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

Celebrim

Legend
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."

Ok, wow. Yeah, that's a huge disconnect. The most difficult time I ever had was with a new player that said, "I want to play a character that rides a dinosaur that shoots lasers out of their eyes."

I said, "You can do that, but it's not really a concept for a new character. It's more of a goal to work towards. But I can tell you how to build a character that is like "Tarzan of the Dinosaurs" and then by the time your character is powerful enough to meet dinosaurs, you'll be able to befriend them and ride them." And, I could do this because I have the house rules for that and he was OK with that explanation. Of course, he split the party and got the character killed before he ever met dinosaurs but I really did have a plan for him meeting dinosaurs and a potential path to getting a cyborg techno-magic dinosaur that shot 'lasers' from its eyes.

But yeah, there is a whole different level of disconnect in saying you want to be The Flash. Like, most actual Superhero RPGs break down and are unplayable with characters of The Flash level of power. He's right off the bat certainly hit the nail on the head for what sort of character a power gamer would choose to play if the options were unlimited. I've yet to see any rule system that really deals well with the problems Speedsters bring to the table. If I ever ran a supers game, I'd be strongly tempted to ban Speedsters or at least ban Speedsters with more than single digit multiples of human normal speed.

The problem is of course action economy. And in particular The Flash can play an entire adventure while the rest of the party is leaving for the tavern door.
 
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James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
Ok, wow. Yeah, that's a huge disconnect. The most difficult time I ever had was with a new player that said, "I want to play a character that rides a dinosaur that shoots lasers out of their eyes."

I said, "You can do that, but it's not really a concept for a new character. It's more of a goal to work towards. But I can tell you how to build a character that is like "Tarzan of the Dinosaurs" and then by the time your character is powerful enough to meet dinosaurs, you'll be able to befriend them and ride them." And, I could do this because I have the house rules for that and he was OK with that explanation. Of course, he split the party and got the character killed before he ever met dinosaurs but I really did have a plan for him meeting dinosaurs and a potential path to getting a cyborg techno-magic dinosaur that shot 'lasers' from its eyes.

But yeah, there is a whole different level of disconnect in saying you want to be The Flash. Like, most actual Superhero RPGs break down and are unplayable with characters of The Flash level of power. He's right off the bat certainly hit the nail on the head for what sort of character a power gamer would choose to play if the options were unlimited. I've yet to see any rule system that really deals well with the problems Speedsters bring to the table. If I ever ran a supers game, I'd be strongly tempted to ban Supers or at least ban supers with more than single digit multiples of human normal speed.

The problem is of course action economy. And in particular The Flash can play an entire adventure while the rest of the party is leaving for the tavern door.
It doesn't even have to be an outlandish character concept either! After reading The Weird of the White Wolf, a friend of mine shows up to game with this idea he had for playing an "albino drow" Fighter/Magic-User. He rolls up this character, who takes his dump stat as Constitution (I think it was a 5!) and takes bastard sword proficiency (suggested by the DM, who saw where this was going, and was planning to eventually run White Plume Mountain).

Of course, with his atrocious hit point total, "Not-Elric" never got that far, and we tried, because he was really into the character! I don't know how many of us (myself included) would be inspired by a work of fantasy and be like "ooh ooh, I want to play a character like that only to be stymied by the game itself!
 


Celebrim

Legend
It doesn't even have to be an outlandish character concept either! After reading The Weird of the White Wolf, a friend of mine shows up to game with this idea he had for playing an "albino drow" Fighter/Magic-User. He rolls up this character, who takes his dump stat as Constitution (I think it was a 5!) and takes bastard sword proficiency (suggested by the DM, who saw where this was going, and was planning to eventually run White Plume Mountain).

Of course, with his atrocious hit point total, "Not-Elric" never got that far, and we tried, because he was really into the character! I don't know how many of us (myself included) would be inspired by a work of fantasy and be like "ooh ooh, I want to play a character like that only to be stymied by the game itself!

