# What Aspects of Older Games Have Aged Well? (+)

#### Bacon Bits

##### Legend
Those were good days. Back when D&D was about players, and not endless lists and silly traits and abilities. THACO wasn't a bad idea, but it wouldn't carry forward ;it assumed a gamer base that was accustomed to doing math in their head*. Styles have changed.

I played brown box and 1e a lot longer than I played 5e.

*= 'You won't always have a calculator!' Little did anyone know....

It's not really about "doing math in your head" being something older gamers can do and newer gamers can't. If anything, the older gamers still using the system are merely those who happened to be good at this particular calculation not math in general. The fact is, the math is more difficult than it needs to be, and that inherently slows the game down because you're doing it very often. Between the PCs and DM, it's not unusual for a table to make 20 attack rolls over the course of a single combat round. So it might be just a little bad, but when it has that much of an impact on the game being a little bad is a big problem.

Here's the real problem:

I give you three numbers. One is your attack roll, one is your THAC0, and one is a situational modifier. Given in no particular order: 5, 8, 3. What AC did you hit?

Now do the same thing for 3e attack rolls. One is your attack roll, one is your attack bonus, and one is a situational modifer. Again, in no particular order: 5, 8, 3. What AC did you hit?

With the descending AC system, you can't answer the question. You don't have enough information. The mechanic is immediately more complex than "just doing math" because you have to know not just what the formula is, you have to know what each value is and plug them in correctly. It gets even worse because if you do the math wrong, you often can't tell. A wrong answer will sound correct because it'll be in the correct range of possible answers. In truth, with the descending AC system, you're not just doing addition and subtraction. You're doing algebra. You're doing algebra a dozen times every few minutes with both random and varying numbers. It's a horrifically poor system that was originally partially designed to obfuscate outcomes (the attack tables were DMG information). After that changed due being totally obnoxious it only serves to encourage errors. It is not a defensible design under any amount of scrutiny.

#### James Gasik

##### We don't talk about Pun-Pun
I remember when trying to explain Thac0 to someone I knew, they looked at me funny when I explained you roll high to hit a lower number. She was like "ok so if I want to hit AC 2, I want to roll a 2?"

"No, if your Thac0 is 18, you want to roll a 16. Although you have a +1 bonus for Strength, so you actually want to roll a 15."

"James, that doesn't make any darned sense!"

I think I eventually got her to grok it, but she was so confused!

#### Hex08

##### Hero
It's not really about "doing math in your head" being something older gamers can do and newer gamers can't. If anything, the older gamers still using the system are merely those who happened to be good at this particular calculation not math in general. The fact is, the math is more difficult than it needs to be, and that inherently slows the game down because you're doing it very often. Between the PCs and DM, it's not unusual for a table to make 20 attack rolls over the course of a single combat round. So it might be just a little bad, but when it has that much of an impact on the game being a little bad is a big problem.

Here's the real problem:

I give you three numbers. One is your attack roll, one is your THAC0, and one is a situational modifier. Given in no particular order: 5, 8, 3. What AC did you hit?

Now do the same thing for 3e attack rolls. One is your attack roll, one is your attack bonus, and one is a situational modifer. Again, in no particular order: 5, 8, 3. What AC did you hit?
I don't think you are wrong about the math being meaningless without consulting the THAC0 chart and the 3e math being easier but, to be fair, while it's easier it isn't necessarily quicker. During the 2e era a character didn't have a whole lot of modifiers so you made your roll, maybe added in a few modifiers and looked at the THAC0 chart to see if you hit. In 3e, especially as you went higher in level, you made your roll and added your BAB then the modifiers from your feats, figured out what special class/racial features might apply, added in the bonuses/penalties from buffs/debuffs, and on and on.....

#### billd91

##### Not your screen monkey (he/him) 🇺🇦🇵🇸🏳️‍⚧️
I remember when trying to explain Thac0 to someone I knew, they looked at me funny when I explained you roll high to hit a lower number. She was like "ok so if I want to hit AC 2, I want to roll a 2?"

"No, if your Thac0 is 18, you want to roll a 16. Although you have a +1 bonus for Strength, so you actually want to roll a 15."

"James, that doesn't make any darned sense!"

I think I eventually got her to grok it, but she was so confused!
This is one of those areas where knowing a bit about the design's history really helps. The AC values descend because the adaptation Dave Arneson made to Chainmail (which involved ascending values, interestingly enough) involved ideas from a naval warfare game - and there, apparently, the armor values were more along the lines of 1st rate, 2nd rate, etc - the better having the lower number.

