D&D 2E On AD&D 2E


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Of note, 2e actually had the Half-Orc, Barbarian, and the Monk in it's official rules by the end of it's run. They were added via various supplements (they also had the Assassin. The Monk had several versions, but they also had the version that was closest to the 1e Monk as well).

True, they had a lot of things if you considered all the supplements (you could play Minotaurs in 2E for example). But I just meant as part of the core rulebook
 

Wait, I thought Voadam was saying Thieves were bad. Either way, I will argue that they definitely are not good, having played a lot of them.

Voadam can weigh in there, but I thought he felt they could do too many things. Personally I liked 2E thieves much better than 3E thieves.

If you don't like 2E thieves, that is fair. I mean this is all about preference and I certainly have encountered the criticisms you make here. I do want to take them each though just to explore a different perspective.

People will bring up their rapid level advancement, but they got so little out of their levels it was sad. Second worst at everything, hit points, armor (the penalties for daring to wear anything outside of leather were extremely prohibitive), and attack progression. Even with their level progression, they don't compare well to Clerics or Fighters in combat.

Exactly they aren't meant to be great in a fight. They are a class that shines more out of combat and in certain moments of combat.

So you might say that "well, they're not a combat class" so let's look at their skills. The weighting for Dexterity is ridiculous; a 16 nets you a 5% bonus to one skill, a 17 basically puts you 0.5 levels ahead compared to a Thief with less Dexterity, an 18 is basically a full level of progression, and a 19 is actually 1.5 levels.

A lot of AD&D classes benefited from higher end Ability scores, but using the default 3d6 method those are pretty hard to land, so I fold this in with balance over time. Also with this method you often don't know what class you are going to make until you roll your abilities. It isn't like later editions where people often start with what class they want to play. So you always have the option, if you get a Dex of 14, of not playing a Thief, and holding out until you roll a character with a 16 or higher. But the whole approach to balance here is different from 3E (and again I am not knocking 3E, but it achieves something very different). There is greater weight given to things like differences in XP progression, randomness in generating things like ability scores, and not all characters were expected to be equally good. This is an edition where one player might have horrible rolls and another might have great rolls and so those are the results until you make a new character after your first one dies. It is a very different approach to play and to balance than came after the WOTC era.

Then we get to the values themselves; if you go by 2e rules which let you optimize important abilities and ignore less useful ones for adventuring (like say, Pick Pockets), a Halfling Thief with a 19 Dexterity can get, at best, a coin flip (50%) to use, say, Move Silently and Hide in Shadows.

I would say these work pretty good. Also, my math may be off here but I think a Halfling Thief who puts 30 points into Move silently and has a Dexterity of 19 has 65% (10% base, 10% for being a halfling, 15% for the 19 and 30% for the 30 points).

However even if that were just 50%, I would argue being able to move silently 50 percent of the time at first level, knowing you can also increase that over time as you get 30 points each level (and can spend 15 on a given skill), is actually very good. Again the spirit of the game is different. In a lot of ways, 3E characters feel more like they start out 2nd or 3rd level compared with AD&D characters. But I much prefer it set closer to 50, and that is only if they max out on it. Again, you aren't a master thief at first level. You are a first level nobody. So you aren't going to succeed the majority of the time there.

This is preference, so if you don't like it, you don't like it. But for plenty of people these numbers work pretty well over time. It is all fairly contained too.


With a Kit, you might be able to do better, but the ones in the Thieves' Handbook are very conservative (some of the better ones are the Dwarven Locksmith and the Gnome Mouseburglar).

Personally I liked the brown books that were more conservative in this regard. This is one aspect of 2E, I kind of prefer to 3. There are some notable exceptions but generally speaking, I think the kits didn't have as big an impact on the game as the options in the 3E complete books in terms of mechanics (which could be a con, but one benefit is it meant the core book feel was largely preserved).

If you're trying to help out in combat with a bow, you're ok, but backstab is a complete waste of time, not only is it's use highly restrictive (target must be unaware of you, you must strike from behind, you must be able to reach a vital area), you multiply the damage of, at best, a long sword or broadsword, and can totally fail to kill the thing you just stabbed at which point now you are in a solo combat since you are no doubt nowhere near your party.

Definitely they aren't as good in combat. But backstab is something I rather liked. First they get a big bonus to attack when the circumstances are right (so it isn't just about damage but also about hitting a foe that might be harder to hit). I also like it because it encourages more out of combat backstabbing than in (still can do it in combat but people are more alert). You definitely might not kill the thing you are attacking though, depending on its HP and HD. But the multipliers go from x2 at the early levels to x5 at the higher ones. You still aren't a damage machine. But that can be a good way to start a big battle with a foe.

Even at level 5, you can be struggling to do all the things your party needs you to do, such as finding all traps, opening all locks, scouting ahead, and providing more damage than a wizard throwing darts, lol.

