exploration. Lamentations of the Flame Princess calls them "Specialists", which is a step in the right direction. I plan on dispensing with the whole "thief" archetype, replacing it with "Adventurer" or "Dungeoneer" or something, and the "Thieves Guild" will become an "Explorers' Society" or "Adventurers' Club", a sort of semi-informal place to congregate with other Dungeoneers to trade stories, make connections, participate in training seminars, hear rumors, and the like. Nothing nefarious, but not necessarily well-regarded by those outside the craft. Name level dungeoneers can open their own clubs.
 
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cbwjm

Hero
I think if I went back to earlier editions, I'd remove the thief completely and either create a well rounded adventurer class, make thief skills available as general skills to all classes, or do both. I think ACKS has a skill called ambush which is essentially the basic version of backstabbing, so that could become a skill as well.

I quite like the artwork of the book, it's not even nostalgia, I've looked at it recently.

What I like about the paladin/avenger/knight as well as the cleric/druid prestige type classes is that they provide a good example for creating your own. Maybe humans have a fighter/mage tradition whereby they pick up the spell knowledge of a wizard 1/3rd their level or a ranger is a fighter who gains some thief skills and druid magic. It's quite a good system, I'd use them from 1st level if I was playing a game, with maybe a minor XP penalty for them to account for their improved abilities.
 

teitan

Hero
I would go with BECMI itself over the other 2 but if I narrowed it down to those two I would go RC. It is in print again, it is only 26 bucks for a hardcover right now with gorgeous Elmore artwork or 21 for the softcover. BECMI boxes are pretty easy to find, sans box usually, if you look around. The prices on Ebay and Amazon are inflated. I see them every few weeks for about $10 or so. The Master set is usually more expensive though. The benefit of BECMI is adding complexity as you level up through the boxes versus having all those options right there from the start. It can be overwhelming.

The thief is archetypal, having a strong foundation in Conan and the Lieber stories where they are very much thieves. I get wanting to go a different route though and D&D has certainly pushed that direction since 3e. The archetype was the Grey Mouser, in the same way that Aragorn was the archetype for the ranger class. IT directly emulated him and with the original alignment restriction of "any non-good alignment" in 1e and non-lawful in 0 and BD&D, it bears examining the intent of the thief in that context.
 
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Mannahnin

Adventurer
The thief is archetypal, having a strong foundation in Conan and the Lieber stories where they are very much thieves. I get wanting to go a different route though and D&D has certainly pushed that direction since 3e. The archetype was the Grey Mouser, in the same way that Aragorn was the archetype for the ranger class. IT directly emulated him and with the original alignment restriction of "any non-good alignment" in 1e and non-lawful in 0 and BD&D, it bears examining the intent of the thief in that context.
Except that the Grey Mouser is one of the greatest swordsmen in the multiverse. Similar with Conan.

I agree that thievery is very much core to the concept and to these two major influences on D&D, but the original Thief class crippled the archetype of the Mouser (and to a lesser extent Fafhrd and Conan; though AD&D gave Barbarians some thieving-related skills) to make it a supporting character who hides in the back of a party led by someone else. To a certain degree WotC has made the Rogue more true to Leiber by making it a deadly combatant.

The more direct inspiration for the TSR Thief (though Mouser is in there to a lesser extent) is probably Cugel the Clever, a sociopathic antihero constantly on the make, with no particular combat expertise but a heart full of larceny and pretensions of magical skill.
 
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Voadam

Legend
Conceptually I am a fan of the B/X thief alternative The B/X Rogue by Necrotic Gnome (the OSE people). Rogue feat type abilities instead of thief percentage skills. It could do a better job with hierarchical power options, but better than the standard thief stuff.

4e though did the best Mouser/Conan style thieves where they were effective combatants. Making them different fighting style low toughness high damage strikers as a design goal was a great way to go.
 

Mannahnin

Adventurer
Conceptually I am a fan of the B/X thief alternative The B/X Rogue by Necrotic Gnome (the OSE people). Rogue feat type abilities instead of thief percentage skills. It could do a better job with hierarchical power options, but better than the standard thief stuff.

4e though did the best Mouser/Conan style thieves where they were effective combatants. Making them different fighting style low toughness high damage strikers as a design goal was a great way to go.
5E has now more or less done this too with the Tasha's ability upgrade, right? Where they can get Advantage and their sneak attack damage without being dependent on being unseen or the target being distracted by another foe?
 

cavalier973

Explorer
A couple of more observations:

There is multiclassing, but it's very challenging and time-consuming (playing RAW). It is the Polymath Immortal Path, which the character pursues by getting to a certain level in the four human classes. After achieving that, all four classes unlock for the character. "I am Murdoch, the 'Cleric/Fighter/Magic-User/Thief', and I'm awesome."

There are different ways to generate ability scores. These are supposed to be for creating higher level characters, but...heh, heh...like you're going to throw that out there and not expect it to be used and abused. One way is to roll 3d6 eight times, and pick the best 6 rolls. The other way is to roll 5d6, then add the total to 60, which the player can distribute to the different ability scores. A corollary to this second method is for the DM to simply assign a number of points to each player, between 60 and 90. Giving each player 84 points would mean the characters can have three "18s" and three "10s". Or, they could distribute them with several lower (but good!) scores.
 

Mannahnin

Adventurer
A couple of more observations:

There is multiclassing, but it's very challenging and time-consuming (playing RAW). It is the Polymath Immortal Path, which the character pursues by getting to a certain level in the four human classes. After achieving that, all four classes unlock for the character. "I am Murdoch, the 'Cleric/Fighter/Magic-User/Thief', and I'm awesome."
Don't you have to literally max out a class (36th level) and THEN start another class from 1st? I don't think that really resembles "multiclass" as it has ever existed in D&D in any practical sense. Much as the epic, far-off (if not entirely theoretical) prospect was tantalizing to me as a teenager when I first got the Immortals set.
 

Don't you have to literally max out a class (36th level) and THEN start another class from 1st? I don't think that really resembles "multiclass" as it has ever existed in D&D in any practical sense. Much as the epic, far-off (if not entirely theoretical) prospect was tantalizing to me as a teenager when I first got the Immortals set.

If anything that's more like the AD&D dual class rules that only humans had, except with a limitation that you had to play forever instead of the annoying rules dual classing had.
 

Mannahnin

Adventurer
If anything that's more like the AD&D dual class rules that only humans had, except with a limitation that you had to play forever instead of the annoying rules dual classing had.
True, though in practice dual-classing could actually work, at least once your party had a few levels under their belts. Due to the quasi-geometric XP progression, it wouldn't actually take all that many sessions for a dual-classing PC to nearly catch up in level with their companions, and gain the full benefits of both classes.
 

True, though in practice dual-classing could actually work, at least once your party had a few levels under their belts. Due to the quasi-geometric XP progression, it wouldn't actually take all that many sessions for a dual-classing PC to nearly catch up in level with their companions, and gain the full benefits of both classes.

The only time I ever remember it working well was when a guy really wanted to be a thief but rolled... extremely well. He started as fighter until level 2 and then switched ASAP to thief just to get whatever ridiculous percentile strength he had rolled and moderately better equipment draw. As usual, though, it's hard to evaluate dual class because just to do it requires pretty crazy rolls.

I also did see one 1e Bard. He was pretty disgusting. He had over 110 hit points when the rest of us were like level 13. However, anything over name level makes multiclass and dual class characters look really good.
 

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