Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Myth of THAC0 - Complications of Removal

If you accept the idea that an improving THAC0 is not needed by most classes depending on the type of campaign run (especially low magic / low fantasy type settings), there is still an unforeseen complication - Strength becomes a prime stat for the middle combatant classes (clerics / rogues and the like).  (The Myth of THAC0)

If THAC0 will never increase for these classes (or has a slowed increase as in Castles & Crusades), a Strength Bonus is more important than it would be if these classes had their normal progression.  A +2 bonus to hit from Strength may be the only bonus a cleric or specialist (let alone any of the demi-human classes) will ever see to their ability to hit opponents in combat in LotFP's Weird Fantasy (by default a very low magic setting).  Actually, in WF, clerics really get no class related bonuses for a high wisdom (except crafting at higher levels), so one would be best served by putting their best score in Strength to become a viable 2nd line combatant.

Interestingly, neither Castles & Crusades nor Weird Fantasy slows down the combat progression of the fighter class.  You still have a class capable of mowing down mooks, as well as improving in their ability to hit level appropriate enemies in Weird Fantasy.  Castles & Crusades is different, as non fighter classes do increase in THAC0 (although slower then in classic D&D systems) and magic items (weapons and armor) are assumed in the system.

My feeling is that THAC0 means much less in Weird Fantasy then any off the other OSR style games, and is therefore less of a perk than it appears.  Sure, they'll be nearly auto-hitting most opponents at higher levels, but the damage output will remain fairly static as hit points rise on both sides of the combat.  Combats are going to be decided by attrition (which happens in many high level D&D style games, but without a corresponding increase in damage output it's going to be longer then usual.

Which then leads to the following thought.  Armor Class, Bonus to Hit and Hit Points all impact on each other.  You tweak one, and it effects all in some manner or form.  If you tweak the THAC0 to be less powerful, do you need to do the same with AC or HP to keep balance?  Or do you just accept the idea that combats will take longer?

(The post at the Howling Tower that got me thinking...)


  1. Your idea may be correct for other games. But in C&C high level fights are shorter. I have not done a comparison, but i think the THAC0 progression in C&C is pretty spot on to 1E.

  2. Clerics are markedly slower - I know, I played one in C&C ;)

  3. in C&C, clerics gain +1 BtH every 2 levels

    in AD&D / Osric (as my 1e books are packed away) +2 BtH every 3 levels - 50% faster

    in C&C, thieves get +1 every 3 levels (after getting a +1 at second)

    in AD&D / Osric get +2 at level 5, +3 more at level 10 - so +2 better hit in D&D than C&C - 60% better

  4. +3 more at 9th level for thieves... math is still right tho ;)

  5. Have you ever tried running combat using the old Chainmail rules?

  6. That's why my favourite method of combat experience is this:

    In one of my heartbreakers fighters (or other characters) don't get better fighting stats (BAB) when they level (apart from taking a weapon mastery feat-like ability with one specific weapon, a measly +1 bonus).

    Instead, all characters receive a +1 to hit bonus if their level is higher than that of the opponent.

    The bonus itself does not change or scale, it's the number of foes that it is applicable to that changes.

  7. These thoughts have been weighing in my mind too. The idea that, as it relates to AC vs ability to hit said AC, opponents of roughly equal standing tend to cancel each other's bonuses. Thus, with all else being equal, a first level fighter will hit an orc just as much as a 4th level fighter will hit an ogre, and vice versa. I have no particular issue with that. My problem is with damage. While AC scales upward, either through design intent with creatures, or magic items with higher level characters, and the ability to successfully hit scales with level/HD, damage remains relatively unchanged. I know there are certain monsters that mete out severe damage, but usually through special and/or limited attack routines. This drags combat out unnecessarily. When my 8th level fighter takes on an 8HD creature, and my guy is going to hit maybe 30-40% of the time, and when he hits do about 7-9 points damage on average, that makes for a long combat. I believe it should be damage output and not ability to hit that should scale with level/HD. Fighters should scale better than anyone else, obviously.


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