Showing posts with label Dungeons and Dragons. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dungeons and Dragons. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Games Made Me: THAC0

Back in 2013 I had this idea to blog about gaming experiences that "made me" the gamer that I am.  I posted the first "Games Made Me" post and then failed to create any other (even though my mind is swimming with topics).  Real Life has gotten in the way of blogging for the last... oh... six years or so, but a recent jaunt back into Dungeons and Dragons with my son resurfaced a Games Made Me topic.  That topic is THAC0 (To Hit Armor Class 0).

THAC0, in it's simplest explanation, is a calculation to determine whether an attack hits or misses in 2nd Edition Dungeons and Dragons (D&D).  Read more about THAC0 in this excellent Reddit post detailing it's history.  That post does it better justice than what I could write here.

Armor Class was a carry over wargames played by the creators for D&D; applying the "armor" of a ship or tank to the "armor" of a fantasy hero.  A method was needed to determine whether an attack could breach that "armor".  THAC0 was the answer and also a simplification of previous iterations of  "to hit" tables from those wargames.

As a simplification it to it's wargames origins it made sense.  Tables in the D&D books helped outline baselines across class and level.  Math was not required as the expectation was that THAC0 was a value that was written on the character sheet and referenced against the tables.  When rolling a D20 for an attack; players would know what they needed to hit.

The challenge comes in when you take into consideration the amount of shifting that occurs during a typical D&D encounter.  The player character's values as well as the monster values were subject to constant change.  Player's would receive buffs that increased attack strength or that changed armor class values for their target.  With each change in number came a new change in THAC0 calculation.  A good D&D group needed a proficient player that could calculate THAC0 reliably through any number of variable situations.  Otherwise the session would bog down as pencil and paper were whipped out (a hard to imagine scenario with the current state of tablets and smart phones).

For my D&D group in high school I was the THAC0 calculator.  My mind was built to focus on detailed rules like THAC0 and to ensure they were executed correctly.  A major difference between classes in D&D was their calculated THAC0.  It ensured priests were not going to be as effective combatants as warriors.  Screwing up THAC0 calculations (often purposely) allowed classes to be the combat hero.  Enforcing THAC0 correctly ensured that classes that were not meant to be hack'n'slash super stars relied on the other defining aspects of their "role".  The benefit being better "role"playing.

My THAC0 calculator mindset extended into other aspects of the rules.  I was known to crawl through class, weapon, and other rules to "keep the table honest" (as I was known to say).  With that approach I became known as the "rules lawyer".  That moniker followed me through numerous editions of D&D and even as THAC0 became a thing of the past and was replaced by much simpler "base attack bonus" modifiers I found other places to focus.  Most recently with D&D 5E and playing with 8-12 year olds (father/son group) I've stepped right in to make sure the barbarian is using rage in every battle, that the bard is providing inspirations, that players are using that inspiration when applicable, or that our rogue isn't forgetting to apply advantage on attack rolls.

This rules lawyer (or alpha gaming) approach has been part of who I am as a gamer.  It is likely evident to anyone that has followed this blog for any amount of time.  While video games don't require someone to stay on top of all the calculations and rules there is always the analysis of what is best combination of things that result in the best outcome.  I have the tendency to insert my opinion in those combinations from time to time.

It is hard to say whether having to be the THAC0 expert for my group made me into this style of gamer or whether I was destined to be this way.  I would bet on the latter, but at the same time I can trace my gaming roots back to THAC0 as it influenced my view on where I fit into games.  THAC0 made me the gamer I am today.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Ocean Water Moved By The Moon

Someone has invited you to preview Google Wave!

Google Wave is a new online tool for real-time communication and collaboration. A wave can be both a conversation and a document where people can discuss and work together using text, photos, videos, maps, and more. Learn more at

This is still an early preview of Google Wave, so you may run into some bumps along the way but we look forward to your feedback.
Makes me think of this article: Google Wave: we came, we saw, we played D&D.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Dungeons and Dragons Online gets a D

Update: 30 Jan, 06, restructured some parts of this post.

So the preview event for Dungeons and Dragons Online (DDO) has come and gone and I finally got to play the game that I've already started ranting about. It’s hard to approach the game objectively when I've already decided the game was missing an aspect that is key to pen and paper Dungeons and Dragons; the Dungeon Master. Regardless of my reservations about the game I had to try it.

Holding Hands

If you were a new player coming into a MMORPG how would you want to be introduced to the character building process? Would you want it to be fairly straight forward allowing you to get into the game and explore OR would you want to wish you had spent a little bit longer buried deep inside your D&D rule books?

DDO starts you off in a small un-guided cluster of a mess. For MMORPG veterans it may be intuitive to click on the nearest NPC as you enter the game, but for a newbie the hand holding approach needs to be used. Also it is very nice as a veteran when a new game takes my hand and guides me in my baby steps.