Rogues still get better weapons than a wizard. But yes it is still a big challenge at 5th level, though how challenging each one is is going to depend on where you spend those points. Again this isn't a system where the rogue is expected to walk through and always catch every trap. That just isn't the game it was meant to be. It is still way better though to have a thieve with modest chances of success than no thief, and someone who devotes half their points into Find/Remove Traps, by 5th level can get something like a 95% chance of success without factoring ability or race modifiers (which I think was the cap for all skills). Obviously that is a very specialized thief, but you can walk around with a big chance of success to find traps, and put the rest of the points into open locks (which has a 5% higher base than find/remove as well), and be quite good at both by 5th level. However being that good comes at the cost, a very reasonable cost I think, of your other thief skills falling behind.

My experiences with the class have been miserable, as a single class. Multiclassing is really the only way to go, where you're down one level compared to a straight Thief, so at least you have something useful to do until you hit level 6-7 when you're actually competent.
That is fair, but I think it really does come down to preference. For 2E thief and wizard were my two favorite classes to play. And I had plenty of players in my campaigns who thrived on thieves. Again though 2E isn't about everyone shining in combat, and it is a bit more gritty at times.
 

cbwjm

Seb-wejem
Wait, I thought Voadam was saying Thieves were bad. Either way, I will argue that they definitely are not good, having played a lot of them.

People will bring up their rapid level advancement, but they got so little out of their levels it was sad. Second worst at everything, hit points, armor (the penalties for daring to wear anything outside of leather were extremely prohibitive), and attack progression. Even with their level progression, they don't compare well to Clerics or Fighters in combat.

So you might say that "well, they're not a combat class" so let's look at their skills. The weighting for Dexterity is ridiculous; a 16 nets you a 5% bonus to one skill, a 17 basically puts you 0.5 levels ahead compared to a Thief with less Dexterity, an 18 is basically a full level of progression, and a 19 is actually 1.5 levels.

Then we get to the values themselves; if you go by 2e rules which let you optimize important abilities and ignore less useful ones for adventuring (like say, Pick Pockets), a Halfling Thief with a 19 Dexterity can get, at best, a coin flip (50%) to use, say, Move Silently and Hide in Shadows.

With a Kit, you might be able to do better, but the ones in the Thieves' Handbook are very conservative (some of the better ones are the Dwarven Locksmith and the Gnome Mouseburglar).

If you're trying to help out in combat with a bow, you're ok, but backstab is a complete waste of time, not only is it's use highly restrictive (target must be unaware of you, you must strike from behind, you must be able to reach a vital area), you multiply the damage of, at best, a long sword or broadsword, and can totally fail to kill the thing you just stabbed at which point now you are in a solo combat since you are no doubt nowhere near your party.

Even at level 5, you can be struggling to do all the things your party needs you to do, such as finding all traps, opening all locks, scouting ahead, and providing more damage than a wizard throwing darts, lol.

My experiences with the class have been miserable, as a single class. Multiclassing is really the only way to go, where you're down one level compared to a straight Thief, so at least you have something useful to do until you hit level 6-7 when you're actually competent.
If I ever get a 2e game running, I'm probably not even going to include the rogue, I'm just gonna turn their skills into proficiencies and allow anyone to take them. Or maybe I'll keep them as some sort of expert that gets bonus proficiencies so you can still play one but not the classic % rolling class.
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
Voadam can weigh in there, but I thought he felt they could do too many things. Personally I liked 2E thieves much better than 3E thieves.

If you don't like 2E thieves, that is fair. I mean this is all about preference and I certainly have encountered the criticisms you make here. I do want to take them each though just to explore a different perspective.



Exactly they aren't meant to be great in a fight. They are a class that shines more out of combat and in certain moments of combat.



A lot of AD&D classes benefited from higher end Ability scores, but using the default 3d6 method those are pretty hard to land, so I fold this in with balance over time. Also with this method you often don't know what class you are going to make until you roll your abilities. It isn't like later editions where people often start with what class they want to play. So you always have the option, if you get a Dex of 14, of not playing a Thief, and holding out until you roll a character with a 16 or higher. But the whole approach to balance here is different from 3E (and again I am not knocking 3E, but it achieves something very different). There is greater weight given to things like differences in XP progression, randomness in generating things like ability scores, and not all characters were expected to be equally good. This is an edition where one player might have horrible rolls and another might have great rolls and so those are the results until you make a new character after your first one dies. It is a very different approach to play and to balance than came after the WOTC era.



I would say these work pretty good. Also, my math may be off here but I think a Halfling Thief who puts 30 points into Move silently and has a Dexterity of 19 has 65% (10% base, 10% for being a halfling, 15% for the 19 and 30% for the 30 points).

