D&D General How to Read a Rule: Dueling Canons in D&D

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
If you're not playing the game that way, then this rule seems awkward and weird because it doesn't seem to match anything out of the fantasy source material. But if you are playing the game that way it makes perfect sense - even the rule of not letting you cast spells while wearing armor makes sense in that perspective.
Sure. Many, many rules in D&D have nothing whatsoever to do with realism or fictional worlds or storytelling. Gygax is hard to pin down for a variety of reasons, but if there's any label that he was close to, it was definitely Gamist.
 

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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
If applying laws with incredible impact on my personal life is as difficult and completely opaque as this, we are all screwed. So I hold, or perhaps rather hope, that the comparison is weak at best. Due process does not seem to be this squishy mess that nobody knows how to figure out and each courtroom redefines every session. It seems to be something generally understood. That something is contextual does not mean it is beyond useful definition.

That's a great opinion to have, for certain values of great. I am sure that this is the appropriate place, and certainly this is the appropriate audience, to share your legal theories.
 
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I feel like there's a step missing in all of this. Which is figuring out the question of "why does this rule exist in the game." Either from a mechanical point of view (what purpose it's trying to serve in the game) or from a historic point of view (as in why Gygax needed to hack this rule into his system in the first place). If you can't answer that question then it feels like the rest of the analysis is just going to be an exercise in close reading of the text and arguing your point rather than getting to something useful.

The purpose dual-classing serves to me seems to be a "solution" to the problem that we now identify as the linear fighter/quadratic wizard.

Respectfully, I can't disagree more with this statement. The whole "LFQW" thing did not exist in when this was written in 1e. Assuming a fixed-meaning canon, we need to interpret this at the time it was written. Which is to say ... 1977 and 1978. At that time, and for a multitude of reasons, there was certainly no intent to "fix" a problem that no one thought existed.

Moreover, that assumes a very narrow construction of the rule; this isn't about Fighter / Magic Users (and as you can see, the actual application of that use-case is very limited); instead, it's just a general rule to allow someone to change classes from any one class any other class, one time, explaining how it happens.

Why does the rule exist? Absent any other information, I generally assume because at some point, the issue came up in Gygax's home campaign and he devised an overly-complicated rule to deal with it, complete with some pretty insane gatekeeping requirements.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
If applying laws with incredible impact on my personal life is as difficult and completely opaque as this, we are all screwed.

Mod Note:
This is hardly the venue for this discussion.

That's a great opinion to have. I am sure that this is the appropriate place, and certainly this is the appropriate audience, to tell us more about your legal theories.

You could have declined to engage with a little less snark, you know.

I hope we can trust the two of you to let it rest now.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
I feel like there's a step missing in all of this. Which is figuring out the question of "why does this rule exist in the game." Either from a mechanical point of view (what purpose it's trying to serve in the game) or from a historic point of view (as in why Gygax needed to hack this rule into his system in the first place). If you can't answer that question then it feels like the rest of the analysis is just going to be an exercise in close reading of the text and arguing your point rather than getting to something useful.

The purpose dual-classing serves to me seems to be a "solution" to the problem that we now identify as the linear fighter/quadratic wizard. As in once a player hit a certain level with their fighter they might realize "oh, I want to be a wizard now because that's where the power game is" without having to restart the game with a completely new character. In a game where your character was directing a small army of henchmen to do the actual work, your mid-level fighter could use their existing treasure to take some time off to let the underlings do the work while they hang back and cast their Magic Missile a few times each day. With the way XP worked you'd pretty quickly get your MU level up to your Fighter level and then be able to move on as a MU. If you're not playing the game that way, then this rule seems awkward and weird because it doesn't seem to match anything out of the fantasy source material. But if you are playing the game that way it makes perfect sense - even the rule of not letting you cast spells while wearing armor makes sense in that perspective.

Meanwhile to me the multi-classing rules for demihumans look to me like an attempt to solve the problems brought on by level caps without getting rid of level caps. Since you have to split your XP between different classes it slows the demihuman advancement down so they don't hit the level caps as quickly as the human fighters and MUs they're adventuring with by exchanging more power for more breadth.
I don't think either of those guesses gets near the mark.

