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 Mimicking Basic D&D characters

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cavalier973
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PostSubject: Mimicking Basic D&D characters   Mon Nov 27, 2017 12:00 am

Thought exercise: If one were wanting to create 4e characters in such a way as to mimic the rules for characters in Moldvay/Mentzer Basic D&D, how would one do so, while remaining as faithful as possible to the RAW?

My opinion would be to limit the cleric, rogue, and wizard class to human only, and exclude all other classes, excepting fighters. Dwarves could be fighters, of course; halflings would be rangers. In fact, halflings would be the only race that could be the ranger class.
Elves are a little more tricky; a multiclass fighter/mage or mage/fighter would be the initially obvious choice, but in Basic D&D, elves are unrestricted fighter/mages, in that they can cast spells even while wearing armor. An interesting choice, then, would be to have elves restricted to the "Essentials" hexblade class. They can use military melee weapons, and wear chainmail armor, plus they have a variety of arcane spells.


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PostSubject: Re: Mimicking Basic D&D characters   Mon Nov 27, 2017 9:50 am

So what is the main drive of this? Are you looking to provide a very streamlined/simplified system for new players? Or is this something that you'd like to do with an experienced group?

And how much of the Basic D&D are you looking to emulate? Just the Class system? Or spells/equipment/etc. as well?

I think you're on the right path with slimming down the Class list. I don't have my original Blue Book any more (and even if I did, it wouldn't be here at my desk at work). I do recall these classes from Basic:

Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User, Thief, Dwarf, Elf (I don't remember there being a Halfling, but that could just be a failing of my memory from almost 40 years ago).

Here's my thoughts as to the classes.

Cleric = Human Cleric. Probably use the Essentials-style Warpriest. I think this would provide a quick, easy, and focused path for that.

Fighter = Human Fighter. For this, the core Weaponmaster would provide more versatility, but also more complexity (which might be something to avoid if emulating Basic D&D). The E-style Slayer would get the fighter to a more "damage dealing tank", which I think might be more of the feel of the Basic Fighter.

Magic-User = Human Wizard. The E-style Mage would streamline the process of building the character, which would simplify the process for a Basic "feel".

Thief = Human Rogue. Even though I think the E-style Thief would be easier to build and advance, having seen one in action in my current campaign, I think the original Scoundrel would feel more "true" to the Basic Thief, both with class abilities and also with skills.

Dwarf = Dwarf Fighter. I'd build this as a Weaponmaster, but possible require the use of the Dwarven Weapon, just to make sure it seems like a Dwarf.

Elf = This one, I'm not 100% sure. The Bladesinger does definitely give it the feel of a sword-wielding wizard, but doesn't include the use of heavier armor (like chainmail). The Hexblade has the armor inclusion (and with Elven Weapon Prof, includes use of Longbow), but the spell selection is not the same. I'm not sure which to consider. Personally, I like the Bladesinger better as a class in general. But this one could go either way.

Halfling = ??? As I mentioned, I don't recall Halflings from Basic, so I don't know how to emulate them in the 4E framework.

Another question that comes mind is magic. Obviously Basic used a Vancian magic system. Wizards and Clerics had to select their spell assortment for the day. Obviously, 4E doesn't use that style of system. So depending upon what you wanted to do, you might have to dig into this more to consider what you're wanting to get out of the system.

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PostSubject: Re: Mimicking Basic D&D characters   Mon Nov 27, 2017 1:09 pm

Halflings were very much part of Basic, having been in D&D since the original boxed set.

The sort history, for those who don't know:
The first Basic Set was intended to re-present the original D&D in a way that actually made sense to non-wargamers, though it also brought in some of the the most popular alternate rules that had been introduced in the first supplement because just about everyone used them by that point. (Not saying it took a brain surgeon to figure out OD&D, but considering the editor of the first Basic Set was actual brain surgeon/fantasy author J Eric Holmes, um, yeah.) Gygax put together AD&D 1e starting later that same year (1977), bringing in most everything that had been added up to that point, but it kinda went in its own direction (because, Gary, well, being Gary), leaving Basic Set gamers to either try and figure out the original box set (which stayed in print for a while) based on what they learned from the Basic Set, or to embrace the fiddliness and arcanity of AD&D.

In 1981, in part motivated by not wanting to pay Dave Arneson royalties on AD&D, TSR had Tom Moldvay rewrite the Basic Set to make it even easier to use, and he streamlined some rules in the process, most notably the Elf rules, which essentially solidified the idea of demi-human races being their own classes (OD&D didn't actually have that, but the strict limits on demihuman characters had the same effect. Moldvay just made it explicit.) The first Expert Set by Dave Cook was released the same year, giving Basic player's somewhere to go. Frank Mentzer rewrote both in 1983 (with no major rule changes, just a new, more tutorial presentation), and expanded them through the next couple of years through further sets (Companion, Master, and Immortals). All the sets (save Immortals) were collected into the Rules Cyclopedia in 1991, which was accompanied by a new Basic Set that didn't actually say "Basic" anywhere. It went out of print, ending Basic D&D, in 1994, as AD&D 2e had become dominant, being much easier to understand than 1e while still having its flexibility.

