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Let's Talk About THAC0

DEFCON 1

Hero
Y KANT R KIDZ DO MATHZ?

Fact: In 2014, 5e was released with its ... new math.

Also Fact: in 2015, for the first time in 25 years, math scores for 8th and 12th graders went down in the United States.


UNDENIABLE CONCLUSION:

Bring back THAC0.
Ah, c'mon, just level with us! The REAL reason you want THAC0 back isn't because you actually like using it... you just want to return to a time where rapiers didn't exist, barely anyone ever rolled stats well enough to get a paladin on the table, and gnomes were of the garden variety look and thus nobody had any desire to play those ugly things.

WE KNOW WHAT YOU'RE ON ABOUT! YOU CAN'T FOOL US!!!
 

Voadam

Adventurer
The 1e PH did not have any THACO or saving throw information.

The 1e DMG did. And its DM advise was for the rules stuff in the DMG to be for the DM only.

1e DMG preface page 8 said:
As this book is the exclusive precinct of the DM, you must view any non-DM player possessing it as something less than worthy of honorable death. Peeping players there will undoubtedly be, but they are simply lessening their own enjoyment of the game by taking away some of the sense of wonder that otherwise arises from a game which has rules hidden from participants. It is in your interests, and in theirs, to discourage possession of this book by players. If any of your participants do read herein, it is suggested that you assess them a heavy fee for consulting “sages” and other sources of information not normally attainable by the inhabitants of your milieu. If they express knowledge which could only be garnered by consulting these pages, a magic item or two can be taken as payment — insufficient, but perhaps it will tend to discourage such actions.
The character sheets did not come with either the PH or the DMG. The DM screen had the attacks and saves on the DM only side.

This encouraged players to say what they rolled and the DM to figure out whether they hit or not.

This had the advantage of making the player experience more narrative and less math oriented, but increased the math work load for the DM while running combats.

This was different from the basic set and from 2e which had that info in player accessible areas.
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
The 1e PH did not have any THACO or saving throw information.

The 1e DMG did. And its DM advise was for the rules stuff in the DMG to be for the DM only.



The character sheets did not come with either the PH or the DMG. The DM screen had the attacks and saves on the DM only side.

This encouraged players to say what they rolled and the DM to figure out whether they hit or not.
.
Considering the character sheets came out right after the 1e DMG did, I doubt it did. Clearly the intent was that the players should have that info. I didn't start playing until 1981 (after character sheets existed), but I'm guessing if players did play that way (with players calling out what their roll was and the DM looking at the chart), it was quickly discovered that that is a bad way to do things, because it's too much work for the DM and slows things down, and thus that info was put on the character sheets almost immediately after the DMG came out.

Either way, since that info was on the character sheet, and the character sheets came out right after the DMG, it's clear that wasn't intended to be DM only information. I played 1e from 1981 to 2012 and never saw a single person not know what AC they hit when they rolled (unless they were brand new and learning the rules). Not saying it didn't happen, but I'm sure it is much more the exception rather than the rule.
 

billd91

Earl of Cornbread
Considering the character sheets came out right after the 1e DMG did, I doubt it did. Clearly the intent was that the players should have that info. I didn't start playing until 1981 (after character sheets existed), but I'm guessing if players did play that way (with players calling out what their roll was and the DM looking at the chart), it was quickly discovered that that is a bad way to do things, because it's too much work for the DM and slows things down, and thus that info was put on the character sheets almost immediately after the DMG came out.

Either way, since that info was on the character sheet, and the character sheets came out right after the DMG, it's clear that wasn't intended to be DM only information. I played 1e from 1981 to 2012 and never saw a single person not know what AC they hit when they rolled (unless they were brand new and learning the rules). Not saying it didn't happen, but I'm sure it is much more the exception rather than the rule.
I'm not entirely convinced it's about knowing what target number you had to roll to hit that AC - rather, those columns in the weapon table are AC types in the 1e PH. A player could record their net modifier against each of those AC types.

The basic D&D character sheet is clearly different since it doesn't tie those boxes to specific weapons, but since I think that came out after the goldenrod one, it may have reflected how people ended up actually using the boxes.... not possibly as they were originally intended to be used.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
The 1e PH did not have any THACO or saving throw information.

