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View Full Version : 2e debate...in need of answers...



Baron_Samedi
05-07-2009, 09:05 PM
Just throwing this out there to the 2e experts...Whilst entertaining my players at the house the other day, an interesting exchange popped up in regards to the variance of different editions of D&D...and someone asked what is the advantage, if any, of THAC0 in 2e over 3.x, or 4e...having little experience with 2e myself, i thought i would bow to the experts.

So in a nutshell, How is THAC0 better than 3.x, or 4e? OR Is it?

Webhead
05-07-2009, 09:31 PM
It isn't inherently better in any way. Essentially, it is just an inversed form of BAB.

Rather than counting upwards from 0 and using a positive AC progression, THAC0 counts downwards from 20 and uses negative AC progression.

Statistically they mean the same thing, they are just separated by their individual quirks. For example (as best I recall), 2E considered -10 AC to be the absolute limit of Armor Class. No character could have an AC value better than -10. 3E allows you to reach any level of AC. You could have a character with AC 60 in 3E. In 2E, your absolute best is -10 (by the RAW).

So, neither is "better". They are just 2 different methods of getting the same statistical end result.

What tends to trip people up about THAC0 is that not all modifiers move in the same direction. A positive number to hit from attributes and magic is good. The higher the better. But Armor Class is the opposite and negative numbers are good. The lower the better. That tends to confuse people.

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
05-07-2009, 09:41 PM
I was going to chime in but Webhead pretty much covered it.

Sascha
05-07-2009, 09:52 PM
Comparing 1st level THAC0 and Base Attack Bonus (BAB) progressions. Assume no other modifiers (stats, gear, etc).

AC 0 in 1/2E works out to be AC 20 in 3.x (armor factor 10)
- 1/2E: base AC 10, subtract 10 for armor = final AC 0
- 3.x: base ac 10, add 10 for armor = final AC 20

Starting THAC0 for all classes was 20, as I recall. Result: any class needs a 20 on the roll to hit.

With the 3.x BAB system, Average and Poor progression started at +0; they, too, need a 20 to hit an equivalent-AC target. Good BAB progression starts with a +1, so that number drops to 19.

Comparison: at first level, assuming no modifiers beyond BAB, good progression classes hit more often than their THAC0 equivalents, by 5%.

Obviously, vary the armor bonus and the resulting hit percentage changes, as does a change in level-based THAC0 and BAB; the stat modifiers are the big variable between the editions, but one doesn't need to consider those to look at the underlying mechanic.

If my memory serves, the fighter THAC0 changes mirror good BAB progression - 1 shift per level - so the BAB-equivalent will have a (theoretical) 5% leg up on older editions, vs the same armor equivalent. I'd have to look at the old tables to compare to average and poor BAB progression, but I *think* they mirror THAC0 in level adjustments. (It's been a while since I saw pre-3.x materials, so my memory could be rather faulty; those with the books on hand, please correct the numbers as necessary ;))
--- Merged from Double Post ---
Durned slow posting. :P


What tends to trip people up about THAC0 is that not all modifiers move in the same direction. A positive number to hit from attributes and magic is good. The higher the better. But Armor Class is the opposite and negative numbers are good. The lower the better. That tends to confuse people.
Yeah, this is the part of the THAC0/AC relationship that just made no sense to me, back in the day. Even though the math works out to be the same target numbers, it seems like a roundabout way to get it. Straightforward math is so preferred, heh.

Webhead
05-07-2009, 10:08 PM
The only major difference that I can think of between the THAC0 system of 2E and the BAB system of 3E is that, in 2E, only Fighters were ever granted extra attacks at higher levels. All other classes continued to progress their THAC0 value but they never got multiple attacks as a result of it.

In 3E, all characters receive multiple attacks regardless of class once they reach a certain BAB value.

Which of these rules you prefer is simply a matter of opinion.

MortonStromgal
05-07-2009, 11:49 PM
So in a nutshell, How is THAC0 better than 3.x, or 4e? OR Is it?

The only advantage I can see for THAC0 is as a player you know that if you make your roll you hit the guy in standard plate mail. So if the DM said "your surrounded by bandits in leather armour" you would know you hit them for sure...

