Wednesday, September 15, 2010

How B/X Halflings Kick AD&D Fighter-Thieves’ Asses

Let me count the ways.

Look, I’m not denying that AD&D character classes IN GENERAL are “bigger and badder” than their B/X counterparts…that’s just part of the power creep inherent in Gygax’s campaign notes. The AD&D fighter with his D10 hit dice and +3 points per level after 9th, not to mention multiple attacks at 6th level and exceptional strength, make the guy a powerhouse compared to the lowly B/X (or OD&D) fighter.

It’s a different dimension…”Gary’s World” I suppose one could call it. And for the most part, direct comparisons CAN be made between the two game systems, as the systems are pretty much the same (roll initiative, roll attack against armor class, roll damage, deduct hit points).

Of course, you do have to agree on a mutual “time-distortion” otherwise the B/X characters with their 10 second combat rounds WHUP ASS all over the slow-motion AD&D characters. That’s right, jerk-weeds…YOUR 6th level fighter gets three attacks every two minutes and I’m rolling to attack TWELVE TIMES in that same span for my “lowly B/X” warrior.
: )

But as I said…different dimensions. Assuming you reach some happy medium regarding the melee round, you can have direct square offs between AD&D characters and B/X characters. And in such circumstances, the human AD&D fighter will stomp all over the B/X fighter. And so, too, will the cleric and probably the thief (magic-users are much more evenly matched, though B/X might have the leg up at low levels based on the “all weapons do D6 damage” rule).

HOWEVER, as far as the B/X Halfling versus the AD&D Halfling Fighter-Thief? The B/X Halfling kicks the AD&D guy’s ass, all day long.

Pound for pound and point for point, the B/X Halfling is a BADASS compared to the fighter-thief.

Leaving aside my philosophical position on the merit of allowing halflings to work in the thief profession (after all, there were no “hobbit thieves”), let’s get down to brass tacks and explain why the Halfling CLASS guts the sleazy thief hybrid at every level.

Basically, it’s just a matter of numbers. The numbers (and the law of averages) favor the Halfling class as a warrior over the thief-fighter. The Halfling class IS more powerful…as in “potent, effective, able to exert force.” In other words, in a one-on-one fight, the Halfling spanks the F-T’s furry bottom.

Let’s look at the “average” B/X Halfling:

Rolling 3D6 in order we get 11s all the way across the board (well, 10.5 but we’ll round up to 11). Since Strength is a Prime Requisite, we’ll reduce Intelligence and Wisdom to 9 to raise Strength to 13, per the B/X rules. Dexterity is also a Prime Req, but our Halfling character already gets a +1 to missile combat and individual initiative and a +2 to armor class versus larger-than-man-sized creatures…we’ll leave Dex alone for now.

Hit Points for the Halfling go like this:
1st level – 4.5 (re-rolling 1s and 2s at 1st level per the B/X rules)
2nd level – 8
3rd level – 11.5
4th level – 15
5th level – 18.5
6th level – 22
7th level – 25.5
8th level – 29

Our little combat will not feature magical equipment at all (the fight is to be a fair test of their abilities against each other and useable equipment is part of the deal; magical items though are random and vary from character to character and from campaign to campaign…we’re only looking at averages and what you can count on).

The Halfling wears plate mail and shield (AC 2) and carries a sword.

The AD&D fighter thief will roll 4D6 for ability scores with an average of 13 across the board…not enough for a single bonus to anything. In fact, a Halfling that doesn’t have the MAXIMUM strength (17) can’t even get beyond 4th level fighter ability!

What to do, what to do? If we give the AD&D F-T his max strength, shouldn’t we give the B/X Halfling max strength (18)? But if we do that, the fighter-thief will get smoked even faster! Even if we give the B/X Halfling EQUAL strength (17) the B/X bonus is HIGHER than the AD&D strength bonus.

We’ll leave them where they are for now. The outrageous claim made earlier was that “an AD&D fighter-thief is more powerful than the Halfling,” NOT “an AD&D fighter-thief with maximum abilities is more powerful.”