The 1e DMG did. And its DM advise was for the rules stuff in the DMG to be for the DM only.

The character sheets did not come with either the PH or the DMG.
Yet, there they were, on the sheets.

Because, really, the idea that they were in the DMG, and therefore somehow secret... is kind of missing how the DMG wasn't secret. Let us not pretend players didn't read the thing.
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
I'm not entirely convinced it's about knowing what target number you had to roll to hit that AC - rather, those columns in the weapon table are AC types in the 1e PH. A player could record their net modifier against each of those AC types.

The basic D&D character sheet is clearly different since it doesn't tie those boxes to specific weapons, but since I think that came out after the goldenrod one, it may have reflected how people ended up actually using the boxes.... not possibly as they were originally intended to be used.
It says "adjusted to hit Armor Class." That clearly means you put down what you need to roll to hit the various armor classes after adjustments (modifiers). Seemed pretty obvious to us anyway, back then. I mean, that's what the words mean.

So if I needed a 19 to hit an armor class 0, and I had a +1 modifier for strength and a +2 modifier for the magic weapon (that's why each weapon has it's own table), then I would put a 16 in that AC 0 box. No math needed during actual combat. I rolled the d20 and looked at what AC I hit. Then I called out the DM, "I hit an AC 5 or better" for example.
 

billd91

Earl of Cornbread
It says "adjusted to hit Armor Class." That clearly means you put down what you need to roll to hit the various armor classes after adjustments (modifiers). Seemed pretty obvious to us anyway, back then. I mean, that's what the words mean.
But the words also mean the bonus you use against that AC because it's telling you your "to hit" bonus adjusted for that AC.
So, I remain unconvinced that your interpretation is what the designer intended. I would agree that's what most people did, particularly when they jettisoned using weapon vs AC type entirely as too cumbersome (and punitive) to be worth it. But use on the ground and intent of designer aren't always the same thing. All you have to do is consider the DMG's forward that it was for DMs only and compare to the actual practice of enormous numbers of D&D players having both regardless of the side of the screen they tended to work.
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
Let us not pretend players didn't read the thing.
Well, let us also not pretend they didn't pretend they didn't read the thing!*

...er.. wait, let me parse that again...
… yeah, that's right. ;)


I'm not entirely convinced it's about knowing what target number you had to roll to hit that AC - rather, those columns in the weapon table are AC types in the 1e PH. A player could record their net modifier against each of those AC types.
Or just copy from the weapon v armor type mods from the tables in the PH, to the corresponding spaces by the weapon. Afterall, it didn't have AC 10 to -10 there, just the ones that corresponded to PH adjustments.

I won't say that's "how I always saw people use them," though - because everyone else I saw always seemed to leave them blank!

C'mon, use the Weapon v Armor adjustments! (I mean, you think THAC0 got a bad rap...)


















* for values of 'the thing' including the DMG, the MM, and whatever module you were running that week...
 
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Lanefan

Hero
Err... We were talking about THAC0, which is player-side information.
In part that's why I've never used THAC0. :)

Also, the character sheet posted up thread with a space to fill out rolls required to hit targets of various ACs would seem to me to indicate that the combat matrix (or at least the part that was relevant to your own character) was functionally player-side.It mucks up the dramatic tension of the die roll, even worse than adding a modifier does. If you know the target’s AC
Which, going in to any battle, I posit you shouldn't; though figuring it out as the combat goes along is fine - it reflects the in-combat knowledge-gathering of your fighter.

and your THAC0, you can quickly work out what number you need on the die, and then you get the craps-esque rush of knowing exactly what number you want to see on the dice, holding them in your hand, giving them a good shake, and holding your breath for the result as they roll. That’s a viscerally satisfying experience right there because it perfectly follows that dramatic tension curve that our human brains go bananas for.
Same happens if you don't know the actual cutoff point - a high roll gets the hit, a low roll doesn't, with the added benefit of some tension on middling rolls when you're not sure.

