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[Let's Read] The AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide (1e)

Terhali

30-50 feral hogs
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The quick character creation section saw some use at our table. The DM got a shiny new toymodule they want to play with NOW, but nobody's PC is the right level. Or someone shows up to play, nobody has a spare PC to loan them. Or everyone's just feeling gonzo and wants to have an overpowered romp, makes a nice change of pace. They worked well.
 

Sirharrok

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Yes, like T Terhali we used the appendix to generate characters to play through high level modules.

We ended up with some memorable PCs that way, often with unusual magic items that were a challenge to use (in a good way)
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
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Hector’s PC: Expin D’Able, Level 5 TN Human Fighter S12 I8 W7 D12 C11 Ch10; Chain +1*, Longsword +1; Potion of Growth; and because the DM feels sorry for the meh rolls lets him roll on the optional Misc item table for Feather Fall ring.

*I was having horrible luck with the rolls, as you can see, and you get to pick which type of magic armor you roll for. I decided to go for chain rather than something stronger like Plate to increase the odds.

Ida’s PC: Phyxa, Level 6 NG Human Cleric, S14 I11 W14 D8 C9 Ch10; Ring of Protection +1, Scroll of 3 spells - Sticks to Snakes, Tongues and Bless; Mace +1.
I like rolling, so I created three characters using the same level range, as well (1d4+4). Just to make things interesting, I did give them all a free roll on the miscellaneous item table. Though Dimglow rolled a pointy thing clerics can't use, so no go. Kept the character concepts minimalistic.

Juradonut
  • LG human paladin 6
  • MV 6, AC 1, hp 30, #AT 1, D 1d6+1
  • S 12, I 9, W 13, D 7, C 11, Ch 17
  • spear +1, shield, plate mail +1, light crossbow, case with 20 quarrels, brooch of shielding
  • Paunchy and gregarious, has a tendency to wander around new places and just chat and see what’s what.
Rolled a 17, so my first reflex was to see if the stats qualified for a paladin. They did, just barely.

Wanderlinda
  • CG human ranger 7
  • MV 9, AC 4, hp 79, #AT 1, D 1d8+1
  • S 13, I 13, W 14, D 13, C 18, Ch 13
  • battle axe +1, chain +1, longbow, quiver with 20 arrows, scroll of protection from lycanthropes, rope of climbing
  • Rail thin, but hard as nails with a chiseled, weather-beaten face. Basically a wilderness rat, can sleep anywhere. Doesn’t have a lot of patience for rules.
Exceptionally good rolls across the board, enough to qualify for a ranger. The 18 had to be in either Wisdom or Constitution, which was a no brainer (8 HD) and resulted in more hit points than 1 Juradonut and 2 Dimglows put together. Good magic items, too.

Dimglow
  • NG half-elf cleric 5
  • AC 2, MV 6, hp 24, #AT 1, D 1d6+1
  • S 11, I 7, W 17, D 11, C 8, Ch 11
  • footman’s flail, shield, plate mail, scroll of remove fear, potion of gaseous form
  • Spells
    • 3rd: glyph of warding, prayer
    • 2nd: augury, hold person (x2), speak with animals (x2)
    • 1st: command, cure light wounds (x2), light (x2)
  • Abandoned child raised by the temple. Not the brightest or fittest acolyte, but very dedicated and prompt about smashing things over the head.
Rolled a 17, so decided to go with a cleric for the bonus spells. Half-elf, so will never advance in level again. Spells are fairly utilitarian. Worst magic item rolls of the set.
 

Felix

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RPGnet Member
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Rolled a 17, so decided to go with a cleric for the bonus spells. Half-elf, so will never advance in level again. Spells are fairly utilitarian. Worst magic item rolls of the set.
So how much did demi-human level limits become an issue in the average campaign. I first encountered them in BECMI, where they seemed made for a game that capped at Expert, 14th level. The 9th level Basic elf doesn't get a few spell levels, but gets more HP and fighter-level combat ability in exchange. The 12th level Basic dwarf falls a bit behind the fighter, but has infravision and a few other tricks. It seems broadly balanced.

