Mongol Home

Mongol Home

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Character Generation II

In my brief history of D&D character generation and stat importance yesterday, I left out a rule that has existed since OD&D, through every edition of Basic from Holmes to Cyclopedia with minor variations, but got skipped in AD&D; the ability to alter a Prime Requisite Ability score by lowering another stat or stats. Given the importance of exceptional ability scores in AD&D I find this to be a curious rule to drop; I mean in the first paragraph on page 9 of the 1st edition AD&D Players Handbook it says that "The premise of the game is that each player character is above average -- at least in some respects-- and has superior potential. Furthermore, it is usually essential to the character's survival to be exceptional (with a rating of 15 or above) in no fewer than two ability characteristics."; and yet, the ability to alter your randomly generated ability scores is absent from AD&D, forcing you to rely on luck alone (or cheating) to create a character with at least two 15+ ability scores.

In OD&D, where your ability scores aren't nearly as important, you can raise your Strength if you are a Fighting Man, your Wisdom if you are a Cleric or your Intelligence if you are a Magic-User*, at the cost of two for one or three for one, depending on your class and the stat you are decreasing, for instance Fighting Men trade Intelligence at minus two for plus one point of Strength, but Wisdom at minus three to plus one point of Strength. You are never allowed to drop Intelligence or Wisdom to below average, or nine (9), so if you rolled poorly I guess you don't get to trade. It works similarly for both Clerics and Magic-Users.

In all versions of Basic, you can't touch Charisma or Constitution, and the addition of the Thief class means that Dexterity can be raised but not lowered. They all have slightly different versions of the rule; Holmes and Moldvay go through on a class by class basis and tell you what Ability Score can be lowered to raise your Prime Requisite, and what it will cost. I don't have Mentzer, but I assume it's the same as Cyclopedia, where you can pretty much drop points at a 2:1 ratio as long as you don't drop below 9, raise above 18, and you don't touch Constitution, Dexterity or Charisma for lowering purposes.

*Did EGG have a real issue with using the words Wizard or Sorcerer? Magic-User is such a ponderous name for the class I am surprised that it caught on, and yet, three decades after I started using the term I still use it.


  1. I think part of the reason EGG used "magic-user" instead of wizard is he was fond of Gygaxian terms, just writing things with as much purple prose as possible. Look at some of his other terms and tell me you don't see it?

  2. The Cyclopedia sounds pretty close the Mentzer. If you have a relaxed DM I always remember being allowed to assign values to Attributes after the rolls have been made, because, we often chose class first (you've probably mentioned this in the previous post).

    However, by random co-incidence last night, recovering from flu I decided to roll a Basic D&D character up and was strict with myself about the order the die rolls came out. I failed to meet any demi-human requirements but created a charming but not wise Magic User. Even then I wasn't tempted to use the point trade system, which can seem quite surreal. It's good that the rules there though, for a player who perhaps needs one attribute to be boosted. Also maybe these exchanges can create back-stories - like a period of training where one skill is focussed on and another is sacrificed?

    It's really strange, going back to Basic and seeing that it's perfectly acceptable to have a "6" for an attribute. The advice is to reject PCs only if all of the stats all below 9, I think - but some low stats seem to be encouraged for game balance and class identity reasons (if that makes sense).

    I did however, reroll the hp. Even Magic Users should start with more than one HP! ;)

  3. Yep. That's how it works in Mentzer. I'm working my way through the book right now!

  4. I knew I had read about Mentzer somewhere recently and I could not find it for the reference. I may be reading too many blogs. Thank you Professor Pope, I have been enjoying this series of reflections on Mentzer, even if I couldn't find it when I wanted to.