... the flip side is you could just know that standard AC for BAB edition on standard full plate is 18...

BrotherDog
05-08-2009, 05:58 AM
The only major difference that I can think of between the THAC0 system of 2E and the BAB system of 3E is that, in 2E, only Fighters were ever granted extra attacks at higher levels. All other classes continued to progress their THAC0 value but they never got multiple attacks as a result of it.

This not true. All classes eventually got extra attacks, but at a much slower rate than in 3e. It was notated differently though, all warrior classes had 3/2 attacks per round, if memory serves at around 6th lvl, 5th for Fighters. That's right 3 attacks every 2 rounds, which meant "1 attack every odd numbered round, and 2 attacks the even ones.", the highest the chart went to was 5/4 for the warrior classes 3 Divine casters and thief, 3/2 Mages. It's been awhile though, so some of those may be off abit.

mnemenoi
05-08-2009, 04:44 PM
It is like comparing Apples to Oranges and asking which is better. Inherently its choice and comfort, what you are familiar with. While one might actually discuss the difference between 1st and 2nd edition systems they shared all the same basics, with 3rd edition they remade and reshaped the system. At that point I think there is really no valid way to make a comparison as it is entirely a different animal. I was explained 3rd editions system and actually thought it sounded great, if they had created it about 10 years prior I would likely have been using it, but that not being the case I choose to stick with 2nd.

I think when we really come down to it, D&D is a role playing game and the rules are necessary, but they just get in the way usually.

Most popular games seem to have to balance a fairly simple system and allow complex rules for certain people that like them. Otherwise we would all be spending 8 hours creating Runequest characters. I guess its just a matter of compromise and marketability.

In my humble opinion I think its all a matter of what you like.

templeorder
05-08-2009, 04:48 PM
It is like comparing Apples to Oranges and asking which is better.

In my humble opinion I think its all a matter of what you like.

I agree - between 2 and 3e its soooo different. My own personal style (though it may just be habit/comfort) is still 1+2e...

cplmac
05-08-2009, 05:28 PM
Like mnemenoi said, " It is like comparing apples to oranges..."

Since I have started to play in a 3.0 game online here in the chat, I see the difference in the two versions. They are different systems. There really isn't a real way to compare them against each other.

Since 2E came first, I will use it for the base. Thaco = To Hit Armor Class 0. Yes, the Armor Classes ranged from 10 as the worst to -10 as the best. To be able to compare it, 3.X and 4, they would have had to use 20 as the best possible AC and 0 as the worst. This would have basically just inverted the positions of the best and worst ACs. They would still have had to used a roll to hit AC 10 as the center. Since this is not how it works, there is no way to really compare the two, other than which is preferred by the person that is playing the game.

Engar
08-31-2009, 12:28 AM
I am likely straying, but I think the answers covered it (short of a mathematical evaluation of the difference in probabilities based on -10 to 10 vs. 0 to infinity).

Short of that, 2e also had a great deal more "special" defenses, perhaps as a working resolution to higher level characters hit chances or perhaps to add flavor. Material requirements like "cold iron" or "silver" as one aspect or various environmental or physical traits like invisibility or phasing etc. I rather liked these ideas for themselves, but never really embraced the DM vs. player philosophy of early DnD that generally led to their invention.

On the other hand, I find it very sad to trade the spontaneous creativity and imagination in the early systems for largely (exponentially worsening over time) inspirationally void WotC and later editions. Somewhere along the way the concept of "house rules" twisted into a pejorative. Personalizing the game transitioned from a unique and creative resolution offering each group opportunities for a creative and collaborative reflection of itself in a shared hobby to mere proof of fault in creation, a reflection of author shortcomings or editorial imperfection causing harmful diversity and nonconforming thought.

The result was a uniform scrubbing of any ambivalence while touting a perverse explosion of unmanageable choices and perverse system of statistical rewards favoring calculation and manipulation over creative individual and cooperative development. Perhaps tied to the concurrent grand revolution of marketing and lawyer over artist and author resulting in merger of the same, downsizing of the latter, and replacement by the previous? Either way, shortage of principal (principle?) and single minded fiscal motivation soon efficiently deposed any residual substance for arrogance, consideration for ego, and slyly swapped grand design for hype at a an unbelievable cost savings and encompassing a satisfying eradication of all remaining spirit with retention of promise for same gratis!