However even if that were just 50%, I would argue being able to move silently 50 percent of the time at first level, knowing you can also increase that over time as you get 30 points each level (and can spend 15 on a given skill), is actually very good. Again the spirit of the game is different. In a lot of ways, 3E characters feel more like they start out 2nd or 3rd level compared with AD&D characters. But I much prefer it set closer to 50, and that is only if they max out on it. Again, you aren't a master thief at first level. You are a first level nobody. So you aren't going to succeed the majority of the time there.

This is preference, so if you don't like it, you don't like it. But for plenty of people these numbers work pretty well over time. It is all fairly contained too.




Personally I liked the brown books that were more conservative in this regard. This is one aspect of 2E, I kind of prefer to 3. There are some notable exceptions but generally speaking, I think the kits didn't have as big an impact on the game as the options in the 3E complete books in terms of mechanics (which could be a con, but one benefit is it meant the core book feel was largely preserved).



Definitely they aren't as good in combat. But backstab is something I rather liked. First they get a big bonus to attack when the circumstances are right (so it isn't just about damage but also about hitting a foe that might be harder to hit). I also like it because it encourages more out of combat backstabbing than in (still can do it in combat but people are more alert). You definitely might not kill the thing you are attacking though, depending on its HP and HD. But the multipliers go from x2 at the early levels to x5 at the higher ones. You still aren't a damage machine. But that can be a good way to start a big battle with a foe.



Rogues still get better weapons than a wizard. But yes it is still a big challenge at 5th level, though how challenging each one is is going to depend on where you spend those points. Again this isn't a system where the rogue is expected to walk through and always catch every trap. That just isn't the game it was meant to be. It is still way better though to have a thieve with modest chances of success than no thief, and someone who devotes half their points into Find/Remove Traps, by 5th level can get something like a 95% chance of success without factoring ability or race modifiers (which I think was the cap for all skills). Obviously that is a very specialized thief, but you can walk around with a big chance of success to find traps, and put the rest of the points into open locks (which has a 5% higher base than find/remove as well), and be quite good at both by 5th level. However being that good comes at the cost, a very reasonable cost I think, of your other thief skills falling behind.


That is fair, but I think it really does come down to preference. For 2E thief and wizard were my two favorite classes to play. And I had plenty of players in my campaigns who thrived on thieves. Again though 2E isn't about everyone shining in combat, and it is a bit more gritty at times.
Yeah you're right about the Halfling math, and theoretically you could remove your armor for a larger bonus (but who would do that?). I think the main point still stands though, that being reliable at performing the tasks you're class is meant to be good at is something that takes several levels is fairly miserable, especially when there is usually a severe penalty for that failure.

Fail to notice a trap, you're the guy who will likely be hit by it, and that 3.5-5.5 hit points per level isn't going to cut it. Saves aren't great, and for some reason, Breath Weapon saves are extra bad (as if it's somehow balanced around every Thief having a high Defensive Adjustment for Dexterity, lol).

It doesn't even help that Thieves get the worst Non-Weapon Proficiency package, with one new slot per 4 levels. But like everything in AD&D, YMMV based on the DM. Some DM's are super strict about Thieves, citing unfavorable descriptions of how their abilities function. Others roll with the OD&D model that anyone can do what a Thief does, it's just their abilities let them "go beyond" and are special.

Some people are very kind with regards to Backstab; I know one DM who allows ranged Backstabs if the target is unaware, allowing them to snipe, and if you describe what you're doing, you might get a Backstab on an opponent in melee combat who is fully aware of you, or even use it more than once a round.

But I've also played with other DM's who will nitpick to the point that you might as well erase the ability off your character sheet, lol.
 

Voadam

Legend
But again, these all felt fairly minimal in impact. For 2E especially, when it comes to attributes, they didn't go with the 4d6 drop the lowest method as default. It did offer like 6 different methods, and if the GM wanted to that certainly could open up the floodgates. But the default (Method I) was 3d6 straight down in order. The optional methods produced better characters but they were entirely under the decision of the GM.
I disagree. The bell curve results of AD&D stats meant that differences in rolls could have huge impacts. And since five out of the six methods were designed to give good stats those top of the bell curve results were an issue.

In 2e I played a fighter with a 17 strength. This gave a +1 to hit and damage.
Another guy in the same game was playing a fighter with an 18/92 strength. +2 to hit and +5 to damage.

Against low level humanoids he would automatically one shot enemies it would usually take me two hits to put down.

