I've introduced my 5th ed group to AD&D 2E

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
Yeah I was talking about MC or dual classed thief but even a longsword can work.

Dragons might be a bad example but everything else is available.

Remember loot was a lot more abundancet in older adventures along with things like Gauntlets of Ogre Power.

Magic longswords were fairly common along with exceptional strength one way or another (read 2E strength spell).

You're still dealing 1d12 probably with modifiers in an edition where outside Dragons and stronger giants hit points are reasonably low.

If I wanted to run an Assassin's Creed type D&D game I would bother with modern D&D. Castles and Crusades supports that idea better than AD&D even.

2E still best toolbox edition espicially for oddball games due to settings and splat books. Want a stone age game easy, want a Napoleonic War themed campaign that's an option.
And then of course, there's the caveat of you having to be able to reach a "significant target area". You have to jump through so many hoops to get a backstab I tended to ignore the ability was even on my character sheet. Not to mention the need for a creature to have a "definable back", which you wouldn't think would be an issue, but the rules specifically exclude Beholders, so, yeah.

It all depends on how permissive your DM is. But by the rules, backstab is hard, and worse, if you don't kill the monster, you're now at ground zero for it's reprisal.
 

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Zardnaar

Legend
And then of course, there's the caveat of you having to be able to reach a "significant target area". You have to jump through so many hoops to get a backstab I tended to ignore the ability was even on my character sheet. Not to mention the need for a creature to have a "definable back", which you wouldn't think would be an issue, but the rules specifically exclude Beholders, so, yeah.

It all depends on how permissive your DM is. But by the rules, backstab is hard, and worse, if you don't kill the monster, you're now at ground zero for it's reprisal.

Idea is you don't try and backstab beholders.

And backstabbing huge creatures is iffy.
 


Celebrim

Legend
That is how one plays 2E. Who ever played AD&D by the book?

Sure. But the other thing is that all the reflexive responses are just convincing me that the people responding never played nearly as much 1e/2e as I did. I've got probably 2000+ hours of playing 1e/2e as a thief, and the class is only really balanced between about 1200 and 2000 xp when you are second level and get 2HD and other classes are still just 1st level. At practically every other point, you are weaker than every other class. It's this recognition that the thief was useless that lead to all the radical improvements that gave us the 3e Rogue.

It's practically criminal and abusive to allow a naive young RPer to play a thief in 2e, which the OP seems to recognize when he suggests that a DM that would use the RAW is "monstrous".

But consider the suggestion that of course the fighter is better at combat than the thief because that's it's shtick whereas the thief is skilled at the exploration pillar. Hogwash. The thief is arguably worse than the fighter at trap detection, and is clearly the fourth strongest class in exploration play among the traditional four. But worse, it's not just that the fighter is a little better in combat than the thief, it's that the thief is useless in combat after about 5th level. The thief is also by a long distance the worst character for combat. And combat will always be a thing so being useless in combat is pretty harsh.

The trouble with the thief in exploration play is no good thief player uses their thief skills except as saving throws. At low levels, your thief skills are so unreliable that proposing to climb walls or find and remove traps is in the medium term just the first stage of rolling up a new character. You can't trust them at low levels because they will usually fail. Instead, you use them as saving throws when proposing strategies that don't depend on the dice - like probing ahead with a 10' pole fails. But the trouble of course is that any character can propose those strategies regardless of class. And as the good people who wrote 'The Gamers' noted in the joke, sometimes the best strategy with a trap was let the fighter find and disarm it because unlike the thief the fighter wasn't squishy. You weren't good at exploration play as a thief because you saving throws were worse than every other class. You weren't good at exploration play as a thief because you fewer NWP's than every other class.

Most importantly you weren't good at exploration play as a thief because about the time that your thief abilities start to become reliable, they can all be replaced easily by trivial expenditure of spells. Your climb walls as a 20th level thief, is strictly inferior to the 1st level M-U spell 'Spider Climb'. You 'Hide in Shadows' as a 20th level thief, is inferior to the 2nd level M-U spell 'Invisibility'. Your much less helpful at finding traps, than a Cleric that casts the 2nd level spell 'Find Traps' or a M-U that has a wand of secret door and trap detection. Moving silently is largely useless in a party that can't, and if the party really needed to move silently well there is a spell for that too. And arguably finding a trap just is replaced by a Cure Wounds spell anyway. So what you can try to do as a high level thief is save the spell slots of your useful party members for other things, but what you eventually discover is that the number of spell slots you are saving is less than the number of spell slots you would have if you were an equivalent level caster - and you'd be useful for other things as well.

