[Let's Read] The Rules Cyclopedia

rstites

Active member
Validated User
#21
Also, pronouns: 'centuries of use' have apparently made the masculine singular pronouns 'neutral' so they'll be using them but hoping they don't 'exclude' anyone. O... K. That's pretty standard for the time (publishing details say '1991'), I suppose.
It's funny that Moldvay managed to avoid that a decade earlier.
 

Spikey

Mean Mm-Mm Servant of God
Validated User
#22
Well, the singular 'they' is pretty solidly established but I suppose it's characteristic of early nineties RPG books that there was a lot of self-consciousness about inclusive language. Thinking back to other TSR publications (the Buck Rogers and the Battle for the Twenty-Fifth Century boardgame particularly), I can well imagine the TSR house style preferring something old-fashioned-sounding to something up-to-the-minute.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
#23
Well, the singular 'they' is pretty solidly established but I suppose it's characteristic of early nineties RPG books that there was a lot of self-consciousness about inclusive language. Thinking back to other TSR publications (the Buck Rogers and the Battle for the Twenty-Fifth Century boardgame particularly), I can well imagine the TSR house style preferring something old-fashioned-sounding to something up-to-the-minute.
"They" wasn't up to the minute, in early 1990s. The common solutions were "he/she" or "he or she" (which always sounded ungainly, and only covers two categories), switching gender at some arbitrary intervals (like some of White Wolf's books; the big criticism was that even intermittently using "she" was "incorrect"), neologisms like "zhe" or "hir" (which never gained even the slightest bit of traction), a gender-neutral "he" (of course, any word that can refer to both a general group and a specific part of the group will always sound like it's referring to the specific part), or just rephrasing sentences to avoid the issue (which wasn't always easy). None really worked well.

"They" currently seems to be winning, but it still hasn't cemented itself as completely euphonious and natural. And it's a poor solution anyway, because it's only used when referring to an abstract third party individual. When an individual's gender is known, we still have a language that insists on categorizing people into one of two genders, instead of assuming people are people first.
 
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#24
A cleric is a human 'who has dedicated his life to a great and worthy cause': the only example given is an alignment.
The whole issue of religion changed dramatically over the course of the course of the "Basic D&D" line.

In the early modules and the B/X sets (that's Moldvay Basic and Marsh/Cook Expert, not the later Mentzer sets) clerics simply worshipped gods.

Then, when the first Mentzer sets were released (the 'B' and 'E' parts of BECMI) all mention of gods and religion was dropped other than a disclaimer that characters will have various religious beliefs but is shouldn't crop up in a game. Suddenly clerics belonged to 'orders' instead of 'churches' and dedicated themselves to causes rather than having patron gods. The later Mentzer sets ('C', 'M' and 'I') mostly keep this up. They introduce immortals, and say they're sometimes mistaken for gods by people who don't know better, but other than the occasional slip where churches are mentioned with respect to clerics, there's still no real mention of religion.

The RC is right at the end of this period, and therefore follows the party line about clerics being in orders and following causes. However, the post-RC material (reprints of older modules, the gazeteer series, and the Wrath of the Immortals boxed set) changed things once more. Religions started to be included again, and this time they were actively headed by immortals who were basically gods in all but name. The assumption switched to clerics worshipping immortals, and the WotI set even gives bonuses for clerics of different immortals to distinguish them (a bit like the domain stuff in 3.x).

Elves are part-fighter, part-magic-user, not quite as good at either specialism as the specialists but with 'other special abilities and restrictions'.
Although the RC was allegedly a compilation of the BECMI rules (well, those in the B, E, C & M sets anyway), it does have a few differences. The biggest one is the inclusion of an optional skill system, of course. That wasn't in the BECMI sets. However, I think one of the minor differences - I don't have my books in front of me, so I'd have to check to be sure - was that the spell progression of elves is different in the RC to the BECMI sets. In BECMI elves have fewer spells than a magic-user of the same level, but in the RC they both get the same spell progression.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
#25
Just checked, and elves and magic-users have identical spell progressions in BX, BECMI, and the RC. For instance, in all six cases, the spell by level for a 10th level character is 3 3 3 3 2. There are some new spells in the RC (like analyze and the *forms), but I think that's about it for elves and magic-users. There is an alternate elf spell list in GAZ5: The Elves of Alfheim, however.
 

