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OSR At What Level Is Survivability Possible?

I don't see any problem here at all. Of course some of 'em are gonna die. Don't sweat it.

Most OSR games, if they're doing it right, have very fast char-gen at low levels; which means death doesn't knock a player out of the game for too long. Also, with low-level characters being generally easier to play in OSR, there's nothing at all stopping you from allowing players to run more than one each in the party. That way, when one dies they've still got the other.
Well sure, we can of course ignore the OPs question entirely and make a sort of weird statement about "working as intended" but it really seems like that's for another thread. The OP asked what level people become survivable, and it's about L3, in general.
 

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I think you're reading me a bit too literally there, chief. Obviously a D&D 5e character isn't invincible, but they are more survivable than an OSR-style character, meaning it is inadvisable to play the latter as if you're playing the former. In either game, bad rolls can mean the character's death. It's more likely in OSR-style games, which is why you work harder than you might in D&D 5e to avoid the dice being the determining factor in success. One way to do that is to avoid combats altogether if you can and to stack the deck heavily in your favor if you can't.

Of course, this doesn't mean that there is zero chance of character death. But unless the DM is taking death off the table entirely, then the reasonable expectation is that death can happen so one should play accordingly. So, at what level is survivability possible? All levels. If it wasn't, then nobody would make it past 1st level.
That's not a helpful answer, I'd suggest, but rather a semantic game. We all know what the OP is asking and the real answer is around level 3 or a bit higher depending on the exact system. That's when playing smart really tends to start paying off, too.
 

I’m still a little stuck on the statement: “5e equates to having to look at your character sheet more then in prior editions.”

ummm....ok.....I don’t believe that to be true.... a 1e character sheet had: Thaco Number, Saving Throw Numbers, Weapon Proficiency selections..(’cause nobody knows how to use all weapons, Non-Weapon proficiency selections, ability scores..because modifiers were not standard, and different classes got to use different numbers.....etc, etc.

5e is much easier to play, sans character sheet, than a 1e game....system knowledge being equal.

As to the raison d’etre of this thread: honestly the answer depended on the class.
(Which in part is why 1e could accommodate groups with a very disparate level distribution).

For a 1e Magic User the answer to “When is survivability viable?” could be: never.
For a Ranger with 2d8 HP at 1st level...1st or 2nd level
For a Fighter...3rd level
For a Cavalier/Paladin that went through “zero levels” 1st level, otherwise depends if the Cavalier is on a horse or not. (Richard the Third must have been a Cavalier)🏇
For a Barbarian....never....by the time the Barbarian had enough XP to hit 3rd level, the campaign was done, and the rest of the group was ruling Kingdoms.

I played many a Magic User/ Thief multi-class characters just for the extra HP boost, and the fact that the Thief’s XP chart had such low advancement costs that one’s Spellcasting was not, overly impacted, adversely.
 
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Ath-kethin

Adventurer
Not sure what Old-School Essentials take is on it, but the whole death at -10 HP was a thing in the 1e DMG. That gives even the weakest PC a chance to get healed before they die.
On top of that, death saves were in the 1991 Rules Cyclopedia and may have been around before that even.

OSR, like all versions of D&D, is as lethal or not as the group wants. Given the much higher emphasis on individualizing campaigns and using of house rules in the pre-WotC era, surprising when reading others' experiences sometimes.

Y'all seem to have played with far more vicious DMs than I ever did, and far more vicious DMs than I ever wanted to be.
 

smetzger

Explorer
I don't know anything about your particular flavor of OSR. But I did play a lot of 1e and 2e.

How did we survive from level 1? - hirelings, henchmen, and war dogs. war dogs were particularly effective as they attacked as well as a 5th level fighter.

What level does it start to be more survivable ? - At 3rd level you could breath a little easier when going into a fight. Just like 3.5e.

Where there a more deaths than modern games? - yes, this was expected. You just rolled up a new character and moved on.
 

