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Friday, August 1, 2014

Poker, Chess and Breaking the game with Monty Haul

While the later editions suffer from "builds" when players think about characters, the earlier editions are not immune to their share of munchkinism. In fact, if one looks at just the Player's Handbook in 1st edition its easy to break the game, using the Unearthed Arcana it gets even easier. It bears repeating, although its tougher to do with just the PHB in 1st it can be done. Enter the Monty Haul aspects of the game. I don't beleive that Gary intentionally did this, after all I truly believe the game grew organically and fast.  I also think how he played was much more high powered then those that consider themselves "Gygaxian".

2nd edition avoids this to a degree in my opinion as one of the prime areas for abuse in 1st, weapon specialization is toned way, way down. This is not to say combat can't be broken, fighting with two weapons anyone, and then specialized?  (Of which there are ways to tone this down too). Point being   that 1st is open to more abuse in my opinion. So in a round about sort of way what I'm saying is that the cat was really let out of the bag even with 1st edition. The later editions *cough* 3rd *cough* really drove it home.

So without further delay here is breaking the game 1st edition style lifted from my response at dragonsfoot. The point of this exercise is that with some "creative thinking" the power curve is already bent/broken at the mid levels of the game.  

"Now swap that sword for a warhammer????"
Rules: 100,000 Xps for each character. 6 characters and no race or class can repeat (the original OP on Dragonsfoot said five characters, but in true munchkin fashion I ignored that limitation). Here was my stab at it, not meant to be the best, but certainly in consideration for munchkinism. Dual classed and multi-classed are ok when the limitation of no class repeated is considered.

Half Ogre, 7th level Fighter (Dragon #29/73)
Only single class in the lineup. Forget the duelist; of any of the NPC races/classes from Dragon that people think are uber-munch, this is it hands down. High possibility of an 18/00 strength (check the rules) double specialized in bastard sword (which he can use one handed) and attacks 2/1. He is attacking at +5/+9 with that sword before factoring in any magical items. Read that again, that's 4d4+9/4d8+9 before any magical items... This brute also starts at 2d10 for hit dice at 1st level, so just like the ranger, but better. This is of course coupled with his natural con of 18. He skips missile weapons for the most part, but when needed throws spears, but due to his high elf buddy below doesn't really need to. Damage reduction of the full plate is a nice boon and iff magical even better.

Even without magic he is encased in full plate armor and can wield a shield, of course by this level he has several magical options. Ring of fire resistance is standard as it allows him to confront a red dragon, head on... or tool him up with a girdle of giant strength, of course its the storm giant variety. Probably has the best magical shield in the group too, say +2/ or +5. Boots and cloak of elvenkind (which are fairly common magical items) negate the full plate penalties.

For added fun consider: if this were not enough, half ogres can also be clerics. Rather then "waste" nearly 30,000 XPs towards fighter (in this scenario) that would still leave him a7th level fighter; re-purpose them to a multi-class. Half Ogres  can be clerics but their spell casting is only average even with a 12 wisdom, but he's likely the last resort cleric or healing himself only. He can still use edged weapons as multi-class clerics are allowed to or use the above mentioned hammer/girdle/gauntlets combo. It will impact his hit points some, but it might not be worth the consideration.

Gray Elf 6th level Druid/ 5th level Ranger/ 5th level Magic User
(per Gary's errata in Dragon #96)
Ranger is included for no other reason then to be specialized in longbow in
order gun down enemies with a frightening rapidity (1). 19 dex + elven
bonus for bows + abilities for specialization and oh, fires 3/1 and each
arrow in point blank that does 6-16 points of damage before factoring
magical arrows and weapons he's sure to have. If anything is caught in
it's "reaper zone" (trademark- pending) that's 18-48 points of damage
per round. Further he wields a bow that allows him to gain his natural
strength bonus up to 18/90 range; and if still not enough he gets to fire one more arrows prior to initiative making that 4 arrows in a single round. Hit points are pumped up due to his ranger class adding 2d8 hit dice to the mix at 1st. Throw in a bow built for his 18/90 strength and skip the
magical bows? Between him and the half ogre they might kill a red dragon in a single round by themselves.

Because his hit points are pretty good can be the 3rd or 4th line fighter. Could go toe-to-toe with bigger baddies when needed by fighting long sword and hand axe (short sword makes more sense) and with his dex he can pull it off. Pile in his animal helpers who are subject to the senior druid's animal growth spells.