In AD&D, I think they're largely for multi-classing purposes. A cleric capped at 4th level is pretty weak, but a Half-Orc Assassin/Cleric has a few neat tricks up their sleeve. But some of them really just cap out at low levels for most things. Unless they are built with only 17s and 18s, a gnome fighter-illussionist caps out at 6/6. Do they stay useful? And are you required to give them a share of treasure when they can no longer advance?
 

KoboldLord

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I think it's generally agreed that if your campaign actually gets to name level the level limits will be tremendously restrictive. This doesn't come up simply because it takes a very long time to reach those levels. I would expect most players to want to retire the non-human at that point, assuming they don't just die because they are made of glass. Treasure shares are socially determined, so the non-human's player could forgo their share of the treasure to avoid being a net drain on the group, but it would be tricky to justify that decision in-character.

Sorting through the pregens provided for the tournament version of G1-G3 back in the day, here's what some characters look like as they go into the Steading of the Hill Giant Chief for the first time:

Gleep Wurp, human magic-user 12, 55hp
Cloyer Bulse, human thief 13, 54hp
Roaky Swerked, human cleric 12, 70hp
Frush O'Suggill, human fighter 14, 104hp
Fonkin Hoddypeak, high elf fighter/magic-user 5/8, 29hp

I don't think that last one is going to have a good time.
 

WistfulD

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So how much did demi-human level limits become an issue in the average campaign. I first encountered them in BECMI, where they seemed made for a game that capped at Expert, 14th level. The 9th level Basic elf doesn't get a few spell levels, but gets more HP and fighter-level combat ability in exchange. The 12th level Basic dwarf falls a bit behind the fighter, but has infravision and a few other tricks. It seems broadly balanced.
I agree that, for B/X and BE part of BECMI, Dwarves and Elves as 'you cap out 2-4 levels early, but get XYZ in exchange' works fine if you accept the central conceit of TSR-D&D balance (more powerful at some points in the gaming career, but weaker in others). Halflings being most constrained was never logical, AFAIC.

In AD&D, I think they're largely for multi-classing purposes. A cleric capped at 4th level is pretty weak, but a Half-Orc Assassin/Cleric has a few neat tricks up their sleeve. But some of them really just cap out at low levels for most things. Unless they are built with only 17s and 18s, a gnome fighter-illussionist caps out at 6/6. Do they stay useful? And are you required to give them a share of treasure when they can no longer advance?
I've found that... if your are actively adventuring with your characters (be it pre-name level, or post-name level inter-planar adventuring, rather than running a keep and kingdom), then you really can't keep adventuring with a level-limited character. You trade off the lower-level advantages (racial and multiclassing) for the fact that you are going to have to start again* with a level 1 human character and get them caught up so you can keep adventuring. If you do this during the phase when each new level is twice as much as the last, you'll only end up a level behind everyone else (provided your character survives), but it's still a pretty onerous hassle.
*you don't have to wait until you've hit your level cap to start this new character, but the effect is the same regardless.

As to, "And are you required to give them a share of treasure when they can no longer advance?" -- what is this term, "required?" :D
 

Terhali

30-50 feral hogs
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So how much did demi-human level limits become an issue in the average campaign.
In my experience, the average campaign (to the degree that there was such a thing) never lasted long enough for demihuman level limits to actually matter. Some players gravitated towards human PCs in the expectation or hope that they might get to play up to high levels, while others either didn't care or figured things would never get that far.

Campaigns that DID make it that far fell into two types. The first type (literally, as it's how matters were handled at the original tables) didn't have a monolithic party. Whoever showed up played, and you didn't always run the same PCs, or you chose not to play that night if your character(s) couldn't fit the adventure. If you have a demihuman who reached their level cap, you might still bring them out for appropriate adventures just for fun, or in hopes of finding gear or magic to increase their power. It didn't matter that the human PCs who had been created at the same time had moved on--you went dungeon-crawling with some other humans.