The other thing spinning Basic into a whole line was accompanied by was the introduction of the Mystara campaign setting (aka the "Known World"). Up to that point, the assumptions behind (A)D&D were the same as in Gary Gygax's home campaign, which evolved into the Greyhawk setting; Gary wanted to keep that for AD&D. Moldvay, who had originally started playing in college at Kent State University, and other DMs throughout northern
Ohio had collaborated on essentially one big setting (one of the first "living" campaigns). That world became the new default setting of Basic D&D. In the later part of the 80s, Bruce Heard, who had been put in charge of the Basic line, oversaw a series of Gazetteers detailing parts of that world, along with a Hallow World box set (because of course the fantasy kitchen sink of that setting would be a hallow world with people living inside lit by a small red sun at the center of the world!)

Since the setting was written around Basic D&D, the lore assumes the structures of those rules, so things like race-as-class are baked right into the setting. (Though after the classic line was ended in 1994, a 2e conversion of the setting was released, but it wasn't that widely popular.) So a player of later editions, including 4e, wanting to play in the setting might want to use only the rules aspects that fit the setting. Makes sense to me.
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PostSubject: Re: Mimicking Basic D&D characters   Mon Nov 27, 2017 3:46 pm

I don't doubt the presence of Halflings in Basic D&D. I just don't remember them. The last time I cracked open a Basic D&D book was probably before I started high school, more than 30 years ago.

In any case, I think that I'd have to see if I can find a copy of the Basic rules and look at them to really put any more thought into how to model those original classes in the 4E rules system. And there would have to be some thought put into all of the other things that have come about since those rules. There were no skills or feats in Basic. And the spell list was very minimal. Depending upon how far one wants to go to emulate Basic using 4E, it could get close to an entire rewrite of the classes that would be used.

Not an easy undertaking, but definitely something that would be interesting and potentially fun.

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PostSubject: Re: Mimicking Basic D&D characters   Mon Nov 27, 2017 10:41 pm

True. If the idea was just to get a most general feel, looking at the classes as they are in Basic and just selecting stuff from 4e that best approximates it is probably the best method. If we're talking just the B/X Moldvay Basic Set rules, then it's going to feel very limited. If by "Basic", the whole line is meant, it will feel a bit more open (higher level spells and all), but will still seem so empty compared to anything found in later editions. (And yet, by not trying to cover everything it feels strangely open.)

Looking at the full class list for the whole line, we've got:

Fighter: Human Fighter, obviously, though the class is very different, because of differences in the design. 4e has many more mechanical options than Basic, but Basic assumed that the players would be making things up as they went along. There's also the "strongholds and hirelings" aspect of the game, which was a pretty big goal for fighters in Basic. I'd lean towards Slayer as well, because fighters in earlier editions were much more the "hit first and hardest" type that Slayer represents, as opposed to the "absorb punishment" of other fighter types in 4e.

Magic-user: Human Essentials Mage. Can't disagree with this one. Pretty much would just limit power choices to spells that were in a Basic and you're good to go.

Cleric: Human Essentials warpirest. But no edged weapons for the old-school compliance! The balance between healing and still being able to dish out damage is old school.

Thief: Human Essentials Thief. Yes, there's a trend here. To a significant extent, the classes and subclasses in Heroes of the Fallen Lands were specifically structured to have a more old-school feel to them, so they do fit the classes from the old school version of the game the best.

As for the Demi-humans:
Elf: Elf Bladesinger is probably the best, though, as you note, not quite a perfect match. Some house rules about armor might be in order, and maybe some adjustments of powers lists, but it's still probably the best approximation of Basic's hybrid class elf.

Dwarf: Dwarf fighter. This one can be more of a tank, so weaponmaster (PHB fighter) or HotFL knight would work.

Halfling: Halflings are tough, because the Basic halfling class is really just a fighter, but a weak one. There's a reason AD&D loosened the limits on what classes they could be (and made thief a top class for them). But if we're sticking to Basic strictly, they have to be fighters. Oh, and they only got a d6 hit die instead of a d8 as humans fighters and dwarves did, so you might want to reduce their hit points as well.

Now, there were additional things added, mostly for higher level characters, sort of a proto-Paragon Path. At 9th level a cleric could become a Druid if they were neutral alignment and wanted to make that connection to nature. Maybe allow a cleric to multiclass at 10th to emulate that. A fighter who decided not to become a landowner could pledge themselves at 9th level as a knight to a lord or king, or, if lawful, take an oath as a paladin (yes, Basic had Paladins) getting some priest spells, or, if chaotic, become an avenger (possibly the first use of the class name, actually). Multiclassing would work there as well, as the gained features are mostly roleplaying, but do have some practical uses similar enough to the 4e classes. Lastly, there's the Mystic, which in Basic is the name for the Monk class, and is a full class on its own. Could use a 4e monk, but the cows was really rare, and goes back
To that kitchen sink nature of Mystara, as they mostly existed to have a land with East Asian flavor.