Yeah, playing Elric without all the potions he's using to keep his health magically robust is probably not going to work in much any system. The way to do this would be to do it as color, which is how Raistlin was run by the player in Dragonlance. Raistlin's CON was actually a 12, but he roleplayed it as Raistlin had very poor health and only kept going because of the potions and herbs he was continually consuming. Raistlin's "poor health" had no actual impact on play, it was just a quirk of the characterization.

Ironically, the player probably did this because he knew that in 1e AD&D M-U with less than 15 CON was basically unplayable single-class because without a CON bonus they were permanently under threat of being one shotted by just about every peer level threat. So like even though in reality 12 CON is a bit above average, for a survivable PC M-U it's terrible.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
Yeah, playing Elric without all the potions he's using to keep his health magically robust is probably not going to work in much any system. The way to do this would be to do it as color, which is how Raistlin was run by the player in Dragonlance. Raistlin's CON was actually a 12, but he roleplayed it as Raistlin had very poor health and only kept going because of the potions and herbs he was continually consuming. Raistlin's "poor health" had no actual impact on play, it was just a quirk of the characterization.

Ironically, the player probably did this because he knew that in 1e AD&D M-U with less than 15 CON was basically unplayable single-class because without a CON bonus they were permanently under threat of being one shotted by just about every peer level threat. So like even though in reality 12 CON is a bit above average, for a survivable PC M-U it's terrible.
Oh definitely, and I tried to explain it, but the guy was inspired! So what could I do? I've seen dozens of pastiche characters come and go, or just "hey wouldn't it be neat if..." characters, and they all basically fall down the same well as poor Timmy.

You want to play Conan? Which one? I never read the AD&D Conan stuff, but I'm guessing it was a lot like Lankhmar, where the only way to get it to work was to have rules like humans being able to multiclass.

This can affect NPC's too, like the old Hall of Heroes book for the Forgotten Realms, and it's terrible attempt to stat up everyone's favorite Dark Elf Ranger (which involved creating special critical hit rules for him out of thin air). Or worse, the 3e Drizzt stat block, which resulted in, not the legendary hero, but a terribly built, unplayable mess...
 

Tried this with 2 of my 3 groups.

They hated it, and I remembered why I hated it too. I don't think any of the people I play with have any desire to go back to any edition, and we've quickly gotten over the nostalgia.

The only edition of D&D or d20 I've ever had a desire to actually play again after opening the old book is 4e. Anything prior to 3e and THAC0 and busted class balance turns me off. 3e and d20 the quantity of rules and the poor class balance have turned me off.

I could see a small group of 3-4 players in a 4e game working well; our original 4e group was 6-8 and it was unworkable. There's a lot that I intensely dislike about 4e, but also a lot that I intensely like. 4e really deserves to be spun off as its own game and reborn in a new edition, but I doubt Hasbro is interested in doing that.
 

Retreater

Legend
The only edition of D&D or d20 I've ever had a desire to actually play again after opening the old book is 4e. Anything prior to 3e and THAC0 and busted class balance turns me off. 3e and d20 the quantity of rules and the poor class balance have turned me off.

I could see a small group of 3-4 players in a 4e game working well; our original 4e group was 6-8 and it was unworkable. There's a lot that I intensely dislike about 4e, but also a lot that I intensely like. 4e really deserves to be spun off as its own game and reborn in a new edition, but I doubt Hasbro is interested in doing that.
Yeah, and it's the only edition of D&D you can't really approximate on a VTT. You can easily play OD&D - 3.5 (or their retro clones equivalent).
4e is the dead edition, regrettably.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Yeah, and it's the only edition of D&D you can't really approximate on a VTT. You can easily play OD&D - 3.5 (or their retro clones equivalent).
4e is the dead edition, regrettably.
Well, people have done it. Matt Colville just ran a short 4E campaign on Foundry, IIRC (EDIT: Fantasy Grounds; thanks Bacon bits!). Unfortunately due to the GSL vs. OGL debacle I understand no one can really sell an automation package for a VTT, so people have to code all that stuff themselves if they want it. :/
 
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James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
Yeah, and it's the only edition of D&D you can't really approximate on a VTT. You can easily play OD&D - 3.5 (or their retro clones equivalent).
4e is the dead edition, regrettably.
I started off by hating 4e. Then a few years in, I got roped into playing, and suddenly, it felt like a whole new game. Certainly, it was the easiest game for me as a DM to run. Encounter design was a snap! I'll always hate how it wasn't just abandoned, but killed.