You kind of get that with BAB, but there’s an extra step of having to add a modifier to the die roll to figure out the total. That really messes with the drama of the die roll in a way that isn’t immediately obvious to most people but affects them nonetheless. That’s why critical hits are so exciting. It’s not just the fact that you do extra damage, it’s also the fact that they fix the broken dramatic tension curve. You see that 20 and immediately know you got a hit. The natural 20 is more exiting in an of itself than the actual damage, because it tickles your brain just right.
We use confirm rolls for crits (with known odds), so rolling the 20 gets you both the hit and the chance to confirm...the chance to confirm is more like the craps roll you mention.
The way you describe it, the die roll isn’t exciting or satisfying at all, it’s just a formality you have to observe before the DM can tell you what happens.
Looked at a bit cynically that's what most die rolls are, really, with the main exceptions being rolls to do with char-gen or level-up. Nothing new there.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
Well, this thread really isn't about math, is it? It's about two groups of old dudes telling each other to get off their lawn. I'll take the Statler and Waldorf approach every time.
 

Morrus

Administrator
Staff member
Well, this thread really isn't about math, is it? It's about two groups of old dudes telling each other to get off their lawn. I'll take the Statler and Waldorf approach every time.
Nobody gets to stay young. Some of us fake it as best we can.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
The D&D crowd is certainly way different now than it was when I was in my teens, as far as the age range anyway. As is the Warhammer scene for that matter. That's actually a huge plus for me in both cases as I think the hobby is far more interesting, both the play and to post about, when that's the case. I've been a gamer for 30 years and I like having at some doodes my own age to trade the dozens with.
 

Slit518

Explorer
Thac0 - Let us say your character's Thac0 is 10.

Now, your target's Armor Class is -2.

You roll a 10 on the 1d20, you subtract 2 since the target has a negative armor class, thus giving you an 8 on your roll, you miss.

And, if I am not mistaken, Thac0 is a combination of proficiency, stat bonuses, and any magic on your character's items.

Where as in reverse, modern day, we roll 1d20, and want to get higher numbers.

We have our proficiency bonus, bonus from Strength or Dexterity, feats, enchantment bonus.

In today's world, if a target has a 20 armor class, and you have a +10 to hit from all of the above, you need a 10 or higher on the 1d20 roll to hit.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
Yeah, that's not really how THAC0 works. It does work with the sum total of your mods though, in that way it isn't any different than now. In your example if my THAC0 was 10 I'd need to roll a 12 to hit a -2 AC target.
 
To be fair, nobody has carefully explained to me that subtraction is really hard yet.
Subtraction is really hard because... math.

Did that work? I tried. B-)

--

I loved THAC0 back in 2E. It made the game a little less complex, faster, and easier to play. Those are all good things in my book.
 

Hussar

Legend
/snip

Either way, since that info was on the character sheet, and the character sheets came out right after the DMG, it's clear that wasn't intended to be DM only information. I played 1e from 1981 to 2012 and never saw a single person not know what AC they hit when they rolled (unless they were brand new and learning the rules). Not saying it didn't happen, but I'm sure it is much more the exception rather than the rule.
Meh. I'll see your annecdote and call with mine. Pretending that your experience is universal is no different than me pretending mine is. I certainly had more than a few players who would simply call out their adjusted number over and over again, and not tell me what AC they hit.

Granted, I only played AD&D from about 1981 to 2000, but, hey, multiple countries and a couple of continents later, including players from lots of different countries, I'm not sure that I really buy your anecdotes.
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
Meh. I'll see your annecdote and call with mine. Pretending that your experience is universal is no different than me pretending mine is. I certainly had more than a few players who would simply call out their adjusted number over and over again, and not tell me what AC they hit.

Granted, I only played AD&D from about 1981 to 2000, but, hey, multiple countries and a couple of continents later, including players from lots of different countries, I'm not sure that I really buy your anecdotes.
Not asking you to buy into my anecdotes. I’m asking you to look at objective facts, like the character sheets having that info for the players since at least 1980, possibly earlier.

If we ARE going to use anecdotes, at least mine is supported by the official tools we had available at the time, whereas your anecdote depends on ignoring said official material. After all, why would a player ask the DM what AC they hit unless they ignored the character sheets available at the time that did that for the player?
 

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