Archive for February 11th, 2012


you must be this lucky to play (a paladin)

This blog post started out as a puzzler, but then I just sat down and did the work.  I’ve got a provisional answer to this one, but maybe you can beat me using some obscure publication that no one has ever seen.

Rolling 3d6 straight down the line, what is the hardest class for a human to qualify for in TSR-era D&D?

Humans & 3d6 straight because the probabilities are really easy.  I’ll work up how to do the math for 4d6 drop lowest arranged, but not today.  If you are curious about 3d6 Probability Charts, I used this one.

james, wordpress makes your charts look terrible.  can I download some readable copies?

Sure thing, baby!  If I’ve done this right, you can just click to download these as PDF’s…

Class Qualification Charts – 3d6

Qualification Chart for LBB + Greyhawk + Blackmoor

Class Min Stats Alignment Odds to Qualify
Cleric none Any* 100.00%
Fighting-Man none Any 100.00%
Magic-User None Any 100.00%
Paladin Cha 17 Lawful 1.85%
Thief None Not Lawful 100.00%
Assassin Str 12, Int 12, Dex 12 Neutral 5.27%
Monk Str 12, Wis 15, Dex 15 Any 0.32%

* = The 0e Cleric must align herself with either Law or Chaos upon reaching Level 7.

Check out how out of place the 0e Monk is.  Most classes: 100% entry requirements.  Paladin, ~2%.  That’s crazy.  But the Monk is even crazier: 3 characters out of every 1,000 would qualify.  The fact that these are being offered in 0e–particularly the Monk, which receives a ton of space in Supplement II: Blackmoor yet is almost mythically rare–indicates that cheating on stats, or at least a total indifference to rolling stats, started pretty early in the hobby.  (Understandably, maybe, given that stats are close to meaningless in 0e other than as an XP accelerant.)

Qualification Chart for BECMI (and BX as a subset)

Class Min Stats Alignment Odds to Qualify
Cleric None Any 100.00%
Fighter None Any 100.00%
Magic-User None Any 100.00%
Thief None Any 100.00%
Dwarf Con 9 Any 74.07%
Elf Int 9 Any 74.07%
Halfling Dex 9, Con 9 Any 54.86%
Avenger None; Fighter 9 Chaotic 100.00%*
Druid None; Cleric 9 Neutral 100.00%*
Knight None; Fighter 9 Neutral 100.00%*
Mystic Wis 13, Dex 13 ** Any 6.72% **
Paladin None; Fighter 9 Lawful 100.00%*

* = These classes, introduced in the Companion rules, have no stat requirements beyond reaching Name Level.  This is a crazily high barrier to entry—over 200,000 XP in the case of the Druid, and 240,000 XP for the Fighter-variants.

** = These requirements come from the Rules Compendium; seemingly the Master rules would let anyone play a Mystic.  Since the Monk has been rare across all editions, I chose to go with the Rules Compendium’s requirements.

I love this chart.  I use with some house rules on alignment (Clerics can’t be Neutral, Elves can’t be Lawful, Dwarves can’t be Chaotic) but this version of the game is soooo generous.

Qualification Chart for 1e

Class Min Stats Alignment Odds to Qualify
Cleric Str 6, Int 6, Wis 9, Con 6, Cha 6
Not True Neutral 61.28%
Druid Str 6, Int 6, Wis 12, Dex 6, Con 6, Cha 15 True Neutral 2.87%
Fighter Str 9, Wis 6, Dex 6, Con 7, Cha 6
Any 58.30%
Paladin Str 12, Int 9, Wis 13, Dex 6, Con 9, Cha 17 Lawful Good 0.10%
Ranger Str 13, Int 13, Wis 14, Dex 6, Con 14, Cha 6
Any Good 0.16%
Magic-User Int 9, Wis 6, Dex 6, Con 6, Cha 6
Any 61.28%
Illusionist Str 6, Int 15, Wis 6, Dex 16, Cha 6
Any 0.37%
Thief Str 6, Int 6, Dex 9, Con 6, Cha 6
Any Neutral or Evil* 61.28%
Assassin Str 12, Int 11, Wis 6, Dex 12, Con 6
Any Evil 6.39%
Monk Str 15, Int 6 Wis 15, Dex 15, Con 11, Cha 6
Any Lawful 0.04%
Bard Str 15, Int 12, Wis 15, Dex 15, Con 10, Cha 15; Fighter 5, Thief 5 Any Neutral 0.00%**

