So What’s Wrong With AD&D?

I’ve mentioned a few times now that I’m not particularly fond of AD&D. It’s a system that I feel doesn’t promote my preferred style of play (though from its success I assume it satisfies many – this goes back to the differing play-styles issue I’ve been sporadically discussing here). Anyway, here are a few of my main gripes about the system (just my opinion though).

If anyone has any house-rule suggestions for improving/overcoming any of these issues then I’d definitely be interested in hearing them.

1. Character Progression

The Problem: The experience system rewards you for killing and looting. The more killing and looting you do the more experience you get. Hey, I’m a noble Paladin, what’s my motivation for this scene? Aren’t we supposed to be the good guys?

A Solution?: Adopt a different experience system. In The War Without End we just levelled up all the characters after every few sessions.

2. Mechanics Dominate

The Problem: There’s not enough flexibility in the system for you to do things the way you want to. You might want to play a really cool Conan the Barbarian Fighter with Thief skills and no armour to speak of but let’s face it, if you don’t wear Full-Plate and use a Greatsword you’re not going to be sufficiently optimized to cut it in a fight. You can’t just go for the coolest classes or the most dramatically appropriate; if you want to survive you have to work those numbers. It’s all about THAC0 and the break-points.

A Solution?: Hmmmm… tricky. Not sure what to do about this one, it’s kind of fundamental. Use a different rule-set perhaps? At the very least you need to bolt on or amend some core mechanics to help out in this area.

3. Hit Points I

The Problem: So you start out with 80HP and you’ve been hacked and slashed until you’ve got 1HP left, but you’re just as effective??!! So are you badly injured or not? I’ve heard this explained as combat stamina and experience – the ability to avoid damage if you will (i.e. all those hits weren’t actually hurting you they were simply wearing you down) but then why can’t you just rest and get the majority of them back?

A Solution?: Actually some time ago Colin and I came up with some house-rules to help in this area that we never got around to using. Basically we said that of your total HP up to your constitution score was Wound points and the rest were stamina/skill-at-arms points representing your ability to shrug-off attacks or lessen the blow etc. The latter are regained at a rate of character level + CON bonus per hour, while Wound Points are regained at a rate of CON bonus per day (min. one) if a character does nothing but bed rest. In addition a character’s current max HP equals their full HP x current Wound Points over full Wound Points (i.e. a character with 100HP and 10WP who is down to 1WP can only have 10HP) and there were some penalties for losses to Wound Points (e.g. <=33% gives -2 to all rolls or something – I can’t quite remember). Like I say we never actually tried this.

4. Hit Points II

The Problem: OK, you sneak up on a 10th level fighter while he’s asleep in bed and stab him through the eye into his brain with your dagger. You roll a critical and maximum damage! So that’s 4 damage with a x2 multiplier, equals 8 damage (I may have the numbers wrong but you get my drift). What’s this? He’s not dead? But the dagger is in his brain! OK perhaps you just grazed him!!!?

A Solution?: DM fiat? (i.e. the DM overrides the rules in circumstances where they can’t be rationalized)

… and these are just the few off the top of my head.

Ultimately this adds up to more game-play and less story-game.


2 thoughts on “So What’s Wrong With AD&D?

  1. Xcalaber

    There is a rule in the core books for that last HP problem. Its called a cu de gra. You do double damage to a helpless creature. And they need to make a fort save for the damage you did or die instantly.

  2. Tumac Post author

    Thanks for commenting Xcalaber. I appreciate it. Even with the coup de grace rule there’d be a pretty good chance of the fighter surviving though wouldn’t there? I mean at double damage with a dagger, the fort save would probably be at worst about 50-50. Or am I missing something? As you’ve probably gathered, though I’ve played a fair bit of AD&D, I’m not a rules aficionado.


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