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D&D General TSR to WoTC shift--OR--the de-prioritization on Exploration spells/classes

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
As I recall, the Thief in AD&D took the least amount of experience to level up precisely because they were the weakest class. Am I remembering wrong?
They did, but it wasn't fantastically less xp than the Cleric. It got even stranger with the 2e Bard...but here's the problem. The Thief gets the second worst attack bonus progression, and 6 sided hit dice. The way the xp tables were set up, you'll be about a level higher than a Fighter for awhile, then pull ahead when you hit 9th before they hit 8th. You'll probably hit 20th when the Fighter is 16th.

But here's what that gets you (going off of memory mostly)-

Level 16 Fighter, average hit points (w/o Con): 73.5
Level 20 Thief, average hit points (w/o Con): 55
Level 16 Fighter, hits AC 0 on a 5 (w/o bonuses).
Level 20 Thief, hits AC 0 on a 11 (w/o bonuses).

Add in the fact that Fighters get higher bonuses from Strength and Constitution (and Thieves want Dexterity high because of Thieving abilities and crummy armor), better weapons, better AC, and making 2 attacks per round as opposed to the one of the Thief, and you can see that there's a lot more going on here than one might suppose.

Sure, by this point, you have very high numbers in most Thieving Abilities (with I think Read Languages being terrible in 1e, though 2e let you adjust your scores), but even if you can successfully sneak up on an enemy, the restrictions for actually using your Backstab were atrocious (must successfully Move Silently, must attack from the rear, enemies cannot be aware of you, you must be able to reach a "vital area"). You do get +4 to hit for the rear attack, and multiply the base damage of your weapon by 5 (probably a d8 from a longsword) but then you better hope that kills the thing you attacked, because you're going to be a good distance away from your party!
 

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ECMO3

Hero
I understand how many folks played this way, but that's not actually how the rules in 1e worked. Anyone could find traps, pick locks, etc. The thief skill % was only there for those tasks that would have been impossible for other classes to attempt due to difficulty. I blame this on poorly written rules. I know most people just saw the % and applied it to every scenario (after all, that sounds reasonable), when it should only have been applied to exceptionally difficult scenarios that couldn't reasonably be resolved by any character.
Some things can be attempted by other classes and some can't. The PHB breaks the 1E Theif abilities are broken into primary and secondary abilities.

Most of the Primary Abilities are only doable by Thieves and Assasins the exception being finding (but not disarming) traps, which any class can do. The primary abilities are I believe Pick Pockets, Open Locks and Find/Remove Traps. In addition to Thieves, Monks could also open locks, but no other class could. Monks could also use the Thief tables to find (but not disarm) traps, instead of using 1 on a d6 like every character could.

The Secondary abilities can mostly be attempted by anyone. The secondary abilities are climb walls, detect noise, Hide in Shadows, Move Silently and Read Languages. Of note there were different types of walls including rough, smooth, slippery and non-slippery, all of which impacted the chance of failure. Some of these walls were only able to be attempted by Thieves.

There was another ability to read magic which was neither a primary or secondary ability.

That is from memory so some of it could be wrong, but it is pretty close to being correct.
 
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ECMO3

Hero
Talking about XP, the stupid rule I remember most of all is Assasinate gave the Assasin xp if he successfully used it to kill an enemy, but none of the rest of the party got that and you did not get the normal XP for killing the monster, it was a special XP rule for enemies who were assasinated.
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
Talking about XP, the stupid rule I remember most of all is Assasinate gave the Assasin xp if he successfully used it to kill an enemy, but none of the rest of the party got that and you did not get the normal XP for killing the monster, it was a special XP rule for enemies who were assasinated.
Yeah, but as I recall, you didn't just walk up and assassinate a guy, right? It was like a solo adventure where you planned it out, and success was determined by a % chance on a table. It always seemed to me to be more trouble than it was worth until you were higher level anyways.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
I'm talking about human behavior in general. I've been a manager/supervisor for decades, and one common phrase that's been around for a while is, "You get what you measure/reward." I.e., we're all sort like a rat who learned that if we do X, we get a reward for it. Often times without consciously thinking about it. If the reward is XP (leveling up and more power) and treasure (a motivator for nearly every would-be hero! Especially in TSR era where the dependency on magic items was much greater than modern editions), we as people are naturally going to gravitate to those rewards. We were also actively discouraged to go in guns blazing because the system was so unforgiving. This is an edition where a housecat could kill a level 1 PC, a lot of monsters had save or die abilities, and you recovered resources (HP and spells) much slower.
My philosophical response to this is: Along side the game of D&D there has been, and continues to be, an equally important emotional response which at times supersedes the rational risk/reward decision-making you ascribe to players as "universal human behavior."