[and just one thing…if I DID gave these characters maximum abilities, the Halfling character would beat the AD&D character into the ground even deeper…averages should be enough]

The AD&D fighter-thief wears leather armor (AC 8) and carries a long sword.

Hit points for fighter-thieves depend on the XP total of the character.

At 0xp (1st/1st) average hit points are 4.5.
At 16,000xp (4th/4th) average hit points are 18.
At 120,000xp (4th/7th) average hit points are 23.25.
At 500,000xp (4th/11th) average hit points are 30.5.
At 1,000,000xp (4th/12th) average hit points are 32.5.

A B/X Halfling with 0xp is 1st level. One with 16,000xp is 5th level. One with 120,000xp is 8th (maximum level). B/X Halflings that use my B/X Companion rules get some bonuses to attacks (and saves) at 500,000xp and 1,000,000xp, but no additional levels or hit points…they also get the ability to attack twice per melee at 1,000,000xp (the Companion is easier to use than BECMI "attack ranks" so I'm going with it).

Hmmmm…tell you what: I’ll give the F-T the 17 Strength just to reach his maximum fighter level of 5th.

At 36,000xp, the 17 strength F-T reaches maximum fighter level (total levels: 5th/5th) and has an average hit points of 22.5. 36,000xp to a B/X Halfling puts him at 6th level with average hit points of 21.

In combat, the 5th/5th Fighter-Thief attacks once per round and with a 17 strength needs a 13 or better to hit AC 2 (40% chance). The average damage with a long sword is 5.5 including strength bonus for an average Damage Per Round (DPR) of 2.2. That takes 10 rounds to kill our 21 HP Halfling Myrmidon.

The 6th level Halfling attacks once per round also. We didn’t up his strength, leaving it at 13 so he needs an 8 or better to hit AC 8 (65% chance…this would increase to 70% if he had the 17 strength). All weapons in B/X do D6 damage, so his sword averages 4.5 damage per round (this increases to 5.5 if we use the optional Variable Weapon Damage and increases to 6.5 if we match the AD&D character’s 17 strength). His average DPR is 2.9 and he finishes the pansy AD&D character in 8 rounds, even with a 13 strength and the generic damage roll (otherwise he would have finished him in 5 rounds).

And that’s as close as it ever gets.

The Halfling character’s “break point” for his next increase in attack percentage is level 7. If we max his level (8th in other words at 120,000xp) and match that with our AD&D doofus (5th/7th) we see a comparative hit point ratio of 28 to 26. The Fighter-Thief continues to average 2.2 points of Damage Per Round, which means 13 rounds to kill our stalwart Sheriff. Meanwhile, the Sheriff (with only a 13 strength) ups his DPR to 3.4, still finishing the AD&D character in 8 rounds.

At 500,000xp the AD&D character’s level is 5th/11th and has 33.25 hit points…but the Sheriff now has a DPR of 3.825 (attacking as a 10th level fighter) and still drops him in 9.

At 1,000,000xp the AD&D character’s level is 5th/12th and hit points increase +2 up to 35.25. But the B/X Halfling’s attack chance has increased yet again AND he now receives 2 attacks per round. His DPR increases to a whopping 8.55 and the fighter-thief is toast in 5 rounds. This is still with a 13 strength and using the “all weapons do D6" basic rule. If we increased his strength to 17 and allowed his sword to do 1D8 damage the AD&D halfling would be dead in less than 3 rounds. And remember that in B/X a halfing can have a natural, rolled strength score of up to 18.

The B/X Halfling kicks the ass of the AD&D fighter-thief. The advantage of armor is the deciding factor…the B/X Halfling is a WARRIOR, whereas the AD&D fighter-thief is a JOKE.

But at least the AD&D Halfling can pick locks...
; )


  1. I don't know if xp/exp is the same across game systems. Perhaps you should use a common unit of measure such as Orcs or goblins. In BX an orc is worth 10 xp. Don't know about AD&D anymore.

