Great Khan Enthroned

Great Khan Enthroned

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Moldvay Basic Observations Part 2-

OK, yesterday I got us all the way through character creation and only wrote a little bit about the different classes and how they differed from the edition of D&D I was more familiar with. I was a little hard on the Thief maybe, because he does get to advance his abilities pretty quickly from worse than everyone else to pretty good and Thieves do have the fastest rate of advancement. I didn't go at all into how much better it was to be a Cleric or a Magic-User in B/X D&D than it is in AD&D and that was an oversight brought on mostly by the fact that I figured it would get covered when I did spells, but the spells alone aren't the reasons why B/X Clerics and Magic-Users are better off than the AD&D versions.

First, I have to backtrack us to Ability scores, and this really applies to every character class in Moldvay, but AD&D really favors Fighters and Fighter Sub-Classes when it comes to Ability score modifiers in regard to Strength and Constitution. In AD&D only Fighters, Paladins and Rangers get percentile Strength scores, so only they have the ability to really lay down the hurt. Likewise, only they have access to the +3 and +4 Constitution modifier for Hit Points, so only they can really stand up in a fight; at best a Cleric in AD&D is a second rate Fighter, limited to weapons that deal less damage, unable to be physically strong enough to do as much extra damage per hit as a Fighter and having both a smaller Hit Die type and less likely to have a Constitution bonus that gives them as many Hit Points, they are unable to stick with a fight as long as a Fighter. Granted, this assumes that the AD&D Fighter has a standard Fighter build, high Strength, Constitution and Dexterity; in AD&D it's pretty common to roll your Ability scores and place them as desired. My point here is that in Moldvay Basic a Cleric* has access to the same Strength and Constitution** bonuses as a Fighter does, he also has the same access to armor, and variable weapon damage is an optional rule***; so the Cleric can stand on the front line, with the same AC as the Fighter, dealing out the same damage as the Fighter and has, on average 1 HP less/level.

Second, and this is Cleric specific, they own the undead. They don't appear to have any restrictions on turning undead, with regards to multiple attempts or trying again after failed attempts; and they turn them generally easier than they do in AD&D at 1st-3rd level. For example, the Skeleton, the easiest undead to turn is turned on a 7 by a 1st level Moldvay D&D Cleric and on a 10 by a 1st level AD&D Cleric, automatically turned by a 2nd level Moldvay D&D Cleric which doesn't happen for an AD&D Cleric until he's 4th level. Additionally, an AD&D Cleric can not attempt to turn again after a failed turn attempt. That said, a 1st level AD&D Cleric at least has a shot at turning a Wight, that doesn't happen in Moldvay.

To end the Cleric specific portion of today's post I'd like to once again point out that the Moldvay Basic Cleric doesn't get a spell at 1st level and I thought that would be a problem, but it really wasn't, and I don't really see it becoming a problem. Cleric's level pretty quick anyway, so that first Clerical spell is right around the corner, but the Cleric should not be used as a healing potion with legs anyway. Honestly, he's never going to have enough healing magic to keep the party going forward, especially considering there are no bonus spells for high Wisdom in Moldvay Basic, so if he casts Cure Light Wounds it's probably because someone got unlucky in one combat. There are only eight first level Cleric spells listed in the Moldvay Basic book and they all have some utility.

Which brings us to spells in general and the biggest surprise I found in the Moldvay Basic rules, EGG really nerfed spell-casters, and Magic-Users in particular, in AD&D. I really considered giving spells a blog post or two of their own and just going through and comparing the spells from Holmes Basic to Moldvay Basic to AD&D, I decided against that, but it's pretty clear now how everyone from the old days considered Magic-Users to be the most seriously bad-ass class. Elves can come in second here, they get hosed by their super slow advancement**** and their low level limit. All of the spells in Moldvay Basic are better than in AD&D somehow, usually in duration. In AD&D spells got pretty much knocked back to a per encounter use, by which I mean nothing lasts until the next encounter; in Moldvay pretty much every spell has a good chance of lasting that long. Detect Magic lasts 20 minutes in Moldvay, it's 2 rounds (minutes)/level of the caster in AD&D, you can take a walk looking for magical stuff in Moldvay, in AD&D you better have all the stuff ready to check when you cast the spell. Mirror Image, 2nd level Magic-User spell, lasts for 6 turns, an hour, in Moldvay; in AD&D it lasts 2 rounds/level of the caster; and in Moldvay an image is always hit first, in AD&D there is a percent chance based on how many images are left. These are just two examples of the many.

So AD&D kind of toned down the Magic-User pretty hard, in Moldvay Basic they share a Hit Die type with the Thief, have awesome spells and can fight pretty well. They can't wear armor, so they probably ought to stay off the line, and they still have a pretty slow advancement, but they have access to the Strength and Constitution bonuses that everyone else has and on average, they are only going to have 2 HP less than the party Fighter at 1st level, the same as the party Thief, who is expected to go into combat with his crappy leather armor and no shield.

*or any PC for that matter, but I am using the Cleric in the example.

**and Constitution can't be modified, so you get what you get. The Fighter probably modified his Strength upwards if he could to get bonuses, so he is more likely to hit and do more damage than the Cleric in the example, but maybe he couldn't.

***although I recommend it's use, just to give the Fighter something to feel special about.

****it's a good thing the Expert Book came out so quick, by the time the Elf hit's 2nd level the Thief and the Cleric have needed to move on to it's expanded experience points chart.

Next D&D bargain week on EBay continues-

These pictures are of the beat up box and the contents sold with the set, it's the complete boxed set with some odd extras thrown in too. The first Dragonlance module and "Quest for the Heartstone", which has a picture of Strongheart the Paladin and Warduke, the D&D action figures, on the cover. I got this because I wanted a better copy of the Basic book.

This is the AD&D 2nd edition Mystara Monsterous Compendium Appendix, I didn't even know it existed until I saw it, but I figured it probably gave AD&D stats for all the monsters that appeared in D&D modules over the years, maybe even AD&D stats for all the monsters that appeared in B/X, BECMI or Cyclopedia D&D but never made it into AD&D.