Crushed were characters expressed in sophisticated personalities performed and developed for the pure enjoyment of both actor and audience alike in exchange for oppressive statistical behemoths near devoid of emotion. Where once a detailed character might develop in time, springing to life as if of its own volition at the behest of a skilled author; now the best hope was to flounder in well edited, well conforming, well marketed, utterly uninspired forms.

The DM lets out a long sigh… “Your long journey is at an end, here in the heart of the dungeon a great beast lies before you! Sadly, as you approach, the dragon whimpers and begs the mercy of a quick demise. Torchlight lights only cobwebs in a grand room once filled with treasures. Your disappointment reflects in large sorrowful eyes, a glint of a tattered and beaten soul barely visible beneath. The once majestic creature shambles away to die.

traesin
09-01-2009, 04:33 AM
it maybe just the games I've played in f2f, but it seems to me that the shift went from easy on the DM (2e)to Hard on the Dm (3.).

tesral
09-01-2009, 11:31 PM
it maybe just the games I've played in f2f, but it seems to me that the shift went from easy on the DM (2e)to Hard on the Dm (3.).

I can't see where more prep is required. But I have been a heavy prep type form the beginning. I can wing it on the fly. I like having preparation.

My 3e style notes are not any more or less complete than my 2e style notes.


And yes, Webhead nailed it. It is the same thing turned on its head. I prefer BAB as being intrinsically simpler. DC/AC is the target number. Roll that or better. Frankly I feel that AD&D should have switched to positive armor class in 1979.

Dytrrnikl
09-02-2009, 02:51 AM
This not true. All classes eventually got extra attacks, but at a much slower rate than in 3e. It was notated differently though, all warrior classes had 3/2 attacks per round, if memory serves at around 6th lvl, 5th for Fighters. That's right 3 attacks every 2 rounds, which meant "1 attack every odd numbered round, and 2 attacks the even ones.", the highest the chart went to was 5/4 for the warrior classes 3 Divine casters and thief, 3/2 Mages. It's been awhile though, so some of those may be off abit.

This isn't correct either. In the base 2E handbook, fighters were the only class to gain multiple attacks each round. I believe the logic behind this was because Rangers and Paladins had spells and some other nifty special abilities, Wizards/Bards/Cerics/Druids had magic and other abilties, and the Thief had the 8 thievery abilities and Backstab...whereas the only thing the fighter did was fight.

Non-specialized Fighter Melee Weapons 1 attack/round up to level 6, 3 attacks per 2 rounds from 7th to 13th level, 2 attacks per round at 14th level and up.

Ranged attacks varied depending on whether it was a bow, light crossbow or heavy crossbow, or type of thrown weapon.

With specilization in melee, the fighter and only the fighter could get 3 attack every 2 rounds up to 6th, 2 attacks per round from 7th to 13th, and then 5 attacks per 2 rounds at 14th an higher. This also granted the fighter a +1 to hit and a +2 to damage.

Fighting with two weapons only ever granted a single extra attack each round.

Of course, if Expertise Proficiency was used then Rangers and Paladins could get the extra attacks that a fighter was granted from specialization but not the bonus to hit or damage.

Now if you also took the Weapon Mastery rules from the horrible 2E Player's Option revision (Black covered books), then Weapon mastery granted a total bonus to hit and damage of +3 to each, High Mastery I believe granted one extra attack each round on top oif specialization, Grand Mastery increased the damage die to the next higher die.

I think some weapons when thrown allowed everyone to gain multiple attacks, like darts I think.

As for the topic of this post, I don't think it's possible to argue which is better BAB or THAC0. My own perception is that BAB leads to more successful attacks and thus more lethality than what I saw with 2E and THAC0. With 3E BAB and AC both move upwards in value, higher value equals better. In 2E AC and THAC0 both got lower, with only the fighter ever really gaining the best THAC0 - 0. Meaning at some point he pretty much hit everything, particularly if he had a +5 weapon and let's say 18/00 strength (granting a +3 to hit and +6 to damage).

I'll have to pull out my 2E material just to be sure, but that pretty much covers what I can recall off the top of my head.