  2. @ Grat Sax: I think XP is a pretty universal measure between B/X and AD&D. It's still 1gp = 1xp in both. XP per level for most classes are VERY close or exact, especially at the low-mid range.

    I don't know how you would measure with many orcs would it take to kill you? I still think the B/X Halfling would come out on top. Orcs are pretty much the same across editions.

    @ Narmer: Um...I can't tell if you mean that in a good way, a bad way, or a sarcastic way. I guess I'll just say...thanks!
    ; )

  3. Yeah wow you do certainly make your case sir on the combat side. Of the three characters that managed to survive past the amazing death rate of 1st level PCs "back in the day", I do feel a little honor-bound to defend my personal favorite halfling fighter-thief, Cedric the Short. The strength of the multi-class combo was much more in his utility to dungeoneering, great back rank fighter, scout, trap finder, lock picker, and the like. But as you point out the B/X can do many of those things and better xp to xp.

    Interesting tangential note, in Raggi's WFRPG game the halfling is presented as the ultimate survivor with hella great saving throws. At 8th level, for instance, he saves on 2 against all rolls other than magic where he saves on 4! Now that's one tough ass hobbit.

  4. Oh, I meant it in a good way. A lot of time and thought must've gone into it.

  5. I call foul. None of this BECMI attack rank stuff or optional rules from fan publications. Pure B/X halfling versus pure AD&D halfling only.

    Plus, we all know the thief would sneak right up and open with a big backstab anyway. :)

  6. @ Will:

    All right, dude. We'll play it straight...just B/X versus the AD&D halfling fighter-thief. No BECMI, no "Companion" books (and no "errata" either...just the straight tables from B/X).

    8th Level Halfling, AC 2, HPs 29, Strength 13, D6 damage.

    Fighter-Thief, AC 8, all abilities 13, except Strength 12 and Dexterity 14 (no, I'm NOT going to be generous and give you a 17 strength...4th level fighter is your max), D8 damage.

    Regardless of your thief level, it will take 26 rounds to kill the 8th level halfling (average damage per round = 1.125).

    So here's the question: what level thief does the Fighter-Thief have to be to survive more than 26 rounds. I'll give you a hint...the 8th level halfling with a 13 strength does average DPR of 3.6 (the Expert set combat table shows an 8th level halfling needs a 6 or better, +1 for strength means a 5 or 80% chance to hit. .8 X 4.5 (average damage) = 3.6 points).

    Give up?

    Your fighter-thief needs to be level 4th/43rd. At level 4th/41st you can also force my 8th level halfling to take 26 rounds to kill you...but I'll probably get initiative with my +1 individual initiative bonus (halflings in AD&D get no such bonus).

    To be a 4th level fighter/43rd level thief requires you to accumulate 14,520,002 XP. I'm not sure what the rate of advancement is in YOUR campaign, but I've never saw a character above level 24 or 25 back in my old AD&D campaigns.

    As for backstabbing...well, we're talking one-on-one fight. No surprise, mano-a-mano. Otherwise, why not say my halfling gets surprise on your fighter-thief? After all, my concealment chance is 90% in the outdoors...what's to say I won't get the drop on you?

    BUT, just for the sake of argument: let's say your pansy fighter-thief DOES backstab my halfling. You get a +4 to hit (and my halfling loses his shield bonus) which increases your chance to 50% to we'll give you quintuple damage (since your thief WILL need to be over 13th level), meaning on average you'll reduce my hit points from 29 to 17.75 (average quintuple DVR at 50% chance is 11.25). It will still take YOUR character another 16 rounds to finish my stalwart halfling after your cowardly attack.

    Which means you will need your fighter-thief to be 4th/25th level. So, yeah...your bullshit fighter-thief can take out my halfling...once you've accumulated 6,600,002 experience points. Since I only need 120,000 XP to reach 8th level. So,'ll take you 55+ times as long to get there but EVENTUALLY you'll be able to take my lowly B/X halfling with your "powerful" AD&D fighter-thief.

  7. Saw this at the "Order of the Stick" Thought you'd have a laugh --