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OSR At What Level Is Survivability Possible?

Snarf Zagyg

Aleena died for your sins.
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.
The adjusted to hit AC is for the weapon adjustments to particular armor classes, not THAC0.*

You played AD&D, right? That was the thing that almost no one used because it was super-fiddly. :)


So did the B/X Character sheet:
Again, because it was assuming a table, not THAC0. If you had THAC0, you wouldn't have a list of armor classes .... you get that, right?



*EDIT: In case it was unclear to you, that's why it goes to AC2 (Plate + Shield) and not AC0.


Second addition: More importantly, what is on neither character sheet, as I stated? Hit: It rhymes with Wakko, of the Animaniacs. ;)
 
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smetzger

Explorer
sigh

The adjusted to hit AC is for the weapon adjustments to particular armor classes, not THAC0.*

You played AD&D, right? :)
I actually used those weapon adjustments. One of the dragon magazines had a cardboard cutout. You could look up the your level, the weapon and the AC and it would show you what you needed to roll. It was a game changer for me.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Aleena died for your sins.
I actually used those weapon adjustments. One of the dragon magazines had a cardboard cutout. You could look up the your level, the weapon and the AC and it would show you what you needed to roll. It was a game changer for me.
I have almost never met a person who used the weapon adjustments! So, pleasure to meet you.

But .... it did make the diversity of weapons a lot more interesting! Some weapons (staff, jo stick) were nearly useless against heavy armor, while suddenly the two-handed sword (and the flail!) became a lot better.
 


Ath-kethin

Adventurer
But those really were exceptions to the rule. Most of the PCs in my campaigns had long successful adventuring careers.
Most of mine as well. In fact, the biggest scandal I can recall was when a PC, pregnant with a half-dragon, was badly injured by a giant porcupine. I had the player roll a saving throw for the child, and the roll was a success so I ruled that the baby was fine. That was in 1995, and the other players from that campaign still gripe about it.

Did I mention the PC in question was my girlfriend at the time? That might be relevant here.

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.
I don't recall ever playing with hirelings, but we did on occasion hit Name level and have apprentices and such. It totally became a different game at that point; some liked it and some didn't.
 
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Libramarian

Adventurer
For a death save I've been using "roll over your negative HP on your HD to survive". So if a Fighter is reduced to -3 HP, they have to roll 4+ on d8. A Thief or Magic-User would have to roll 4 on d4.

This roll is made after the battle is over (or whenever the other PCs have a chance to crowd around and respectfully remove helmets).

If fail, the wounds are mortal and the PC will expire after last words. If success, the PC is at 0 HP and can be healed from there.

(It feels better to wait until after the battle to roll the death save. It seems realistic also; apparently grievous arterial wounds don't actually bleed much until some time later, when the surrounding musculature begins to relax).
 

smetzger

Explorer
I have almost never met a person who used the weapon adjustments! So, pleasure to meet you.

But .... it did make the diversity of weapons a lot more interesting! Some weapons (staff, jo stick) were nearly useless against heavy armor, while suddenly the two-handed sword (and the flail!) became a lot better.
Yes, the Footman's Flail..... My cleric/fighter got a +2 one from Assassin's Knot. Even with my -2 non prof penalty it was put to good use.
 

Voadam

Adventurer
Looks like Snarf's right, I had used those to hit parts in the AD&D one as plotting out attack rolls for things like +2 longsword compared to longbow or melee dagger versus thrown, but the phrasing and AC range fits the horrible 1e PH attack roll adjustment chart.

I tried using that AC adjustment chart for a little while until I realized it was executed poorly from a conceptual level and slowed down combat more than I wanted. It looked like it tried to include accounting for adjustments against different types of armor with or without shields but it in fact did not account for the fact that shields can be there or not across the AC range from 3 to 7 by combining with different armors. If they had broken out adjustments against shields separately or not at all it would have been a cumbersome mechanic, but it would have been a match of mechanics to the concept.

However I am pretty glad I did plug in the numbers the various weapons would need to hit various ACs on the AD&D character sheets the way it was done on the Basic ones. That was much more helpful at the table than doing more math on the fly with just the AC 0 target that only listing THAC0 would have given.
 

Yeah, that happened in my one campaign, and the whole group gave it a shot, then said "can we go back to the sorts of adventures we were playing before, rather than managing castles and armies?"

I don't recall ever playing with hirelings, but we did on occasion hit Name level and have apprentices and such. It totally became a different game at that point; some liked it and some didn't.
 

Ath-kethin

Adventurer
Yeah, that happened in my one campaign, and the whole group gave it a shot, then said "can we go back to the sorts of adventures we were playing before, rather than managing castles and armies?"
It was rare that ours made it there, but luckily back when I was in high school we had a big group that included 4 or 5 people regularly running games. That meant we had tons of campaigns and characters and options going on, and it also meant that we were all playing upwards of 3-4 campaigns simultaneously, plus one shots and such.

And THAT meant that there was room for many different kinds of campaigns. So the ones that DID go high enough allowed is to explore the different high-level rules. Though of course more than one ended up with the PCs appointing regents to rule in their stead so they could continue the adventuring life. And some campaigns just collapsed, as happens.
 

cbwjm

I can add a custom title.
5th level. That is the point IMO when you can survive most things--even if it means running away-- and can easily survive lower level monsters.
This was pretty much my thought back when I played basic and 2e, 5th level was when it felt like PCs were becoming powerful with access to 3rd level spells, warriors had good hit points and a decent Thac0 and normally at least 1 magical weapon each.

