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D&D General The Rules Cyclopedia - Unlearning Dnd Preconceptions from a 3e player

jeffh

Adventurer
Yes. But it might involve subtracting negative numbers, which freaks people out to this day.
Intellectually I understand that this is the case, but I can never really grok why. Subtracting a negative number is literally just addition. If anything it's easier than subtracting a positive number!
 

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Voadam

Legend
Intellectually I understand that this is the case, but I can never really grok why. Subtracting a negative number is literally just addition. If anything it's easier than subtracting a positive number!

Yes, adding positive numbers is more straightforward.

Sometimes flipping from mentally subtracting a positive number to adding a positive number is less straightforward than always doing the same type of calculation though. When doing it quickly while other things are going on it is easier to make mistake about which way to go, or to have a mental speedbump where you think through how the calculation should go. Always adding a positive number to calculate a target is more straightforward.

With ascending AC you don't ever flip from subtraction to addition around AC 0/20.
 

cbwjm

Hero
Thinking about the main problem with Thac0 is that sometimes bonuses to thac0/AC had a -x and at other times a +x which could be confusing. By changing to ascending it did make them less so since a +2 would always be a bonus. That's about my only real complaint about it, bonuses and penalties were, sometimes, not intuitive.
 

thirdkingdom

Explorer
So I got a chance to borrow my friend's Rules Cyclopedia recently (which as far as I understand it is the collection of all of the Box sets back in the day, I believe before 2e came out). Though I played a little 2e, I never "looked under the hood" of the game before 3e....so it was really neat to see some of the early rules for the game. It was cool to see how some things evolved, and honestly....I found some rules that I thought were pretty good even today. So here are a few general notes and interesting things:

**I'm going to reference "back then" a lot in the post, just noting I am sure there were other flavors and versions out there, so know I am specifically referencing the Rules Cyclopedia.

1) Alignment: As much as we like to talk about the "9 alignments" as a sacred cow, it actually was just Law, Neutral, and Chaos back then. It seems that Law was "Big L, little g" and Chaos was "Big C, little e".

2) As we talk about bounded accuracy today, there are several places where I find it interesting how much more "bounded" the game was back then. Some examples:

a) Ability scores were more spread out. You had to get very higher scores just to get even a +2 or +3, and you didn't go above 18.
9-12 +0
13-15 +1
16-17 +2
18 +3

b) Many more things used static rolls instead of adding in ability scores. Several skills, initiative, surprise, even your saving throws were almost entirely dependent on level than on your ability scores.

c) Hitpoints were tighter. Fighters only had d8 hp, and you only gained a single HP at 9th and beyond.


3) Alignments actually had their own language back then! So lawful characters could talk to each other in "secret code". That's both weird and neat.

4) In our modern day of "6 saving throws", its neat to remember we actually started with 5 not 3.

5) The "Name" level at 9th actually reminds me a bit of the 4e paragon path. Though they are much less mechanical and more flavorful, there is still the notion that you are moving into a new direction as a character, and gaining a new suite of benefits and responsibilities. Its also pretty telling that the levels could go as high as 36 but often characters were expected to at least consider retirement at 9th.

6) The term avenger as a fighting class dates way back, I had thought that was a 4e invention.

7) The concept of being able to move and attack twice existed back in the day. I had assumed 3e's "move and get 1 attack only" had been the norm for some time.

8) Its no wonder that nature clerics and druids have overlap nowadays, as back then a druid was simply a "prestige class" for a cleric.

9) It was interesting to read the "Mystic" which is the original monk. The monk honestly hasn't changed nearly as much as I had expected, and many of its current abilities you can see traces of in the original class.

10) Later editions like 3rd played with very complicated "spell preparation time formulas", but back then it was a simple single hour to memorize spells.

11) There was a neat concept back then of "reversible" spells for clerics. So the "cure wounds/inflict wounds" or "light/darkness" were actually the same spell, and the cleric could use either version when casting (though lawful classes were supposed to use this ability only sparingly). Its often talked about how few spells a caster might have prepared back then, but the reversible spells meant they had a few extra ones than the numbers might let on.

12) Cure Light Wounds could actually cure paralysis back then, neat!

13) Wish really was a "10th level spell" back then. Though it was technically 9th, you had to be 36th level to use it! Aka the highest of the high, it was clear even back then that Wish was the pinnacle of magical casting.

14) Intelligence actually determined the duration of mental effects back then. Though a little cumbersome, it was a nice bit of benefit for Int.

15) Dispel Magic actually worked more like 5e's version....automatically dispelling any equal or weaker magic, but then providing a chance to dispel stronger magic. The main difference is back then the dispel check on higher level magic was MUCH harder, which is something I actually like.

16) Skills existed back then! I had known about Thief Skills but I didn't know that the more general list of skills we know today actually did exist back then, though it was a good bit bigger than today's list.

