AEC Changes to Racial Abilities

Here is a summary of the significant changes in character races from the 1e advanced game to Labyrinth Lord’s Advanced Edition Companion:


  • Lost orcish language
  • Lost +1 to-hit vs. half-orcs, goblins, hobgoblins, and orcs
  • Lost -4 defense bonus vs. ogres, trolls, ogre magi, giants, and titans
  • Saving throw bonuses vs. magic and poison are handled differently with roughly similar results
  • Gained saving throw bonuses vs. breath weapons

  • Lost 90% resistance to sleep and charm
  • Lost +1 to-hit with bows
  • Lost gnome, halfling, hobgoblin, orcish, and gnoll languages
  • Gained kobold language
  • Lost surprise bonus when alone or with only other elves
  • Gained resistance to ghoul’s paralyzation

  • Gained orcish language
  • Lost ability to communicate with burrowing mammals
  • Saving throw bonuses vs. magic are handled differently with roughly similar results
  • Gained saving throw bonuses vs. poison and breath weapons
  • Lost +1 to-hit vs. kobolds and goblins

  • Saving throw bonuses vs. magic and poison are handled differently with roughly similar results
  • Gained saving throw bonuses vs. breath weapons
  • Lost all racial languages (6 total)…halfings in core LL also list no languages
  • Lost infravision (some breeds)
  • Lost tunnel observation skills
  • Lost surprise bonus when alone or with only other halflings
  • Gained ability to hide in wilderness
  • Gained ability to hid in shadows underground
  • Gained initiative bonus when alone or with only other halflings
  • Gained +1 to-hit on all missile attacks

  • Lost 30% resistance to sleep and charm
  • Gained resistance to ghoul’s paralyzation
  • Lost gnome, halfling, and goblin languages

  • Gained ability to detect secret and hidden doors

I haven’t looked at changes to racial level limits or thief skill adjustments yet.

To be honest, now that I look more closely and make a list, the changes are lot more significant than I had thought when I wrote my review. I will add a link to this list from the review. Personally, I don’t really mind seeing what is generally a “powering-down” of the demi-human races, but this seems a bit excessive.

My guess is that it is due to how the race-classes were written up in the 1981 B/X game, which mostly carried over into Labyrinth Lord. When making the AEC races match racial abilities of the core LL race-classes, a lot had to go. Much of it, though nice flavor, isn’t really necessary. But some of it is more than just cosmetic.

This isn’t a knock against LL or the AEC, as I really like the simplified mechanics and write-ups of the basic game. And taking advanced stuff and porting it into a basic game was no mean trick, so this list is meant as an observation, not a criticism. If every little advanced bit was more or less duplicated in the AEC, it wouldn’t be a basic game any more, would it? The beauty of the AEC is that it makes using the advanced stuff in a basic game a snap. And it does it well.

Even if elves don’t get a +1 with bows other than crossbows.

UPDATE: Some seem to have taken this listing as a knock against the AEC for some reason. I haven’t quite figured out how that happened, as it’s merely a quick listing of simple fact and my written conclusion is generally supportive of the decisions made.

I merely thought that a look at some of the details would be interesting. I’ve played LL (and a very little S&W) exclusively over the past year, haven’t played 1e AD&D since 1989 or so, and the differences were greater than I had remembered. I thought others may be interested, too, in a look at some details. I’m mystified how that could bother anyone.

UPDATE 2: Grognardia linked to this post and Dan Proctor’s comments. That in itself is cool, but I encourage you to check out what James has to say on the subject.

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16 Responses to AEC Changes to Racial Abilities

  1. Pingback: Review: Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Companion « Lord Kilgore

  2. Timeshadows says:

    I just don’t see the point to it all.

  3. John Adams says:

    AEC is not a clone of AD&D. It is away for folks to play LL in an advanced way, similar to how many gamers actually played D&D/AD&D early on.

    The only thing that will ever match up completely with AD&D is AD&D. Folks still complain about how clerics get a spell at first level when they didn’t in the fame of origin. Dan has given the OSR a completely open game content tool for playing, tinkering with and publishing advanced material.

  4. Timeshadows says:


    I appreciate your taking the time to respond.