Spikey

Mean Mm-Mm Servant of God
Validated User
#26
This discussion of the differences between different editions is fascinating. Sadly, I have nothing to add to it, so on with the Rules Cyclopedia!

This is where it gets tricky: for rolling up a character, the book directs me to check my class details and look at the equipment list in Chapter 4. For reading the book, I want to carry on from where I am on p8. I suppose I'll have to do both.

Spoiler: Show
Looking ahead to the magic-user class write-up starting on p19, I see magic-users are not permitted shields or armour (is there an explanation for this? I mean, I suppose it must be a game balance thing so a tooled-up magic user doesn't out-fight a fighter, but is there an in-setting explanation?) and, for weapons, can have 'Dagger only.' Immediately, the book says a magic-user can also optionally wield a staff, blowgun, flaming oil, holy water, net, thrown rock, sling or whip at the DM's discretion. Since I'm sort-of the DM for the purposes of this post, I suppose that means it's up to me (although I'd welcome comments and opinions from those of you who are reading along: is the dagger-only magic-user better or is it better when the DM allows those other weapons? And, more importantly, why?).

Well, staff I can definitely see: it makes perfect sense for a wizard to have a staff and even Theoden's guards realised a six-foot stick can a pretty dangerous weapon. Blowgun? I'm not sure: it seems kooky for an early-renaissance-European-astrologer-type to fight with a weapon that, as far as I know, was basically unknown outside South America and (if you believe in ninja) East Asia but, then, I'm aware of some of the alleged links between 'witches' and poison, so maybe shooting poisoned darts at people isn't that much of a stretch? Maybe the blowgun itself could be a sort of hollow wizard's staff? Flaming oil, holy water and rock: I suppose the magic-user is just throwing stuff in these cases and the question is, 'Why the hell can't my guy throw a rock at the monster?' But the answer could easily be that he's an old man in heavy robes, I suppose. Not sure what to make of these. Net, sling and whip: I have no idea. I quite like the idea of a magic-user with a whip but I have no idea how these weapons were selected as optionally useable by this class. Maybe someone will post about how this happened or maybe I'm just missing something obvious.

Well, pending replies that make me redo this bit with dagger only, I think I'll assume this weird selection of weapons is available to my magic-user for some reason. On to Chapter 4's equipment list.

Hmmm (p62). I could just get a silver dagger (for stabbing werewolves?) and call it a day, since I only have 30gp to spend. Hmmm. Reading the whip description, I find that it's being categorised basically as a support weapon for auxilliary combatants: maybe that's the common feature of these strange optional magic-user weapons. The book also warns me that blowguns lead to a blowgun arms race so I may avoid that for now.

Right. a thirty-foot whip (that's the maximum length, apparently) would cost me 30gp and would count for 300cn (three hundred coin-weights, or about thirty pounds) of encumbrance. Encumbrance. I've heard about D&D encumbrance. Unfortunately, there's nothing in the contents page about it so (this being a .pdf) I do a word search for the term and find a section on p88 under the heading 'Movement Rates'. What was that about everything about rolling up a particular class of character being in one place in this book? So, according to the section on movement rates, characters' movement rate is determined by how encumbered they are (I like the idea that the coin is the unit of encumbrance, it's like having a modern game about breaking and entering where the unit of encumbrance is 'the laptop' or 'the flatscreen TV'). No mention of any effect on or from class, Strength score or anything other than total encumbrance and movement rate, meaning my feeble magic-user can carry a forty-pound pack with no more trouble than a muscular character who spends their time hitting things with a pick. Can that be right? Pending correction, I'll assume it is and mentally note that up to 400cn of encumbrance has no effect on my character (movement rate drops by 25% over 400cn but the next break point isn't until 800cn).

So I'm spending my inheritance on a thirty-foot bullwhip (unless someone posts persuading me the dagger only rule is better, I suppose). My character sheet now reads as follows (I think I'll start putting these 'character sheet' bits in italics for clarity).

