I was chatting with some friends the other day. We were reminiscing about the good old days and 1st Edition D&D. One of the subjects that came up was prerequisites. Racial and class prerequisites disappeared with 3rd edition. I’d never really thought about their absence; hell, I couldn’t even remember what they were for most races!
Leaving aside racial maximums, here are the racial prerequisites from the 1st Edition Player’s Handbook:
- Dwarf: Str 8, Con 12
- Elf: Int 8, Dex 7, Con 6, Cha 8
- Gnome: Str 6, Int 7, Con 8
- Half-Elf: Int 4, Dex 6, Con 6
- Halfling: Str 6, Int 6, Dex 8, Con 10
- Half-Orc: Str 6, Con 13
With the exception of the dwarf (Con 12) and half-orc (Con 13) it’s pretty easy to qualify for any given race. (Oddly, though, it seems halfling was one of the hardest races to qualify for as you needed four minimum stats).
As well as race prerequisites, each class also had its own set of prerequisites:
- Cleric: Wis 9
- Druid: Wis 12, Cha 15
- Fighter: Str 9, Con 7
- Paladin: Str 12, Int 9, Wis 13, Con 9, Cha 17
- Ranger: Str 13, Int 13, Wis 14
- Magic-User: Int 9, Dex 6
- Illusionist: Int 15, Dex 16
- Thief: Dex 9
- Assassin: Str 12, Int 11, Dex 12
- Monk: Str 15, Wis 15, Dex 15, Con 11
Looking at the scores above it’s clear almost anyone could qualify for the four base classes: cleric, fighter, thief and magic-user. However, to qualify for classes such as druid, ranger and assassin, the character needs to be a cut above the ordinary. To be an illusionist, monk or paladin the character has to be truly exceptional.
The more I think about it, the more I think that’s kind of nice. It means that when you play one of those characters your character is special — a cut above the ordinary adventurer. You are noteworthy even before you save the village, slay the evil dragon or whatever.
So Restrictions are Good or Bad?
Yes and no.
To a large extent, the gaming community worships choice. The idea being, the more choice you have the more fun you have. To a certain extent I think that’s right. I’m not sure, for example, I could run a long-term Basic D&D campaign – I don’t think there are enough character customisation options to keep my players happy. However, I think as it stands we’ve got too much choice. We are only five years or so into Pathfinder’s 1st Edition and already players have the core book, Ultimate Combat, Ultimate Magic, Advanced Race Guide, Advanced Class Guide and the Advanced Player’s Guide (not to mention Mythic Adventures and the uncountable numbers of 3PP and Golarion specific books crammed full of player options). I’m not saying those books aren’t good books – I particularly like Advanced Player’s Guide.
I’m wondering, though, if we really need so much choice; perhaps some restrictions could be good for us. One of the reason I grew disillusioned with 3.5 was the mind-boggling array of choices. It would take weeks of reading just to make a new and “interesting” character. The result of this was hyper-focused, optimised characters that were often an “eclectic” mix of races and classes which made little or no sense in the campaign.
In this “pro-choice” environment restrictions are bad and thus racial and class restrictions went away. The sad result of that is when everyone is special, no one is special. Today, paladins aren’t viewed as particularly noteworthy – in fact in comparison to summoners, alchemists, gunslingers and the like they look a little pedestrian.
For me, that’s a sad thing.