    If the main draw is that [LL + AEC] allows one to approximate AD&D in an OGL product that someone will produce (with emphasis upon ‘approximate’), whereas OSRIC is not (fully?) OGL, then why not keep things closer to the (Advanced) source material rather than bifurcating yet another variant?

    Moreover, if this is more for the fans than for producers of publish-for-profit material, then why not let them make the decisions to alter the ‘true’ Advanced material from its whole-cloth origins, as suits their individual campaign tastes?

    I suppose I just don’t see the point to having both OSRIC and AEC, if the AEC is for OGL-publishers, yet deviates strongly enough from the Advanced material that a list of comparisons of changes has become strongly evident.

    All this is written from the PoV of someone who has the 1e AD&D books, the 2e books, and OSRIC, S&W, LL, S&S, and BFRPG.
    –Why the endless re-treading with minor variations? All that is being accomplished is a greater degree of diffusion than existed ‘BitD’ when TSR stopped supporting D&D and then split AD&D and Basic D&D, but now there are different companies adding to the proliferation of this diffusion, and competition in the market for what amounts to a few words difference in spell descriptions, length of combat Rounds, etc.

    I really just don’t comprehend the advantage to the consumer, let alone to the niche of the already niche-hobby.

    • Kilgore says:

      I sort of sympathize with a lot of this, to be honest. In just over a year we’ve gone from a few retro-clonish games to a pile of them, many of them overlapping more than a little.

      Pesonally, I like core LL for what it is. I also like the advanced stuff the AEC offers. And, FWIW, I really dig a lot of the Swords & Wizardy White Box.

      I might play a fantasy game, a sci-fi game, and a super-heroes game, but I am not going to play three different fantasy games.
      I don’t even like the idea of playing some LL with AEC and some without. So I ditched the S&W WB plan because LL has, overall, more of what I’m looking for. And I’m going to go the AEC route with LL because it is very close to recreating the game I played in the olden days.

      Since most of the fantasy retros are so similar, using material from one in another is fairly simple. I’ll continue to do that with gusto. I don’t know if we’ll see a few keep rolling and the rest sort of fall by the wayside or what the future holds.

    • Kilgore says:

      I kind of went off on a tanget, explaining why I chose LL+AEC as my game of choice, rather than explaining my actual point. LOL.

      I am not exactly thrilled at the splintering of things, which is sort of (but not exactly) how I see it. I don’t have interest in keeping up with all sorts of games and don’t really want to buy copies of everything just to “support the cause.”

      The system I chose (LL) put out the AEC, something that I like a lot and am glad to have. If I really wanted to play 1e, I’d probably play either OSRIC or buy a few of the ten bazillion 1e hardbacks on eBay. But I want to play LL with 1e stuff, so the AEC is “just right.” Many others seem to agree, but not everyone will.

      I picked one system and will use bits and pieces of others as I want. I suspect that a lot of others will, too.

      • Timeshadows says:

        No problem, Kilgore.
        –It’s cool you chose to clarify.

        I did just this weekend give my girlfriend a copy of Revised LL, so it’s not like I’m bashing GG or LL.
        –I will say, though, that I have purchased S&W, S&S, LL, and BFRPG, in part, to help the ’cause’, as it were, but also to see where things stand in the niche-market as a research tool. A lot of what has been done is fantastic. My only concern is that there may well be a soon-reached saturation point in RetCloSim games market, with the potential for an, ‘enough already’ sort of reaction.

        Whether the OSR is directly tied to WotC’s decisions to re-release the boxed-set, and of GW, I think the OSR ought to start think further down the road to maintain what lead it enjoys.
        –I say that as someone who doesn’t join movements, and is entirely content to simply bring my own PoV to light, bit by bit. The OSR has made it clear that I’m not part of its ‘community’. 😉 😀

  5. Dan P says:

    @Timeshadows: Are those questions rhetorical, or are you actually looking for a conversation about this? No snark intended here, because if you would like a discussion I’d be more than happy to engage you. It’s just that in my experience people who make similar statements to yours have already made up their mind, they know my intentions but just don’t like them, so are interested in argument not discussion. Just let me know, and if it isn’t rhetorical I’ll post more soon when I have time.

    • Timeshadows says:

      @Kilgore: I’m all for folks having fun in their gaming.
      –If the retro-simulacra do that for you and your play group, regardless of combination or rules-set, then I genuinely wish more power to you.