RealmsDM
09-08-2009, 01:13 AM
remember with Thac0, there was a limit to your attack bonus- there was a ceiling on how good you could get (w/o homebrew or some crazy epic rules)

Thac0 was removed IMO cuz it confused new gamers, and it was limited by the AC system of that edition...

Crossroads_Wanderer
09-08-2009, 09:45 AM
I think that comparing the caps on Thac0 to the unlimited AC in 3e is a little unfair. In 3e, the characters become immensely powerful after a while, stats increase as they gain levels, attack bonus rises very quickly. 2e was pretty conservative about how powerful characters can get. Stats didn't rise, except by magic, and attack bonuses increased more slowly. It would be difficult to hit something better than -10 in 2e, whereas in 3e, hitting 20 or 30 is a piece of cake once you get to a high enough level.

squidyak
09-09-2009, 06:21 AM
The main difference between THAC0 and BAB is that with THAC0 you are rolling for a target number, while with BAB you add all your bonuses together to see if your total is high enough. To hit an enemy in chain mail with a THAC0 of 15 you know you need to roll a 10 on your attack roll. You get this number by subtracting 5 points (chain mail's armor class) from your THAC0. If the chain mail is actually +2, then you need to roll a 12 because the target's armor class a 3 instead of a 5 (15-3=12). If you have a BAB of 5 all the numbers remain the same. If your opponent is wearing normal chain mail your total attack roll must meet the total defense. It's a much simpler concept to just get the highest result instead of trying to meet a target on a sliding scale.

TheYeti1775
10-09-2009, 10:19 AM
One of the few things that immediately impressed me with 3E was the change to the AC/BAB/THAC0 rules. I did like them better. Enough so I would if the the fellow players of a group agreed to use it instead. Converting isn't that hard.

tesral
10-09-2009, 11:06 AM
One of the few things that immediately impressed me with 3E was the change to the AC/BAB/THAC0 rules. I did like them better. Enough so I would if the the fellow players of a group agreed to use it instead. Converting isn't that hard.

Not at all. You don't even need to change anything else in the game if that suits you.

Farcaster
10-09-2009, 02:38 PM
I would take it a step further though and try to address saving throws as well. It always bothered me that a character has an equal chance of avoiding being hit by a lower level cantrip cast by a novice wizard as a devastating spell cast by an archmage.

upidstay
03-14-2010, 08:05 AM
I greatly prefer 3rd edition + version of to it and AC. THACO was a HUGE leap over the 1st edtion version. My biggest complaint with 1st and 2nd eds. was just all of the math required. Pain in the buttocks. I like 3.0/5 ( do not play 4, cannot speak for it) due to the fact that AC is virtually limiteless. To me, this makes the really powerful monsters truly powrerful. Even the mightiest of warriors sees his enchanted sword bounce off the plates of the dragon. I ran a 1st ed. game to 18th level, and we stiopped it because I ran out of stuff to throw at them. They were dropping dragons left and right.

templeorder
03-15-2010, 10:06 AM
The thing i never liked about all version in general is that better armor does not make you harder to hit. Its a concept-thing... i get it. I just prefer games with armor damage and knockback over hit-or-not-hit damage.

And saving throws - never made much sense to me. I always used my own meta-magic rules to accommodate the scenario farcaster refers to - powerful spell casters can tweak facets of a spell - like its penetrative power, distance, duration, etc. This all long before any official rules. I also never liked the nebulous category of "saving throws". If a spell attacks the CON of a target, resist with that. Use Willpower to resist many effects, not another category of checks...

Again, its all preference...

TaliesinNYC
03-29-2010, 07:20 PM
I greatly prefer 3rd edition + version of to it and AC. THACO was a HUGE leap over the 1st edtion version. My biggest complaint with 1st and 2nd eds. was just all of the math required. Pain in the buttocks. I like 3.0/5 ( do not play 4, cannot speak for it) due to the fact that AC is virtually limiteless. To me, this makes the really powerful monsters truly powrerful. Even the mightiest of warriors sees his enchanted sword bounce off the plates of the dragon. I ran a 1st ed. game to 18th level, and we stiopped it because I ran out of stuff to throw at them. They were dropping dragons left and right.


