CotAB: Information

Unlike with Pool of Radiance, I started off Curse of the Azure Bonds with full access to the documentation. This still leaves me with less information than a set of D&D books would provide. For example, there’s an area-effect spell called “Ice Storm”. What area does it affect? The manual here doesn’t say. I think it’s roughly equivalent to the Fireball spell (which, indoors, extends three tiles in all directions around the point you cast at), but it’s hard to tell exactly, because you only get to see its effects on the monsters that don’t resist it, and the monsters I’m dealing with at this point have pretty good magic resistance.

Or consider the Drow arms and armor. I know from experience in third-edition D&D that Drow equipment melts when exposed to sunlight, and sure enough, that turns out to be the case here. But if I defeat some Drow on the way into a cave, and I know I’m going to be spending a while exploring it, should I bother taking their stuff? Or is the gear I already have better? I knew I could tell how good a character’s armor is by looking at the character’s “AC” rating, but it took me a while to realize that the “THAC0” rating similarly includes the bonus on the weapon.

This is because I’m not used to the concept of THAC0. I played first-edition D&D as a kid, and more recently played 3rd and 4th edition as an adult, but THAC0 is a second-edition concept. My first encounter with it was in Planescape: Torment, which (bafflingly, to my eyes) treated it as one of the basic D&D concepts that you’d naturally be already familiar with. I’ve heard that it had been replaced by the concept of Base Attack Bonus, but that’s apparently not quite right, because BAB doesn’t include situational modifiers like what kind of sword you’re wielding. I had been letting my eyes glide over that spot in the character info, assuming that it was beyond my ability to affect, much like the character stats. Perhaps I would have noticed my error earlier if I were playing a single character instead of six. I almost certainly would have if the game displayed figures that had changed recently in a different color, like a lot of more-recent CRPGs do.

The fact that THAC0 is in this game at all also reveals something that I’ve been mistaken about all along: I’ve been saying that these games are based on first-edition rules. They’re not. I’ve tried to find some resource online that is to the first-edition rules what d20srd.og is to third-edition, but to no avail. (Which makes sense, because the 1e rules weren’t released under a public license like the 3e rules were.) But now I know that even if I had found such a resource, it would have been wrong.

And really, even a set of 2e core rulebooks wouldn’t have information specific to the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, and even a set of Forgotten Realms sourcebooks wouldn’t be completely accurate as a description of the rules in the computer adaptations. GameFAQs has a nice little writeup of the 2e rules for players of the computer games, but it’s not content-specific enough answer the kinds of question I have. So I suppose I’ll have to continue figuring things out by trial and error. Which is how Gygax wanted players to do things anyway; early editions treat the Dungeon Master’s Guide as secret knowledge that should never fall into a the players’ hands. (A futile sentiment, since every D&D group I’ve ever been in trades off DM duty to different players from time to time.)

4 Comments so far

  1. Starmaker on 20 Feb 2010

    In dungeons
    Fireball: the whole screen centered on the point of origin, minus three tiles in each corner. Long range.
    Ice Storm: 5×5 area minus one tile in each corner. I think the reach is six tiles.

    In the wilderness: I don’t remember, “nothing important happens in the wilderness” is a design goal of D&D, reflected in these games.

    Anyway, these are centered and therefore easy. I could never remember the corner of origin for Stinking Cloud (2×2), which is the primary way of killing powerful monsters (otyughs, evil curates) before Ice Storm is the staple.

  2. Carl Muckenhoupt on 20 Feb 2010

    Stinking Cloud is targeted by its northwest corner. That much I have down. But it took me an embarrassingly long time to notice that it was always the same. More memetic poisoning from later editions here: I started off thinking of it as a 4e-style “close burst” effect, which is an area originating from the caster, similar to ray or cone effects. So I was thinking of it in terms of targeting a direction, rather than an origin point.

    I still wind up wasting my Stinking Clouds a lot of the time, but that’s because it has a very short range and I often forget to bring the caster up close enough.

  3. malkav11 on 28 Feb 2010

    First edition used giant horrible combat matrices to determine what you needed to hit what armor class.

  4. Wilderness Survival « Blog of Holding on 12 Apr 2010

    […] The 1st Edition Wilderness Survival Guide is also a book I read once and never used. I don’t remember being disgusted with it, but it never fit into any of my games, possibly because nothing important happens in the wilderness. […]

Leave a reply