But that doesn't mean I don't have a fondness for older versions of the game. I still wax nostalgic for all my old AD&D books. But it is far less forgiving, on it's face, than later editions, for oddball character concepts.

Everything else, from it's rules that don't always make sense, love of strange, tacked-on subsystems, and odd sense of balance is just...what the game was at the time. But if a guy comes to me wanting to play a Witcher, I would want to be able to say more than "Well, I guess you could be a Half-Elf Fighter/Magic-User, but..."
 


Well, people have done it. Matt Colville just ran a short 4E campaign on Foundry, IIRC. Unfortunately due to the GSL vs. OGL debacle I understand no one can really sell an automation package for a VTT, so people have to code all that stuff themselves if they want it. :/

It was Fantasy Grounds, one of the few VTTs that existed in 2007. Matt also supposedly added a lot the 4e stuff to FG himself. I'm not even sure how much FG sold for it; probably only what was actually in the GSL. If you look at the FG 4e forum, you can see a lot of people using community mods that add 4e Compendium content. The GSL and WotC's business plan put the game in a super weird spot for third party VTTs.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Oh definitely, and I tried to explain it, but the guy was inspired! So what could I do? I've seen dozens of pastiche characters come and go, or just "hey wouldn't it be neat if..." characters, and they all basically fall down the same well as poor Timmy.

You want to play Conan?

All your examples have in common characters which within their own narratives have the power of plot. The Flash in particular is an egregious example of a character whose power level varies tremendously from scene to scene as is needed by the plot, in a genre where power of plot dominates the story telling. (Which is why Supers RPGs have a notoriously hard time replicating the genre of the comic books.) You start gaming it and it's basically impossible to keep The Batman relevant in a world of Superman and The Flash, or to recreate any of the comics with the upper echelon of supes involved.

And Conan is fundamentally the same problem. Which of book Conan's attributes are below 12? In fact, Conan is the consummate example of a character who has 18 in every stat - he's strong, fast, hardy, whip smart, perceptive, and has a magnetic animal charisma that makes him instantly attractive to every woman and manly man he meets. He's good at everything he does from swinging a sword to leading an army. There is no skill he attempts that he fails at. And the same basic problem occurs with Drizzt Do'Urden. All the characters you are mentioning break the 1st rule of RPGs - "Thou shalt not be good at everything."

So when a player tries to build one of these uber characters that really don't need a party to succeed and who in the stories never fail at anything, they are going to quickly find that the rules by necessity prevent it. Even if the rules are flexible enough to allow the concept, what you end up with is not a character that is good at everything but a rather a character that is mediocre at everything and good at nothing.

This is not a failing of the game system. This is success in a game system.

Which isn't to say that the problem of "you can't build the character you imagine" isn't a huge failing of 2e, because it is. I'm only saying that in an RPG there are some characters from fiction that you shouldn't be able to import because they don't support the core aesthetics of gameplay in the game.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
My worst D&D character. I was a huge Castlevania fan in high school, so naturally, I foolishly decided to make a whip-using Fighter. "Sure I only do d2 damage, but if I'm strong, that's not so bad!"

Turns out, whips suck. You think I would have recognized this fact right away, but....lol.

Then again, sometimes the rules actually allow for crazy builds to work, like dart specialists, elevating "throwing darts" as something low level Magic Users did to feel useful into an actually dangerous thing to do!
 

Retreater

Legend
My worst D&D character. I was a huge Castlevania fan in high school, so naturally, I foolishly decided to make a whip-using Fighter. "Sure I only do d2 damage, but if I'm strong, that's not so bad!"