That has more to do with magical item distribution and how the DM was handling combat than differences in game mechanics.

Properly run, a dragon should be able to decimate a party (or at the very least, give the PCs a run for their money). Edition of D&D is irrelevant in my opinion.

THAC0 has its inherent advantages and disadvantages, just as the attack matrices had in 1st edition and BAB in 3.x

Tony Misfeldt
02-20-2011, 10:36 PM
This not true. All classes eventually got extra attacks, but at a much slower rate than in 3e. It was notated differently though, all warrior classes had 3/2 attacks per round, if memory serves at around 6th lvl, 5th for Fighters. That's right 3 attacks every 2 rounds, which meant "1 attack every odd numbered round, and 2 attacks the even ones.", the highest the chart went to was 5/4 for the warrior classes 3 Divine casters and thief, 3/2 Mages. It's been awhile though, so some of those may be off abit.

Absolutely, positively, and in all other ways, incorrect. Table 15 on Page 26 of the 2nd edition Player's Handbook lists the number of attacks per round of the warrior classes (fighter, ranger, and paladin). They are 1/1 from level 1 to level 6; 3/2 from level 7 to 12; and 2/1 from 13th level and up. Unless of course the player chooses to spend an extra weapon proficiency slot to specialize in a melee weapon. In that case, ther get 3/2 from levels 1 to 6; 2/1 from level 7 to 12; and 5/2 from 13th level on. There are absolutely no tables listing attacks per round for priest, rogue, or wizard classes. Therefore it must be assumed that they only get one attack per round for their entire adventuring careers.

---------- Post added at 10:36 PM ---------- Previous post was at 10:03 PM ----------


That has more to do with magical item distribution and how the DM was handling combat than differences in game mechanics.

Properly run, a dragon should be able to decimate a party (or at the very least, give the PCs a run for their money). Edition of D&D is irrelevant in my opinion.

THAC0 has its inherent advantages and disadvantages, just as the attack matrices had in 1st edition and BAB in 3.x

A very good point. I would like to add that a 13th level character in 3.X edition (and presumably 4th as well) is redonculously powerful in comparison to their 2nd edition counterparts of the same level. While a 13th level warrior was still a very impressive character and would be able to stand up to some mighty tough monsters, he hardly had a big red "S" painted on his chest. Going one on one with a cloud giant, for example, would leave him one hurtin' unit. On the other hand, with all the extra hitpoints, feats, abilities, etc, of a 3.X ed fighter, he could likely take on an entire tribe of cloud giants with little if any trouble.

1st & 2nd Editions were all about play balance, so that neither the players or the DM had an overwhelming advantage over the other. 3.X Edition is all about giving the players more and more power, without taking anything away to preserve game balance. 4th Edition is this concept on steroids, with the additional attempts to remove the "Role Playing" from "Role Playing Game" so that D&D is simply Magic The Gathering with dice instead of cards. They even go so far as to say that players' characters should never, ever, die. The DM has to take every precaution to not allow any PC deaths, ever. If there's no risk, why bother playing at all?

Farcaster
02-21-2011, 12:57 AM
4th Edition is this concept on steroids, with the additional attempts to remove the "Role Playing" from "Role Playing Game" so that D&D is simply Magic The Gathering with dice instead of cards. They even go so far as to say that players' characters should never, ever, die. The DM has to take every precaution to not allow any PC deaths, ever. If there's no risk, why bother playing at all?

And you support this argument with what, exactly? Your personal experience with 4th edition, which is no doubt vast?

tesral
02-21-2011, 02:29 AM
I think that comparing the caps on Thac0 to the unlimited AC in 3e is a little unfair. In 3e, the characters become immensely powerful after a while, stats increase as they gain levels, attack bonus rises very quickly. 2e was pretty conservative about how powerful characters can get. Stats didn't rise, except by magic, and attack bonuses increased more slowly. It would be difficult to hit something better than -10 in 2e, whereas in 3e, hitting 20 or 30 is a piece of cake once you get to a high enough level.

Do you realize what you just said?

2e fighter THAC0 advancement: 1 for 1
3e fighter BAB advancment: 1 for 1
2e Wizard THAC0 advancement: 1 for 2
3e Wizard BAB advancement 1 for 2

2e AC 0 = 3e AC 20, 2e AC -10 = 3e AC 30.