Magic-User

Strength 4
Intelligence 9
Wisdom 11
Dexterity 6
Constitution 5
Charisma 13
Hit Points 4

whip (30', 1d2 or entangle)
Phew! Back to p8: the book tells me specifically that a magic user should spend their money on torches, oil and useful supplies. Um. Well, maybe later posts will make me revise my whip-heavy portfolio but for now I quite like the idea of a starving, feeble wizard grappling foes at a range of ten yards. In the dark. Hmmm. Thieves must buy thieves' tools - the book actually uses italics - but no other class has any required expenditure. I suppose it's fitting that thieves start out at a pecuniary disadvantage? It goes on to say you should ask other players for advice on what to buy (I suppose that helps the party not to rock up to a dungeon with six coils of climbing rope and no torches), so I really would like your input on this one (I've never been much of a one for equipment lists). The next column is headed 'Don't Forget Spells!' and tells me that magic-users start with one spell (clerics get a spell at Level 2 and it doesn't mention elves). Any idea which spell I should start with? It says the DM will tell me (maybe there are rules or advice further on in the book?). Magic-users also start with a spell book for writing spells down. The first one is free, apparently. But how heavy is it? My giant whip is seeming less and less practical the further I read. Never mind for now, though, I'll await practical advice from the forum on what I should have bought with my 30gp. Incidentally, the book says clerics don't need spell books. I guess they just pray for spells or something? Or perhaps summon demons to get them, if they are Moorcock-style clerics....

Next, other numbers and rolls. Apparently, these comprise Armour Armor Class (I may lapse back into the British spelling anyway), attack rolls and saving throws. It says that, 'unlike most numbers in the D&D game,' lower Armour Classes are better than higher. Are there any other quantified traits in this game where lower is better for the character who has the trait? Seems simple enough, anyhow: Golden Heroes did something similar, so 'Defence Class 1' was superhuman invulnerability. It gives a nice feel of approaching the summit, as it were, if the numbers count down. Not sure how it works in play, though: I suspect it will depend on how the Armour Class numbers relate to other numbers (like attack rolls?).

An attack roll (p9) is a roll of 1d20, plus adjustments from abiliy scores, magical weapons 'or other factors'. You can look up what number you need to hit an opponent with a given Armour Class, apparently: the tables are on p106. Flipping ahead (not really, of course, I'm typing '106' in the page number box in Adobe Acrobat Reader): there are a number of large tables. Crap. The book suggests writing the appropriate row (column?) from the tables on your character sheet. Good idea! Or you can use the 'THAC0' method: a character's 'THAC0' is their target number (on 1d20) 'To Hit Armour Class 0'. You subtract the number you actually roll (including modifiers) from your THAC0 and the result is the Armour Class you hit. That makes sense. To hit my magic-user, you only need to roll within ten of your THAC0, but to hit a character with average Dexterity and 'suit armour' (a suit of armour?), you need to roll your THAC0 itself or higher. Neat. (The book points out that you can also subtract the opponent's AC from your THAC0 to find the number you need to get at least equal to with your 1d20 roll.) Having glanced at the tables, I'm pretty sure I prefer THAC0.

A saving throw 'represents your character's attempt to avoid' something nasty like poison or spells. Fair enough. Next is 'note adjustments for ability scores': the table looks pretty straightforward, giving +3 for the 18 score that has a probability of 1/216 (less than half a percent), +2 for the 16-17 score with the probability 9/216 (just over 4%), +1 for the 13-15 score with the probability of, er, 46/216 if I counted right (over 21%), with symmetrical penalties for the low scores. The book details what, exactly, each Ability gives Bonuses or Penalties to, but they're the same things I noted in a previous post, just properly quantified now. Alignment (p10) is next but I think I'll leave it there for now, except notes on the character I'm rolling up behind the spoiler block below.

Spoiler: Show
Armour Type: none and no shield gives my magic-user Armour Class 9 but it says I have to look up my Dexterity on the 'Bonuses and Penalties for Ability Scores' table. Looking for the table, I find it on p9: that was easy. Dexterity 6 gives me a -1 Penalty, which puts my Armour Class up to 10.