Turns out, whips suck. You think I would have recognized this fact right away, but....lol.

Then again, sometimes the rules actually allow for crazy builds to work, like dart specialists, elevating "throwing darts" as something low level Magic Users did to feel useful into an actually dangerous thing to do!
Spiked chain in 3.x?
I think 4e Essentials also had an assassin build that used a whip/garrote/etc.
D&D (and most other TTRPGs I've seen) seem to work best when a concept is informed by the rules.
 

By the way, back to the Thief problem, I realized I'd discussed it previously, and if anyone is interested, here is that thread: D&D 2E - 2e Fighter vs Fighter/Thief vs Thief Play Balance

IMO, because the XP table had it so that you needed the same amount of XP that it took to get to level N in order to reach level N+1 (at least for the first 7-8 levels or so) multiclassing was just pretty universally the better option. Especially in 2e AD&D where racial level limits were raised, but even then multiclassing is how demihumans could utilize all that spare XP.

Being a Thief that could stop and put on real armor and draw real weapons when the situation demanded it -- especially with Fighter magic item equipment draw -- or otherwise stow the short swords and sling spells was just a better adventurer than trying to backstab, which was nearly impossible to pull off from my memory.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
Oh yeah, well the spiked chain really came down to "here kids, a reach weapon that you can actually use in close combat"! If all reach weapons worked that way, the spiked chain would have been a footnote.

I never really grokked why it annoyed people so much though. For the first time, a Fighter could actually control enemies and keep them from attacking the back line...the thing that everyone said was their hat...and somehow, it was driving the early 3e DM's out of their skulls!
 

Celebrim

Legend
By the way, back to the Thief problem, I realized I'd discussed it previously, and if anyone is interested, here is that thread: D&D 2E - 2e Fighter vs Fighter/Thief vs Thief Play Balance

Nice thread.

I have several times thought of cleaning up the problems with AD&D 1e/2e including the problem that thieves are pointless, and that included brainstorming what it would take to make thief balanced with fighter, cleric, and M-U.

And I think at a minimum it would require something like:

a) Improve Thief THAC0 progression to the cleric standard.
b) Improving Thief savings throws by 2 versus petrification/polymorph, rod/staff/wand, and breath weapon.
c) Giving Thief the same 1 NWP per 2 levels that Fighters get.
d) Giving Thieves automatic advances in existing NWP every other level as if they had double/triple selected the NWP, thus, making them true skill monkeys.
e) Granting thieves multiple attacks per round as a specialized fighter of 1/2 their level.
f) Granting thieves the ability to improve Dexterity as a 1e Cavalier.
g) Making explicit that you can backstab any monster you surprise that has discernable anatomy.

And at that point, yeah, playing a thief might be fun and worthwhile.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
IMO, because the XP table had it so that you needed the same amount of XP that it took to get to level N in order to reach level N+1 (at least for the first 7-8 levels or so) multiclassing was just pretty universally the better option. Especially in 2e AD&D where racial level limits were raised, but even then multiclassing is how demihumans could utilize all that spare XP.

Being a Thief that could stop and put on real armor and draw real weapons when the situation demanded it -- especially with Fighter magic item equipment draw -- or otherwise stow the short swords and sling spells was just a better adventurer than trying to backstab, which was nearly impossible to pull off from my memory.
By the rules, backstab was very hard. By the DM...it ranged from "oh yeah, sure go ahead" all the way to "if you can perform a triple backflip while on fire, and can reach the vital nerve area on the dragon's body 8' above you, there's a 23% chance you can backstab. Then the dragon will eat you. I think that's a fair ruling."
 

Celebrim

Legend
For the first time, a Fighter could actually control enemies and keep them from attacking the back line...the thing that everyone said was their hat...and somehow, it was driving the early 3e DM's out of their skulls!

It was mostly because of the trip combo where a player could soft lock opponents or abuse of the 5' step to stay permanently out of range of opponents that lacked reach.
 

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