It's no wonder that later editions did their best to gut the structure put blithely in place back in '79. Let me recount for those of you who have long since forgotten how it used to be. These are all considered zero level:
- Sedentary female, 1-3 hp. I assume this describes the average princess.
- Sedentary male, 1-4 hp.
- Active female, 1-4 hp. In other words, a woman who participates will take as much damage as a male that sits on his ass. Her attack die is at least one better.
- Active male, 2-5 hp.
- Laboring female, 2-5 hp. Says right on the page that a carpenter does not labour as hard as a farmer.
- Laboring male, 2-7 hp.
- Man-at-arms (regular soldier), 4-7 hp.
The man-at-arms reference is from p. 30; the rest from p. 88. The numbers given are supposed to fit into a system where monsters with hit die are neither 'zero-level' or 'levelled' . . . because that makes everything as clear as mud. Let me, however, make these additions:
- One hit die monster, 1-8 hp.
- Human bandit, 1-6 hp. (from the Monster Manual)
- First level mage/illusionist, 1-4 hp.
- First level thief/assassin, 1-6 hp,
- First level cleric/druid, 1-8 hp.
- First level fighter/paladin, 1-10 hp.
Those are the traditional numbers. If played exactly as written, 30% of first level fighters will have less hit points than a regular soldier. The average mage has less hp than an active male - mages aren't active? Do they think those spells are easy to cast? And what the fuck is that bandit number? A piece of flotsam that got ignored when the DMG was written (the MM was published two years earlier).
The numbers make no sense . . . yet I admit, I stuck with them for twenty-eight years. I am nothing if not stubborn. I stuck with them because most of the details could be glossed over, because I gave leveled characters the benefit of rolling in the upper half of their range, because I ignored the numbers of ordinary citizens and because I turned a blind eye to the mess, futzing with the numbers during the game in order to produce representations I could live with. I did it without thinking because I had begun doing it back in 1980, the way everyone did it because we had to. I didn't fix the mess until, with age, I began feeling that futzing around during play was wasting my time and annoying me.
I had to get rid of that zero-level bullshit. There is no such thing in my present world. Creatures, regardless of race of form, have hit dice, period. The number of hit points vary, so that a sprite can still have 1d4 hp while an orc has 1d8 hp, due to their mass, but their hit die remains the same. Additional hit points for levelled training is universal. I do not care if you're a kobald, a hobgoblin or a hill giant - if the creature is a 1st level thief, it adds 1d6 hp. It does not add more because you're bigger - training is training.
Up until recently, however, I was still stuck with this common citizen versus regular soldier problem. Increasing the number of hit points for the latter was easy; as I wrote yesterday, combat experience could logically increase an individual's overall hit points. But since it's never been explained how the training/experience/upgrade from Frick the Farmer to Frick the 1st level Fighter is accomplished, it's remained something glossed over and futzed with during my campaign.
This is something that matters to the players. They pick up a girl in an adventure, they decide they like her and they want her attributes. A sweet roll turns up and the party adopts her, deciding she should have a sword and some armor. She hasn't done any fighting before, but the die roll indicates she's game so she joins the party as a follower. She holds a torch in the dungeons, binds a few wounds, fetching bottles of holy water and flasks of oil from a backpack. A couple goblins corner her in a big fight and she manages to kill both of them, even though she's only got 5 hit points and a THACO of 21. Now the party really likes her. Her morale improves and she continues to be lucky. When the party speaks of Jonida, it is with great affection - and they want to know how Jonida can become 1st level.
I consider it a very good thing that my online players (from the campaign that seems like it must be dead) browbeat me into sage training for fighters, thieves, assassins, monks and bards, because creating a knowledge study called 'Training' is an ingenious way to solve the problem. It frees the whole process from the eternal straight-jacket of character level (there are far too many aspects of the game that have been restrained by that one mechanic). An individual accumulates knowledge in teaching others to be soldiers, in turn to be fighters - without needing to a dazzlingly high level.
Moreover, the knowledge eliminates the need for another mechanic intended to keep it rare and difficult to obtain - the mechanic of money. 1,500 g.p. per level per week? Page 86 is easily the most inept, absurd, mean-spirited, clumsy page that has ever been included in a game manual. I cannot stress that enough. Consider Numbskull Gygax's system for punishing players that do not play their characters appropriately, by increasing the number of weeks of training a character must spend money on in order to improve to the next level:
"Clerics who refuse to help or heal or do not remain faithful to their deity, fighters who hang back from combat or attempt to steal, or fail to boldly lead, magic-users who seek to engage in melee or ignore magic items they could employ in crucial situations, thieves who boldly engage in frontal attacks or refrain from acquisition of an extra bit of treasure when the opportunity presents itself, 'cautious' character who do not pull their own weight - these are all clear examples of a POOR rating."
I did not add the caps at the end - those are there to truly emphasize the disgust Gygax the Hardhead feels about mages who show bravery or thieves that fail to act like moneygrubbing worms, clerics who are not slaves to the party or fighters who cautiously consider the odds before acting as everyone's shield. Punish them! Punish those fuckers for not obeying the Default Principles of Petty Play!
Sigh. But I digress.
One last aside, though. I'd love a psychiatrist with experience at the game to take those megalomaniac I-will-tell-others-how-to-play-this-game paragraphs apart and put together an evaluation of the Great God EGG. What a miserable, mewling muck-fucker he must have been. But of course, I'm no Wayne or Garth who got to meet him, crying that I'm not worthy.
Where was I? Oh, yes, training.
I see training - particular combat training - as dirt cheap. Most soldiers are going to get it in the field of battle, in actual combat, being worthy of their salt by living. Many cultures, however, did exercise combatants, teaching them weapons, traditions, ideals, improving their morale for the confrontations they would face. Mercenaries and new conscripts were never front line soldiers because they would break early in battle. Better to build a dojo, a daily routine of practice and guidance mixed with meditation and festivity. The party can raise their charge Jonida from 5 hp to 7 hp, improve her morale further and ready her for becoming 1st level.
Which means that first level fighter cannot have 1-10 hp. No one would take the time to drill a conscript with 1 BU (see previous post) for weeks in order to improve that individual's hit points not-at-all! Then to give them more training or time or effort to see that they become a fighter of the first rank? Ridiculous.
I'm going to leave this post here. I'll be applying myself to fighter sage abilities as soon as I finish the druid - which looks like it will take another 3 weeks. I'm making good progress.
I'd like to know - is the problem considered at all in later editions, 3.5, 4e or 5e? I really don't have any idea. Do those editions even have zero-level or non-level characters?