Looking at the tables on p106, I think my THAC0 is 19 for a first level magic-user without adjusting for Strength. My Strength 4 gives me a -2 Penalty which applies to attack rolls with hand-to-hand weapons, damage rolls with hand-to-hand and thrown weapons and breaking down doors, so I suppose I could just note down a THAC0 of 21, since I don't know of any circumstances where my Strength Penalty wouldn't apply. I'll put 19 (21) for now, just in case.

The book directs me to Chapter 8 to look up my saving throws and I find the table on p109. For a first level magic-user these are:

  • Death Ray or Poison 13
  • Magic Wands 14
  • Paralysis or Turn to Stone 13
  • Dragon Breath 16
  • Rod, Staff or Spell 15
(These are numbers to equal or exceed on a 1d20 roll.) Hmmm. The book says the DM decides which saving throw applies in a given situation so I suppose that's all right. (I hope there are rules or there's some advice in the DM's section of the book.) Since my Wisdom 11 is between 8 and 13, there's no adjustment for ability score here.

Magic-User

Strength 4 (-2 to hit [hand-to-hand], damage [hand-to-hand and thrown] and open doors)
Intelligence 9
Wisdom 11
Dexterity 6 (-1 to hit [thrown and missile], +1 to Armour Class)
Constitution 5 (-2 to hit dice)
Crap!
Charisma 13 (reaction adjustment +1, 5 retainers maximum [morale 8])

Hit Points 2 (including -2 Constitution Penalty)
Armour Class 10
THAC0 19 (21 including Strength Penalty)
Saving Throws
  • Death Ray or Poison 13
  • Magic Wands 14
  • Paralysis or Turn to Stone 13
  • Dragon Breath 16
  • Rod, Staff or Spell 15
whip (30', 1d2 or entangle)


EDIT: Thinking further, of course, I need to note my raw THAC0 because my attack roll Penalties are different for hand-to-hand and ranged combat. In fact, I might be best off with some sort of sling, since it would receive my -1 Dexterity Penalty (instead of my -2 Strength Penalty) to hit and, as a missile weapon, no Penalty to damage. Unless a sling stone counts as a 'thrown' weapon, of course....
More next time!
 
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Machpants

ExF3Nav
Validated User
#27
I find it amusing to note that you prefer THAC0, I do too. But there is a lot of complaints out there that it is too tricky, mostly I guess when you have to take a way a negative AC such as AC-2. Which you obviously add to your THAC0 to get the number required to hit.

Also, which may apply to your character creation, the Basic Set DMs guidelines mentions:

"When a newly created character has all low scores, the player should discard it - unless you the DM, say that it should be kept.
You should allow beginning players to use characters they like! It’s hard to have fun playing when you are forced to use a poor character, with no score above 9 or two scores below 6. If the character is reasonable, then the player should keep the character.
If a player wants a certain Class of character but rolls another type, you may allow a switch. Just switch the scores of the Prime Requisite for the desired Class with the Prime Requisite for the rolled Class. For example, a fighter is rolled, with 17 Strength and 9 Intelligence, but the player wants to have a magic-user. Just put the 9 in Strength, and the 17 in Intelligence.
Switching more than once should not be allowed. And players are not allowed to decide; only a DM may switch Ability Scores. "

And in the RC

"When a newly created character has all low scores (all scores under 9), the player should be allowed to discard it. You should allow beginning players to use
characters they like! It's hard to have fun playing when you are forced to use a poor character, with no score above 9 or two scores below 6; such characters should be discarded.<snip> If a player wants a certain class of character but rolls abilities that strongly favor another class, you may allow him to switch the ability scores around. Just switch the highest score rolled for the character to the Prime Requisite ability appropriate to the class the player wants."

If I was DM I would let you re-roll that PC. :D

I prefer the 'roll 3d6 in order, reroll one score if desired, swap one pair if desired' method. It doesn't make uber characters and gives player's some choice/control. For games that assume higher scores (AD&D 1E and onwards) I replace 4d6 drop lowest instead of 3d6, this is the "Organic Method" from 3E.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
#28
No, there's not in-setting explanations for why magic-users can't wear armor or wield swords. The in-genre explanation is obvious -- you're supposed to be Merlin, not Arthur. And the in-game explanation is also clear -- heavy armor and good weapons are the defining characteristic of fighters, so stop trying to steal their stuff.