So that's how I'd attack it.
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PostSubject: Re: Mimicking Basic D&D characters   Mon Nov 27, 2017 11:16 pm

I was able to find a PDF of the "blue book" basic that I learned on years ago in my file repository. And when I looked at the text, a lot of stuff came back to me, including Halflings.

I also remember how poorly organized the book was, but then again, at age 11, I had a much greater ability and willingness to commit stuff like this to memory, but I digress...

For the Dwarf, I hadn't considered the Knight. And looking at it, I agree that it might be a good build for a Dwarf.

The Halfling is definitely the most difficult to emulate with 4E classes. Being a "little fighter" is tough to put into place. One might modify the Fighter class. Another thought would be to maybe try to use the hybrid rules and maybe blend a Fighter with the Rogue. I haven't looked into that at all, though. It is mostly just me thinking out loud.

I never got into any of the Basic line beyond the "blue book" I have. I remember seeing stuff for the Expert set (I might have purchased an adventure or two), but I got into AD&D about a year after learning to play. So around 1982-3, I went down the path of AD&D and never got any more stuff for the BECMI series of rules.

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PostSubject: Re: Mimicking Basic D&D characters   Tue Nov 28, 2017 9:50 pm

So, here is a "Basic 4e" Party:



Elf Hexblade, Dwarf Slayer, Human Thief, Human Warpriest, Human Mage


Or is it an Elf, a Dwarf, a Thief, a Cleric, and a Magic-User?

You decide...
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PostSubject: Re: Mimicking Basic D&D characters   Thu Nov 30, 2017 7:48 pm

I only really remember AD&D very clearly preferred it somewhat, so I am a bit further forward. (I have preferred every sequentially newer edition as it happened till 5th ruined that)

The D&D fighter could mow down minion enemies like grass - towards that end i was considering giving the fighter a power that was reminiscent of the swordmages blade burst. (yes it was rare for a DM to actually enable that)

Paladins are just Fighters which get boons instead of magic items based on their Charisma. (higher Charisma equals more boons less magic items)

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One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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PostSubject: Re: Mimicking Basic D&D characters   Sun Dec 10, 2017 9:17 pm

The AD&D ranger was just like the Paladin a type of fighter, he had magic at higher levels but was never a 2 fisted combatant any more or less than any other fighter so while you can use Ranger as the base you don't need to and a Warlord Fighter hybrid might get one a better Aragorn or Just an in your face Warlord build. Rogue is probably the only martial class actively not recommended for building an AD&D feel ranger with.

Beyond that in 4e take the toughness feat as soon as possible and make sure you get the nature and perception skill right way too. Round it out with a Giant killer feat.

The ranger spells in AD&D were druid and wizard and not until 8th level call that paragon in 4e terms it never was fundamental to the concept in spite of later claims to this effect by people who didnt like the ranger being martial. Much of that feel can be accomplished by having your 4e fighter multiclass dabble into either druid or mage combine  with getting rituals or martial practices.

And we have The AD&D ranger as something like this.

====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
Ana, level 1
Human, Fighter
Build: Great Weapon Fighter
Fighter: Combat Agility
Fighter Talents: Two-handed Weapon Talent
Human Power Selection: Bonus At-Will Power
Background: Forest Warden (Forest Warden Benefit)

FINAL ABILITY SCORES
Str 18, Con 12, Dex 16, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 8.

STARTING ABILITY SCORES
Str 16, Con 12, Dex 16, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 8.


AC: 17 Fort: 17 Reflex: 14 Will: 12
HP: 32 Surges: 10 Surge Value: 8

TRAINED SKILLS
Nature +7, Athletics +9, Heal +6, Endurance +6, Perception +7

UNTRAINED SKILLS
Acrobatics +3, Arcana, Bluff -1, Diplomacy -1, Dungeoneering +1, History, Insight +1, Intimidate -1, Religion, Stealth +3, Streetwise -1, Thievery +3

FEATS
Human: Toughness
Level 1: Giant Killer

POWERS
Bonus At-Will Power: Footwork Lure
Fighter at-will 1: Reaping Strike
Fighter at-will 1: Cleave
Fighter encounter 1: Spinning Sweep
Fighter daily 1: Brute Strike

ITEMS
Scale Armor, Adventurer's Kit, Greatsword
====== Copy to Clipboard and Press the Import Button on the Summary Tab ======

Should probably pick up either Martial Practices or Stealth might have done that instead of Giant Killer (but 1e had Rangers have ability to do extra damage against Giant class enemies - which included goblins and similar)

Some of my new Martial practices would bring it even more home to the 1e ranger (including animal tongues and the like)

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One suspects Lugh Long-hand Samildánach (a wright/carpenter, a sailor, a smith/bronze craftsman, a healer, a champion, a harpist, a poet/historian, a sorcerer, cupbearer) would agree.
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