If you played in a campaign with a set party, it mattered a lot. Multiclassing meant you lagged behind, while level caps made you squishier over time even if you were single-classed.
 

Ryric

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I think it's generally agreed that if your campaign actually gets to name level the level limits will be tremendously restrictive. This doesn't come up simply because it takes a very long time to reach those levels. I would expect most players to want to retire the non-human at that point, assuming they don't just die because they are made of glass. Treasure shares are socially determined, so the non-human's player could forgo their share of the treasure to avoid being a net drain on the group, but it would be tricky to justify that decision in-character.

Sorting through the pregens provided for the tournament version of G1-G3 back in the day, here's what some characters look like as they go into the Steading of the Hill Giant Chief for the first time:

Gleep Wurp, human magic-user 12, 55hp
Cloyer Bulse, human thief 13, 54hp
Roaky Swerked, human cleric 12, 70hp
Frush O'Suggill, human fighter 14, 104hp
Fonkin Hoddypeak, high elf fighter/magic-user 5/8, 29hp

I don't think that last one is going to have a good time.
That 12th level human magic-user has a good hp total - even assuming a 16-18 Con, that's a roll of 32 on 11d4 which is nearly an average of 3 per roll. In fact, all those humans are blessed with above-average rolls and likely substantial Con bonuses. Fonkin is also slightly above average, but clearly has no Con adjustment. I think he also got screwed in the level department, as even dividing by 2, if he had as much xp as the other PCs he would be at least a magic-user 9, if not 10 or 11 if his Int was good enough. So he's lower level and not just from level limits, but actually has measureably less xp: Gleep mins at 750,001, Cloyer at 660,001, Roaky at 900,001, Frush at a whopping 1.5 million - and poor Fonkin has at most 270,000 total. Now, 1e never intended to have "balanced" parties but here it really shows.

In the old Dragonlance modules Laurana becomes a PC in adventure DL6 as a 5th level elf fighter - in adventure DL14, she's a 5th level elf fighter. She literally can't advance in levels for nearly the entire module series. (She first shows up in DL2 as a 4th level fighter NPC). For comparison, everyone else gains about 3-4 levels during that span.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
So how much did demi-human level limits become an issue in the average campaign. I first encountered them in BECMI, where they seemed made for a game that capped at Expert, 14th level. The 9th level Basic elf doesn't get a few spell levels, but gets more HP and fighter-level combat ability in exchange. The 12th level Basic dwarf falls a bit behind the fighter, but has infravision and a few other tricks. It seems broadly balanced.
The cleric level limits in AD&D are particularly restrictive (half-elf 5, half-orc 4), and nobody I knew would ever play a demihuman single classed cleric for that reason. Well, at least until UA came out and they allowed PC clerics of other races. But you're correct, it did work for multiclassing -- generally someone took a class that could advance at least to name level (thief, or elven magic-users), and combined it with classes with lower limits. That way they can keep improving, while still hitting a cap.

And you're correct that the dwarf and elf are perfectly fine in a Basic game that caps at Expert. Just look at the XP -- a thief caps at 760K (14th level), which is less than the expected XP for a dwarf 13 or an elf 11 (if we continue the existing trends, the two demihumans would gain their next level at 790K and 800K, respectively). So the cap isn't really a cap, though you could make an argument that 14th level across the board for the human classes should be replaced with an XP cap (because a magic-user with the same XP total has just reached 12th level). This is particularly true in B/X, where both the dwarf and elf get some capstone benefits, like an extra hp or two (dwarves get +3 hp/level after 9th, compared to the fighter's +2) and really exceptional saves (this isn't true in BECMI, which limited those perks in an attempt to normalize the progressions).

But you've forgotten about the Basic halfling. Level 8 isn't as bad as halfling fighters in OD&D or AD&D, but stopping at 120K still hurts, and there's no reason for it. They're not an extra class or a combined class, like dwarves (fighters plus) or elves (fighter/magic-users). They're just roughly equivalent to fighters, so there's no reason other than world-building to not let them advance to 14th.
 
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