And there isn't really a counter argument to this about the player's skillful play, because sure you can use flasks of flaming oil and apply poison to your weapons and I have done that in attempts to stay relevant playing the thief, but you aren't really that much more skillful at those sorts of things than other party members. It's just you have to rely on those sorts of tricks to be useful. It's a class that offers almost no character abilities and it's all about player ability.

But as for your specific argument, it is an obvious fallacy to say that there is not a problem because you can always change or ignore the RAW. After a while, if you've really played lots of 1e/2e AD&D you either have house ruled it to the point it's increasingly not recognizable in attempts to fix the problems or you are going to be really frustrated.

I have a lot of nostalgia for 1e/2e AD&D. There are aspects of it I still love and wish I could find a way to import into modern editions - like the exponential increases in XP per level, some of the play patterns encouraged by gold for XP (but not all of them), the 1e weapon vs. AC modifiers, etc. It's great to have fun with the game. But it's funny to listen to people declaring a DM would be "monstrous" for playing with the RAW, while praising how great the system is.
 



Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
I don't think the thread move was warranted as this was talking to the modern playing crowd (who won't see it now).

The post was not just about 2E, and retro clones are still thriving.

Now it's been moved here to die. Unnoticed. Sad.
I don't know about that. I'm guessing a lot of folks are like me, and I go to the Community page (since it's the boldest and most noticeable font) instead of individual forums to see the threads every day.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I don't think the thread move was warranted as this was talking to the modern playing crowd (who won't see it now).

The post was not just about 2E, and retro clones are still thriving.

Now it's been moved here to die. Unnoticed. Sad.
It really is a crap shoot what stays and what’s moved.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Thieves were always sad in TSR editions of the game, alas. They were mostly playable as a multiclass option.

Definitely one of the things I appreciate about WotC's tenure has been upgrading Rogues to genuinely useful. And I appreciate how some of the OSR games also make them more powerful and useful than TSR did.

I played for quite a while in an OSR Discord server over the last couple of years with a bunch of younger players, including a few teens and some college age. Definitely one of the cool things was seeing how younger folks could also enjoy OSE and older, more stripped-down rules.
 

Retreater

Legend
AD&D 2e was my introduction to Dungeons & Dragons, so I have some nostalgia for it. My longest campaign (before I became a Killer DM) was in that system. I'm glad to read new players are enjoying it and that it's reinvigorated a passion for DMing in the OP.
I just can't imagine going back to it, personally. Some sort of 2.999 edition would be cool - like if it still had the traditional approach to the game with a little better balanced classes, more unified mechanics, no THAC0, etc.
 

Kid who plays the fighter told me today he likes that its one save and not multiple saves like in 5th ed because it mean's that your single roll/save means more.
 

That's an interesting observation. I would also add that how long it takes to rest to regain HP further makes the lower HP feel more impactful.

The older kid is playing a Fighter (as he usually does) and he told me he really likes that combat comes down to AC instead of HP. He likes that he can turn the tide of battle in a swing or two of his axe. He feels more “useful.” He likes that it was more deadly. And I agreed, to much HP/healing etc bogs it all down.

0E/BECMI/1e/2e thieves are rough. I don't think I ever played one higher than 7th level before either dying or getting sick of it back in the day.

I will say that the kit system at least helped make a thief that could be somewhat decent at a few things, between the kit bonuses and the equipment in the Complete Thieves' Handbook.

Sure. But the other thing is that all the reflexive responses are just convincing me that the people responding never played nearly as much 1e/2e as I did. I've got probably 2000+ hours of playing 1e/2e as a thief, and the class is only really balanced between about 1200 and 2000 xp when you are second level and get 2HD and other classes are still just 1st level. At practically every other point, you are weaker than every other class. It's this recognition that the thief was useless that lead to all the radical improvements that gave us the 3e Rogue.

I keep thinking about running a throwback 2e campaign. I did a 1e one some years ago, and enjoyed that immensely. I go back and forth on including kits, though. On the one hand, they're a signature element to 2e. On the other, there's a metric ton of them, some of which are terribly balanced.
 