Wears magical leather armor  or bracers to preserve his stealth abilities as an elf. Sits back and takes out targets of opportunity. Can also cast as needed. He is the junior druid to the dual classed one below and his animal followers bulk out the party. Later levels will start granting additional magic user and druid spells. That leaves him with the potential for unlimited druid, 18th level magic user and 14th level ranger.

For other magical equipment the poorly worded quiver of Elhonna (2) is a must. If you really want to make it "worse" make him a Archer-Ranger from Dragon #45 (shudder). Oh and he can cast druid and magic user spells...

(1) and (2), yes I know there is errata for both, but we can skip that little bit.

Dual classed Human, 1st level Fighter/9th level Druid

That's not a typo, the druid drop kicks everything's ass in 1st edition. Read "Underestimating druids (is a bad practice) in Dragon #119 until it sinks in. A revelation happened in this thread when
people realized that animal growth is one of the most bad ass spells a druid can cast. Couple this with the fact that he double specialized in scimitar at first level when he was a fighter. When really in trouble, dual wields with a flame blade spell in the off hand. I see no issue with this in munch-land as its not actually a weapon, its magical flame! Probably has the group's bracers of defense.

He is the 2nd line fighter and with animal growth on his furry companions of his traveling zoo complements the ogre in the melee and possibly outshines him in hand-to-hand, which is no small feat. Also as a dual classed fighter he gets access to % strength. Spell casting outpaces both cleric and magic user at this XP level as he has access to 5th level spells.

Half Orc 6th level Cleric / 6th level Assassin
Arrrrgh, 1 XP away from 7th level assassin! In true munchkin fashion I'd bump him one more XP and behold, 7th level assassin! 18 strength is a natural here as is a 19 con. He gets included due to being not being able to duplicate races per the rules, still he is a viable character for the roster. Hit points might be impacted here due to the multi classing but with the half orc and the druid and his pets he doesnt have to go toe to toe with foes often.

Backstab from this guy would cut most things in half as its not explicitly stated that a fighter/thief is limited to weapons on a backstab... Since he doesn't have access to weapon specialization he uses a two-handed sword and runs around in magical studded leather armor. Don't like the cleric combo? Add fighter instead and he does gain access to specialization! Backstab with a magical, poisoned,
two handed sword of night lives stealing (or sharpness); if figther, double specialized? Yes please! For the math a two-handed sword is: 1d10 +4 to hit/+5 to damage (with an 18 strength). Back-stab would then be 1d10x2+9, plus poison, plus any magical bonuses... at mid levels that's nothing to sneeze at. One more assassin level means bakstab at x3.

If people are going to be really "sticky" on this then go with long sword instead or some such or convert to fighter/thief, plus ring of invisibility and boots of elven kind. He also has assassination abilities and can provide the party with thief skills.

The limitation of 14 wisdom means that one of the wishes off of the party's ring of wishes might be allocated to raising it to 16... In any event his cleric spell casting is the last resort with the druid and the drow's casting being better. If the half ogre is dual classed these two equal one whole caster in my opinion.

Dark elf female 6th level Cleric/5th level Cavalier/ 5th level Magic User
Packed with innate magical abilities, superior infravision and the ability to fight with two weapons at no penalty, this is a fearsome combo. Here horseman’s maces (magical of course) will work well, but consider magical long swords abound in the game and Dungeon Masters Guide so have at it. She wears full plate armor for protection (remember the damage reduction) and still casts magic user spells and can wield a shield as needed.

Has  a wide variety of weapon abilities and immunities to spells, mind
effecting spells, bonuses to weapons like longsword, lance (a few death lances from the vault?) and horseman's mace, etc. Oh and can increase her strength, dex and con.

Her steed at 4th level is some sort of gigantic spider of course (no namby-pamby unicorn riders here). Then add in clerical and magic user spell casting to good effect. She probably has a retinue of undead fodder following her around via animate dead.

Of course if the party gets girdle of giant strength of some sort or gauntlets (unless the went to the half ogre above); she gets them as the other PCs all have very high strength scores; barring that gloves of missile snaring. Poisoned weapons go without saying here.

Deep Gnome 6th level Illusionist/ 6th level Assassin
Double AARRRRGGGH 1 Xp away again for 7th level assassin! However I'd say apply the "fix" outlined for the half orc above and he has 1 more XP, boom 7th level assassin. The deep gnome
special abilities really push this over the top even at mid levels: camouflage, bonuses to saves, spell abilities, etc.

