Volume 1 Issue 32 – THACO or not THACO?

Does THACO have a place in first edition?
What’s the best way to run a game at a convention?
What’s up with the mind flayer?
Does DC Comics owe Jayson an apology for the AD&D comic books?
Listen and find out…

Intro 0:00

RFI Facebook Page http://www.facebook.com/RFIpodcast

RFI Forums http://rfipodcast.com/show/forum/

RFI Twitter http://twitter.com/RFIpodcast/

RFI Spreadshirt Store http://rollforinitiative.spreadshirt.com/

Sage Advice 5:59

Table Manners -THACO vs THAC0 37:07

Creature Feature Theatre 1:00:57

Mind Flayer http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illithid

The Library 1:23:17

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Comic Book Wiki Entry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dungeons_&_Dragons_related_products#Comics

Michael Fleisher Interview from Comics Bulletin http://www.comicsbulletin.com/features/120404502360000.htm

Jan Duursema’s Official Website http://www.janduursema.com/

The Lumpers Part 1 1:42:13

Outro 1:55:01

LowTechCon www.lowtechcon.com

New England Webcomics Weekend http://webcomicsweekend.com/

Iowa Beef Experience http://www.last.fm/music/Iowa+Beef+Experience

King Richard’s Faire http://kingrichardsfaire.net/

Direct Downloads


14 thoughts on “Volume 1 Issue 32 – THACO or not THACO?

  1. Flameshield on! Thaco is awesome, it really is. I never played a proper 1e game, but I played years of 2e. Our DMs never straight out said the AC of a monster, it was always done by process of elimination by players so it was exciting.

    Thaco and AC have an inverse relationship much like shutter speed and aperture on a camera. Given the choice between using a chart (1e) or doing simple arithmetic in your head (2), I would choose the arithmetic every time. Of course the edition that shall not be named simplified it even further By just having Base Attack Bonus and AC. The edition that shall be forever damned took the BAB and morphed it into a Legend of the Five Rings style system.

    In a perfect world, the edition that shall not be named’s BAB would be combined with Gygaxian prose and 2e mechanics. Hey, maybe that is why I love C&C and Chris Perkins’ AD&D3 so much.


  2. Hey all, just wanted to say, it’s pronounced illithid (ill-i-thid). Many of the more intelligent and organized creatures of the underdark such as the illithid and drow do have uneasy truces in places, though it would be akin to that os the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. during the height of the cold war. Another race outside of perhaps drow and beholders whom illithid would see as not quite so inferior to themselves would likely be the aboleth race as seen in the monsetr manual two–and a good ecology of this loathesome psionic and highly despotic race can also be found in Dragon magazine issue 131.

    Good episode guys, enjoyed it:)

    (Bring out yer dead games!)

  3. I liked the show quite a bit, but you guys dropped the ball on THAC0. I can understand that THAC0 as its presented in 1e is inconsistent and/or illogical. But to say that it isn’t in 1e is simply wrong–as you point out, it can be found in several 1e books (including a core book). So your QED is not earned–if THAC0 can be found in 1e books, especially core ones, then it is in 1e, even if it doesn’t make sense.

    And you can use THAC0 in 1e–I did for several years before 2e came out. If nothing else, the repeated 20s are a bit meaningless when you consider that a 20 always hits, regardless of armor class, so THAC0 does work. You may not like it, but it worked–just ask the guys in my old gaming group.

    1. My assertion that THAC0 is not 1E is based on the fact that although it is used as a shorthand in some 1E materials, it’s not a core mechanic the way it is in 2E.
      My “QED” comes from the fact that the repeating 20s render it inaccurate in some cases, in a way that it is not in 2E.

      Does that mean no one should use it? Absolutely not. I don’t, but as the saying goes, YMMV.

      I think my QED is earned, but then again, I mostly just liked the chance to say “QED” during the show in proper context, even if I can be disputed.

  4. Great show guys. After a couple of weeks I’ve finally caught up despite using my medieval MP3 technology.

    I’m not sure if this fits The Library category but I’d like your thoughts on two books: Role Playing Mastery and Master of the Game both by Gary Gygax.

    I first encountered THACO or THAC0 in about 1984 (no… that’s not a typo… though it may have been as “late” as 1986) when one my players asked if I was using it. I had no idea what he was talking about until he explained it. I can’t remember how the repeating 20 was dealt with – I think I just ignored THACO and stuck with my DM screen. The reason I raise this though is that the idea had to come from somewhere and it would be interesting to track down its origins. Perhaps the idea was hidden somewhere in a Dragon magazine? Living in small town Southern Ontario (think reeeally Eastern Michigan) we weren’t exactly living in a gaming mecca and the concept still tainted us. All that to say that it was being used by some groups long before 2e.

    1. What a coincidence that you should mention those books. I’m actually just reading Role Playing Mastery at the moment, having found a copy at the Strand bookstore the other week. It’s classic Gygaxian prose, and very useful to both newbies and experienced players. I’d definitely recommend it. We should cover those both on the show sometime.

      I think THAC0 originates from the appendix in the DMG, and slowly infiltrated from there. Let me check my Dragon magazines and see if I can find the first reference to it in those pages.

  5. Hey Jayson,
    My old player got back to me with a possible answer on the origins of THAC0 in 1e. He wrote me a note from which I extracted:

    “There is actually a place where THACO was formalized before 2nd Edition:
    Battlesystem, the mass combat rules for AD&D that were out around 1985.
    A lot of tables in there used THACO to simplify to-hit rolls and avoid
    having a bazillion to-hit charts to examine. ”

    Battlesystem was published in 1985 so it fits the pre-2e timeline. Anyone exposed to the Battlesystem rules might logically port this shortcut over. If you can find a copy of the Battlesystem rules it may well answer the mystery – though your point on the appendix of the DMG makes sense too.

    Brian P

  6. Brian,

    Thanks – that’s a good tip. I actually have a Battlesystem box, but I’ve never learned to run it. I’m going to sit down and learn those rules as soon as I can.

  7. We use a thac0-like thing in both 1st edition and basic. But I don’t tell them what the creature’s AC is. They subtract their roll from their thac0 and tell me what AC they hit (or write in a B/X-style row of to-hit numbers across the bottom of their character sheet). True they can gradually deduce their opponent’s AC that way, but I think they can if we use to-hit tables, too.

    I’m not arguing for or against using the to-hit tables at all. It’s just easier for me personally to compare two numbers rather than pausing to cross-reference a table every time.

  8. Talking about con games: I’ve run games at conventions for at least the last twenty-three years. So even though it’s years after this issue was first recorded, I’d add that one should prepare a slew of pre-generated characters, and then offer the choice to the players as they arrive at the table. That way, there’s both less time taken away from the game, and a reward for arriving early to the table.

    Finally, THAC0: as I recall, THAC0 was a device introduced by UK writers for various modules, for both D&D and AD&D (the UK series and the later B series modules all had THAC0), as a device to provide shorthand reference for DMs…it saves space for monster listings, and spares the DM from having to look up attack matrices. So it was VERY present in AD&D, but it wasn’t a player-oriented device.

  9. Frank Mentzer was using THAC0 in his 1e adventure modules as early as 1981, specifically his R or RPGA series of modules (no doubt inspired by Gary’s use of it in the DMG appendix) starting with R1 – To the Aid of Falx. It then began to appear in later 80s products and became an official mechanic in 2e. It’s often overlooked how instrumental Frank was in getting that ball rolling.

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