Monday, December 5, 2011

Trying To Figure Out AD&D Character Creation

So I keep making posts about AD&D, and pretty much decided to run a game relatively soon. Of course, this means I have to re-read all the rules for about the millionth time; seems like every time I do, I notice more crap (just as a note, more to myself than anyone else, I'll explain my reasons for going with AD&D vs. something else in a followup post). By crap I mean exactly that: endless contradictory rules. There's literally no way to rectify half of the stuff contained within the PHB and DMG with itself and create any sort of meaningful game. If you tried to use every rule there wouldn't really be a game and instead an exercise in self-hate. I won't even address Initiative here...that's a topic best left for my doctoral dissertation.  Perhaps my wargaming background leads me to expect rules delineated with numerical headings, with countless references. That's probably false as Powers & Perils is one of the crappiest games I own and uses such a system. Still, it would be nice if you could just generate a fucking character without having to refer to pages contained in multiple books, referenced nowhere except in the section itself. Am I exaggerating? Here is how to create an AD&D character to the best of my understanding at this point. Oddly enough, having played the game for over 20 years I've never actually used this system because I sort of hand-waved it or used generators such as Dungeon Master's Assistant (which is STILL one of the best computer-based rpg utilities ever coded). My Labyrinth Lord character generator has a lot of AD&D stuff in it, now that I think about it, but it's obviously much less complex. I digress...

1) Generate ability scores using one of the methods described in the DMG
Why aren't these in the fucking PHB? Okay, okay, I get it: selecting one is entirely the province of the dungeonmaster. Quite honestly, I'm cool with that. This does mean the DM actually has to outline his campaign ahead of time instead of assuming some sort of baseline rules-set. Again, that's fine.

2) Pick character race and adjust ability scores
If you roll a 7 for INT, you cannot be an elf. If you decide to be a half-orc your 18 CHA will need to be lowered to 12. Actually, it would be a 16 due to the -2 penalty, then lowered to 12 as that is the racial maximum. Strangely, there are no bonuses listed for ability scores over 18, even though it is very possible to have a 19 through various means. Refer to Deities and Demigods!

3) Select character class
If you want to play a paladin but don't have a 17 CHA, tough shit. Fuck all that UA die rolling crap; if you're going to do that why not simply assign ability scores? It'd certainly be easier. Selecting multiple classes is easy enough if you flip to that section.

4) Determine age
Yes, you must roll the age of the character per the DMG. That's fine, but again, why the hell isn't this in the PHB?

5) Adjust ability scores for aging
This is oft overlooked, but pretty much the easiest way to get higher scores. It's not possible to roll up a middle aged magic-user or cleric, which kinda sucks.

6) Roll for secondary skills
Not necessarily required, but as it's on the same page in the DMG, might as well do it now.

7) Determine psionic ability
It's in there and therefore a valid rule. Right?

8) Alignment
This is either simple (druids for instance), or confusing (thieves). If you read the alignment requirements in the thief description a couple times, it makes sense, but why not simply list all the possibilities? Not Gygax!

9) Roll hit points
Easy enough, I guess.

10) Select languages
I'm not really sure if you're supposed to do this in-play for extra languages granted by INT or before play starts as the section is somewhat ambiguous. I suppose it would be more fun to do it during the game, but that can be somewhat annoying.

11) Roll for starting money and buy equipment
Easy enough.

12) Pick weapon proficiencies
Now wait a minute; shouldn't this be before buying equipment? Yes, it should, but it's right after the equipment list so whatever.

13) Ask DM for starting spells
Yeah, you don't get to pick these unless the DM rolls a 0. However, you do get to start with 4 spells, which is nice (3 for illusionists).

14) Determine if keen-eared
Hidden away on page 60 of the DMG...this comes after everything else because it is determined during play, specifically the first time the character attempts to hear a noise. Seriously, Gygax? You surely expect me to have a photographic memory, don't you?

Stuff specifically left out includes THAC0, turning undead and saving throws. While I don't necessarily agree that players shouldn't have access to this information (it certainly makes it much more a pain in the ass), there's something to be said for the DM keeping this stuff private to create an air of mystery. Or something. Personally, I do all this last anyway.