* = A Thief may rarely be Neutral Good

** = The odds of the 1e Appendix II: Bard is actually 0.0017%.  That is, if you rolled 1 million AD&D 1e characters using 3d6, you could expect to see 17 Bards occurring in nature.  But these characters would have to survive through 5 levels of Fighter and then 5 levels of Thief before beginning Bard training.

(Edited to add: commenter Olivier Fanton helpfully noted that the ability score section of the 1e PHB imposes certain restrictions–i.e., characters of Strength 3-5 can only play Magic-Users–that are not explicitly listed in the class descriptions themselves.)

At commenter Roger’s request: the expected odds to develop psionic powers in 1e would be about 0.22% using 3d6 straight, or about two characters in a thousand.

Man, wha hoppen?!  Four out of ten core classes occur less than one time out of two hundred, and the optional Bard class is statistically impossible with 3d6 in order.  So what’s the deal?  Well, after I made this chart and several others from the 1e era, it turns out the 1e PHB doesn’t even tell you how to roll stats: you’ve gotta look in the DMG for that.

Quoth Gygax:

As AD&D is an ongoing game of fantasy adventuring, it is important to allow participants to generate a vialbe character of the race and profession which he or she desires.  While it is possible to generate some fairly playable characters by rolling 3d6, there is often an extended period of attempts at finding a suitable one due to the quirks of the dice.  Furthermore, these rather marginal characters tend to have short life expectancy–which tends to discourage new players, as does having to make do with some character of a race and/or class which he or she really can’t or won’t identify with.

In other words: mediocre stats bum people out because they can’t play awesome characters with cool classes.  Gygax then lists four methods of rolling stats, of which 4d6 drop lowest arranged to taste is Method I.  Which kind of seems like an odd response to the problem identified above.  If the problem is that people get lame stats and have to settle for a class, why not let folks play whatever they want?  Any of the methods Gygax supplies could still give you some uninspiring stat arrays, and with Method I you still run a ~70% chance of failing to obtain Paladinhood.  I get that sometimes the dice inspire you, and that there’s something to be said for prestige.  But it strikes me as a weird thing.

so if 1e advises against 3d6 straight, why’d I spend my afternoon making charts?

The New York Red Box group seems pretty firmly in the 3d6 straight down the line camp.  We make it a point to roll stats in the open so we can jeer when you wind up with two 5’s.  I started doing it this way because I grew up with Mentzer; I’m not sure why Eric M. continues with it.  (I believe he’s even disallowed the 2-for-1 point swapping, because he finds it gives Halflings a significant advantage in being the tank.)

One of our players loves to whine about stats, and even quips about using loaded dice for character creation.  He simultaneously craves statistically impossible ability scores, and yet if you offer to give them to him outright, he shuns the offer.  It’s like he’s saying, “I want to earn my ability scores through suffering!  But I don’t want to suffer!”  I don’t get it.  At least in B/X and BECMI high stats mean something: a Fighter with Strength 16 is basically attacking as if she were 3 levels higher…

Anyway.  Moral of the story: 1e is apparently not a 3d6-in-order type of game, but that’s always been my benchmark.  I’ll eventually get around to the Method I comparisons, and we’ll see what it looks like then.

