Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Red Headed Step-Children of AD&D - Classes

The original Player's Handbook had a handful of classes that did not fit in well with the default setting assumed by the rules.

Assassin - evil by nature, it really didn't work with parties that generally had at least one Paladin or Ranger. Every campaign I played in had at least one Paladin or Ranger in the party.

Bard - start as a Fighter, then dual class to Thief and finally dual class again to Bard, this broke just about every rule in the book. Over powered by some standards, it's probably the worst version of the Bard in the game. Then again, the Bard class from issue 56 of the Dragon was single classed and overpowered.

Monk - very weak to start, powerful at higher levels, the Eastern Style monk didn't really fit into the setting (I know they tried to fit it into the Scarlet Brotherhood but it still didn't feel right to me).

Illusionist - an underpowered Magic-User. It could work in a campaign that was heavy on role play, but since expo relied upon combat, an Illusionist made for a poor substitute.

Druid - many of a Druid's abilities and spells relied upon being outside. The default setting of the Dungeon negated much of his usefulness.

As a side note, except for the obvious LotR reference, why does the Ranger have access to Magic-User spells and ESP devices?


  1. "Why does the Ranger have access to Magic-User spells and ESP devices?"

    I'm not entirely certain. Perhaps because Paladins got access to divine magic and they wanted a warrior with access to arcane magic?

    I know in my campaign I replaced the Magic-User spells with Druid spells and it worked rather well. I ended up carrying this on to D&D 3e (paladins got clerical casting, including domains, at half rate, rangers got druid casting at half rate) and it made things much better too.

  2. I never really felt Illusionists were underpowered. Phantasmal Force is more effective than any 1st level MU spell save Sleep for example.

  3. "Why does the Ranger have access to Magic-User spells and ESP devices?"

    Lord of the Rings and Aragon

    Aragon was a Dunedain of the race of Numenor. They are noted for abilities beyond that of ordinary men including the ability to cast magic. Although in Tolkein the magic was low key not magic missiles or fireball a'bursting. The ESP device is inspired by Aragon's mastery of the Palantir.

  4. The mid-level Druid is the most broken class in AD&D inside or outside. With a small easily gain selection of magic item they are a powerhouse class. I used the druid to win several AD&D PvP tournaments back in the day. They have a useful selection of spell even indoors and their shapeshift ability doubles as extra healing, in addition to the creative use you can shapeshift into.

  5. @Rob - yeah, I think I used a Rock to Mud spell to ruin a convention tournament back in my college days.

    I totally forgot about the shape change healing.

  6. 1E Druids also have a quirky XP chart, which advances very quickly until level 7ish as I recall. They also get higher level spells earlier than M-U or Cleric.

    I think if the dungeon has plant-type areas Druids can be pretty useful. Identification of plants can cover fungus and mold too, which is nice when you're trying to decide whether that yellow mold is actually Yellow Mold.

    Also did anyone else feel irritated about the fight-for-advancement classes (Assassin, Monk, Druid)? Losing all that XP kind of sucks.

  7. Druids are definitely not useless underground, if played imaginatively. And if combined with 16HD of pets or so, pretty nasty.

    I remember devastating an ambush once with my druid and his pets, nothing but mopup for the rest of the party. I eventually (voluntarily) retired him for the sake of game balance.

  8. Illusionists are devastating as NPCs, because almost any DM can destroy a party with illusions.

    Illusionists can be underpowered as PCs, because many DMs don't have the necessary fairness and impartiality to let their monsters lose to illusions.


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