      @Dan: While I may come across wryly or worse at times, I have a genuine ‘concern’ for our beloved hobby, and generally (this time included) ask or say what I actually intend.
      –I’d love to read more of your direct input on my questions, when/if you find the time, Dan, and I appreciate your willingness to meet me half-way.


      • Dan P says:

        @Timeshadows: I’ll do my best to address your concerns. Why not make AEC closer to 1e? Keeping full compatibility with LL was important to me. So I actually prevented a bifurcation from my POV…by not splitting LL into different games. Splitting the broader 1e fan base is a concern that I can understand on one level, but from a practical standpoint I don’t see that it is a problem. The reason is because the fan base we are talking about is a small group on the internet. The rest of the world out there doesn’t know about any of us. Most people who play 1e play with the original books (which I think is good), and I suspect many people who post in polls, blogs, and message boards claiming to “play” OSRIC do so because they morally support OSRIC but don’t actually play with it. So what I’m getting at is that I don’t think there is much of a fan base to split. I think the real concern people have but have a hard time putting into words is that it is hard to support every clone (ish) game that is coming out or will come out. Many many more will come out, I have no doubt. I think what people are feeling is “support fatigue.”

        How many more of these should we high-five before we say screw it, who cares? That’s a legit question, and I don’t have an answer. Honesty I don’t think any of us should feel an obligation to support every new retro game that comes out. I made AEC because I personally felt there is a need for it. AEC will go into stores, hopefully to bring in new blood, and although it varies a bit from first edition, it is close enough to allow creation of compatible materials. Yes, it’s true that OSRIC fills this niche as well (except that it won’t go into stores), and one might ask why support AEC instead of OSRIC. I’m not asking anyone to. I contributed fairly significantly to writing OSRIC, so I do have a moral stake in it. I just see it taking a different approach, so in writing AEC I can take the path I want to take. Part of that is making AEC and LL all open game content for the open gaming community, and another part is increasing accessibility and approachability to older-styled games by reaching out to a wider audience.

        So for the consumer, those who are interested in using the new books, the advantage to using AEC is that it is a new, living, in print game. I’m working hard with a number of people to get these books out to a wider audience and build a vibrant gaming community around them (the Labyrinth Lord Society is part of that). For people who stick with the old books, LL and AEC are an avenue for new compatible material. Maybe some LL adventures will interest them. If I’m able to reach the audience I think is out there, I’ll be very glad, but I’m not asking for high fives from everyone!

  6. Timeshadows says:

    Dan, I sincerely thank you for your reply.
    –All perfectly valid points.

    Are there plans to smush LL and AEC (stripping out the conflicting/recurring data) into one continuous text book?
    –If so, I’d rather get that than purchase each separately, as the incongruities between the two are just a tad more of an impediment than I’d prefer to deal with (although I did email my girlfriend the d/l link).

    Thanks again,

    • Dan P says:

      Right now I’m not planning to compile them, mainly because I want to see how things evolve for a while, but also because I do want LL (sans AEC) to maintain its own identity. AEC is truly meant to be added, either in whole or in part, not to replace material from LL per se. None of the material from AEC conflicts LL from a mechanical POV. For instance, you could just use all the extra spells, magic items, and monsters with LL as-is and ignore all the “advanced” race and class info. But I did make AEC able to stand on it’s own for advanced play so it could be used as a complete advanced player guide without reference to the spells, etc. from LL. So spells from LL are duplicated in AEC.

      • Dan P says:

        Oh I should add, any incongruities you see between the races from LL and AEC are because the races in AEC are reverse engineered from the ones in LL. For instance, the save modifiers you see for races in AEC are more or less extracted from what are built into the race-as-class saves in LL. this is why you could simply play an “elf” with a party of characters from AEC, although you would have to decide whether to use the additional attribute modifiers and complexity from age, etc.

  7. bat says:

    Kilgore the Pot-Stirrer!
    Not a bad post, and one that gives a heads up for players and Labyrinth Lords. I really like the AEC’s “pick and choose” take on the game, so I can run Labyrinth Lord with some of the options (our elf became an elf magic-user, not a very painful process). I am happy with the direction that the AEC has taken, however I must agree with Timeshadows that a combination of the two in one book would be neat.

  8. Pingback: How many is too many? « Lord Kilgore

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