Qualification Chart for Unearthed Arcana

Class Min Stats Alignment Odds to Qualify
Barbarian Str 15, (Wis 16), Dex 14, Con 15 Any non-Lawful 0.14%
Cavalier Str 15, Int 10, Wis 10, Dex 15, Con 15 Any Good 0.03%
UA Paladin Str 15, Int 10, Wis 13, Dex 15, Con 15, Cha 17 Lawful Good 0.00%**
Thief-Acrobat Str 15, Dex 16; Thief 5 Any Neutral or Evil* 0.43%

* = As a subset of the 1e Thief, the Thief-Acrobat may rarely be Neutral Good

** = Specifically, 0.0002%.  If you rolled 1 million characters using 3d6 straight, expect to see about 2 of them qualify for UA Paladinhood.

Yep, that’s right: Unearthed Arcana devotes 12 pages to classes which, combined, would account for 0.60% of all characters rolled with 3d6 in order.  I guess it doesn’t matter that the Cavalier class is broken if only 3 guys out of 10,000 would qualify.

Qualification Chart for Dragonlance Adventures

Yeah, I’m doin’ it.  Shut up.  Minotaur Rangers 4eva!

Class Min Stats Alignment Odds to Qualify
Knight of the Crown Str 10, Int 7, Wis 10, Dex 8, Con 10 Any Good* 18.56%
Knight of the Sword Str 12, Int 9, Wis 13, Dex 9, Con 10; Crown Knight 2 Any Good* 3.33%
Knight of the Rose Str 15, Int 10, Wis 13, Dex 12, Con 15; Sword Knight 4 Any Good* 0.05%
Tinker Gnome Gnome only**; Int 10, Dex 12 Any 23.12%

 * = I strongly recollect that all Knights of Solamnia must be of Good alignment, but I cannot find the citation now.

** = If you want to be a Tinker Gnome, you first gotta qualify to be a Krynn Gnome: Strength 6, Constitution 8, Wisdom no higher than 12, and you get a +2 adjustment to Dexterity.  This has all been factored into the “Odds to Qualify” category.  But trust me: you do not want to play a Tinker Gnome.

Qualification Chart for Oriental Adventures

This book is so weird, arbitrary, badly edited, and uncomfortably close to yellowface–yet I really want to run a few sessions with it.

Class Min Stats Alignment Odds to Qualify
Barbarian Str 15, (Wis 16), Dex 14, Con 15 Any non-Lawful 0.14%
Bushi Str 9, Dex 8, Con 8 Any 52.02%
Kensai Str 12, Wis 12, Dex 14 Any Lawful 2.28%
Monk Str 15, Wis 15, Dex 15, Con 11 Any Lawful 0.04%
Ninja-Bushi Str 9, Int 15, Dex 14, Con 8, Cha 14 Any non-Good 0.15%
Ninja-Sohei Str 13, Int 15, Wis 12, Dex 14, Con 10, Cha 14 Lawful Neutral or Lawful Evil 0.01%
Ninja-Wu Jen Int 15, Dex 14, Cha 14 Neither Good nor Lawful 0.24%
Ninja-Yakuza Str 11, Int 15, Dex 15, Cha 16 Lawful Neutral or Lawful Evil 0.02%
Samurai Str 13, Int 14, Wis 13, Dex 13 Any Lawful 0.28%
Shukenja Str 9, Wis 12, Con 9 Any Good 20.57%
Sohei Str 13, Wis 12, Con 10 Any Lawful 6.08%
Wu Jen Int 13 Any non-Lawful 25.93%
Yakuza Str 11, Int 15, Dex 15, Cha 16 Any Lawful 0.02%

Yes, that’s right: even with the easiest class to qualify for, the Bushi, you still might flunk out ~50% of the time using 3d6 in order. But again, Oriental Adventures explicitly declares that you should use 4d6 drop lowest arrange to taste.