While I'm a huge fan of using good metrics for optimization of schedule, performance, health, and so forth... I'm wary about assuming those trends will accurately map to a leisure activity, and especially one that defies other skill-based leisure activities / boardgames / card games like D&D does.

Maybe I'm an outlier, but I've seen as many or more instances of players acting from the "intrinsic reward" of play (complete with their hijinx, madcap ideas, taking actions that seem probably self-detrimental because it would be fun / in-character) as instances of players acting from the "reward of treasure/XP."

I guess my point is there's more chaos in the human system than you may be giving us credit for.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
And of course, like any other AD&D-ism, if you fail your climbing check, you can never climb that wall.
Now, I’ve never played AD&D myself, but I’ve read a bit of it, and some retroclones, and my understanding was that failing a climbing check meant you made it half way up and then fell. To my knowledge, nothing prevented you from trying again (apart from the fear of falling again and taking even more damage in the process). Is this perhaps one of those things that depended on who was DMing?
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
One of my biggest pet peeves with "modern" DnD design (4E and later) was the move away from spells as general utility. Yeah both editions do have utility spells, but nowhere near the emphasis as earlier editions.
4e had utility spells out the wazoo, they were just called rituals and cost money (in the form of ritual components) instead of spell slots.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
In all the tables I played at, this wasn't the case because combat was so dangerous. Not worth that extra 10xp if it killed you, especially since you were getting 100 or more XP from the treasure.


Thieves also leveled faster than any other class (being 1-2 levels above at any given time), and didn't have the harsh level limits for demi-humans. Cash in those old modules was not a problem. 1e modules were rife with treasure.

We went to keep kill everything. BUT we played more 2E than 1E. And our B/X DM houseruled out XP for gp took us a year to hit lvl 4 1.5 hours a week after school.

Playing again nowdays it takes us around 20 hours to hit level 3-5 with GP=XP. Similar speed to leveling to 3.5.
 
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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
IME, 1% is way too low to incentivize serious exploration. Sure, they'll still do a cursory inspection, but they're not going to spend significant table time if most of the time exploration results in nothing, traps, or a wandering monster.

To use the analogy of a lab rat, if a rat has to push a lever 100 times to get treats, and sometimes when the lever is pushed the other 99 times nothing happens, while other times the rat receives a shock, I doubt the rat will continue to push the lever. There's too much lack of positive reinforcement coupled with negative reinforcement. It would be challenging to have sufficient positive reinforcement to overcome that, IMO.

YMMV
You must not be familiar with the Skinner box. If the rat gets a treat every time it pushes a lever, it only pushes the lever once in a while, when it’s hungry. If the rat only sometimes gets a treat randomly when it pushes the lever and sometimes randomly gets nothing, it will push the lever as often as it possibly can, even enduring electric shocks for the opportunity to push it.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
You must not be familiar with the Skinner box. If the rat gets a treat every time it pushes a lever, it only pushes the lever once in a while, when it’s hungry. If the rat only sometimes gets a treat randomly when it pushes the lever and sometimes randomly gets nothing, it will push the lever as often as it possibly can, even enduring electric shocks for the opportunity to push it.
Yes, I have read about the Skinner box. Where do you think I got the idea? I admit I'm no expert (I work with computers, though my sister has done extensive lab work with rats), but if there was only a 1 in a 100 chance of food (with the rest being nothing or shocks) do you still think the rat would do so? Let's assume that the rat does still have other opportunities for acquiring food, and this isn't a starvation scenario. After all, there are normally other options for acquiring good stuff in D&D than exploration, such as killing monsters and taking their stuff. Because I doubt it would.
 

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