Voadam

Adventurer
On top of that, death saves were in the 1991 Rules Cyclopedia and may have been around before that even.

OSR, like all versions of D&D, is as lethal or not as the group wants. Given the much higher emphasis on individualizing campaigns and using of house rules in the pre-WotC era, surprising when reading others' experiences sometimes.

Y'all seem to have played with far more vicious DMs than I ever did, and far more vicious DMs than I ever wanted to be.
-10 hp was in AD&D but not in B/X which OSE replicates.

OSE Rules Tome said:
Death: A character or monster reduced to 0 hit points or less is killed.
 

Retreater

Legend
Yeah. I'm aware that adding hirelings and having the players control multiple characters will help their survivability. But since we're looking at B/X and retroclones as a way to simplify and speed up the game, I don't think doubling the characters is a good way to achieve that.
And yes, the player did complain that 5e was a little too complex for him. Even though he has played 3.5/PF before, 5e is still too much. The action economy is a big point of confusion to him (and I agree that it's a little on the fiddly side, and even though I completely understand it, it's not an especially elegant system and I have to explain it multiple times each session, regardless of the game group).
 


I had my moments back in the day, when I was a callow DM. Supposedly at age 9, I killed my brother's first PC in his first session with a falling rock trap. I don't remember this, but he sure does.

And before I knew better, my technique to deal with problem players was admittedly pretty mean. I once sicced a wraith on a PC, then a troll, then had them fall into a sliding trap into a blue dragon's lair, after plotting to murder the other characters. Another got level-drained by a succubus and lost their paladin status. A particularly arrogant and bullying paladin got goaded into challenging Helm during the Time of Troubles, and, you guessed it, got level-drained and lost their paladin status.

But those really were exceptions to the rule. Most of the PCs in my campaigns had long successful adventuring careers.

Y'all seem to have played with far more vicious DMs than I ever did, and far more vicious DMs than I ever wanted to be.
One thing my players never really got into back in the day was using hirelings. Most wanted to play heroes and go on adventures, not manage a bunch of paid flunkies.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Aleena died for your sins.
-10 hp was in AD&D but not in B/X which OSE replicates.
Technically, "-10 hp" was not AD&D.

There was a rule in the DMG labeled "Zero Hit Points" (p. 82) that if you were knocked down to exactly 0 hp ("optionally as low as -3 hit points if from the same blow which brought the total to 0") you weren't dead, but unconscious. And then you would lose hit points until -10, when you died.

This rule, through misunderstandings and urban legend, morphed at some tables into the "-10hp" rule that some people played with, but it was only every supposed to deal with the edge case of being reduced to exactly zero hit points.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Aleena died for your sins.
I’m still a little stuck on the statement: “5e equates to having to look at your character sheet more then in prior editions.”

ummm....ok.....I don’t believe that to be true.... a 1e character sheet
This isn't about 1e. This is about B/X.

I'd also quibble slightly with the remainder regarding 1e; THAC0 only became widespread with 2e, for example. Most of 1e used tables (that were in a DM's screen) so a lot of things could be accomplished with little player-side system knowledge and just rolling.
 

S'mon

Legend
Technically, "-10 hp" was not AD&D.

There was a rule in the DMG labeled "Zero Hit Points" (p. 82) that if you were knocked down to exactly 0 hp ("optionally as low as -3 hit points if from the same blow which brought the total to 0") you weren't dead, but unconscious. And then you would lose hit points until -10, when you died.