17) The Exploration Rules are actually pretty comprehensive and have a lot of simple but useful rules, I may steal some of it for my current game.

18) Initiative was very different back then. It was a simple d6 and done by each group. The ideas of adding dex to the roll and rolling it per person were actually optional variants at that time. So was surprise, there was again no perception check back then just a simple d6 done by both sides. I like the simplicity of it, but considering how deadly surprise can be its probably a good idea they changed it.

19) The Monster Reaction and Morale tables are actually very simple and yet I really like how they make encounters more organic. Monster reactions showcases things like animals that may not be hostile due to certain circumstances, and morale gives you reasonable "checkpoints" on when to consider if a monster should just leave a fight. Its very clear that back then, it was more common for monsters to leave the battlefield than to just get killed.

20) Weapon Speed did exist in a very simplified version: Ranged Attacks went first, then Spells, then melee weapons.

21) "Power Attack" actually existed back then, called the smash maneuver. And it was quite potent, for a -5 to attack you got to add your Strength Score (not modifier) as a bonus to your damage. So effectively the "-1 attack, +2 damage" math has existed for quite some time.

22) There was a concept that your attack bonus if high enough allowed you to deal extra damage. And I don't mean the attack roll, if your skill was simply high enough vs your opponent's AC, you straight up got bonus damage. Interesting idea!

23) THAC0 tables really are as nasty as I remember :)

24) "Point Blank Shot" actually existed as a standard part of missile attacks back then.

25) Until you got to high levels, Saving Throws against spells were very hard to make. This meant that spellcaster spells went into effect much more often than they do nowadays.

26) Grappling was stupidly complicated even then:)
Note that in the RC and older editions spellcasters are nerfed as follows:

*The character casting a spell cannot move in the same round they are casting (p. 32, RC).
*If the character is disturbed while casting, prior to the spell going off (suffers damage, must make a saving throw), the spell is automatically ruined.
 

THACO tends to add an extra step in practice.

Ascending: The player rolls the die adds their BAB and tells the GM. The GM compares the number to the monster AC and declares a hit or not.
THACO: The player first needs to ask the GM the AC of the monster to determine if they hit or not (or the GM needs to remember to tell them). Or the GM needs to have all the players THACOs written down so they can do the math themselves and then declare a hit or miss.
 

Stalker0

Legend
Intellectually I understand that this is the case, but I can never really grok why. Subtracting a negative number is literally just addition. If anything it's easier than subtracting a positive number!
Psychological studies have shown this is not the case. Most people are more efficient at addition than subtraction, its just how their brain works. Now whether that is truly human wiring or culturally how we learn math who knows...but its true, and therefore game systems should work to optimize addition over subtraction for the best user experience.
 

transmission89

Adventurer
THACO tends to add an extra step in practice.

Ascending: The player rolls the die adds their BAB and tells the GM. The GM compares the number to the monster AC and declares a hit or not.
THACO: The player first needs to ask the GM the AC of the monster to determine if they hit or not (or the GM needs to remember to tell them). Or the GM needs to have all the players THACOs written down so they can do the math themselves and then declare a hit or miss.
Alternatively, the players can just do THAC0 - (roll + mods) = AC hit. This gets rid of the extra step and doesn’t burden the DM with the maths either.
 

Alternatively, the players can just do THAC0 - (roll + mods) = AC hit. This gets rid of the extra step and doesn’t burden the DM with the maths either.
Yeah you could but that centres the subtraction and therefore increases the cognitive load. As @Stalker0 says, studies have shown that the cognitive load is higher for subtraction.

In the midst of a game where there's lots of distractions and input coming from all sides reducing that cognitive load makes for a faster game.
 

transmission89

Adventurer
Whilst I don’t dispute an increased cognitive load for subtractive operations, I hardly think the number range here is significant enough to warrant an appreciable delay.
I’d instead be asking why my player was so distracted in my game as to really struggle with 19- 16....
 


Whilst I don’t dispute an increased cognitive load for subtractive operations, I hardly think the number range here is significant enough to warrant an appreciable delay.
I’d instead be asking why my player was so distracted in my game as to really struggle with 19- 16....
Yes everyone says this but the difference between fast and slow is built entirely out of marginal gains.
 

cbwjm

Hero
THACO tends to add an extra step in practice.

Ascending: The player rolls the die adds their BAB and tells the GM. The GM compares the number to the monster AC and declares a hit or not.
THACO: The player first needs to ask the GM the AC of the monster to determine if they hit or not (or the GM needs to remember to tell them). Or the GM needs to have all the players THACOs written down so they can do the math themselves and then declare a hit or miss.
They don't need to ask the AC of the monster, you subtract your die roll + bonuses from your thac0 and that's the AC you hit. It might be less intuitive for a lot of people but it's not all that different from ascending attack bonus/AC.
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
Intellectually I understand that this is the case, but I can never really grok why. Subtracting a negative number is literally just addition. If anything it's easier than subtracting a positive number!
You're not wrong. But it's still a more complicated process than just adding positive numbers (with the occasional bit of subtraction due to a negative modifier or similar).