This was very noticeable and frustrating to me to do the same thing but just objectively worse all the time.
I agree thieves could be quite good. Though other characters did have baselines on things like climb too in the later chapters of the book (not as good as a thief but they could still do it). What I like about the 2E thieve versus later editions is they do stand out, and they are good at things, that other characters simply aren't (but primarily non-combat things or if in combat, very specific instances of combat).
I thought they were quite poor mechanically and later editions stood out better. I felt thieves were poor at their thief abilities with fairly terrible chances of success for a large part of the game, then when others are powerhouses of combat and magic they become OK at their niche skills while still being terrible at combat with no magic until they can use scrolls at 10th level.
This very much comes down to preference. For me, balancing the game around combat wasn't really something I loved about the WOTC era of D&D. I really liked having characters that were good at other things, and maybe not that good at combat. I also loved, absolutely loved, the whole wizards start out feeble, advance slower than anyone, but become the most powerful by the end. That isn't to everyone's taste, but it is the flavor of D&D I most enjoy.
From B/X on I always saw combat as something central to D&D that all characters do.

Thieves I saw as being based on the Grey Mouser who was a master fencer and they should have represented quick light deadly warriors. AD&D thieves were terrible combatants, unless successfully sneaking up on a single guard without a ton of hp.

I wish they had been based on fighters instead of magic-users and traded armor and big weapons for thief skills. And that their thief skills just worked instead of being terrible percentages.
 
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I disagree. The bell curve results of AD&D stats meant that differences in rolls could have huge impacts. And since five out of the six methods were designed to give good stats those top of the bell curve results were an issue.

Yes but the default was random. And even 4d6 take the lowest is random. So yes you get characters who are great, characters who aren't, etc. That is definitely part of how AD&D 1E and 2E worked (though the default of 4d6 take the lowest for 1E tended to result in better characters). But the bell curve also means most characters fall within the curve. So on the whole, I think you just have different power issues going on in AD&D. In 3E a lot of the power disparity result from differences in players abilities to plan builds and have mastery of the system, in AD&D much of the power disparity is a product of random rolls.

In 2e I played a fighter with a 17 strength. This gave a +1 to hit and damage.
Another guy in the same game was playing a fighter with an 18/92 strength. +2 to hit and +5 to damage.

Yes, I don't think this is not the case. But you have to roll really well to get 18/92 strength. That isn't a normal roll is the point. I don't dispute some characters ended up being objectively better at things than others. It just isn't the same type of thing you had in 3E when it comes to power gaming. I might even say, 3E in a way is a fairer system because everyone can exploit it more equally if they know how.


Against low level humanoids he would automatically one shot enemies it would usually take me two hits to put down.

This was very noticeable and frustrating to me to do the same thing but just objectively worse all the time.

And that is fair. But my point is this is a style of play I enjoyed. I didn't mind the random element here, and the excitement of not knowing whether I would roll a more powerful character or a less powerful one. That isn't for everyone. But it is an aspect of 2E (and 1E) lots of people enjoy.
 

From B/X on I always saw combat as something central to D&D that all characters do.

Well, I saw combat as important, but I didn't see it as a thing where everyone needs to shine in it. Some classes just weren't very big on the combatant front and I was fine with that. Even characters who eventually became good in combat, like the wizard (depending on spells of course) sucked at combat at the early levels. Personally I am not as into balancing the classes around the combat experience. I would rather see them balanced across all aspects of the game (meaning for example a class that is bad in combat but great in stealth works well for me).
 

Jasperak

Adventurer
/snip

Thieves I saw as being based on the Grey Mouser who was a master fencer and they should have represented quick light deadly warriors. AD&D thieves were terrible combatants, unless successfully sneaking up on a single guard without a ton of hp.

I wish they had been based on fighters
instead of magic-users and traded armor and big weapons for thief skills. And that their thief skills just worked instead of being terrible percentages.
Since time began, I've always had Thieves (and then Rouges :) ) roll d6 for hit points.

But why not make their hit points equal to Fighters (and then Warriors) at d8 (or d10)? Without changing the XP chart, would it really be imbalanced? Trade heavy weapon, armor, and shield proficiency for thiefy skills? Honestly, Thief saves should have been the best of the human classes.
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
Since time began, I've always had Thieves (and then Rouges :) ) roll d6 for hit points.

But why not make their hit points equal to Fighters (and then Warriors) at d8 (or d10)? Without changing the XP chart, would it really be imbalanced? Trade heavy weapon, armor, and shield proficiency for thiefy skills? Honestly, Thief saves should have been the best of the human classes.
So one thing I noticed about hit points is that back in the 1e DMG, Gary talks about how they are only partially "meat", and are more about your ability to evade serious injuries (dodge), luck, morale, and divine providence.

Going from this theory, I always felt that meant lightly armored classes that trend towards higher agility should have had better hit points all along- instead of a d6, why not a d10 or d12 for Rogues? Instead, the classes that already can unlock higher hit point bonuses from Con, who can generally wear better armor for protection (and you'd think would have a harder time evading hits*), get the big Hit Die.

*I'm not talking about the reality of mobility in armor here, but D&D has always modeled armor as being cumbersome and heavy, even though up until 3e, a guy with an 18 Dexterity got his full defensive adjustment in full plate, lol).
 

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