Celebrim

Legend
AD&D 2e was my introduction to Dungeons & Dragons, so I have some nostalgia for it. My longest campaign (before I became a Killer DM) was in that system. I'm glad to read new players are enjoying it and that it's reinvigorated a passion for DMing in the OP.
I just can't imagine going back to it, personally. Some sort of 2.999 edition would be cool - like if it still had the traditional approach to the game with a little better balanced classes, more unified mechanics, no THAC0, etc.

Several times I have thought about doing a reworking of the NWP system to make it more useful for adjudicating skill challenges, reworking the class balance, cleaning the initiative roll and cleaning up the surprise rule, clean up the rules for when opponents get free attacks on you, fixing monster balance, fixing infravision to produce fewer table arguments, fixing the detect invisibility rules to account for animal senses, reworking THAC0 to be a little more intuitive, and so forth. And I get really excited for a few minutes imagining what this system will be like that retains the feel of 1e/2e but with all the warts removed, and then I realize two things. First, that it's a like 400+ hour project, and secondly that at the end of it you'll be like 90% of the way to 3e anyway. It would be easier to change out the XP system in 3e to make it work more like 1e, have HD caps like 1e, and bring back segments and casting times than it would be to try to turn 1e/2e or a retroclone into something that plays smoothly.
 

RuinousPowers

Adventurer
Thieves were always sad in TSR editions of the game, alas. They were mostly playable as a multiclass option.

Definitely one of the things I appreciate about WotC's tenure has been upgrading Rogues to genuinely useful. And I appreciate how some of the OSR games also make them more powerful and useful than TSR did.

I played for quite a while in an OSR Discord server over the last couple of years with a bunch of younger players, including a few teens and some college age. Definitely one of the cool things was seeing how younger folks could also enjoy OSE and older, more stripped-down rules.
Which OSR games have you found that updated Thieves to be more balanced? I've been thinking of running some 2e, and was planning on reinventing the class myself...
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
If 2e suffers from anything, it's that what it is, and what people wanted it to be, were never in sync. I know a lot of people who wanted D&D to be a game where they could make any character concept they want and have fun with it. The reality is, though, there are things that work in 2e. And things that work well in 2e. And a lot of things that just...don't.

The Thief is one of those things. Many people believed that being a Thief would make you the lightly armored, artful dodger, cunning rogue. The outlaw, the bad boy. The guy who fights with his wits, not his brawn. You're Raffles or Lupin, Maverick or Han Solo.

The reality is, however, you're not any of these things, or at least, if you are, it's likely not because of your class, but in spite of it. You're almost bottom of the barrel when it comes to weapons and armor. Almost bottom of the barrel when it comes to survivability. Your contribution to combat are slightly better than that of a Wizard without spells, and your primary ability, to facilitate exploration challenges, is unreliable for a few levels. Race and Kits help, but a very high Dexterity score matters more for your abilities than anything else. If you decide to play a Thief with a 15 or even a 16 Dexterity, you're in for a rough time.

Backstab is very conservatively designed, to the point it can be nearly impossible to use unless the DM gives tacit permission. Your abilities should be superior versions of what anyone could do, but they are not treated as such- often, the rules imply no one can attempt things you have abilities for. Despite being somewhat nonsensical (like, seriously, no one else can actively listen in a dungeon?). The ever expanding Non-Weapon Proficiency list actually steps on the toes of the Thief at times- ironic, since you'd think the Thief is the skilled hero, so NWP's should bolster, not detract from your talents. But the sad truth is, you get less NWP's than anyone. Oh sure, you level faster, and so you might not notice it in most campaigns, but you get a new NWP every 4 levels, and everyone else, even Clerics, who are the next fastest class to level, get them every 3.

If you're an old hand, and you understand which ability scores to prioritize, which races give the best features, which weapons have the most utility and are likely the ones most easily acquired, which NWP's are going to see a lot of play (and which ones are a waste of slots), and you understand your role, the game works perfectly fine.

But if you want to play a human warrior with a greatsword who disdains armor, a cunning Halfling swashbuckler who runs into the fray with a rapier in hand, or a Half-Elven Fighter/Cleric/Magic-User who is convinced he's a Red Mage from Final Fantasy, you may be in for some rude awakenings.