Qualification Chart for 2e

Class Min Stats Alignment Odds to Qualify
Fighter Str 9 Any 74.07%
Paladin Str 12, Con 9, Wis 13, Cha 17 Lawful Good 0.13%
Ranger Str 13, Dex 13, Con 14, Wis 14 Any Good 0.18%
Mage Int 9 Any 74.07%
Hard Specialist Stat 16 * Any 4.63%
Easy Specialist Stat 15 ** Any 9.26%
Cleric Wis 9 Any 74.07%
Druid Wis 12, Cha 15 Any Neutral 3.47%
Thief Dex 9 Not Lawful Good 74.07%
Bard Dex 12, Int 13, Cha 15 Any Neutral 0.90%

* = The “Hard Specialists” are the Diviner, Enchanter, Illusionist, Invoker, and Necromancer.  By the strict rules as written, these do not have an Intelligence requirement, and I haven’t factored that in.  If you assume they must also have an Intelligence of 9 or greater (because the PHB doesn’t list a chance to learn spells for those with lower Intelligence), the odds to qualify become 3.43%

** = The “Easy Specialists” are the Abjurer, Summoner, and Transmuter.  Again, the rules don’t explicitly call for an Intelligence requirement, though one is probably implied.  If the Intelligence must be 9 or greater, the odds to qualify become 6.86%.

2e brings back 3d6 straight down the line as the default stat rolling method, god bless it.  Note that 2e is far less generous than 0e or BX, yet appears absolutely wild with abandon compared to Unearthed Arcana and Oriental Adventures.

Just for laughs: the odds to qualify for the 2e Psionicist class is 17.36% using 3d6 straight.  The expected odds for human Warrior or Rogue types to develop psionic talents is about 1.21%, and the odds for a human Wizard or Priest type, or any demihuman, would be 1.06%.

Answer to the Puzzle: What’s The Hardest Class to Get Into, Using 3d6 Straight?

Two major contenders: the Unearthed Arcana Paladin (2 characters out of every million) and the 1e Bard (17 characters out of every million).  I’m going to give it to the 1e Bard, because although the stats are over eight times more common, it takes a hell of a long time to accrue 28K points to go to college, especially if you’re earning 10K of those as a Thief.  I think it’s pretty likely that a 1e Bard would get slaughtered, or the campaign would end, before he ever matriculated.

Honorable mention to the Thief-Acrobat (4300 out of every million–common as dirt!, comparatively–but similarly harsh level requirements), the Ninja-Sohei, and the Yakuza, which may be one of the weakest classes ever designed especially given how rare it is.  And especially honorable mention to the BECMI super-prestige classes, where you have to earn over 200,000 XP just to get your foot in the door.  I’m figuring the 1e Bard, though roughly only 10% of the XP requirement, is still vanishingly rare–but that’s mainly because I don’t know how to assess how often people reach Name Level.

Have We Learned Anything?

Well, I can track the entry requirements for certain classes over time:

Class 0e BECMI 1e 2e
Cleric 100.00% 100.00% 61.28% 74.07%
Fighter 100.00% 100.00% 58.30% 74.07%
Magic-User 100.00% 100.00% 61.28% 74.07%
Thief 100.00% 100.00% 61.28% 74.07%
Assassin 5.27% * 6.39%
Bard 0.00% 0.90%
Druid 100.00%** 2.87% 3.47%
Illusionist 0.37% 4.63%
Monk 0.32% 6.72%
Paladin 1.85% 100.00%** 0.10% 0.13%
Ranger 0.16% 0.18%

* = The Master rules contain rules for Thug NPC’s which are functionally almost identical to Assassins, but no rules for using them as player-characters.  I’m always tempted to do so, just to get some Supplement II: Blackmoor into my BX experience: after all, Mystics can be player-characters…

** = Again, 100% is a ludicrous overstatement, given that you’ve got to hit 200K XP for the Druid and 240K XP for the Paladin.  But I don’t know how to assess those odds.

Past Adventures of the Mule

February 2012

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