We do have examples in the source fiction of characters who started out as one thing and switched, albeit usually it's in their backstory. The Grey Mouser is a prominent example.

I think your guess that it may have also been there to serve players who wanted to change class but didn't want to make a whole new character is plausible, though. That Gamist purpose would make some sense, and I could certainly see Gary wanting to give people such an option but gating it behind high ability scores like he did so many things.

And demihuman multi-classing definitely isn't meant to "solve" the issue of level caps. Multiclassing in rudimentary form existed for elves in the original 1974 rules, and in pretty near full-AD&D form in 1975's Greyhawk supplement. Gary was still very much attached to level caps as a way to balance demihumans and keep humans the dominant rulers of the (humanocentric) setting and defending that concept 5 years later when the DMG came out. And the way the xp charts work, having two classes usually just means you're 1 level behind the single classed characters, and being triple-classed means you're usually two levels behind. Even if Gary did want the demihumans to keep up at high level, multi-classing would at best patch the issue of level caps for a short while. Or partially, in the case of multi-classed thieves, who get to advance infinitely high, albeit very slowly, with their xp still being divided between Thief and their other class or classes despite those latter being capped.

I think multi-classing exists for demihumans because of books like Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword, and Tolkien's LotR. Because elves in those stories are frequently both powerful warriors and users of magic.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
I think multi-classing exists for demihumans because of books like Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword, and Tolkien's LotR. Because elves in those stories are frequently both powerful warriors and users of magic.
I think it also spoke to one of Gygax's ideas about the difference between humankind and other human-like beings:

They can achieve great power. But they take forever to do it. Plodding their way through things slowly. Humans live fast and die (comparatively) young. An elf with 300+ years experience under her belt can be a terrifying and perfectly synthesized practitioner of magic and swordsmanship, because that's the kind of thing human-like-but-not-human beings do. A 167-year-old-gnome can be a skillful illusionist and a skillful thief. Etc.

Hence why I said above that I don't think any label perfectly fits Gygax, but Gamist would be the closest. He wanted D&D to be an engaging gameplay experience. That gameplay needs to have weight and meaning, which is why the rules try to capture imagined notions like the alien mindset of the fae. But ultimately, if he were truly forced to choose between keeping things "realistic" and offering engaging gameplay, he clove to the latter far more often than the former.

Story was a guide for how to set the mechanics up. But the mechanics had to be worth engaging with in the first place, that was the point.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Story was a guide for how to set the mechanics up. But the mechanics had to be worth engaging with in the first place, that was the point.
I think it's hard to encapsulate him in GNS terms. I agree that he wanted it to be a fun game, first and foremost. But he also wanted it to set the imagination afire like pulp fantasy novels did for him. The evocation and exploration of a fantasy world (or "milieu" ;) ) was a big priority.
 


see

Pedantic Grognard
The key, of course, is to start as a ranger first, then switch to magic-user after you get the ability to cast magic-user spells as a ranger (9th level, Ranger Knight). Because then you can argue, when you reach 10th level as a magic-user, that you can cast all your magic-user spells in armor and when using real weapons. And if someone tries to argue that that doesn't work, well, Secret of the Silver Blades and Pools of Darkness are on your side.

So all you need is a 17 in Intelligence, 15s in Strength, Wisdom, and Constitution, and a lot of XP to become an archmage with 10d8 hit points who can cast in full plate.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
I think it's hard to encapsulate him in GNS terms. I agree that he wanted it to be a fun game, first and foremost. But he also wanted it to set the imagination afire like pulp fantasy novels did for him. The evocation and exploration of a fantasy world (or "milieu" ;) ) was a big priority.
I mean, I did expressly say, twice, that he was highly resistant to labeling. And in that very same post recognized that compelling the imagination was important.

It just seems to me that his very clear priority in most cases was to have a game that was engaging to play. Once that was secured, he went wild for fiction. But you don't get things like what he did with HP, or XP=GP, or ear seekers, or alignment languages (among many, many other things) if the game is not the thing setting the destination. Other concerns could push things quite far, haring well off the straight line path, but the destination did not waver.

And, to be clear, I think he was precisely right to do so. I don't have the same gameplay goals he had, but his sense for clever game design was very much worthy of respect.
 

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