Thief acrobat

You’ve never had it so good -When classes were classes!


I haven’t actually blogged under this title for a while. So, here’s a bit of an explanation. I first started to play AD&D when 1st edition was out. You can hear how I got started in my recent Draw my Life video.

There have been numerous changes in the rules since I started to play D&D. I only played 5e for a limited amount of time, but I was impressed with some of the changes. However, some of the changes made me want to put my elderly hat on and exclaim – “You’ve never had it so good!”

When classes were classes

When you created a character in AD&D there were numerous differences from the usual system of 5e. For starters, you didn’t get all the skills that are now standard to all characters. If you wanted to stealth you had to be a thief, if you wanted religion you had to be a cleric and, if you wanted some kind of athletic skill you had to wait until Unearthed Arcana came out so you could choose the ‘Thief-Acrobat’ class!

Thief acrobat on a rope

Within 5e, you have the option to have a background which allows you to gain specific skills and equipment. In 1st edition AD&D there was none of that. We still had backgrounds for our characters but they were literally just that, us writing about their backgrounds. I guess this has semi been renamed as character concepts. But there were no additions to your character unless the DM was feeling nice.

Armour and Weapon Choices

The first time I DMed 5e I was looking forward to meeting the characters and see them in action. We had completed a ‘zero’ type session with some complete newbies to RPG and made up their characters. However, we had existing players joining the game. I must say, I was quite taken back by the characters.

In AD&D, your class controlled everything. The type of weapon you were proficient in and hence what you could use and the armour which was available for you. I’ve mentioned before that magic-users were limited to robes or no armour and then staffs, darts and daggers. The race didn’t have any impact on your weapon and armour choice. The only thing it did really impact on was certain immunities, infravision and locating secret doors. Half-elves were so popular because of those attributes.

As the dwarven sorcerer walked into the tavern on the first adventure I was truly shocked. Not only was it a spell caster with something other than a staff, but it was also clan out in armour more powerful than the fighter! The character was unbelievable! I always thought it was so powerful that it could actually “…stand alone against a screaming demon horde!”

I’ll be impressed if anyone gets that reference – please let me know in the comments below if you do! Do you remember any other phrases?

Race seemed to play more of an important role in the character generation process in 5e. Especially if you used certain things to your advantage!

Trying to hit

As far as I am aware, and please do correct me if I am incorrect. But every class has the same base chance of hitting. Yes, in 5e you might have certain bonuses but really you had the same base chance.

In 1st edition AD&D this was definitely not the case. There was something in the game called ‘THAC0’ – pronounced th-ac-o. This translated into ‘to hit armour class zero’. Every class had a different THAC0. Most were 20 at first level. this meant that you could subtract the armour class of the monster from your THAC0 to see the score you needed to hit. So with a THAC0 of 20, to hit AC10 you would need a 10 on your die. (20 – 10 = 10) but to hit an armour class of -2 you would need 22 (20 – -2=22 – remember a minus add a minus makes a plus!)

Fighter classes soon lowered their THAC0 when spell casters kept their THAC0 at 20 for several levels and then only reduced it by one. While the fighters were swinging and hitting the spellcasters were swinging and, well missing!


I’m never sure whether I like the changes in 5e or not. I have only DMed the game – not that I haven’t tried to get a game as a player! – and have found that the majority of the fun adventures we had were because of the limitations of classes and the lack of race influences. I’m never a great believer in creating ‘powerful’ characters. I understand that some people get great delight out of being super powerful, but it is definitely not for me.

Races seem to have a much bigger influence on characters now in 5e and I must admit that when classes were the determining factor of your character it was fun. And, especially when I look at what classes did have in 1st AD&D, I do like to say – ‘You’ve never had it so good!’

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