I think I early on started a houserule of getting maximum hit points at level 1 just to improve PC survivability to reach 2nd level.
 

Monayuris

Adventurer
I'm looking into the OSR movement to find something simple and quick to run for an online group with not a lot of time for long sessions. One player has complained that 5e requires too much looking at the sheet and it takes him out of the game. So I'm looking into Old School Essentials based on good reviews and testimonials on here.
Everyone in this group started with AD&D 2nd edition, so we're not completely spoiled by 5e character power levels. But I just cannot wrap my head around a single kobold being the statistic equal to a 1st level PC. And even "smart play" that requires a 10% hide in shadows to sneak up on them is almost a guaranteed fail.
I'm thinking that the only way B/X works is to start higher than 1st level. What level do you think the game (or OSR in general) gives the characters a fair chance to survive a battle of even weak monsters?
B/X works fine at 1st level.

There are significant differences between B/X game play and modern D&D game play.

Firstly, if you are playing B/X you should use the rules for Reactions and Morale ( I know they were called out as optional, but I consider that a mistake. They are vital to the game).

Reactions are used when you do not have a clear idea of how a monster will react to the PCs... I use it during random encounters and anytime there isn't an obvious reaction (I'm uncertain or I want to let the dice decide for me).

When you use the Reactions rule, a monster only attacks immediately on a result of 2 on a 2d6 roll. Any other result of the dice can lead to the players having some opportunity to parley, barter, bribe, or just run away. There is even a possibility of a friendly reaction. This mostly puts the choice of combat in the hands of the players and allows them to avoid unnecessary combat.

Morale is used to determine the monster's will to fight. By the book, morale is checked at the first death (PC or Monster) and when monsters are reduced to 1/2 their number. A failed Morale check will have monsters flee or surrender. If both conditions are met in the same round, there is a penalty to the morale check. So, when in combat with large numbers of humanoids, shock and awe is the tactic. You can squeak out a win by forcing a morale check, early in the combat.

Thief skills are special abilities that go beyond normal capability. They can't be compared to modern skills like Stealth or Hide and so on.

All characters can hide, but a thief can hide with nothing but shadows around them.
All characters can move stealthily, but a thief can move in complete silence.
All characters can climb, but a thief can scale a sheer surface with nothing but their hands and feet.

The situation above about sneaking up on someone is handled by the surprise rules (which is possible for any character). Move Silently is something that layers on top of that. So a thief would Move Silently and if that fails, still get a normal chance for surprise.

Combat tactics play a big part. Fight in formation and use choke points. The first rank should have high AC fighters, behind them henchmen and hirelings with spears. Minimize attacks against you while maximizing your attacks. Don't allow characters to get isolated and surrounded.

If your Magic-User has sleep or another combat mitigating spell, be decisive in its use. If you are in combat with a large number of low-level enemies, use it right away. Don't wait until your fighters have been exposed to attacks and damage.

B/X rewards XP for monsters and for gold piece value of treasure. Although the amount of XP for gold dramatically outweighs that of monster XP. You should avoid random encounters at all costs. They are not worth the risk. The focus of an adventuring party should be on finding unprotected treasure and locating monster lairs. Use tactics and deception to level the playing field against a lair. If you can avoid the monsters and steal their treasure, do it.

You aren't supposed to ever be in a fair fight with monsters. Use strategy, tactics, and whatever resources you have to stack the odds. Sleep spells, charm person, flasks of oil, formation fighting around choke points, use rations to distract unintelligent monsters, use some coin to distract intelligent ones.

The level of investment in gameplay in order to survive level 1 is what makes the game so much fun. So, I would at least run your first session at level 1 and get the experience.


If you do want to start at a higher level, I would recommend granting a set number of starting XP as opposed to a set level.

In B/X, classes are not balanced by level, but more balanced by their XP values. For example, a 2nd level Elf is not balanced with a 2nd level Fighter. I have started campaigns at 4000XP in the past. This puts most characters at level 3, with magic users and elves at level 2. At this level, they can take a hit and decide to withdrawal from combat if things go poorly... it also allows clerics to start with a spell.
 

Libramarian

Adventurer
Firstly, if you are playing B/X you should use the rules for Reactions and Morale ( I know they were called out as optional, but I consider that a mistake. They are vital to the game).

Reactions are used when you do not have a clear idea of how a monster will react to the PCs... I use it during random encounters and anytime there isn't an obvious reaction (I'm uncertain or I want to let the dice decide for me).

When you use the Reactions rule, a monster only attacks immediately on a result of 2 on a 2d6 roll. Any other result of the dice can lead to the players having some opportunity to parley, barter, bribe, or just run away. There is even a possibility of a friendly reaction. This mostly puts the choice of combat in the hands of the players and allows them to avoid unnecessary combat.
Immediately checking reaction for every random encounter is too kind, IMO. I do sometimes check Morale immediately for the monsters, if they're obviously far outclassed by the PCs.

If the PCs win initiative, and choose to parley, then I'll check Reaction.
 

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