#### James Gasik

##### We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Um...I beg to differ about modifiers. For example:

Joe the Fighter has exceptional Strength.
Weapon Specialization.
A magic longsword.
Is under the effects of a Bless spell.
Is under the effects of a Prayer spell.
Owns a luckstone.

#### Grendel_Khan

##### Hero
Unfortunately for White Wolf, in most of their games it was trivial to start with a lot of Willpower. And people who really grokked the game immediately gravitated towards doing just that.

I have had Storyteller gripe about how high Willpower prevents characters from being Dominated and similar powers, and how being able to add automatic successes on rolls was too good. And that he failed to see why it was so cheap at creation, but expensive to purchase with xp.

"Well you can always change it, but if you think about what you just said from a player's perspective, you'll understand why they do it."

It's true that a high Willpower quickly became the default for PCs, at the time the notion of a metacurrency you could use to reliably nudge your rolls was pretty revolutionary. And WW's version was ultimately more influential, I think, than similar early mechanics, like Shadowrun's karma pool.

#### James Gasik

##### We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Or how Karma worked in Earthdawn...or heck, how Karma worked in Marvel Superheroes. People really liked Karma back in the day!

#### Hex08

##### Hero
Um...I beg to differ about modifiers. For example:

Joe the Fighter has exceptional Strength.
Weapon Specialization.
A magic longsword.
Is under the effects of a Bless spell.
Is under the effects of a Prayer spell.
Owns a luckstone.
I think you might be replying to my post, if not I apologize. If so, you are right that Joe the fighter could have all of those modifiers in 2e. In 3e he could have all of those plus a whole string of feats and class features to account for.

#### James Gasik

##### We don't talk about Pun-Pun
I should have quoted you, Hex08. While it's true 3e could have more modifiers, it wasn't too often (in my experience) that you'd get more than a morale bonus (flanking is common, but AD&D already had rules for flanking baked into your defense). Insight was rare outside of a spell, ditto for competence, and the only common untyped bonus was from Haste. It's been awhile, I could be missing something.

#### Bacon Bits

##### Legend
I don't think you are wrong about the math being meaningless without consulting the THAC0 chart and the 3e math being easier but, to be fair, while it's easier it isn't necessarily quicker. During the 2e era a character didn't have a whole lot of modifiers so you made your roll, maybe added in a few modifiers and looked at the THAC0 chart to see if you hit. In 3e, especially as you went higher in level, you made your roll and added your BAB then the modifiers from your feats, figured out what special class/racial features might apply, added in the bonuses/penalties from buffs/debuffs, and on and on.....

I'll agree that 3e definitely had a bonus-hunting problem, and it was one that only got worse as time progressed... but that really mostly applied to skill checks. AD&D is the one that I remember having terrible situational modifiers in combat. Worse, some of them were +/-1 (shield facing, elevation, flanking, prayer/bless), some were +/-2 (charging, medium range), and others were +/-4 (called shot, blind, non-proficient, long range (or was that -5?)). If anything, 3e reduced a lot of the circumstantial modifier nonsense. Then there was always the risk of doing the math wrong of THAC0 - (die roll + bonus) as THAC0 - (die roll - bonus) or THAC0 - die roll + bonus.

I agree that the biggest problem with 3e attack rolls was almost entirely due to the way iterative attacks worked. Add to that the way two weapon fighting worked and it got bad. I remember playing a Whirling Frenzy Barbarian that used two weapon fighting and a versatile weapon and having just a ton of attack modes at level 12 or 13. Either just +25 (single attack) or +25/+20/+15 (two handed full) or +25/+25/+20/+15 (two handed frenzy) or +23/+23/+17/+17/+13 (TWF) or +23/+23/+23/+17/+17/+13 (TWF frenzy). I literally got to the point that I always used power attack to make my highest attack bonus always the same (+23). That was extremely obnoxious, but it didn't really show up until pretty high level.

Also, it was totally gone in 4e and 5e. I'm not a fan of 5e's underwhelming TWF rules, but they certainly fixed the above lunacy as well as eliminating the punitive way multiple attacks work. Further, 4e condensed nearly all situational combat modifers into "combat advantage", and 5e took it a step further and replaced most situational and temporary modifiers with either non-stacking advantage/disadvantage or bonus dice (bless/bane). When was the last time you went bonus-hunting in 5e, or forgot about a bonus or penalty?

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