Thursday, June 9, 2011

How Did I Miss This?

With all the discussion recently about shields, armor class, Dexterity, and Strength, I found myself perusing a lot of old school D&D materials to see if they offered any useful insights on these questions. While doing this, I came across something in the AD&D Players Handbook that I'd somehow never seen before or, if I had, I promptly forgot about it. I can honestly say I have never seen any evidence that anyone actually used the rule in question (though I now fully expect a half-dozen or more commenters to claim "Really? We always used that rule."), but there it was in black and white.

Under Dexterity Table I., there's a note that reads in part:
Defensive Adjustment refers to the penalty or bonus applicable to a character's saving throws against certain forms of attack (such as fireball, lightning bolts, etc.) due to dodging ability.
As I said,I neither remembered this rules wrinkle nor saw anyone who ever used it. It's interesting to me, because this use of Dexterity precedes the explanation of its effect on armor class, so one likely read it before reading about the AC adjustment. Yet, it never registered with me. Funny that.

32 comments:

  1. This sounds like another example of how you used only some of the rules in the AD&D books to play something that ended up pretty much like BD&D.

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  2. Never used it.

    And to be clear, it's kind of untenable in its ambiguity: Exactly what counts as "certain forms of attack"? Fireball and lightning bolt are really a very special little class unto themselves (see Chainmail wizard "missile attacks", etc.), so it's not clear how that would be extrapolated, if at all. The Dex saving throw bonus gets used nowhere in the otherwise-exhaustive DMG "example of melee" (including shocking grasp and web), nor is it listed under "saving throw modifiers".

    So in summary, I would read that passage, weigh it against the rest of the rules, and conclude that it was fundamentally invalid.

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  3. This sounds like another example of how you used only some of the rules in the AD&D books to play something that ended up pretty much like BD&D.

    Certainly. What's interesting, though, is that Holmes didn't include a Dex adjustment to AC and Moldvay didn't come out till 1981. I had the PHB long before then. So how did I get the idea that Dexterity affected AC and not read this passage? My guess is that I just picked it up through osmosis from other older gamers already using AD&D.

    It's worth noting, too, that OSRIC makes no mention of this aspect of Dexterity, so my guess is that it was never widely used, even among diehard AD&D fans.

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  4. So in summary, I would read that passage, weigh it against the rest of the rules, and conclude that it was fundamentally invalid.

    That's my feeling, too, FWIW, but it's still odd to read something like this only now, after 30 years of owning the book.

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  5. Defensive Adjustment refers to the penalty or bonus applicable to a character's saving throws against certain forms of attack (such as fireball, lightning bolts, etc.) due to dodging ability.

    I always read it to be a guideline, no so much a rule unto itself. It generally defines what the penalty/bonus is for, not specifically.

    If a PC says he wants to try and dodge some form of attack, that's what it gets used for.

    Did I not read into it as deeply as I should?

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  6. "...it's kind of untenable in its ambiguity..."--Delta

    That sort of ambiguity is so common to so many old-school rules that, if it makes those rules "kind of untenable", then the old-school games made of those rule must be very untenable indeed.

    I see that sort of ambiguity as what makes old-school rules so easily personalizable. They merely suggest, rather than specify.


    "Exactly what counts as 'certain forms of attack'?"--Delta

    That's up to the DM's discretion.


    "Fireball and lightning bolt are really a very special little class unto themselves (see Chainmail wizard 'missile attacks', etc.), so it's not clear how that would be extrapolated, if at all."--Delta

    It's clear enough to me. I extrapolate it to mean that, if dodging could help a character avoid any of the effect of something, then the character's Dexterity Defensive Adjustment modifies the number required to save versus that thing.


    "The Dex saving throw bonus gets used nowhere in the otherwise-exhaustive DMG 'example of melee' (including shocking grasp and web), nor is it listed under 'saving throw modifiers'."--Delta

    Those are very damning examples of how sloppily the DMG was written.


    " I would read that passage, weigh it against the rest of the rules, and conclude that it was fundamentally invalid."--Delta

    Whereas I read that passage, weigh it against the rest of the rules, and conclude that Gygax must've forgotten about it while he was writing the DMG.

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  7. I imagine it is overlooked because it is not clear what the player can write down on his char sheet other than a say -3 reminder to the dm to judge whether a spell can be dodged. The dm has to remember it.

    Shocking grasp of course does have the bonus applied straightforwardly through armour class. The spell description for web makes clear it can be dodged through jumping.

    The rule is clear. The melee example in the dmg is not thoroughly explicit, it is not clear about initiative for spells for example.

    Those who flinch from AD&D and resort to OD&D seem to have panic attacks when they have to make a judgement or devise a ruling in AD&D.

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  8. Wow. We missed that completely.

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  9. We used it.The rules-lawyers in my old AD&D group went through the front end of the PHB with a fine brush comb.

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  10. I certainly remember reading it, some years after we had started playing the game. What I cannot remember is if I ever actually /used/ it.

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  11. Not only used it, but I remember pointing it out to my DM who didn't know about it - and it was quite a feeling of pride in my ~16-year old heart to point out something new to guys who had been playing for so many years longer then I had.

    We never considered it that hard to implement, the examples were pretty clear, especially when read in combination with the information on saving throws elsewhere, things that you dodged (Meteor Swarms, Blade Barrier, Ice Storms, etc) you got the bonus against, things that you didn't (Charm Person, Death Spell, Symbol, etc) you didn't.

    Again, this would fall under the "Divine Law of DMs" set of rulings and is one of those things that (in my mind) reinforces the DM's power in AD&D.

    D.

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  12. My friends and I all used that rule. I never considered it that ambiguous: You just got a bonus to saves versus things that could conceivably be dodged or evaded through fast reflexes.

