Whose dumb idea were demihuman level limits, anyway?
July 21, 2008 2:17 PM   Subscribe

My brother and I loved the AD&D Gold Box gams when we were kids, and a recent playthrough of Pool of Radiance has left my brother with a party of multiclass characters that he's not eager to take into Curse of the Azure Bonds because as demihumans, they're all already at the highest level allowed for their class and race. I've heard of a hack or patch that removes the racial class limits from these old games, but Google turns up nothing. Does anyone know of such a hack or patch, and where I might find it?
posted by Pope Guilty to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You should google around for Forgotten Realms Unlimited Adventures - a community of hacks grew up out of that release. You may find what you're looking for.

I often thinking about playing these again, but then I remember that I don't have the crazy code wheel.
posted by wfrgms at 2:30 PM on July 21, 2008

Wfrgms, this looks like it might be a Pool of Radiance code wheel translator...
posted by fusinski at 3:06 PM on July 21, 2008

(I'm not really an expert on this, but I've read a lot on the D&D rules and their evolution lately, so I felt like I should chime in. This is somewhat off the topic, but might be interesting for someone.)

I do not know where to get the patch, but I believe I can answer the question in the title.

A surprisingly large amount of D&D versions AD&D1 through 3 have their ultimate source in a rule-hack made to accomodate elves in original-set OD&D (that is, pre Basic- and Advanced- D&D, and before the supplements). Both multi-classing and racial rules have their roots there.

In OD&D, there are three non-human races: Hobbit, Dwarf and Elf. Both Hobbit and Dwarf are customized Fighting Men, but Elves are special, having abilities of both Fighting Men and Magic-Users. Elves had a kind of split personality: they gained levels separately, and had to decide in each adventure which they were going to be, a fighter or a magician. This attribute of Elves dates back to the Chainmail fantasy combat rules; there elves are more obviously magical, and can become invisible as an innate ability.

The three classes that were around back then differed less than one might expect. All races had six-sided hit dice, and Magic-Users could use any weapon, being restricted only in armor. This made a MU much more viable in combat than in later editions, but it also meant that an Elf's split personality wasn't as odd as it might seem.

The first supplement for OD&D, Greyhawk, introduced rules for Thieves. And, considering how a Hobbit burglars was a key point in The Hobbit, Hobbits got the split-personality too. But Dwarves also got it. And Elves could decide if they wanted their split to be Fighter/Thief instead of Fighter/MU. And all types could decide if they didn't want to be split after all.

When AD&D came around, the personality split was abstracted into that game's multi-classing system. This is why only demihumans can multiclass in D&D versions up to 2E. Humans got a sucky makeshift version called dual-classing, which meant they had to abandon their old profession and take up a new one, not using any of the abilities from the old profession until the new class' level got to the level of the old.

But demihumans can still do all kinds of things that humans can't, and fantasy literature doesn't tend to say that those other races are more flexible than humans, quite the opposite really. So the rules had to be hacked yet again to put the focus back on humans, who were still the protagonists in 90% of the fantasy literature that were D&D's inspiration. So they put in level-limits. They even tried to justify them in some strange ways: I remember reading an article somewhere (it may even be in the AD&D core books) the justification that, since most demihumans had longer lifespans than humans, if they weren't intrinsically limited in advancement then logically they would have come to dominate the campaign world.

Keep in mind, early D&D, played according to the rulebooks, was a notably lethal game. Characters died all the time -- in fact, by far, most characters would die early on. If the game was being run strictly according to the books, most characters would never reach their level limits. Whether most players did that, well, I don't know. I suspect not, which is why when 3E came out, character advancement was made much more rapid, characters tended to be much more survivable, and multiclassing became available for everyone.

Now, that's how the rule evolved in the pen-and-paper games. Most CRPGs, however, were not quite so lethal. Or more accurately, the consequences for death were much less. Going back to old saves, made before some disaster occurred, is expected in most CRPGs. The Gold Box AD&D games, for all their coolesses, had to reconcile the necessity of living up to their primary selling point, that they were the closest adaption of PnP D&D's rules for computer play, and the expectation that players would probably have to reload their games many times to reach the conclusion of the story. Less death means less starting over with freshly-rolled characters, and less starting over means more characters that reach the level cap.

But anyway, as for whose idea demihuman level limits was: the rule originated, I'm fairly sure, in AD&D. It was most likely Gygax's.
posted by JHarris at 9:16 PM on July 21, 2008 [6 favorites]

The latest version of Simeon Pilgrim's remake of Curse of the Azure Bonds does exactly this. Thanks Simeon!
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:22 PM on December 3, 2008

« Older Why haven't I been hired?   |   Where there are no streets to have names Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.