Below is my point-by-point solution to each of Mark Hughes' gripes about
AD&D, as implemented in the Project 74 (2003.4) rules. I have organized this
list in the same order as his
web page for ease of reference. I have skipped sections having
mostly to do with Mark's battles with AD&D fanatics.
Metal and Magic and Multiclassing - The
main complaint has to do with the mumbo-jumbo rules for wearing armor
and doing magic. In the Project 74 system, mages simply can't work
magic effectively in any armor more restrictive than leather. It
doesn't matter what race you are, or if you are multiclassed or not.
The only exception is elven chainmail, which has long been established
as lighter and less restrictive than more common forms. Elven
chainmail is also understood by most to be uncommon and virtually
never made to fit a non-elf.
There is a second gripe here also, about the level limits applied to
demi-humans. Well, Project 74 omits them. By allowing all races
(including humans) to multiclass, these rules can safely remove the
level limits without trashing game balance.
Core problems with AD&D - Most of this complaint has to do with
the battle-happy nature of AD&D. The original Project 74 rules offered an
alternative experience system which was story-based rather than combat
oriented; this is now presented as an alternative rule, as I have found that
the traditional experience system fits my game better than the story-based
Lucky Constitution - This item is mostly about the unfair
advantage given fighters with respect to Constitution bonuses; it also
touches on the problems of abstract hit point and abstract armor
class. My personal complaint has always been that combat becomes tedious with
high-level characters because of the ridiculous number of hit points they have.
Project 74 has maximum Hit Dice of 7 rather than the 9 or more of AD&D and
gives all classes the same Constitution bonus to hit points. Hit dice are also
smaller in Project 74, being more in line with the classic D&D editions.
Abstract Saving Throws and Working Within the Abstraction -
Project 74 changes the saving throw
system somewhat; in particular, ability scores directly set the
required rolls. Some abstraction seems unavoidable, but I feel the
system I present in these rules is at least an improvement.
Son of Abstract Hit Points - This complaint is really mostly about the
abstraction of Armor Class, which in D&D and AD&D affects the chance
to hit (for damage) rather than absorbing or reducing the damage taken. Initially
I agreed with Mark on this matter, and the explanation for this item read as follows:
This complaint is solved rather
simply... in Project 74, every successful "to hit" roll lands, and
every unsuccessful "to hit" roll missed outright. Armor works in
these rules by absorbing damage, not by changing the "to hit" roll.
After actually playing with those rules for some time, I became
dissatisfied with them. I wrote the following email to my players:
One of the things I've been thinking about lately is armor,
and I want your opinions on this.
I'll start with an example. Say you are playing a fighter,
and you are fighting an NPC. For some reason (fumble,
perhaps) you have lost your sword and are reduced to
a dagger (1d4). He has plate mail armor on. Ignoring
Strength for the moment, in Project 74 he has 4 point
armor; your maximum damage is 4, so he takes just 1
point if you do 2+ damage, none if you roll a 1 (an
average of 3/4 HP damage per hit). If we were using
AC, it would be harder to hit him but you could do more
In real life (yes I remember that), imagine the fight. You
hit him for damage, so you must have found a hole or
weakness in his armor. If you stick the dagger in up to
the hilt, isn't that just as good as if you did it to an
unarmored man? In other words, max damage.
So maybe armor class isn't so bad.
Let's look at this another way, namely from the game
standpoint. When you roll to hit in Project 74, you tell
me what your total is and I compare that to the enemy's
Defense. If you hit, you roll damage and I subtract the
armor rating from the damage, then subtract the remaining
damage from the enemy's hit points. If we used AC I
would only need to know the enemy AC and Hit Points,
and I'd only subtract once. Since I'm using mark-off
sheets most of the time now that would mean that I
wouldn't really have to subtract at all. Result: faster
So the question is, would you be willing/interested in
changing to an armor class system? If you both decide
you'd like to, I'll do all the legwork, changing your
character sheets for you. We would use a rising AC
system similar to the d20 system (i.e. D&D 3rd edition):
AC Old AC
Unarmored 11 9
Shield Only 12 8
Leather Armor 13 7
Leather and Shield 14 6
Chainmail 15 5
Chain and Shield 16 4
Platemail 17 3
Plate and Shield 18 2
So there would still be no table lookups during gameplay
(a feature of our current game which I like a lot); you just
roll the d20, add your bonuses and announce the number.