What changes mechanically is the stat increases, the stat bonuses get better, the frequency of stat and BAB buffing items and the rate of advancement. The combat mechanic really does not change. The way it is described and dealt with does, but the core roll a d20 to hit and what you need to roll to hit does not.

The lack of upper limits on BAB and AC actuate the d20 scaling problem. 2e tried to limt the advancement of pluses within the scaling limits. I don't know if this was done with any awareness of the scaling problem or simply because 1e did and Gygax was a no DM. Right around +10 the problems of the d20 system with scale become evident. No matter how high your bonuses go you are still rolling a linear 1 to 20 scale, to hit targets of 30 and more. Without the pluses you can't hit them, conversely the target numbers of several levels ago are hard to miss.

Matt James
02-22-2011, 09:41 PM
4th Edition is this concept on steroids, with the additional attempts to remove the "Role Playing" from "Role Playing Game" so that D&D is simply Magic The Gathering with dice instead of cards. They even go so far as to say that players' characters should never, ever, die. The DM has to take every precaution to not allow any PC deaths, ever. If there's no risk, why bother playing at all?

Have you even played 4th edition? It's hard to believe you have, if you're making comments like that. If this is your experience, I am sorry that you picked up the worse DM possible. Otherwise, you're purposefully making false statements in order to add fuel to an edition war? :confused:

rabkala
02-22-2011, 10:57 PM
The thaco question is well covered, inverse numbers. I remember no attack progression for priest, rogue, or wizard.

I think Engar spoke beautifully of a good early TSR experience. When it was good, it was incredible. Though when it was bad, a nightmare. I also understand Tony Misfeldt's feelings. The power moves more toward the players with every edition. The early Gygaxian nightmare DM's were there to kill the players, and could at any sadistic whim. The good early DM's had more room to work magic and make a story come alive. My brief 4e experiences confirm this. Unfortunately, Bad DM's have forced the power into the hands of the players. I have been on both sides of this fence, and don't know where to fall sometimes.

tesral
02-23-2011, 01:44 AM
I had to stop killing players. I was running out of places to hide the bodies.



The thaco question is well covered, inverse numbers. I remember no attack progression for priest, rogue, or wizard.

The same as 3.x edition. You have to break down the THAC0 chart to find these but they are there. The combat merchanic is one ofthe few things that doesn't change between 2e and 3e. The numbers are twiddled around to make them easier to keep track of. Something that should have been done with AD&D, not wait until the misnamed Third Edition.

Dytrrnikl
02-23-2011, 07:41 AM
The only thing that I personally believe is a flaw with 4E, this is based on having actually played it, is that it took the crunchy tactical nature of 3E, kicked it up a notch or two and then leveled the playing field between the classes - in that thematically, the classes are different - different power sources, powers appropriately named for the class and a few others, however, to me, game mechanic-wise, it was the same class with different fluff - each class felt identical the others, nothing unique. Mind you, this was when 4E was first released, I didn't keep up with all of the other splat books released for it.

As for the OP of this post, I'd have liked to see ACs and BABs cap at some point. Also, someone stated that in 2E the Wizard THAC0 increased at a rate of 1 per 2 levels - incorrect, it was 1 every 3 levels. So by 20th level the Wizard had a THAC0 of 14 or a +6 BAB. I've been refreshing my 2E knowledge recently due to New Haven Games working on a 2E retro-clone called Myth & Magic. They're doing some great work.

rabkala
02-24-2011, 10:25 PM
I had to stop killing players. I was running out of places to hide the bodies.

If there's no risk, why bother playing at all? You have to nip the problem at it's source, the character did nothing wrong!!! :lol:

CountChocula
07-03-2011, 05:14 PM
Just throwing this out there to the 2e experts...Whilst entertaining my players at the house the other day, an interesting exchange popped up in regards to the variance of different editions of D&D...and someone asked what is the advantage, if any, of THAC0 in 2e over 3.x, or 4e...having little experience with 2e myself, i thought i would bow to the experts.

So in a nutshell, How is THAC0 better than 3.x, or 4e? OR Is it?

If you don't want to bother with THAC0 calculation, you can just use the "To Hit" charts