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  13. The rule made its way into our games as well. A particularly dextrous player pointed it out one day, and it made some sense taken in isolation, so we used it. Any direct, physical type attack (lightning bolts, traps, etc...) that required a saving throw it affected.

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  14. "What's interesting, though, is that Holmes didn't include a Dex adjustment to AC and Moldvay didn't come out till 1981. I had the PHB long before then. So how did I get the idea that Dexterity affected AC and not read this passage?"--James Maliszewski

    'Back in the day', I read the PHB from cover to cover more times than I can remember -- but I still either didn't notice or didn't remember the parrying rule on page 104. With so much information to absorb and process, I'm just surprised that alot more of it didn't get overlooked or forgotten.


    "It's worth noting, too, that OSRIC makes no mention of this aspect of Dexterity, so my guess is that it was never widely used, even among diehard AD&D fans."--James Maliszewski

    That does sound likely.

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  15. "I imagine it is overlooked because it is not clear what the player can write down on his char sheet other than a say -3 reminder to the dm to judge whether a spell can be dodged. The dm has to remember it."--Kent

    That's what I figure too.


    "Those who flinch from AD&D and resort to OD&D seem to have panic attacks when they have to make a judgement or devise a ruling in AD&D."--Kent

    Now that's just mean. Kinda what I was thinking too, but still just mean.

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  16. "It's worth noting, too, that OSRIC makes no mention of this aspect of Dexterity, so my guess is that it was never widely used, even among diehard AD&D fans."--James Maliszewski

    Or that the OSRIC team didn't - I'm not sure trying to extrapolate out to the entire population of AD&D players based on two samples (the OSRIC group and your group) really bears out.

    I think that what is almost a little bit more interesting is the not-so-subtle divide that occurred somewhere in OD&D/AD&D that was either "pro-PC bonuses" or "anti-PC bonuses" as revealed in the response to things like weapon specialization. Some folks certainly viewed this as a threat to the balance of the game and others (like myself) saw it as just another factor and (at least here is my perspective) it was up to the DM to provide "balance" -whatever than means.

    You want a double-specialized, dual-wielding character with a Girdle of Storm Giant Strength and boots of Striding & Springing? No problem. Because I'm the DM and I can throw anything at you that I can imagine and write the stats up for - I don't have to "break the rules" I don't even have to write new rules, I just get to use the rule that says it's my game and I have the responsibility to make sure that people are having fun.

    But somewhere along the way that was certainly lost and people started looking at the rules as the enemy of the DM instead of a tool to used by the DM. I'm not sure if this is a result of bad players, bad DMs, or bad product - but it's a real shame.

    D.

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  17. Yep, and wisdom gives a bonus on saves against most illusions too. Always played both rules, although it's up to the player to "claim" the bonus; no do-overs because you forgot to mention it.

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  18. We used it all the time....as a matter of fact, players were always trying to shoehorn that save bonus into saving throws..."Are you SURE I can't use my bonus to "dodge" that Light spell thrown at my eyes????"

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  19. fluerdemal said...
    "...I remember pointing it out to my DM who didn't know about it - and it was quite a feeling of pride in my ~16-year old heart to point out something new to guys who had been playing for so many years longer then I had."

    And a rules lawyer is born. What year was it? Maybe you were the first! :)

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  20. Hmmm, that suggests that the DEX bonus may be used against directed magical attacks. I don't remember reading that, or ever applying the idea.
    I might in future though.

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  21. This idea actually has been carried forward to some extent in later editions of DnD and the online version with the Evasion feat: if an attack can be reduced to half-damage with a normal reflex save, then Evasion allows you to reduce it to no-damage with a successful reflex save.

    So perhaps this small rule is the genesis of that idea.

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  22. Coldstream said: "This idea actually has been carried forward to some extent in later editions of DnD and the online version with the Evasion feat..."

    Well, I'd say the more direct connection is the Dex-modified Reflex save category.

    Evasion is the evolution of the AD&D monk ability of the same mechanic (Improved Evasion being the same as the AD&D monk 9th level ability.)

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  23. ... and also as originally seen for the monk class in Sup-II Blackmoor (p. 2, last paragraph).

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  24. @Delta

    Yeah, that actually more what I was trying to get at, but failing, the Saves tied into Stats (Fortitude with CON, Reflex with DEX etc... and feats tied into them) That's what I get for trying to comment while grading papers...incoherent thoughts. Hopefully, I'm grading better.

    Verification word: dying

    that's a poor omen...

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  25. Yeah, I remember reading it but I seem to remember that was contradicted by the DMG (or at least ignored in the DMG). As a DM I treated the DMG as gospel. Damn, I am going to have to look at that rule.

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  26. Coldstream: Understood, grading too much can be a real mind-bender. :-)

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  27. Maybe the OSRIC team forgot it, but maybe they left it out intentionally, for legal reasons, as they did with a variety of other items.

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  28. The use of Dex to save against spells is suggested in Dex decsritpion in OD&D, but never explained (probably a side efefct of Gary's quoting Dave while adding his own rules).

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  29. I am always surprised how many people are unaware of rules like this, but no more than the number who will flat out deny its validity because it does not fit their idea of how AD&D works. I strongly suggest a close reading of the saving throw rules in the DMG, the amount of latitude is considerable.

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  30. Sorry, but I need to say: "Really? We always used that rule."! :)

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  31. We always used it. In fact, the rule was ported to AD&D 2e. IIRC there is a mention of the rule also in the 1e DMG. Similar rules appear in the D&D Master set (Str modifies paralysis, Dex mod. dragon breath and wands, Int mod. spells affectin the mind, Con mod. poison but not death).

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  32. well spotted :)

    I think we used it... but I am not 100% sure :(

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