If it's equal to or higher than the actual AC number you hit.
The only other thing I'd have to change to support this is
the combat rating advancement rate; it's too fast for a
game without a matching defense rating. Fortunately,
I have already figured out the correct progression for
such a game as part of an article for the Footprints
An added bonus would be the removal of most of the
Parry rules (which nobody uses anyway) since they are
there mainly to support shields.
Monsters like the enormous spider would be less of
a challenge (not a lot less, but less), but monsters like
stirges that are symied by high AR's would be more of
a threat (i.e. more like they are in the classic game).
So tell me your opinions. Change or not?
The reply was unanimous: change to the Armor Class system. As I
said above, perhaps Armor Class isn't so bad after all.
Wizards and Evil Characters - I'm not sure why Mark
Hughes put these items (written by Mark Green) on his page; both
contain such major factual errors that I can't believe he posted them.
Experience Points for Treasure - This gripe is about a 1st
edition AD&D rule that was mostly dropped in 2nd edition; Project 74
explicitly drops it too.
Thieves - This item has to do with non-thieves using thief
abilities. For those abilities where it makes sense that non-thieves
could use them, Project 74 explicitly allows it. Thieves gain bonuses
to their special skills much faster than other characters can, but
anyone can learn those skills. Also, the liberal multiclassing
allowed in Project 74 means that a fighter with 15 or better Dexterity
might actually be a thief also... and just not mentioning it in
The Nanomunchkin - A humorous complaint about the custom
character class rules of AD&D 2nd edition. Project 74 doesn't need
Conan - A complaint about the fact that AD&D can't be used to
create Conan, a warrior who does a lot of moving silently. As
previously mentioned, that sort of character is easy to create in
Project 74. For that matter, the Grey Mouser type of character... a
fighter (or was it thief? Doesn't matter...) who is also a mage, but
who improves his magic level infrequently, is easy to create in
Project 74. You just need a thief, or fighter, or whatever, with a 15
or better Prime Requisite and a 15 or better Intelligence to qualify
for multiclassing as a mage. Okay, so not everyone will do that well
rolling up a character, but then there can't be that many
Conan or Grey Mouser type characters around, can there?
Alignments - Don't have them. Individual DM's can use them if
they like, but Project 74 recommends leaving them out.
It Costs Too Much To Get A New Game - Dude, this one's
Unoriginal Settings - Can't argue with this one. The different
magic rules, character development, etc. of Project 74 make it a very
different game, but it remains true to the D&D/AD&D "world"
types. That was the purpose of these rules... to keep the feel of
AD&D but throw out the crufty rules.
Honestly, though, I am finding now that my "old school" original game world is
way more fun than any of the worlds I created later. I doubt I'll change again.
Infidelity to the Genre - Actually, AD&D is its own
genre. With popular books as well as thirty years of game tradition,
it has made its own place.
Still, it's a valid complaint in other ways. Project 74 does, in fact, try to
reproduce "combat reminiscent of Conan," but does not have quite all the other
stuff. The magic system is slightly revised, and in my opinion much better
explained; it isn't so much "Dying Earth" style. There are only thieves' guilds
if the DM wants them, and by now you can have your monsters in any style you
want. Alignment is out (as previously mentioned) unless the DM likes it that
Inconsistencies - The complaint here is with regard to the
weight and/or encumbrance of magic armor. Project 74 does have explicit rules