Overall not that bad, but still somewhat annoying. Combat, on the other hand...I'll post something about that later.


  1. I can't remember anyone in the eighties attempting to play role playing games "by the rules." Then again, we were just kids, so who knows what actually happened.

    A quibble: you're supposed to roll for your "chance to know" each first level spell, right...? (Not that I every really played that rule....) So it's neither the DM nor the player picking spells. (Though the player can choose what order to roll for each spell, I suppose-- which might matter if you hit your maximum spells known.)

  2. It's your chance to be able to know that spell ever, not the actual chance to have it in your book. There's more to it than that, but it's so relentlessly stupid I can't be bothered to describe it further.

  3. After reading the DMG, and how starting spells are determined, I can only come to the conclusion that the MU gets 4 spells to start and any spells found AFTER the character is created are subject to the Know roll. Otherwise, using the rule as specified in the PHB the player would be determining starting spells in a way.

    Then again, who really knows how it's supposed to work? That's a prime example of rules conflict I mentioned in the post. As a DM, I think giving starting spells is fine; as a player I'd probably be annoyed if I got Push, Jump and Write. That would really suck.

  4. That matches my interpretation of starting spells and the use of the Know Spell roll, as well.

    See? If it wasn't such a glorious mess, we wouldn't get to research, argue and discover what it all means! :)

  5. If that's how it works, then I'm rolling d30 four times to determine your magic-user's starting spells. No, you don't get to pick.

  6. Jeffro, look at the DMG pg. 39.

  7. Try determining Wu Jen spells in 1st edition OA, despite being a Magic-User sub-class they have an entirely different system for determining starting spells, by which I mean none. They do pretty much clarify how determining whether or not a Magic-User will ever be able to use any given spell pretty well by stating that you should essentially go through the entire spell list and see if he makes his percent chance to know at character creation, or whenever it's convenient really, so you'll know ahead of time whether or not a Wu Jen will ever be able to learn a given spell. It's subject to change only if the Magic-User's Intelligence score changes.

  8. *gasp*

    (Why is that in the DM's Guide...?!) Argh!

    Okay, that's fairly clear then. I only rarely got to see a DM's guide back in the day, so me [and probably a lot of other people] made characters without it.

    (I do enjoy the fact that the magic users under Moldvay Basic start with just one spell and do not automatically have Read Magic. Very amusing... for me!)

    I guess I'll have to wait and roll d30 until the players find a first level magic user scroll....

  9. Hmmm....

    I think most people ignored the spell books and chance to know stuff-- people just let pick whatever spells based on the levels for the most part.

    If they did play something more restrictive than that, then it was the chance to know percentages-- they'd make a pass through the entire spell list at first level... and then check all the second level spells when they get to 3rd level, etc.

    I think OA ratifies this in a quasi-official manner. Second edition AD&D does not seem to have a starting spell book at all-- implying that you check all the first level spells at the start. However, it explicitly says you can only get additional spells after starting by copying them from scrolls and so forth. (Just guessing here.)

    Second edition is surprisingly unclear for something that was intended to clean this sort of thing up...!

  10. Of course people ignored the chance to know spells...but doing so really fucks with smarter MUs having an advantage. AD&D places a lot of emphasis on high stats, completely unlike D&D which gives bonuses but ignores them for the most part.

    In all honesty, half the rules seem like added bullshit that no one, not even the designers, ever used.

  11. After mulling this over... I have to say that Gary's DMG is probably the best method I've heard for dealing with this. The random offensive + random defensive + random utility + read magic... with rolling chance-to-know for everything you dig up later... that just strikes a good balance. Too bad it got buried and ignored. (People skipped the chance-to-know stuff probably because rolling for each first level spell during char-gen was pretty ridiculous-- char gen should be fast in AD&D and Gary knew that.)

  12. Seems like you are judging the books as if they were planned instead of coming out a few years apart with each new one correcting and adding upon the previous works (and in some cases just adding Gary's whims to the mix). This created the mix-and-match attitudes that i think appeal to the many.

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