This rule, through misunderstandings and urban legend, morphed at some tables into the "-10hp" rule that some people played with, but it was only every supposed to deal with the edge case of being reduced to exactly zero hit points.
I actually read it that no blow could reduce a character below -3 hp, and dying started there, ending at -10! I think your interpretation is likely As Gygax Intended, but so much context is left unsaid, on its own the section is extremely unclear.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Aleena died for your sins.
I actually read it that no blow could reduce a character below -3 hp, and dying started there, ending at -10! I think your interpretation is likely As Gygax Intended, but so much context is left unsaid, on its own the section is extremely unclear.
Here it is-

Zero Hit Points:

When any creature is brought to 0 hit points (optionally as low as -3 hit points if from the same blow which brought the total to 0), it is unconscious. In each of the next succeeding rounds 1 additional (negative) point will be lost until -10 is reached and the creature dies.


This is really not one of the vague rules in AD&D. TBH, I think that it's one of those things where the "urban legend" rule became more common than the actual rule, especially because the urban legend of -10hp is a lot more forgiving. :)
 
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I'd also quibble slightly with the remainder regarding 1e; THAC0 only became widespread with 2e,
To quibble with your quibble, (🙂), my omnibus Queen of Spiders was published in 1986, and lists THACO in the entries....3 years before 2e.

Now the omnibus Temple of Elemental Evil, released in 1985 does not have THACO listed.

THACO, in my slice of the world was hungrily, eagerly adopted....well before 2e.
 

S'mon

Legend
Here it is-

Zero Hit Points:

When any creature is brought to 0 hit points (optionally as low as -3 hit points if from the same blow which brought the total to 0), it is unconscious. In each of the next succeeding rounds 1 additional (negative) point will be lost until -10 is reached and the creature dies.


This is really not one of the vague rules in AD&D. TBH, I think that it's one of those things where the "urban legend" rule became more common than the actual rule, especially because the urban legend of -10hp is a lot more forgiving. :)
As I said, to me it was saying you could optionally fall as low as -3 hp from positive hp. As opposed to always being at 0 hp. So optionally 7 rounds to die instead of default 10 rounds.

I had no other source than the DMG for forming this opinion. The section does not say "otherwise you're dead" - that needs to be implied in from I think the PHB. But PHB and DMG contradict in places.
 

S'mon

Legend
To quibble with your quibble, (🙂), my omnibus Queen of Spiders was published in 1986, and lists THACO in the entries....3 years before 2e.

Now the omnibus Temple of Elemental Evil, released in 1985 does not have THACO listed.

THACO, in my slice of the world was hungrily, eagerly adopted....well before 2e.
THAC0 for monsters is in the 1e DMG - 1979?
 

Snarf Zagyg

Aleena died for your sins.
To quibble with your quibble, (🙂), my omnibus Queen of Spiders was published in 1986, and lists THACO in the entries....3 years before 2e.

Now the omnibus Temple of Elemental Evil, released in 1985 does not have THACO listed.

THACO, in my slice of the world was hungrily, eagerly adopted....well before 2e.
Oh, don't get me wrong! THAC0 not only exists in some modules for the critters, it was in a table in the appendix the DMG! And I believe it was used by some hobbyists in the 70s for OD&D, although maybe not referred to by that name?

It's just that it wasn't on character sheets- not the official ones. It wasn't a common (PC) thing until 2e.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Aleena died for your sins.
As I said, to me it was saying you could optionally fall as low as -3 hp from positive hp. As opposed to always being at 0 hp. So optionally 7 rounds to die instead of default 10 rounds.
PHB p. 105:

"Damage is meted out in hit points. If any creature reaches 0 or negative hit points, it is dead."

The DMG was an additional rule in the hit point section regarding exactly 0 hit points.
 

Voadam

Adventurer
Oh, don't get me wrong! THAC0 not only exists in some modules for the critters, it was in a table in the appendix the DMG! And I believe it was used by some hobbyists in the 70s for OD&D, although maybe not referred to by that name?

It's just that it wasn't on character sheets- not the official ones. It wasn't a common (PC) thing until 2e.
The official 1e AD&D character sheets had an area to put in your Adjusted to hit AC X chart for various weapons so a Player could look at his sheet after rolling and tell the DM what AC he hit.




So did the B/X Character sheet:

 

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