But do magic-users take oaths to foresake martial weapons and armor? Do large quantites of metal and boiled hide hinder spellcasting? Are magic-users just too inept and bookish to use them effectively? What happens if they try?

The book doesn't say. Which has been a recurring source of frustration for players who like everything spelled out and canonical -- but it can also be tremedously liberating. If the players don't care, the DM doesn't have to memorize another detail that will never get used. If it's important, the DM can come up with an answer and put their own stamp on the world. Which is one of the maxims of sandbox DMing -- don't create more than you need to. Because when you give the PCs a choice between north and south, they'll probably pick kumquat.

Basic D&D was originally very simple. In the Holmes and Moldvay Basic Sets (and OD&D before them), variable weapon damage was optional. Which meant, by default, daggers and polearms and swords all did the same damage (1d6).

Of course, almost everybody used the "optional" variable damage. Which is a general truism across the whole Basic line: If you run across an optional rule, assume it's "on". Most people played that way.

Encumbrance is another example of how they kept it simple, and the RC just inherited those rules. Though it surprises me a bit that they never got around to adding a variable encumbrance rule. (Which is a definite advantage in your case -- if your magic-user was playing AD&D, you'd probably tip over the first time you picked up a dagger.)

The whip, blowgun, net, and a bunch of other weapons like the blackjack showed up in the Companion Set, for no particular reason. They always felt like padding, and they all had exception-based rules to make them stand out from the classic weapons that just did boring 'ol damage. But then the Masters Set came along, and introduced weapon mastery. With weapon mastery, even magic-users get 9 slots (over 36 levels) that they can spend to improve their skill in a particular weapon -- but nobody can spend more than 5 slots on a single weapon. So once a magic-user put 5 slots in dagger and became a grandmaster, they didn't have place to put the next 4 slots.

To give magic-users somewhere to spend their slots, the Masters Set added an optional rule allowing them to learn the blowgun, net, whip, and staff. Which doesn't really make any sense. (Yes, even the staff. Sure, wizards use staffs. But they use staffs to blast things or gesture while casting spells. They don't turn into whirling dervishes or Little Johns, administering two-handed spinning drubbings. But hey, this is D&D. If two things are associated in any way, they're associated in every way.) Though from a game perspective, I think they just chose a few weapons that allow magic-users to pull a few neat tricks, without threatening the fighter's hack 'n slash supremacy. (But they are neat tricks -- the staff might be flat-out the best defensive weapon in the game.)

The whip is a quirky choice, but for a sample character it's a good learning experience because it involves some of those exception-based rules. But you probably want to spend some money on clothes, unless you're some kind of naked ascetic hermit whose only nod toward decency is a loincloth or just a really long and conveniently placed beard. For adventuring supplies, the essentials are probably: backpack, sack, waterskin, a week's rations, tinder box, and either torches or a lantern and oil. Normally, I'd recommend a missile weapon like burning oil for a magic-user, but your whip might work as a nuisance alternative.

There's a general index on page 302, which might be useful for finding things like the encumbrance rules.

If you're interested in this kind of thing: The stat bonus bands (13 = +1, 16 = +2, 18 = +3) roughly correspond to standard deviations. Which was Tom Moldvay's doing -- he did a lot of math behind the scenes, ensuring things like treasure worked as expected. The core of the system has a subtle rigor.
 
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Leonaru

Taxidermic Owlbear
Validated User
#29
I find it amusing to note that you prefer THAC0, I do too. But there is a lot of complaints out there that it is too tricky, mostly I guess when you have to take a way a negative AC such as AC-2. Which you obviously add to your THAC0 to get the number required to hit.
I don't think it's that hard:

1) Roll a d20 and add you attack roll bonuses/penalties.
2) Add the opponent's armour class as a bonus .
3) If the result is equal to or above your THAC0, you hit.
 

Sirharrok

Registered User
Validated User
#30
"They" wasn't up to the minute, in early 1990s.
By the early 1990s, English writers (with the exception of the staff of TSR, evidently) had been using 'they' as a singular gender neutral pronoun for 600 years.

You can find examples of it in Chaucer, Shakespeare and the King James Bible.

Cheers
Sir Harrok
 
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