It took me a long time to realize that, every time I was making house rules for 2e, I was fighting against the system itself. That my problems weren't that some options didn't work right, but that some concepts ran against the grain of what the game was designed for. A lot of people decry "optimizers" as the enemies of roleplaying and fun, but the fact that the system itself punishes you for "doing it wrong" and only the DM can change that fact, is where it all starts.

You played a happy go lucky Thief with a Charisma of 17, and died to a trap or a random arrow and wonder "what went wrong?". Maybe you ask a friend. Next thing you know, you're a Wood Elf Fighter, specialized in long swords, with ambidexterity and specialization in two-weapon fighting style, making 5/2 attacks per round with a Thac0 of 15 and dealing d8+9 damage at 1st level!

Well now you're effective...but at what cost?
 

cbwjm

Legend
I don't think thieves were really all that bad in 2e, being able to focus your skill points meant you could get a decent chance right out the gate of a couple of skills. However, I think that I'd probably drop the class altogether a d make their skills into proficiencies like in that Gothic earth version of ravenloft. I'd probably also turn backstab into a proficiency as it is in ACKS. This way, you could just use the fighter and give them thief skills if they feel the need for them.

I guess you could still keep the thief, but make them able to trade in their normal skills for different rogue proficiencies so that they could specialise in different areas, like a master of disguise, a burglar, or the typical adventuring thief.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
I don't think thieves were really all that bad in 2e, being able to focus your skill points meant you could get a decent chance right out the gate of a couple of skills. However, I think that I'd probably drop the class altogether a d make their skills into proficiencies like in that Gothic earth version of ravenloft. I'd probably also turn backstab into a proficiency as it is in ACKS. This way, you could just use the fighter and give them thief skills if they feel the need for them.

I guess you could still keep the thief, but make them able to trade in their normal skills for different rogue proficiencies so that they could specialise in different areas, like a master of disguise, a burglar, or the typical adventuring thief.
That depends on what you think a "decent chance" is. Of your 60 starting discretionary points, you can put 30 in a skill. The base for, say, Find/Remove Traps is 5%, so that raises it to 35%. Barring Kits (I'm not sure which ones grant a bonus to this off-hand), only an 18 Dexterity increases this (by 5%); otherwise, you need to be a Dwarf (+15%), Gnome (+10%), or Halfling (+5%). Just with the PHB, it's impossible to get more than a coin flip at level 1. Which given how frail the Thief is, could very well mean a 50% chance not to die upon encountering a trap.

I'm not particularly keen on those odds myself- best to stick with poking everything with a 10' (or 11') pole for the first few levels.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Which OSR games have you found that updated Thieves to be more balanced? I've been thinking of running some 2e, and was planning on reinventing the class myself...
I was thinking of 5 Torches Deep specifically. Lamentations of the Flame Princess also does a pretty good job with their Specialist class.

Other than that, there are also some common house rules I often see used for Thieves. If I'm running B/X or OSE, for example, giving them d6 HD and having all their skills work on the Hear Noise chance (with a +2 for Climb Walls) is a good simple improvement. Plus just giving their abilities the benefit of the doubt instead of being harsh in adjudicating Thief abilities like Gygax sadly recommended in the 1E DMG and as 2E largely also recommended.
 
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Alzrius

The EN World kitten
If 2e suffers from anything, it's that what it is, and what people wanted it to be, were never in sync. I know a lot of people who wanted D&D to be a game where they could make any character concept they want and have fun with it. The reality is, though, there are things that work in 2e. And things that work well in 2e. And a lot of things that just...don't.
That's not a 2E thing, it's a D&D thing, regardless of edition.

I told a story a while back about how I was trying to talk a guy I knew, who loved comic books, into giving D&D (5E, which isn't my edition of choice, but which seemed like the easiest access point for a newcomer) a chance. He asked if he could make a character who was just like The Flash. I hesitated, then started to describe how there were certain builds (which I was reasonably certain were out there) which could get him up to more than twice the movement speed of most characters, along with one or two extra attacks per round. He just shook his head and said "That's not even close to what The Flash can do."

And he was right. If you've got a particular inspiration from some other media, including most comics, video games, or anime/manga, then most of the time D&D isn't going to let you play what you want, particularly at 1st level. Heck, just look at the differences between Vancian magic and how magic works in most other media; that one's been a sticking point for decades.

The game is what it is, and there's always going to be a gulf between that and what people want it to be, at least in terms of when they start playing their first character.
 


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