In our Swords & Wizardry White Box game, we’re using Ascending Armor Class [AAC] on a trial basis. I’ve declared that a minimum of ten sessions with AAC will be played before I listen to any feedback, and that after the tenth session I will decide how many more sessions will be played before a final decision about whether to continue using it is made.

Before I go any further, I must make a confession: When deciding between Swords & Wizardry (Core) and Labyrinth Lord, the requirement for AAC in S&W was a large part of the reason that I chose LL. I simply wanted nothing to do with AAC, as I considered the standard AC system to work perfectly well.

However, as I prepared for S&W White Box, after about a dozen sessions of LL, I decided that perhaps completely eliminating the combat tables would help me, as the game master, keep things flowing along a bit better. So I’m giving it a try.

Something else that’s swayed my opinion a bit is the reaction that pro-AAC players get from old-schoolers on the various message boards. So many old-schoolers almost sound like broken records with “you can do anything you want in old-school D&D“, “you can do anything you want in old-school D&D“, and “you can do anything you want in old-school D&D” over and over again whenever someone asks about rules or how to handle a particular situation.

Now, I happen to agree that you can do whatever you want in old-school D&D, but I don’t think that saying so is a meaningful answer to a question about how turning is supposed to work in version X of the game, and it’s even less helpful when those parroting the line draw a line at new-fangled stuff like AAC.

The “you can do anything you want in old-school D&D” crowd apparently means “anything” that’s on the pre-approved old-school list of acceptable practices. Though it seems to be a small minority of board posters who stick to this philosophy, they also seem to be a rather vocal bunch. That’s too bad, as I think they do a disservice to the old-school movement.

Now, I certainly will agree that descending AC is the way that it was done in the old days. And if you want to play the original game the way it was originally played, you’ll use descending AC. But all this blathering about how AAC is crossing some sort of line is just silly. If a fighter needs to roll a 14 to hit an orc, it doesn’t matter if you used a combat matrix with descending AC and attacker level, THAC0, or simply the orc’s (ascending) AC to determine that number. 14 is 14. All of these claims that using AAC is somehow “doing it wrong” just mystify me.

All this “openness” of the old rules. A bazillion house rules to fix or improve nearly everything about the original versions of the game. But stating the same thing a bit differently is somehow taboo? A while back I wrote:

I don’t really see a lot of “canonization,” “revisionism,” or “fundamentalism” in the current old-school renaissance, but I see what might be the beginnings of some such activity. I believe that nearly all of it is unintentional and not really worth pointing out.

The reactions that AAC often bring are part of those “beginnings.” I hope that it doesn’t pick up steam.

If the final decision is to stick with AAC, we’ll probably be using it in Labyrinth Lord, too.

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4 Responses to AAC

  1. TheRavyn says:

    I used ascending AC with B/X with no difficulty, and am happy to use it with S&W. If anyone needs old-school “cred” for ascending ac, it was certainly a common enough houserule bitd. One day I’ll work up the ambition to dig up the old issue of Dungeoneer (or was it Judges Guild Journal?) I first saw it in. 🙂

  2. Ainatan says:

    After using the descending AC in my first sessions with LL, for nostalgic reasons, I’ll probably get back with an ascending/+BAB ruling to resolve attacks.
    It’s just faster.
    It’s funny, the characters are level 2 by now so when they look at their sheets to find out the target value, they are mathematicaly looking at the monster’s ascending AC, so by using ascending AC rules, I’m somehow getting rid of a disnecessary step to resolve the attack. And since we need to add bonuses to the roll anyway (from high STR and magical weapons), there isn’t any extra calculation to figure out things.

  3. Ainatan says:

    Is it old-school?
    Who cares.
    Back in the 70s/80s there wasn’t such a thing as “old shcool gaming”, so saying somthing is or isn’t “old school” is definitely not old-school 😛

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