I played tons of 2e/TSR-era D&D mishmash in high school, and I was attending a nerd farm. That is, a residential program for 'gifted and talented' students. In order to be admitted, a student had to pass fairly rigorous math tests.

And we STILL had players who occasionally had a rough time with adding and subtracting negative numbers. It's wasn't a huge deal, and I daresay that playing D&D helped them wrap their brains around the process better, but the fact remains that adding and subtracting positive numbers is just more straightforward.

So I can do THAC0, you can do THAC0, my 7yo can do THAC0, and so can thousands and thousands of people worldwide. I still think that using all-positives makes for easier and smoother gameplay.
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
I'll tell you what else I love about the RC setup: the 36-level progression. Now in practice, there's not much real difference between 36 levels and 20 levels; classes gained their various abilities are the same time either way (an extra attack at 12th level our of 26 and at 7th level out of 20 are about the same proportion overall).

But the longer level progression just makes the entire process seem so much more epic and sweeping IMO. It's also true that a 36th level character in the RC =/= a 20th level character in Basic or AD&D. Though it's sometimes comical, like since the hit points stabilize at 10th level or so, it's possible to have a 36th level wizard who has like 40 HP. In the RC universe, you're never high enough level to just stop worrying about a knife in the back.
 

teitan

Hero
D&D has probably held on to its wargaming roots longer than is either necessary or beneficial. I think D&D would be better off if it embraced things like zoned ranges and more theater of the mind friendly positioning and tactical rules. Especially given how otherwise "narrative" and "story focused" the game has become recently.
So you mean basically how the game was played anyway and was presented in 2e?
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
But the longer level progression just makes the entire process seem so much more epic and sweeping IMO.
All the more so if you attain Immortality and play your way up through the ranks, since there are thirty-six "levels" to the Immortal progression as well.

And if you make it up to Hierarch Immortal and give up your Immortality to return to being a level 1 mortal in order to do it all again, becoming one of the Old Ones, well...talk about epic!
 


So you mean basically how the game was played anyway and was presented in 2e?
Not really. Distances in 2e were still in precise distances.

Fireball​

Level: 3
Components: V, S, M
Range: 10 yds. + 10 yds./level
AoE: 20-ft. radius
Save: _
Casting Time : 3
Duration: Instantaneous
A fireball is an explosive burst of flame, which detonates with a low roar and delivers damage proportional to the level of the wizard who cast it--1d6 points of damage for each level of experience of the spellcaster (up to a maximum of 10d6). The burst of the fireball creates little pressure and generally conforms to the shape of the area in which it occurs. The fireball fills an area equal to its normal spherical volume (roughly 33,000 cubic feet--thirty-three 10-foot x 10-foot x 10-foot cubes).
This is what Fireball looks like when it is reworked for zones and to remove reference to precise distances. (From the 13th Age SRD)

Fireball​

Ranged spell; Daily
Special: When you cast this spell, you can choose to cast it recklessly.
Target: 1d3 nearby enemies in a group. If you cast recklessly, you can target 1d3 additional enemies, but then your allies engaged with the target may also take damage (see below).
Attack: Intelligence + Level vs. PD
Hit: 10d10 fire damage.
Miss: Half damage.
Reckless miss: Your allies engaged with the target take one-fourth damage.
7th level spell 12d10 damage.
9th level spell 20d10 damage.
You can of course handwave the precision involved in concrete distances and many of us have done that all our lives, but it's not the same as a system deliberately designed to work in zones.
 
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transmission89

Adventurer
I'll tell you what else I love about the RC setup: the 36-level progression. Now in practice, there's not much real difference between 36 levels and 20 levels; classes gained their various abilities are the same time either way (an extra attack at 12th level our of 26 and at 7th level out of 20 are about the same proportion overall).

But the longer level progression just makes the entire process seem so much more epic and sweeping IMO. It's also true that a 36th level character in the RC =/= a 20th level character in Basic or AD&D. Though it's sometimes comical, like since the hit points stabilize at 10th level or so, it's possible to have a 36th level wizard who has like 40 HP. In the RC universe, you're never high enough level to just stop worrying about a knife in the back.
Conversely, with a 36 level spread, they did thieves a dirty on the skill percentages. Stretching them out over a wider level spread compared to B/X. This meant your thief was useless at being a thief for longer!
It was a missed opportunity to give them something interesting at higher levels I feel.
 


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