Assassination abilities and poison are another benefit here along with minor thief skills to back up the half orc and hopefully catch anything that was missed. He can scout with the ranger/druid/mu listed above with spells at his disposal, especially bending the curve with the vague phantasmal force... In a way he is the "utility infielder" of the group: jack of all trades, master of none.

Has access to weapons such as dagger+2, Longtooth and bracers of archery to provide a secondary archer for the group; shortbow+3 and a few choice arrows of slaying. Since he  is not part fighter and can't have specialization he fights withshort sword and dagger both of which are envenomed as mentioned above. 

  • Spellcasting- In short this setup has overall spell casting down pat: Magic User class on two of
    the characters, illusionist on one, clerical on two (potentially three), druidic spell casting
    on two. That's a tremendous amount of raw magical power at mid levels. Consider, two characters hurling 5d6 fireballs... the 9th level druid has access to spells like animal growth, insect plague, wall of fire, transmute rock to mud... The magic users probably have multiple scrolls with dispel magic. Magic User spells might be a bit weak, but at this XP level druids are far batter anyway. An  overlooked part is with the druids rapid rise their spell casting which is superior to the clerics so their healing is just as good as the drow  female.
  • Melee- Both of the main fighters are extreme examples and complement the other, one melee, one missile and if the half ogre goes the hammer route, both. The druid/ranger/magic user fires his bow while the half ogre closes to melee. The druid gets specialization too since he is dual classed and overall three of the characters are specialized; the dark elf getting weapons of choice due to her cavalier class. Between the characters two of them have assassination abilities, two with back-stab and three of the characters are using poison regularly; I could see the case made for all of them, the half ogre hurling poisoned spears? Three or possibly four are attacking with two weapons when it comes down to melee. When it gets rough the dual classed druids animal growth spells on his and the druid/ranger/mu animal companions can get nasty.
  • Stealth- This group will be tough to surprise (the druid/ranger/mu) and has a good stealth capability. Notice I didn't go too overboard with some of the items. Boots and cloaks of elven kind aren't artifacts after-all and in this party coupled with the natural stealth nature of
    the members? When needed they can sneak around just fine and the gnome
    thief/illusionist is there to help further. The druid/ranger/mu, thief/illusionist or the half orc cleric/assassin can all play the role of scouts. The half orc in particular can mow down opposition with a well placed back-stab or assassination, he is rarely if ever in the front line fighting it out but waiting for the right time then BAM!!!
  • Mundane- when considering munchkinism don't neglect the mundane: the longbow is the best missile weapon in the game doing 1d6 points of damage per arrow, but its RoF of 2/1 makes it even better. Looking at this group there are four characters that have potential access to this weapon with one specialized in it. That means the half ogre, dual classed druid/fighter and half orc can fire six shots a round. Damage is 6-36 or the equivalent of a wand of fireballs. Now add in 3 or 4 shots from the specialized archer? That's ten arrows in a round. For further fun this might actually be a use for flame arrow which might be one of the worst spells in 1st edition, but in this context? Gives the drow something to do while polishing her nails. If that doesn't work, all of them firing poison arrows instead? Oh and the gnome can use a short bow boosting this to 12 arrows in a single round. While not quite as bad as 3rd edition build malarkey for archers this is nothing to scoff at.
Another advantage that might not be readily noticeable is that this group is redundant in almost every area. There is at least one other character that can back up the other. This also means that in a lot of cases there is a good degree of success should say one of the assassins fail to unlock a chest, find a trap, etc.

The only alignment issue is the druid/ranger/magic user, but make him CG with CN tendencies and everything works out.  I know Dragon #100 says theyhave to be Neutral Good, but we will fudge that a bit too.

An interesting bit is no dwarfs or halflings need apply for this group; nor do thief-acrobat, paladin,
single class thief, barbarian or monk. Bard is the odd man out as he would be next off the bench in IMHO. If anyone gets replaced its probably the half orc with the bard. The lack of a single class thief
really points out there is no real need for them as the assassins and the clerics can take care of  this role.

Magic items are modest and nothing that a band of 6-7th level PCs wouldn't have access to... well with a bit of stretching here or there.  ;)

So there you have it, pretty easy to get a munckin build in 1st edition AD&D, its simply easier in 3rd and 3.5.

How about your munchkin party(ies), lets hear them.

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