Guided steps are another key to introducing the player to the game. Turbine's idea of combat orientation is giving you one of four doors to choose from IF you actually figure out that they exist! The four doors are off to the side and had I not just out of curiously investigated them would have never discovered them. Each one offers a different combat training experience because I guess it was too hard to teach you about ALL your avatar's abilities at once.

Once you are familiar with what you are doing it is not hard to find your first quest and set off. The beginning quests are simple and actually do serve as a good stepping stone into the game. It just stands to reason that the combat training would have been much more fully integrated into the quests.

The minor victory that is achieved after completing the newbie area is quickly lost as you hit the same unguided wall when you finally reach the only city in DDO; Stormreach. I found myself just as lost and unguided as the newbie area. Hopefully by this time you have figured out to look for the big yellow swirl symbols that mark the entrance to a dungeon instance. They are equivalent to graffiti in any major city. Luckily you can click on a dungeon entrance and be directed to the NPC that hands out the pre-requisite quest required to enter. Its up to you how to actually get started in that quest line.

Combat isn't for Wimps

The combat of DDO is not for wimps. It also apparently is not for the standard MMORPG player because it’s radically different. Radically may be too strong a word. The trinity still exists: heal, tank, and damage.

The radical comes from the controls for combat. Auto attack is all but removed. Every click is an attack, a swing of the weapon, a block, or any number of various skills. Combat is real time and it is very hack’n’slash inspired.

Sadly this left me with soar wrists and fingers after only a couple hours of play. Sometimes I just wished I didn’t have to click a dozen more times to hit my target. I don’t really understand why the clicking gave me soar wrists or pain in my fingers because after all I play FPS games for extended periods of time with no problems. I think it came from having to constantly have a key depressed to keep the camera in a decent position.

It is just poor design to have an action inspired control scheme that requires you to control the camera. In the end the combat does not feel like a true representation of D&D. Don’t ask me how to fix it because I don’t know.

Crazy People Repeat Themselves

There is a Dungeon Master present in every quest instance you adventure into. It is the same computer controlled DM that you will meet in every single adventure. It does not change. It does not adapt to play styles. It does not feel like a real DM.

On top of not being real there is a huge immersion breaker when the DM repeats every action you take. I know that the rusty metal gate just clanked open because I saw it with my own two eyes and just so happened to have pulled the lever to make it do so! I know the chest just opened because I opened it! I know the ladder just broke because I was climbing it when it happened!

The idea works in some areas. At first the booming voice of the DM was very welcome and added to the experience. The enjoyment was short lived when I realized every action I took in my adventure was going to be narrated back.

With a little time and effort this system could have been much more effective. The system shines when it accurately notifies party members of an impending trap or situation that their skill checks passed. This makes every party member have to pay attention because the clues given by the computer DM don't go to every person in your group. This is good. Repeating my actions is not.


Warforged are in DDO because of Turbine's decision to host the game in Wizard of the Coast's new world of Eberron. Warforged are a significant element of Eberron and that has pretty much sealed their fate to exist in DDO.

Remember playing the game "One of these things is not like the others?" when you were a child? Well then you will have a similar experience when you get to the race selection screen of DDO. The Warforged neither fit in appearance or in MMO familiarity. They are large. They look funny. And most of all they are not a race players can identify with at all. Dwarves, Elves, Humans, and Halflings are all Fantasy 101.

I kept finding myself pulled out of the immersion because of a lumbering hulk of a Warforged standing around. D&D always has relied on openness and allowing players to be anything they want to be. The problem I find is that DDO does not have this openess and therefore having one unique race really hurts the game. Now if many other races could have been included we may have a more diverse selection to fit Warforged into. Unfortunately the selection is small and the Warforged stick out like a sore thumb.

In the End

The game got a passing grade from the D&D creator himself, Gary Gygax. Still this doesn't sell the game to me. The lack of a real DM was a main detractor before I even played the game and after playing the game I am 100% confirmed in my prediction.

Lacking and uninspired combat just adds onto the laundry list of things that don’t translate between D&D and MMORPG. DDO doesn’t deserve the D&D in its title. Don’t get me wrong. The game is set in a D&D setting, but the rules are much maligned and overall poorly implemented into Turbine’s vision.

Vote with your wallet and vote no for DDO. I give Dungeons and Dragons Online a resounding grade of D (no pun intended).

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Favre... no not Brett!

I have rolled a Briton Scout on the Gareth DAoC Classic server. This is my first time in Albion and marks a stark change of direction for me. I am all but done with WoW. Second of all, I absolutely hated scouts when I played DAoC (considering them an "EZ mode" class to RvR with in keep or tower battles).

But here I am, playing a class I've always wanted to play. I love archers and archery and have since I started D&D pen'n'paper when I was young. A few of my friends over at are setting up an Albion rogue team: scouts, minstrels, and infiltrators. We are focusing on scouts for our main attack. It should be fun.

Are you getting fun out of the game you are playing now? If not, switch to something you want to play and that will bring the fun to you!

Update: 9 May, 2009 - Edited post and updated labels.